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Islamic Fascism, or Zionist Fascism?

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The label ‘Islamic fascism’ has been thrown around by the far right for a long time. Now Bush has labelled Hizbollah ‘Islamic Fascists. Why has Bush gone all the way to demonise Islam? This can only be to deflect attention from the sheer barbarism of the US and Israel exporting democracy via missile launches onto the poor people of Gaza and Lebanon. Who really deserves the label ‘fascist’ today?

Bush wants to upgrade the crusade against Islam into a new war against fascism

How convenient when the US is suffering setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Israeli’s cannot destroy Hizbollah despite 10,000 troops, drones in the air and spies on the ground. Labelling Hizbollah fascist also serves to split Hizbollah from the rest of Lebanon in the UN ‘ceasefire’ deal that will see Lebanese troops replace the Israeli’s and Hizbollah between the Israeli border and the Litani River.

But there are obvious objections to Bush’s label as well as less obvious ones that need to be understood. Here is Juan Cole’s view of Bush attempt to invoke the label fascism to give new lift to the war on terror.

Cole shows that fascism cannot apply to Islam in even a superficial way. He says that Islam is inconsistent with fascist ideology. Hizbollah has no state to terrorise people and it has entered the Lebanese parliament to take advantage of democracy. Moqtada al Sadr in Iraq is participating in the Iraqi puppet regime that Bush would not possibly describe as fascist. Both are minorities in their national parliaments.

Cole doesn’t attempt to go into the underlying fallacies. Fascism arose out of deep crises in modern imperialist states in Europe in the 1920s where proletarian revolution was on the agenda. Fascism mobilised the declining middle class in a movement to smash the proletarian vanguard. In wars against fascist powers, workers in imperialist ‘democracies’ try to take control of the armed forces so that instead of shooting workers conscripted to fight for ‘fascist’ countries, they collaborate to turn their guns on all the ruling classes.

In Lebanon, it’s clear that Hizbollah has massive popular support despite Israeli attempts to split Christian and Sunni Lebanese from it. Hizbollah is a popular, democratic militia that is based in the Shia and Palestinian working class rather than trying to destroy it. It does not kill Israeli conscripts in the IDF except in defence of its military positions. Not does it kill prisoners of war or target civilians except in reprisal to Israeli bombs and missiles. It is the success of the ‘democratic’ struggle of Hizbollah to defend Lebanon from Israel’s invasions that Bush and Olmert find so threatening. Their response is to demonise it as fascist and insist that it be disarmed by UN forces.

Perhaps Hizbollah can be labelled ‘fascist’ by association with Iran?

The Shia theocratic regime in Iran is based on the small bourgeoisie of the bazaar and has some of the features of European fascism. There is a reactionary theocratic state and the ‘revolutionary’ guards are like fascist gangs used to attack any democratic opposition. To apply the term ‘fascist’ to characterise such a regime is imply that the main purpose of the capitalist state is to smash the proletarian revolution.Yet this regime is a reaction to a history of imperialist coups, puppet regimes and proxy wars and is not first and foremost a movement to smash the revolutionary threat of workers to overturn the semi-colonial capitalist state. However, in so far as such regimes do engage in the destruction of the revolutionary leadership of the labour movement by mobilising paramilitaries based on the middle class, they can be considered ‘semi-fascist’.

In wars between such semi-colonial authoritarian regimes (even when they are fascist) and imperialism, we must take the side of the semi-colonies, despite their reactionary rulers. Trotsky backed Haile Selassie against fascist Italy in the 1930s even though Haile Selassie appeared to be more reactionary than Mussolini. Trotsky was even prepared to support a form of the semi-fascism in Brazil against US imperialism. Nevertheless we know that only the workers have the class interest to fight imperialism to the death, and that sooner or later the national bourgeoise will resort to semi-fascism to smash the revolutionary proletarian movement. That is why in such wars we fight for the masses to overthrow their capitalist leaders or all political colours as a necessary condition of defeating imperialism.

Clearly, even if Bush’s label ‘fascism’ did apply to Hizbollah, Hamas, the Iraqi Shia resistance, as an extension of a ‘semi-fascist’ regime in Iran (which they are not) they are a reaction to imperialist oppression and are based on the anti-imperialist working class. They are not directed principally at smashing a revolutionary leadership but rather harnessing it to nationalist movement. Rather than condemning such Islamic movements or regimes, we have an obligation to defend them from imperialism while at the same time working to overthrow them by means of popular workers and peasants revolutions.

Why doesn’t Bush call the Zionist state Fascist?

All the features of European fascism, or semi-fascism, are much more obvious in Israel. But to recognise this would not only destroy the attempt to demonise Islam as fascist, it would expose and destroy the pretentions of lsrael to any democracy and furthermore to any right to exist on Palestinian land. Let us see how Bush’s arguments can be easily turned around in the case of Hizbollah, Hamas and the Iraqi Shia.

So George Bush thinks Hizbollah are now Islamic Fascists. What is it about them that makes them fascists? They are a liberation movement that arose out of the 18 year Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon between 1982 and 2000. They contest the parliamentary elections and have 12 seats in the Lebanese parliament. They are a popular, democratic militia that does not engage in political assasinations. They are more popular and democratic than the militia that fought Britain for US independence over 200 years ago.

On the other hand, the Israeli occupying force Hizbollah drove out of Lebanon in 2000 was founded in blood and terror in 1948 causing the diaspora of millions of Palestinians, over 500,000 to Lebanon. The Zionists objective in invading Lebanon in 1982 was to smash the Palestinian resistance. Israel allied with the Christian Falange fascist militia and under the leadership of General Sharon slaughered up to 3000 innocent civilians, women and children in the refugee camps of Sabla and Shakira.

So George Bush thinks Hamas are Islamic fascists. Why is that? Hamas won the elections in what today passes for ‘Palestine’, that is, the ‘bantustans’ on the West Bank and Gaza where several million Palestinians are concentrated into refugee camps. No sooner had Hamas won the election, Israel supported by the US, blocked payment of funds necessary to keep the Palestinian National Authority running. Then, when the Hamas Members of Parliament voted to recognise Israel’s right to exist, Israel arrested the leadership, and bombed and invaded Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

So George Bush thinks that the Shia resistance in Iraq is Islamic fascist. Would this be the same Shia that was repressed by the US backed dictator Saddam Hussein for decades? The same Shia that live across the Iranian border and who were brutally killed in their 100s of thousands during Saddam’s 8-year war again backed by the US? The same Shia that rose up against Saddam after the 1991 Gulf war only to be betrayed by the US (UN) forces to Saddam’s murder squads? Now the same Shia who have formed a militia very similar to Hezbollah, with a broad social base in the South of Iraq, and which has joined the new Iraqi government? One doubts that George Bush would call his stooge government a puppet or fascist government.

Then of course George Bush thinks that the Nazi general staff behind the Islamic terror everywhere are the Iranian mullahs, Ahmadinejad in particular. The Iranian regime is a right-wing clerical regime that represses democratic opposition, but it is nationalist and anti-imperialist and even voted into power periodically. It originated in 1979 as a national revolution against the tyranny of the US backed Shah, himself put in power by the US when it overthrew the popular government of Mossadegh in 1953. It represents the backward national bourgeoisie of the bazzar against imperialist plundering and oppression. Whatever its rightwing reactionary clerical interests, it is nationalist and anti-imperialist and is only interested in suppressing democracy to retain the lead of the nationalist movement, not in smashing a non-existent working class socialist vanguard.

Zionist Fascism ‘sui generis’

George Bush throws the label fascism around to attempt to demonise and de-legitimise the Islamic resistance to Israel and imperialism in the Middle East. But in his ignorance he overlooks the one candidate for fascism in the Middle East, the US gendarme, the Zionist state of Israel.

If George Bush knew his history and geography he would know that Zionism was an extreme nationalist movement for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine that did deals with both the Allies and the Ottomans in the first war, and both the Allies and the Axis in the second world war. Worse, the Zionists sacrificed the lives of many Jews to the Nazi’s in return for the Nazi recognition of a Jewish state in Palestine.

By the scientific criteria used by revolutionary Trotskyists to characterise fascist regimes in Europe between the wars, Zionist Israel can be considered a form of fascism ‘sui generis’ (fascism with special characteristics).

(1) First, like Fascism, Zionism was a reactionary response to extreme capitalist crisis in the epoch of imperialism.

The Zionist movement collaborated with the imperialist powers to found a national state for Jewish capital facing a crisis of profitability in the capitalist economies of Europe. It was an extreme reaction to capitalist crisis in the epoch of imperialism. Israel was intended to be the geographic territory for the recolation of surplus Jewish capital and labour. In this regard the special characteristic of Israel is that it was a new capitalist state founded in an epoch when no national capital could stand alone and so was necessarily forced into a semi-colonial dependence on imperialism. Clealy this marks Israeli fascism as ‘semi-colonial’.

(2) Second, like Fascism, Zionism abandoned democracy for repression of the vanguard of the working class.

The repatriation of Jewish labour to Israel in the 1930s contributed to the defeat of the European working class, particularly Jewish socialist workers. The collaboration with the imperialists forced many Jews to adopt Zionism against socialism. The founding of Israel by acts of war supported by imperialism in 1948 were at the expense of the existing Palestinian people who were terrorised, disppossessed, displaced and used as a reserve army of labour. In other words, Israel was founded on the suppression of the most democratic right of Palestinians, that of national self-determination. In this regard the special characteristics of Israel were that first, it was an indirect agent in the smashing of the revolutionary socialist movement in Europe, and second, as a new state its existence required the forced dispossession and enslavement of the Palestinian working class.

(3) Third, like Fascism, Zionism provided an extreme nationalist and racist ideology to justify its occupation of Palestine.

