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Maori Party Debate: Anti-Communist means Anti-Maori

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Jesse Butler made a number of replies to the CWG’s Open Letter to the Green Left Weekly (see next post) in response to Butler’s article after it was posted on the indymedia news service. Here we reprint one of Butler’s replies and our response to him.

To the CWG,

Once again we are bombarded with the outdated rhetoric of the communist party, now focusing on Tariana’s reasonable comment to work with anyone, including National, to obtain equality and justice in Aotearoa.

Where is the alternative system of the communist party? I hear a lot of bullshit from the sidelines yet very little in the way of an alternative game plan.

You’re not still waiting for your ‘revolution’ are you? Do you mean to say that the vast majority of the masses would rise up against the system that supplies them security, income and a future to your unarticulated communist system?

Surely, you are not suggesting another failed communist experiment experienced in Russia, China and North Korea to happen here in Aotearoa?

Communist dictators make Donald Brash look like a lollipop. And you want the New Zealand public to take you seriously?

No, I’m afraid your ramblings are blinded by ideology and obviously flawed in the political reality of this country.

My advice to you is to wake up and get off the sidelines, and have a real go at the opposition like we are. Basically put up or shut up.

We need all hands on deck against the neo-liberal onslaught, and sometimes that involves getting inside next to them so we can beat them at their own game.

Jesse Butler

The CWG replies:

Jesse’s response to our criticisms of his article shows very clearly that Green Left Weekly and Socialist Worker were wrong to print his accounts of the hikoi and the formation of the Maori Party. Jesse’s anti-communism would make Joe McCarthy and Ben Couch proud!

Anti-commie, anti-Maori

It’s sad to see some supporters of the Maori Party engaging in a red baiting that belongs to the days the Cold War, because it was Maori who were regularly asked to go abroad and die in the US’s wars against ‘communist tyranny’ in Korea, Malaya, and Vietnam. Thirty-two of the thirty-five Kiwi troops who died in Vietnam were Maori – what did they die for? Hasn’t Jesse learnt anything?

And Vietnam and Korea weren’t the first wars that New Zealand fought against ‘the communist menace’. The Waikato and Taranaki wars were crusades against communism, fought for the interests of settler capitalists who were infuriated by the Maori refusal to sell collectively-owned land.

Te Whiti and his followers at Parihaka was targeted by the warmongers not because they wore feathers in their hair but because they praised ‘the miracle of collective labour’ and refused to sell their collectively-owned land.

The gardens of the Maori kingdom in the Waikato were destroyed not because the people who worked them were using collective land ownership and labour to feed the fortress city of Auckland, where would-be land grabbers railed against ‘the socialistic natives’.

The CWG remembers the communism of Te Whiti, as well as the communism of Marx and the communism of the occupied factories movement in today’s Argentina. We want to see the foreshore and the whole of Aotearoa run collectively.

That’s why we reject the Maori Party.

Different party, same mistakes

The Maori Party’s strategy is to capture the balance of parliamentary seats, and try to get good deals for Maori, and especially for iwi commercial interests, by using the balance of power in negotiations with the major parties. This strategy cannot succeed for two reasons.

In the first place, the ability of the major parties to influence the economy in favour of Maori business is limited, because the New Zealand economy is mostly owned offshore, by US and US-Aussie companies.

The domination of the Kiwi economy by US and other imperialisms means that iwi businesses have little chance of succeeding, or even surviving.

They do not have the capital to compete with the multinationals, and as little fish will inevitably be swallowed up by the big fish. But even if Maori capitalism were a viable venture, the Maori Party would not benefit many Maori, because very few Maori are capitalists.

The vast majority of Maori are workers or the dependents of workers. All Kiwi workers have an interest in better pay and conditions, and better social services like health and education.

These interests clash with those of capitalists, because capitalists make their profits from the wages of workers. It’s no coincidence that employers’ groups have been at the forefront of campaigns against pro-worker arguments and policies like the minimum wage, the right to strike, paid parental leave, and increased funding for public health.

Brown bosses are no more pro-worker than white bosses, and the mini-capitalists of the iwicorps are now fighting class wars of their own. Look at Ngati Whatua bosses wanting to sell off housing their own people won back in the Bastion Pt struggle. Look at the struggles against Robert Mahuta and more recently Tuku Morgan by Tainui Maori sick of corporate cowboy behaviour.

The Maori Party’s strategy has been repeatedly tried and repeatedly found wanting over the past few years.

The tight five of NZ First and then Mauri Pacific tried to advance Maori interests in coalition with National, and ended up supporting the privatisation of Auckland Airport and rimu logging on the West Coast. In return they got fat salaries and some nice undies. Nice for them, but not so good for their supporters, who booted them out in 1999.

Mana Motuhake entered government in 1999, but Willie Jackson and Sandra Lee were as unable to win concessions as the tight five before them. They couldn’t even stop Labour junking its weak-as-water Closing the Gaps scheme after National kicked up a proto-Brashian fuss. In return for his non-existent policy wins Jackson ended up having to back the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, on the grounds that ‘The SAS boys are Maori and they want to go’.

Tariana played a key role in the Pakaitore occupation in 1995, but got sucked into the Labour Party by the promise of winning those elusive policy concessions. We all know how she got on there.

The hikoi could have turned into an alternative to parliamentarism – there were militant elements on it that rejected the failure of repeated attempts to work ‘within the system’. Why get blisters walking from Te Hapua to Wellington, if you can influence policy from the comfort of the cabinet room?

Back to the future!

For these advocates of extra-parliamentary protest action, the hikoi looked back to the great days of the 1970s and early 80s, when Maori and their supporters waged a series of struggles which shook the Kiwi ruling class to its core.

The Great Land March of 1975, the epic occupation of Bastion Point, the struggle to reclaim the Raglan Golf Course, and the hikoi to Waitangi in 1984 were all examples of Maori direct action against ‘the system’.

Before it got tied up in the red tape of the ‘Treaty process’, the Maori direct action movement managed to win a whole series of victories.

Make no mistake: Bastion Pt was won back by direct action, not parliament. The Maori land at Raglan is no longer a golf course because of direct action, not some cabinet seat.

Language nests exist today because Maori kicked up a stink in the streets in the 70s and early 80s, not because of Tau Henare or Tariana.

The partial victory Tariana helped win at Pakaitore in the mid-90s stands in stark contrast to the same woman’s utter failure to influence Labour policy as a cabinet minister.

And the hikoi struck far more terror into the hearts of the establishment than the electoral triumphs of Tau, Willie and the rest of them combined. ‘Wellington under siege!’ the Herald screamed.

There was a palpable sense of relief when Tariana turned the final day of the hikoi into an electoral rally, and went on TV with Gerry Brownlee to announce her openness to a coalition deal with National.

Tariana played the same role in Wellington as Dame Whina played after the Land March. Dame Whina told the militant young Maori who set up an occupation of parliament grounds to pack up and go home and work inside the system, and the militants were right to refuse, and to lay the ground for the occupations that were to come!

Today Tariana is telling us to forget about the old hikoi, that the ‘next hikoi will be the ballot box’. We should refuse her call too, and organise occupations of threatened sections of foreshore up and down the country.

While Tariana sets out her election stall and promises the same things as Tau and Willie promised, the theft of the foreshore proceeds, the American mansions go up on wahi tapu, and the ‘free’ trade deal gets closer and closer. Labour and the bosses aren’t stopping, so why should we?

Browns and reds unite!

We can make sure occupations and other direct actions are successful by building on the tradition of Maori-communist struggle which Jesse mocks.

We have already mentioned the armed struggle to defend the collectively-owned and worked Waikato from capitalists in the 1860s, and the passive resistance to privatisation which Te Whiti is famous for, but Maori struggle against capitalism didn’t stop in the nineteenth century.

There is a long history of collaboration between revolutionary socialists and Maori, a tradition which includes the solidarity the Tainui Maori showed to the Red Federation of Labour during the revolutionary General Strike of 1913, through the socialist and trade unionist presence in the occupations of the 70s, to the anti-Springbok protests of 1981, right up to the present day actions of communist Maori activists like Justin Taua.

Communists have always understood that only the muscle of organised workers can win crucial struggles like the Maori struggle for land rights. Unlike Tau or Tariana, communists recognise the common interests of Maori and Pakeha workers, and the importance of getting them together on the picket line.

Since we’ve mentioned it already we’ll use the example of Bastion Pt to illustrate the point we’re making in more detail.

By the 1930s almost the only piece of land the ‘friendly’ tribe of Ngati Whatua possessed was a small strip of coast near Bastion Pt.

Auckland city authorities wanted to strip Ngati Whatua of this piece of land and the village that stood on it, but they reckoned without the alliance which Ngati Whatua’s Tainui ally Princess Te Puea had made with the Pakeha-dominated trade union movement and with the Communist Party.

Tainui solidarity with the workers’ movement went back to 1913, when iwi leaders urged Maori not to undermine the General Strike by signing on to do the jobs of strikers.

