From Class Struggle #47 October-November 2002

Class Struggle condemns the recent terrorist bombing of a Bali nightclub. The bombers are probably Indonesian Islamists angry at the exploitation of Indonesian workers and resources by Western governments and businesses. By turning their anger on innocent workers from Western countries, they only strengthen the position of their enemies.

What's behind the Bali Bombing?

Indonesian is rich in natural resources, but its workers and peasants are poor. The mines and oil fields of Indonesia earn billions of dollars in exports each year, but most of this wealth is taken overseas by Western-based companies. The factories of Indonesia turn out huge numbers of consumer goods every year, but few Indonesians can afford to buy these goods. Left-wing journalist John Pilger estimates that the tens of thousands of workers who produce Nike shoes in Indonesian factories are together paid less a year than Tiger Woods gets for promoting Nike products.

The island of Bali symbolises the domination of Indonesia by the West. Bali is a paradise of shining beaches and lush forests, yet few Indonesians can afford to take holidays there. Ordinary Balinese are treated as casual labourers and second-class citizens by the largely foreign-owned tourist industry on their island. The Sari club where the bombing occurred employed security guards to keep ordinary Balinese off its premises.

The governments of Western countries like the United States, Australia and New Zealand have always interfered in Indonesian affairs in an effort to protect the investments their big business friends have in the country.

For thirty-three years Western countries supported the military dictator Suharto as leader of Indonesia, selling him arms and extending him loans. When he took power in a military coup in 1965, Suharto used US intelligence reports to hunt down and kill 500,000 communist workers and peasants who opposed him. In 1975 Suharto invaded the newly independent country of East Timor, beginning a reign of terror which killed at least 250,000 people. Fearful that an independent East Timor would go communist, the US gave guns, ammunition, and diplomatic support to the invasion. Australia and New Zealand followed the US lead, taking part in numerous joint training exercises with Indonesia’s army during Suharto’s rule.

In return for the assistance he received from the West, Suharto crushed any attempts by Indonesian workers and peasants to organise against their exploitation by Western businesses. Suharto’s successors have continued to do the West’s dirty work. The Islamists who were probably behind the bombing in Bali exploit the deep reservoir of anger and frustration Indonesian’s semi-colonial status creates in workers and peasants.

The Perfect Excuse

The Bali bombing gives Western governments and companies an excuse to increase their interference in Indonesia’s political affairs and their exploitation of Indonesia’s natural resources and labour. Already US Ambassador to Indonesia Ralph Boyce has demanded that the Indonesian government "deal with this problem" by passing an anti-democratic ‘anti-terrorism’ law that will make it possible for ‘suspects’ to be detained without clear evidence they have committed any terrorist act. Boyce also wants US security forces to be given a free reign in Indonesia. Already, CIA operatives and a unit of Australian Federal Police have been dispatched to the country.

When Indonesia’s neighbour the Philippines allowed US troops into its country as part of the ‘war of terror’ these troops spent much of their time intimidating union activists and hunting for communist rebels. Any ‘war on terror’ in Indonesia would be likely to involve war on workers unionising and striking against their exploitation at the hands of Western bosses.

Back home in New Zealand National, ACT and the Greens have all used the bombing in Bali to attack the Labour government for not committing enough military muscle to the Pacific region. ACT and National are pushing for a New Zealand military contribution to any new US invasion of Iraq, and an increasing number of voices in parliament and in the media are calling for the return of nuke ships to New Zealand ports. Labour Party leaders have themselves used the Bali bombing to justify the military support they gave to the US invasion of Afghanistan.

It is clear that New Zealand political leaders and their business backers want to exploit the Bali bombings in the same way as their US counterparts exploited S 11. New Zealand workers shouldn’t let their sadness at the slaughter in Bali be used for political and commercial ends by these warmongers.

Instead of bombs, a general strike

In 1998 Indonesian students, workers and peasants showed that the way to challenge Western domination of their country was through mass direct action, not cowardly bombs. In a matter of weeks, massive street protests kicked off by students forced the mighty Suharto out of power. Students and workers in many Western countries protested in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Indonesia. Unfortunately, the workers and peasants of Indonesia were unable to turn the anti-Suharto revolt into the socialist revolution that alone can tear Indonesia away from the rule of the market and the Western domination the market imposes.

The failure of the 1998 protests to go all the way and deliver the goods has driven some angry young Indonesians toward violent and counterproductive acts of frustration like the bombing in Bali. Anger at the continuing Western exploitation of Indonesia should be channelled away from Islamism and terrorism, towards the building of a workers’ and peasants’ movement and party capable of taking power in Indonesia. It takes a general strike to terrorise the bosses


From Class Struggle 47 October/November 2002

Donnelly gets the bash

Last month Brian Donnelly, redneck member of parliament for the New Zealand First Party, was beaten up in Wellington by a group of youths shouting anti-racist slogans. The youths had spotted a number of New Zealand First MPs leaving a restaurant, and had attempted to confront party leader Winston Peters. In the scuffle that followed Donnelly was knocked to the ground while trying to protect his boss. Peters’ party did not take the incident to the police, a fact which suggests that they were not the innocent victims media coverage of the incident made them out to be. The stoush in Wellington reflects the intense antipathy which many immigrants, young people, and class-conscious workers feel towards Winston Peters and his party. Peters’ relentless and increasingly crude attempts to inspire fear and loathing of ‘Asian invaders’, ‘Maori radicals’ and ‘Muslim terrorists’ make him a fitting candidate for the anger of anti-racist youth.

In many parts of New Zealand society, however, Peters’ racism is considered respectable, even admirable. Letters to the editor quote him without embarrassment. Talkback hosts like Ian Wishart float his ideas over the airwaves. Newspaper columnists like Garth George and Frank Haden present doctrines similar to Peters’ as nothing more than good homespun common sense. What sort of racism is it that enjoys such currency in a society that prides itself on its official anti-racism? Before we answer this question, we ought to look at what Peters’ racism is not. Some of the more excitable parts of the left have labelled Peters a fascist, or a fascist in training. For their part, Peters apologists like ex-lefty turned professional redbaiter Chris Trotter present New Zealand First as little more than the healthy response of working class Kiwis to the dangers of Maori nationalism and the absurdities of political correctness.

Two strains of the same disease

Peters’ populist racism can be contrasted with the imperialist racism, which was a feature of New Zealand political life in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Imperialist racism saw Europeans, and in particular Anglo-Saxons, as existing at the top of a sort of ladder of races, and as thus having responsibility for civilizing a world of ungrateful savages. Early New Zealand leaders like George Grey and Richard Seddon were ardent advocates of the white man’s solemn duty to colonise and conquer. Grey dressed up an invasion of the Maori-held Waikato as a civilizing mission, and Seddon helped build a New Zealand mini-Empire in the ‘savage’ islands of the South Pacific. Over the course of the twentieth century imperialist racism was discredited by the anti-imperialist national liberation struggles of ‘savage’ peoples around the world. The Indians, for instance, showed in the course of their campaign for independence that British colonial rule in their country was anything but a civilized force. In New Zealand, great Maori protests like the Land March and the occupation of Bastion Point shone a light on the injustices of the past, showing that Grey, Seddon, and their like had been more interested in conquest than charity.

Today no mainstream Western politician would dare to talk about a hierarchy of races and the superiority of Europeans. In fact, the best vehicle for today’s racism is the language of anti-racism. Across the West, the new strain of populist racists claim to speak for ‘silent majorities’ of ‘ordinary people’, majorities that are alleged oppressed by ‘vocal minorities’. In Britain, the heart of nineteenth century imperialism, the racist British National Party (BNP) calls not for the creation of new colonies but for the defence of a mythical ‘traditional British culture’ against attacks from ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘foreign ideas’. The BNP presents the British not as proud imperialists but as an oppressed people. The party insists it has ‘no problem’ with non-whites – it will leave them alone, as long as they ‘leave Britain alone’.

Peters mines the same vein of populist racism as the British National Party. According to Peters, the ‘Kiwi’ is an endangered species, a creature threatened with extinction by Muslim bomb-makers from Afghanistan, AIDS-infected vampires from Africa, and lousy drivers from Taiwan. Where the old imperialist racists shouted the might and infallibility of the European race, Peters plays up the weakness and vulnerability of the ‘Kiwi’. What the ‘Kiwi’ needs, Peters tells us, is some islands free of aliens, some sanctuary for its unique and static culture and lifestyle.

‘Kiwis’, or Workers?