Zionism is a reactionary nationalism which holds that Jews are ‘different’ and cannot be assimilated. This made it a natural ally of the fascists who wanted Jews to be eliminated, and the enemy of the workers who when rejecting Zionism for socialism had much more success in evading the Nazi genocide. However, Zionism elevated Jews to a similar racial ‘superiority’ as the Nazis did to the ‘Ayrian’ race. In the occupation of Palestine, almost all land is reserved for Jews. Arabs who live inside the 1967 ceasefire line are denied land ownership and other basic rights. In the so-called ‘occupied territories’ the constant terror used against Palestinians reveals a Zionist racism towards peoples other than Jews. Those who consider this to be merely ‘apartheid’, even if worse than that of South Africa, are merely treating a symptom of the disease which is, in the final analysis, Zionism. This is more than a racist settler ideology, but a fundamental racist myth that Jews are ‘different’ and ‘superior’.

US Fascist? 

Those who argue that Zionism is fascism, without any attempt to justify this scientifically, fall into the same trap as George Bush. They label any reactionary regime as ‘fascist’. Ironically, some are now beginning to use this term to describe the USA of George Bush. Some may think that appropriate, yet in the USA today, unlike Israel, there is as yet no revolutionary threat to a regime in terminal crisis. The Minutemen are probably the precursor of fascist bands organised in response to undocumented migrant workers, but they are far from being a social force capable of repressing the millions of such workers. Until the labour movement begins to rise up and rejects ‘democracy’, we cannot talk about fascism in the USA.

From Class Struggle 68 August/September 2006

UN/Zionist secret war against the ‘dirt eaters’

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When US Senator Hiram W. Johnson said in 1917 ‘the first casualty when war comes is the truth’, he was speaking about Capitalist Imperialist war; though he didn’t know it at the time. Lies, deceit, distortions, omissions and fabrications are permanent fixtures in the capitalist arsenal in its relentless pursuit of ‘Permanent War.’ The military slaughter by the Israelis in Gaza and the Lebanon are the latest episodes in a long series provocations over many decades built on these premises.

The murder of Pro-US and Rightwing Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri in February 2005 by Israeli agents was designed as part of Plan A to implicate Syria. For a long period leading up to the killing, the US openly sabre rattled against Syria accusing it of harbouring and supporting terrorists. The US bogged down in Iraq, could not however create enough justification to invade Syria; so decided together with Israel to plot an outrage that would draw massive international condemnation. This would be the pretext.

The swift and immediate charge by progressive political forces and the Arab media that the US and Israel were solely responsible for the Hariri murder together with the failure of UN investigators and monitors to find any evidence of Syrian involvement, forced the US/Israeli’s to go to contingency Plan B. Lebanon would be the point of entry, Hezbollah and its association with Iran would be the excuse and 2 abducted Israeli soldiers would be the phoney pretext. The Zionist Jerusalem Post reported many months ago that plans were being prepared to deal with Syria.
As part of the bigger US battle plan, pro-Palestine Iran has been falsely accused of building nuclear weapons to be used against occupied Palestine (Israel.) This totally stupid notion defies logic, but not for the US. The failure to explain how an Iranian (or any other Islamic nation for that matter) nuclear attack against occupied Palestine (Israel) can be achieved without killing Palestinians and pro-Iranian Hezbollah in south Lebanon, has exposed the absurdities of US Imperialist illogic. [Sadly in debates on the subject of Iranian nuclear intentions, no discussion has been made on this point.]

Cowardly neo-liberal govt’s including NZs, accept the lies and distortions without question and have willingly imposed them on their own populations. Corporate mainstream embedded media have been the main instrument responsible for spreading fear, lies and insecurity to the point that mass compliancy and docile acceptance, is the objective outcome. In the US where the corporate govt. has declared war on the minds of the American people, that outcome can only be halted by a working class prepared to stand and fight like their cousins south of the border.

The ‘Karine A’ Hoax

On January 4 2002, the Israeli govt. announced with great fanfare and drama, the interception and seizure of the 4000 tonne freighter the ‘Karine A’ in the Red Sea by its elite naval commandoes. The vessel according to the Israelis was carrying 50 tonnes weapons destined for the PA (Palestinian Authority.) It was also said that Iran and Hezbollah were co-conspirators in the ‘smuggling’ operation; a charge that the PA has always denied.

What was never explained was how a large freighter loaded with weapons under the watchful eyes of the most sophisticated military forces on the planet was expected to pass from somewhere in Iran through to the Suez Canal and dock at Alexandria Egypt unhindered.

The elaborate story concocted by Israel/US that the weapons were to be off loaded and smuggled into Gaza presumably past the US sponsored MFO (Multi-Force Observers) in the Sinai, presumed correctly that most of the world’s media and govt’s would swallow hook line and sinker this idiotic fairytale. For the Israelis, selling the perception of the ‘Karine A’ was all that mattered; never mind the details.

Foreign officials and international media were invited to the Eilat dock to inspect the cargo on display. Non-experts in modern weaponry, they were never sure of what they were looking at, but blindly accepted all that the Zionists were telling them.

To the initiated however, closer inspection revealed that the weapons and munitions on display were in fact part of the huge arsenal of captured weapons that Israel has managed to accumulate in the modern era between the October war of 1973 and the withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. This largely Soviet era equipment has been an extremely important part of the ZAHAL (Israeli Army) armoury. [Israeli special forces during covert operations use only Soviet weaponry instead of their own, because not only are they rugged and reliable, they are also ‘untraceable.’]


Of special interest from the supposed ‘Karine A’ haul were the inclusion of AT-3 Malyutka (NATO name: SAGGER) anti-tank handcase portable missiles. The presence of these missiles alone represented a blatant stupid oversight on the part of the Israelis to make their story stick. They might as well have included submarines.

Even in its updated version, cumbersome, specialised and medium ranged for open ground; the archaic SAGGERs are highly unsuitable for the ‘hit and run’ lightly armed Palestinian order of battle which is principally about fighting in built up areas.

[TV One and TV3 news in early December 2005 carried a ‘fake’ FoxNews video report about a supposed plot to assassinate the presiding judge at the trial of Saddam Hussein. According to the story, a Sunni group calling itself the ‘1920 Revolution Brigade’, was planning to fire a rocket from Baqubah (a Baathist stronghold) to Baghdad, a distance of approx. 60 kms. Big problem! Rocket depicted was a SAGGER AT-3 wire guided anti-tank missile with a max range of 3 kms. TVNZ and TV3 have never acknowledged that the story was ‘faked.’]

The Tongan Connection to Sept 11 2001

In 1966, the anti-communist rulers of Tonga joined the US sponsored Taiwanese based WACL (World Anti Communist League, now calling itself the World League for Freedom and Democracy.) Its representative on that body who went on to become regional chairman of the WACL was none other than the former speaker of the Tongan parliament, Noble Fusit’a who is closely linked to the Tongan royal family. His chairmanship was at a time when the WACL membership included death squad’s leaders Roberto D’Aubuisson from El Salvador, Guatemala’s Mario Sandoval Alarcon and many more from Latin America. The rest of the membership reads like a rogues gallery of rightwing nutter’s that has included white supremacists and neo-Nazi.

Sensing that Mainland China’s ‘communism’ was only window dressing and not the grave threat that US had led them to believe, Tonga joined the rest of the pack to beat a pathway to China to set up business. A satellite deal between the Chinese and Princess Pilolevu Tuita (60% owner of Tongasat) was to be the catalyst. In addition to this, closer military co-operation between the 2 countries was initiated. In 1998, Tonga broke ties with Taiwan and formally recognised mainland China.

Retribution against Tonga by the US and the WACL ruled out killing its rulers in the same way that the anti-nuclear leaders of Palau, President Haruo Remeliik and Vice-President Lazarus Salii were murdered by the CIA in the mid-1980’s. [Cover stories were created by the US to hide its involvement in these murders.] Instead they hatched a plan that was going to cost the Palestinians in the occupied territories the ultimate betrayal and the Tongan people, the after effects.

The dragnet that followed in the wake of the US instigated Sept. 11 2001 attacks, would ensnare Tonga in such a way that it would be punished by becoming a part of the US military apparatus in Iraq. To achieve this, US planning to scuttle the peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority by claiming that the PA and Al Queda were linked. As a fictitious creation of the US ‘War of Terror’, Al Queda was meant to have a fleet of ships plying the world’s oceans moving armaments and operatives between nations.

In 2000, a phoney shipping company called Axion Services Ltd was set up by the CIA in Piraeus, Greece. Its representative calling himself Peli Papadopoulos arrived in Nuku’alofa Tonga with a deal to register ships under a Tongan flag. The company set up would be called Tonga International Registry of Ships based in Athens. Signed and sealed, they were in business and the strange tale of the Tongan registered freighter the ‘Karine A’ begins.

The repercussions for Tonga’s rulers, was the embarrassment of being association with Al Queda and terrorism. As a result, Tonga despatched Marines to Iraq as part of the US 1st Marines Expeditionary Forces based in Anbar as penance to say to the US, “We’re sorry and deserve to be punished.” The exercise however proved to be very short lived. Six months after the first arrival of Tongan troops to Iraq, they were pulled out in Dec. 2004 due to pressure at home from workers fed up with the inept actions of their rulers. For Tongan workers struggling to get rid of the anti-democratic despotic nobility who refer to them and commoners as ‘Kainanga ‘o e fonua’ (Dirt Eaters); internationalising that struggle is the only way ensure its success.

As the ‘Coalition of the willing’ crumbles, men and women from the US controlled Pacific territories such as American Samoa, Palau and the Mariana’s, are being press-ganged into being participants in one of mankind’s worst crimes against humanity and the planet. The increasing presence of US Christian fundamentalism in the Pacific has only added to the blindness (lies) that previous Christian efforts have imposed. Sons and daughters are being sacrificed on a secular alter to fulfil a mad religious fairytale built on centuries of lies, lies and more lies.

