ICL Sections Say:

Down With Imperialism—For Class Struggle at Home!

Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants!

Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 765, 28 September 2001.

Like hot ash from the World Trade Center itself, war rhetoric has been strewn all across Europe. Every newspaper front page, television programs and radio shows are devoted to readying the population for war. But war against whom? Apart from Tony Blair, who eagerly saddled up like some kind of Wild West frontier deputy to George Bush playing John Wayne, Europe’s capitalist rulers are uneasy about riding herd with the American-led posse. But while they express concerns derived from their own imperialist interests and heightened interimperialist rivalries over what the Americans are planning militarily, on the home front they are as thrilled as Bush with this chance to forge “national unity” behind their policies of austerity, racism and repression. Without exception, every state power in Europe and elsewhere has turned the indefensible indiscriminate attack on the World Trade Center and hijacking of civilian airliners into an opportunity to put the forces of state repression into overdrive to wage war against the working people at home, especially oppressed racial minorities and immigrants.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the French Le Monde, speaking for the most anti-American bourgeoisie in Europe, ran a front-page editorial screaming, “We Are All Americans!” while the German chancellor vowed to stand by Clause 5 of the NATO constitution calling for joint military action. But within days, both a Blair aide in Britain and leaders of the German Green Party, part of the ruling Social Democratic-led coalition, issued statements declaring their governments were not issuing the U.S. a “blank cheque” (Financial Times [London], 14 September). Bush’s Cold War rhetoric about the “free world” notwithstanding, the major imperialist powers are no longer constrained to subordinate their rivalries to their shared fear and hatred of the former Soviet Union and the “spectre of communism.” The governments of Europe and Japan, and behind them the “leftists” who tail their own rulers, are united with the United States only to the extent this serves the interests of their own ruling classes.

Sections of the International Communist League published the 12 September declaration by the Spartacist League/U.S. in six languages and introduced it with statements exposing the machinations of their “own” capitalist rulers, particularly emphasizing the need for the workers movement to rally to the defense of the besieged Arab and Asian minorities. Comrades made a special effort to break the reactionary “national front” pushed in each country by trade-union bureaucrats, mass reformist parties and the bourgeoisies. Recalling the words of Kaiser Wilhelm on the eve of World War I, “I no longer know parties, I know only Germans,” the German Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) joined with every major political party including the right-wing Christian Democratic Union in a social-chauvinist mass rally for unity of the German people with the United States on September 14. Italian trade-union tops called reactionary strikes declaring the United States “a free country with a great history of freedom and democracy.”

Across Europe, workers were told to down tools and assembly lines were stopped for three minutes of silence on September 14. Church bells tolled and television screens showed Europe’s rulers wiping their eyes in their pews. It looked a little different inside the factories and workplaces, particularly those with large, integrated workforces. Our supporters took coffee breaks with co-workers to talk about how the imperialists armed, trained and masterminded Osama bin Laden and other anti-communist and woman-hating Islamic fundamentalists and why we supported the intervention of the Soviet Red Army in Afghanistan in 1979. Our supporters talked about why the plant closings, layoffs and attacks on pensions, health care and education are not the result of an indefensible terrorist act, but of an irrational capitalist system’s drive to increase profits through increased exploitation of labor.

Large numbers of immigrants have been integrated into the workforces of Europe, albeit at the bottom. They represent a crucial component of the proletariat which must be defended as the bourgeoisie tries to divide the workers along ethnic and religious lines, while binding the white Christian majority to the bosses through reactionary patriotism. Many North African and Pakistani workers have been among the most politically conscious, recognizing that all this talk by the politicians and union leaders of “freedom and democracy” could only mean “restricted democracy and freedom at home,” as one worker in Italy said.

Anti-Immigrant Frenzy in Europe

In Europe, Britain’s Blair government understands that the demonizing of Muslims is a gift to his regime to further isolate and subdue Asian youth (many of the country’s Asians are Muslims of Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent) who sought to repel fascist attacks and cop invasions of their communities in industrially devastated Midlands cities like Bradford and Oldham just a few months ago. In France, the popular-front government launched a full-scale “Vigipirate” plan, unleashing thousands of sadistic riot cops in the train stations, airports and ghettos. Our comrades in the Ligue Trotskyste de France were the only leftists in France to demand, “Down with Vigipirate!” Our leaflets have been eagerly snatched up and our emphatic defense of the rights of oppressed minorities in meeting after meeting at the Communist Party’s huge L’Humanité fête last weekend was enthusiastically applauded even by CP members who can’t stomach their own party’s shameful capitulation to police-state repression.

