"National Unity" Jingoism: Bosses Profit, Workers Pay
Repression, Recession and War
U.S. Hands Off Afghanistan, Iraq!
Defend Immigrants Against Racist Witchhunt!
Unchain Labor/Black Power!
For Class Struggle! For a Workers Party!
Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 765, 28 September 2001.
SEPTEMBER 25-The hijacked airliners that slammed into the World Trade Center on September 11 have changed not simply the landscape of lower Manhattan but the political landscape of the world. Upwards of 6,000 people are dead, most buried in the still smoldering ashes of the rubble. The New York Stock Exchange took its biggest weekly drop since the Great Depression of the 1930s, losing over a trillion dollars. A wounded, dangerous and nuclear-armed U.S. imperialism has dispatched four aircraft carriers, 30 warships, at least one nuclear submarine, 15,000 troops and hundreds of warplanes to the Persian Gulf. And that is only the beginning. The most immediate target is Afghanistan's Taliban government. Yet these same Islamic fundamentalist forces were armed and bankrolled by the U.S. to fight the Soviet Army, whose intervention into Afghanistan in 1979 offered the prospect of bringing progress to that hideously backward country. At home, the rulers have seized the opportunity to tighten the screws of state repression on the working people, the ghetto masses, desperate and increasingly besieged immigrants and anyone else they perceive as getting in their way.
The attack on the World Trade Center took place a decade, almost to the day, after the ascendancy of the forces of counterrevolution in the former Soviet Union, who were also backed by U.S. imperialism. However bureaucratically deformed and undermined by the nationalist rule of a privileged, parasitic Stalinist bureaucracy, the Soviet Union was a workers state; as such it stood as a counterweight to the boundless ambitions of the American empire. With the counterrevolutionary destruction of the USSR, the U.S. rulers boasted of being the "world's only superpower" as they ran roughshod over the rest of the world, leaving a trail of untold misery, devastation and death in their wake-from Iraq to Sudan to the Balkans. The intensity of hatred, humiliation and desperation the American imperialists have inspired among tens if not hundreds of millions of people around the globe was brought home in blood and fire as two airplanes full of civilian passengers crashed into the Twin Towers, while a third hit the Pentagon and another went down while headed toward the Washington, D.C. area.
In a 12 September statement by the Political Bureau of the Spartacist League/U.S. titled "The World Trade Center Attack" (WV No. 764, 14 September), we wrote: "Those who perpetrated this horrific attack (and there is no evidence at all as to who that was) embrace the same mentality as the racist rulers of America-identifying the working masses with their capitalist exploiters and oppressors!" But this attack, however criminal from the vantage point of the working class and oppressed, doesn't hold a candle to what the U.S. imperialists are now preparing to perpetrate against their enemies-internationally and at home.
In a 13 September statement, Radio Havana condemned "the most astonishing act of terrorism in history against what has been for Cuba an implacable enemy for 40 years." The 1959 Cuban Revolution overthrew the Batista regime of henchmen for U.S. imperialism, leading in 1960-61 to the expropriation of the capitalists and the establishment of a workers state, albeit bureaucratically deformed and nationally limited by its own Stalinist-style bureaucracy. Ever since, Cuba has been the target of the CIA's own terrorist network. Counterrevolutionary Cuban gusanos have perpetrated countless bombings, acts of sabotage and airline hijackings. This terror, the U.S. military bastion at Guantánamo Bay and the 40-year-long starvation blockade are all aimed at recapturing Cuba for imperialist exploitation. As the Radio Havana statement warned:
"The most powerful nation on earth has been put on a war footing and history has taught us all what to expect when Washington starts waving the cudgel self-righteously. The families of almost a million Japanese, four million Koreans, three million Vietnamese, and thousands of Iraqis and Yugoslavians can all attest to what occurs when the Oval Office scrambles its bombers."
