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National Front smears Trotskyists as ‘Red Fascists’

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This is the title of a pamphlet handed out by the National Front outside a recent Alliance Party conference in Wellington. The purpose of the Leaflet is to label the Alliance and all those of the broad left as a front for ‘Trotskyites’ and then to smear Trotskyites as ‘Red Fascists. Both are lies. This is a provocation by the neo-fascists against communists. The soft left are not Trotskyists. They will never defend the workers against fascism. Nor are Trotskyists fascists. One thing that the NF forgot to quote was Trotsky’s promise to real fascists to “acquaint their faces with the pavement”.

NF: finds Trots everywhere

Trots are accused of ‘entering’ the ‘respectable” Alliance. What’s the evidence? Matt McCarten goes every year to Sydney as guest speaker at events put on the ‘Trot’ Democratic Socialist Party. But the DSP is not Trot, so there goes that argument. The DSP see article on Venezuela are Castroites if theyre anything and Castro is no Trot.

Leading light in the Alliance, Len Richards and Mike Treen (ex-Alliance) are both undercover Trots. Richards was invited to CWG public meeting in early 2004 to talk about the Alliance. If he was at all influenced by the real Trot CWG he didn’t show it in rejecting the violent seizure of power. Mike Treen, was a member of the Communist League, who are ex-Trots, and now Castroites. No Trots here then.

The ‘comrades’ are cooking up something

Then there’s the open policy of the Socialist Workers to work with the Alliance, in the same way it has fused with the Scottish Socialist Party because workers have to be won from parliament. But the SWO are not Trots either, so their open entry is not going to lead to revolution. In fact the broad left only exist to stop revolution. (See article on Venezuela).

Maybe the NF should stop attributing its own bad faith to the left. After all fascism has had a bad press for half a century, and maybe workers need to be won to fascism by the NF dressing itself up as ‘respectable’ patriots opposed to ‘Red Fascism’.

Trotsky no ‘Red Fascist’

The NF then repeats lots of lies from Stalinist and Anarchist sources portraying Trotsky as a ‘Red Fascist’. Trotsky was actually the leader of the October Insurrection, the almost bloodless revolution that took power from the Tsar and his western imperialist cronies. He then led the Red Army in the Civil War to defeat the many armed invasions by Western and reactionary Russian forces.

In other words Trotsky led the Dictatorship of the Proletariat against the Dictatorship of the Capitalists and won. In the process he imposed the same discipline on the Red Army that the capitalists impose on workers who fight their wars. The difference was Trotsky was defending a workers’ state and not the rule of private property. Those who betrayed the revolution to the bosses’ forces were shot. But if you count up the deaths in the First World War and the Civil War it is the capitalists who are the mass killers, not Trotsky of the Bolshevik Party.

The Red Terror

That’s why the term the term ‘Red Terror’ is term used by the bosses to smear the Bolsheviks. The only people terrorised by the Russian Revolution were the bosses who lost their profits, and all their petty bourgeois hangers-on who lost their privileges. The class enemies of the working class were always given the opportunity to change sides and avoid punishment. The Red Army was staffed with Tsarist officers who came over the workers’ side. So were the sailors of Kronstadt given the chance to surrender; only when the workers cause was openly betrayed did those involved meet with death, and always after public trials.

Real Fascism

Far from ‘Red Fascism’, Trotsky represented the best elements of the Russian Revolution. His downfall at the hands of Stalin was the effect of the Russian Revolution being strangled by encirclement and isolation. Trotsky carried the flag of Communism in Germany in 1933 when the German Communist Party betrayed the world revolution by failing to stop Hitler.

That is the real reason the NF hates Trotskyists. They know like the Stalinists and the Anarchists, that only Trotsky was correct in confronting fascism in Germany and in Spain. Here the combined rotten politics of the Stalinists and the Anarchists sold out the workers and allowed Hitler and Franco to come to power. Trotsky’s and our policy towards the neo-fascists is to organise a workers’ unite front to smash them before they smash us!

From Class Struggle 60 March-April 2005


Written by raved

January 11, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Vietnam: Another Revolution Betrayed

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Review of ‘The Revolution Defamed: A Documentary History of Vietnamese Trotskyism’. Edited and Annotated by Al Richardson. Socialist Platform 2003.
Vietnam: Another Revolution Betrayed

Al Richardson, who died recently, was co-editor of Revolutionary History. In this small book he has brought together a number of documentary sources on the rise and fall of Trotskyism in Vietnam. The book is important because it collects material that is not readily available and adds to the scanty sources already published in English.[1] The lesson is, sadly, one of the tragic betrayal and defeat of the Vietnamese revolution.

The history of Trotskyism in Vietnam is one of tragedy. Vietnamese Trotskyism fulfilled Trotsky’s hopes and expectations in becoming the vanguard of the proletariat only to fall at the hands of the Stalinists at the critical moment in 1945. This tragedy is one of betrayal, not only of the Stalinists, but also of the French leaders of the 4th International after Trotsky’s death.

While Trotsky warned of the dangers of the popular front and fought ruthlessly to expose those elements who succumbed, notably the POUM in Spain, these lessons were learned in vain. During the same years that Trotsky condemned the popular front in Europe, it was the practice of at least one of the Trotskyist groups in Vietnam to enter into alliances with the Vietnamese Stalinists who were covertly negotiating with the national bourgeoisie. For the brave Vietnamese these fronts were to tragically vindicate Trotsky’s warnings and prove to be their death sentence.

The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution

Trotsky warned of the dangers of the popular front after the defeat of the Chinese Revolution in 1927 (See Class Struggle, #46,47. 2002). The great betrayal of Stalinist policy in China in the 1920’s turned what should have been a military bloc into a popular front. Following Stalin’s takeover of the CP of the SU he proposed the theory of the ‘bloc of 4 classes’ in which the workers, peasants, and intellectuals were the allies of the national bourgeoisie against the imperialists. The CP of China allowed the Nationalist general Chiang Kai Shek to have overall command of its forces. The Left Opposition warned of the danger of this policy but could not prevent Chiang from turning on the Communist militants and wiping them out in their tens of thousands.

What is the lesson of China 1925-27? That workers can bloc with sections of the bourgeosie in an anti-imperialist united front (AIUF) provided they have complete political and organisational independence. In all cases of this independence must be expressed as a military independence. This is absolutely critical in the case of war. Where workers lose their independence within a front or bloc this leads to the liquidation of the workers vanguard by the bourgeoisie doing a deal with imperialism.

Having learnt this harsh lesson in China, and having lived through the failure of the united front in the face of fascism in the early 1930’s, Trotsky made the method of the united front the mainstay of his transitional program. This program of the Fourth International calls on the vanguard to ‘unite’ with the working masses to guide it over the bridge to revolution, by raising demands that expose and disarm the class collaborationists of the bourgeoisie in the labour movement. It was the failure of this method, of abandoning the leadership of the workers to the bosses and their agents that handed over the workers to the counter-revolution. This capitulation became evident in the Fourth International soon after the death of Trotsky in 1940, but its first incontrovertible demonstration came in Vietnam, 1945.

Vietnam: The First Betrayal of Trotskyism?

The first great betrayal of Trotskyism in the post war period, Vietnam 1945, resulted from the inability of Trotskyists to apply the Anti-imperialist united front a military bloc. That is, they failed to limit their collaboration with the Stalinists to a military bloc and succumbed to political alliances.

We can trace the causes of this defeat in the previous decade. One section of the Trotskyists united in a “Struggle Front” with Stalinists between 1933-1937. They retained their separate organisations but renounced their political independence by refraining from criticising their Stalinist front partners.

It was one thing to work alongside the Stalinists in united fronts to try and break away their rank and file. After all as early as 1929 the Communist Party Youth wing in Indochina rejected the Stalinist 2 stage theory as a result of the tragic betrayal in China. Leading youth cadres challenged the political line of the 6th congress on the Colonial Question. They attacked the Youth League for its opportunism towards the Vietnamese Nationalist Party that had close relations with the Guomindang, and formed the ‘Indo-Chinese Communist Party’ as a “party of the Indo-Chinese working class” (TRD, 56). This party was united into the PCI when it was formed in 1931 following an upsurge in anti-imperialist struggle in 1930-31.

But it is quite another thing to suppress political criticism of Stalinism inside the united front. This became critical after May 1936 when the PCI adopted the turn to the Popular Front. Originating in France, the Popular Front was a political pact between the Communists and bourgeoisie in which the Communists abandoned the goal of revolution in order to strengthen the French ruling class stand against German fascism and the threat it posed to the Soviet Union.

Trotsky reacted by condemning the Popular Fronts as traps that would disarm the workers in the face of fascism and demanded that his supporters form united fronts to break workers from the Popular Front. But in Indochina the Trotskyists joined forces in a colonial mini-popular front, the ‘Indo-Chinese Congress’ which abandoned the struggle for independence to keep the peace with the ‘democratic’ French! (TRD, 66).

The Trotskyist movement split. One group opposed to all collaboration with the Stalinists and nationalists formed the International Communist League which published a news-sheet called The Vanguard. But the Struggle Group continued to work actively in hundreds of ‘action committees’ for national liberation where the politics of Trotskyism was buried in joint political work with the Stalinists. Not until the Indochina Communist Party broke the ‘Struggle Front’ in 1937 abandoning the goal of national liberation in favour of a popular front with the ‘democratic’ Vietnamese bourgeoisie against fascism, did the ‘Struggle’ Trotskyists critique the popular front.

The correctness of this belated break with the Stalinists was shown in April 1939, when contesting the Saigon city council elections on a full Transitional Program, the Struggle Group won over 80% of the vote compared with less than 1% going to the Stalinists! (TRD, 71; and Vietnam and Trotskyism (V&T), Communist League (Australia) 1987, 27-32). Such was the influence of the Trotskyists in these years, Ho Chi Minh sent his famous directive to his party in Hanoi to “politically eliminate the Trotskyists” (TRD, 46).