What is certain is that the US imperialist madness can be stopped. The unity of all ‘Dirt Eaters’ is the only thing standing in the way.

Whakakotahi Nga Kaimahi O Te Ao!

(Workers of the World Unite!)
Te Taua Karuwhero Kahui

From Class Struggle 68 August-September 2006

Written by raved

January 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm

9-11: NZ ‘Locks on’ to US imperialism

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9-11 five years ago was the excuse the US needed to launch the ‘war on terror’. This was a front for its imperialist oil wars to re-conquer the world. It opened up a new period of competition between the rival imperialist powers. 9-11 then, proved that we are still living in the epoch of imperialism. Here we explain how NZ’s role as a semi-colony supporting US imperialism’s War on Terror in order to get a ‘piece of the action’ is shaping the class struggle in this country.

Lenin famously defined imperialism as the rule of finance capital, that is industrial and banking capital concentrated into the form of large investment banks. This is still the case today.

The capitalist world is now being driven by the competition between US and Euro imperialism. Japan and Britain are minor imperialist powers that are allied with the US to get some of the rich pickings. Italy, Spain and Australia are small, weak imperialisms queing up for the leftovers. Russia and China are emerging powers that want to be imperialist but remain semi-colonies of the existing imperialists, especially the US and EU.

The US used 9-11 and the War on Terror to rally its allies around its leading role in recolonising ‘failed states’ to grab the oil and other vital resources at the expense of its main rivals. So while it forced the EU to use NATO to take over the occupation of Afghanistan, it is US big oil that will benefit from the oil grab in the region. In Iraq, the ‘coalition of the willing’ occupation grabbed control of the oil and cancelled Saddam’s deals with EU big oil.

Lebanon: a new front in the oil wars

In this issue of Class Struggle we highlight the latest front in the WOT, Lebanon. Bush and Olmert attacked Lebanon for one reason – to weaken the resistance of the Arab and Iranian nations to the WOT. Both Bush and Olmert claimed that Hizbollah was controlled by the Syrian and Iranian Shia-led regimes. So Israel’s attack on Hezbollah was meant to escalate the WOT to defeat the Iraqi resistance and open the road for an attack on Iran. All three forces had to be defeated for the WOT to reach its objective –US dominance of the oil in the region.

NZ workers must oppose this new front in the WOT. We have to stop the Labour Government from backing Bush and sending troops as part of the US ‘peacekeeping’ force in the South of Lebanon. We argue that NZ’s involvement would mean that the Labour-led government would be joining in Bush’s imperialist invasion. Worse, because NZ is not an imperialist country, and has a reputation for acting only with the authority of the UN, it would be giving credibility to the UN fig leaf being used in Lebanon to cover up the naked ambitions of US imperialism’s/Zionism’s War for Oil.

But to win workers to this position it is necessary to explain why the Labour Government has played the role of UN cover in the WOT since 9-11. A recent debate inside GPJA in Auckland showed how. CWG argued it was necessary to take a stand against NZ troops as ‘peacekeepers’ because this was creating illusions that the UN was a democratic, peaceful alternative to naked US agression.

First, it is necessary to point to the role of the UN as a front for US imperialism. In the FLT statement on Lebanon we reprint in this issue, we expose the hypocrisy of the role the UN has played in smashing resistance to imperialism, especially in Bosnia and Kosovo.

In these places the ‘blue helmets’ collaborated in ethnic cleansing by disarming the resistance and allowing the killers free reign. It will be no different in the south of Lebanon. Bush has gone to the UN to create a buffer zone in the south to disarm Hizbollah and protect its key ally Israel.

The ‘smart state’ produces ‘smart bombs’

A second argument is that in NZ, Labour’s support for the UN in the WOT is the price it pays to get NZ business funded by imperialist finance capital and to do deals with the US for some of the crumbs of recolonisation.

What could contradict Labour’s ‘peacekeeping’ front more than the fact that its prize winning poster child high tech corporate, Rakon, supplies quartz GPS guidance systems for the US and Israel’s ‘smart bombs’. Rakon, part funded by the NZ states Super fund delivers ‘peace’ to the Middle East in ‘pieces’ (body parts).

This is proof that the Labour Government’s strategy of smart state subsidies for high tech and high potential corporate starts must be profitable for imperialism! It guarantees these profits by carrying the losses as in the case ofAir NZ. Or it provides massive subsidies.

In the case of CHH there is a massive state subsidised forest sold off to US pension funds to refinance Hart’s Australasian asset stripping. In the case of Feltex, the ANZ (one of the four Australian owned big banks) has pulled the plug because it wasn’t profitable enough. It will be viable only if finance capital (ANZ or some other bank, or state subsidies) can restructure the company by sackings and speedups to make it superprofitable under smart management. In the case of Fonterra, massive state subsidies of infrastructure, plus farmer cooperative ownership, ensures that surplus value is milked in marketing deals with finance capital that controls its joint venture partners like Nestle. In sum, the state acts as the agent of finance capital in the NZ semi-colony to attract foreign nvestment in high value-added super profits for imperialist monopoly capitalism.

Labour’s strategy is not driven by its concern for ‘peace’ or full-employment, or a devotion to workers since it supports the US-Zionist killers in the south of Lebanon. It is driven by the obligation to deliver super-profits to imperialist monopolies. It is a one of two strategies available to states in semi-colonial countries that lack finance capital. The first is to abandon any controls over the economy and allow the country to be re-colonised as a south Pacific tax haven for rich expatriates – the Barbados of the South Pacific. The second is to try to use the state to fill the void of finance capital and to subsidise new starts in the hope that more of the value added is retained in the country – the PPP (public-private partnership) paradise.

“Hollowing out NZ”: Barbados of the South or PPP Paradise

At a recent high profile seminar National and Labour spokesmen put forward their ‘solutions’ to the problems of NZ semicolonial capitalism – an outflow of surplus value and the migration of labour to the nearest imperialist country. This is given the fashionable term ‘hollowing out’ –mean ‘gutting’ of value.

On the one hand National’s John Key blamed the flight of capital and labour to Australia on high taxes. He says that NZ is losing about $3-4 billion in net capital outflow every year. So what is new? His solution is to cut taxes and turn NZ into a sort of tax haven like Barbados, or closer to home, Vanuatu or Nauru. These countries have few if any trade or investment controls and are wide open to imperialist monopolies to avoid taxes 100 times greater than the notorious Cook Island’s ‘wine box’ tax scam.

In other words, NZ would be a sort of retreat for wealthy US capitalists, celebrities or rock singers who would, like Julian Robertson, create luxury resorts to attract more wealthy expatriates. The capital inflow would fund an army of serfs and servants to keep the rich happy in their ‘rest and recreation’ from the WOT.

But while the Nats want NZ to be a safe haven for rich WOT and climate-warming refugees, Labour are smart social capitalists. They want the state to play the substitute role for weak NZ capital to seed corporates in their infancy to the point where they are attractive to imperialist finance capital. In the process Labour hopes that more of the value added inside NZ stays here.

That’s why it is subsidising a US internet firm to stay here. That’s why it’s planning for the SOEs to extend their operations offshore and into new areas of production. Its model is the PPP -the Public Private Partnership -that wants the SOEs ( state owned corporatiions) to spin-off new firms in partnership with the private sector, like the University spin-offs in biotechnology and health technology. As John Key points out however, this is just dripfeed privatisation.

The PPP is the sole surviving material basis of Labour’s long term economic nationalism. In the days of the post-war boom Labour stood for industrial capitalism protected from finance capital (UK banks) by tariffs and exchange controls. Today its protectionism is in smart subsidies to seed winners to retain more value for NZ capitalism. It plans to fund small scale to medium size firms and lauch the ‘knowledge society’. Here is the narrow economic base from which it defends NZ being relegated to No 7 state of Australia, just as Aussie laborites are opposed to being downsized to US state no 51.

But what about the workers?

But what about the workers? ‘Hollowing out’ is more like ‘gutting’ the economy. More and more of the value workers’ create is ‘gutted’ and exported. For workers the two main ‘models’ of development being debated by the bosses both mean a future of increased exploitation and a growing gap between a highly skilled minority and a wage slave majority. In reality both options co-exist.

So while Rakon sells itself as a trendy, progressive multicultural corporate (its newletter is called ‘Lock On’ – i.e. to the white racist imperialist crusade against ‘Islamic fascism’) it has only few hundred high tech jobs. There is no way that Labour’s smart growth strategy can produce more than a few thousand ‘knowledge’ jobs producing super-profits for imperialism.

Nor can the few Kiwi ‘peacekeeper’ mercenaries used by the US do do its ontract killing in the WOT in the Middle East and Asia create more than a few hundred jobs. The article in this issue on the US Zionist secret war shows how tiny nations like Tonga (and Fiji) are forced to prostitute their people to the WOT for a fistful of dollars.

The hightech sector of the economy is grounded on a low-tech wage slave service sector. The current dispute between NDU workers and Woolworths show that. NZ is a low-wage semi-colony and the imperialist monopolies that invest here are not interested in anything but super-profits. They pay low wages and charge high prices. As Australasian monopoly corporates, Woolworths and Toll Holdings (which has swallowed up Patricks who tried to smash the MUA in 1998) are forced to attack the unions in Australiasia to cut their costs and compete with their bigger US and EU rivals who are investing in othe mucn poorer semi-colonies like China and Mexico.