The ruling parties-Republicans and Democrats-with the fawning assistance of their media lackeys are fanning the flames of a patriotic fervor not seen since the bombing of Pearl Harbor. They seek to line up the population behind their military aims abroad and to further chain the working class at home to the interests of the capitalist exploiters. From the halls of Congress to the talking heads on television, they rail against the barbarity of Islamic fundamentalism, fomenting a wave of chauvinist terror against Muslims, people of Near Eastern descent, as well as Sikhs, other South Asians and dark-skinned Latinos. Not so long ago, the American bourgeoisie heralded the Islamic reactionaries as "freedom fighters" in the war against the Soviet "evil empire."
When Soviet troops first moved into Afghanistan, we wrote in an article headlined "Hail Red Army!" (WV No. 247, 11 January 1980):
"The imperialist media pulled out the stops to build sympathy for 'freedom fighters' battling sophisticated tanks and planes with sticks, stones and chants of 'allah akbar.' But in the military confrontation pitting the Soviet soldiers, backing the nationalist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) against feudal and pre-feudal forces aided by imperialism, Marxists side with the Russian tanks."
When the Kremlin Stalinists criminally withdrew Soviet military forces in 1989, the Partisan Defense Committee, the legal and social defense organization associated with the SL/U.S., wrote to the PDPA government offering "to organize an international brigade to fight to the death" against the forces of Islamic reaction. When the Afghan government instead appealed for financial aid, the PDC launched an international fund drive to aid Afghanistan's beleaguered women, workers and leftists. Today we call on the working class to fight in opposition to the war moves of U.S. imperialism, which only strengthen a state that has perpetrated untold terror and war and a ruling class loading its arsenal of state repression with ammunition aimed directly at you.
The huge war mobilization supposedly aimed at taking out a "terror network" based in one of the most backward countries on earth is both dangerous and absurd. As one bourgeois pundit cynically put it: "You hear people saying we should bomb Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. You have to realize it's not that far from the Stone Age as it is." The number one "suspect" in this deranged "war against terrorism," Osama bin Laden, is himself the bought-and-paid-for creature of U.S. imperialism. Pentagon deputy director Paul Wolfowitz raves about "ending states" that harbor terrorists, saber-rattling for an all-out assault on Iraq. Much of Iraq has already been reduced to rubble by the endless, almost daily, bombing raids in the ten years since the end of the Gulf War, while over one and a half million people have been killed by the starvation blockade. U.S. hands off Afghanistan! Defend Iraq against imperialist attack-Down with the starvation blockade!
Profits for Bosses, Terror for Immigrants, Blacks
While the "foreign enemy" of the U.S. imperialist buildup is as vague as it is seemingly ubiquitous, the domestic targets are clear. Ruling under a declared state of "national emergency," the Bush administration with bipartisan support is pushing through a wholesale assault on civil liberties. More than 350 people have already been rounded up as "suspected Islamic terrorists," and many more immigrants of all nationalities are threatened with instant deportation or "preventive detention." While Bush intones about the need for "religious tolerance" (mainly because the countries with most of the world's oil wealth are overwhelmingly populated by Muslims), on the streets pogromist mobs surround and attack mosques and Muslim community centers. At least four people of Near Eastern or South Asian origin have been murdered.
"Flying while Arab" may be the new expression for harassment, intimidation and terror at the hands of the state, but the racial profiling which is now the order of the day will overwhelmingly target black people. Two years ago, New York City erupted in sustained and massive protest following the killing of black African immigrant Amadou Diallo, who was cut down in a hail of 41 bullets by a band of cops. Now, in an article titled "Diallo, Terrorism and Safety vs. Liberty" (New York Times, 13 September), columnist Clyde Haberman opines: "In the name of law and order, how much license do we give the police to stop and question citizens whose sole 'crime' is to have been standing on the street or, as in the Diallo case, in the vestibules of their apartment buildings?... It is quite possible that America will have to decide, and fairly soon, how much license it wants to give law enforcement." That question is already being decided by the powers that be, who are ratcheting up state repression while the media boosts the murderous and viciously racist NYPD as "heroes."