Revolution and Counter-revolution

According to Ngo Van “There was a complete absence of any opposition to French administration under the Japanese boot from 1940 to 1945. All the subversives were in prison, concentration camps or labour camps: (TRD, 47).

In 1945, the Stalinist Vietminh backed the Allies against the Japanese. Opposing this, the Trotskyists called for a workers and peasants government which won overwhelming support in the popular committees especially in Saigon. With the Japanese surrender on August 16, the Vietminh took over power from the Japanese and called for the imperialists to return so they could negotiate national independence! The Trotskyists led an armed insurrection against the British and French invasion and put up a strong military resistance.

When on Sept 1 the Vietminh called on workers to welcome the allies, 400,000 workers demonstrated their opposition. The Struggle Group contingent was 18,000 strong. At this point the question of the armed independence of the Trotskyists from the Stalinists was posed as a matter of life and death. The Stalinists ordered the disarming of all oppositionists. Three days later the allies invaded. On the 23 September the Saigon Insurrection broke out. Led by the ICL the workers of Saigon organised themselves into ‘workers militia’ and fought the British and French forces for control of Saigon. One week later the Vietminh began arresting the popular committees and smashing the militia. They did not face much resistance from some of the Trotskyists!

A member of the Trotskyist International Communist League writes: “We behaved like true revolutionaries, although there were more of us and we were better armed. We surrendered our arms, machine guns and automatic pistols. They destroyed our office, broke up the furniture, tore up our flags, stole our typewriters and burnt our papers.” (TRD,9). Others put up a fight and were killed in battle, or like the leaders of the Struggle group, were isolated, captured and shot by the Vietminh or by the imperialists. (V&T, 41-45).

What are the lessons?

Having survived the Stalinists in the prewar period, and now thrust to the fore of the armed revolution, why weren’t the Trotskyists prepared for the treachery of the Stalinists in 1945? Why did the Struggle Group propose a united front to the Vietminh against the imperialists? (V&T,55). And why give “critical support to the Vietminh government” not long before being rounded up and shot? (V&T, 58)

It was already clear that the most militant workers knew that the Vietminh was in league with the imperialists. They rejected the passive resistance of the Vietminh ‘patriotic front’. Some working class areas of Saigon put up a strong fight but they needed to be organised into militias. For example, why wasn’t the 18,000 strong Struggle Group contingent organised into an armed militia when the ICL, ‘Spark’ and the Tramway depot had formed militias?

It seems that the Trotskyists, especially the Struggle Group, were handicapped by their pre-war collaboration with the Stalinists. The ‘crisis’ among Trotskyists in France on the question of the popular front in the 1930’s contributed to the crisis in the French colony. Ultimately, it was the failure of the French section and of the Fourth International to provide the correct leadership during the 1930’s and 1940’s that led the Vietnamese Trotskyists into the trap of a popular front with the Stalinists and Nationalists and then to their massacre by the Stalinists.

These and other larger questions concerning the failure of the leadership of the Fourth International on the colonial question during and immediately after the war will be the subject of a a follow-up article to this review. The materials in this book add to the vital documentation of these questions helping us to find the correct causes of this historic betrayal.

What ended in a tragic historic defeat could have been the beginning of the revolution in Indochina, which now regrettably had to endure another 30 years of colonial rule followed by a Stalinist restoration of capitalism!

[1] See Revolutionary History Vol 3, No 2, 1990, and Vietnam and Trotskyism, by Simon Pirani, Communist League (Australia) 1987. 
Photo at top is of Ta  Thu Thâu (1906–1945) a Vietnamese Trotskyist and the leader of the Fourth International in Vietnam.

From Class Struggle 57 August-September 2004 geovisit(); setstats


Five points for world revolution!

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Imperialist crisis is the crisis of humanity

In the post September 11 2001 world US imperialism has gone on the offensive to use war against ‘terrorism’ to overcome its 30 year old economic crisis. To survive it is forced to impose its rule over the rest of the world so it can increase its extraction of value from the producing classes. It has to defeat its EU and Japanese rivals to grab oil and gas reserves and the resources of the former workers states. This has further polarised the class struggle internationally between the imperialist powers on the one hand (the EU countries uniting their forces and Japan reviving its military) and the workers and peasants fight back against growing poverty, military occupations and economic slavery.

This struggle is the result of a growing contradiction between the accumulation of wealth and the rivalry of the imperialists to control it, and the growing impoverishment of the masses whose labour and access to resources is being exploited and destroyed. Facing this crisis, the danger is that the masses do not directly confront imperialism but are drawn into one or other of the imperialist blocs behind the reformists. For while the objective basis of the crisis of capitalism remains the drive by capital to destroy nature and humanity, the consciousness of the working masses is yet to face its class enemy directly and recognise the need to overthrow it. Instead, workers and poor peasants everywhere are being led by political parties that refuse to overthrow capitalism, and promote instead some peaceful path to a ‘democratic socialist’ future.

Capitalist Peace and Democracy false hopes

Facing a global crisis where the imperialists are inevitably forced into greater conflicts and wars to survive, this reformist leadership draws workers and poor peasants into a strategy of social imperialism – trying to reform imperialism by means of ‘peace’ and ‘democracy’. So in Europe we have the workers parties, old and new, contesting the Euro elections over control of a ‘parliament’ that is a fig leaf for the Euro imperialists attempts to unify their power in a single state. In Iraq, workers are being asked to support a UN backed puppet government imposed on them by an imperialist invasion and occupation in the name of ‘peace’ and ‘democracy’. In Venezuela, workers are defending Chavez against imperialism but are being told by Stalinists and fake Trotskyists that Chavez can get rid of imperialism by ‘democratic’ and ‘peaceful’ means. In Aotearoa, Maori are being mustered into parliament by a new Maori Party in the belief that colonisation can be legally reversed and that the imperialists’ ongoing grab for land and fisheries can be stopped ‘peacefully’ and ‘democratically’.

Smashing social imperialism

All of these ‘social imperialist movements’ against imperialist globalisation are reactionary utopias. They are utopian because imperialism will not lie down and roll over to save nature and humanity. They are reactionary because they are death traps that will disarm and demobilise workers and small peasants in the face of mounting inter-imperialist aggression and war. They are promoted by bourgeois and petty bourgeois intellectuals to present a human face to capitalism in order to disorientate and disorganise the only class alliance that can put and end to imperialism and capitalism – the workers leading the poor peasant farmer masses.

The answer today is the same one that Trotsky gave in the 1930’s. The crisis of humanity facing the imperialist death drive is a crisis of revolutionary leadership. The workers and poor peasants are the vast majority of humanity, but they are yet to become politically conscious. Trotsky drew upon the tradition of revolutionary Marxism to show that a revolutionary international party was necessary to develop the spontaneous resistance of the masses into a class-conscious revolutionary movement. Without that party and its program workers would remain trapped in the ‘social imperialist’ movements posing as ‘socialist’.

Today, more than ever, as the most recent imperialist crisis now threatens again to destroy nature and humanity, it is vitally urgently build a world party of revolution. The current World Social Forum (and all of its regional and nationalist groupings) is the ‘movement of movements’ that traps workers behind so-called ‘socialist’ and nationalist leaders like Castro, Lula and Chavez. Revolutionaries must stand opposed to this utopian, reactionary, ‘socialist’ international and form a new revolutionary international.

International Conference in December 2004

The CWG is part of a Parity Committee of revolutionary groups that is convening a conference in December this year in Brazil of all those forces that understand that the crisis of capitalism can only be overcome by resolving the crisis of leadership. We are calling on every political tendency and workers organisation that agrees to a basic program of 5 points for world revolution and fights for them in the working class to come to this conference. These points are:

(1) Victory for Iraq, Defeat imperialism at home!

This position recognises that imperialism is the cause of war and that to stop war imperialism (as the highest stage of capitalism) must be defeated. It is based on Lenin’s position of 1915 – “the main enemy is at home”. It also means fighting in the trenches against imperialism.

(2) Against the Popular front and against governments of the bourgeois workers parties in power.

This is Trotsky’s position against all alliances between workers’ organisations and the bourgeoisie, except temporary military blocs, such as being in the trenches alongside the Iraqi resistance.

(3) Against all counter-revolutionary tendencies in the workers movement like Stalinism, and false Trotskyists that provide ‘revolutionary’ credentials for these elements. Practically this means opposition to the role of the World Social Forum which is a popular front kept alive by the role of Stalinists and fake Trotskyists.

(4) For Workers’ Councils and soviets everywhere as the basis of workers and poor farmers’ governments!

The Russian revolution would not have happened without soviets. Elsewhere revolutions without soviets have failed.

(5) For Leninist-Trotskyist democratic-centralist political parties!

This is the party of class conscious workers that leads all workers and their class allies to socialist revolution.


From Class Struggle 56 June-July 2004

Is Iran next on Bush’s Hit List?

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From Class Struggle 51 July-August 2003

Iran is now a prime target of Bush’s administration. The Islamic Republic is facing mounting domestic opposition. The US is openly supporting the opposition. But will it become the next item in Bush’s ‘evil axis’ hit list? We examine the historical causes of the current crisis in Iran, and put forward our view on how workers can defeat the US plans for ‘regime change’, and at the same time overcome all the barriers to the formation of a secular, socialist republic in Iran.