Whether they use collectives or individual contracts depends on which is best legal route to super-exploitation. They regard Australia and NZ as one market, if not one country. They take no responsibility for workers familes hit by their super-exploitation and oppression. The cuts in social sevices and the social problems of crime and family violence that flow from capitalism are dealt with by using Murdoch-type media machines to foment right wing anti-social reactionaries who blame workers for these problems and call for more police, tasers, vigilantism, anti-terror clampdowns etc.

Labourite economic nationalism defeatist

In the face of this imperialist attack on workers in NZ, the CTU response is to work within Labour’s ideology of economic nationalism (that is workers putting their faith in NZ capitalists to do good deals) and the legal straightjacket of the ERA. This is defeatist. It is not that Woolworths is ‘Australian’ or has a tough CEO in NZ that explains its attack on its workers –Graeme Hart is just as ‘ruthless’ as Woolworths. Its behaviour is explained by its character as an imperialist monopoly driven to make super-profits from slave-wage labour in NZ. We have seen the the material basis of NZ nationalism today is the supply of state subsidised labour and technology to imperialism; that means super-exploitation for workers in both hightech and slave labour sectors with all the negative social consequences.

Nor is the CTU strategy of confining disputes within the ERA able to defeat these attacks. The ERA flows from Labour’s economic nationalism. It assumes that both NZ capitalists and workers can unite as ‘kiwis’ in the ‘national interest’ and arrive at some class compromise.

But when the boss locks you out for asking for a collective for 500 workers and uses scabs in clear defiance of the law, it’s clear that the industrial law cannot offer any protection from imperialist monopolies. The ERA may provide a minimal protection but as soon as workers organise independently the ERA will be used to stop workers defend their jobs, rights or their survival against monopoly capitalism.

Nor can any reform of the industrial law provide that protection. ‘Workers Charter’ and the ‘Workers Party’ are both calling for the legal ‘right to strike’. But no bosses will agree to any right to limit their profits. They will concede some profits only when forced to by militant, mass labour organisation; such ‘rights must be won by industrial action not by votes in parliament.

The rank and file of the unions in dispute have to break from the capitalist state and mobilise generalise and extend their strike action to all sites of production to close down their industry and open the way for workers control of industry. The same strategy of generalising strike action into a general strike to bring down the government that is being advocated by the revolutionary left in Australia against Howard’s Work Choices has to be adopted in NZ against imperialist monopolies and their state protector, the Labour Government.

All around the world, the struggle to stay alive in the wage slave labour sector shows there is no future for workers under either ‘model’ –smart social or crude market-capitalism. Independent workers movements coming into existence to fight for their survival are forced to take on capitalist ownership and control of the economy, a movement which some are calling ‘21st century socialism’.

Whose 21st century socialism?

In other semi-colonies where the process of imperialist ‘gutting’ has gone much further than NZ, workers have had to stand up and fightback or starve. Facing growing underemployment, poverty and destitution, and the social destruction that follows from that, workers have taken back workplaces, jobs and some control over their lives.

In Latin America mass social movements in Bolivia, Equador, Argentina and Venezuela have brought about big changes. The focus of these struggles is the nationalisation of resources, the occupation of workplaces and the fight for workers’ control of production. Along with these come demands for the nationalisation of industry, land and the banks. These are the same demands that NZ workers have to raise in their struggles against imperialist attacks on their jobs, rights and living standards.

The demand for nationalisation of industry under workers control should be raised in every dispute. Workers labour power built the assets that have been stripped in this country. Workers labour power makes the superprofits of the multinationals. Workers labour power pays the taxes that subsidises the smart economy. These assets should be taken back without compensation. Only in this way will workers come to control the means of production and defeat the destructive, superexploitative rule of imperialist finance capital.

However, as the article on Cuba in this issue shows, workers insurgency in Latin America is being held back by the fake leaders of the labour movement, who like the Labour government in NZ sow illusions in nation states doing deals between national capitalism and ‘democratic’ (today European!) imperialism. As we have seen, ‘imperialist democracy’ is an oxymoron: its democracy for the rich and death for the poor.

These misleaders are using the national state apparatuses to contain the insurgent labour movement. More alarming, this dog collar is being applied with the approval of Chavez and Castro and the forces organised around the World Social Forum. Neither of these ‘socialists’ have had bad words to say about Kirchner and Lula, who are open class collaborationists doing the dirty work for the capitalists. By giving these client regimes of imperialism a ‘progressive’ label, such‘socialists’ are once more turning socialism into a dirty word.

So we have to make sure that ‘21st socialism’ is not merely the recycled ‘market socialism’ of the Russian and Chinese bureaucrats looking for a way to become a new bureaucracy . We have to break from the capitalist state and the WSF left bureaucracy! For independent rank and file struggles! For horizonal coordination of workers struggles locally, regionally, nationally and internationally to smash capitalism globally! For a world party of socialism!

From Class Struggle 68 August/September 2006

Why nuke Iran?

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The reformist left is alarmed at Bush and his threat to nuke Iran. They think that Bush is crazy and the alternative is a return to ‘sanity’. Juan Cole says a war with Iran might “alarm” the US public and “could cost the Republican Party its majority in Congress”. Wow, maybe good old US democracy in the form of the Democrats will come to the rescue at home. This would be an interesting twist to Bush’s logic, “You envy our democracy, OK we can drop it on you”.

The theme is that the neo-Cons represented by Bush, and by default, the whole Republican Party, are the problem here. After all how else to explain something as ‘crazy’ as nuking Iran’s nuclear installations? Must be the neo-cons. No-one else wants to nuke Iran. The Russians and Chinese have too much at stake. The EU and even poodle Blair are reluctant. Even the Israelis cannot be so stupid (but they might do it if the price was right).

So why go to such lengths to destabilise the ‘international community’? Because the neo-cons are crazy (most commentators) wrong (Fukayama) irresponsible (Tony Negri) arrogant elites (Chomsky) or oily Texans (Eisenhower). So wake up US public kick out the Republicans and elect the Democrats.

Are these people blind to what has driven US foreign policy for nearly 200 years? The US has gone to war, overthrown governments, used nukes on Japan, threatened to use them against Vietnam, Cuba and the USSR for years (it was called the Cold War).

What is doing in Iraq and threatens to do in Iran is par for the course. Are we saying that the US was led by crazy, stupid, ignorant Republican Presidents and ruling parties for its whole history? We can easily disprove this. Look at the record of Democrats Roosevelt, Johnson, Carter and Clinton. None of them reneged on wars, sanctions, blockades etc to pursue US imperial interests.

Imperialism is the root cause

Instead of looking for some ‘aberrant’ cause in the George W. Bush’s personality, new right ideology, cabals of crooks, etc to explain US actions in any particular case, let’s be parsimonious. Let’s try for a one size fits all explanation.

What about imperialism? This accounts for a lot. The US was the ‘first new nation’ to become a super-power able to rival and then dominate its competitors. In the post-WW2 period the US became the dominant global capitalist power occupying its rivals and quarantining the USSR and China.

Globalisation is really about US finance capital taking over the world economy. While no-one else can challenge it, it can do what it likes. There is no UN, or ‘international community’ except as a cover for the US policy of unilateral, pre-emptive assaults. Now it’s so powerful it no longer needs this cover and simply asserts its ‘rights’.

For the US the opportunity cost of running the world is greatest gain for least cost. Having ‘rogue’ states bucking the US is a potential cost in terms of resources and military enforcement. The US ruling class knows that its long term requirement for resources will meet resistance. It must neutralise that resistance in advance.

In the post-Cold War period it has shifted the target from the ‘reds’ who have conveniently opened up their countries to US corporate exploitation. It is not a priority to pursue North Korea as an minor irritant which might risk the investment in a dynamic capitalist East Asia. But they can still pull out the ‘red card’ when former Stalinist politicians like Putin get in the way of US corporate interests in what remains of the old USSR.

The main parts of the world that the US still needs to dominate are in Central Asia. Here client regimes are being established and pepper potted with US military bases. Resistance to US dominance in Asia is demonised as ‘radical Islam’. And the new military target is the potential WMDs of radical Islam. The US does not need another 9-11 to mount a nuclear strike on Iran – it is a continuation of 9-11 and the ‘war on terror’. Iran is already set up as an irresistible target.

Defend Iran’s right to nukes!

This demand is the one that most of the left find hard to swallow. Most people agree that it is wrong for the US or Israel to threaten to use nukes, but they can’t make the step from their to accepting Iran’s right to nukes. For us the issue has nothing to do with nukes as such. Nukes are merely weapons. True they are dangerous and potentially calamitous. But they are weapons essentially. The important distinction is nukes in the hands of imperialism, and nukes in the hands of oppressed countries.

We argue that oppressed countries have the right to defend themselves from imperialist military invasions with whatever weapons necessary. It seems only nuclear weapons are capable of deterring the use of nuclear weapons – e.g. Cuba 1960, Vietnam 1968, North Korea today. The problem therefore is imperialist nukes, not the nukes of oppressed semi-colonial countries. The more the workers in the imperialist countries are able to disarm the military machines of nuclear weapons at home, the less will it be necessary for oppressed countries to resort to the use of nuclear weapons to defend themselves from imperialism.

And just as we expect that the working classes in the imperialist countries will not sit idly by and allow their ruling classes to use nukes, we also expect that the worker, peasant and student masses in the oppressed countries will want to take the control of nuclear weapons out of the hands of the nationalist regimes that share in the exploitation and oppression of the working people. With nukes in the hands of popular militias their use will be determined not by ruling class military adventures but by the defensive needs of the working people alone.

From Class Struggle 66 April/May 2006

Written by raved

January 8, 2012 at 11:27 am

Aotearoa: Spilt coming in Maori Party?

