Bolivia: Making the Revolution


February 2004 marks one year from the re-opening of the revolutionary struggle in Bolivia when workers’, peasants and youth began their uprising against the hated president ‘Goni’ Sanchez de Lozada. In October, peasants and workers blockaded La Paz forcing Goni into exile. He was replaced by Carlos Mesa who called for a truce. Mesa has failed to deliver on the COB demands and has used the time to stabilise his rule. On 22 January the COB met and called for a mobilisation in 20 days to prepare for a national general strike on 21 February to bring down Mesa and put in place a Popular Assembly. Here we argue that there is mass support to go beyond a Popular Assembly to a real Workers’ and Peasants’ State if a revolutionary leadership can be created. We support our sister group POB in this task!

COB ends truce with plans for general strike

In a meeting that lasted all day, delegate after delegate of 42 of the 65 COB (Bolivian Workers’ Centre) affiliates, including miners, transport workers, teachers, shop assistants and civic committees, called for the unity of all the popular forces in Bolivia to be mobilised to launch an indefinite general strike in 20 days to bring down the Mesa government.

Jamie Solares a miners leader of the COB said that Bolivia was a colony of the US and that Mesa was continuing the same policies as Goni on behalf of US imperialism. He said that it was an emergency situation, and that the time for theory was past and time for action had arrived to build a great popular assembly to take power.

He had invited the peasant leaders Evo Morales and Felipe Quispe to meet with the COB to build a united front against the government. Morales was visiting the Chapare region where more than 200 died in the war against the selling of the gas in October. Morales replied condemning the COB plan to attack parliament were he is a member. He said that the COB plan was to make a coup that would only invite the US to make its own military coup. But when some of his supporters present spoke in favour of participating in parliament and the referendum on selling the gas they were booed. Quispe, for his part, did not come to the COB meeting but immediately came under pressure from the militant peasants of the Altiplano and quickly endorsed the call to bring down Mesa.

Most speakers called for the COB to build grass roots support for strike action to replace the government with dual power organs, repeal the gas agreement with the multinationals, nationalise industry and provide free health, education and pensions. Delegates from the media said that it was necessary for the people to replace the leadership. They questioned Morales claim to defend democracy. What democracy? We can expect no solutions from parliament! The workers union leader Roberto de la Cruz of El Alto (the working class town above La Paz) who was not at the COB congress challenged Morales to say which side he was on, the peoples or imperialism.

The students also made the call to organise to fight for power, to prepare the general strike with blockades in February, to split the army and win the support of the military rank and file. In an separate meeting of youth organisations on the 25th January in El Alto many resolutions were passed in support of the COB call for a general strike, including re-nationalising the gas, exprorpriating the multinationals, the US out of Iraq and for a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government.

The miners cooperatives representatives warned that if the workers and peasants were not united they would face a military coup d’etat. Other workers warned the leadership of the COB that they would be thrown out unless they provided militant leadership. The pensioners delegate spoke of the need to finish with the capitalist system and replace it with a socialist system.

Speaking for the artists and writers a delegate put the position of POB (Poder Obrero – Workers Power) calling for the renationalisation of the mines and the gas and oil, but under workers control which the program of the COB does not raise. He said that the unfinished revolution in Bolivia could not rely on the support of the anti-neoliberal governments who had just met at Monterrey, or the WSF, because Bolivia was not facing neo-liberalism. The enemy was the capitalist system and the drive of imperialism and its lackey Mesa government to rob Bolivia of its gas. The answer was to create a popular assembly of the workers, peasants and rank and file military to prepare for an insurrection and not a Constituent Assembly which was an example of parliamentary cretinism.

The POB comrades speech was in part echoed by the regional bodies of the COB – the CODs or local workers’ confederations of Cochabamba, La Paz, Oruro, Santa Cruz, Potosi, Beni, Huyuni and Montero. The government of Mesa was rejected. The gas law was rejected and the demand raised for gas to be under national control. War was declared against all the imperialist multinationals. The COB had to begin educating the masses for the national mobilisation. The CODs would provide the leadership along with the COB national executive to unite the forces to bring down the government and put in place a government of the COB representing the workers, peasants and rank and file military.

The resolutions passed ended with the demand that all the sectors declare an emergency, and organise within 20 days for an indefinite general strike to demand a 3% salary rise for all government workers, and a new monthly minimum wage of $820 up from $55.

From General Strike to Workers Power

It is clear to the people that Mesa is continuing to act like Goni as the open US agent in Bolivia. His class interest is to do a deal on behalf of Bolivian capitalists with imperialism that allows some share of the gas to be retained in Bolivia and trickled down to pacify the poor. But imperialism will not allow enough gas wealth to be kept to feed the children of the poor. US imperialism can only survive by taking the maximum super-profits from the Bolivian gas. The Bolivian children will continue to beg on the streets in their thousands.

The rank and file of COB have rejected the truce with Mesa and are calling for a ‘workers’ and peasants’ government.’ But this means different things to different camps. On the right, the MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) led by Evo Morales who represents the coca growers in the tropical east of Bolivia believes that it is possible to mobilise the people to force the Bolivian state to strike a deal with imperialism for a larger share in the gas wealth than Mesa can deliver. This will enable the coca growers to cultivate their land in peace and prosperity.

That is why Morales has used Chile’s demand to share in the proceeds of the gas being piped across its territory to activate Bolivian national resentment of the defeat in the war with Chile in the late 19th century. Morales does not agree to the strike action on February 21 because he believes he can be elected president in Mesa’s place and win these concessions from imperialism. For him a ‘Workers’ and Peasants’ government’ is a left social democratic government led by the peasant bureaucracy rather than the national bourgeoisie. He fears that to go any further and allow workers and peasants to really take power would bring down an imperialist military coup on his head.