The French CP bears direct responsibility for the implementation of “Vigipirate” through their participation in the popular-front government which presently administers French capitalist class rule. Their partners in government, the Socialist Party (SP), are pushing the deadly equation that “Arab = terrorist.” Covering their crimes with fine words about “multiculturalism” and “tolerance,” French SP mayors in the heavily immigrant districts of Paris are unilaterally refusing residency papers (required for all aspects of public life, from work to banking) to all Arabs for no reason except that their countries of origin are now on the U.S. and NATO target list of states suspected of “harboring terrorists.”

Lutte Ouvrière (LO), which has recently postured to the left, opposing a vote to the popular front in the municipal elections in March, took a running leap back into the arms of the French ruling class with a disgusting editorial implicating every Arab all over the world as a guilty suspect. Lutte Ouvrière (14 September) declared that the attacks in the United States were carried out “without a doubt with the moral support of the majority of the Palestinian population, and perhaps beyond that, with the support of the population of all the Arab states.” This is nothing less than a justification for slamming missiles into the Near East! Correspondingly, LO manages to say not one word about the terrible augmentation of police-state repression against Arabs in France, which is so hard to ignore that this can only be read as a tacit endorsement of Vigipirate.

Alain Krivine’s Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) at least noticed the full-scale Vigipirate plan (Rouge, 20 September), yet nowhere does the LCR raise the elementary call, “Down with Vigipirate!” In sprinkling in a few words against anti-Arab racism, the LCR expresses its liberal discomfort with overt cop terror but can’t bring itself to forthrightly oppose it. Indeed, the preceding week (Rouge, 14 September) the LCR declared that the problem with the government’s “security” campaign is that the cops don’t go after the “real criminals,” whining: “What means are in place to fight against the most important crimes...?”

The far right has taken huge advantage of the ruling social democrats’ mobilization against oppressed minorities. In Italy, Umberto Bossi’s Northern League plastered cities with posters screaming: “Illegal immigrants = Terrorists” as the ultraright Berlusconi government rams through new legislation drastically restricting the right to asylum, work or residency for anyone in Europe who is not a citizen of the European Union. French fascist Le Pen is trying to catch the wind in his sails to propel his electoral bid for the upcoming French presidential elections. The fascist National Front and its breakaway MNR (National Republican Movement) denounce the government for bowing to U.S. diktats and push an agenda of French national chauvinism, particularly an anti-American foreign policy and murderous anti-Arab racism at home. Gangs of young Le Pen supporters terrorize heavily immigrant neighborhoods, slapping on stickers reading “Stop Immigration! Stop Americanization!” Swastikas have proliferated. But it’s not just the far right: the “mainstream” bourgeois parties and the social democrats alike are jumping at the chance to rid themselves of “surplus” workers. The stage is being set for mass deportations of immigrants and refugees, bringing starvation not only to the affected workers but to their whole families.

In Germany, Arab students fear for their lives as the bourgeois press whips up a climate of hysteria: the Hamburger Morgenpost published the addresses of mosques where Islamic fundamentalists supposedly are “trained.” Draconian new legislation is proposed which could result in the banning of all Islamic fundamentalist groups, the fingerprinting of all immigrants and an accelerated machinery for deportations out of Germany. The European Union met in Brussels on September 20 to adopt new joint measures “to combat terrorism” which include the creation of new international task forces for surveillance, police intervention and legal action, including summary deportation of anyone deemed a “terrorist”; the establishment of a new “terrorism” group by Europol for international intervention; and an intensification in the production and stockpiling of arms and explosives. The cops’ murder of Carlo Giuliani in Genoa during the huge “anti-globalization” protests against the G8 is clearly just a hint of what Europe’s rulers have in store for immigrants, leftists and ultimately the workers who mobilize in defense of their own class interests against social-democratic “law and order.”