In Iran today the situation is very unstable. Since 1999 there has been a gradual build up of opposition to the Islamic Republic headed by Ayatollah Khamenei. In the last weeks tens of thousands of students have taken to the streets in opposition to the privatisation of the universities. In Tehran, Shiraz, Mashhad, Esfahan, and many other cities, they have been joined by workers protesting the shortages of water, electricity, prices rises, unpaid wages and poverty. Both students and workers are calling for the end of the Islamic Republic. The mounting unrest is being used by the US to demand a “regime change” from within. Not only has Bush named Iran as one of the rogue states in the ‘axis of evil’, after the victory in Iraq he has made direct threats of unilateral US intervention to stop the development of nuclear weapons in Iran. Not to be outdone, France is arresting and jailing exiled members of the Mujahadeen, a radical militant Iranian organisation.

Many Iranians after 24 years of Islamic rule do want a ‘regime change’.Some capitalist and petty capitalist elements believe that the US can rescue them from the Islamic Republic and reinstall a Western-aligned democratic regime. But the working masses are strongly opposed to US intervention.Others want the Islamic regime to become more moderate and democratic without reorienting itself to the West. What do we make of these positions?

Whatever is wrong with the Islamic Republic, ultimately imperialism is to blame.So the US cannot be the solution whether it intervenes directly or not. Nor has the crisis of the regime be solved by the politics of religious fanaticism. As we shall see, the very nature of the Islamic Republic as a clerical regime prevents it from reforming itself.We shall show that the unpopularity of the government flows directly from its origins in 1979 as a counter-revolutionary regime that rode to power on the backs of an insurgent working class and poor peasantry, only to turn on the masses and smash its leading organisations. That is why the demand “Down with the Islamic Republic” is becoming the catch cry on the streets with the students and workers. There can be no compromise between the interests of the emerging mass movement and the repressive Islamic regime. 

To understand why this is happening today, and why the opposition in Iran poses a potential threat not only to the regime, but also to the US and the other imperialists, we have to go back to the 20th century history of Iran.

[Much of the material in this article is drawn fromthe Worker-Communist Party of Iran’s webpage: http:/// and “Khomeini’s Capitalism: the imperialists close in”inRevolutionary Communist Papers No 6 Theoretical Journal of the Revolutionary Communist Tendency (Britain) June, 1980.]

British Imperialism’s semi-colony.

[Semi-colonies are oppressed countries whose political independence does not mean that the national bourgeois has any control over the economy which remains dominated by imperialism. They can include neo-colonies like India, but in some cases because they emerged out of existing non-capitalist empires like Turkey and Iran, do not originate as capitalist colonies.]

After the Ottoman Empire collapsed during WW1, British and French imperialism divided up the Middle East and created artificial semi-colonies or client regimes with puppet rulers. Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia etc were all born as the stunted children of imperialism who were destined to remain dependent and could never grow up so long as imperialism ruled. (We must not leave out Israel – in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 the British gave the Jewish capitalist class the green light to settle in Palestine.)The children were stunted because they were trapped in an international division of labour dominated by the imperialist powers, a division which made them exporters of cheap raw materials and importers of manufactured goods. Thus the semi-colonial capitalist ruling classes of the Middle East remained dependent on imperialism and could not follow the path of the US or Japan to economic independence.

Client regimes were delegated the task of managing the dependent semi-colonial development of capitalism so that the imperialists got the lion’s share of the oil and other wealth created by the workers in the region.While the local capitalists had an interest in negotiating with imperialism for as big a slice of the profits as they could get, they had to collaborate with imperialism for their class survival. Whatever their differences, both imperialists and the national ruling classes had a common interest in profiting from the super-exploitation of workers and poor peasants.

The difficulty for imperialism was to find semi-colonial regimes that could extract maximum super-profits without being overthrown by the masses. Because the national bourgeoisies were weak, they had to rely on regimes that formed alliances with the petty capitalists and to some extent the working class under the guise of ‘populism’ or ‘patriotic alliances’. Thus when the poor masses resisted their super-exploitation and demanded independence from imperialism, these regimes pretended to be anti-imperialist, and aided by reformist working class parties, made minor concessions to the masses to try to keep them quiet.

When the imperialists applied too much pressure this strategy failed and workers threatened to break through the controls of the reformists and overthrow the state.The regimes then had to appeal to traditional petty capitalists as a class base for radical nationalist regimes that posed as anti-imperialist, but whose interest was ultimately to protect national capital by eliminating the threat posed by the revolutionary masses.Not until the masses organised independently of both the bourgeoisie and the petty capitalists would there be a class alliance strong enough to win the poor masses, including the impoverished petty capitalists, to a class alliance that could liberate these semi-colonies from imperialism’s deathly grip.

Iran’s 20th century history followed this pattern. Under Reza Shah in the 1920’s and 1930’s Iran’s economy was dominated by Britain and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (ADIOS). [AIOC later became British Petroleum, now selling itself as Beyond Petroleum, and soon to be Beautiful People.]

The Shah attempted to negotiate a better share for the weak Iranian bourgeoisie. Because Iran had little private capital, he used the state to develop the domestic economy, imposing import controls and creating public monopolies in sugar, tea, cotton, jute, rice and carpets.He then built large scale manufacturing plants for textiles, food processing, forestry and mineral production. But inefficiencies and low quality made these industries unprofitable.When the Shah failed to get financial support from Britain in the 1930’s to prop up the stagnating economy he turned to an alliance with Hitler. To secure the oil fields and a supply line to the Soviet Union the British and the US invaded Iran in the south, and the USSR in the north. This invasion brought to an end this first phase of Iran’s attempt at insulated economic development. 
The war and its aftermath gave a boost to economic protectionism from another quarter. From 1941 to 1951 the wartime economy encouraged the petty bourgeoisie of shopkeepers and small industry to expand to meet the domestic market, particularly the small businesses supplying the occupying military. But there was no large investment by imperialism to allow the economy to take off. This drove sections of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie to adopt a more radical ‘economic nationalism’.[Most semi-colonies experienced this expansion of the domestic economy under wartime conditions because they had to substitute domestic production for imports and got good prices for their exports from countries at war.] 
At the same time the working class which had begun to develop under the Shah’s protectionist policy in the 30s continued to expand during and after World War Two and developed a strong anti-imperialist sentiment. [At the turn of the century 90% of the labour force worked in agriculture. By 1945 this hadfallen to 75%, in 1966 it was 47% and 1980 less than 40%. By 1920 there were at least 12 unions with a total membership of over 20,000. Many of these were affiliated to the Red International of Trade Unions. In the mid-1940s the Tide-controlled Central Council of Unified Trades Unions (CCUTU) had more than half a million members who marched under its banner on May Day 1946.]
The rise of Tudeh
Now the national bourgeoisie had once more to steer a course between imperialism and the anti-imperialist sentiment of the masses. It tried to advance its national class interests by riding the anti-imperialist wave but still keeping the exploitative relationship between the bourgeoisie and working class intact. It was helped in this task by the Stalinist organisations that dominated the political leadership of the working class.

Rather than mobilise workers and poor peasants to overthrow the bourgeoisie, the Communist Party took the Stalinist view that Iran had to first develop as an independent capitalist country before it could become socialist. This was a convenient theory that allowed it to ally itself with the national bourgeoisie against imperialism to create a ‘democratic’ Iran as a ‘friend’ of the Soviet Union. But the price of this policy was subordination of the working masses and the nation minorities to the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie and to the inevitable counter-revolution.

[Trotsky condemned such patriotic popular fronts as leading to the destruction of the working masses at the hands of the national bourgeoisie and imperialists. He called for workers united fronts independent of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie that could take the lead in the fight against imperialism and carry on to overthrow the national bourgeoisie as a ‘permanent revolution’. This was what happened in Russia, and had been prevented in China in 1927 by the Stalinist leadership’s popular front with Chiang Kai Chek (see Class Struggle # 46)]

As we have seen, the working class grew rapidly in Iran along with capitalist industry.It was mainly under the influence of the Stalinist Tudeh party. The Tudeh party was formed in 1941 by the survivors of the Communist Party of Iran. It quickly became the strongest force in the working class. But its policies were always tied to the USSR and to the Iranian bourgeoisie. While the USSR occupied the north of Iran, Tudeh supported the national independence movements of the Azerbaijanis and the Kurds as a means of prolonging Soviet influence and gaining oil concessions. By 1945 both Azerbaijani and Kurdish republics had been formed with the support of the Soviet troops and Iraqi Kurds. But once the interests of the USSR had been served the Tudeh was prepared to sacrifice the national rights of the minorities and the interests of the working class.

The Tudeh joined the government of the bourgeois liberal Prime Minister Qavam in January 1946. He promised oil concessions to the Soviets if they would withdraw their troops. The Soviets did so and the new republics were crushed. [The Azerbaijani republic was invaded in December 1946 and its leaders imprisoned or executed. The Kurdish republic fell soon after and its leader Qadi Muhammed was executed.] Qavam later reneged on his promise. The sell-out of the oppressed nationalities was hailed by the Tudeh as a victory.

Now Qavam could turn the screws on the Tudeh. He formed the Iranian Democratic Party (IDP) representing the landed aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, and a government-sponsored union. Tudeh joined an IDP-led government, providing three cabinet ministers. When the oil workers of Khuzestan staged a general strike in July 1946 and several casualties occurred on both sides, and the British Labour government threatened to invade Aberdan, the Tudeh general secretary Reza Rusta, who was also secretary of the CCUTU, [See note above] went to Abadan and persuaded the workers to call off the general strike without any of their demands being met. The betrayals of the national minorities and workers led to a falling off of Tudeh support at a time when the working class was still on the rise. Even so, its next task was to direct the working class in behind the economic nationalist policies of Mossadegh.