The purpose of the patriotic hoopla being whipped up by the bourgeoisie is to convince the working class that it must sacrifice its wages, living and working conditions, jobs and rights for the "defense of the nation." Before the hijacked airliners were ever commandeered to destroy the World Trade Center, the economy was already on a nosedive into recession. In some ways, the attack was its own "gift from god" for the American bourgeoisie, which is using it to bolster its profits and imperialist interests.
The population was encouraged to invest in the stock market as a demonstration of patriotism. But as Paul Krugman noted in an op-ed piece in the New York Times (23 September): "Anyone who patriotically purchased stocks got caught up in a market plunge that wiped out more than $1 trillion in wealth, while short-selling hedge fund managers who didn't let sentimentality get in the way of business did very well, thank you." And we're not talking about Osama bin Laden selling short, but the American bourgeoisie, whose only "patriotic" commitment is to its bottom line.
Airline companies got bailed out to the tune of $15 billion (with Delta Airlines realizing four times the amount it had lost). Over 100,000 airline workers are being handed pink slips. Evidently thinking it unseemly, the Bush administration has temporarily shelved its proposal to cut capital gains taxes for the rich as a way to "jump-start" the economy. But they have milked some $40 billion from Social Security to get Wall Street up and running-and the warships and bombers moving. In New York City, transit workers and other public employees were outraged to learn that, in addition, some $800 million of their pension funds were being dumped into the collapsing stock market "to help shore up the economy" (Daily News, 21 September).
As V.I. Lenin, whose Bolshevik Party led the working class of the former tsarist empire to power in the first and only successful workers revolution in history, wrote in explaining the revolutionary program and strategy of Marxism:
"People have always been the foolish victims of deception and self-deception in politics, and they always will be until they have learnt to seek out the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises. Champions of reforms and improvements will always be fooled by the defenders of the old order until they realize that every old institution, however barbarous and rotten it may appear to be, is kept going by the forces of certain ruling classes. And there is only one way of smashing the resistance of those classes, and that is to find, in the very society which surrounds us, the forces which can-and, owing to their social position, must-constitute the power capable of sweeping away the old and creating the new, and to enlighten and organise those forces for the struggle."
- "The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism" (March, 1913)
Hundreds of workers from New York City and beyond volunteered their labor, skills and lives in the monumental effort to rescue anyone they could from the burning ruins of the World Trade Center. In this one could see not only the spirit of self-sacrifice but the collective social power and organization of the working class. The parasitic rulers who live off the exploitation of this labor did not and could not have displayed such sacrifice and skill. For them the central purpose was simply to clear away enough rubble to reopen the stock exchange, using patriotism to rouse working people to rebuild the citadel of American imperialist exploitation. At the same time, star-spangled jingoism is used to divide and weaken the proletariat, directing anger against Arab and Muslim immigrants.
In the U.S., the raw exploitation of those who labor has always been furthered through playing on racial and ethnic divisions. If the social power of the proletariat is to be organized to create a new world-a society in which the tremendous wealth of this country is deployed for the benefit of those who created it-it must be mobilized in defense of immigrant rights, for the cause of black freedom and to champion the rights of all the oppressed against this entire capitalist system. But that is a question of leadership.
The day after the World Trade Center attack, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney intoned: "America is a democratic and open society built upon universal values of freedom and human dignity. No act of terror will undermine those values. No sacrifice is too great for Americans to defend those values." And so the union bureaucrats play their designated role as the labor lieutenants of the capitalist rulers, policing the unions to ensure the flow of profits to the bosses. To maintain the ties through which they shackle the working people to their exploiters, the trade-union tops have long boosted the Democratic Party as the "friend of labor" alternative to the Republicans. But the reality that the Democrats and Republicans are simply the twin faces of the one property party in this country was put baldly by Democratic Senate leader Tom Daschle. In a statement eerily reminiscent of that of Kaiser Wilhelm on the eve of World War I-"I no longer know parties, I know only Germans"-Daschle declared, "There is no difference in our aim. We are resolved to work together, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans."