Anti-Americanism: Counterfeit Currency of European Left

Social chauvinism and class collaborationism go hand in hand for the reactionary trade-union tops who have called off strikes at home to rally ’round the flag for war abroad. Our answer to this is to bring workers and youth to the consciousness of the need to wage class war against our “own” bourgeoisies—anti-imperialism abroad means class struggle at home! In Europe this has entailed combatting the anti-Americanism which is the dirt-cheap camouflage donned by reformists and centrists to cover their support to their own capitalist rulers. Thus the French CP and the German PDS make much ado about not following U.S. diktats and arguing instead for more powers for their own capitalist rulers, or for a war directly administered by that giant condom for U.S. imperialism, the United Nations. It was under UN wrapping that Iraq, Sudan, the Balkans and Haiti were all devastated. The declaration by the Spartacist League/U.S. has been a powerful political tool to educate workers and youth that U.S. imperialism must be brought down through class struggle of American workers in solidarity with the proletarian struggle internationally.

There are frictions between the United States and its European allies, and among the European states, as each jockeys for positions of influence and scrambles to protect its plunging economy. The anti-Americanism of the European left is a direct reflection of the appetites of the European rulers. Germany is the most powerful economy in Europe and a new post-World War II generation of Germans represented by Social Democrat Schröder complain they are tired of apologizing for the Holocaust and kowtowing to U.S. imperialism. The German PDS, political heir to the Stalinists who sold out East Germany to the West German bankers, now postures as the “peace” party, which means only that they resist following American-led war moves and seek a more forward and direct role for Germany. PDS leader Gregor Gysi calls for “limited military action” and a new “Marshall Plan” (the Marshall Plan poured money into devastated Europe as part of U.S. efforts to stabilize capitalist rule immediately following the end of World War II) for the “Third World.”

Though the situation is very different, the posture of the European “left” is quite similar to that taken during the 1999 Balkans War, when they served as a cover for their own bourgeoisies’ appetites for greater independence from the U.S. They fully subscribed to NATO’s war aims of smashing Serbia and Milosevic, but looked for instrumentalities separate from the American-dominated NATO, such as the UN or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Today the French Communist Party is complaining about a “unipolar world” dominated by the Americans, while Bertinotti, leader of Rifondazione Comunista in Italy, declares that while he subscribes to the goal of smashing “terrorism,” this needs to be implemented by the UN.

In Germany, the PDS advocates of a “new antiwar movement” similarly lend their support to the ideological basis for a war to destroy “terrorism,” so long as it’s sanctioned by the UN and not run unilaterally by the U.S. While German pseudo-Trotskyists cling to the PDS’ coattails and seek to build a German national “antiwar” movement, our comrades of the Spartakist Workers Party (SpAD) spoke out against illusions in the PDS at an antiwar coalition meeting in Berlin on September 15:

“Right now the PDS is standing at the Reichstag, at the government demo, to whip up nationalism and chauvinism in order to prepare the population for war. We stated in the Balkans War that the PDS’ opposition to war is not directed against German imperialism, but against the U.S. leadership of the war. The PDS was simply for an alternative strategy for German imperialism.”

Our comrade went on to respond to a certain “Mr. Kimpel,” a former supporter of the Mandelite “United Secretariat” and now around the PDS, who “expressed great fear that someone might call him a traitor to the fatherland. Indeed, that would be a totally new experience for him! We can comfort Mr. Kimpel; we will defend him energetically against any such accusations. He is really not in opposition to German imperialism. For us Spartakists the accusation of traitor to the fatherland, coming out of the mouths of chauvinists, is an honor. Yes, the proletariat has no fatherland, and we have none. The main enemy is at home!”

Elsewhere too, the anti-American rhetoric of the “left” serves as an alibi for the appetites of their own imperialist rulers. Nowhere is this clearer than in Japan, where in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Japanese military ships have stepped up their patrols in the seas around Japan and have threatened to conduct onboard inspections of all “unidentified ships”—a dangerous provocation ultimately directed against the Chinese, Vietnamese and North Korean deformed workers states. The reformist left, preaching that it is possible for Japan to pursue a “peaceful” foreign policy, denounces the reactionary Japan-U.S. “security” treaty while presenting Japan as a helpless pawn of American power. The Communist Party, for example, howls in its electoral propaganda that “Japan is completely under the thumb of America,” while the “New Left” Kakumaru group has written that the U.S. “is pressing its military claims on the Japanese government one after another” (“Appeal for 39th International Antiwar Assembly in Japan”). Such appeals are congruent with the aims of the openly revanchist wing of the Japanese bourgeoisie, which chafes at the military alliance with the U.S. and calls for a stronger military to be wielded independently to pursue Japan’s own imperialist goals. As the Spartacist Group/Japan said in our statement, “It is Japanese imperialism...that is the main oppressor of workers in Japan and throughout Asia.”