Nationalism serves US imperialism

Between 1949 and 1951 a series of strikes culminating in a general strike hit Iran. The Shah appointed Mossadegh to ‘re-establish social order’. As one Senator at the time observed:
“Class tensions have reached such a point that they threaten the whole fabric of society…The only way to save Iran is to unite all classes against the foreign enemy”. (RCP p 12).
Like the Shah before him, Mossadegh was an economic nationalist, but he went further in his attempts to insulate the Iranian economy. By 1949 he saw the need to harness petty bourgeois and worker support and formed the National Front for a sweeping nationalisation of industry. He calculated that Britain would even tolerate the nationalisation of the IAOC so long as it needed Iranian oil and could make a profit.

Mossadegh wasted no time in nationalising foreign industries including the IAOC. This suited the US which welcomed the loss of its rival’s oil assets.However, the IAOC called Mossadegh’s bluff, boycotted Iranian oil and shifted its operations to Iraq and Kuwait. Iran did not own a single oil tanker and its oil production fell to near zero. This crisis forced Mossadegh to retreat to his core support in the national bourgeoisie and working class against the Shah and the landed aristocracy.He took on more powers and sought to transfer control of the army from the Shah to the Prime Minister – i.e. himself.

This alarmed the US which saw the mobilisation of the poor working masses and the USSR gaining influence in Iran as a threat to its interests. When the Tudeh joined the National Front in 1951 in support of Mossadegh’s nationalisation plans, this was too much for the US. It started to move against him. The petty bourgeois were already opposed to Mossadegh’s radical plans for land reform and modern education. So the US cut off his loans and isolated him further by offering bribes to the petty bourgeois parties in the National Front.

“Most of the middle class and petit bourgeoisie soon realised that mass mobilisations against imperialism would eventually threaten their interests. They opted for a deal with imperialism rather than countenance any radical threat to their class position; Imperialism was quick to oblige. As soon as oil production was restarted massive American loans flowed into Iran. Economic policy once again fell into line with the requirements of imperialism” (RCP p 8). 

The CIA and the army replaced Mossadegh in 1953 and the workers organisations controlled by the Tudeh then paid the price of the Stalinist popular front with the national bourgeoisie, becoming the victims of the Shah’s anti-worker policies.[The Shah banned trades unions and imprisoned many militants. New labour laws in 1959 allowed state-run unions but no right to strike combined with paternalist social insurance and profit sharing schemes. The Shah’s secret police SAVAK had spies in workplaces and employed thugs to break strikes.] They had learned the hard way that the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie were more afraid of a insurgent working class and a poor peasantry, than of imperialism. The dominant US imperialism moved to bring the national regime back into line with its economic interests, and under the Shah, the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie also fell into line. Thus ended of the second phase of economic nationalism. 
The Shah as US imperialist puppet

The Shah Pahlavi was installed and ruled Iran for 26 years as one of the many US–friendly dictators in the region. He instituted the ‘white revolution’ designed to eliminate the social barriers of pre-capitalist classes, such as the landlords and the petty bourgeoisie, to modern capital accumulation. His aim was to reorganise the state along efficient lines to allow the free flow of capital. This was not to be another phase of economic nationalism but rather state-assisted capitalist industrialisation dominated by imperialism.The state would invest in new ventures and then privatise them once they were profitable.

State investment in the economy grew rapidly in heavy industry notably the Esfahan steel mill, Arak heavy metals factory, Tabriz tractor plant, Ahwaz Aluminium works and the Khuzestan petrochemicals complex. [RCP page 8] Public spending on health, arms etc jumped from 27% in 1971 to 45% in 1976.ehi The traditional bazaar moneylenders were replaced by a state central bank and state banks in joint ventures with British, Dutch and Japanese banks. This period of rapid growth and expansion was possible only on the back of rising oil revenues to cover Iran’s balance of payments deficits.

The Shah opened up Iran to direct foreign investment and super-exploitation. Rising oil revenues fuelled economic development until the mid-1970’s. Growth rates went from 9% in the 1960s to over 35% in the early 1970s. National capital expanded into the production of consumer goods such as radios, refrigerators and cars for the domestic market. Foreign capital leaped over the import controls and invested heavily in rubber, chemicals, drugs, mining and aluminum.

While the Shah’s agricultural reforms failed to convert the landlords and peasants to capitalist farming, they created millions of displaced peasants.By 1977, Iran, which had been self-sufficient in food production in the 1950s, had to import 16% of its rice, 20% of its wheat and 25% of its meat. By the mid 1970s the increasing dependency on oil revenues left Iraq’s economy heavily indebted to foreign investors and unable to meet its debt repayments. Iran’s inability to escape the trap of imperialist super-exploitation by state-aided foreign investment in industry and agriculture was now obvious in its ballooning debt crisis.

The classes that bore the brunt of this crisis were the workers and poor peasants. The Iranian working class grew from 2.7 million in 1956 to 4.7 million in 1976, and the greatest increase was in the public sector. The failed agricultural reforms forced peasants off the land into the shantytowns around the cities. At the same time a shortage of skilled workers saw tens of thousands of foreign workers employed. Low productivity led employers to force workers to increase their output. In the 1970s opposition began to mount against the rising exploitation of the workers and peasants. More and more illegal strikes and go-slows occurred despite the harsh repression. The regime made concessions to skilled workers such as pay increases and profit sharing, but failed to stem the rising militancy of the working class. By 1978 the Shah was prepared to met this militancy with state force which in turn only produced more strikes culminating in mass demonstrations and the oil workers’ strike of October 1978.Here was a massive working class and poor peasantry, led by a section of militant state workers, ripe for social revolution. 

Meanwhile, what had happened to the petty bourgeoisie, that backward class which the Shah tried to eliminate as a social barrier to modern capitalism? As we have seen, the ‘white revolution’ failed to modernise agriculture. The landlords retained their dominance in the countryside. The bazaar which brought together small traders, craftsmen and businessmen, survived and grew, but increasingly came under threat from the Shah’s modernising policies.The petty bourgeoisie suffered at the hands of the foreign banks and resented the Shah’s plans to replace the bazaars with supermarkets.The Islamic mullahs as a traditional petty bourgeoisie were aligned to the bazaars. So the Shah’s attacks on the bazaars challenged the whole social system of which the mosque was the centre. As the economic crisis further undermined the economic existence of the bazaar, from the early 1960s opposition to the Shah rallied behind the Ayatollah Khomeini. 
So along with the emerging working class and poor peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie had became a force for change. However, rather than follow the course charted by the workers’ interests, the anti-Shah movement was taken over by a petty bourgeois radical Islam with its popular appeal to class unity against the repressive regime.How was it that the modern, expanding, and militantly led working class allowed itself to be dragged backwards into the reactionary Islamic Republic?
The left and the ‘revolution’
The ‘Islamic revolution’ has long been a highly contentious event for the revolutionary left. The basic sequence of events is clear enough. The Shah was overthrown by a bloc of the national bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie, workers, landlords and poor peasants in which the masses provided the troops, and the Islamic leadership, the officers.The bourgeoisie wanted to take back more control over the economy from imperialism but was too weak to do this alone. The petty bourgeoisie and the landlords were desperate to prevent the Shah’s reforms from wiping them out. They rallied to the Islamic opposition. The workers and poor peasants mobilised in their millions to get rid of the repressive regime. They lent their support to what they believed to be a genuine national revolution. 

The first phase of the revolution between 1979-81 was dominated by the workers movement which easily outweighed the petty bourgeois and bourgeois forces. The mass power of the insurgent workers owed nothing to the Tudeh which backed the Shah until September 1978! 

Khomeini had to make concessions and posture as an anti-imperialist to keep the masses’ support. But the revolution while it had the potential to be progressive and lead to socialism, rapidly turned into a counter-revolution.Why? Its ‘anti-imperialism’ was more apparent that real.Its real purpose was to subordinate the revolutionary masses to both the Iranian bourgeoisie and the imperialists. But to do this it had to keep the only revolutionary classes, the workers and poor peasants, on side. This required the collaboration of the political parties that represented those classes.To achieve this the regime had to convince the mass membership of these parties that it was genuinely ‘anti-imperialist’ and ready to break with imperialism and establish an independent, democratic, Iran.


The main parties of the left subscribed to the Stalinist or Menshevik position that the Shah’s pro-Imperialist dictatorship had to be overthrown and an independent bourgeois democratic nation created before the conditions for socialism could be built. As we have seen, this stagist view of history served the interests of the national bourgeoisie, but also imperialism, because no semi-colonial nation can become independent of imperialism unless it is lead by a workers and poor peasant’s revolution. 

[Tudeh’s collaboration with the Islamic regime was a total capitulation.It called Khomeini and co ‘progressive clergy… struggling for freedom and democracy’. Even after Khomeini turned on the workers, closing down party offices and banning left newspapers,the Tudeh was silent. It backed the reactionary Islamic constitution of December 1979. So slavish was its backing of the clergy that the Tudeh general secretary was contemptuously referred to as ‘Ayatollah Kianouri’.]