The only road forward for the proletariat is the road of class war against the capitalist class. In the course of class struggle, it is our purpose to train, educate and steel the cadres of the multiracial workers party that, in the words of Leon Trotsky, can lead "a great revolutionary mass movement...that will leave no remnant of the entire structure of class exploitation, national oppression, and racial persecution."
Tightening the Screws of Repression
Among the cynical calculations of the American bourgeoisie is to use the attack on the World Trade Center to bury the "Vietnam syndrome"-the popular opposition to American soldiers dying in foreign military adventures-which grew out of the massive defeat of U.S. imperialism by the heroic Vietnamese workers and peasants. While raving about the "sanctity of American life," the government is looking to see some American troops bloodied in combat. "Winning this war," declared an editorial in the New York Times (16 September), "will require discipline, stamina and sacrifice." It continued:
"America may have to give up the post-Vietnam illusion that it is possible to fight wars with few casualties. Our success in the Persian Gulf and even our limited achievements in the Balkans created the illusion that American military technology is sophisticated enough to be used in combat without putting soldiers in harm's way. But what we have actually been enjoying is an extended string of luck. Last week, the message came through loud and clear that luck can run out."
To regiment the population behind the defense of imperialist interests, the rulers are tightening the screws of state repression. Attorney General John Ashcroft, an open defender of the Confederate slavocracy and Civil War "Southern patriots like Lee, Jackson and Davis," is aiming to push a package of sweeping assaults on civil liberties through a pliant Congress in the coming days.
The proposed new laws would extend practices currently widely used in foreign intelligence surveillance-largely carried out in secrecy and without court warrants-to domestic "terrorism" cases and all criminal investigations. The government's ability to conduct secret searches would be vastly expanded. Restrictions on wiretapping and Internet monitoring would be virtually eliminated, and the government wants access to all private computer encryption keys. Evoking the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans in concentration camps, Ashcroft has sought the power to hold non-citizens (including permanent residents) deemed a possible "danger to national security" in indefinite detention.
Last week, the New York State legislature rushed through a law making membership and even financial support to any organization deemed "terrorist" a felony. Under Ashcroft's proposal, non-citizens could be deported for providing financial support for the lawful activities of a "terrorist" organization-including retroactively! For example, a permanent resident of the U.S. who gave money to the African National Congress-which currently heads the South African capitalist government-when it was fighting apartheid in the 1980s could be rounded up and deported.
As German Communist playwright Bertolt Brecht once quipped: "Would it not be easier in that case for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?" The proposed legislation aimed at the civil rights of the population is the expression of the fear and loathing the U.S. government has for "the people." The Constitution of this country was originally meant to apply to white male Protestant freeholders-that was what was behind the definition of a "citizen." As that definition was expanded to include broader layers of the population, the rights of the citizen were correspondingly diminished. The extension of the right to bear arms, for example, has led to its increasing erosion through gun control measures. Against the liberal proponents of gun control, we would point out that had some of the passengers or crew on those airliners been armed, there might not have been any (successful) hijackings.
Don't hold your breath waiting for the pusillanimous liberals of the American Civil Liberties Union, who only seem to get animated over defending the fascist terrorists of the Ku Klux Klan, to come to your defense. In a 20 September press release, the ACLU declared: "We pledge to work with our national leaders in their fight to bring those responsible for this tragedy to justice. And we believe that our nation can, as it has during other times of national emergency, reconcile the requirements of security with the demands of liberty."
The only rights to which the bourgeoisie is unalterably committed are those which enforce its class rule-the right to hold private property, to own the means of production, to employ wage labor. For the working people and oppressed, even those democratic rights nominally guaranteed under the Constitution can only be secured through social struggle and are eminently reversible under capitalism.