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At the rank and file level within the Maori Party, there has been disquiet and concern expressed at some of the actions of its co-leader Tariana Turia. In March, she accepted an invitation to the ACT Party’s annual conference in Wellington. The only dissent among the 4 Maori Party MP’s against her going to the conference came from Tai Tokerau member, Hone Harawira. This was consistent with his rejection of support for a parliamentary review of the 90-Day probation period bill for workers introduced by National’s Wayne Mapp. On that occasion yet again, Harawira went against the decision of his other 3 colleagues to support the parliamentary right wing. Does this signal an impending split in the Maori Party?
The Maori Party’s rightward shift away from its natural political ally the Labour Party, is a reactionary move in response to Labour’s anger at losing a significant part of its past support base. For a Party consisting of disillusioned castaways from the political mainstream, it’s only a matter of time before there is a clash between its pragmatic leadership and the more principled working class rank and file. The kaupapa (basic platform) that the Party and its constitution rests on, is being exposed as a weak excuse to accommodate political rivals.

The question being considered by members in many of the local branches is; are these early signs of an inevitable future split within the Maori Party centred on a breakaway led by Hone Harawira? From his earliest days in Nga Tamatoa, He Taua, Patu Squad, Kawariki and so on, Harawira has demonstrated an independent sense of leadership that has been at odds with many of his Maori political contemporaries. More importantly, he has an urban background that has not been entirely tainted by the backward politics of rural isolation.

His reluctant decision to enter Parliament shows a suspicion for an institution he regards as representing only one side of the Treaty deal. His passion is still the establishment of an independent Maori Parliament. In his time as an MP, Harawira has clearly identified with the grassroots rank and file by holding regular dialogue and consultation that has kept him away from much of the superficial parliamentary activity except crucial voting.

As his Party’s spokesperson for employment, discussions with workers and union leaders in the North have clearly put him on a path that focuses on the practical issues facing an area with the highest number of unemployed in the country. Central to that dialogue, has been his regular contact with workers at JNL Tri-Board in Kaitaia where he lives. In 1997, JNL workers were involved in one of the most significant strike actions that challenged both the ECA and the companies draconian work proposals for a new contract.

Maori Party support for striking meat workers at Ngaraunga Gorge in February this year bore more the hallmarks of Harawira’s genuine concern for people as workers rather than constituents. Regular contact with workers has forced him to face up to the limitations of the nationalist rhetoric of his youth. He increasingly has come to recognise that internationalising indigenous struggles as workers’ struggles, has more to offer in terms of strength and unity than the empty promises of misleaders governed by bourgeois nationalist class interest.

Politically, it is too early to see if he has matured to the point that he is able to make a clean break from the more limiting aspects of his past. His entry into a Parliamentary institution that he openly describes as cynical and representative of the ‘Settlers’, falls short of what could be described as the higher level of serious politics, that is ‘revolutionary’. To that end, he must engage with struggles where consciously, the break with ‘Indigenousness’ has had to be made by indigenous people. Without sacrificing their unique regional identities, they have come to realise that their battles cannot be fought alone.

In Latin America, struggles are being waged and led by native peoples who are at the head of the most politically advanced workers in the world. Their organisations are built on the ‘rank and file.’ For example in Bolivia landless indigenous peasants have united with workers to fight for the nationalization of gas against Evo Morales whose ‘Indigenous’ government is trying to do a deal with the oil companies. These struggles are in a frontline face-off against the most murderous anti-indigenous/anti-worker force ever assembled; ‘The Imperialist capitalist USA.’

In Aotearoa, the Maori fight for independence has tended to identify with a romanticised version of the past replicated in modern times by reactionaries such as George Speight in Fiji. By supporting Speight, some Maori nationalists such as Tame Iti, put themselves in opposition to Fijian workers because their ‘Indigenous’ perspective disorientated them from recognising the greater class struggle.

When Hone Harawira entered Parliament in 2005, he was in many ways going to be a cat loose among the pigeons even in his own Party. His belief in the power of the Maori Party branches to formulate policy has put him at odds with the non-parliamentary Party hierarchy. To stretch his workload even more, he has become the proxy-member for Tainui, a seat narrowly lost by left-leaning Maori Party co-candidate and Mana Maori (temporarily in recess) leader Angelline Greensill, daughter of legendary activist Eva Rickard. As a reluctant candidate herself, Greensill was perhaps going to be Harawira’s most valuable ally.

In many ways, Greensill and Mana Maori, reflect a cautionary cynicism that is aimed at the Maori Party as much as Parliament; a view not too dissimilar to that of Hone Harawira. At a meeting in Pukekohe, South Auckland before Christmas 2005, Harawira was challenged by a local worker as to the Maori Party’s industrial policy, to which he replied, “That matter is in your hands as rank and file members.” That challenge probably more than any at this stage, is going to be a sign of his future trajectory in the Maori Party.

Te Taua Karuwhero 

From Class Struggle 66 April/May 2006

US imperialism Sago Mine – disaster symptom of US Capitalist crisis

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From Class Struggle 65 Feb/March 2006

Was it lightning strikes, ‘vulture’ capitalists, Bushite de-regulators, or an absent union that caused the Sago disaster? This is the checklist the US reformist ‘left’ which thinks that US capitalism can be reformed. But it’s none of these. US Imperialism cannot be reformed. It is on the warpath abroad and at home. The Sago dead, like the Iraqi dead and the Bolivian dead, are symbolic of US imperialism’s march to destruction as it tries to avoid its life and death crisis of falling profits. Only an international socialist revolution can stop this collapse into barbarism.

US imperialism and the Sago Mine Disaster

The loss of the 13 Sago miners (12 dead and one severely brain injured) of West Virginia in early January was the direct result of the mounting attacks by US imperialism on its working class, in an attempt to take back concessions and cut labor costs to compete with cheap labor in Asia and Latin America. While these attacks are made worse by the Bush administration and the failure of the union leaders to challenge the bosses, the underlying cause is the crisis of US imperialism and the attempts by the US ruling class to make the US working class as well as workers globally pay for its crisis.

US imperialism’s crisis is a crisis of overproduction of capital. In the 1970s the US economy faced falling profits due to the rising cost of capital investment in plant and machinery. Its solution was to export surplus capital to less developed countries to take advantage of cheap labor and raw materials. The super-exploitation of cheap labor and plundering of resources in the semi-colonies was achieved by the institutions of the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organisation acting in the interests of US finance capital. So-called neo-liberalism or globalisation are both words that describe but do not explain the US drive to escape its crisis of falling profits by the classic Leninist export of capital. The result is that US corporates are today producing most of their profits offshore in so-called ‘outsourced’ plants.

Nevertheless, the super-profits from US global expansion have been insufficient to resolve the crisis of overproduction and allow a return to an upward cycle of capital accumulation. The great mass of surplus capital remains outside the productive circuit as money in the form of ‘fictitious capital’ speculating in shares, futures and exchange rates. US capitalism has come up against the fundamental contradiction of capitalism – that the working class will no longer sit back passively and allow the forces of production (including its own labor and lives) to be destroyed to restore private profits. The plundering of labor and raw materials in the semi-colonial world is facing resistance from workers and poor peasants across Latin America, Asia and in parts of Africa. Inside the US the drive to restructure industry cut costs of production is now facing a potential revolt. The fundamental class contradiction in US capitalist society, long suppressed by its imperialist role, is re-asserting itself as an awakening of the working class to confront US imperialism at home and abroad.

US imperialism has always relied on waves of migrant workers and black workers to work for low wages to keep the bulk of services in America running. Some graduated upward into the labour aristocracy to join that layer of privileged workers who backed US imperialism so they could get high wages. Today, however, the crisis of US imperialism has trapped a large stagnant pool of labor, usually living in poverty – like the black population of New Orleans abandoned to Hurricane Katrina – and repressed as a ‘criminal underclass’ on the streets and in the jails. They do not see anything progressive about US capitalism.

Not only that, the crisis has forced the capitalists to attack large sections of the former privileged aristocracy of labour – high paid mainly male unionized workers in steel, auto, airlines etc. Over the last decades these former world-beating industries have gone into decline as low wage and high productivity foreign competitors have taken increasing shares of the US and world market. In most cases the ‘foreign’ competitors are actually US global corporates like the Auto industry which has closed 100s of US plants and ‘exported’ 200,000 jobs since 2000. The result has been that the US corporates have used their global expansion to drive down labor costs at home in an attempt to compete with themselves. The established union leaderships have gone into ‘partnership’ with the bosses to ‘save American jobs’ by negotiating massive cutbacks and takebacks in jobs, wages and conditions in the hope of retaining the privileges of a minority of the US labor aristocracy and their own privileges as a union bureaucracy.

But the existing unions’ leaderships’ complicity in saving US capitalism at the expense of millions of workers whose labor capacity is being destroyed is beginning to create divisions in the ranks. The attempts by the AFL-CIO to defend American jobs by blaming foreign workers have failed and brought about a decline in the unions. More and more workers are awakening to the fact that US corporates are dominating the global economy and going to war to assert their primacy. Within the ranks of the labor movement there is a growing recognition that US workers must unite with foreign workers employed by the same corporates in common fight to limit their power and greed. The AFL-CIO has split and increasing grass roots dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party is challenging the grip of the bureaucracy on the unions. Into the breach left by the discredited ‘old bureaucracy’ and its failed strategy of defending jobs, steps the ‘new bureaucracy’ of the left aligned with the World Social Forum, presenting a new vision of the ‘peaceful, democratic road to socialism’.

Central to this reformist perspective is the bureaucratic bloc formed around the defence of Cuba, the Bolivarian Revolution, the MAS in Bolivia, and the anti-war movement against the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. This defence hinges on the ‘democratic’ labor movement in the US preventing the Bushites from invading these countries, which would then be allowed to develop their own resources rather then be plundered by US corporates. Thus the predatory role of US global corporates will be replaced by a ‘fair sharing’ of national resources between the indigenous and national populations and US investors. Back in the USA, the money wasted on military invasions and the armaments industry will go to much needed public health, education and social services. This unholy alliance of social democracy, Stalinism, Castroism and fake Trotskyism comes to the rescue of US imperialism by keeping alive the illusion that it can be pressured from below to adopt a form of ‘market socialism’.