Communist Party unionists returned the favour by championing the grievances of Waikato Tainui, who since returning from exile in the Rohe Potae in 1883 had struggled relentlessly to regain their confiscated lands.

When word went out that the government was about to move on the Maori village near Bastion Point in 1937communists in Auckland’s trade unions swung into action.

Ron Mason, who was organising with the General Labourers Union, put out an urgent call to the city’s builders, and four hundred of them descended on the threatened settlement.

With the help of Ngati Whatua and Tainui, the builders worked non-stop to fortify the village, laying tall palisades in a concrete foundation. Workers prepared to defend the village, and the government backed down.

It was not until sixteen years later, in 1953, that the government was finally able to burn the village of Orakei to the ground.

It is no coincidence that this act of ethnic cleansing took place after the defeat of the radical workers movement in the Great Waterfront Lockout of 1951. Without the support of organised labour Ngati Whatua were weakened. The fortunes of the workers’ movement and Maori have always been linked.

When the struggle for Bastion Pt and surrounding land revived in the 70s, trade unionists and a new generation of communists were amongst the vanguard.

Unionists took the issue into their organisations, raising thousands of dollars in aid and bringing in work teams to help the occupiers build a new village on Bastion Point. Communist organisations turned their dinky printing presses to the task of publicising the cause.

When Muldoon sent in the armed forces to crush the occupation at Bastion Point, trade unionists and communists stood on the picket line, and thousands of workers walked off the job around Auckland in a spontaneous protest strike.

Carpenters and truckies who had been called out to a mysterious ‘big job’ refused to work, when they found that they were being asked to help demolish the Bastion Point settlement.

Solidarity continued into the 80s, when Ngati Whatua were finally able to recover their land. The degeneration into corporatism of the leadership of Ngati Whatua doesn’t wipe out the victory of Bastion Point, but it does show once again that without a strong workers’ movement the Maori flaxroots are weak.

Occupy for sure!

Today we need to revive the spirit of Bastion Point by building on the support for the hikoi shown by unions like the National Distribution Union, the Service and Food Workers Union, Aste, and the Manufacturing and Construction Union.

Neither Pakeha nor Maori unionists will ever back a party that makes overtures to National, but many of them will back occupations of a foreshore which all ordinary New Zealanders value and worry about losing.

By occupying the foreshore and inviting ordinary Pakeha to join them, Maori can take the wind out of the sails of the right-wingers who say that the hikoi was about Maori privatisation, while at the same time thwarting the iwicorp opportunists who think that Maori sovereignty means Maori capitalism.

Sea farming and tourism ventures can be controlled by workers, not by brown or white capitalists.

And if the foreshore and its industries can be socialised, then why not the whole economy? A movement to socialise the whole of Aotearoa can take inspiration from the occupied factories of Argentina and the collective farms being established in Venezuela, as well as the indigenous communism of Rangiaowhia and Te Whiti.

This is the argument that the CWG made on the hikoi and has been making at Maori Party hui.

The argument from which this reply is taken can be read in full here:

From Class Struggle 57 August-September 2004


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The question of rightful authority in New Zealand, has been a contentious issue for the Crown and the many tribes and organizations representing Maori. Since the signing of the so called Declaration Of Independence in 1835 and the Treaty Of Waitangi in 1840, the scene has been set for a state of political confusion that has thrown up more questions than answers. Least answered of course is the debate concerning the role of workers in the whole matter. We argue that today the only way forward for Maori is as members of the working class.

The purpose of this article is to establish an alternative to the archaic legalisms being trotted out by those who quite rightly seek redress for past and continuing injustices against Maori control over their own destinies. But the issue must finally become one of workers control from all races.

Since new progressive knowledge has been gained in the last 150 years such as Marx’s Communist Manifesto of 1848 and international workers struggles against the rule of “Law” have come to light, the major question becomes, “Whose Law?” Its origins and “Class” content becomes central to the inevitable answer.

A short history lesson of events surrounding the 1835 Declaration shows that far from being a founding document based on noble principle, it was in fact the result of personal animosity between its author James Busby the first crown appointed NZ resident and Thomas McDonnell the second appointed resident. McDonnell together with local chief from the Hokianga initiated laws banning the landing or sale of liquor.

As far as Busby was concerned, this was an affront to his authority. To make a public issue of it, would have made Busby out to be petty minded.

At exactly the same time, Busby received a letter from Frenchman Baron De Thierry stating his intention to establish a sovereign independent state in the Hokianga. Busby would use this as a means to remove McDonnell assumed authority with Maori by claiming that the French had imperialist designs on NZ and that it was important that a confederation of chiefs declare a state of independence friendly to Britain.

In all, 52 chiefs signed the DOI1835 with Potatau Te Wherowhero from Waikato being the last to sign in 1839. Clearly the document conceived at very short notice was never intended to be sincere and in the spirit of goodwill to Maori. Its expedient purpose having achieved its outcome, its authors’ hopes were that it would just fade away. As far as the chiefs who signed were concerned, all was above board and in good faith.

This is very much the position held today by the Confederation of the United Tribes of Aotearoa, Te Kingitanga, Te Kotahitanga, Tinorangatiratanga Maori, The Peoples Sovereign Independence Movement, Mana Maori, and The Tenants Party of Aotearoa etc.

Whether ignorant of the declarations true origins or not, the above parties rely on a mandate borne of traditions and practices stretching back to the dawn of humanity in exactly the same way as the British Crown’s own authority originated. If those laws or authority handed down through the generations, were the result of a ruling layer wishing to impose their will on subordinated subjects, then it calls into question the validity of that authority.

The issue of Class

But this question can only arise when one is faced with the issue of class. Stacked up against idealised or even romanticised tradition, the class issue is treated as an anathema to God and religion, the very bulwarks that prop up the power of the ruling class through fear.

Equally reactionary by its effect, is the process of culturally marginalizing a people to such an extent, that the victims in order to fight against their masters, end up adopting the very same methods used against them. In the case of Aotearoa / NZ, it has been an adaptation to the capitalist mode of production by tribal leaders to form an economic base without understanding the contradictions of their actions.

Most of those nationalists who support Maori Independence and struggle, fail to see the irony of their predicament when many are heard to say that they can cut deals with other capitalists under the auspices of the DOI1835 document.

Who needs those buggers down in Wellington anyway?

The Auckland APEC conference of 1999 saw representatives from various quarters within the Confederated Tribes try to cut deals with corporates, while anti-globalisation protests were taking place outside. One such group claiming to be a Maori workers co-operative and supporter of the “Green Dollar”, proudly placed its banner under the Confederations flag. They have even printed their own money. The confederation has never claimed to be an advocate of socialised means of production, so it is not surprising that within its ranks, its programme is the maintenance of the economic status quo.

“Class” is not an issue confined to school, grades of meat or wool. It is central to understanding what is required to seriously tackle the root cause of societies problems. Many in the Maori struggle have yet to understand this. By taking the traditionalist path, they come face to face with their own contradictions.

Much tribal land was not only lost through raupatu [confiscation] during the colonial period, but sold out right by chiefly rulers who were the only ones mandated to do as they liked regarding land. This dispossession of their tribes’ peoples birthright is a clear illustration of the class divisions that developed in the past and will be further encouraged if some in the nationalist camp have it their way.

It is exactly the same method as practiced by the most cunning and calculating captains of industry whose high standing in mainstream society is a function of their ability to rip people off.

If this article looks like yet another attack on Maori, it is not meant to be. The problem has had to be faced up to by every people and culture on the planet confronted by the big question of “class.” Calls to overthrow the Monarchy in England pre-date both the DOI1835 and the Treaty of Waitangi in Aotearoa. Cries of emancipation from within that culture, recognised that something was seriously wrong with its rulers as an example. Dissent was practiced in pre-Europe and Maori society in much the same way as it was practiced everywhere else. There were those who posed serious questions to their leaders, running the risk of serious reprimand or worse.

So it is pointless idealising a past that probably never existed. Having witnessed the antics within my own tribe Tainui, and having seen those responsible for the monumental screw-up go up the road to Ngati Whatua and make a $17 million mess of it for that tribe, we can clearly see that those given authority to lead, have no authority worth a damn.

To avoid the class issue altogether, all Maori nationalists have sought redress through legal processes starting with the DOI1835. The nationalists overlook the Statute of Westminster of 1931 that ended British political sovereignty over NZ. By viewing the Crown as still having ‘authority’ over NZ they oppose NZ breaking completely from Britain and becoming a Republic.

NZ a Republic?

If ties to Britain were severed completely as in the case of the United States, whose leaders were all bourgeois anyway, then NZ could say that its mandate to govern was made unilaterally by the people of NZ through a referendum, so long as an Independent Republic was proclaimed at the same time. This would give substance to laws passed in NZ.

The idea of declaring a Republic, scares the hell out of many in the pro- Te Tiriti / The Treaty camp, because it wipes out the Crown part of the equation. While this is true, it does not remove the NZ government’s obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi a document that is legally held to supercede the 1835 DOI in NZ law.

This makes the nationalists position politically reactionary. By holding to the Crown, the nationalists become the unwitting instrument in its continued preservation, [partners with British Imperialism.] .