It is Peters’ emphasis on the weakness and vulnerability of ‘Kiwis’, which makes his rhetoric so relevant, and so dangerous. Surveys and anecdotal evidence suggest the majority of New Zealand First voters occupy the bottom end of what is euphemistically called the ‘socio-economic scale’. Many of these New Zealanders can thank the neoliberal ‘Rogernomics’ policies of Labour and National governments in the 80s and 90s for getting them where they are today. It was the privatisations, mass layoffs, and benefit cuts of neoliberals that pushed hundreds of thousands of working class New Zealanders from the relative security of the welfare state into poverty. The most significant result of Rogernomics was a radical falling away in union membership and strikes. A combination of union-busting legislation, mass unemployment and poor leadership undermined the organisations, which had always acted as the foundation for left-wing politics in New Zealand.

Rogernomics was disastrous for workers, but is was great for Winston Peters: it gave him an audience of workers who had been isolated and disoriented, and to whom the politics of nationalism and racism seemed to make sense. These workers had seen the trade unions which had once represented them become shrunken, marginal organisations incapable of defending the interests of their remaining members, let alone the interests of the working class as a whole. To workers who ceased to think of themselves and their problems in class terms, Peters and his party offer a vague but emotionally charged opposition between ‘Kiwis’ and ‘others’. The ‘others’ are Asians, Maori radicals, intellectuals, homosexuals, feminists, foreign businesses, and corrupt journalists. Combating this dastardly coalition involves not the collective struggle of the old trade unions but the placement of faith in a charismatic leader.

The answer to racism is working class unity. When the working class is strong, the racists are weak; when the working class is weak, the racists are strong. In New Zealand, building working class unity must mean rebuilding the trade unions. It is on the picket line, standing side by side with workers of other races, that the absurdity of dividing along racial lines becomes most obvious to workers. Workers who struggle together for pay rises and better conditions will never vote separately for politicians who tell them that class means nothing.

Of course, the unions will not be rebuilt in a day. What do we do about racism in the meantime? We must oppose racism everywhere it appears, but we must be careful to do so in ways that are consistent with our long-term goal. Physical attacks on the likes of Donnelly are understandable, but cannot combat racism effectively. They may even backfire and provoke public sympathy for the racists! A similarly ineffective response which has also been seen lately is the creation of cross-class anti-racist lobbying groups in immigrant communities. With establishment figures as patrons and immigrant businesses as sponsors, such groups are actually capitulating to the logic of populism, which argues that class is irrelevant, that race or cultural identity is what is important, and that workers and bosses should unite to defend their common interests against ‘others’. The longshoremen of the West Coast of America have found out where that idea leads.

Better models for anti-racist action can be found in the National Distribution Union, where Maori members have organised to campaign for justice in the case of Stephen Wallace, the young Maori shot in the back by a cop in Waitara, and in the Anti Imperialist Coalition, the Auckland anti-war group which was set up with the aim of getting members of Auckland’s huge community of working class immigrants to join the campaign against the War of Terror.


Last month, a few days before the Donnelly incident in Wellington, a member of the Anti Imperialist Coalition was subjected to a racist attack outside a meeting of the Seafarers’ Union. The seafarer shouted racist comments about Arabs and Iraqis before punching the AIC member. He had been angered by two leaflets which AIC members were distributing at the meeting (see below). One of the leaflets called for solidarity between New Zealand workers and the US Longshoremen being attacked by Bush, and the other advertised an upcoming anti-war march. The AIC has asked the Seafarers Union to show its opposition to racism and war by censuring the man who made the attack, and by getting involved in the growing anti-war movement in Auckland.
From Class Struggle 47 October/November 2002

AIC Leaflet
Support US workers attacked by Bush’s War of Terror
President Bush has decided that the West Coast ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) port workers struggle to renew their industrial contract is a threat to US internal security. The port employers locked out the longshoremen, and Bush threatened to call out the National Guard. Now he has imposed the Taft-Hartley Act to force the ports open for 80 days. Bush is using the war on terror to target the enemies of the US ruling class at home as well as internationally. This proves that the war on terror is a class war and that only the working class can stop war. Our first task is to build international solidarity with the locked out workers and put union bans on scab ships.

What’s behind the current attack on the ILWU?
The ILWU, representing 10,500 dockworkers at 29 major Pacific ports, is embroiled in a bitter contract dispute with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), representing the shipping lines. The longshore workers’ contract expired July 1 and the ports have been operating on the basis of day-to-day contract extensions ever since. The key sticking point involves management demands for concessions that would allow for the introduction of new technology.

Wages and benefits are not the issue in these negotiations. The hourly rate for longshore workers ranges from $27.68 to $33.48-about the same as a plumber or electrician. What they would like, however, is to keep certain workers out of the union, the vessel planners who tell the cranes where to put every shipping container; clerical workers who use computers to help track container movement, and drivers who haul containers in and out of the ports.

Workers in these jobs have already joined the ILWU, or tried to, attracted by its good wages. The union wants to include them to replace the potential loss of jobs among the clerks who track cargo manually. Negotiators for the PMA have said no. The union looks at this as an issue of survival.

The union has already made concessions to the employers to accept new technology that would see around 30% of the clerks lose their jobs. But that is not enough for PMA that also wants to claw back hard-won health conditions and freeze pensions.

According to a ILWU leader Steve Stallone, the US Labor Department told the union early on that unless it meets the employers conditions the Bush administration would invoke the seldom used Taft-Hartley Act that can delay any strike by 80 days, use the Railway Labor Act to force the union to bargain port-by-port and bring in the army or navy to run the ports. The government has threatened the union with a "PATCO-type scenario," referring to President Reagan’s mass firing of striking air traffic controllers in 1981. This week after 10 days of the lockout, Bush delivered on the first part of his promise invoked the Taft-Hartley Act and forced the ports open for 80 days.

Bush is backed by big business to smash unions
Why has a labour dispute been dragged into Bush’s ‘war on terrorism’? Bush is seizing the post September 11 clampdown on democratic rights in the US to attack the longstanding rights of unions. Both the Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfield have told the union that strikes are a threat to ‘national security’ at a time when the extreme right wing Bush Administration considers that the US is at war.

Bush’s right wing agenda is to use the war on terrorism to try to make US workers pay for the crisis of the US economy. Bush is supported by the WCWC, (West Coast Waterfront Coalition) made up of big businesses such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Ikea, Nike, Target and The Gap. The WCWC wants to prevent any strike action that would affect the $300 billion worth of goods that flow through the Pacific ports each year.

The Los Angeles Times reported a June 5 memo to Bush from the WCWC whose members "met with key Bush Administration Officials to convey the message that there is a need both to obtain labour concessions at the West Coast ports that will allow the application of technology and to avoid labour disruptions on the West Coast this summer that could stall a fragile economy."

Bush is following a precedent set already with federal employees. He used the pretext of the war on terrorism to strip 170,000 federal employees being transferred to the newly formed Department of Homeland Security of their rights as public service employees and union representation.

Rank and File solidarity undermined by officials
What has been the response of organised labour to Bush’s threats to smash the ILWU? The rank and file Longshoremen have responded with militant actions up and down the west coast. There has been huge support from unions and workers all over the world. In NZ, Seafarers and Watersiders Union officials have visited the lockout ports, and taken resolutions to ‘black’ any ships loaded by scab labour or the military.

However, the response of the official leadership of the ILWU and the AFL-CIO (main US national labour organisation) to the Bush administration’s threats has been to appeal to the Democrats in Congress to put pressure on Bush and to claim that the ILWU is fully supportive of his patriotic war on terrorism.

The Democrat representatives hope that they can get Bush to back down by promising that the union will accept the bosses’ terms, in particular the job losses following the introduction of new technology. This has been the record of the ILWU leadership over the last few decades as thousands of jobs have been sacrificed with hardly a fight. In Seattle of 2,400 workers in 1963 there are only 550 left today. The union officials admit that today workers handle 10 times the cargo with one-twentieth the workforce.

The rank and file of the ILWU have to break from their officials to win this fight. If workers allow patriotism to replace working class solidarity they will lose. The union is saying "Fight terrorism, not workers". The official union line is that the workers are much more patriotic than the bosses who are importing cheap Asian goods at the expense of American jobs. So they call for worker boycotts of foreign made goods.

But this attempt to prove the workers’ loyalty to the US prevents any real working class solidarity with workers inside or outside the US. It allows Bush to shift the blame for the state of the US economy off the bosses onto the longshore workers.

By supporting the US imperialist policies of a preemptive strike against Afghanistan, Iraq or any country designated ‘terrorist’ by the Bush administration, the ILWU workers unite with the class enemy, at a time when Bush is using the ILWU dispute to unleash his union-busting domestic drive for the same reason that he is promoting the war on terrorism abroad.