In the centre are the current leaders of COB such as Jaime Solares, and Filipe Quispe who represents the impoverished Quechua indian peasants of the altiplano. They are being pushed left by the mass rank and file militancy of COB and the grass roots revolutionaries who dominate the regional CODs. Since 1946 the COB has had in its program demands that originate in the Pulcayo Theses based on Trotsky’s transitional program for a workers’ and peasants’ state. Against this revolutionary program, Solares adopts the position of the labour bureaucracy that wants a return to the Popular Assembly of the 1970s, in the form of a Constituent Assembly that will write a new bourgeois constitution. Essentially the labour bureaucracy is petty bourgeois, and sees itself as a ‘middle class’ able to guide the Bolivian people to national independence. Its model is a petty bourgeois government that represents the national unity utopia of the popular or patriotic front, like that of 1952 and 1971 in Bolivia. They hope and pray that imperialism will come to terms with a radical popular front government and not smash it as has always happened in Latin America. Like all petty bourgeois politicians unless they are kicked aside by the revolutionary workers and peasants they will be used by the bosses to strangle and kill the revolution.

The camp followers of the labour bureaucrats are the centrist former Trotskyists of POR-Lora whose class compromises always betray the workers at the crucial hour. POR-Lora provides a left cover for the labour bureaucracy sowing illusions in workers that ‘democratic’ imperialism can make concessions to progressive anti-neo-liberal governments based on the unions in Latin America. The centrists are more dangerous than the open reformists as they speak about socialist revolution but act for the counter-revolution. For them a COB-led Popular Assembly would be a ‘Workers’ and Peasants’ Government’.

But their ‘Popular Assembly’ was and will always be a popular front joining workers and peasants to the petty bourgeois parties defending private property. Workers may call for a Constituent Assembly to defend bourgeois democracy against fascism or military dictatorships. But when workers are on the offensive, the Constituent Assembly is a trap which prevents them advancing to seize state power. The POR-Lora allowed the COB to join a popular front government in 1952 during a revolutionary upsurge, the first major post-war betrayal by Trotskyists of a workers’ revolution. Today they disarm workers who are mobilising to take power, by covering up these past betrayals and by refusing to call for a Workers’ and Peasants’ government based on workers and peasants councils and militias.

Revolutionary Party

On the revolutionary left the POB (Poder Obrero Bolivia) demands a return to the Pulcayo Theses, for the formation at the base of the COB and CODs of workers’ and peasants’ councils, for the splitting of the rank and file military from the officers, and for the formation of workers, peasants and soldiers militias to take power and form a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government. That is why the POB delegate at the COB meeting on the 22 January raised a number of transitional demands including the nationalisation of industry under workers control. This calls on workers to go beyond the COB demand for mere nationalisation of industry by the capitalist state. This is because even under a COB-led Constituent (Popular) Assembly the capitalist state can re-nationalise the oil and gas in the interests of imperialism to head off the revolution and prevent control over the profits from falling into the hands of workers. By raising the demand for workers control militant workers, peasants and youth are confronted with the necessity of going beyond capitalist nationalisation and of struggling to expropriate industry and land under workers and peasants control.

We see that an unlimited general strike beginning on February 21 can be the beginning of a victorious revolution. But for this to happen the rank and file workers have to take the Pulcayo theses and the POB program seriously. The program of the bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie and the centrist betrayers to limit a ‘Workers and Peasants government’ to a Constituent (Popular) Assembly has to be defeated. The best militants have to join the revolutionary vanguard and carry its program into the base of all the workers, peasants and youth organisations. As the Solares leadership attempts to contain the strike short of these objectives it will have to be replaced by a revolutionary leadership.

The demand for workers’ control must mean that workers and youth occupy and manage industry, factories, gas and oil, health and education. It means that peasants must occupy the government departments that administer the land. It means that the rank and file of the military must mutiny against the officers and take control of the military apparatus. Such occupations will create a situation of ‘dual power’, in which the workers power can only be defended by armed workers and peasants smashing bourgeois state power. The seizure of power by the workers and peasants must be organised centrally as a Workers’s and Peasant’s Government based on workers’ and peasants’ councils and militias, and on the rank-and-file of the armed forces who come over to the revolution. A Workers’ and Peasants’ State in Bolivia will survive only if the workers of Latin America intervene to prevent the US from mobilising the state forces of its Latin American client states to smash the revolution.

For an indefinite general strike to bring down Mesa and to impose a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government!

Call on the coca growers of the tropical east of Bolivia around Cochabamba and Chapare break with Morale’s parliamentary cretinism and join the COB plan for a general strike!

Call on Bolivian workers and peasants to elect delegates to the Popular Assembly that are prepared to take power in the name of the workers and peasants organisations!

Build workers’ and peasants’ militias and for the rank and file of the military to take control of the state repressive apparatus!

Stop the chauvinist call for war with Chile over control of the gas pipeline!

Call on Chilean, Brazilian and Argentinean workers to blockade all gas stolen by the imperialists from Bolivia!

For a continental anti-imperialist workers bloc opposed to imperialism and to the anti-neoliberal WSF false international of Lula, Chavez and Castro!

For a new Bolshevik/Leninist International to lead the revolution in Latin America!

For a Socialist United States of Latin America!
From Class Struggle 54 Feb-March 04

France: Banning the Hijab (Islamic headscarf)

The issue of the French Government banning the Islamic headscarf has created a major debate around the world. It has shown that the left is very confused on this issue, with the majority supporting the imperialist state’s ban as a defence of secularism. Others like the IST (Socialist Workers in Aotearoa) go to the other extreme and oppose the ban on the hijab as a symbol of political opposition to the racist capitalist state. We reprint an exchange between a CWG supporter who opposes the ban for very different reasons, and a member of the Iraqi Workers’ Communist Party who supports the state ban.