And it is a reactionary utopia anyway. Busby’s appointment as NZ resident by the British government did not give him the status equal to a Governor General, [ in other words, a King by proxy], which by the nationalists own argument, puts Busby in the same boat as the current NZ settler government. As the initiator and author of the DOI1835, Busby was a mere witness to the Declaration by the Confederated chiefs of Aotearoa.

Because the British were deemed more trustworthy [according to Busby] than the French, Maori leaders [through Busby], sought to put themselves under the protection of the British in the event that their position became threatened by outside powers. King William IV was asked to be, the “parent protecting the infant state.” This is stated in article 4 of the DOI1835, a major stumbling block for the Confederation. It paternalistically places their Sovereignty under the protection of Britain on the key issue. Like Rangatiratanga and Kawanatanga as mentioned in Te Tiriti O Waitangi and The Treaty of Waitangi, interpretation of terminology depending on whom it suits, soon acts like a spanner thrown into the works.

Sucking up to the G-G

The problem for the current Confederation is, having side lined the Wellington government as irrelevant, protocol according to them, requires that the correct channels be established to the British Crown through its proper representatives, such as a Governor General to make full and to the letter, the demands as prescribed by the 1835 Declaration.

So far, the invite has never been taken up, nor will it ever be. To do so, would undo the original intention of Britain [through Busby and the missionaries] to colonise Aotearoa on its terms and not that of Maori. Like the Wellington government, the DO1835 should equally be seen in the same light by the same standards.

Except for article 4, the declaration might have something going for its advocates, yes?

Don’t hold your breath! Having been repeatedly ignored by the British Crown for more than 150 years, surely its time to wake up and realise that the games up. So called good intentions were always going to be followed by a big stick. The coming NZ land wars were to be the proof of that.

Each time Maori interests make representations to the Privy Council, the response is always the same, “Go home and sort it out with your own NZ government.” Trying to keep alive a process that is never going to deliver to Maori, benefits only but a few lawyers and the legal merry go-round and squanders any chance of making better use of limited resources. Just look at the Fisheries Commission circus as an example. Which brings us back to the question asked at the beginning of the article, ” Whose law is it anyway?”

As mentioned earlier, laws and power as practiced and imposed by rulers for most of humanity’s existence, have come about because those subjected to them have never had a say in their implementation. The only time that has ever been achieved in recorded history, was during the Paris Commune of 1871, brutally suppressed by Louis Bonaparte and the short number of years immediately following the 1917 October Russian Revolution until Stalin.

“Rank and File power to Workers” is a total anathema to ALL rule outside of those two major events. Cloaked in religion and mystique, past rulers were able to impose their will to such an extent that their practices became accepted as normal and hence became a part of “Tradition and Lore”. Religion and imposed power from outside of workers control are one and the same. A static state beyond question far removed from the dynamic and fluid forces taking place around it. Nature being the starting point of all things, tells us that material reality is the only basis on which to win a positive future for humanity and not fanciful metaphysical delusions.

“Where do you get your authority?”

This is a common call often heard from those involved in the Maori struggle when directed at the settler government and its representatives, especially the Police and the Judiciary. But equally it is a question that could be asked of themselves and many more in society at large.

The lack of an answer is an immediate recognition that history shows that no one can lay claim to legitimate authority outside of a Workers Revolution on its terms. If cutting deals with the US President and knowing his track record against workers, but recognising his authority is OK, then spelled out under workers control and conditions, that authority would be deemed unacceptable. Indeed that authority would be labeled criminal.

The past like the future doesn’t exist, so the only conditions necessary to judge the legitimacy of authority, should be based on the dynamic conditions of the present and not archaic forms.

So where does that leave the Maori struggle today? Rather than relying on the leaders of the past, whose own laws and traditions have been trampled on, a new start is necessary. That dynamic condition that affects us all, is modern destructive neo-liberal Capitalism. Already the forces of collective workers struggle are marshalling in places such as Argentina against the powers of “Authority”. Corrupt, because they were the power of the few over the masses, like the rest of human history. No amount of parochial tribalism or petty nationalism is going to be able to fight against the forces of the bosses being mustered at the present moment.

Already Bush has pledged trillions more dollars to his military to fight against the up coming struggle against the poor, the downtrodden and indigenous struggles. The NZ settler government has indicated in no uncertain terms that it is determined to be a part of that effort. The future of Maori struggle in Aotearoa lies with it taking on board the international workers struggles as its own. The forces of the boss class know no borders. So like them, we as Maori and workers should also not recognise the limitations of borders in our struggle. To do so, would be like fighting with both hands tied behind ones back while blindfolded.

The struggle has to be truly United International and Revolutionary.

The struggle is based on the international unity of workers. The big weakness within the Maori struggle is the inability to grasp what internationalism is. Token discussions by Tame Iti about class struggle, amount to nothing if he suddenly decides to shoot over to Fiji and give moral support to anti-trade union capitalist George Speight. Looking native has never been a good excuse to lend support to any body if their agenda is the further subjugation of workers. It is a known fact that Speight intended to introduce legislation, not too dissimilar to the Employment Contracts Act after his coup, which really would have screwed workers. Not falling into that trap and getting caught up in the contradictions that it throws up is possible only if Maori choose to make their struggle a Workers struggle.

The future leaders of Maori are not the entrepreneurial captains of capitalist industry or those limited by petty tribal demands, they are after all, the whipping boys of the bosses above them. They are not those who promise a better future under a reformed and more humane capitalism either. They will come from the ranks of workers within the trade unions and those in the general labour work force not in unions because of destructive in-roads made by bosses in previous years and their union bureaucratic lackeys.

It’s always been cool to be called a Workers Revolutionary. But to be called a Maori International Workers Revolutionary, sounds even better. How ‘bout You ?

Te Taua Karuwhero, Waikato, Ngaruahine Hapu O Ngati Ruanui O Taranaki

For Workers Internationalism
For Rank and File control of all industry and utilities
Open borders under Workers control
For a Workers Republic of Aotearoa

[from Class Struggle, 43 February/March 2002

Written by raved

February 3, 2008 at 10:24 pm


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Build Opposition to U.S. War!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

We condemn the act of terrorism directed at thousands of US workers on September 11. It sacrificed the lives of workers and did nothing for the cause of the oppressed in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan or any other oppressed country.

Worse it provides the USA with the excuse that it wants to escalate its attacks on these countries with a blank cheque to fight a ‘new war’ against ‘terrorism’. Such a war helps the USA to avoid the charge that it is the world’s No 1 terrorist. More importantly it can combat a collapsing economy as it mobilises its industry in a war drive.

As the US Empire militarises its rule over the masses of poor and oppressed, those who oppose capitalist rule must take a stand now to mobilise the workers of the world to unite and smash imperialism and racism! For an anti-imperialist coalition against racism and war!

Terrorism against workers

The use of civilian planes by terrorists to attack even such prominent targets as the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon cannot advance the cause of the oppressed.

In the first place by killing US workers it makes other workers in the imperialist countries rally around their national flags and volunteer to go to war against their sisters and brothers. While terrorists may do spectacular damage to the symbols of imperialist America, they cannot smash capitalism, because they do not mobilise workers as a class to take power and control of the economy.

Second, terrorism justifies more reactionary state terror against the rights and freedoms of workers and the oppressed at home as well as in those states targeted by imperialism. It further undermines collective class struggle by promoting patriotism and religion both as the cause of conflict and as the solution. The real cause capitalism and real solution socialism become forgotten in the rush to war.

USA NO 1 Terrorist!

The imperialist powers and their agents historically have perpetrated the vast majority of terrorist acts. The use of the Atomic bomb on Japan in 1945; The massacre of millions in Vietnam; The half million who died in Indonesia in 1965 at the hands of Suharto backed by the US; The millions displaced and dead in Palestine since 1948; The half million children dead at the hands of US sanctions in Iraq since 1990. And this is only the US hit list and only the worst. The list goes on and on.

It is the extreme powerlessness of oppressed people that drives some to adopt a terrorist response. The ultimate blame for terrorism therefore must lie with the imperialists. In this sense the September 11 attacks were a logical and predicable response to US policies in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America for decades. The terrorists could just have well come from any of these continents.

What’s more these ‘terrorists’ are often trained and financed by the USA to be used against its enemies. Saddam Hussein was backed by the USA in Iraq’s war with Iran. Noriega was the USA’s man in Panama. Osama bin Laden was financed by the USA to fight the Soviet Army in Afghanistan. It would be no surprise to find that some of the pilots in the attack of September 11 were trained in the US Naval Air training school in Annapolis.

USA gears up for war

The attacks on September 11 provide a perfect pretext for US imperialism to escalate its hegemonic role as moral guardian and world policeman. The USA could not have done it better had it supplied the personnel as well as the training for the terrorists.

The USA has been able to mobilise its friends and rival powers in EU and Asia to back its ‘new war’. NATO has invoked the clause that treats an attack on the USA as an attack on each of its 17 members. Russia has committed itself to support NATO against terrorism provided the charges are proved. Pakistan has been pressured to demand that bin Laden be handed over. China can hardly oppose the USA and stay in the WTO.