US imperialism is crisis-ridden and can only be revived by massive military spending on war, and the driving down of labour conditions at home. The ‘permanent’ war against US enemies abroad and the domestic war against its own working class are one and the same. The US ruling class must resort to the super-exploitation and oppression of workers at home and abroad to survive.

What should NZ workers do?
The ILWU is a strong union with a history of struggle. It opposed the Vietnam War. It closed down Long Beach and San Francisco ports to scab ships during the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) dispute in 1998. New Zealand workers have a clear duty to take solidarity action in support of the West Coast port workers. Multinationals like Carter Holt Harvey have tried to bust the NZ Waterside Workers Union and replace workers with new technology. Only by uniting internationally can workers become strong enough to take on the global corporations that dominate the world economy and win the fight against imperialist oppression and war.

The NZ Terrorism Suppression Bill passed on October 10 is modeled on US bills like the Patriot Bill introduced after September 11. It has provisions that will allow the state to designate industrial action a threat to national security. This includes solidarity action taken by NZ workers in support of locked-out wharfies in the US. We can petition the government to respect our rights as workers, and oppose Bush’s attack on Iraq, but it will be the ability of organised workers to go on strike that wins these rights and defends Iraq from further attacks.

The recent court acquittal of the killer of Christine Clarke shows that workers can place no reliance on the protection of the government and the police to win their struggles. Quite the reverse. As NZ’s history of militant struggle proves, state forces were used to smash strikes in 1913, 1951 and every other major dispute. Mass pickets are what is needed, supported by international action to stop the state from using scab workers or the military as strike breakers.

Solidarity with the locked out US workers!
For a union ban on scab US cargo!
Rally on October 26! 12 noon QE2 Square
Stop the Attack on Iraq

Anti-imperialist Coalition meets Weds 7-30 pm Trades Hall 147 Grt North Rd Grey Lynn
025 280 0080 email website

Solidarity with the ILWU workers!

"This union condemns the actions of the employers to lock out the West Coast US Longshoreworkers. We also condemn the Government use of the Taft-Hartley Act to force unionists back to work and the threat of troops and scabs to do the work of unionised workers.

We defend the right of unions to take industrial action in pursuit of their aims and objectives, including the right to strike and picket. We defend the right of workers including NZ/Aotearoa to take strike action in solidarity with workers in other countries.

We call upon the unions affiliated to the NZCTU to act in solidarity with the ILWU and to take industrial action to ban any vessel that is worked by scab or military labour in the US from docking or being unloaded in NZ."

Messages of solidarity and material aid can be sent to the ULWU workers at:

Letter on Workers’ Party NZ.

Dear Comrade Editor,

On September 11 2002, the Workers’ Party of NZ walked out of the Auckland Anti-Imperialist Coalition. The WPNZ had helped initiate the AIC in September 2001 and had fully supported it up until the 2002 election campaign maintaining a presence right up until their walkout.

Since the WPNZ claims to serve the working class, surely it owes the AIC an explanation in its own paper the ‘Spark’ as to why it split from the AIC. The ‘Spark’ has been completely silent about the WPNZ’s desertion from the only Auckland militant anti-war united front.

The ‘Spark’, in an article written by Phil Ferguson of ‘Revolution Group’, has criticised the Socialist Workers’ Organisation for not joining the AIC, but now the ‘Spark’ group have left AIC themselves without an explanation to even its own readers. What has changed? Does the WPNZ purport to set an example to the working class on the correct way to operate in united fronts, or do they think that working class organisations should be guided by expediency alone in these matters.

The leader of the ‘Spark’ group had plenty to say on the AIC e-loop and the ‘anti-war, anti-cap"Yahoo group and no doubt these were mainly that AIC members were "mentally disturbed". She also tried to do a political character assassination on an AIC member who had been assaulted by a rightwing member of the Auckland Seafarers Union two days before for disagreeing with this guy over Iraq.

In writing she made out that this thug was a good unionist! Despite the fact an AIC member heard him say that Iraq should have the "shit bombed out of it", and that he also slandered a united front organisation, the AIC, of which the WPNZ was then a part, as supporters of Bin Laden.

I challenge the ‘Spark’ editor to publish her version of why WPNZ split after one year of intensive activity in AIC. On what issue of principle? I bet she will not and cannot say. I also challenge the ‘Revolution Group’ of Christchurch to publicly defend their ‘Spark’ splitter mates since "Revolution" has seen fit to intervene in this debate.

In its most recent edition (Spark, 15 October 2002) WPNZ writes: "the Task is to build an ‘anti-imperialist movement" and "anti-imperialism is the basis for unity with genuine forces for change" (p.3). This, one month after walking out of an avowedly and actively anti-imperialist organisation without making any public criticism of that organisation.

Signed BR



Bush’s determination to go to war in Iraq is the next step in the US drive to dominate the world economy. It is a war for oil but much more than that. Saddam’s dictatorship, like al Quada’s terorism is the supposed target. But this war is really to assert US dominance over the Middle East and Central Asia over its rivals the EU and Japan, and potential rivals, China, Russia and India. While on the face of it, this is the US flexing its superpower muscles, underneath the surface US imperialism is experiencing a deep crisis at the heart of its capitalist system of production. Yet the failure to recognise the deep roots of the causes of war means that the ‘peace movement’ that is growing in the West can never succeed in bringing about peace. The anti-war movement needs to become anti-capitalist. To help this process along lets demand a Referendum on the War!

The Rogue State

It is the nature of capitalism and imperialist rivalry that makes war inevitable. It is this basic cause that makes all the superficial explanations for US warlike behaviour inadequate. The anti-war movement in the West has recently mobilised hundreds of thousands on the streets. But this opposition is to the US as a ‘rogue state’ breaking the same international legal and moral rules that it imposes unilaterally on others. It is the blatant hypocrisy of the only nation that has used nuclear weapons and which backs Israel’s nuclear arsenal, about to invade a country that even US experts say has no weapons of mass destruction, that has sparked such widespread opposition.

The question then becomes; why is it that the US considers itself above international law? Why is it prepared to risk condemnation acting as a rogue state? It is in breach of UN resolutions. It is even in breach of its own Constitution!

The most common explanations look for the most obvious causes like the greed and power mania of one section of the US ruling class – the oil barons and arms manufacturers. They have clear motives for going to war in the Middle East. At stake is 2/3rds of the world’s oil and a land bridge to Central Asia where there are further large reserves of oil.

But if it is just the greed and power of a bunch of rich oil magnates then surely the answer is to mobilise ordinary decent Americans and peaceloving citizens around the world to exercise their democratic right to enforce international law. This is the position of the famous ‘liberatarian socialist’ critic of US foreign policy, Noam Chomsky.

Chomsky and Pilger on the causes of war

Chomsky accuses the US corporate elite of hypocritically using its power to impose its own brutal interests around the world in the name of ‘democracy’. He accuses the US of being a terrorist state already indicted by the World Court for illegal actions in Nicaragua. Rogue power is the corporations that are a law unto themselves. Chomsky calls these corporations ‘totalitarian institutions" . But their rule can be challenged by a worldwide campaign for democratic change that opposses these their policies. He points to the Zapatista uprising and the anti-globalisation movement as steps towards such an international campaign (Latin America p.92)

Chomsky’s view is shared by prominent left liberals such as journalist John Pilger who defines ‘imperialism’as the rule of the rich and powerful over the poor and weak. Writing just before the massive 28 September demo in London, Pilger said: "A great many people believe that democracy has been lost in this country. Today, true democracy will demonstrate its resilience on the streets of London…The credibility of the British parliamentary system is at stake".For Pilger, Blair is behaving like an absolute ruler or a Hitler. Riding roughshod over democracy and international law and sacrificing the lives of millions of Iraqis for the ‘price’ of oil. Why? Bush and his extreme right cabal are ‘criminals’ and ‘fanatics’. They have used nuclear weapons before and threaten to again. All to boost their wealth and power.

So what’s the answer. For Pilger it’s ‘street democracy’ and ‘the great tradition of dissent’ that must be reactivated. He looks back for inspiration to the civil rights movement and the anti-war campaigns of the 1960s which led to the end of the Vietnam war and nuclear treaties. "Today is another date in September to remember, and perhaps celebrate – as the beginning not of endless war, but of our resistance to it."

This certainly helps, but was this the answer back in the ‘60’s? The Vietnam war was won by the Vietnamese. The nuclear arms race was stopped by the USSR’s inability to keep up. And if it was just a matter of the peaceloving majority asserting democratic control over a power mad rich elite, why hasn’t this happened yet?

Chomsky et al have their own answer to this. The rich and powerful dominate the media and use their power to indoctrinate, divide and rule the masses.