Dear Comrade Fadhil,

I am writing to you in reply to your article about the hijab in France (see below). First let me say that I enjoy the works of the WCPI, and consider it to be the closest political organization to me in Iraq. I have some disagreements, and perhaps the future will allow us to talk about them on another day. For today I want to talk about one of these areas, which is the attitude towards Islam.

I believe that we are agreed on the basic areas. Islam is a reactionary phenomenon, which in the current epoch has absolutely no progressive aspects: it is completely and totally reactionary. It is a religion (like all others, if not more so) that is based on savagery, abuse of women, and the humiliation of all people. .

However, I disagree completely with the line that you have taken in your article.

We live in the age of Imperialism. Decadent capitalism in a state of decay that is so rotten the stench is overpowering. What role does France, as one of the leading imperialist states play on the world stage? The role of the oppressor! As Marxists our position must be based on the economic and socio-political analysis of a phenomenon, not on the rhetoric that a French nationalist might spout.

As Marxists we must stand for freedom of expression, freedom of religion as well as freedom from it. You are mixing up your priorities here. The right of the oppressed to opium is more important than the right of the state to imprison the addict. And what else is Islam but an addiction to an opiate?

Why are there so many North Africans in France anyway? Is it because North Africans are biologically predisposed to Southern Europe, or is it because Imperialism has destroyed these societies and economies? Who is the main enemy, comrade, Capitalism, or Islam? I believe that like so many other Iraqis you are so disgusted by Islam that you have a violent and almost overwhelming hatred of it, which leads you to prioritize Islam as the enemy. It is good to hate Islam. But you must not let that blind you to the realities here.

Arguing against the state’s right to imprison “drug abusers” is not the same as urging people to use cocaine Likewise defending the right of a person to wear anything, yes even a hijab, is not in contradiction to arguing against these reactionary items. It’s a basic issue of human rights, the rights to express oneself and one’s beliefs is a human right. –as long as these beliefs are not fascist in which case we call for physically exterminating the fascists. Even then we don’t rely on the state to “ban fascism”!

Capitalists and their governments are not interested in fighting Islam. Not in France and not in Washington nor in Tehran. Capitalism is interested in fighting workers. Today they choose racism and islamophobia to divide the workers of France. Tomorrow they will undoubtedly strike the next blow, then the next -always against the working class. It may be against the organizations of Marxists in France, it may be against the trade unions, but always- against the workers.

This attack comes with the pretext of defending secularism. Since when do Marxists side with the oppressor against the oppressed in defence of bourgeois secularism? This is the same bourgeois secularism that bombs Baghdad in order to liberate it. It is an icon that the French state hides behind. We do not worship Allah, but neither should we worship the secularism of the bourgeoisie!

You are against holding a wedding and a funeral at the same time in the same house. I agree. Don’t hold a wedding. Don’t hold a funeral. Just organize. Help defend the workers. Strengthen workers solidarity. Defend freedom of expression. The way out of the dreaded veil is not for a French gendarme to rip it off, it is for the working woman to rip it off and cast it away!


The debate on the Hijab.

By Fadhil Nadhim January 15, 04

The heat of debate concerning the issue of hijab and religious symbols in France has already reached Canada as well. In response to the French government’s decision to introduce a law banning conspicuous religious symbols in state schools and state institutions, Islamic groups such as Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) are seeking the support of social activists in Toronto to launch a demonstration against the move of the French government. In response to this attempt, Judy Rebick, one of Canada's most respected feminists and political commentators seems to be seated on the edge of two seats. Expressing her sympathy to CIC's anxiety, at the same time Judy raises other concerns regarding Saudi and Iranian laws which impose hijab on women. Judy goes on to say "I think if we are going to protest against a state forcing women not to wear the hijab we should also protest forcing women to wear the hijab." Unfortunately, in my mind, Judy’s opinion seems confused. It is like asking to hold a funeral and a wedding party at the same time in the same house. The root of this confusion is the misunderstanding of the philosophy behind the hijab.

Two critical misunderstandings have forced Judy to give up the right seat. First, she thinks that hijab is part of Islamic cultural values that should be respected. Second, she distinguishes political Islam in power and without power.

The Islamic veil is not culture. It has been a political construction. Not all members of a particular community want to wear the hijab. In many cases not all members of a family wear hijab, and this is because hijab represents a political stand, and not all members of a family share the same political view.

These days, hijab operates as a political uniform. It is a symbol of a political philosophy. Among adult members of communities and families those who are not concerned about politics also do not care about hijab although they might have fundamentalist religious relatives. But those who are concerned about politics and social developments and pursue their goal though an Islamic outlook do wear hijab. Cultural symbols are usually carried by ordinary people. However, in the case of the hijab, ordinary people do not bother with it. On the contrary, if one asks any veiled women they will most likely find that this woman has a strong viewpoint on political issues.

The Islamic Code dress for "political Muslim women" is a means to convey a message to the public. By this means they are stating: "I reject secular values of Western societies: the civil rights that Westerners are enjoying has not been achieved by progressive social movements - they have been given by states to corrupt their citizens. What John Stuart Mill, Jean Jacque Rousseau and other Western political thinkers have said are corrupting human society." Veiled women are reinforcing patriarchal views of Islam and saying "I believe women are the source of corruption. In order to reduce the degree of corruption in society, I have taken a responsible position and have tried to cover the feminine features of my body". Hijab has been chosen by many adult women to express these differences with secular women.

Many people do not see the mission of hijab, therefore they are not able to see the values and goals that Islamic states and Islamic groups share. All Islamic groups, in power and without power, should be examined based on their fundamental philosophy. They, for example, preach Islamic values and Koranic law. According to those values and laws, Muslims are superior to non-Muslims. Men are superior to women. Punishing those who disobey Koran laws, including murder, as espoused by some, is a fundamental duty of “true” Muslims.