So the declaration of war by George Bush is a blank cheque to attack any ‘terrorist’ target. It is the perfect end to a ten- year campaign to demonise Islam. Since the end of the cold war in 1990, the USA has promoted Islamic fundamentalism as the new world enemy. It has cast Osama bin Laden in the role of No 1 terrorist. Saddam Hussein and Palestinian groups like Hamas are second and third in line. The USA and its imperialist allies can now use the September 11 attacks to mobilise support for an unlimited war against any power, state, or individual that opposes US domination of the world.

War serves the economy

While the drive to war appears to be a political struggle of the powerful against the powerless, its purpose is to maintain US economic control of scarce resources such as oil in contested areas like the Middle East and Central Asia. Such control becomes more urgent as the world economy goes into a major recession. For the first time since the 1930’s the world economy is suffering a global downturn.

The US economy that has kept the rest of the world economy afloat in the last ten years is now in serious recession. The militarisation of the world is necessary to step up the repression of the poor and working class who are fighting back against this worsening depression. This global war on poverty targets the victims of poverty and has its model in the Plan Colombia.

US Plans for Latin America

The USA has for many years militarised its rule over Latin America. Its ruthless policies of supporting military dictatorships and of direct intervention in Cuba 1963, Chile 1973, Nicaragua 1979, Granada 1983, and Panama 1989, have created a joint military machine with its client states.

More recently it has promoted Plan Colombia, a Vietnam- style invasion of US troops and other personnel to fight the FARC under the guise of a war on drugs. There is now Plan Bolivia and looming up a Plan Argentina. In each case the armed resistance of the workers and peasants is labelled ‘communism’, ‘terrorism’ or a ‘war on drugs’ and a ‘counter-terrorist’ Plan devised and promoted to suppress it. The US working class barely notices these counter- revolutionary activities.

Plan Islam

But now the US ruling class is embarking on a drive to war that will take the form of a new religious crusade, a Plan Islam, to justify attacks upon and occupations of Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries, and open up new colonies in the Middle East and Central Asia. Already demands have been placed on the Taliban to hand over bin Laden, and also upon Pakistan to collaborate in any action against Afghanistan. The USA will go to war when its preparations are complete.

While the pretext is fighting terrorism in the name of democracy and freedom, the object will be to advance the US domination of the world economy against its weaker imperialist rivals the EU and Japan by eliminating any opposition to this Empire Amerika. These events prove that while war is politics, politics is concentrated economics.

Anti-capitalist movement

The drive to global war will be a baptism of fire for the youthful anti- capitalist movement and the ‘left’ in general. Vietnamese, Latin Americans, Iraqis, Palestinians Somalis and Yugoslavs have already suffered years of localised warfare.

The Western anti-war movement struggled to oppose these local wars against what was labelled as ‘communism’ or ‘terrorism’. Those who opposed war on both sides, rather than unconditionally defend the oppressed states against imperialism, weakened this movement.

The ‘new war’ against Islam will overtake all other anti- capitalist movements and force them to take sides for or against imperialism. Those who will not defend Iraq or Afghanistan because of Saddam or the Taliban do not understand that these dictatorships are the product of imperialism.

Not to defend them ensures that their defeat by imperialism makes it more difficult for the workers of Iraq or Afghanistan to overthrow these dictators. It is necessary for the Western left to overcome its pacifism and form itself into a strong anti-imperialist front against imperialist racism and war.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

Opposition to imperialist war can only be built in the working class whose interests are united with the worker and poor peasant masses of the oppressed countries. Anti-war movements that remain trapped in the pacifist and reformist ideology of the imperialist petty bourgeois and labour aristocracy will always support the lesser evil of imperialist democracy over dictatorships in oppressed states.

The first task of working class has always been to stand shoulder to shoulder with all oppressed peoples against imperialism. Against the ruling class forces that line up behind Plan Islam, revolutionaries must be in the front ranks of the troops that confront the class enemy. Greens, anarchists, socialists, and communists who are engaged in a variety of anti-capitalists actions must unite in solidarity against imperialist war and prepare to take on the military machine in their own imperialist heartlands.

No to the US ‘new war’ against Islam!

NZ out of ANZUS!

NZ out of Echelon!

Defend Afghanistan!

For Palestine Liberation!

End the Sanctions on Iraq!

End racist attacks!

Self Defence is No Offense!

Form Self Defence Groups!

Fight Racism and Imperialism!

For an Anti-imperialist United Front

Class Struggle No 41 October-November 2001

Written by raved

August 28, 2007 at 9:17 pm


leave a comment »

Two members of the SWO recently attacked the CWG position on the Western anti-capitalist movement. They were referring to the article we wrote in Class Struggle # 40 (August-September) titled “From Genoa to Salta” where we criticised the lack of an organised, working class base to the ACM and compared it to the real life and death struggles of workers in Salta. By contrast the SWO approach is to ‘include’ as anti-capitalist anybody who doesn’t like McDonalds food or GE. For them opposition to GE has become the NZ expression of anti-capitalism. After S11 it became clear that it has the same opportunist approach to the US imperialist war. The SWO didn’t want the war identified as a ‘US’ war because that would frighten off pacifists.

What is anti-capitalism?

There is a debate about what this movement actually is and how to build it. We have joined in that debate ‘constructively’ by arguing in our article in Class Struggle #40 that the ACM is based on a wrong tactic – a premature, and therefore adventurist, confrontation with the state forces. It seems however that our criticism of the ACM was taken to be ‘destructive’ by the SWO.

“Like most radicals and revolutionaries, the SWO regards the anti-capitalist movement of both North and South as ‘the biggest challenge to capitalism since the 1960s’ “.

It is true that 100.000’s of young leftists regard themselves as part of the ‘anti-capitalist’ movement. But what is this movement and where it is going? And if it is “the biggest challenge to capitalism since the 1960’s” we think it is too early to say. But in its present form of street marches against world leaders, much bigger challenges to capitalism have taken place in the last 30 years.

The first was the survival of the Soviet Union until 1991. That was a much bigger challenge than the ACM so far. It was such a big challenge that the ‘West’ mounted something called a ‘Cold War’ against it. The reason for this was that the Soviet Union still represented a post-capitalist society that was, despite the rule of the Stalinist dictatorship over the workers, a massive historical leap ahead of capitalism that acted as a beacon for the world’s workers.

But then the SWO would know all about that having been apologists for Stalin in their earlier history as the Communist Party of NZ until they abandoned the SU as ‘imperialist’ to back the Chinese, only to then abandon the Chinese to back the Albanians. When asked in the late 1980’s why the CPNZ regarded Albania as the ‘socialist fatherland’ the CP would reply: “because the workers are armed”.

In 1991 when the Albanian Stalinist regime was brought down by a popular uprising, the CPNZ covered its tracks and looked around for a suitable replacement. They found the SWP in Britain, who had the infamous distinction of refusing to defend the SU because they said it was ‘state capitalist’ from 1929.

The SWO is now part of this current that refused to defend the SU only 12 years after the 1917 revolution and 70 years before the final restoration of capitalism. The SWO combines a rotten record of responsibility for the Stalinist betrayals of the world revolution the most critical being in Germany in 1933 when Stalin split the labour movement and allowed Hitler to survive, with its betrayal of the degenerated workers’ states. If you can’t defend a revolution you cannot make one either.

Then there are the massive struggles for independence such as the liberation of the Portuguese Colonies in Africa and the end of dictatorships in Portugal, Greece and parts of Latin America. The most important was the victory of the Vietnamese over the US in 1975. These were struggles that actually involved armed struggles and seizures of power.

Then there were the strikes in the 1970’s and early 1980’s such as the Miners’ strike in Britain in 1984. The problem was that these huge struggles were defeated by the social democrats who introduced austerity policies in the 1970’s, and then the neo-liberal offensive of the 1980’s and 1990’s. On top of this was the victory of imperialism over the degenerated workers states in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and currently, China and Vietnam.

“In stark contrast, the CWG …totally write off the western anti-capitalist movement in an extremely sectarian manner. The CWG’s magazine says the western anti-capitalist movement is a “symptom” of all the past “defeats” of workers, and claims it has “no class base”.

Let’s look at both of these points. The ACM IS a ‘symptom’ of past defeats of workers. If it were not the case then the ACM would have built itself on top of victorious struggles from the 1970’s to the 1990’s and have successfully defended the degenerate workers states from the restoration of capitalism. Such an ACM would look very different. It would be led by strong communist currents capable of creating the preconditions of workers power – namely an armed and independent working class headed by a revolutionary Bolshevik party. What do we see instead?

The ACM is made up of a loose coalition of unionised workers, petty bourgeois bureaucrats, anarchists and some left bourgeoisie NGO’s and celebrities. That is what we mean by “no class base”. The workers in the organisations are mixed up with petty bourgeois and bourgeois. There is no base founded on independent working class organisations. Instead the workers who are involved are either under the domination of union bureaucrats or members of left parties like the SWO that are not organised like the Bolsheviks around democratic centralism but in a loose federation headed by more bureaucrats.