This is clearly correct as far as it goes. The post September 11 world is one in which the US ruling class and their allies everywhere have used the media and their governments to try to impose their pro-Western views and their warlike solutions. So US workers supported Bush going to war against terrorism rather than see the US as the biggest state terrorist in the world. Anyone who questioned this view was faced with a barrage of new ‘patriotic’ laws, police state surveillance, labelled the ‘enemy’, and in many cases slammed in jail. Now it’s enough to threaten strike action to be called a terrorist as the ILWU longshore workers found out.

So what future for ‘democracy’?

By now most people who are opposed to the war must realise that it is extremely difficult to use capitalist democracy to change the system when the system is taking away any real democratic space in which you can fight it. A truth begins to emerge. ‘Democracy’ in the West cannot be the model for the rest of the world to follow. Democracy is a fa├žade for the rule of the rich and powerful.

For example, the US Constitution is far from an ideal model of democracy. The Constitution was designed to defend the rights of private property owners That’s why it is the radical right who arm themselves against a state as usurping their property rights with laws, taxes, etc. When the radical left like the Black Panthers arm themselves they are killed by the state. Even Chomsky himself is very clear on the original purpose of the US Constitution, to keep the masses out of politics (Profit over People p 47). For him real democracy would mean a new constitution.

But if bourgeois democracy is only for the rich, why is there so much faith in ‘democracy’? A second truth begins to emerge. The liberal left presents the problem of Bush’s war as the rogue-like deviant behaviour of a rich and powerful so they can point to the ideal of a normal, just, humane and peaceful capitalism. One that is democratic, allows dissent and defends human rights. One that allows them to claim that capitalism can be ‘pacified’. OK if this is the ideal capitalism lets put it to the test.

Demand a Referendum on war

Let’s demand that no war can start without first a national debate and referendum. That would be a true test of captalist democracy. We challenge the liberal left like the Greens to make this demand. We are pretty sure that a referendum on war would not be allowed by the ruling class. This would be a clear repudation of democracy. But if public pressure did force a referendum on the capitalists, the level of public debate that would follow would surely expose the real causes of war – that of capitalist exploitation itself.

We are also pretty sure that liberal intellectuals will not demand a referendum seriously because they fear the awakening of the masses. The left liberal peaceloving people defend bourgeois ‘democracy’ but they fear the power of the working class more. They are convinced that ‘socialism’ went bad in the USSR and many think socialism is worse than Bush and Co. Lurking beneath this fear is the conviction that socialism is the will to power of the masses and once it is unleashed then there is no future for liberal democracy. That’s why the peace movement against the war in Iraq is not interested in getting rid of the real causes of war. It does not want to get rid of itself and the ‘democratic’ capitalism that justifies its existence.

For us, the end of liberal democracy will be the birth of workers’ democracy.


International Statement from Class Struggle 47 October/November 2002

The following statement was initiated and drafted by Workers Democracy, an Argentinean Trotskyist group. Since the ‘December 20’ uprising last year, Argentina has been a ‘laboratory of revolution’: at last count 1,200 factories had been occupied by workers, and numerous ‘Popular Assemblies’ have been set up to replace the rule of corrupt politicians with direct democracy. Workers Democracy has been heavily involved in events in Argentina, and its revolutionary experiences give it an important perspective on international developments like the War of Terror and the Palestinian revolution. The CWG has been developing links with Workers Democracy for some months and reached sufficient agreement with it to co-sign this statement.

Halt the attack on Iraq! Down with den of thieves of the UN!
For the military defeat of Yankee and British imperialism, and all the imperialist powers!
For the military victory of Iraq! Arms for Iraq and Palestine!

Facing the new upsurge of the world financial and economic crisis that has already hit the domestic economy of the United States, after dragging down every region of the planet in its successive interventions, after provoking sharp revolutionary and counterrevolutionary clashes, as in Palestine and Argentina, and wars of aggression and re-colonisation as in Afghanistan, US imperialism is trying to solve its problems at the expense of the workers with new wars against the oppressed peoples of the world.

Yesterday it did it by crushing Afghanistan to guarantee the control of the petroleum pipelines from the Caspian and Central Asia, transforming that oppressed nation into a protectorate occupied by imperialist troops. It attempted a Pinochet-style coup in Venezuela to guarantee cheap oil for industry and transport in the United States, but was defeated by the revolutionary intervention of the exploited masses, who restored the elected President Chavez to power.

It is imposing a brutal economic policy in Argentina, to try to terrify and make the workers and people who in December began the revolution to submit, and as an example to the exploited and oppressed nations of Latin America and the world. It is also doing it through its gendarme the Zionist state of Israel, where Sharon and its destroy the magnificent revolution that began two years ago.

Today, the US prepares a new attack against Iraq, putting on alert thousands of airplanes, ships, artillery and bombs with an unheard-of capacity of destruction, preparing to spend more than 200 billion dollars to reduce to debris that oppressed nation.

As their own imperialist economists admit with total cynicism, the need for a "war of short duration" will allow them to "reactivate the world economy", while no less cynically Bush and the killers already count the hundreds of billions of dollars that they will get by regaining the enormous reservations of petroleum in Iraq, saying that the 200 billion dollars that this war will cost will be recouped many times.

It is clear that capitalism system in the era of imperialism can only survive by forcing the exploited workers to sink into misery and starvation, and by destroying enormous productive forces with re-colonial wars such as that against Afghanistan and such as the one that they prepare against Iraq.

Imperialists fall out over the spoils

The US imperialist warmongers and their British, French, German, Italian, and Japanese rivals are squabbling over the spoils of Iraqi petroleum - the second largest reserve in the world after Saudi Arabia - and over control of the oil pipelines in the Middle East.

While the British imperialists have already given their total support to the war against Iraq the Germans have broken ranks and said that they are against any type of attack on Iraq, whether on the part of the Yankees or with the "cover" of the UN.

This is because the German imperialists - whose troops intervened murderously in Affghanistan and in Kosovo - are already in negotiation with Saddam Hussein to make large investments in Iraqi petroleum wells, and because already a year ago they broke, together with the French imperialists, the blockade imposed on Iraq since the Gulf War of 1991.

The French imperialists, in turn, have just sent their troops to the Ivory Coast, the major world producer of cocoa, in the latest of many military interventions in a continent where inter-imperialist disputes over control of the sources of raw materials has resulted in starvation, the super exploitation of workers, and the epidemic spread of HIV/AIDS.

Other imperialist powers like Japan, Italy, Belgium, and Spain, say that any war against Iraq should be done under the ‘umbrella’ of that ‘den of thieves’ that is the UN. These countries want to participate in the war and be better positioned for the distribution of the shares in Iraqi oil wealth.

Opposing this, the Yankee imperialists want to use their overwhelming power and military supremacy and attack directly, without the "permission" of the UN. These murderers had no fear of going it alone in the war against Afghanistan and ignored the shrieks of "protest" of imperialist rivals who left out of the division of oil wealth, so they are not frightened of now to unilaterally perpetrate a new massacre in Iraq.

The new war of recolonisation is intended to teach a lesson to the Palestinian and Argentinean revolutions, and to the exploited masses of the whole planet. However, the imperialist warmongers and the different fractions of monopoly capitalism are divided about how best to defeat the masses.

The war that the imperialists prepare against Iraq is a warning to the world revolution, and especially to the two major revolutions under way in the world: to the Palestinian revolution, and to the Argentinean revolution. But there are divisions among the US ruling class. Al Gore, ex - vice president to Clinton, says that the war should be the last option, and that the first option must be an appeal to the UN and to its "inspection of weapons". Among the other imperialist powers, there are differences about how best to respond to the revolutionary struggles of the workers and the massses.

Sections of the Yankee bourgeoisie, as well as the German and French imperialists, fear that a unilateral attack by the United States would throw fuel on the fire of revolution and the anti-imperialist struggles of the masses in the Middle East and North Africa. They fear this because the partial defeat that the army of Sharon and Bush gave in the last few months to the Palestinian people in their national war has failed to finally defeat the living social revolution.

That is to say, they have failed to crush and to disarm the peasant and worker militias and liquidate the dual power that they these militias established, to recompose the state power disabled by the revolution and to impose a naked apartheid, or to guarantee the oppression and the double exploitation - on the part of the imperialism and the Zionist bourgeoisie, but also of the Palestine bourgeoisie and that of Lebanon and Jordan - of the Palestine people. This failure is shown by the uprisings in Gaza in recent days, where the Palestine militias made three Israeli tanks retreat, and in the massive mobilisations facing the new attack and siege of the Israeli army in Ramallah

Sections of the imperialist ruling classes fear that the attack on Iraq would create a massive response from the masses of the Middle East angry at their own ruling classes for allowing the massacre in Palestine and in Afghanistan. They fear that a new war against Iraq will multiply a thousand fold the hatred and the anti-imperialist struggles of the working class and the exploited of Latin America. But above all, they fear that they will provoke the uprising of the own working class in the imperialist countries, a working class that, in Europe especially, is showing signs of waking.