In practice, all Islamic tendencies implement these Islamic laws and values to some degree, depending on their degree of access to social and political power. For example, in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, northern Nigeria, the Sudan, etc., where Islamists have all the political power, discrimination and violence against non-Muslims, women, children, and flogging, torture, execution, stoning, etc., of citizens are praised as services to God.

In Western and North American countries, however, the power of Islamists is mostly limited to the inner life of their families and private institutions. As a result, they are unable to play a determining role in our societal life. In such cases members of their families and their fellow Muslims are the target of their values. For example, abusing women, forcing their wives and daughters to cover themselves in the Islamic veil, depriving them of basic activities such as sports activities, imposing forced marriages on the young, and so on, are the values they proudly practice in Western societies. In Islamic schools of Toronto, sexual-apartheid is as systematically practiced as in Saudi Arabia and Iran. Have any doubts? Ask any Imam or Mullah how he would, for example, react if he found out his daughter loved a Jewish, Christian or Atheist man. Or simply visit an Islamic school in your neighborhood. I think Judy has not seen the communality between Islamic states and their organizations abroad therefore she is unable to take a clear position.

Regarding the issue of hijab, secularists must have a clear position. One cannot, as I said, organize a funeral and a wedding party at the same time in the same place. Either we are supporting Islamism or we are for secularism. Those who support hijab for women in western countries would boost oppression against women in two ways. First of all many young women living in Canada do not want to follow Islamic traditions; they reject forced marriage; they want to enjoy freedom of dress, to socialize with others freely and to explore their sexual desires. These are great sins according to the Islamic philosophy. In fact many females in western countries have been the victim of honor killings by their male relatives. Providing any support for Islamic groups or Islamic values will empower the anti-women, and patriarchal forces in our society.

Second, supporting Islamists will decelerate the effort of those women who are fighting against stoning and honor killing and forced Islamic dress code. When the media shows that a prominent feminist such as Judy Rebick is supporting Islamic Code dress in Western countries, it will give the upper-hand and boost the moral of Ayatollahs to unleash their virtual police forces on women.

The issue of hijab today is totally a political issue. It has divided the society into two sharp camps: secularist and Islamist. Unfortunately our secular forces in the western country are so confused that they cannot make up their mind. Instead the Right Wing French government has taken the lead on this issue. Although under the leadership of a Right Wing government, any degree of set back of political Islam will ease the struggle of women under Islamic states and groups around the world. Further, from a secular point of view banning hijab in public schools and state institutions is not enough. Hijab and Islamic schooling for children under 16 in society, even in private institutions, should be banned.

From Class Struggle 54  Feb-March 04

Aotearoa: New Employment Relations Reforms

The ERA (Employment Relations Act) is a failure in the eyes of both union and bosses. It failed to rectify the damage done to unions by the Employment Contracts Act of 1991 which decimated the unions. But it was also an irritant to employers who saw it as a shift back towards union domination of the economy. The new reform Bill has revived these antagonisms on both sides. But is it really such a big deal? Class Struggle does its analysis of the Reform Bill and puts the case for workers taking the law into their own hands.

ERA weak

The Government is making some minor changes to the Employment Relations Act (ERA) to strengthen the role of unions. The ERA was designed to restore a balance to industrial relations after the ECA had almost destroyed the unions. Labour’s Blairite approach is to make the unions ‘partners’ with business so as to regulate the labour force and encourage increased labour productivity. But to do that unions have to first get coverage of workers. The ERA failed to give the unions sufficient strength to significantly increase their bargaining power with business. Bosses could refuse to agree to collective agreements and workers did not see the advantages of joining unions. After 3 years, union membership has recovered slightly from being around 18% of the workforce to about 20%. But today only 12% of workers in private industry are unionised compared with 50% in the public sector.

The CTU lobbied Government to improve conditions for unions. They wanted to make it harder for bosses to avoid participating in MECAS (multi-employer collective agreements), to promote collective bargaining, to make the good faith requirements stronger so bosses could not ignore them, to protect vulnerable workers when businesses are sold and to stop free-loading by non-members. The Government took these issues on board:

The Changes

  • Fines up to $10,000 if employers do not act in ‘good faith’
  • Vulnerable workers get more protections when businesses are sold
  • Employers could be fined if they pass union-negotiated wages and conditions to non-union workers
  • If MECAS (Multi employer agreements) are sought, employers must attend at least one meeting
  • A new system of non-binding 3rd party facilitation when parties can't reach a settlement,
  • If the facilitation fails and a collective agreement can't be reached, a settlement could be imposed by the Employment Relations Authority
  • Labour Dept inspectors investigate complaints over equal pay

Bosses’ offensive

The employers are objecting to the changes in the Bill. While Labour Minister Margaret Wilson says that stronger unions will actually contribute to economic growth in the whole country, bosses want weaker unions and more control over their worksites. They strongly opposed the ERA when it was first promoted in 2000 and Labour made concessions to them. Even Roger Kerr of the Business Round Table admits that the original ERA was “watered down” and “remained enterprise focused”. Despite Kerr’s plain talking, most capitalists running businesses and employing workers, still hate the ERA and don’t want a bar of the new Bill. They miss the freedom of the ECA to hire and fire at will. So they are running a scare campaign to frighten Labour into submission.

The bosses’ offensive against the Bill has been coordinated by the New Zealand Herald. The ‘business section’ of NZH has run a campaign against the Bill. It reported 3 surveys they conducted of small, medium and large businesses on their negative reactions to the Bill. The alarmist reactions are captured in the headlines in the series of anti-worker stories called ‘Working to Rules’. One headline said ‘More rights, less work’, another ‘Recipe for Ruin’ and another ‘Businesses must rise in Protest”.

For bosses, the most unpopular aspect of the reforms is strengthening the provisions for MECAS. They say that large groups of organised workers across several enterprises is a move back towards national awards and a restriction to right of each employer to hire and fire. They also object to the provisions which protect workers when businesses are sold or transferred. Neither do bosses like the restrictions on freeloading. They claim mediation is not working for them. They object to being forced into an Agreement by the Employment Relations Authority.