The main parties of the left – the Tudeh, the Mujaheddin and Fedayeen all supported the Islamic leadership of the revolution. [The two guerillaist groups the Mujahedin (Muslim Marxists) and Fedayeen (Castroists) believed that guerilla action could ‘detonate mass action’, but that action was still limited to a bourgeois democratic stage with an ‘anti-imperialist united front’ of all classes.]
They collaborated with the Islamic Revolution in the belief that it was more progressive than the Shah’s regime. But this was never the case.Khomeini’s forces were based on the Mosque and the Bazaar, the two main institutions that represented the surviving pre-capitalist social relations in Iran and whose adaptation to Iranian capitalism was to foster petty capitalism or a protectionist national state-capitalism.Inevitably, because of its weak position, the bourgeoisie had to rely upon the petty bourgeoisie Islamists to renegotiate a deal with imperialism. Initially this relationship was indirect and mediated by a ‘Bonapartist’ Islamic regime between 1979 and 1981. 
Bonapartism is a form of bourgeois state named after the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte where power is held temporarily by a strong leader or powerful clique standing ‘above classes’ ruling indirectly on behalf of the bourgeoisie when the bourgeoisie is weak and under challenge from below. [Trotsky wrote: “In the industrially backward countries foreign capital plays a decisive role. Hence the relative weakness of the national bourgeoisie in relation to the national proletariat. This creates special conditions of state power. The government veers between foreign and domestic capital, between the weak national bourgeoisie and the relatively powerful proletariat. This gives the government a Bonapartist character. It raises itself so to speak, above classes’. Actually it can govern either by making itself the instrument of foreign capitalism and holding the p proletariat in the chains of a police dictatorship, or by manoeuvring with the proletariat and even going so far as to make concessions to it, thus gaining the possibility of a certain freedom toward the foreign capitalists”. (Writings, 1938-39, Pathfinder, p. 326)] 
The Bonapartist state cannot encourage the masses too much without itself being overthrown. Nor can it balance between the two main classes indefinitely so it must crack down on the masses sooner or later. From 1980 the interests of the petty bourgeois class base of the regime forced it to rapidly align itself with national capitalism and re-negotiate its relation with imperialism. [Khomeini deliberately used a populist mixture of radical Islam, Persian nationalism and the glorification of petty commodity production to activate the petty bourgeoisie as the social base of his regime. The mass base of the regime was the Committees for the Islamic Revolution, led by local merchants and mullahs which formed the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) that have played such a reactionary role in attacking workers and women opponents of the regime.] The outcome was the consolidation of an extremist clerical capitalism in which the Islamic leadership became the dominant fraction of the national bourgeoisie. 
Khomeini’s Capitalism
As we have seen the Shah was overthrown by a workers’ revolution that had the potential to go on and become a permanent revolution for socialism. Instead it became a reactionary capitalist counter-revolution. At first Khomeini maneuvered towards the workers, the oppressed nationalities and women because he was too weak to smash them. Once he had contained them and consolidated his power he was able to establish a police state to secure bourgeois rule. Khomeini’s anti-imperialist rhetoric and his seizure of the US Embassy were ploys to deceive the workers and disarm them while he rallied the petty bourgeois forces for the counter-revolution. 
The US was prepared to pay the price of an Islamic Regime because it forestalled a socialist revolution in Iran. Like the Iranian bourgeoisie, the first consideration of the imperialists was to back a regime that could restore order. Besides it was impossible for the bourgeois government of a semi-colony to break all ties with imperialism. The most it could do was re-open negotiations with imperialism.It sought new contracts with the EEC and Japan to lessen its dependence on the US. Yet the US contracts that were cancelled received full compensation out of oil revenue. The only real worry for the imperialists was the Islamic regime’s ability to contain the workers’ revolution from below. A German businessman expressed this concern:
“Iranian workers seized six employees of a foreign company, locked them in an office and then demanded to see the company’s books. They showed that the company was bankrupt, but they also showed that the European parent company had a bank account in Switzerland. The workers refused to release their European hostages until the parent company dispatched funds to settle all wage claims at the plant.” (RCP, p 23)
As insurance against a workers’ revolution succeeding the US tried to win support in the Iranian army.This failed when Khomeini purged the army in 1984. The US also backed Iraq in an 8-year war with Iran that wasted the lives of millions of workers and peasants and allowed Khomeini to consolidate the counter-revolution. 
Rejecting the ‘white revolution’ of the Shah, the regime embarked on a road to economic nationalisation similar to that taken by Mossedegh in the early 1950s. But it was far too late for economic nationalism as a solution to Iran’s dependence. Under the Shah the Iranian economy had been integrated into the world economy. Cutting off important trade, finance and technical links to imperialism meant that the economy was doomed to stagnate. As a result the Islamic state managers became the most powerful section of the national bourgeoisie overseeing this decline. Stagnating state-owned industries became increasingly the property of ‘millionaire mullahs’ whose cronies benefited while the masses suffered increasing economic hardship. Mounting opposition was met by open repression. 
Over the 24 years of its existence the reactionary class character of the Islamic Republic has become clearer. The mounting reform movements and the militant student and workers’ oppositions of recent years show that once again a mass mobilisation against a repressive regime is building. This has given the US under its current neo-conservative leadership the opportunity to strike a pose as liberators once more in the never-ending war against the evil axis of terror. This time it is Iran’s nuclear arms program that is the pretext for targeting a ‘rogue’ state. But in reality, after 24 years, the Islamic regime has become expendable. Today US imperialism is embarking on military smash and grab raids to try to patch up its crisis-ridden economy. Iran’s oil reserve is nearly as big as Iraq’s, and US imperialism is desperate to make sure that its imperialist rivals, the EU and Japan, do not get access to this reserve of black gold.
The lesson of permanent revolution

What are the lessons for today? A potentially strong working class has existed in Iran since the onset of capitalist development after World War 1. It became a class capable of revolution by 1979 as we have seen. But in 1953 and 1979 workers were betrayed by the Stalinists (and the other left tendencies) who made deals with the national bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeois Islamists that led to the defeat and destruction of the most advanced layers of the workers’ movement.

Today these Stalinist and guerillaist parties will again collaborate with the bosses and the clerics and play their deadly treacherous role. They must be politically destroyed by healthy revolutionary forces. The masses are impatient with the Islamist dictatorship and are calling for democracy and human rights.Revolutionaries must back this struggle for the basic democratic rights necessary for any social progress. But we have to say that only a socialist revolution can win and defend such democratic rights.

That’s why these basic demands should be accompanied by a complete transitional program of demands that mobilises workers and poor peasants against not only the threat of US imperialist intervention, but the backward national bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie and their reactionary Islamic leadership – for freedom of expression, freedom from the veil, release of political prisoners, the rights of the nationalities to self-determination, and the right of Iran to be armed with nuclear weapons to defend itself from imperialism.These demands must be accompanied by those calling on workers to organise and to occupy the factories and form workers’ councils and militias capable of taking power and creating a Workers and poor Peasants’ Socialist Republic as part of a Federation of Socialist Republics of the Middle East. 


To take this program to the workers and poor peasants in Iran the urgent need is for and armed independent working class movement led by a Leninist/Trotskyist party as part of a revolutionary International.

For a Leninist-Trotskyist party in Iran!

For a Workers’ and Peasants’ state!

For a Federation of Socialist Republics of the Middle East!


Anti-Capitalism or Stalinism in Nepal?