The world’s working class must urgently prepare an international response to the aggression against Iraq. The workers of England gave the first blow with their enormous mobilisation of 250.000 persons on the 28th September. They are the allies of the Iraqi people and of the oppressed people of the entire world!

The outcome of this new war being prepared by the imperialist warmongers against Iraq will be decided by the confrontation of revolution and counter-revolution in Palestine and the Middle East, and also in Latin America and Argentina. If the imperialists succeed, and the Iraqi masses are defeated a lasting blow will have been struck to the working class and the Palestinian people and to all the masses of Medium East. But it will be a lasting blow also for the Argentinean revolution and the fight of the masses in Latin America, because the imperialists will be strengthened and will redouble their re-colonising offensive in the continent.

Also depending largely on the outcome of the war is the destiny of the working class of the US and of the European powers. If the imperialist ruling classes crush the Iraqi people and have a great victory, they will become even stronger, and will deepen the attack that has

The European and North American workers, shackled by the labour aristocracy and the union bureaucracies of the US AFL-CIO, of the CGT and CFDT of France, of the German and Italian central unions, and of the TUC of England, have not been able, in the last ten years, to intervene to support their brothers and sisters in Kosovo, in Afghanistan, or in Palestine. Already they have paid a very expensive price, suffering more than one million unemployed, slashed wages and job insecurity in the United States, attacks on past gains, and a brutal flexibilisation of work, and a privatisation offensive in Spain, Italy, France and Germany.

It is therefore necessary that the world working class prepares an international response, placing itself unconditionally in the trenches of the attacked Iraqi nation, of the Palestinian working class and oppressed people, of the workers and the people of Argentina and ofother countries oppressed and attacked by imperialism.

It is necessary to raise the war cry: Halt the attack to Iraq! Down with the den of thieves of the UN! For the military defeat of US imperialism, British imperialism and all the imperialist powers! For the military victory of Iraq! Weapons for Iraq and Palestine! Break off relations with the governments and states of all the imperialist powers and countries that support the genocidal war against Iraq!

We must transform the Palestine revolution, the attack on Iraq, and the oppression of other peoples in the Middle East into a new 'Vietnam' for the warmongers, and a grave for Sharon and the state of Israel!

For the defeat of the genocidal army of Sharon and Bush!

For the destruction of the Zionist state of Israel!

For the victory of the workers' and peasants' revolution!

For a secular, democratic and multiracial Palestinian state under a workers' and peasants' government of the revolutionary Palestinian masses!

In England, in the heart of the murderous government of Tony Blair, a fight against the recolonising war has begun. On Saturday 28 of September, more than 250,000 people went into the streets of London, shouting "George Bush, we know you: your father was a killer too!" and confronting their own imperialist bourgeoisie and the government of Tony Blair.

In this mobilisation - one of the most massive since the Vietnam War - large delegations of the unions were present, giving expression to the groundswell within the English labour movement that is pressuring its union leaders to break with the Labour Party and Tony Blair. Also present were enormous numbers of Islamic and Arabian immigrants, women for their most, carrying the Palestinian flag in their hands.

In France, there was a great demonstration in Marseilles in support of the Palestinian people, and the need to organise a boycott of trade between France and Israel, most of which passes through that Mediterranean port, has already started been discussed. The unions, the organisations of immigrants and the left parties have called for a demonstration against the war in Iraq for the 12 of October.

In the United States after the 11 of September a campaign of "national unity" was imposed, with the leaders of the AFL-CIO giving support to Bush’s "war against terrorism", permitting terrible attacks on the working class with millions of redundancies, with persecutions and accusations of being "traitors to the country" against all who raised a dissident voice opposed to the war or who go on strike, with thousands of Arabs or people of Islamic origin imprisoned on "suspicion" without trial and without the right to defense.

Today, facing the imminent attack on Iraq, and the divisions opened inside the Yankee bourgeoisie, mobilisations and actions against the war are already being organised. Hundreds of writers, university professors, artists, etc. have signed a statement against the war called "Not in our name", a phrase dating from anti-Vietnam days. The demonstration in Washington against the meeting of the IMF will be followed by demonstrations in New York and in hundreds of university campuses, and these are expected to culminate in massive mobilisations on October 26 in Washington and San Francisco.

What is more important, a number of local unions, including some unions with state-wide organisation, have begun to raise positions against the war and against the bureaucracy of the AFL-CIO. Thus, for example, the Washington State Labour Council says:

"The uncritical support of the AFL-CIO for this war went against the opposition of the workers to military spending, to subsidies to corporations, and against government spying, and provided political cover to the Democrats’ joining the "antiterrorist" campaign. The support of the AFL-CIO for the war was a criminal abandonment of our solidarity with the working class and the poor of other countries that are suffering and dying as a result of this conflict".

The working class of the imperialist countries, now beginning to mobilise, has in its hands the ability of paralyse the imperialist war machine from within. It is necessary to fight staunchly so that the industrial workers of America, Europe, and Japan break the control imposed on them by the labour aristocracy and confront their own imperialist bourgeoisies, paralysing from within, with their class struggle methods of strikes, mobilisations, boycotts and blockades, the imperialist war machine, so that no warship, no warplane, no soldier, can attack Iraq, and at the same time make sure that weapons, food and medicines are delivered to the workers and people of Iraq, and to the workers and people of Palestine.

The signatories to this statement call on all workers organisations of the international left in the imperialist powers to immediately proclaim loudly the war cry: "The enemy is at home: boycott and paralyse from within the machinery of war! For the military rout of our own genocidal imperialists, for the military victory of the Iraqi nation under attack!"

We raise our voices against the war and say that the expropriation of all the properties and interests of the imperialist monopolies in the Middle East, by the revolutionary mobilisation of the workers and peasants of the region, is the most powerful missile, the most certain weapon to defeat the imperialists. We say that in Argentina, the deepening of the fight to break with the IMF, and the fight for a new 20 of December to bring down the government of Duhalde and to end the infamous regime is part of the same anti-imperialist fight of the workers and the people of Palestine, of Iraq and of all the Middle East.

The war cry of the working class and the oppressed masses of the entire world must be heard: Yankees and all the imperialist powers: hands off Afghanistan!

The impending attack on Iraq is designed also to finish and consolidate the victory already won in Afghanistan, and to teach a new lesson to all those who dare to stand up against imperialism. There are still anti-imperialist fighters rotting in jail in Guantanamo, as hostages of imperialism! There are thousands of Moslem workers and workers of Arab origin rotting in the Yankee jails! It is necessary for the working class and the exploited people of the whole world to inscribe on their battle flag the demand for the immediate and unqualified release of the military prisoners in Guantanamo and of the Arab and Moslem prisoners in the jails of Bush!

The workers and the oppressed people of the world must impose "a new Vietnam" on the Yankee - and also the European and Japanese – imperialists. No military defeat of the imperialists is going to come from the hands of the Saddam Husseins, or Arafats – that is to say, from the Arab national bourgeoisies that want to haggle with imperialism for their slice of the income from oil and the exploitation of their own people. As soon as the struggle of the masses threatens their political control and their own property, they will quickly turn their guns on the masses. They prefer a national defeat and the total bombing of their own countries to the armed uprising of the anti-imperialist working class and the peasants threaten the property or interests of the imperialist monopolies!

Because of this, we socialist revolutionaries, while we locate ourselves unconditionally in the military trench of the attacked Iraqi nation, affirm that the defeat of the imperialist warmongers, in the new 'Vietnam' that we must impose them, can only result from an alliance of the working class and the poor peasants of Iraq and of the Moslem and Arabian nations, taking in their hands the leadership of the national liberation war against imperialism, and in close alliance with their class brothers and sisters of the imperialist powers and with the workers and the exploited masses of the whole planet.

The fight for the defeat of imperialism in Iraq and in the Middle East, and for the victory of the Palestinian revolution, should be a fight for the creation of a Federation of Workers and Peasants Republics of the Middle East.

For the widest unity of action in support of our Iraqi and Palestinian brothers and sisters!

With this perspective, the socialist revolutionaries that sign this statement call on the peoples' ad workers' organisations in all countries, on the workers and anti-imperialist parties, to unite in the broadest anti- imperialist action, to take to the streets with marches, strikes, demonstrations, and to raise in the peoples' and workers' organisations everywhere the fight against the common enemy, imperialism, and against the client states and governments of the semicolonial countries that are its servants, so that the workers and exploited are up to their task of fighting the new genocidal war and re-colonisation that is being prepared.