Prominent critic Simon Carlaw of Business New Zealand says the Bill is anti-enterprise and anti-growth. The penalty for breaching good faith is too draconian and signals a return to compulsory arbitration and loss of freedom for bosses. Transfer of provisions is yet another compliance cost. Stopping bosses advising workers not to join unions restricts their freedom of speech! Kerr ups the anti, claiming the new Bill aims to return to compulsory unionism, to compulsory arbitration and that multi employer contracts will create class warfare, which will be news to that rabid socialist Margaret Wilson.

Trade unions respond

Trade union leaders predicted businesses would complain and generate panic like they did over the original ERA. So how are unionists reacting to the hysteria? Although the Bill refers to the “inherent inequality of power” in the workplace the unions are treading softly on this argument. Instead, unionists are appealing to the ‘good business sense’ of the bosses. Bill Andersen, president of the National Distribution Union, in an article headlined “Only bad bosses need fear law change”, claimed that if a business was run on a sound investment plan, was informed by market research and had good labour relations, then the new law would be great for them. This echoes former union leader Ken Douglas who stated some years back that the bosses need unions to get the most productivity from workers! That’s presumably why on retirement from the union job Douglas offered his services to business.

Margaret Wilson defended her Bill by restating her philosophy that workers and bosses have interests in common - suggesting that good profits and improved working conditions go together. She appeals to bosses by arguing that the Bill will benefit business. She sees that improved working conditions for workers will be good for business and anyway, good employers are already practicing good faith in their dealings with their workers. She points out that the Bill brings NZ in line with the working conditions in most OECD countries. One lone CEO responding to a NZH survey thought the negative reactions to the Bill were alarmist, and said the worker protections matched those in OECD countries.

Carol Beaumont, CTU secretary, echoes Wilson's arguments, claiming “good employers won’t worry”. According to CTU president Ross Wilson, the CTU position is that unions will work with businesses to manage the economy by helping plan and organise work, to increase productivity and develop economic strategies. The Douglas line lives!

Class Struggle perspective

Will these arguments change bosses minds? While Labour and the unions are taking a soft line stressing partnership and mutual benefits, business is facing an increasingly tough environment with a high dollar and uncertain world economy. The unions are weak, facing further damage in the year ahead unless we can rebuild them on the basis of a strong rank and file. On top of that National has revived its fortunes on the back of a racist anti-Maori campaign. But its new leader Don Brash has a rightwing neo-liberal economic package lined up to follow the racist campaign. We predict that the bosses’ offensive will force another backdown from Labour on the reforms in this Bill that are most helpful to workers.

We say that no labour law can protect workers, unless workers organize and defend these rights on the job. The weakness of the current ERA is that it gave unions more rights on paper – we called it a ‘charter for union bureaucrats’ when it was passed – but it could not strengthen t he rank and file base of the unions. On top of that the Bill has nasty anti-secondary strike provisions that have to be broken if any strike is going to succeed. It cannot stop employers from using scabs as the waterfront dispute in 2002 showed. We also object to union negotiators being able to sign off on deals without the members ratifying them. Workers are the union, not the union bureaucrats.

Despite its inherent failings we support rank and file union campaigns to get the Bill strengthened. So long as workers think that Labour is on their side we have to demand that they prove it. That way we show that Labour’s Blairite policies are really the old new right policies in drag. After the new right smashed the unions, the Blairites came along with a sedative. Today it’s the Labour Minister and her cronies in the union leadership that dose us with the ‘partnership’ class A drug. Let’s demand the things we know that neither Labour nor the union bureaucrats can deliver without pissing off the bosses. In doing so we prove to workers yet again that the only rights they can be sure of are the ones they fought to win and fight to defend!

For the right to strike! For secondary strikes! For national awards! For the closed shop! 

From Class Struggle 54 Feb-March 04

Aotearoa: Socialise the Foreshore and Seabed!

The public uproar over the Foreshore and Seabed raises fundamental questions about what workers’ need as opposed to bosses’ greed. We are for the socialisation of the F&S in the interests of Maori and the vast majority of New Zealanders who are workers. We are for the socialisation of all industry under workers control. A good example is forestry. We need to socialise not only the trees but the mills and all the assets of the forestry corporations. Here we explain why only socialisation of the F&S can meet the needs of Maori and of all workers, and why this socialist project should be applied to other key industries in a project to socialize Aotearoa!

Labour tries to claim that the F&S is not a Treaty issue yet many Maori see it as part of honouring the Treaty. The problem is that the Treaty cannot be honoured by capitalism. The Treaty was always a fraud used to legitimate the expropriation of Maori land and resources. It is still a fraud because international capitalism far from giving it back has to steal more land and resources to restore its profits. This drive by imperialism to solve its crisis at the expense of workers and peasants worldwide is what is behind both National and Labour’s ‘Maori policy’.

Brash and Bush

Brash claims Maori are privileged by special treatment when Maori and Pakeha are ‘one people’ by virtue of the signing of the Treaty. Of course this was never the reality during the history of expropriation and oppression in the 164 years that followed. But Brash says the settlements must stop because legitimate Maori grievances have been redressed and now Maori are becoming privileged This is a ‘Maori policy’ in the interests of the US imperialism that trampled on the native Amerindians, the Filipinos, the Mexicans, and many others, and now re-colonises the world, imprisoning ‘illegal combatants’ and killing ‘terrorists’ who stand up to it. Brash and Bush are blood brothers in the extinguishment of the rights of all peoples subject to US imperialism. Brash’s position is to return the F&S to the ‘status quo’ which means Crown property. This allows the Crown to sell rights to the exploitation of the F&S to all comers competing in the world market according to the ‘free market’ ideology of the neo-liberals.