The character of the ACM at the moment unfortunately reflects this lack of a working class base and its dominated by the adventurist tactics of petty bourgeois radicals who have little conception of the nature of capitalism. So the ACM is in fact at this stage very much a ‘symptom’ of the weakness and disorganisation of the left after a period of twenty years of defeats. To pretend that it is anything else is to create false sense of optimism that will only lead to huge disappointment and disillusionment among young people.

“According to the CWG, the western anti-capitalist movement shouldn’t be “taking on the bosses’ state”, making the claim that such direct actions mean the movement “opens itself to state penetration”. The CWG patronise and undermine anti-capitalists “sucked into” the massive Genoa mobilisation, saying they must “stop and think”. The CWG insist that the western anti-capitalist movement must retreat into “defensive struggles”. The CWG declare that only the global South, not the West, contains “real” anti-capitalist movements.”

Such a weak movement should be starting from the ground up, rebuilding the base organisations of the class by supporting defensive struggles against all the attempts to de-unionise, casualise, genderise and racialize the labour movement. At this early stage of rebuilding it is madness to indulge in the adventurist tactic of taking on the heavily armed and prepared bosses state when there is no possibility of defeating the armed power of that state. In its lack of organisation and preparedness the ACM does indeed ‘open itself to state penetration’.

This is not to say that workers never take on the state, or run the risk of being penetrated by the enemy, just that if you make it easy for the bosses to attack you, you are no friend of the working class. While students can go home or back to university, the working class will pay for this adventurism when the state introduces more repressive measures to hamper the rebuilding of its base organisations such as unions.

Is it patronising to tell the left to “stop and think”? No, its patronising to tell the world’s workers that all their struggles over the last 40 years were insignificant compared to the youthful New Left of the 1960’s and the equally youthful New New Left of the 2000’s. In fact its more that patronising, its imperialistic because it puts the sporadic backward politics of Western youth who are against ‘globalisation’ ahead of the much more advanced and ongoing struggles of workers and peasants in the colonial and semi-colonial world. So, yes, ‘stop and think’. That’s why we make the direct comparison between today’s New New Left and that of yesterday that at its best developed into a militant anti-Vietnam war movement.

Only those who think that the ACM is an ‘offensive struggle’ can see ‘defensive struggles’ as a retreat. It is delusional to claim that a few street battles between 1000’s of youth and 1000’s of cops in Western cities are offensive struggles. Such terms have a scientific meaning for Marxists. They relate to the balance of class forces. In a period of upsurge of worker militancy offensive struggles are possible.

But the ACM is not such an upsurge. It may be the beginning of one if it develops strong links to emergent labour organisations. But before it can become one workers have to win the battle on the factory front. It is the strength of labour in controlling production by means of strong unions and victorious strikes that are the indicators of an offensive not street battles away from the site of production. Such battles can never be decisive while the bosses control production.

It is the degree to which the battles in the semi-colonial world are over control of production that allows us to say that they are ‘real’. When thousands of Korean car workers go on strike and occupy a plant that is a ‘real’ struggle for workers control of production. When thousands of youth hire a train to go to Genoa to march up against barricades and unavoidably confront the police that is not a ‘real’ battle for class power since it avoids challenging the bosses’ control of industry.

This is not to say that the ACM cannot turn into such a ‘real’ battle if it reorients towards the working class base. That is the point of our criticism and for that reason it is the opposite of being sectarian.

“And those activists in the western anti-capitalist movement who don’t belong to unions are ardent opponents of the dictatorship of corporate elites and their state backers. In other words, they strongly identify with the liberation struggles of grassroots people. Many are so committed that they’re prepared to put their own bodies on the line in confrontations with the police.”

This is hype to keep the barricade euphoria going between summits. What is an activist unless someone rooted in the working class and militantly fighting to defend jobs, living standards, and basic rights? Any other sort of activist is a classless person without any weight in the class struggle at best, or at worst a provacateur who weakens the labour movement.

What does ‘identifying with grass roots people’ mean? Any common liberal can do this. Is this a qualification for being in the ACM? Putting your body on the line in confrontation with police can mean anything from courage to stupidity, and in any case it is counter-productive unless it is part of a deliberate and organised offensive such as the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917.

“… the Bolsheviks’ retreat from confrontation with the capitalist state in July 1917 was a special case dictated by the very closeness of victorious revolution. Yet the CWG generalise the July 1917 special case to today’s western anti-capitalist movement, which is (sadly) still far from overthrowing capitalism. This sectarian interpretation of the Bolshevik legacy shows that the CWG know little of the dynamics of class struggle.”

Grant Morgan just doesn’t understand the point of the reference in our article to the ‘July Days’ of 1917. The situation in Russia before 1917 was very different to that in which the ACM operates now yet quite similar to that in the semi-colonial world today. That is, workers were engaged in desperate defensive struggles during a reactionary period.

Of course Lenin supported all defensive struggles of workers and peasants against the Tsar and the bosses – just as we support the Korean workers, the Salta picqueteros, and PNG students etc today. In a revolutionary situation as in Russia in July 1917, the Bosheviks tried to stop the workers from prematurely going on the ‘offensive’ against the state.

So today, in Korea, Salta, PNG, Russia etc we are for workers arming themselves, and for campaigning for a general strike to turn defensive struggles into offensive struggles. But we are not for offensive mass mobilisations of workers against the state BEFORE they have already created a power base in their own independent institutions.

We most certainly don’t abandon this caution in situations today that bear no resemblance to the spontaneous defensive struggles of peasants and workers in the period up to 1917, where instead street demonstrations detached from the working class base substitute themselves for actual class struggle. If we would not advocate offensive attacks on the state in a revolutionary situation that is still unripe, we most certainly don’t advocate such attacks by raw and disorganised street marchers in what is still not yet a pre-revolutionary situation. That, Mr Morgan, is the point.

“The CWG suggest that the only anti-capitalist movements worthy of the name are to be found in armed insurrections in the global South. This is a sectarian glorification of the gun regardless of the actual conditions existing within each country and region.”

Sectarian ‘glorifcation of the gun’

This statement is stupid. The “global South” is a totally un-Maxist concept which obliterates the “actual conditions existing within each country and region”. On the contrary we carefully consider the character of countries, their class structure and their political development. We are against guerrillaism as a tactic either in the countryside or in cities. But we defend guerrillas against the bosses. We are opposed to armed adventurism with sticks and placards or AK 47’s. But we give unconditional support to armed struggles against oppression such as Palestine, and we certainly critically support the arming of workers and peasant movements in defensive struggles against state forces such as that in Salta. But more importantly, we called for the redirection of the ACM into a movement against imperialist wars already being fought in the former Balkans and in Latin America. Such anti-war movements would be very worthy of the name ACM.

“Real-life activists in both South and North say it’s critically important to build anti-capitalist movements in all countries, including the West. They all say that every movement strengthens all the others. The Zapatistas in Mexico, the unemployed road-blockaders in Argentina, the anti-IMF students in Papua New Guinea, both inspire and are inspired by the western anti-capitalist movement. When the CWG try to set the movement in the South against that of the North, they act as splitters, regardless of their motivation.”

This is more SWO hype to build the barricade euphoria at the expense of the facts. Why doesn’t Morgan talk about workers? He talks about activists, movements etc as if the label ‘anti-capitalist’ confers working class ‘real life’ status on everyone. Let us inform him that the picqueteros of Salta do not look for inspiration to the ACM in the ‘north’ but to the Palestinians! The workers of South Africa are having general strikes. What motivates them is not the ACM but the oppressive conditions they face. They too have taken the Palestinian cause as their inspiration, a point reinforced by the walkout of the US and Israel from the UN conference against Racism in Durban.

If the ACM has delusions of grandeur it is because they are fuelled by groups like the SWO and people like Morgan whose politics are nothing more than the current version of leftwing imperialism. They fool themselves that they are taking on the ‘heart of the beast’ i.e. imperialism. But to take on the heart of the beast means bringing imperialism to a halt by taking control of production and disarming the imperialist war machine. The ACM’s potential to turn into an anti-war movement at home to defend Palestine, Argentina, PNG, Russia, East Timor Macedonia etc against imperialism will only develop if the current delusions about the ACM such as the SWO promote are smashed.

“Possibly the CWG’s most insane claim is that the western anti-capitalist movement is just a “symptom” of past working class “defeats”. This claim is so sick that it will, I believe, haunt the CWG for the remainder of its existence. All the evidence, of which there is plenty, points in the opposite direction to the CWG’s pessimism. The western anti-capitalist movement is part of an explosion of grassroots anger on a global scale. There’s a generalisation from the “single issue” campaigns that, in the past period of demoralisation, were the highest possible form of struggle. Now people are linking “single issues” with a fight against the whole capitalist system. Such political generalisation is an expression of growing optimism, unity and organisation at the grassroots. Certainly, the ruling elites consider the western anti-capitalist movement to be a very real threat to their class interests. That’s why the next World Trade Organisation summit is being held in the isolated dictatorship of Qatar, and the next G8 big powers’ summit in the remote Canadian rockies, as far away from mass protests as they can get. Many among the ruling elites themselves admit they’re losing the battle for legitimacy in the wake of huge anti-capitalist mobilisations in the West. The rulers of the world have been pushed onto the defensive for the first time in decades.”