Let’s take to the streets in support of our Iraqi and Palestinian brothers and sisters! For the military defeat of the Yankee and other imperialist powers! For the military victory of the attacked Iraqi nation! Weapons for Iraq and for Palestine! For the destruction of the Zionist state of Israel, imperialist gendarme in the middle east, for the triumph of the rural poor and working class revolution that have initiated the Palestinian workers and oppressed people!

Out with Yankee and EU imperialist warmongers in Afghanistan, in Africa, in Asia and in Latin America!

Out with the IMF in Latin America and in Argentina! Down with Duhalde and all the client governments and servants of the Yankees and the IMF!

Iraq, Palestine and Argentina, together with the working class of the imperialist countries making war, shall wage the new Vietnam that destroys the imperialist rulers, raising the war cry of the world working class: "So that the working class and exploited of the world can live, imperialsm must die!"


Zimmerwald Part 3:

How and when did the split which formed the Zimmerwald Left in 1915 take place? Why was this the important step to building a new international? What are the lessons to be learned today as US imperialism steps up its war drive? With the end of the Soviet Bloc most of the Western left has reverted to a Menshevik position of putting faith in the completion of the bourgeois revolution. They have given up on any belief that the working class is the revolutionary class and substituted the petty bourgeois intelligentsia. Those who adapt to democratic imperialism, Stalinists, centrists, and social democrats avoid fighting their own ruling class! They turn their backs on revolutionary Marxism, Leninism, and Bolshevism. As the contradictions of imperialism intensify these Menshevik currents form a counter-revolutionary barrier to the leftward movement of workers and poor peasants. That is why we need a New Zimmerwald, a new Bolshevik left, and a new Communist International.

Zimmerwald at Last

During the first year of the war the pressure from the left for an international conference to unite those prepared to break with the social chauvinists and pacifists was sabotaged by the right and centre. The preliminary conference in Bern on July 11 1915 was dominated by the right and centre and rejected Zinoviev’s motions for revolutionary mass actions against the war. When the Zimmerwarld Conference was finally held, September 5-8, 8 delegates including the Polish, Russian delegates met beforehand and formed the ‘Zimmerwald left’. They were Lenin and Zinoviev (Bolsheviks), Berzin (Latvian social democrats), Radek (Polish-Lithuanian opposition), Borchardt (for Lichenstrahlen in Germany), Hoglund and Nerman (Swedish and Norwegian left), Platten (Switzerland). Trotsky was among several others who attended this meeting but did not endorse the left’s position.

Liebknecht writing from prison greets the delegates and calls for a "settling of accounts with the deserters and turncoats of the International". He urges the delegates to fight an international class war and to break with false appeals to national and party unity. He concludes:

"The new international will arise on the ruins of the old. It can only arise on these ruins, on new and firmer foundations. Friends – socialists from all countries – you must lay the foundation stone today for the future structure. Pass irreconcilable judgement upon the false socialists…Long live the future peace among peoples! Long live internationalist, people-liberating,

The formation of the ‘Zimmerwald left’ was the decisive step in the break with the old international. Lenin and Radek had drafted resolutions to put to the conference. Radek’s was adopted but Lenin’s references to support for colonial wars and calling for ‘defeat of one’s own country’ were omitted. Yet Radek’s draft was still strong. The war is characterised as an imperialist war. The causes of war can only be overcome by socialist revolution in the leading countries. The majority of the socialist international has gone over to the social patriotism of their national bourgeoisies. The ‘centre’ current of pacifists such as Kautsky is more dangerous than the open patriots because it misleads and confuses the more advanced workers. The left must struggle against social patriotism with every method at its disposal - rejection of war credits, propaganda against the war, demonstrations, fraternatisation in the trenches, strikes etc. Quoting Liebknecht’s letter, Radek concludes: "Civil war, not ‘civil peace’ is out slogan" (LSRI, 299).

The debates centred around the question of ‘civil peace’ versus ‘civil war’. Most delegates were for ‘peace’ because they said workers were demoralised, confused and needed further preparation before they could turn the war into a ‘civil war’. Those against ‘civil peace’ also included Trotsky who opposed to pacifism ‘class struggle and ‘social revolution’. Chernov the Russian socialist revolutionary said that the "struggle for peace exclusively" must be extended to the "struggle for social revolution". Radek’s resolution that put the case for ‘civil war’ was voted down 19 to 12 and did not become part of the final manifesto. Trotsky and Roland-Holst, Chernov and Natanson voted with the Zimmerward 8.

Zimmerwald Manifesto

The Zimmerwald Manifesto addresses the Proletarians of Europe: "one thing is certain: the war that has produced this chaos is the product of imperialism…economically backward or politically weak nations are thereby subjecated by the great powers, who, in this war, are seeking to remake the world map with blood and ironin accord with their exploiting interests…In the course of the war, its driving forces are revealed in all their vileness…The capitalists of all countries who are coining the gold of war profits out of the blood shed by the people, assert that the war is for defence of the fatherland, for democracy and the liberation of oppressed nations…thus the war reveals the naked figure of modern capitalism which has become irreconcilable not only with the interests of the masses of workers, not only with the requirements of historical development, but also with the elementary conditions of human existence…this situation that faces us, threatening the entire future of Europe and humanity, cannot and must not be tolerated any longer without action…

So far so good, but what action? The Manifesto concludes: "Proletarians! Since the outbreak of the war you have placed your energy, yiour courage, your endurance at the service of the ruling classes. Now you must stand up for your own cause, for the sacred aims of socialism, for the emancipation of the oppressed nations as well as of the enslaved classes, by means of irreconcilable class struggle".

"Class struggle"? What does this mean? Socialists in the countries at war are told to take up "this task". What is this? "peace among the people". Compared with real task of turning the imperialist war into civil war this is a pious platitude. (320)

Lenin, Zinoviev, Radek, Nerman, Hoglund and Winter of the Zimmerwald left produced a statement protesting the ommision of any "characterisation of opportunism" as the main cause of the capitulation to war, and any clear presentation of "methods of struggle against the war". But they said that they would still vote for the Manifesto as a "call to struggle, and because we want to march forward in this struggle arm in arm with the other sections of the International".

Zimmerwald leads to inevitable split

The Zimmerwald left was aware of the need to use the left position to break with the right and centre to form a new international. Lenin and the others (excluding Trotsky) saw that a split was necesssary. Radek calls the betrayal of the opportunist a de facto split. The failure to prepare for a new international quickly was to set the scene for later defeats. This is most obvious in Lenin’s critique of the Spartacists for not taking a firm independent line against the centrists in Germany.

The main lesson from tZimmerwald was that the left needed to strike out on an independent course (collaborating where possible at Zimmerwald etc) to win over the most advanced workers, with both a critique of opportunism and the revolutionary mobilisation against the ruling class.

Radek put this forcefully in his report on the conference: "It may be a long-time before the masses, bled white by the war recover and renew the struggle. We can shorten this time, however by explaining to the most conscious workers why the International collapsed, how they have to struggle, for what goals they must appeal to other workers, and how they must organise the struggle under conditions of military rule. The more difficult the situation the clearer must be the politics of socialism. It is never too early to tell the workers their true situation" (339).

Lenin's critique of Luxemburg

Lenin critiqued Luxemburg and the German Spartacists for following the Zimmerwald Manifesto in toning down their critique of opportunism and failing to break from the centrists and create an independent party. He was responding to Luxemburg’s famous ‘Junius Pamphlet’.

"The chief defect in Junius pamphet…is its silence about the connection between social chauvinism …and opportunism..This is wrong from the standpoint of theory, for it is impossible to account for the ‘betrayal’ [of the 2nd international without linking it up witih opportunism as a trend with a long history behind it, the history of the whole Scond International. ..It is also a mistake from the practical political standpoint, for it is impossible either to understand the ‘crisis of social democracy’ or overcome it, without claifying the meaning and the role of two trends, the openly opportunist trend…and the tacitly opportunist trend…A very great defect in revolutionary Marxisn in Germany as a whole is its lack of a compact illegal organisation that would systematically pursue its own line and educate the masses in the spirit of the new tasks; such an organisation would have to take a definite stand on opportunism and Kautskyism (436).