In Australia, where the ruling Tories and the “opposition” Labor Party (ALP) vied with each other in bellicose rhetoric following the destruction of the World Trade Center, the “left” responded with impotent pacifist appeals. An undated statement of the Socialist Alliance—an electoral lash-up of the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP), International Socialist Organization (ISO) and others—frankly promotes the notion that imperialism is merely a bad “policy” which can be transformed into its opposite by the intervention of well-meaning people: “The most fitting memorial to those who died or suffered in New York and Washington would be the complete reversal of Washington’s policies of exploitation of the Third World, and their replacement by policies that promote peace, democracy, co-operation and sustainable and egalitarian economic development.”

At a September 20 meeting of the same cast of characters, now organized as a new “antiwar” coalition, a comrade of the Spartacist League of Australia intervened to denounce the indefensible attack on the World Trade Center and expose the ALP’s attacks on refugees and immigrants. She noted that the ISO had supported the Taliban against the Soviet Union, and the DSP hailed Gorbachev’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, while more recently the DSP had marched for Australian imperialist intervention in East Timor.

“Third World” Rulers: Stooges for Imperialism, Enemies of Their Own People

In the “Third World,” the mass perception and responses to “attacks on America” are very different. But there is no difference in the eagerness of the capitalist governments to use the so-called “war on terrorism” to go after perceived sectors of discontent and opposition at home. In Mexico, for months the “national security” forces have been on a campaign against people from Near Eastern countries, as well as Basques from Spain. On September 11 the Mexican state seized dozens of Iraqis in Tijuana. Now the government of Vicente Fox is seeking to use the WTC atrocity to ratchet up its attacks on indigenous people and rebellious peasants like the Zapatistas, as well as its vindictive witchhunting of activist students at Mexico City’s National Autonomous University (UNAM), already targeted by the government and the media as “subversives” and “terrorists” after last year’s long, militant strike in defense of public education.

It is not surprising that many ordinary people in countries where mass poverty prevails as a result of the economic and military depredations of U.S. imperialism over the years may feel satisfaction even as they worry about the impending mass-murdering “retaliation” from the American rulers. But for supposed “leftists” to pander to such sentiments or paint the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians as an act of “anti-imperialism” is not merely deplorable; it is a gift to the venal and brutal rulers of their own countries, for whom nationalism—the lie that all Americans or all Mexicans have the same fundamental interests—is key to keeping the oppressed masses in line.

As our comrades of Spartacist South Africa wrote in their declaration introducing the SL/U.S. 12 September statement:

“Pockets of South Africans wrongly view the bombings in America as ‘just deserts’ in a ‘one super-power world’ dominated by U.S. warplanes and dollars. This Third World nationalist perspective writes off the American working class as hopelessly bribed by the riches of their own bourgeoisie.... In contrast to variants of nationalism, we Trotskyist internationalists draw a class line: against the capitalist rulers at home, and in solidarity with our class brothers and sisters abroad in the fight for world socialist revolution.”

And the Grupo Espartaquista de México wrote:

“The utmost in bloodthirsty stupidity is the nationalist Mexican group Machetearte. While ‘feeling sorry’ for the innocent victims of the attack, in an Internet posting of 11 September they say that ‘the Middle Eastern “terrorists” mercilessly attacked the gringo imperialists’ and that ‘the gringo economy and its military system have received a very good blow.’ This is absurdly false. In fact, the American imperialists are using this attack to rally the population to prop up their rule and in support for war. The identification Machetearte makes of the imperialist rulers with the American workers and population in general echoes not only the lies of the imperialists themselves, but also of a nationalist wing of the Mexican bourgeoisie that seeks to fuel nationalism as a means of keeping the working class under its control.”