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From Class Struggle 50 May-June 2003
Backed by the US and the UK, the government of Nepal is trying to end a decades-long political crisis by winning international support and aid for its efforts to crush or co-opt internal political opponents. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 42 percent of the population below the poverty line, according to official figures. Per capita income is $250 and 36 percent of the population consume less than the minimum daily calorie requirement. About 60 percent of adults are illiterate, while for women the rate is 70 percent. Life expectancy is 58.1 years and the infant mortality rate is 75 per thousand births.
Since 1996 guerrillas of the Communist Party-Maoist (CPM) have fought an on-again, off-again war with the Nepalese government, which is run by a King with the help of a weak parliament. In all, an estimated 7,200 people have died in the fighting. Supported by UK military advisers and US cash, the Nepalese government has been guilty of numerous breaches of the human rights of the workers and poor peasants who form the base of the CPM’s support(1).
Myth vs Reality
Here in New Zealand, the Anti-Capitalist Alliance has written extensively about the situation in Nepal, and is holding a series of public meetings on the issue(2). It is certainly true that, with war in the Middle East and turmoil in Latin America, not enough attention has been given by the left to events in Nepal. However, the message the ACA is spreading about Nepal seriously misrepresents political events in that country. According to the ACA, the CPM is leading the Nepalese workers and peasants to an anti-capitalist revolution. Here are some excerpts from ACA leaflets and articles:
“People’s War (PW) in Nepal, which was initiated in February 1996 under the leadership of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has been developing in leaps and bounds. The fire of revolution, which initially sparked in a few districts in Western Nepal, has swept all over the country…The reality is that the Nepalese people are in the process of building their own people’s government while attacking the old state power. ..The above affirms the truth of the dictum penned by Mao Tse-Tung, ‘Political power grows from the barrel of a gun’. To truly win political power the masses must take action and overthrow the old society. This is what is happening in Nepal”
Sounds great, right? Well, yeah, except that getting rid of capitalism is not actually high on the CPM’s list of priorities. When we say this, we’re not relying on rumours, or merely making a prediction – the CPM itself has repeatedly made it very clear that it is fighting for a capitalist, not anti-capitalist, Nepal.
The leaders of the CPM want to see a Nepal dominated by Nepalese rather than foreign capitalists. Like Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka/Tamil Elam, they are keen to sell out the struggle of their rank and file members in return for places in a capitalist government. The CPM’s military campaign is designed only to force the Nepalese ruling class to allow their leaders into the circle of power. When the Nepalese ruling class installed a new Prime Minister called Deuba in office in 2000, the CPM hailed it as ‘a great advance’ and a ‘victory over reaction’, called off its armed struggle, and appealed to ‘all parties’ to form a government of national unity.
The CPM only restarted its war after S 11, when the Nepalese ruling class was emboldened to try to crush it as a ‘terrorist’ force. Now the CPM has organised another ceasefire with the Nepalese government, and is trying to bargain its way into a government. To show just how bad the politics of the CPM are, we will quote from an interview that its deputy leader Baburam Bhattarai gave last year to the Washington Times (14/12). Commenting on international interest in the conflict in Nepal, Bhattarai noted that:
“It is good that the international community is now awakened by the ever-intensifying civil war in Nepal, and is showing concern for its just and logical conclusion…Our own preference would be to settle the problem internally without any external interference. But if the complexities of the situation, particularly Nepal’s specific geostrategic positioning between two superstates, India and China, so dictate, then we would not mind facilitation or mediation of some genuinely neutral international organizations”
Bhattarai is saying that the CPM would like to come to an agreeable deal with Nepal’s capitalists on its won, but that if it is absolutely necessary outside capitalists can help to reach a settlement. Bhattarai’s faith in the existence of ‘neutral’ international capitalist organisations does not exactly mark him out as a revolutionary. Just like Stalin, the CPM hopes to use Europe and the UN as counterweights to US imperialism. Bhattarai goes on to say that:
“We have time and again made it clear that we will have diplomatic and friendly relations with all the countries of the world on the basis of five principles (Panchsheel) of peaceful coexistence — namely mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and national integrity, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality, mutual benefit and peaceful coexistence. Given the specific geostrategic position of the country sandwiched between the two huge and hostile states of India and China, we will strive to maintain friendly and equidistant relations with the two immediate neighbors. It is just ridiculous to presume that a state of Nepal’s size and strength can inflict by design any harm to giant India”
Bhattarai is talking of friendly relations with a state that has for decades fought and repressed its own Maoist guerrillas. So much for socialist internationalism and spreading revolution. Bhattarai goes on to lay out his party’s politicalprogramme:
“Of course, the basic thrust of our economic development policy would be self-reliance and abolition of dependency, which has plagued the country’s economy for long. For this we intend to restructure our economic relations with foreign countries and multilateral institutions in a friendly and cooperative manner…Please note that we are not pressing for a “communist republic” but a bourgeois democratic republic.”
Bhattarai isn’t lying when he denies plans for communism. He and the CPM have nothing to say about the seizing of property and capital by the workers and peasants of Nepal and the establishment of a planned economy. Seizing US-owned factories and farms wouldn’t be ‘friendly’, so it’s not an option. Bhattarai’s vision is of a national capitalism in Nepal, not of socialism. The CPM has not taken control of private businesses in the so-called ‘red zones’ of Nepal it controls. It merely taxes these businesses, like any good capitalist government would. Since Bhattarai’s interview the CPM has moved even further to the right, giving up even its demand for a republic in Nepal. It is now prepared to put up with a constitutional monarchy. Some revolution.
What’s behind the CPM’s Sellout Politics?
The CPM won’t challenge capitalism in Nepal because its leadership is made up of Stalinists. Their political heroes are Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot (Bhattarai actually makes a point of defending Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime in the interview quoted above). The CPM even features a picture of Stalin on the cover of its official magazine, The Worker. The party leaders agree with Mao’s assessment of Stalin as ‘a great Marxist-Leninist’ and employ the ‘two-stage’ strategy Stalin laid down for revolution in the semi-colonial world. According to Stalin, the semi-colonial world had to become capitalist before it could be socialist.
Socialists had to make political alliances with local capitalists to oppose the foreign capitalists, and then allow local capitalists to take the lead in any post-colonial government. Stalin used his theory of two-stage revolution to make deals with Western imperialist governments. He would order local communists to work for ‘national capitalism’ not socialism, and grateful imperialists would make concessions which strengthened his regime in the USSR.
Stalin’s two-stage strategy was opposed by Trotsky, who pointed out that the October revolution had happened only because Russian revolutionaries had not made a political alliance with the local capitalists who took power after the February revolution. Trotsky argued that revolutionaries should make only a ‘military bloc’ with their local capitalists to get rid of foreign capitalists. In other words, they should aim their fire in the same direction as the local capitalists in the fight against imperialism, but keep their independence and be ready to get rid of the local capitalists when the foreign capitalists were defeated. Only by overthrowing capitalism can Third World nations break out of the global grid of capitalism and establish a planned economy aimed at meeting people’s needs, not the needs of the global marketplace.
The ‘national capitalism’ that the two-stage strategy brought about in many postcolonial countries has proven Trotsky to be right – in country after country, national capitalism has meant neo-colonial economies still dependent on the West and overseen by corrupt and brutal dictators bankrolled by the West(3).
Still lost in the Congo?
So why is a group calling itself the Anti Capitalist Alliance giving good PR to Stalinists who want to bring national capitalism to Nepal? The ACA has quite rightly been a staunch critic of leftists who thought that the UN or European Union could provide a progressive ‘solution’ to the crises in Iraq and Palestine.
Why doesn’t the ACA criticise the CPM’s appeals to the UN, European Union, and other ‘neutral international organisations’? The ACA has pioneered the view that left reformism is finished in New Zealand because there is no ‘material base’ for it – in other words, because New Zealand is too poor to payfor left-wing reforms. How then can the ACA support the CPM’s reformist capitalist programme in Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world?
In Auckland, the ACA consists of the Workers Party, a group which shares the Stalinist politics of the leadership of the Communist Party-Maoist in Nepal. In his booklet Apostles of Treachery, Workers Party founder and chief ideologue Ray Nunes summed up the party’s thinking:
‘Let us put it in the form of a simple equation: Stalinism = communism, therefore Hate Stalin = Hate communism’ (pg 41)
Like the Nepalese Stalinists, the Workers Party is strongly influenced by Shining Path, the Peruvian group which modelled its politics on Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, and seriously disorganised the fight against US-backed governments in Peru in the 1980s and 90s.
The Workers Party believes in a two-stage strategy to revolution in the Third World, and has a long history of supporting ‘national capitalist’ regimes there. They praised the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe, for instance, as an exponent of ‘African socialism’.
Back in 1997 the Workers Party launched a heated attack on our group for publishing an article criticising Laurent Kabila, the rebel leader then about to take power in Zaire/the Congo. Written in collaboration with comrades in Europe and South America, our article argued that Kabila was a would-be national capitalist who wanted to exploit rather than liberate his country, and should therefore be given no political support. For the Workers Party, Kabila was leading ‘something close to a peoples’ war’, and his coming to power would be ‘excellent news for the African peoples and indeed for those of all countries’(4).
The years since 1997 have shown how wrong the Workers Party was about Kabila, who was such a popular leader that one of his own bodyguards assassinated him. Today Kabila’s son rules the Congo, which remains an impoverished semi-colony dominated by the US. Why won’t the Workers Party and the Anti Capitalist Alliance learn from history?
From sellout to repression
It is the bankruptcy of the Stalinist political programme that makes the repressive features of Stalinism necessary. Bankrupt politics can’t be defended in open debate – that’s why Stalinist parties ban factions and open debate, and Stalinist governments build labour camps. In the 1980s and early 90s in Peru Shining Path massacred thousands of members of other leftist groups and trends, justifying its actions with the slogan ‘We cannot have the victory of two revolutions’. Our group has comrades in Peru who struggled to survive in the atmosphere of terror Shining Path and the US-backed government of Peru together created.
The Workers Party gave verbal support to the Shining Path’s campaign of repression. When Shining Path rivals the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement were holed up in the Japanese embassy in Lima, surrounded by government troops, the Workers Party used its paper not to support them, but to condemn them as ‘counter-revolutionaries’. In Nepal, the Communist Party-Maoist uses typical Stalinist tactics to suppress dissent. Since the beginning of its guerrilla war, it has killed 29 teachers who belonged to a union sympathetic to the government.
So much for revolutionaries winning debates in the labour movement with the force of their ideas. In 2000, some CPM members in the Jajarkot area of Nepal organised a faction to oppose the efforts of their leadership to make a peace deal establishing national capitalism with the Nepalese government. The CPM suppressed this faction, as well as a senior leader of the organisation who took its side.
It is difficult to get reliable information out of Nepal, but it seems safe to assume that resistance to the Stalinist leadership continues inside the CPM. After all, the needs of the rank and file of the party are completely at odds with the national capitalist strategy of the leadership.
No solidarity with Stalinism
There is no doubt that the workers and peasants in the CPM are fighting a heroic struggle in Nepal. But the Stalinist leaders of the CPM only undermine that struggle with their plans to negotiate a ‘national capitalist’ future for Nepal. The Anti Capitalist Alliance is right to raise the issue of solidarity with Nepal on the New Zealand left, but it is undermining its own good work by giving uncritical support to the Stalinist leaders of the CPM. The ACA should not repeat the mistakes of the Communist Parties of the 1930s and 40s, who cuddled up to Stalin when he was busy undermining the cause of socialism.
Solidarity with Nepal means opposition to Stalinism. We thank comrades on the Indian subcontinent for supplying some of the information given above.
Because we believe that this an important issue which needs to be debated openly, we offer the Anti Capitalist Alliance space in our paperClass Struggle to reply to the arguments made above.
1 The CPM maintains a number of websites. One of the biggest can be found at
2 The Anti Capitalist Alliance website can be found at
3 For a proper introduction to Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, check out
4 See the articles ‘Kabila Foils Imperialists’ and ‘Stupidity Incarnate!’ in the April and June 1997 issues of The Spark. For an online attack by the Workers Party on our group, see ‘Trotskyists Rival Capitalists with Big Lie Campaign [against Stalin]’,

Written by raved

January 6, 2009 at 7:45 pm


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From Class Struggle 49 March/April 2003

If Labour Parties are implicated in Bush’s war, should workers try to build Green Parties or left Social Democratic parties like the Alliance? While their stand against the war appears better than Labour’s would they be able to stop the war?

What ‘peace-loving’ capitalist governments?

At a recent GPJA (Global Peace and Justice Alliance) meeting Alliance activist Mike Treen began a talk on the impending war on Iraq with the statement: “I don’t think we can stop the war on Iraq, but we can make it more expensive for them to go to war”. What he meant was that we are unlikely to influence the Labour-Progressive Coalition Government to get them to recall the ships and planes. But we may make them unpopular and bring about their electoral defeat at the hands of political parties opposed to war.As a member of the Alliance, Treen clearly sees the Alliance rebounding into parliament at the expense of a Labour Government discredited because it won’t criticise the US policy of unilateral regime change. No doubt the Greens share this hope for a revival of their electoral fortunes too.