Lenin also criticises Luxemburg for not understanding that a civil war against the bourgeoisie was necessary. "In saying that the class struggle is the best means of defence against invasion, Junius applies Marxist dialectics only half way…Marxist dialectics call for a concrete analysis of each specific historical situaiton…Class struggle…is too general and therefore inadequate in the present specific case. Cvil war against the bourgeoisie is also a form of class struggle, and only this form of class struggle would have saved Europe…from invasion" (443)

Lenin explains these defects in Luxemberg’s position materially as due to the ‘environment’ of German social democracy and the fear of the leftists to follow "their revolutionary slogans to their logical conclusions". As a result Luxemburg pulls back to "something like a Menshevik ‘theory of stages’ of first defending a republic and then to the next stage – socialist revolution"

"But this shortcoming is not Junius’ personal failing, but the result of the weakness of all the German leftists, who have become engangled in the vile net of Kautskyite hypocrisy, pedantry and "friendliness" for the opportunists."

Trotsky the semi-menshevik

Trotsky’s role in all this was confusionist. He had illusions in winning of the ‘centre’. He talked of Kautsky moving left. He confused the necessary subjective task of winning the most advanced workers (Radek’s point) with the objective backward consciousness of workers. This misled him into trying to influence the party leaders of the centre like Kautsky who had "authority" with the masses. Hence his mechanical schematic view that workers had to stop fighting themselves before they would fight their own bourgeoisies. This was true but undialectical.

Trotsky was proved wrong. When the German soldiers and sailors mutinied in 1918 they fulfilled the first part of Trotsky’s schema. But instead of turning their guns against the bourgeoisie, they were talked into exchanging their guns for votes in a German Republic. In Russia, the first revolution in February against the Tzar did not succumb to the bourgeoisie. The armed workers retained their guns, defeated the counter-revolution and went on to make a socialist revolution.

What was the lesson from Zimmerwald? Lenin expressed it very well. Imperialist wars can be won by workers only by means of a socialist revolution. Wars open up revolutionary crises and the revolutionary leadership must clearly take the lead from the right and centre of the party. The right goes further to the right and drags the centre with it. Failure to break from the centre was the fate of the German Spartacists. The lack of as Bolshevik party in Germany was the vital factor that allowed the counter-revolution to succeed. The defeat of the German revolution was ultimately to bring the defeat of the Russian revolution in 1991.

Lenin’s "Socialism and War" pamphlet from 1915 is available online at;

We need a new Bolshevik International

Menshevism allows the possibility of a ‘peaceful’ evolutionary transition to socialism and so sees bourgeois democracy as a shell for workers democracy. But In times of war capitalism doesn’t want workers votes it want their blood. Revolutionaries have to counter that by building independent workers organs that do not rely on bourgeois democracy. Bourgeois democracy is the dictatorshp of the bourgeoisie counterposed to the dictatorship of the proletariat. That’s why we were against bourgeois democracy in the former DWS’s. As Trosky said bourgeois democracy could only be counter-revolutionary in a DWS.

Today the remains of the 2nd International are even more openly social imperialist. Socialism has virtually dissappeared inside imperialism. The new imperialism promotes western values of democracy and human rights as the means of ‘civilising’ the colonial and semi-colonial world. The remains of the 3rd international have become 2nd internationalists in the imperialist world, In the ‘3rd world’ they are for the patriotic popular front to complete the bourgeois revolution in the former workers states and in the semicolonies. This means counterposing the international civil society of Porto Alegre to the rogue institutions of globalisation such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO etc. Both of these currents endorse the right of imperialism to intervene in oppressed states to remove local dictators and facilitate ‘democratic’ regimes. They are against the armed struggle of colonial and semi-colonial peoples to do it themselves.

The degenerate Trotskyists are joining forces with these betrayers to revise the permanent revolution and promote the democratic stage as a necessary preparation for the socialist stage. But this is a grotesque deformation of the theory of permanent revolution that says that the democratic stage can be completed only by socialism. That is, the struggle right now is for socialism during which the incomplete democratic tasks will be completed.

Zimmerwald teaches us the importance of the fundamental distinction between the methods of the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks explained by Lenin in What is to be Done, and then proven decisively i the massive betrayal in imperialist war. The Mensheviks wanted peace first, that is an end to military imperialism by peaceful imperialism. This was so because it was the institutions of bourgeois democracy, parliament, pressured by the masses that would enact peace. The Bosheviks, dominating the Zimmerwald Left, saw the need to activate the working masses directly to stop the war by turning the imperialist war into a ‘civil war’.

Thus the Bolsheviks called for the struggle for socialism as the only way to stop the imperialist war. They knew that this struggle would transform workers from a backward, defensive consciousness, in awe of the bosses’ parliament, into a revolutionary force capable of socialist revolution.

Today, under conditions of growing crisis and drive to imperialist war on the part of US imperialism, revolutionaries have this same task. We need a New Zimmerwald. We have to reject the Menshevik program of counterposing bourgeois democracy to US imperialism in the Porto Alegre, anti-globalising, sense. We have to break from the politics of the popular front and internationally from the Menshevik international. We have to rebuild a new Bolshevik International now!

All page references are to Lenin's Struggle for a Revolutionary International. Documents: 1907-1916. The Preparatory Years. Edited by John Riddell. Monad Press, New York, 1984.


New Zealand has just had a ‘snap’ election, called by the Prime Minister 5 months early to take advantage of the government’s high popularity and a buoyant economy. The result was mixed. Labour was returned to office with 7 less seats as a minority in coalition with the two remaining MPs on the rightwing of the former Alliance that split over NZ’s backing Bush’s War on Terror in Afghanistan. The left of the Alliance got no seats. The Greens gained only two extra seats and refused to go into coalition because Labour would not guarantee extending the moratorium on the commercial release of Genetically Engineered crops. Labour can govern only because it has done a deal with a centre-right United Future Party which emerged during the campaign because of its ‘common sense’ appeal to floating voters. Where does this leave workers?

[from Class Struggle 46 August/September 2002]

Shit that was quick. Clark and Labour are back. Catholic grey power guru Jim Anderton got back in coalition with his ex-socialist progressive Matt Robson to prop up Labour.(1) The ‘worm’, United Future, the creation of the media now holds the balance of power.(2) This means that Paul Holmes is really running the country. He can prime Peter Dunne on TV each week on all the top rating causes, child cancer, crime, himself, and put the ‘common sense’ spin on them all.(3)

What do we conclude? A defeat for the left and a definite swing to the populist centre. Turnout was down from around 86% to 79%. National bombed down to 21%. Labour’s share of the vote went up slightly and to the right. While some Labour loyalists didn’t vote, Labour won the party votes in all but three of the National seats. So Labour’s vote probably went up because National voters voted for them to give Labour a working majority to keep out the Greens. We don’t yet know how many Labour voters stayed at home or voted for NZ First, United Future, or even Act. So by voting or staying away many workers pushed Labour towards the centre. This centre is a swamp in which workers will drown.

The far right also lost out. ACT ran a hard right economic line but also headed towards the populist centre with its zero tolerance of crime policy.(4) Boxer Bill English tried to get heavy on crime too but he was fighting above his weight.(5) Neither got up after Winston Peters’ three-fingered knock out for the NZ First team. Winston, who smacks of a budding brown Pym Fortuyn but with hetero panache, bounced from 4% to 10% by baiting the racist redneck vote on immigration, Maori and crime. (6)

GE fundamentalism failed

The Greens vote went up by 2%. Why? The 7% share of the vote probably reflects the hardcore Green vote that is totally committed to banning commercial use of GE. Anything else that the Greens stand for on social and economic issues is pretty minority report stuff (see article on Greens). Nicky Hager’s revelations about Labour’s clumsy handling of a GE scare two years ago – ‘corngate’ – saw Labour drop 6% in the polls.(7) But it seems that the Greens also suffered. Labour’s decline in popularity probably resulted from people being turned off Helen Clark’s display of arrogance in the media when questioned on ‘corngate’ and ‘paintergate’.(8) The Greens may have slumped because some people saw that they really were fundamentalists. ‘Corngate’ served to remind some swinging voters of the instability of the centre-left so they opted for centre parties to moderate ‘left’ wackiness.

Labour United/Future coalition?

So the ‘left of Labour’ vote was redistributed to the right to put Labour in office. But Labour is now dependent upon United Future to stay in power. United Future is really the ‘common sense’ party, a collection of raw ring-ins, racing truck car drivers, chefs, social workers united by a bottom line belief that “the family is central to life”.(9) We put their hang-up down to parental neglect.

This means that Labour’s rightward trajectory will continue. Last time it relied on the Greens on matters of confidence and the budget. Though the Greens are a petty bourgeois party they didn’t hold Labour’s minimalist social democratic program back. But this time, a formal agreement with the worm in the centre will commit Labour to right-centrist policies to stay in power. This is a classic popular front, where the social democrats (even right wing) are able to blame the centre party for its rightward shift. Now it can use the excuse that it had to swing right with the worm when it doesn’t deliver to workers.