Immigrant Rights, Black Rights Go Hand in Hand
As always in this deeply racist society, attacks on civil liberties strike hardest against black people. Thirty-eight Black Panther Party activists were murdered and hundreds more imprisoned under the FBI's COINTELPRO terror operation-which was originally set up during the 1950s anti-Communist witchhunt. Now, the new "czar" of the "Office of Homeland Security," which brings in the CIA, the military and other agencies nominally banned from operating domestically, is Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge. Among the credentials qualifying him for this post is his ardent support for the death penalty. Ridge has signed two death warrants for Mumia Abu-Jamal, the eloquent journalist, MOVE supporter and former Black Panther who was framed up and railroaded to death row for his political beliefs.
The frenzy of anti-Arab and anti-immigrant chauvinism is a deadly danger to all racial minorities, especially the black population whose forcible concentration at the bottom of this society is rooted in the very foundations of the American capitalist system. Speaking about the racist mob that laid siege to a mosque outside Chicago, black radio commentator Cliff Kelley warned, "When those white youths were protesting against Arab Americans in Bridgeview, they were not just aiming their attacks against Arabs. They were also carrying Confederate flags. They're against us, too. This is becoming a race war and Bush is helping to push it" (Chicago Defender, 18 September).
But it's not just Bush. For years, black Democratic politicos and pseudo-nationalist "community leaders" have played into the capitalists' schemes to pit one sector of the oppressed against another, fomenting chauvinism against Arab, Latino and Korean immigrants in a competition for scarce jobs and government programs. Jesse Jackson, who often waxes rhetorical about the multiethnic American "rainbow," lauded the "anti-terrorist" roundups that help fuel the chauvinist hysteria, praising the Feds for "being able to penetrate the intelligence network" and prevent "further bombings to this date" (Chicago Defender, 17 September). Jackson's self-defined role is to serve as a "soft cop" for racist U.S. imperialism; thus he now urges Bush to "use intelligence, not war." It's precisely in the name of "intelligence" that the government is gearing up a vast machinery of repression against immigrants, blacks and all its perceived opponents.
To her credit, black Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a protégé of former liberal Congressman Ron Dellums, registered the sole vote against the resolution giving Bush a blank check for war. For his part, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, calling America "the greatest nation on this earth," rushed to "agree with President Bush that there must be an appropriate response to this wicked attack, but anger and wounded pride should not and must not determine what that appropriate response should be" (Chicago Defender, 19 September). Two days earlier, the Defender ran the headline, "Victory Abroad and Victory at Home," evoking the "Double V for Victory" line pushed by the NAACP during World War II to enlist black people in the interimperialist slaughter. But victory abroad meant the U.S. boot on the neocolonial peoples and the maintenance of Jim Crow terror at home.
While the petty-bourgeois black misleaders rally 'round the flag, many of those at the bottom don't buy into the patriotic mobilization, knowing that they will be among its targets. But they are far from powerless. Black workers are a strategic component of the U.S. proletariat. Nor are immigrants, who have been increasingly prominent in union struggles, simply defenseless victims. But to wield the power that labor has as the producers of the wealth of society requires, above all, a break with the Democratic Party and the forging of a revolutionary workers party that fights for all the oppressed. The road to black freedom lies in the overthrow of racist American capitalism through socialist revolution. For class-struggle defense of immigrant rights-No deportations! Full citizenship rights for all immigrants! Black liberation through socialist revolution!