Anti-Anarchist Witchhunt Paved the Warpath

In Europe as in the U.S., the draconian legislation curtailing civil liberties and attacking immigrants is in fact an attack on the working class as a whole and on the proletariat’s capacity to organize and defend itself against the capitalists. It must be recalled that before the hijackings and attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, the imperialist powers had already shifted into high gear to enact new repressive legislation in the aftermath of the Genoa G8 mobilization in July. And it must also be recalled that the European rulers were assisted in their dirty work by the reformist and centrist “left,” which joined the chorus screaming for more repression of the anarchist victims of murderous state repression in Genoa, and in particular for repression of the so-called “Black Bloc.” Today, the baiting of anarchist youth as “violent” by the “respectable” organizers of “anti-globalization” protests is even more pernicious as it sets anarchist youth up to be among the first targets of the bourgeoisie’s “war on terrorism.” The International Communist League, uniquely among those claiming to be Marxists, made a principled defense of the anarchist victims of bourgeois state repression, despite our political differences with their worldview and strategy.

So-called leftists who line up with their own rulers in repressing other leftists and ignore police-state terror against minorities lack the basic gut impulse to oppose capitalist injustice. Far from fighting for the revolutionary overthrow of this racist system of exploitation, these reformists embrace the capitalist state as their own. Our comrades’ interventions in a forum on Genoa at the French CP’s L’Humanité fête literally split apart the room on this basic question of “which side are you on?” Young anarchists were outraged that in the one and a half hours of drivel from the podium, the name Carlo Giuliani was barely mentioned, while the police terror in Genoa was whitewashed.

An anarchist group, “Officina 99,” which is calling for an anti-NATO protest in Naples on September 27, has published a statement on the World Trade Center attack which is imbued with a revolutionary internationalist spirit we Marxists find commendable. They note that among the dead were workers, “our potential allies, those we talk to when we speak of a ‘different possible world’.” They condemn the attack for its “indiscriminate character” and go on to note that the attacks against immigrants are the product of the “fall of the Berlin Wall” and the rise of a unipolar world.

But even the best subjective impulses and a clear-sighted view of reality are not sufficient to bring down a capitalist system which again threatens world war, this time with nuclear weapons. A fundamental difference with the best of the anarchists—whose revulsion at the fake left’s fawning loyalty to social democracy and parliamentarism we share, and with whom we are increasingly frequently in a bloc against the reformist apologists for state repression—is that anarchists have no clue how to bring down the system of exploitation. They reject the centrality of the proletariat for revolutionary change, and especially the need for the working people to create their own class rule, their own state power. Indeed, one of the Italian anarchist statements on the attacks in the United States noted that they opposed the attack as part of their “internationalist opposition to the state.” The bourgeois state is an institution of class oppression of the proletariat by the capitalist class. But the dictatorship of the proletariat—which will suppress the inevitable resistance of the bourgeoisie to the rule of the revolutionary working class—is the necessary first step toward the withering away of the state through the creation of a classless communist society.

As the war plans of the imperialist rulers should make clear to everyone, the capitalist class is ruthless; it is never going to cede power without a fight, and will use the same terror against its own working people at home as it employs to plunder the “Third World” and to wage its interimperialist world wars. The crucial bridge to get from the misery of the capitalist present to the promise of a socialist future is the struggle for a workers state. It is necessary to bring the workers to power in their own state, a dictatorship of the proletariat, to defend their gains, to fight the capitalist enemy, and to fight for the international extension of their struggle.

Mobilized at the point of production (and uniquely integrated in today’s increasingly segregated racist societies) and creating the wealth of society, the working class uniquely has the social power and compulsion of clear objective interest to liberate mankind from oppression. Having no stake in maintaining the bourgeois order, its power rests in its productive role, its numbers and organization. No amount of demonstrating outside G8 or NATO meetings, pressuring the imperialists to put on a more “human face,” can really challenge the system. Only proletarian socialist revolution can bring down the irrational profit-driven capitalist system based on private property and institute a planned, collectivized economy based on production for human needs. This perspective requires international revolutionary struggle to destroy imperialism and unite the workers of the world in a planned socialist economy.

The counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92 and the attendant declarations of the world’s imperialist rulers that “communism is dead” have sparked a revival of anarchist ideas. As Trotsky said, in reactionary periods “senile thought seems to have become infantile.” It’s our aim to win the best, most self-sacrificing and subjectively revolutionary fighters from the present generation of youth to an understanding of the principles of scientific socialism so that the errors of the past, which have thus far prevented the overthrow of the decrepit imperialist order worldwide, will not be repeated. The ICL struggles to bring the working people to power worldwide in new October Revolutions. Now more than ever, a revolutionary world party is needed to put an end to the system of exploitation, racism and war—join us!