Critical to this ‘left’ perspective is the active role of organized labor in stopping the supposed greedy, rogue, anarchic, warmongering, ‘dark’ side of imperialism from manifesting itself in ruthless attacks on workers. This explains much of the reformist left response to the Sago Mine disaster.

Could Sago have been saved by the union?

Of course industry must be unionized. Cost cutting in the coal mines has a bloody history. Disasters were commonplace until workers organized to demand improved safety standards. The unionization of the mines was the only way to defeat these terrible conditions. US mine workers fought many battles to get union cover. But today their unions have become open partners with the bosses in cost cutting. The level of health and safety protection has fallen dramatically. At Sago the Mine Safety and Health Administration recorded 208 violations of federal mine rules in 2005, including 18 orders to shut down parts of the mine while faults were corrected, yet there was no order to shut down the mine completely.

At Sago mine 13 miners lost their lives because the employer would not pay for radio telephones or concrete barriers against explosions that would have cost a tiny fraction of its multi-million profits. Meanwhile, state regulation agencies under Bush have been filled with former coal industry executives who refuse to close dangerous mines. The UMWA (United Mine Workers of America) claims that the single factor that could have closed down the mine was missing at Sago– the union! Here is its statement released shortly after the disaster:

“International Coal Group (ICG), the US-based company responsible for 12 mining deaths last week in the state of West Virginia, operates 21 US coal mines in America, all non-union. Yet, three emergency-response teams from nearby United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) staffed mines, plus the ICEM affiliate’s Health and Safety director were involved in rescue efforts at ICG’s Sago mine on 2 January after 13 miners became trapped following a gas explosion.

ICG has become a major eastern US coal supplier to utility companies at a time of high demand and high prices. The company is a creation of Wilbur L. Ross, a bankruptcy buyout opportunist who has a two-decade-long record in steel, textile and now coal bankruptcies. Ross uses US court bankruptcy proceedings to gain tax deferrals and cancel workers’ bargaining rights, pension benefits and retiree health care.

ICG bought bankrupt Horizon Natural Resources, Anker Coal Group and CoalQuest Development, among others over the past few years. ICG gained a stake in Anker, the former owner of Sago, in the early 2000s and increased his holding as the company weakened and entered bankruptcy in 2002.

He only recently finalised buyout of the company for US$173 million, adding some eight coal mines and loading facilities to ICG. Also in late 2005, Ross took ICG—founded only in 2004—public, infusing US$250 million cash into the firm, and causing Ross to state: “It’s all new money for the company. Neither my firm nor the founding shareholders are selling any stock on the offering at all.” Rose’s controlling stake increased from 9.2% to 13.7% on the initial public offering.

It is evident Rose’s “new money” and current coal revenue profit-taking are not intended for miners’ social welfare, whether it be retirement benefits or job safety. On 30 August 2004, 17 UMWA members were arrested by police when they and 800 others protested before a US bankruptcy court in Louisville, Kentucky. Some 3,000 UMWA members, both active and retired, were about to lose job security, and health care coverage as Ross and IGC took control of Horizon at a discount value in the bankruptcy court. . .”

But would the UMWA have made a difference? These workplace deaths can be multiplied across all the industries from steel to auto to airlines, key sectors of which are unionized. Over 100,000 workers lose their lives every year through industrial accidents. It is true that Wilbur Ross who bought the unsafe Sago mine has build his empire by scavenging companies and using bankruptcy laws to take back wages and conditions won by generations of workers. A prominent fundraiser for the Democrats, Ross makes a point of selling himself to union bosses as ‘saving jobs’ after firms have gone into bankruptcy. It seems that some union bosses’ actually believe Ross and ‘partner’ him to restructure US industry to ‘save American jobs’.

Where the UMWA and similar unions exist they have collaborated in Ross’s ruthless practices. In steel and textiles Ross restructured companies with huge loss of jobs, pay and conditions and in each case got the approval of the respective union chiefs. According to Andrew Pollack in Monthly Review Zine:

[Ross’s] “ . . . first big move was his February 2002 purchase of bankrupt LTV Corp, waiting until LTV had shed its health-care liabilities and dumped its pension obligations on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. Ross paid $90 million in cash and took on $235 million in assumed liabilities — in return, he gained assets worth $2.5 billion. LTV became part of Ross’s International Steel Group. After replacing defined benefit pensions with 401(k)s, Ross instituted an incentive pay program in which workers got paid more for beating production goals. The ISG cut man-hours of labor per ton of steel from two-and-a-half to one, a saving equaling $45 on a ton of steel selling for $300.

Because Ross had “saved” steelworker jobs — even though their pay and benefits had been slashed — USWA President Leo W. Gerard said the investor was “a breath of fresh air. Wilbur and his people actually cared about what we had to say.” Apparently, all it takes to make a union bureaucrat happy these days is a friendly capitalist ear.”

Pollack says this was true of the textile industry as well:

“Steel union head Gerard’s fondness for Ross was matched by a glowing endorsement from [textile union] UNITE HERE head Bruce Raynor, who said “I really think the future of domestic manufacturing is people like Wilbur Ross.”

In the Auto industry Ross is said to be eyeing Delphi where CEO Miller (who took Bethlehem Steel to bankruptcy before Ross bought it cheap) is threatening bankruptcy if workers do not take a 2/3rd pay cut and loss of pension rights. The current struggle at Delphi is to reject the deal struck between Miller and the UAW union bureaucrats and a potential Democrat ‘job saver’ buyer like Wilbur Ross.

Whether in steel, textiles, coal or auto, as proven collaborators with the bosses, the leaders of all these unions must be held responsible for the many defeats of workers under the US anti-union and bankruptcy laws. Why is this, when unions are commonly understood as acting in the interests of workers? What explains the active ‘partnership’ of the US union bosses with corporate bosses in restructuring US industry?

The labor bureaucracy

The fact is the union leadership collaborates with the capitalist class to subordinate and exploit the working class. More specifically it dominates the unions so as to contain dissent arising from the massive cutbacks and takebacks. As the crisis of US capitalism has developed in the last two decades the reactionary role of the unions has become more blatant. Now unions openly advocate win-win ‘partnerships’ with the employers to increase profits and, they claim, wages. But of course as the deals with Ross prove, the cost of keeping some jobs is the destruction of many more. The reformist left keeps pointing to ‘sellouts’ and ‘deals’ done by bureaucrats, but sees these betrayals as evidence of a wider ‘corruption’ found in the ruling class. And just as the Enrons can be brought to justice, rogue bureaucrats can be challenged and replaced. Yet this does not account for the systematic treachery of union officials. How to explain this?

The classic Marxist explanation has two legs. First, the labor bureaucracy is a layer of union officials that originates in the relatively privileged aristocracy of labor (those workers whose wages and conditions are raised because they work for monopoly corporations who super-exploit the semi-colonial or ‘poor’ countries). It functions to mediate between the labor aristocracy and the employers. Trotsky referred to them as ‘labor lieutenants’ of business. It is their job to collaborate with business in the super-exploitation of foreign workers so that the labor aristocracy at home can share in some part of this bounty. US unions have come to play the role of partner in US imperialism to ensure that the aristocracy of labor gets is share of imperialist super-profits. Monthly Review reports on recent examples of this international class collaboration by the AFL-CIO to promote US ‘friendly’ regimes in Venezuela and Haiti.

Second, is the bureaucracy’s ideological role in promoting the fetishised view of capitalism as one of market relations between individuals. It accepts that the market’s normal state is one of equilibrium, and that crises and wars are disturbances caused by the behavior of the rich, powerful ruling class who cheat and prey on the weak and poor. The purpose of organized labour is to checkmate the power of global elite and allow the market to be stabilized, and equalized, by a ‘mixed economy’, sometimes called ‘market socialism’, today better known as the public/private partnership (PPP). This world view is presented as ‘realism’ or ‘common sense’. It is the ideological basis of the class collaboration or ‘partnerships’ between unions and bosses.

This is why the bureaucrats’ response to bosses attacks is to negotiate and concede cutbacks and concessions in order to save some jobs and some plants (and the union) but never to challenge the ultimate right of boss to hire and fire, and to even hire and fire on behalf of the bosses. The result has been the decimation of whole industries and the destruction of a large part of the US work force. Job losses and disillusionment with unions has seen the membership of unions sink to an all-time low at around 13% (36% public sector and 8% private sector). The recent split of the SIU and Teamsters from the AFL-CIO to form the breakaway labor federation Change to Win group was an attempt to meet this crisis by spending more money on recruitment. But it did nothing to challenge or change the class collaborationist role of the labor bureaucracy. According to Labor’s Militant Voice it entrenches the bureaucracy’s hold over these unions by taking away what little autonomy local labour councils have left.

The current strikes at North Western Airlines, and NY Transit, and the looming fightback at Delphi, all illustrate the widespread complicity between the bosses and the AFL-CIO union leaders that has led to decades of defeats in the major steel, airlines and Auto industries. It is not a case of a few union sellouts, or leaders making mistakes or misjudgments. The labour bureaucracy specializes in sell-outs. They are chronic collaborators. Proof? Look at the ongoing NY Transit dispute.

Local 100 boss Roger Toussaint had a deal lined up with his ‘Partner’ the MTA, but was undone by the determination of the state governor and NYC Mayor Bloomberg to cut public funding to transit services of the largely black and migrant workforce by destroying their pension rights. The 36,000 transit workers anger boiled over and an illegal strike was on. Mayor Bloomberg called the strikers ‘thugs’ and threatened heavy fines and even imprisonment. Though the majority of NYC commuters supported the strike, Toussaint consulted with other top bureaucrats, not his membership, about how to end the strike.