To proclaim that we are living in a period of offensive struggles based on street demonstrations that have forced world leaders to retreat to the desert or the mountains is ridiculous. The phrase ‘losing the battle for legitimacy’ fools no one. The legitimacy of capitalist rule is not challenged by intermittent street protests but by general strikes. To turn these disorganised street battles into proof that the bosses are on the run is plain stupid.

If the rulers of the world are on the defensive, why are they crowing about China joining the WTO? Why are they backing the US push for the FTAA and the dollarisation of Latin America? If they are on the run why do the Israelis bomb a few more Hamas leaders and threaten to kill Arafat? Why get ready to buy up Japan and why launch a new star wars program?

In a bureaucratic organisation like the IST such illusions become insulated from challenge. The SWO’s own former sister organisation in the USA the ISO has been kicked out of the IST for being ‘sectarian’ because it expressed perfectly reasonable doubts that the ACM represented a new period of offensive upsurge.

‘Yet, claim the CWG, the western anti-capitalist movement is a failure, and to get anywhere it must follow the CWG’s prescription of retreat into “defensive struggles”. In other words, the CWG want the movement to retreat back to the past era of despair and demoralisation, when only “defensive struggles” were possible, and give up the confident and generalised attack on the whole system of global capitalism. The CWG are so far off the ball, they’re playing another game altogether.’

Its not case of what we want. If we could have what we ‘want’ we would be living under socialism. It is a case of what is real and what is necessary right now. We do not claim that the ACM is a failure. We say that it needs to ‘grow up’. There is a difference. As with small children you help them grow up. You don’t condemn them for not being adults.

Where the children are being badly misled by disoriented and authoritarian adults however, we reserve the right to tell them they are wrong. It is wrong to mislead Western youth into thinking they are the new vanguard because they are against the capitalist ‘system’ as if the worker and peasant struggles in the semi-colonial world are not already in the vanguard. To acknowledge defeat is not to be demoralised it is to confront the causes so they can be overcome. On the contrary to fear defeat and refuse to acknowledge it means you cannot distinguish between victory and defeat and avoid the road to more defeats.

We know what game show the SWO is on. Its called ‘Opportunism Knocks’. It is hosted by the British SWP and fronted by Alex Callinicos who decided that after Seattle the world has entered a new period of history. Recently Callinicos argued that the ACM represents a new period because a significant minority now see the ‘capitalist system’ as the cause of all the world’s problems. (See our review of his “ACM and Revolutionary socialism” in the next issue of CS).

But this is self-evidently not the case otherwise the ACM would be attacking the heart and not the head of capitalism. It would be organising the working class to take over production rather than attacking the bosses for doing what all bosses do, exploit workers. A new period will only arise when the working class makes a transition from defensive struggles over jobs, wages and rights to offensive struggles for control over production and for state power.

SWO on Imperialist War?

To prove our point that we are in a period of democratic counter-revolution where workers’ struggles are still defensive rather than offensive, the new US ruling class’s war drive to smash terrorism finds the SWO disoriented. This war proves that the US ruling class and its allies can mobilise nationalism and racism to dragoon the large majority of Western workers behind the drive for war. Many of those who are against the ‘capitalist system’ find that they are against ‘terrorism’ more.

It is an open admission that this is the case in the US and Europe that the IST has opted for an opportunist approach to build broad cross class opposition to the war. Everywhere anti-war groups are being set up the IST opposes anti-imperialist fronts or even fronts that specify that it is a US war drive that has to be opposed. Yet in their own propaganda they talk about imperialist war and raise the slogan STOP AMERICA’s WAR

What’s going on here? On the one hand the IST calls for a popular front with pacifists. On the other its own line is to stop ‘America’s’ war. In reality there is no difference. ‘America’s war’ does not mean the war promoted by the US ruling class, but the war promoted by Bush and his right wing clique. It is a slogan that fits with the Greens, Chomsky, and the democratic left in general, which is that the ‘war’ is not a symptom of US imperialism, but a symptom of an evil aberration in US capitalism which can be corrected by mobilising a radical democratic majority to convict the military industrial elite of war crimes.

In other words the IST has completely exposed its opportunist anti-capitalist position by its stand on the US imperialist war plans.

While it was obvious to us that the ISTs anti-capitalism did not seriously challenge the radical democratic program to reform capitalism, their advocacy of the Stop the War position means that they are prepared to allow the pacifists to lead the anti-war movement.

As self-professed ‘trotskyists’ they should know that popular fronts are death traps for workers because they prevent them from taking an independent class line on imperialist war. A cross-class anti-war movement will remain dominated by petty bourgeois pacifists who role is to divert worker mobilisation for direct industrial action against the ruling class and it military machine back towards parliamentary solutions.

There is only one way to fight an imperialist war and that is on an anti-imperialist platform that mobilises the working class to confront the class enemy at home. Anti-imperialists are not in favour of Stopping the War. The war will stop if the victims of imperialism are defeated. To prevent that we have to wage war against imperialism. That is why we say that program of revolutionaries is to turn imperialist war into civil war!

Down with vacillators and opportunists!

Down with petty bourgeois pacifists!

Victory to workers in the class war!

Class Struggle No 41 October-November 2001

Written by raved

August 28, 2007 at 9:08 pm


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Mass protests against the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in Quebec in April continued the upsurge of the anti-globalisation coalition around the world. The target this time was the re-colonisation or ‘dollarisation’ of Latin America. We assess the prospects for turning this rising populist protest into a revolutionary movement.

Seattle, Washington, Davos, Prague, Melbourne, Nice, Quebecand the list goes on to Barcelona, Genoa and beyond. These are the locations of past or future anti-capitalist protests of meetings of the world’s rich organisations and clubs such as the WTO, IMF, and World Economic Forum. At every protest a coalition of left groups, greens, anarchists, populists, and NGO’s have joined forces with some elements of the unions to physically confront and attempt to prevent these meetings of the rich going ahead.

Quebec was the most recent. So what happened in Quebec that made a difference? The authorities put up a wire fence and succeeded in keeping the protesters away from the venue. But the media focused upon the protesters and not the agenda of the rich club. We learned that the purpose of the meeting of all the Finance Ministers of North and South America (except Cuba which does not meet the US definition of ‘democracy’) was to establish a Free Trade Area of the Americas or FTAA.

The FTAA is modeled on NAFTA which was set up in 1992 to link Mexico, Canada and the US in one common market. Since 1992 the effects of NAFTA are clear. Mexico and Canada have been re-colonised by the US. NAFTA allows US firms to take Mexican and Canadian Governments to court if they pass legislation that limits profits. For example Metalclad Corporation got US$16 million from the Mexican Government because it was not allowed to dispose of waste and cause a public health hazard! FTAA will be the same only more. Today the US has a 75% share of the economy of the Americas. Under the FTAA it will gain an even larger share. The whole of the America’s will now become “Amerika”.

This means that as the US turns of the screws by re-colonising the America’s the class struggle will also become united across “Amerika”. Workers in the North and South will now fight alongside one another in one big class, rather than be divided by nationalist politics which weakens and destroys all progessive movements.

Already there are numerous examples of the formation of anti-free trade union and NGO alliances in the Americas. The first Summit of the Peoples of the Americas was held in Santiago Chile in April 1998. Since then many networks and coalitions have been built. Recently a top level coalition the Hemispheric Social Alliance was formed. However, these forces are still mainly international alliances of national organisations.

This is the legacy of the nationalist reformist politics of the post-war period. On the Left the legacy has been to tail bourgeois nationalism. That is why the deadly patriotic front tradition of Stalinism, Maoism, and Guerillaism that accompanied the nationalist politics of the post-war period must now be countered by an increasingly internationalist struggle that has always at the centre of the Trotskyist movement. For not only is the FTAA an instrument for re-colonising the America, under the WTO, World Bank and other agreements, globalisation brings the same free trade regimes to Asia and Africa. The potential for a global anti-capitalist movement to fight to unite workers in many countries is now a real prospect.

This is a big happening. Most of the left has become caught up in the enthusiasm of this struggle. The SWP thinks it’s the biggest thing to hit the class struggle since the Vietnam War. The SWP has split from its sister organisation the ISO in the US because it claims the ISO does not recognise the importance of the anti-capitalist phenomenon.

The SWP thinks that this “new, new left” opens up the opportunity for a rapid regroupment of the left. To prove this is possible the SWP is having talks with the LCR in France, part of the International Secretariat, the main ‘Trotskyist tendency’. Both are prepared to ‘sideline’ their differences over the defence of the former SU and focus on the main tasks of today.