Labour’s social-democratic Maori policy by contrast draws on the notions of ‘indigenous rights’ established in the 1970s to make citizenship universal. Social-democracy is premised on the view of the equal rights of citizens to be eligible to vote and form a majority and reform capitalism. It holds to the concept of partnership and the ‘honouring’ of the Treaty principles to include historically marginalised Maori. But this does not allow any real economic redress for the colonial past. The Treaty process is one of token settlements between a new Maori bourgeoisie taking responsibility for ‘iwi’ and the crown acting for capital in general which is prepared to pay to remove any legal claims on the Crown for past grievances. Instead of improving the class position of most Maori workers, it increases the gaps between pakeha and Maori and divides Maori so that a Maori bourgeoisie exploits Maori workers.

Labour’s ‘public domain’

Yet even this settlement is an intolerable interference in the market for neo-liberals. That is why they condemn Labour’s solution as an attack on the rights of all New Zealanders to get free access to the F&S in the hope of mobilising racist attitudes towards Maori against the Government’s settlement. This is a dispute between neo-liberals and social democrats on how best to manage capitalism. For Labour buying off the Maori corporate class who want to make commercial claims to the resources of the F&S is hardly going to bankrupt international capitalism. And the price may be worth it if it sidetracks the protests into interminable legal channels like the land protests of the 1980s. Labour’s proposal of ‘public domain’ is such a deal. It will probably give Maori iwi corporates customary title and some limited preference over commercial use. Any stronger title would be to give Maori capitalists a commercial advantage over others and represent a barrier to the free movement of capital investment so beloved of the US globalisers. So Labour’s solution is an attempt at compromise between on the one hand the legitimate claims of Maori to uninterrupted customary use of the F&S to keep them quiet, and on the other the claims of international capital to have access to exploiting the resources of the F&S to keep making big profits.

But Labour’s ‘public domain’ is just another name for Crown or nationalised property. Some on the left claim that nationalisating the F&S is better than risking the F&S falling in private hands. This is because they mistake state property for non-capitalist or post-capitalist property. Nationalization is state property, but the property of the capitalist state, which acts on behalf of all (collective) capitalists. Today this means the biggest MNCs and their World Bank and IMF bankers who dominate states policies in every country. It’s true that nationalisation would remove private property titles (so-called ‘fee simple’) to F&S. The F&S could not then be traded as shares and there would be no immediate transfer of ownership into private hands. But this would not prevent the state from making joint ventures with corporates for profit under ‘free trade’ rules such as GATS which allows the privatization of these profits. And as with all nationalised property there is no class barrier to its legal privatization except the working class. That is why workers have to go beyond capitalist nationalisation to demand socialisation under workers control of the F&S and all capitalist property.

From nationalization to socialisation

Socialisation means expropriating the property of capitalists, individual or collective, so that becomes the property of collective labour. This can only be achieved by means of workers’ occupations and control. These occupations result from workers uniting and organising in democratic committees or councils. In the case of the F&S this would enable Maori, overwhelmingly members of the working class, to impose a new customary right, the collective right to use the resources of the S&F for iwi and hapu, and in the process to open up the F&S to the use of all workers on the basis of their needs rather than that of capitalist profit. Socialisation means that the F&S would be effectively expropriated to become workers property and pose the question of expropriating other capitalist property. Why? Because while the socialisation of the F&S would serve some workers needs, other branches of industry are much more important to the survival and reproduction of the whole working class. Forestry is a good example.

When workers occupy strategic sites on the F&S and make it the property of collective labour they will see the need to occupy and expropriate other key branches of capitalist industry such as forestry and manufacturing. They will then have to defend this property against the capitalist state and its forces of law and order dedicated to protecting the bosses’ property. The only way to do this is to combine all workers committees or councils into a social base for a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government that can expropriate all capitalist property and defend socialised workers’ property. Aotearoa would then become a socialist republic as part of a socialist united states of the Pacific. 

From Class Struggle 54 February-March 04

Bolivia: Long live the revolutionary anti-imperialist struggle of the workers and peasants


The recent uprising in Bolivia in the last months has taken the world’s centre stage. The workers and peasants rose up in their tens of thousands and forced the hated President ‘Goni’ to flee to Miami. But the revolution was stopped halfway by the leaders of the peasants’ and workers organizations’ who made deals with Goni’s replacement, another US stooge, Mesa. The leaflet below was a joint statement published during the recent uprising in Bolivia before the resignation of Goni in October? It raises the central question of the necessity for a nationwide workers’ congress to prepare for a Workers’ and Peasant’s Government. These demands were reprinted in the paper of our fraternal group Poder Obrero of Bolivia at the height of the struggle in September.

Long live the heroic revolutionary and anti-imperialist struggle of the Bolivian workers and peasants!

Long live the general strike with road blockages across all the nation!

For a workers’ and peasants’ government of the United National Leadership, the COB and of all the workers’ and peasants’ organizations that take part in it, based on the workers’ and peasants’ militia and on the self-organization of the workers and the people!

Out with imperialism and its blood sucking monopolies from Bolivia and the whole Latin America!

On Saturday 20th of September, the land of Bolivia was once again stained with workers’ and peasants’ blood. The army and police assassins, sent by the US lackey Sánchez de Lozada, irrupted with blood and fire in the localities of Warisata and Sorata, where workers and peasants were maintaining a total blockade of roads against the selling of the natural gas resources to the US, for the right to produce coca and for land for the peasants. Six more workers and peasants martyrs fell murdered, among them, a woman and her eight year old daughter; dozens were wounded, imprisoned or missing.

This new massacre of Sánchez de Lozada’s -"Goni" - government and the military-backeed regime, under a new agreement with Yankee imperialism, the gas and oil barons and the officer caste of the army, was perpetrated the day after tens of thousands of workers and peasants went into the streets of La Paz, Cochabamba, Oruro and the main cities of the country, extending the peasants’ road blocks against the extraordinary plundering of Bolivian gas proposed by imperialism, the oil monopolies and the government. Once more the Bolivian workers and people rose up shouting the slogans "the gas is ours and not of the foreigners"; "With the gas and the coca, the future of our sons". “Out with the gringos!"