According to one report:

“Toussaint then nervously turned for help to Bruce Raynor, the general president of Unite Here, and a top dog in Change to Win, [The same Bruce Raynor who regards bosses like Wilbur Ross, as “the future of domestic manufacturing”! ] and Mike Fishman, president of the city’s giant union of building service workers, Local 32BJ of SEIU. These two big shots had been strong supporters of Mayor Bloomberg’s recent reelection victory. After talking to His Honor, they assured Toussaint that, while they had no formal guarantees, if he called off the strike City Hall would make sure negotiations would be fair. Others began to lean on Toussaint to cave as well such as Brian McLaughlin, president of the New York City Central Labor Council and United Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten.”

After 3 days facing massive financial penalties and assured by the Change to Win officials that Bloomberg would go easy on them, Toussaint fixed a deal where transit workers would keep their pension rights but start paying for health insurance! Members angry with both Toussaint and the deal narrowly rejected the offer. Governor Pataki and the MTA came back with a worse deal and a threat to force the union into arbitration. The rank and file is currently divided with a minority actively rejecting both the new offer and arbitration (as of 1 Feb)

Toussaint, Raynor and McLaughlin are not isolated cases. They are fully paid up members of the labor bureaucracy. It is clear that the role of the labor bureaucracy subordinates the rank and file to the bosses and the state, but how do we overcome this problem?

First, we neither gloss over this problem claiming as does Workers World Party, which as the main force behind the International Action Center signed a statement calling for a January 12 protest rally in NYC labelling Wilbur Ross a ‘vulture’ and Roger Toussaint a ‘hero’. This is an opportunist signing up to the bureaucracy as a ‘progressive’ force on the side of labor able to checkmate ‘vulture’ capitalists.  It is no accident that the WWP regards Cuba as ‘socialist’ and is uncritical of Chavez’s ‘21st century socialism’ in Venezuela. The WWP backs the labor bureaucracy at home and abroad.

Second, we don’t try to sweep the bureaucracy under the carpet like the Socialist Equality Party which correctly condemns the bureaucracy but wont fight it in the unions. Its position on the NY Transit strike is to leap over the demand for a general strike to call on all the workers of New York to join a new socialist party. This is un-Marxist and sectarian. So long as key sectors of industry are bureaucratically unionized, and the majority of workers remain un-unionized, revolutionaries have to fight to re-build the labour movement on the basis of rank and file democracy. Articles condemning the labor bureaucracy will not convince unionized workers to break with them. This requires a concrete program of fight inside the unions and for an independent workers political voice.

Building rank and file democracy

As Marxists we know that US imperialism is in trouble and that it can only solve its crisis by attacking workers at home and abroad. These attacks will necessarily generate fightbacks even by unorganized or non-unionized labor. The ‘old’ labor bureaucracy’s strategy of defending the US aristocracy of labor is bankrupt. The ‘new’ bureaucracy seeks to contain the new labor fightbacks within the a reformist perspective of the World Social Forum. This reformist perspective sows illusions in the US imperialist state able to pursue a peaceful, non-exploitative international role in collaboration with democratic nationalists, or even 21st century socialists, in the semi-colonies. This perspective is ‘social imperialist’ because it covers up the fact that the social reforms in the US will be still be paid for by the superprofits won by deals between ‘democratic’ imperialism and the national bourgeoisies at the expense of the workers and poor peasants. It is in the interest of the ‘new’ bureaucracy to promote this democratic ‘alternative’ because it is bought and paid by capitalism to keep the working class tied to the state. The first step in building a rank and file control of the unions is to break all ties to the state!

Revolutionaries begin with the fact that workers control of production is the only real basis of workers power. We have to build independent workers organizations to establish workers’ control. Despite its bureaucratic leadership, the existing labour movement is an historic gain we cannot write off. The AMWU in particular played a leading role in the class struggle unionism of the 1930s that led to the formation of the CIO. It has won major victories right up to the 1980s. As Trotsky said those who cannot defend the old gains cannot win new ones! Therefore work in the labour movement is ABC for revolutionaries. Our tactics must be to lead the rank and file in rebuilding the unions as ‘schools for revolution’. We have to be the best fighters in the frontline of rank and file rebellions against union boss sellouts to break the ‘new’ bureaucratic trap!

Two current fightbacks show that rank and file fightbacks are beginning to emerge. It’s early days yet and these struggles run the risk of being sidelined by a new layer of ‘left’ bureaucrats who step forward to replace the old bureaucrats who have lost credibility. Breaking with both layers of the bureaucracy is the urgent task ahead!

At Northwestern Airlines, the 4,400 mechanics who are striking against the employers drive to outsource 90% of the jobs and impose big wage cuts and takebacks, are in a democratically controlled union. The mechanics joined the Airline Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) in the 1990swhen their existing union, the International Association of Machinists (IAM), forced them to accept major concessions by bureaucratic methods. The IAM is now an open strikebreaking union, while other airline unions are supportive but have not gone on strike. The AFL-CIO leadership has refused to endorse the strike. The Teamsters (one of the main unions in Change to Win) is also hostile. To overcome these divisions driven by the bureaucracy, the mechanics have formed a fightback organization Airline Workers United to fight for rank and file unity across all the unions in the airline industry and to mobilize support from outside the industry. This is a move in the right direction but so far it has limited it self to ‘pressuring’ of politicians to change the bankruptcy laws, diverting the struggle from building national, coordinated strike action.

The second example is at Delphi a major multinational supplier of auto parts to General Motors. The response of the workers at Delphi points the way forward not only for the auto industry (currently facing many plant closures and over 60,000 job losses) but the whole of US industry. CEO Miller’ threat to bankrupt Delphi (formerly part of GM) to impose cuts and takebacks has jolted the workers into forming a militant rank and file group Soldiers of Solidarity to resist the ‘sweetheart’ deals being made between the bosses and the United Auto Workers union (UAW). While its efforts are also directed at putting pressure on the employers and politicians, the main thrust of SOS is mass industrial action. There is much talk of a return to the militant sit-down strikes of the 1930s such as that at Flint in 1936. The strength of the sit-down strike is that it keeps the workers inside the factories. More immediately a series of rank and file meetings across the country has debated the ‘work to rule’ tactic as a preparation for strike action. The immediate response of Miller was been to threaten closure of plants working to rule. This should be all the workers need to push for factory occupations and the demand that the industry be nationalized under workers control, along with health, education, banks and so on.

These are important fightbacks, yet the development of SOS and of militant rank and file control of the unions as ‘schools for revolution’ across the US, requires a revolutionary leadership. The main problem is that the Trotskyist movement that was active in the leadership of the major strikes of the 1930s does not exist today. Consistent with their ‘social imperialist’ perspective, the fake Trotskyists in the unions are intent on forming a new ‘left’ bureaucracy to limit the rank and file to pressuring the corporates and lobbying congress for ‘fairer’ laws and universal healthcare and pension reforms funded by taxing the rich. What they deny is the super-profiteering role of US imperialism abroad in paying for these social ‘reforms’ at home. Breaking with the ‘new’ bureaucracy means therefore, confronting US imperialism by smashing the roots of its global superprofiteering and oppression.

Break from the ‘new’ bureaucracy!

To develop SOS into a model for rebuilding the unions, the rank and file must control the unions. This means holding mass members meetings where decisions are taken by show of hands, elected and recallable delegates, election of strike committees, pickets and self defence groups, unions united nationally and internationally across the industry by rank-and-file-based congresses that can mount united front actions to force on the bureaucracy demands they cannot fulfill. Neither the AFL-CIO nor Change to Win leaderships represent the interests of rank and file workers. Neither backed the TWU wildcat strike in New York with anything more than words. The rank and file must coordinate national organizations, and demand that the bureaucrats of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win call for national workers conferences and fund and back illegal strikes and nation-wide strikes to break the power of the corporates and their anti-union laws. Strike action must always point towards the political general strike to bring down the government and to create a Workers and poor Farmers’ Government.

Such transitional demands cannot be met by the old or the new labor bureaucrats. Their exposure as bosses’ agents will educate and mobilize the rank and file to dump their misleaders and take over the leadership. That militant leadership must follow the principles of workers democracy. All negotiations should be done by delegates elected by the rank and file. Union officials should be elected each year for a fixed term, immediately accountable to the members, and paid no more than the average wage in the industry. The books should be open to all members and all union assets, bank accounts, etc open to member scrutiny.

Trotsky wrote that unions in the epoch of imperialism were subordinated to the state. His central demand was to break with the state and its class rule. Today this means breaking with the ‘left’ ideology of ‘social imperialism’. US labor must reject state reforms paid for by imperialist profiteering by plunder and war. Employers must be forced to carry the full cost of workers health, education, housing and pensions rather than state or federal welfare services.

The reformist left is calling for universal state funded universal health care in which they will fill the new jobs created to administer these services! This is central demand of the Change to Win federation. Some fake Trotskyist groups are also backing this reform. Dianne Feeley in the fake Trotskyist group Solidarity argues that the only way that everybody will be covered by health insurance is through universal state provision (Against the Current, Jan/Feb 2006). But there is no chance that unions that today take wage cuts to pay for health care can tomorrow mobilize enough pressure politically to force bosses to fund a federal health system. State provision of welfare services always offers loopholes for the bosses to cut their contributions. Workers have shown that they have the industrial muscle to refuse to pay for their pensions and health care and to demand that the bosses also pay for pensions and unemployed support.