On the following Saturday, 15 February, New Zealand led the 12 million who rallied against the war. GPJA organised the Auckland rally of more than 10,000 people who marched up Queen Street to Myers Park. There an audience of at least 5,000 cheered loudly in support of resolutions that opposed a war against Iraq whether done in the name of the UN or not, and called on the Labour government to refuse to participate in this war. Water Pressure Group spokesperson Penny Bright got the loudest cheers of the day, when she condemned the UN Security Council and called for direct action at military facilities like Whenuapai Air Base.

On the following day at a‘Peace in the Park’ rally 2,000 people listened to similar speeches and a small group delivered a ‘letter’ with hundreds of signatures to the Prime Minister Helen Clark’s residence repeating the demand that Labour must oppose the war on Iraq. So clearly even if GPJA leaders did not think that they could stop the war, they had hopes of influencing NZ’s participation, or at least exposing Labour as a government committed to war, preparing the ground for political parties against the war to win support in the anti-war movement.

But what Treen failed to say, and what we in the Communist Workers Group and the Anti Imperialist Coalition constantly say, is that appeals to bourgeois governments of any sort cannot stop war. While they may claim to represent workers’ interests, Green and Social Democratic governments go to war to defend the profits of their own bourgeoisies. They do this because the labour bureaucracy that runs the unions and controls Labour Parties are paid for their services with a share of the bosses’ profits, so have to prop up the profit system.

Lessons of History

In Australia, the Labor Party endorsed the First World War enthusiastically. Labor leader Billy Hughes traversed Britain holding public meetings to rally support for the war. What offended Labor workers in Australia was not so much Hughes’ jingoism as his parading around in a top hat sucking up to British royalty. Though Hughes was kicked out of the Labor Party this was over the issue of conscription not the war itself.In NZ Labour leaders like Peter Fraser went to jail rather than fight, but by the Second World War they were in government, and backed Britain’s war by introducing conscription and setting up a network of prison camps to house the thousands of workers who refused to fight for imperialism.

If that is the track record of past Labour governments, then Clark’s Labour-Progressive Coalition Government is no better. In fact the Greens and the Alliance say it’s worse because it took part in a secret war in Afghanistan where NZ SASS troops guided US bombers to their targets. But would the Greens or Alliance be any better in Government? What if the majority of voters break from the warlike Labour parties to back parties like the Alliance and the Greens who have come out against a UN-sanctioned war?Should workers place their hopes in ‘peace-loving’ Alliance-led or Green-led governments?

History is against the Green Left.

Peace movements’ directed at pressuring bourgeois governments, no matter how left-wing, have always been impotent before the imperialist drive to war. Why?Because such ‘movements’ are composed of individuals who see only the symptoms not the causes of war. They see war as a bloody minded ‘policy’ of some sections of the ruling class (hence the personal attacks on Bush or his pro-war ‘camp’, and on Blair’s moral hypocrisy) and appeal to the ‘democratic’ and ‘pacifist’ instincts of more enlightened sectors of the ruling classes. But when these ‘democrats’ also go to war on the basis of high moral principles i.e. ‘defending democracy against fascism’, or in the name of the ‘UN’ or the ‘international community’, the ‘masses’ fall prey to their dressed-up appeals to nationalism and jingoism and are soon drawn into the defence of their virtuous fatherlands against some ‘axis of evil’.

The idea that left wing, even supposedly ‘socialist’ governments, are any better at opposing war is disproved by the betrayals of the leaders of the Second Communist International and the Stalinist leaders of the Third Communist International in the face of the First and Second Imperialist Wars.

On August 4, 1914, the leaders of the Second International of ‘socialist’ parties renounced their clear program of refusing to fight in imperialist wars and instead backed their own bosses to draft workers to kill each other. A hard core of revolutionary workers around Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg and Vladimir Lenin formed the Zimmerwald Left(see Class Struggle No 44, 45 & 47) to rally workers to fight against the war.Their position was that workers in each of the imperialist countries, including Russia, should ‘turn their guns on their own ruling class’ because they were the ‘main enemy’, not the workers of other countries.They would transform imperialist war into civil war overthrow their own ruling classes and go on to create a socialist, and ultimately a classless, society. By this means workers could turn the crisis of a bosses’ war into a solution for all humanity.

The example of 1917

That is why CWG repeats again and again that only organised workers’ action can stop war. And that to stop war, the cause of war, capitalism, has to be replaced by socialism. Workers as members of a class that is exploited by capitalism have a class interest in stopping war. They are the ones who are conscripted to kill one another – the cannon fodder – and they are the ones who are forced to work non-stop on the home front for the war effort.War divides them, but it also arms them and exposes them to the suffering of war, and teaches them that they can take action to end war.Historical examples abound.

In Russia the First Imperialist War was ended by a workers’ revolution. It was begun by the women textile workers of St Petersburg who went on strike on International Women’s Day in February 1917. Their strike set in motion the revolutionary process that led to the October Revolution. Trotsky has a powerful description of what happened in his History of the Russian Revolution:

“The 23rd of February (old style) was International Woman’s Day. The social-democratic circles had intended to mark this day in a general manner: by meetings, speeches, leaflets. It had not occurred to anyone that it might become the first day of the revolution. Not a single organisation called for strikes on that day. What is more, even a Bolshevik organisation, and a most militant one – the Vyborg borough-committee, all workers – was opposing strikes…On the following morning, however, in spite of all directives, the women textile workers in several factories went on strike, and sent delegates to the metal workers with an appeal for support…Thus the fact is that the February revolution was begun from below, overcoming the resistance of its own revolutionary organisations, the initiative being taken of their own accord by the most oppressed and downtrodden part of the proletariat – the women textile workers, among them no doubt many soldiers’ wives.” (Vol 1 119-120).

This strike led to a mass strike where thousands of workers rallied behind cries for ‘bread’ and the slogans “Down with the autocracy!’ and ‘Down with the war!’ In five days the masses won over the rank and file of the soldiers fed up with war and went on to overthrow the Tsarist state. Trotsky recounts how relations between workers and soldiers developed in the days before the strike:

“Two weeks before the revolution, a spy… reported a conversation in a tramcar traversing the workers’ suburb. The soldier was telling how in his regiment eight men were under hard labour because last autumn they refused to shoot at the workers of the Nobel factory, but shot at the police instead.“We’ll get even with them’ the solider concluded. A skilled worker answered him: “For that it is necessary to organise so that all will be like one.” The soldier answered, “Don’t you worry, we’ve been organising a long time…They’ve drunk enough blood. Men are suffering in the trenches and here they are fattening their bellies.” (164).

The war in Russia did not end immediately. While workers and soldiers formed soviets and went on to make the October 1917 revolution, not until the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in early 1918 was the new Soviet government able to negotiate a peace with Germany.

On the wider European front the war was stopped by a soldiers’ and sailors’ mutiny in Germany at the end of 1918. The British and German general staffs rapidly agreed to stop hostilities for fear that the ‘Bolshevik Revolution’ would spread to Europe.Unfortunately, the revolutionaries were too poorly organised to be able to turn these mutinies into successful revolutions like in Russia. The defeat of revolution in Germany in 1919 left the workers’ movement divided and weakened. This created conditions in which workers became the target of rising fascist movements based on the ruined middle class and disaffected elements of the working class. The isolation of the Soviet Union soon led to the rise of a degenerated anti-worker bureaucracy under Joseph Stalin. From that point on the war policy of the Soviet Union was subordinated to the defence of‘socialism [ie Stalinism] in one country’.

From Revolution to ‘democratic’ war

In the period after 1924 the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union refused to build United Fronts of all workers to fight fascism – this which further divided the working class, handing a victory to fascism in Italy in 1923, Germany in 1933 and Spain in 1938. After 1935 the Stalinist Comintern then threw all of its energy into forming popular fronts between the communist parties and ‘democratic’, ‘peace loving’, elements of the bourgeoisie who were apparently opposed to fascism. Instead of the Bolsheviks’ policy of civil, or class, war as the best way to fight fascism, this was a policy of civil, or class, peace. Revolutions were sacrificed to the defence of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union.

Communists allied with ‘socialists’ (Labour parties) alongside petty bourgeois and ‘democratic’ bosses’ parties to fight fascism. They were part of the Popular Front (cross-class) government that came to power in France in 1936, and politically supported the Republican government of Spain against Franco’s army. This Stalinist betrayal meant that workers had to forgo revolution and submit to bourgeois governments so that they were divided and defeated by fascism. Franco won in Spain. Hitler gained in strength and prepared to go on the rampage across Europe, into Russia and North Africa. The ultimate proof of the bankruptcy of this ‘peace loving’ policy was the sudden zig when Stalin did a deal with Hitler in 1939 in a desperate attempt to stop an invasion of the Soviet Union. Of course when Hitler broke this pact Stalin zagged back to a popular front policy.

Once again, most workers in New Zealand, and in every other country, put their hopes in ‘left’ parties that claimed to represent workers, or the people, against warlike bosses. From 1941 the communist parties sided with the ‘democratic’ bosses in the hope of defeating the ‘fascist’ bosses, and the result was a disaster for workers everywhere. Instead of rising up against all bosses to stop war, workers went to kill each other to defend the bosses’ ‘democracy’ (the right to rule the masses by means of parliament). Where workers attempted to rise up in revolution at the end of the war as in Italy, Greece and Czechoslovakia, they were weak and isolated, and despite their valiant sacrifices, were defeated. Only in the colonial countries were workers and peasants were more united against their colonial overlords did wars of liberation result in important victories.