But the massacre of Warisata did not demoralise the heroic Bolivian workers and peasants. On the contrary, while taking care of their martyrs, they prepared for battle again. In Warisata, they organized a workers’ and peasants’ militia to defend their lives from the assassin army. In Sorata, the people rose up, set fire to the prefecture, the hotels, the police stations, and the city is in the hands of the insurgent workers and peasants, who have declared themselves in a "state of civil war". Thousands of workers and peasants in the province of Omasuyos - where Warisata and Sorata are - met on September 22 in a general assembly, raising the demands "Death to Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada", "Civil war, civil war", and "the gas is not for sale", and demanding the head of the ministers of Government and of Defense and that of Goni himself.

The indefinite road blocks are now all over the country, leaving La Paz surrounded and forcing the closure of the markets in the capital city. The CSUTCB (Peasants’ Central trade-union) declared a national mourning for 30 days with road blockages and peasants’ strike, along with a peasants’ ‘state of siege’ -which means that the soldiers and the police officers cannot safely patrol the peasants’ communities. At the same time, it has called on the workers and peasants "to occupy the sub-prefectures, municipal offices, and military posts, so that the Wipala (the flag of the indigenous people) is the only national flag raised".

Today, the workers and the peasants of Bolivia have forced their leaderships - the COB, Quispe, Morales - to set up a United National Leadership of Mobilisations, and to call for a general road blockage and for the indefinite general strike from September 29th, in the defense of the gas, for their particular demands which includes the resignation of the murderous government of Goni and his military regime.

So, the workers and the peasants have risen up again, breaking the truce made last February with the government by the leadership of the COB, Quispe and Evo Morales - members of the World Social Forum -, a truce that aborted the revolutionary uprising when the workers and peasants were mobilising against Goni’s government and his military forces, faced the army in the streets, threatening to divide it and causing divisions among the officers, and beginning the Fourth Bolivian revolution, under the battle cry "Rifles, shrapnel, Bolivia will not be silenced".

Down with Sánchez de Lozada! Throw the imperialist pirates out of Bolivia!

Long live the heroic struggle and the general strike of our Bolivian brothers and sisters, who show the way for all the Latin American workers and exploited people, breaking the truces and the pacts imposed by the reformist leaderships grouped in the World Social Forum, and confronting the imperialist plunderers and their lackey governments and regimes!

Long live "the war for the gas" of Bolivian workers and peasants!

Fight Yankee imperialism, the imperialist oil monopolies, and the servile government that wants to steal the gas resources!

After having plundered the mineral riches of Bolivia for decades, after having taken the oil, after having left the country exhausted and in ruins, and the workers and peasants in misery, this gang of robbers who are the imperialist oil monopolies, Sánchez de Lozada and the Bolivian bourgeoisie, are ready to perpetrate a new extraordinary robbery against the people. The prize is very valuable: Bolivia has enormous gas reserves, valued at US$80 billion (when the GDP of this country is only US$8 billion), while the vast majority of the population has to use firewood to cook, and suffers cold without heating. The government has decreed the selling of the natural gas to an imperialist consortium (Pacific LNG, a consortium of YPF Repsol, British Gas and British Petroleum), which will build a gas pipeline to the Chilean port of Patillos and from there ship the gas to the United States. This business would make US$1.3 billion dollars of profit per year for 20 years (i.e., US$26 billion dollars!) for this monopoly and Bolivia will get only US$70 million dollars per year in royalties (i.e., US$1.4 billion in 20 years!

The same Yankee butchers and their greedy corporations that invaded and occupied Iraq to get its oil, today want to steal the Bolivian workers’ and peasants’ gas! How true was the cry of our Bolivian class brothers and sisters when, during the mobilizations against the war of Iraq, they shouted: "To Iraq for its oil, to Kollasuyu (indigenous name for Bolivia) for its gas; Gringos out of Iraq!”

Today, before such blatant robbery, the exemplary struggle of the workers and the peasants of Bolivia shows once more that they are not willing to be plundered. They had already shown this in 2000 in Cochabamba when they rose up against the imperialist monopolies that wanted to steal their water, and against the government of Banzer; and by opposing with a civil war the imperialist policy of eradication of the coca; and then last February again rising up against Goni’s generalised attack on wages ordered by the IMF, almost overthrowing the regime and forcing it to retreat. It proves once more that the working class - with its allies the poor peasants - is the only class that does not have any interest in serving imperialism, and for that reason, it is the only class capable of carrying the struggle against imperialism to the end, liberating the oppressed nation from its yoke.

Down with Sánchez de Lozada and the military-backed regime!

Throw imperialism and its plundering monopolies out of Bolivia!

For a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government of the United National Leadership, the COB and all the workers’ and peasants’ organizations that are part of it, based on workers’ and peasants’ militia and on the independent organizations of the workers and the poor people!

This gang of thieves and assassins, massacrers of the people and plunderers of the nation which is imperialism, its insatiable monopolies, the lackey bourgeoisie and the government of Goni, wants to steal the wealth of the people by means of blood and fire, to continue to condemn the people to hunger and misery and reduce Bolivia to a slave colony.

The only way to prevent this happening, to stop the plundering of gas and the natural resources of the country, and to win bread, work, land, living wages, and the right to cultivate coca, is to open up a victorious revolution with the general strike and road blockages, taking control of the factories, the banks, the transport, extending and centralizing the workers’ and peasants’ armed militias, destroying the West Point caste of army officers, overthrowing the murderous lackey government of Goni, smashing every pillar of the regime and expelling imperialism and its monopolies. And then imposing, on these ruins, a government of the United National Leadership, the COB and all the workers’ and peasants’ organizations comprising it, based on workers’ and peasants’ militia and on the independent organizations of the workers and the poor people.