For example, Roger Toussaint and his bureaucratic cronies tried to do a deal with the NY City Mayor which kept existing pension rights, but imposed a 1.5% payment for health insurance that would in future rise faster than wages! The rank and file refused to vote for a wage cut to pay for their health care! When NY City and NY State as public employers try to impose health costs onto workers what chance is there that workers can vote in a federal health provision? Yet when workers refuse to pay they show the potential power that can win successful occupations and nationalisations without compensation under workers control.

The only way forward is strike action on the job to break the bosses’ repressive laws that threaten fines, dismissal or imprisonment to make workers pay for their own health, education and welfare. The bosses’ use the bankruptcy provisions to break labor agreements and cream off vast profits. They ignore the labor laws and health and safety regulations which causes the deaths of more and more workers like the Sago miners. Workers must break these laws and enforce their own health and safety standards as the measure of their own control. Work to rule, sit ins and occupations are the necessary steps to workers’ control and workers’ ownership. They create organs of dual power from which the revolutionary workers can take state power. There can be no shortcut in which a workers party negotiates the expropriation of private property and compensation to the bosses as the fake Trotskyist SEP says in its 2006 election program.

Just as workers must reject social reforms at home paid for by imperialist profiteering, so they must unite their forces with workers and peasants everywhere who are super-exploited by imperialism. We do not mean the ‘fake’ internationalism of the WSF anti-war movement that calls on Troops Out of Iraq because of the loss of American lives and the US$2 trillion cost of the war! We are for the defeat of the US in Iraq! We are for smashing the US military at home, the Patriot Act and its concentration camps! We do not call Chavez’s ‘21st century socialism’ internationalism when it sells oil to the US to invade and plunder Iraq. We must be for a socialist revolution in Venezuela, Palestine and Iraq! We are for the political revolution in Cuba and the return of Guantánamo!

Real internationalism means that US miners fight the mine bosses in the US, in China and Latin America. The Sago miners are no different to the miners of El Teniente in Chile, Turbio in Argentina, Barakova in Ukraine, Mutun in Bolivia or Fuksin in China. US workers must join forces with all workers in every country to fight for the expropriation of the property of the landlords, the banks and the corporates. Only by such a common struggle can the national divisions that separate workers and poor peasants in different countries be overcome, and a new world made possible!

For a mass Labor Party with a socialist program!
The revolutionary transformation of unions into workers’ councils or soviets is our goal!

Along the way we must break from the bureaucrats and their funding of the party of US social imperialism, the Democrats. To do this we must call for a real workers party based on democratic unions to be built. Trotsky argued that in the US in the 1930s the labor movement had yet to find its own political voice. He took into account that workers would not jump out of the Democrats into a mass revolutionary party overnight, but would support a Labor Party in which revolutionaries raising the transitional program could be instrumental in transforming it into a mass revolutionary party as part of a new revolutionary international. Over 60 years later the need for a Labor Party is even more urgent.

  • Jobs for all on a living wage! 
  • 30 hours work for 40 hours pay! 
  • No concessions on wages, jobs, health or pensions! 
  • Strike to make the bosses pay for full pension and health care! 
  • If bosses threaten redundancies and bankruptcy demand they ‘open the books’! 
  • Occupy under workers control all plants threatened with closure! 
  • Open the borders to economic and political worker migrants! 
  • US troops out of Iraq, Haiti, Cuba and bases in Asia and South America! 
  • Victory to Iraq! Defeat the main enemy at home! 
  • Strike against the US war industry and build soldiers committees against the war in Iraq! 
  • Nationalize industry, transport, communications and banks without compensation under workers control! 
  • For a Workers and small farmers government and a planned socialist economy! 
  • For a Socialist United States of the Americas from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego!

Defend the Iranian people! Support Iran’s right to a nuclear deterrent

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On March the 18th, protesters will gather in towns and cities around the world to mark the third anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, and the beginning of a war that still kills thousands of Iraqis every month.

This year the anti-war movement faces the threat of a new imperialist war, against Iraq’s eastern neighbour.

The United States is leading a campaign against Iran’s nuclear programme, and threatening the country with military action if it does not dismantle the uranium enrichment technology in its nuclear facilities.

Bush’s government used aggressive diplomacy to make sure that the International Atomic Energy Agency voted to send the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme to the United Nations Security Council, where the US has a permanent seat and immense influence. Bush has repeatedly said that is prepared to use violence to stop Iran’s nuclear programme even if he can’t get his way on the Security Council.

Iran’s government maintains that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, and after the lies they told about Iraq’s phantom ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ the US and other Western governments can’t be trusted when they say they are certain Iran is trying to make nuclear weapons.

But even if Iran is seeking nukes, what right do the US and its allies have to complain?

The US is a country with many thousands of nukes aimed at targets around the globe and a history of aggressive action against scores of other states. The Middle East’s neighbourhood bully and US ally Israel sits on an arsenal of several hundred warheads.

Both the US and Israel continue to build new nuclear weapons – what right do they have to condemn Iran if it wants to do the same?

Poll after poll shows that Iranians support their country’s nuclear programme, and believe that they have a right to nuclear weapons.

Even the pro-Bush media admits the popularity of Iran’s nuclear programme. Karl Vick, the Iranian correspondent for the pro-Bush, pro-war Washington Post, recently admitted that ‘Ordinary Iranians overwhelmingly favour their country’s nuclear ambitions, interviews and surveys show’.

Why are the Iranian people so keen on nukes?

Some racist commentators in the Western media have suggested that it is because they are a fanatical, bloodthirsty people, who long to fight a holy war against the US and Israel. But the Iranians know better than almost any other people the bloody reality of war. In the 1980s a million of them died defending their homeland against an invasion by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. At the time Saddam was an ally of the US, and the US had encouraged him to invade Iran because it wanted to topple the government there. More recently, Iranians have watched the US fight two bloody wars against Iraq. The war that began in March 2003 is estimated to have killed 150,000 Iraqis already. Now the Iranians hear Bush threatening attacks on their own country.

It is because they don’t want another war that the Iranians want nukes. Iranians realise that nukes would be a powerful deterrent against an attack by the US. They can see that the US invaded Iraq knowing that it had no Weapons of Mass Destruction, but backed away from attacking North Korea because that country had developed nukes.

A look at the whole history of the nuclear era bears out the Iranian point of view. The US says that nuclear proliferation is a threat to world peace, but the only time nukes have been used was before nuclear proliferation began, in the days when the US had a monopoly on the weapons. US President Harry Truman bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki not to defeat Japan, which was already about to surrender, but to intimidate the rest of the world, and especially the Soviet Union and Red China. The US wanted to use nukes to make sure it controlled the post-war world.

In 1950 the US was bogged down in a war against Korea, and General Douglas MacArthur, the commander of their army, drew up plans to explode thirty nukes inside territory held by the North Korean army. Millions of Koreans were saved from death only because the Soviet Union had recently developed its own nukes as a deterrent to US aggression. The US was forced to shelve MacArthur’s plan after the Soviets threatened to retaliate for any nuclear strikes in Korea. Again and again in later years, the Soviet nuclear deterrent saved vulnerable Third World countries from US aggression. Who can blame the Iranians for wanting the same deterrent?

Most Kiwis dislike George Bush and oppose the wars he has started

At the same time, though, many of us are uneasy about the prospect of another country developing nuclear weapons. If a poll were taken today it is likely that only a fraction of us would support Iran’s right to nukes. But we only think like this because we haven’t stood in the shoes of Iranians and other peoples threatened by US imperialism. We live on islands at the bottom of the world, far away from hotspots like the Middle East. We’ve never been invaded, and we don’t have the hostile army of a nuclear superpower camped on our doorstep. The Iranians don’t have the luxury of rejecting nuclear weapons, and we need to understand that. If we don’t, we risk taking the side of the US and Israel in a new war.

The Green Party has already fallen into the trap of supporting the US campaign against Iran, by urging that the UN be used to ‘restrain Iran’.

Others are in danger of going down the same path. In a debate on the Indy media website, one activist said that he wanted to show ‘solidarity with anti-nuclear sentiments among the Iranian and wider Middle Eastern population’. If he looks, he will soon find that the only people in the Middle East interested in campaigning against Iran’s nuclear programme are Israelis and the US armed forces. Anti-war activists should show solidarity with the Iranian people by supporting Iran’s right to nukes.

But solidarity with Iran doesn’t mean political support for the country’s government

Iran is run by a gang of Islamic fundamentalists who hijacked the 1979 revolution against the US-backed Shah. The fundamentalists took power by killing their secularist rivals on the left, and they use violence to stay in power. In the last few months, for instance, the Iranian police and pro-government paramilitary organisations have been attacking and detaining the bus drivers of Tehran. The bus drivers have been campaigning and striking for better conditions and union rights, and three hundred of them have been detained for this ‘crime’.

It’s not only trade unionists that the Iranian government attacks

Iranian women are regularly stoned to death for ‘crimes’ like adultery and pre-marital sex, and gay men are often hung if they are caught having sex.

We should support the Iranian nuclear programme, but we should also support trade unionists and other groups fighting against government repression.

Some Westerners argue that there is a contradiction between these two types of support. They say you can’t support Iran’s right to nukes without giving political support to the country’s government. What they ignore is the fact that Iranian people themselves support their country’s nuclear programme, at the same time as many of them oppose their country’s government. As Karl Vick notes, “Support [for the nuclear programme] runs deep in the population of 68 million, cutting across differences of education, age and, most significantly, attitudes toward the fundamentalist government”.

When we gather next month to mark the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, we should also protest against the aggression of the US and the UN against Iran. But we can only oppose Bush’s new war drive by taking the side of the Iranian people by supporting Iran’s right to a nuclear deterrent.

Leaflet issued by Workers Against the War Of Terror (WAWOT) February 2006

From Class Struggle 65 Feb/March 2006