Economic Recession, Imperialist Rivalry
The counterrevolutionary destruction of the former Soviet Union was an unparalleled defeat for working people all over the world, leading to intensified rivalry-and the heightened danger of war-among the imperialist powers. In the wake of the World Trade Center attack, the European Union (EU) leaders immediately pledged their full support to the U.S., for the first time invoking Article Five of NATO's Atlantic Charter calling for collective military action against any act of aggression on a member state. The European imperialists have their own reasons for promoting an "anti-terrorist" hysteria, both to fuel their own military buildups and to impose even tighter border controls and broader repression against immigrants and asylum-seekers (see "ICL Sections Say: Down With Imperialism-For Class Struggle at Home!", page 6). But with the notable exception of Blair's Britain, which is again acting as Washington's salesman in Europe, EU leaders, especially French and German, soon made clear that they were not about to hand Washington a blank check for military action.
The current international crisis directly intersects a long-standing source of conflict between American and European capitalists: the economics of world oil. The world oil cartel is dominated by giant American companies like Exxon-Mobil. Although the Netherlands and Britain (Royal Dutch Shell, British Petroleum) are also major players, this is not the case for Germany and France, the core EU powers. Hence every dollar increase in the world market price of oil not only enriches an important sector of corporate America but also increases the energy costs of French and German capitalists. This is what lay behind the clash between the EU and U.S. over the defunct Kyoto "global warming" agreement, whose (nominal) caps on energy use would have affected the U.S. most directly.
The wars against Iraq in 1991 and Serbia in 1999 resulted in a permanent U.S. or U.S.-led NATO military presence in the Persian Gulf/Near East and the Balkans. Now, Washington aims to extend its military reach particularly into the former Soviet Central Asian republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, where U.S. energy companies have already invested billions of dollars to tap fabulous oil and natural gas reserves. Not surprisingly, Washington's plans have provoked sharp fears in Russia which, while in no position to challenge the U.S. right now, still has a huge nuclear arsenal and its own regional imperial ambitions. Existing conflicts among the major capitalist powers will only deepen as the world recession deepens. The drumbeat for national chauvinism by all the imperialist bourgeoisies is aimed at preparing their "own" working people to accept drastic cuts in living standards and to serve as cannon fodder in the resulting wars.
Seeking to secure the support of Muslim countries-including supposed "terrorist states" like Syria and Iran-for its "coalition against terrorism," Washington has finally moved to put its Israeli junior partners on a short leash. The Zionist butchers seized on the World Trade Center attack to escalate their bloody raids into towns nominally controlled by Yasir Arafat's Palestinian Authority, killing 28 people in one week (on top of the more than 600 already murdered by Israeli troops and their fascistic "settler" auxiliaries in the past year). Under intense pressure from the U.S., Sharon finally agreed to a "cease-fire," while still refusing to follow through. Meanwhile, the ever-pliant Arafat has ordered his security forces not to shoot back "even when under fire from Israeli forces" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20 September). We say: Defend the Palestinian people! All Israeli troops and settlers out of the Occupied Territories!
To buy the compliance of Pakistan, the Taliban's chief patron, the U.S. pushed through a $2.5 billion IMF loan this week and dropped sanctions imposed after a nuclear weapons test three years ago. Similar sanctions against India were also dropped. With Pakistan erupting in fundamentalist mobilizations, a New York Times (15 September) editorial worried, "Any American victories in Afghanistan would quickly turn into a catastrophic defeat if the war there turned Pakistan, with its 142 million people and nuclear weapons, into an Islamic fundamentalist state." The American bourgeoisie thinks it can rule the roost in any part of the world with a big stick and a bit of carrot. But far from imposing a stable "New World Order," from the Near East to the Balkans to South Asia, U.S. intervention serves only to stoke national antagonisms and regional wars.
Whatever countries Washington chooses to target in the coming months, its strategic goal remains the smashing of those remaining countries where capitalism was overthrown, the bureaucratically deformed workers states of China, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea. Trotskyists fight for the unconditional military defense of the deformed workers states against imperialism and internal counterrevolution. The nationalist Stalinist bureaucracies that undermine the defense of those states and the collectivized economy on which they are based must be ousted through proletarian political revolutions.