However, neither of these tendencies has a record of struggle that gives us confidence in their leadership of a new regroupment of the revolutionary left. They both have a history of jumping onto bandwagons and calling them new ‘vanguards’ to replace the traditional labour movement. The current bandwagon of the anti-capitalist movement is a ‘youth bandwagon’, which has come around several times before in the post-war period. Each time youth were backed as more revolutionary than workers. The most famous was the ‘new left’ of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

The ‘new left’ was more liberal than Marxist. Arising out of the post 1956 de-Stalinization it was a pacifist, humanist socialism, based mainly in the educated youth of the US and Europe. It protested the Vietnam War and rampant consumer capitalism, but it never joined forces with the conservative, established labour movement. Neither survived the austerity of the 1970’s nor the neo-liberal attacks of the 1980’s and 1990’s as a force for change. Some of the more colourful leaders of the new left became establishment figures but most dropped out of left politics.

If the new left failed to unite with workers and build a revolutionary party at a time when labour was relatively strong, what will the new new left achieve at a time when labour is weak, and the power of the US hegemonic apparatus is on the rise? The weakness of the old new left will be compounded by the absence of any strong labour movement and left politics to graft onto the new generation of youth who have no history of class struggle. As Trotsky said of the late 1930’s the crisis of capitalism is the crisis of revolutionary leadership. Today the crisis of capitalist globalisation is even more acutely the crisis of revolutionary leadership.

The class basis of resistance has to be re-created from the base up. The anti-capitalist bandwagon cannot side step rebuilding the labour unions by taking a cyberspace detour. Without the unions there is no ‘school for revolution’ (Trotsky). This is because only by fighting capital in the space of production is it possible to bring workers’ power to bear on capital.

Taking on the state machine on the streets and barricades can only win when workers control the military and state forces. This will not happen until workers build militia to defend their workplaces from strike breaking and state repression. Hyperreal fictions that reality is anywhere but production are scenarios for disaster.

So today as never before, the anti-capitalist movement needs revolutionary Marxist theory and practice. The new generations need to learn the lessons of successful revolutions and failed revolutions. That is why we have no confidence in the SWP or LCR as a new leadership. Both tendencies never learnt the lessons of the Bolsheviks and liquidated themselves as vanguard parties in the post-war period. The SWP rejected the defence of the SU the supreme test of Bolshevism. The IS rejected the working class vanguard for a number of non-worker vanguards. Neither can claim to even recognise the roots of their problems. So they cannot learn from their mistakes.

The basic lessons are:

class agency; class independence; and the democratic centralist party. Lets briefly define each of these.

  • Class Agency: only the working class can lead an anti-capitalist revolution. This is because the working class produces surplus-value and can use its power to stop production. Thus workers must build workplace organisations and united unions across international borders to control production.
  • Class Independence: the working class must lead all other oppressed classes (e.g. peasants) and groups (poor, unemployed, gay etc) in the struggle for socialism without making any concessions to the bourgeoisie or other hostile classes. The united front is counter-posed to the popular front.
  • Democratic centralist Party: the working class becomes an agency for revolution only when it is led by a revolutionary vanguard party organised on a democratic centralist basis. Democratic centralism in Lenin’s view allows the party to unite theory and practice in the struggle and constantly test its program for revolution.
  • Each of these lessons/principles of Bolshevism can be applied to the anti-capitalist movement today in the following way:

  • Class Agency: Many in the anti-capitalist movement do not see capitalism as about classes. They see it as a coalition of social movements that cut across classes. (e.g. the famous reference to the Zapatistas being viewed as gay, feminist, union, indigenous, black etc depending upon which aspect is identified with by any given social movement.) This pluralist concept of oppression/social movements has be critiqued by class analysis and a coalition built based upon working class leadership.
  • Class Independence: Working class independence becomes the basis for building the movement. Instead of confronting MNC capital at conventions and on the streets, workers should unite internationally to fight capitalism on the job. The target of free trade can then be replaced by the target of the MNC’s plants in a number of countries. Instead of entering popular or patriotic fronts (eg Mexico) to fight ‘free trade’ (which is only a symptom of the weakness of workers to reject low wages and conditions) international united fronts to win concessions from MNC’s in every country can be formed.
  • Democratic Centralist Party: Within the united fronts in which workers organisations take the lead, there has to be a no holds barred fight among revolutionary tendencies to create a revolutionary party on the model of the Bolshevik party. Patriotic frontists, reformists, nationalists, opportunists, ultralefts etc. have to be confronted and defeated in the struggles in the same way the Bolsheviks defeated the Mensheviks and ultralefts.
  • Turn the anti-capitalist movement into a
    Revolutionary Communist International!
    From Class Struggle, No 39 June-July 2001


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    Another coup in Fiji once more shows the urgent need to build a revolutionary international and fight for class politics against racism and ethnic cleansing. While the coup is paraded as a nationalist bid to protect ‘indigenous rights’ its real motivation is the grab for power by a younger section of the Fijian bourgeoisie who have been held back by the Alliance Parties ruling bloc of old Fijian chiefs and the Indo-Fijian bourgeoisie. This naked struggle for power exposes the class nature of Fijian society and calls for the mobilisation of the working class and poor peasantry across racial lines as a force for permanent revolution.

    Post-colonial ruling class.

    Fiji is a tiny and poor semi-colony situated in the South Pacific between Vanuatu and Tonga. Since its ‘independence’ from Britain in 1970 it has tried to survive by fitting in with the plans of global capital. Fiji was ruled by the Council fo Chiefs which has always tried to balance Fijian paramountcy with the democratic rights of the Indians. Some have said that this balancing act was impossible because Fijian society was inherently despotic and that ‘democracy’ was not the ‘Pacific way’.

    However, if you look at Fiji’s history since 1970, it is not ‘Fijian society’ that is despotic. Rather those chiefs who seek to exercise their authority as a capitalist class against all others –Fijians and Indians. In fact ‘Fijian society’ has been transformed by colonialism from a simple lineage society in which chiefs only ruled with the consent of the commoners, into a hybrid form of capitalism where the chiefs rule as a class. While they claim their right to rule on the basis of their traditional authority, their method of rule reflects their class interests in living off the rent from land leased to mainly Indian tenant farmers, or their role as politicians and administrators in the government.

    But the chiefs have long been divided on how best to rule Fiji. Since 1970 there has been an ongoing struggle between those chiefs under Ratu Mara who tried to accommodate the Indians in the Alliance party, and the Fiji Nationalist Party that insisted that Indians should not have equal political rights. The Mara group represent those capitalist chiefs whose interests are to manage the state on behalf of the whole capitalist class, which includes Indians. This explains Mara”s and the Alliance’s attempts to steer a moderate course between the interests of Fijian and Indian capital to form a national bourgeoisie.

    On the other hand, the FNP/Taukei chiefs are motivated as landlords to increase their share of the rents from land and the exploitation of economic resources. This means controlling the state and excluding the Indian capitalists and tenant farmers to ensure that the landlord chiefs retain high rents on their land, and the ability to exploit resources such as native timber.

    However, when both groups of chiefs are confronted with a greater threat –the mobilisation of Fijian and Indian workers –they are prepared to work together to maintain their authority under the principle of ‘Fijian paramountcy’ – Fijian control of land and the state. As early as 1977 there was an attempt to form an Indian led government when the Fijian vote was split between the Alliance and the FNP. But Mara ensured that parliament was dissolved. A second election returned the Alliance with much greater support.

    The Rabuka Coups of 1987

    Then in 1987 the workers and poor peasants voted in a Labour Party dominated coalition government under Timoci Bavadra. The new government was a popular front across classes and races and did not really pose a threat to the ruling class economic interests. However it did pose a threat to the hegemony of the Great Council of Chiefs as it was commited to stamping out cronyism and corruption. So the chiefly ruling class backed by the US staged a coup to remove it from office. Under the new dictator Colonel Rabuka, Fiji opened up to free trade to allow foreign capital to set up the garment industry and began selling off native timber etc.

    But Rabuka’s dictatorship was outside the ‘rules’ of the US ‘new world order’, and the US and the Commonwealth pressured Fiji to return to ‘democracy’. The moderate wing of the Fijian ruling class under Ratu Mara once more moved towards reconciliation of the races. Rabuka became Prime Minister and made friends with the Labour Party. Paul Reeves the ex-Governor General of NZ headed a commission that re-wrote the racist 1990 Constitution in an attempt to move away from a racially divided government. The allocation of more Indian seats and general seats in the 1987 Constitution meant that a non-Fijian majority was possible.

    So, in 1999, a majority of both Fijian and Indian voters elected a Coalition Government in which the Labour party was again the dominant partner. We had a repeat of the 1987 situation as the new Government began to ‘clean up’ the corruption and nepotism of the Fijian ruling class and their dubious links to their foreign masters, and spend more money on the poor. Once more, the intervention of a popular front government sought to put a stop to the corrupt business practices of elements of the Fijian ruling class in the name of ‘democracy’.