So we predict that Labour will have to move further right. As a self-styled Blairite party its attempt to find a Third Way between left and right will become clearer. NZ Labour still has social democratic elements on the left based on the unions. But during its first term it developed stronger links to the newer breed of business leaders. This time the move right to the centre will see it try to redefine itself along the lines of Steve Maharey’s ‘Third Way’ lectures in the National Business Review. In the name of the centre it will try to distance itself from direct links to the unions and to business. It will preside over the ‘smart wired’ state that presents profits as a universal benefit.

Critical support justified?

CWG got criticised by Maoists, ultra-lefts and Spartacists for its critical support of Labour and the Alliance. We were called ‘auto-labourites’ (revolution) ‘labour loyalists’ (IBT) and ‘degenerate cronies’ (Spartacists).(10) We think that the tactic of critical support to get Labour elected was justified. We called for a vote for Labour candidates to get it into office to expose it. As Lenin said, this sort of ‘support’ is like the support a rope offers a hanged person. We think that most most workers voted for Labour expecting more social benefits and union rights. The main unions affiliated to Labour called for a vote to defend the Employment Relations Act and prevent any return to the Employment Contracts Act.(11) Labour encouraged these expectations with campaign slogans like ‘people before profits’.

The tactic of critical support aims to activate the contradiction between workers’ expectations and the failure of the government to deliver. The expectations were there in the unions on the one side, and on the other the new government will not be able to deliver to the unions. Why? Because profits come first and profits are in trouble. The poor performance of the world economy and NZ’s declining semi-colonial status will prevent any more real concessions.(12) The popular front character of the government will push it further right. Dunne voted against the ERA, so we expect Margaret Wilson’s plans to strengthen union rights will be dropped.

Labour will find itself unable to deliver on its residual social democratic programme. But why this is so has to be rammed home to workers. We have to give Labour arseholes to convince workers that Labour has really left workers behind. We have to work within the unions affiliated to Labour to make their support conditional on Labour strengthening of the ERA. When this doesn’t happen we have to push the rank and file to put up their own candidates on a program that is designed to meets workers’ needs.

Future of the Alliance

Our critical support for the Alliance was also justified. We called for a party vote. The Alliance only got 1.3% (Anderton’s Progressive Coalition that split off the Alliance got about 1.8%), or rather more than the British Socialist Alliance. Laila Harre was only 2000 votes short of winning Waitakere. This showed that when they had nothing to lose (the Labour Candidate Lyn Pillay, an EPMU - Engineers union - organiser, was high on the Labour list) workers voted for the Alliance in large numbers. This suggests that the overall drop in the Alliance vote was almost totally tactical.

We predict that the Alliance will try to rebuild as a Social Democratic party in the vacuum left by Labour. It will try to gain a footing in the labour movement. We have to push for rank and file control of the unions to prevent the Alliance from creating a left union bureaucracy. Our objective is to expose Labour completely but also to prevent the Alliance from becoming a new force for reformism. We can do this by building a Socialist Alliance to compete with the dregs of social democracy.

We need a Socialist Alliance

Now is the time to begin to plan for a Socialist Alliance to unite the forces on the left around a transitional program for socialist revolution. This has to begin with work in the unions. There should be a Socialist Alliance branch in every workplace. We are for the rebuilding of unions based on rank and file control. This means that ordinary workers will elect delegates and officials, subject to instant recall if they fail to represent the wishes of the membership. Pay and conditions for union officials should be no more than the average of the workers they represent to prevent them being bought off by the bosses.

The question of affiliation to political parties should be debated and decided by the rank and file membership. Workers in the unions affiliated to Labour should make this support conditional on Labour delivering on a number of policies such as a shorter working week to eliminate unemployment; the restoration of penal rates for overtime; labour legislation that brings casual and part-time workers under the unions; democratic rights for all; opening the borders to economic and political refugees; renationalisation under workers control of all privatised state assets; and NZ breaking from military ties with imperialist states such as the EU and USA. As workers lose any hope in Labour or the Alliance to represent their interests, they will put up their own candidates based on the revived unions.

Now that the world economy has entered a period of recession (see Brian Green’s article), the NZ economy will face a slowdown in growth. The Labour government will be forced to move right to defend profits at the expense of working people. This will bring about a renewal of working class struggle over jobs, pay, conditions and basic rights. Against the rightward move in Parliament, we have to rally the left around a socialist banner that begins to rebuild a strong labour movement and a genuine workers’ party dedicated to replacing clapped-out capitalist regimes with a workers’ government that can plan the economy for the needs of people rather than the profits of the capitalists.


(1) Anderton and Robson, respectively leader and deputy of the New Labour Party that split from Labour in 1989 to the left and which later formed the Alliance. Anderton (who at the time was deputy Prime Minister), Robson and several other MPs split from the Alliance in mid 2002 refusing to oppose the Government's support of Bush's war against Afghanistan. They formed the Progressive Coalition just before the recent election and gained 1.8% of the vote.

(2) The worm is a moving line on a graph which rises and falls in response to preferences of a studio audience of ‘undecided’ voters. Peter Dunne's rise in popularity as leader of the United Future (a fusion of two 'parties' led by Dunne who entered parliament as a Labour MP in 1984) is almost completely the result of one TV studio performance in which the worm rose to new heights in response to the most bland, middle of the road, common sense statements.

(3) Paul Holmes is NZ's foremost 'tabloid' TV host who specialises in promoting popular causes to boost his ratings.

(4) ACT, short for Association of Consumers and Taxpayers, formed by Roger Douglas, former Minister of Finance responsible for the neo-liberal agenda of the 4th Labour Government until 1988 when he was sacked by the then Prime Minister David Lange, for continuing to press for neo-liberal reforms. He formed ACT to continue the neo-liberal agenda. ACT is on the extreme ‘new right’ and has never got more than 8% of the vote.

(5) Bill English became leader of the National Party in 2002. He took part in a boxing match for charity and referred to his ‘fight’ for ‘the NZ you deserve’ during the campaign. Obviously 79% of the voters didn’t think they deserved Bill English’s NZ.

(6) Winston Peters, maverick politician, former National Minister of Maori Affairs, and leader of NZ First, formed a short-lived coalition with National after the 1996 elections. Peters is a rabid populist who rallies ‘middle NZ’ on racist issues. During the election campaign he appeared with 3 fingers raised in the image of Bob the Builder who could “fix” the three issues of immigration, crime and Treaty settlements. Unlike Fortuyn he’s heavily hetero.

(7) Hager’s book was written to expose the failure of the Labour government to prevent the release of GE-contaminated seeds. Hager’s publisher was no 3 on the Greens party list. In the debate that followed it was disclosed that the scare resulted from a ‘false positive’ probably caused by contamination of the seeds tested by soil and talcum powder. The most damning revelation was that hardcore Greens demanded a 100% confidence level that seeds were not contaminated. This, said a scientist employed by Otago University but contracted to Novatis and Heinz Wattie, would require every seed to be tested and therefore destroyed.

(8) ‘Paintergate’ refers to a painting painted for Helen Clark to sell for charity, but signed by her. Clark was baited constantly by the opposition and media until she refused to talk about the episode, and walked out of an Australian TV interview.

(9) Paul Adams, a prominent United Future candidate, called in 1993 for HIV sufferers to by ‘locked up’, and still believes they should be publicly identified.

(10) ‘Revolution’ is a small group of leftists based at Canterbury University in Christchurch. The IBT (International Bolshevik Tendency) is a split from the Spartacists. Its NZ section is the Permanent Revolution Group based in Wellington, NZ. The Spartacists (International Communist League) have one member in the Anti-Imperialist Coalition in Auckland NZ.

(11) Three unions are still affiliated to the Labour Party: the EPMU (Engineers, Printing and Manufacturing Union) which is the biggest and most influential union in NZ; the SFWU (Service and Food Workers Union) a more ‘leftish’ union the organises many low-paid hospital and hospitality workers; RMTU (Rail, Maritime and Transport Union) that organises rail workers and has branched out into call centres. The overwhelming reason given for a union vote for Labour was to prevent any return to the Employment Contracts Act, which was passed by National in 1991 and designed to replace collective agreements with individual contracts. The ECA saw union membership slump from around 50% of the workforce to around 17%. Labour’s Employment Relations Act restored some influence to unions and has seen the membership of unions creep back up to around 22%. The unions wanted to see Labour returned to give more teeth to the ERA – in particular, they wanted legislation to help workers made redundant when companies close and to remedy the casualisation of workers re-employed on contract.

(12) CWG characterises NZ as a semi-colony on the grounds that NZ does not have a significant export of capital or income from surplus-profits abroad. On the other hand NZ is the location for investment of international capital and source of exports of super profits.