Unlike Cuba, China has offered its support to the U.S. "war against terrorism," urging only that Washington not act unilaterally but under the auspices of the UN. The Chinese Stalinist bureaucracy is intent on encouraging imperialist investment as it forges ahead with pro-capitalist "market reforms." Meanwhile, Beijing has its own version of bin Laden's Islamic fundamentalists to deal with, as well as the CIA-sponsored "Free Tibet" rabble under the "god-king" Dalai Lama. While the Bush administration currently seeks to enlist Beijing's diplomatic support, it is moving full steam ahead with plans for a "national missile defense"-with a green light last week from Congressional Democrats. The chief aim, ultimately, of this "Star Wars II" project is to facilitate a nuclear first strike against China.
Reformists Plead for "Peaceful" Imperialism
Writing as the imperialist powers geared up for World War II, communist leader Leon Trotsky stated in "War and the Fourth International" (June 1934):
"The exposure of the thoroughly reactionary, putrefied and robber nature of modern capitalism, the destruction of democracy, reformism and pacifism, the urgent and burning need of the proletariat to find a safe path away from imminent disaster put the international revolution on the agenda with renewed force....
"Not to bind itself to the national state in time of war, to follow not the war map but the map of the class struggle, is possible only for that party that has already declared irreconcilable war on the national state in time of peace.... A real break with the ideology and policy of 'national defense' is possible only from the standpoint of the international proletarian revolution."
Wedded to the illusion that the capitalist nation-state can be reformed to serve the interests of workers and the oppressed, the reformist left adapts to the bourgeoisies of their respective countries. In West Europe, this takes the predominant form of anti-Americanism and support for the social democrats who today administer many of the imperialist states. In the U.S., groups like the social-democratic International Socialist Organization (ISO) and the Stalinoid Workers World Party (WWP) capitulate to the prevailing climate of "national unity," throwing themselves into vigils aimed at appealing to the government to adopt "peaceful" means to combat "terrorism."
On September 20, thousands of students turned out for rallies at nearly 150 campuses across the country, many of them looking for answers to the government's war hysteria. In the past few years, large numbers of youth have taken to the streets in protests against "globalization" and the ravages inflicted by American "multinational" corporations on poor people in the "Third World," especially slave-labor sweatshop conditions. Viewing the working class as just one more oppressed and victimized sector of the population, these youth see no road other than that of trying to pressure the American government-whether through lobbying or "street fighting"-to adopt "kinder, gentler" policies at home and globally. Our comrades have intervened at such protests to win radicalized youth to the Marxist understanding that the threat of war is a direct product of a system based on capitalist/imperialist exploitation, and that the proletariat is the one class in society with the social power and historic interest to bring that system down and organize a just, socialist society.
For their part, the reformists pander to the liberal illusions prevalent among such youth. Their message is essentially: "War won't stop terrorism, give peace a chance." In New York City, the ISO has formed "People for Peace," whose "Mission Statement" appeals for "solidarity as a nation" and calls for "bringing the people responsible for the attacks to legal justice without using violence as a form of punishment." WWP's International Action Center is the driving force behind a coalition that calls on "people of conscience" to rally at the White House on September 29 to say that "war is not the answer."
The ISO is a quintessential weathervane of liberal "public opinion," defined by social-democratic anti-Communism from its inception as a tendency during the first Cold War. In the 1980s, the ISO-and virtually every other reformist group-avidly embraced the "human rights" anti-Sovietism of the imperialist rulers, cheering on the CIA's mujahedin cutthroats in Afghanistan. In 1999, the ISO and other fake-socialist groups embraced the cause of "poor little Kosovo," the banner under which the U.S. led NATO in a war that laid waste to Serbia.