    Enter George Speight

    While this intervention was even less a threat to the rule of the chiefly class than the Bavadra government of 1987, it did hit at those Fjiian and Indian capitalists who were super-exploiting workers and resources. Among the casualties of this ‘clean up’ was one George Speight, a younger member of the Fijian capitalist class with business interests inside and outside Fiji. He was sacked from the Mohogany Board by the Government, and was charged with fraud. He and a number of other failed and frustrated businessmen cooked up the coup with the backing of the Taukei movement, the traditional hard-line Fijian nationalist movement based in the East of Fiji.

    Speight was able to rally support from those chiefs who resented a multiracial government and in particular an Indian Prime Minister Chaudry ‘interfering’ with their freedom to super-exploit other Fijians of all ethnic backgrounds without discrimination! They mobilised suppport among the unemployed youth and villages claiming that the Government was about to take the land. The call went out to bring down the government and to go back to the 1990 racist Constitution that supposedly protected the interests of the ‘indigenous people’.

    The outcome of Speight’s coup so far is a repeat of 1987 where the existing Government and Constitution have been overthrown and replaced by a dictatorship with significant backing from the landlord section of the Fijian ruling class. This time however, there is less support from other sections of the Fijian ruling class like Ratu Mara, and most of the Indo-Fijian ruling class, whose interests cannot be advanced by a military dicatorship that unleashes economic sanctions on Fiji. This explains why Speight was determined to rid the government of the moderates under Ratu Mara and replace them with a militant nationalist regime that will protect the interests of that section of the ruling class that wants to work hand in glove with imperialism to super-exploit Fiji’s economy.

    Class against Race

    There can be no progressive solution to this situation short of a return to democracy. Such a struggle is not futile. Dictatorship is not inevitable in Fiji. It is not the traditional despotism of Fijian society that explains the frequency of coups. Rather it is the rivalry between sections of the ruling class for control of Fiji’s few profitable resources. Each time the ruling class acts against the advance of democracy it declares its naked class interests more openly. Such is the case when George Speight himself a European-Fijian commoner uses force to join that ruling class.

    Thus the appeal to indigenous rights that has drawn Maori activists like Tama Iti to support Speight is a total red herring. Unlike NZ, Fijian’s still ‘own’ about 83% of the land. Fiji is a unique capitalist country where the labour of most of its workers is exploited on the basis of commonly owned land. It is not the Indo-Fijians who exploit the Fijians, but their own Fijian landlord’s who pocket most of the rent paid out of the labour of tenant farm families. Because under capitalism they have become an exploiting class it is futile to expect the chiefs to distribute the rent fairly to their kin as they would have done before colonisation.

    Therefore the real issue is the legacy of colonialism and the persistent super-exploitation of the workers and poor peasants of both Fijian and Indian ethnicity. Indigenous rights are not the problem but rather workers’ rights. The majority of Fijians and Indians are not exploited because of their race, but because they are workers or poor peasants. It is reactionary to call for the unity of Fijian’s of all classes against the Indo-Fijian when it is the Fijian ruling class that is in power and which exploits its own kinfolk.

    Similarly, it is reactionary to call for Indo-Fijians to unite across all classes as it is the Indian ruling class that has financially propped up the Alliance ruling party for generations. There can be no way out of this situation other than by means of the building of class solidarity across race lines between the growing worker and poor peasant majority in Fiji for the defence of democracy.

    Nor is it in the interests of Fiji’s workers and poor peasants to appeal to the Commonwealth, the UN, Australia or NZ to take action to remove Speight. On June 5 the Fijian Council of Trade Unions put out an appeal to the Commonwealth Ministers Action Group to take action along the following lines:

    • Continue to recognize the People’s Coalition under the leadership of Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry as the legitimate Government of the Fiji Islands. This would be consistent with the principles of the Harare Declaration.
    • Warn the Fiji Military Forces that its failure to restore the democratically elected People’s Coalition Government and the 1997 Constitution in a reasonable time frame will result in the imposition of the full force of the Commonwealth and international sanctions against the illegal regime set up by the Fiji Military Forces.
    • Impose an immediate ban on travel to any Commonwealth Country: · of Speight and all members of his interim government, · all members of the military’s Council of Advisors · heads of public service.
    • Specify that should the democratically elected government not be restored within two months, the sanctions will include: i) Fiji’s expulsion from the Commonwealth ii) A unified suspension of diplomatic relations with the illegal regime set up by the Fiji military Forces by member states; iii) Suspension of technical assistance, development aid and other assistance or support by member states and the Commonwealth Secretariat; iv) Activating a comprehensive trade, sporting, travel, cultural and educational regime of sanctions; v) Total freeze on all links with Fiji Government, its public service, the military and other institutions; vi) A Commonwealth commitment to pursuing further diplomatic, political and economic isolation of the illegal regime through the United Nations and other international agencies; vii) A commitment to pursing leaders of any unconstitutional government and Speight and his supporters for human rights abuses under international law, a freezing of their assets in Commonwealth countries.
    • We further ask that the CMAG call for the unconditional and immediate release of hostages.
    • If the Fiji Military Forces does not restore the elected Government and the 1997 Constitution within 2 months, we ask that the Commonwealth take necessary measures in response, including the setting up and rapid deployment of a stabilizing/peacekeeping force.

    Appealing to the capitalist governments of the Commonwealth to put pressure on the Fijian Military Government is like pouring fuel on the fire of nationalism. It can only have the effect of reinforcing the nationalism of indigenous Fijian’s who regard outside interference as the continuation of colonialism. Threatening to send in a “stabilizing/peacekeeping force” will be regarded by the Military Government as an act of war.

    The reason that the coup has succeeded so far is that the Fijian working class has yet to organise itself independently of its own ruling class. Now that this ruling class has fallen out over who should rule Fiji and get the franchise to exploit Fiji’s resources, it makes no sense to appeal to those captalist states and the multinationals they represent, whose only interest is in exploiting those resources, to come to their aid.

    The only demands that workers should put on their bourgeois states are those that break down national borders and strengthen the international ties of workers. In the case of the coups and military dictatorship our demands should be for immediate political asylum with no strings attached for all who want to leave Fiji.

    International working class action

    The international outrage among unionists is a healthy start to this process. Workers do not call on bourgeois governments to impose bans but mobilise internationally to impose their own bans directed at the capitalist class. The Fijian Council of Trades Unions has put out the call for a workers’ international boycott independent of their bourgeois states. Australian and NZ unions have declared a boycott and ban on handling trade with Fiji. Workers internationally must be prepared to back up this call with similar.

    The unity of the Pacific region working class in the struggle for democracy will demonstrate that in Fiji (as elsewhere) there are only two courses ahead – either the constant threat of military rule sparked by the Rabukas and Speights playing the race card and threatening ethnic cleansing to keep the ruling class in power as the agent of global imperialism, or the struggle to forge unity across the racial divide and to fight for workers and farmers governments that will take power in the name of all the exploited regardless of ethnicity, nationality or gender.

    For a Federation of Socialist Republics of the Pacific!

    From Class Struggle No 33 June-July 2000

    Written by raved

    August 27, 2007 at 3:06 pm


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    Introduction (updated 2001)

    Today the struggle of indigenous peoples in Australasia is becoming institutionalised in international law and the post-modern politics of multi-cultural ‘difference’. When Derrida can visit Australia and NZ and be hailed as a partisan of indigeneity (Bedggood, 1999); when Lyotard can be invoked to bring Kant to the rescue of ‘native title’ (Green, 1994); we see that the colonial missionary has been supplanted by the post-colonial emmisary. Thus the official policy has gone from forced integration, relocation, stolen children, suppressed language and customs etc, towards a liberal paternalism under the guise of ‘multiculturalism’, ‘biculturalism’ and more recently ‘post-colonialism’.

    Such a move tokenises indigenous peoples’ rights conferred by the bourgeois state and celebrated by the rituals of cultural reconciliation. But the cultural turn in indigenous peoples struggles is not new. It is a time-honoured strategem for political incorporation and economic assimulation into global capital accumulation.

    Today indigenous peoples remain heavily oppressed by racism on top of systemic class exploitation. What then do Australasian Marxists have to say about the prospects of indigenous peoples overcoming their historic oppression and joining forces with the international proletariat in the overthrow of capital? Do they have a future as a people or as a class? Or, what is the difference?

    Materialist premises

    We should begin by defining some materialist premises. In the case of Australia and New Zealand, white settler colonisation arose from the first crisis faced by the leading capitalist state in Europe, Britain. These colonies went through a process of a bourgeois revolution (as yet incomplete) in which bourgeois land, labour and capital were formed (but which remain semi-colonies of the US and Japan).

    Internal to these countries however are the indigenous peoples who remain oppressed minorities without equal rights to land, labour and capital. How can these oppressed peoples’ gain their liberation? All arguments about liberation have been drawn from European sources and imported into the Antipodes. Are they therefore necessarily examples of cultural imperialism? I would say Yes, if they continue to deny the same rights to indigenous minorities that were fought for and won in Europe, or attempt to contain these rights inside the framework of the bourgeois constitution rather than the socialist commonwealth.

    Full Text

    Written by raved

    August 26, 2007 at 11:31 pm