Stalinists betray the colonial struggles

But even in the colonies, as in Europe, the betrayal of the ‘left’ saw Stalinist parties, allied to the old ‘socialist’ parties, rally to defend their bourgeoisies against workers and peasants revolutions. Yalta saw Stalin do a deal with Roosevelt and Churchill to divide the world into ‘spheres of interest’. Stalin got Eastern Europe as ‘buffer states’ to defend ‘socialism in one country’ and in exchange he ordered the communist parties to collaborate in the repression of workers’ revolutionary wars in Europe and the Far East.

In China, Korea, Cuba and Indochina, colonial wars were brought to an end, some much earlier than others, by organised peasants and workers armies with little or no help from Stalin. In fact in Indochina, national liberation was set back 30 years because the Stalinists collaborated with the French in the hope of gaining independence peacefully. The result was the massacre of thousands of Trotskyists and other revolutionaries and the French re-occupation of Indochina. In Algeria and in Nicaragua reactionary settlers or landlords were expelled by workers’ and peasants’ militias actively opposed by the Stalinist Communist Parties. In Algeria the French Communist Party sided with the French state in putting down the Algerian insurrection. In South Africa the Communist Party ‘conned’ the workers and peasants into stopping short on the road to national revolution and to ‘share power’ with the white ruling class.

In all of these cases, popular and working class wars of liberation were stalled, or reversed and in most cases defeated, because of the intervention, not only of imperialist ruling classes, but more significantly, of the ‘socialist’ or ‘communist’ parties. Where some of the historic gains of these wars of liberation remain (eg in Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea) it is because the national liberation struggles were forced to overthrow the national bourgeoisie when they openly sided with imperialism, and as yet imperialism has yet to impose decisive and historic defeats on these interrupted revolutions.

Back to the Future

What about the ‘anti-war’ Greens and Alliance-type parties today? These are parties based on the petty bourgeoisie or the labour aristocracy. They are run by a caste of labour bureaucrats. They do not even have the official support of organised labour. People like Keith Locke and Mike Treen do not want to make a revolution, they want to make a parliamentary career. They too sacrifice the interests of the working class to prop up capitalism so that they can represent the small business owners and managers, or serve the bourgeoisie as bureaucrats, politicians and flunkies, and reap their financial rewards.They are reformists who believe in their ability to manage capitalism and make a peaceful and democratic transition to socialism – so long as they are in the driving seat!But the bureaucrats have never been able to do anything other than drive the workers movement off the road.

Today the reformists’ hopes are pinned on the World Social Forum (see the article below) and in particular on the prospects of the Lula government in Brazil to challenge globalisation from below. Just like in the previous imperialist wars, the reformists of the WSF see themselves as the answer to the new imperialist ‘war on terror’. Theorists like Toni Negri present the WSF as a movement of the ‘multitude’ against the Empire. Negri argues, like Chomsky, that the US is a rogue state, which reverted to a more primitive imperialist international posture after S11 by declaring its right to ‘regime change’ by unilateral and pre-emptive military strike.Negri puts his hopes in the multilateral ‘rationality’ of the European Union ruling classes, and the ‘democratic’ fraction of the US ruling class, to constitute a world Empire in the guise of new multinational states like the EU, a revamped UN, giant transnational corporations, and a body of international law.

So like the Mensheviks of the First Imperialist war, and the Stalinists of the Second Imperialist war, today’s WSF reformists think that capitalism can be tamed by appealing to the self-interest of ‘democratic’ capitalists in all countries to join forces and act together to avoid war. This is just like Kautsky’s 1914 theory of ultra-imperialism. Kautsky said that capitalists should not go to war because they have investments spread across the hostile countries. War could end if the workers’ movement persuaded the bosses that war was bad for business.

What today’s post-imperialists overlook is the fact that the conflict between the EU and the US is not a slight reversal of ultra-imperialism caused by a rogue US state, but the reassertion of the inter-imperialist rivalry over the division of the world’s resources and markets. The only reason that the major EU states adopt multilateralism, trying to work through the UN, is that they do not have the military dominance to impose a unilateral line on the US.

To stop the betrayals of a new reformist WSF international, trapping workers in Popular Fronts with the ‘democratic’ bourgeoisie, revolutionaries have to urgently mobilise a new revolutionary International, based on the lessons of the Zimmerwald left of 1915 and the Trotskyist Fourth International in 1938. The CWG is currently engaged with 4 other tendencies in working on a joint document that calls for another Zimmerwald and a new revolutionary international to fight the renewed drive to imperialist war.

Written by raved

January 3, 2009 at 9:56 pm


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From Class Struggle 48 November 2002/January 2003

The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, better known in the West as ‘North Korea’, is much in the news lately. It has pulled out of the Nuclear non-proliferation Treaty and is taking a tough stand against US attempts to bully it into submission. The latest attempt by the US to conciliate the DPRK with food in exchange for nuclear disarmament was met by a firm rejction. The US offer of food was likened to “wheat pie in the sky”.

Is the US right to label the DPRK a ‘pariah’ or ‘terrorist’ state? Whatever the North is, it is the result of a century of imperialist invasion, occupation and partition of Korea, first by Japan who ruled Korea as a colony from 1910 to 1945, then by the US, which fought a war in 1950 to force the partition and isolation of the North.

Today the U.S. continues to occupy South Korea, keeping 37,000 troops in a network of bases across the country.

What is the DPRK, if it is not a ‘pariah’ or ‘terrorist’ state? Trotskyists call the DPRK a degenerated workers’ state because property has been socialised and the law of the market has been ditched in favour of a planned economy, but a caste of bureaucrats have political power that should belong to the workers. These bureaucrats use their control to strike deals with imperialist countries like the U.S. and Japan. They are like the union bureaucrats who use their control of rank and file unionists to make deals with bosses.

Trotskyists want to get rid of union bureaucrats, but not at the expense of the unions that the bureaucrats have captured. In the same way, we want to get rid of Kim Jong Il and his regime, but we don’t want to see the privatisation of state assets and restoration of the market that U.S. intervention is aimed at bringing to the North. Deciding the future of the DPRK is a job for the workers of all Korea, not George Bush jnr.

Who Needs Nukes?

What about the North’s nuke programme? If the North has nukes, does that justify a U.S. invasion, or at least U.N. sanctions? Nobody should be surprised that the North has tried to develop nuclear weapons, because it has had to live its entire existence in the shadow of the threat of nuclear annihilation at the hands of the U.S. During the ‘Korean’ War General McArthur, leader of the U.S. forces, lobbied Washington for permission to drop ’30 to 50’ nuclear bombs across the middle of the Korean peninsula. Several times during the war the U.S. came close to using a nuclear bomb. In 1951 the US flew a lone B 52 bomber over the Northern capital Pyongyang in a successful attempt to create panic about a Hiroshima-style strike. From 1957 to 1991 the U.S. kept an arsenal of nuclear weapons on the southern edge of the demilitarised zone that divides North and South. To this day, the U.S rehearses for a nuclear bombing strike on the North.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that the DPRK bureaucrats feel the need to get some nukes of their own, so that the U.S. will think twice before attacking them. Nobody seriously suggests that the DPRK has more than a handful of nukes, and the North’s leadership knows that using them pre-emptively would mean certain destruction. The U.S. on the other hand is the only country ever to use nuclear weapons in war, has publicly signalled its willingness to use them pre-emptively if its interests are threatened, and today has 9,000 of the things, including bombs, missiles, torpedoes, and mortar shells. We suggest that the middle class peaceniks who have joined Bush in condemning the North’s nuclear programme get their priorities right.

Korea’s secret weapon

Because they are bureaucrats not socialists, the leaders of the North can’t see that it is not nukes but workers who are the best defence against U.S. imperialism. Hatred of the U.S. and its continued military occupation of the South is common to Koreans on both sides of the border. Even right-wing South Koreans hate U.S. occupation more than the ‘communist’ state to their north. Young South Korean men especially hate the two years’ compulsory military service which forces them to act as dogs bodies on U.S. bases.

In New Zealand alone, scores of them live in exile rather than serve the U.S. It was mass protests by workers and students that helped force the U.S. to pull its nukes out of the South twelve years ago, and in recent months regular protests by tens of thousands have followed the unpunished killing of two Korean teenagers by U.S. troops. Unionists have marched in huge contingents, chanting anti-U.S. slogans, and squads of students have attacked and sabotagued U.S. bases around the South Korean capital of Seoul.

Protests like these point toward a solution to occupation in the South and bureaucratisation in the North. This solution is the reunification of the peninsula on a socialist basis. In the South the new President, Roh Moo Hyun, is pushing ahead for re-unification, but on the terms of global capitalism that will see the North remain an underdeveloped region in a US client state. The North is also moving in this direction, with Kim Jong Il and his mates looking to follow the ‘Chinese model’ and convert themselves from bureaucrats to capitalists.

But in the decades since the division of their country many Korean workers, students, and peasants have been inspired by a very different vision of reunification. In the late 40s and early 50s, for instance, workers and peasants inspired by the abolition of capitalism in the North staged a series of insurrections against the U.S.’s puppet regime in the South. In Cheju, the southernmost province of South Korea, a revolutionary government survived for two years before being betrayed by the bureaucratic leaders of the North and crushed by Southern troops in 1949.

Today left-wing workers and students in the South are again taking up the cause of re-unification within an anti-imperialist framework. By protesting the U.S. occupation in the South and the North’s refusal to demand that Japan pay reparations for its occupation they challenge both imperialism and Stalinism. Challenges like these can succeed, if they are backed by the anti-imperialist strike action of workers in the North and South, and by the solidarity of workers in Japan, the U.S., and U.S. allies like New Zealand. Predictably, the Clark government is already trying to earn brownie points with the U.S. by sounding off about the ‘danger’ presented by the DPRK. Kiwi workers should beware any attempt by Clark and co. to follow Bush into a confrontation with the DPRK.

Written by raved

January 3, 2009 at 9:39 pm