At bottom, groups like the ISO and WWP accept the liberal notion that imperialism is just a policy, and that the capitalists can be pressured to pursue other, more "humane" and "peaceful" policies. Progressive Labor Party (PL) rightly declares: "During imperialist war, communists must lead workers against their ruling class" (Challenge, 3 October). But PL capitulates to the imperialist rulers in its own way. PL equates small or semicolonial capitalist countries-like Serbia or Iraq-with imperialist powers like the U.S. Thus PL spits on the Leninist obligation to defend against imperialist attack those countries exploited by the handful of capitalist countries that control the world economy.
War is the continuation of politics by other means. In Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916), Lenin stressed that imperialist capitalism is marked by the concentration and domination of finance capital, the pre-eminence of the export of capital and competition among the advanced capitalist countries to control markets and spheres of influence. In opposition to the theory of a peaceful "ultra-imperialism" advanced by German Social Democrat Karl Kautsky, Lenin wrote:
"The only conceivable basis under capitalism for the division of spheres of influence, interests, colonies, etc., is a calculation of the strength of those participating, their general economic, financial, military strength, etc. And the strength of these participants in the division does not change to an equal degree, for the even development of different undertakings, trusts, branches of industry, or countries is impossible under capitalism....
"Therefore, in the realities of the capitalist system, and not in the banal philistine fantasies of English parsons, or of the German 'Marxist' Kautsky, 'inter-imperialist' or 'ultra-imperialist' alliances, no matter what form they may assume, whether of one imperialist coalition against another, or of a general alliance embracing all the imperialist powers, are inevitably nothing more than a 'truce' in periods between wars."
Imperialist war is but the concentrated expression of the "normal" brutal workings of the capitalist system, which daily condemns countless numbers of people around the world to death by malnutrition, lack of medical care and industrial "accidents." The threat to obliterate "rogue states" is of a piece with the use of the U.S.-dominated International Monetary Fund to impose misery and starvation on the workers of Southeast Asia, Mexico and elsewhere in order to keep interest payments flowing into the coffers of Chase Manhattan and Citicorp.
Socialism or Barbarism
Barely a decade ago, America's rulers proclaimed victory in the Cold War and promised the population a "peace dividend." That dividend took the form of one military adventure after another, including the first major conflagration on European soil since the end of World War II, the U.S.-led NATO air war against Serbia in 1999. Its domestic complement was a mushrooming of the prison population-with over one million black men, women and youth currently behind bars-and a widening chasm between rich and poor. Corporate America has gorged itself on profits extracted through non-union, minimum-wage labor, multi-tier wage contracts, speedup, massive overtime and the wholesale dismantling of social welfare programs. Now you can kiss your pension goodbye as they loot the Social Security "lockbox" to pay for whatever insane military adventure Bush undertakes while the Dow Jones index goes through the floor.
The current war buildup presages full-scale wars in the future, ultimately encompassing all the imperialist powers and posing the spectre of a nuclear conflagration. The men who rule this country are not rational, because the capitalist system they preside over is irrational. Only world socialist revolution can save mankind from a barbaric outcome. As we say in the Programmatic Statement of the Spartacist League/U.S.:
"American 'democracy' has been purchased through brutal exploitation of the colonial and semicolonial masses around the world, generally through imposition of murderous anti-labor dictatorial regimes. America is ruled by the dictatorship of a single class, the bourgeoisie, alternately administered by the Democrats and Republicans, two wings of the same property party. The façade of democracy is designed simply to obscure the fact that the capitalist state is an instrument of organized force and violence-consisting at its core of the police, army, courts and prisons-for maintaining capitalist property and profits through the suppression of the working class and the oppressed and fending off foreign challenges. The proletariat cannot lay hold of this state machinery and use it for its own purposes, but must smash the bourgeois state and establish a workers state, laying the basis for the abolition of classes in an international communist world. Our task, in the bastion of world imperialism, is to build the multiracial revolutionary workers party, section of a reforged Fourth International, which will lead the proletariat in the overthrow of the American capitalist order, the expropriation of the bourgeoisie as a class and the establishment of a planned socialist economy."