To carry this decisive combat forward, the United National Leadership, the COB and all the workers’ and peasants’ organizations that take part in it must fight for the dissolution and disarmament of the police and the army and the construction and centralization of workers’ and peasants’ armed militia. This is the only way to destroy the army – a key pillar of the military-backed regime and of the state –at the same time calling upon the rank and file soldiers and the subordinate officers of the army –sons of workers and peasants –to rebel against the West Point caste of sepoy officers, to disarm and destroy it, and to organize themselves in committees of armed soldiers, to coordinate with the workers’ and peasants’ organizations and to join the general strike, putting their weapons in the service of the workers’ and peasants’ militia.

By overthrowing Goni and the military-backed regime and imposing a workers’ and peasants’ government, that breaks with imperialism and expropriates the expropriators; by re-nationalizing without payment and under workers’ control the gas, the oil, the mines, and all the privatized enterprises; by expropriating imperialism in general and breaking with the IMF, the World Bank and the IDB (International Development Bank); by imposing the free production and marketing of the coca, the provision of agricultural machinery, the canceling of the debts and the granting of cheap credit to the ruined small producers of the country, through expropriating and nationalising the banks under workers’ control and the creation of a single official bank; by nationalizing foreign trade; and by taking every measure to guarantee work, decent wages, health and education for the people; only in this way will the Bolivian working class and the peasants be able to finish with the catastrophe, the plundering and the colonial oppression caused by imperialism, the national bourgeoisie and the lackey government.

No new truce or pact with Goni and the gang of plunderers of the people!

For a Workers’ and Peasants’ National Congress of rank and file mandated delegates, democratically elected, to organize the decisive combat and to prepare the insurrection to defeat Goni and the military regime!

After the massacre in Warisata, and facing the indefinite general strike, the government of Sánchez de Lozada once more is trying to negotiate sector by sector, trying "to dialogue" with those organizations that have particular demands, such as the peasants led by Quispe, and ignoring others such as the COB who demand his resignation. For his part, Evo Morales declared that the coca producers of Chapare would not join the road blockages before October 10th because "the executive secretary of the COB was premature in calling for a national mobilization", and he criticised Quispe for demanding that the representatives of the government go to Warisata to negotiate, saying that Quispe and the government "are gambling with the situation of the country".

No new truce or pact with the murderous government of Goni and the gang of plunderers of the people!

It is necessary to stop the unity created in the struggle of the workers and the peasants from being broken by the reformist leaderships, and from allowing the energy, the struggle and the blood of the workers and the peasants to be abused by these leaders to establish new truces and pacts with the bosses, and, in this way, to save the government and its military backers. The only way forward for the masses is to create the widest direct democracy, with a workers’ and peasants’ national Congress of rank and file delegates who are democratically elected, mandated and recallable, in the COB and all the workers’ and peasants organizations that are part of the United National Leadership.

At the same time, in every village, every city, in every region, it is necessary to set up strike committees with elected delegates of all the organizations in struggle which become a true workers’ and peasants’ power. This National Congress, a true workers’ and peasants’ parliament - opposed to the power of the exploiters - would become an organization respected by all the masses in struggle, and with an enormous authority to guarantee the construction of workers’ and peasants’ militias, to advance workers’ and peasants’ control over production and distribution, to carry out the expropriation and the nationalisation of the banks under workers’ control, and the formation of a single official bank which releases small ruined producers from debt and provides cheap credit, as well as the nationalization of the foreign trade, and to fulfill these tasks by organising a triumphant insurrection to overthrow Goni and the military-backed regime and then to put in place a workers’ and peasants’ government that the bureaucratic leaderships of the trade unions, Stalinism and social democracy cannot do themselves.

The Bolivian workers and peasants show the way forward for the exploited of the whole Continent to break the collaborators truces and agreements and to confront imperialism and its client regimes!

The fight of the workers and peasants of Bolivia today is the undisputed advance guard of the struggle of the Latin American working class and exploited people to break the truces and pacts that the reformist leaders have imposed on them, tying their hands in the face of imperialism, the employers and the exploiting and repressive client regimes.

This is the road confronting the Bolivian masses today, the one that Fidel Castro imposes, along with the union bureaucracies of the continent, the leaders of the organizations the peasant’ unions, and all the reformist leaders of the World Social Forum. One of deals and class collaboration with pro-imperialistic popular fronts like that of Lula in Brazil, of colonel Gutiérrez in Ecuador, and President Lagos in Chile; or with the supposed "anti-neoliberal" governments like the one of Kirchner in Argentina, all servile lackeys of Bush and the IMF; or with the bourgeois nationalist governments, like the one of Chávez in Venezuela, which use the masses’ fight to blackmail concessions from imperialism, only to turn on the workers as soon as they threaten to erupt into revolution.

The road opened up by the Bolivian workers and peasants, is that of a fight to the end to bring down the government of Goni (Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada) and the military-backed regime – unlike that of FARC in Colombia, which refuses to expropriate a single factory or patch of earth in the territories it controls, and is today preparing to sign a new pact with the murderous government of Uribe and with the blessing of Lula, with the blood of thousand of farmers and city workers killed by the "death squads".

For that reason, this fight of the workers and peasants must open the way to the ‘fourth’ Bolivian revolution, defeating the reformist leaders, overthrowing the government and destroying every pillar of the military-backed regime, including the officer corps, trained in assassination at West Point, and put in place a workers’ and farmers’ government based on the independent, armed organisations of the masses. This fight is inseparable from the struggle of the Ecuadorian workers and peasants to break the truce and the policy of class collaboration of their leaders and regain the revolution that they began in 1997. It is inseparable from the fight of the Argentine revolution, today retreating under the treachery of the union and piquetero bureaucracy and the reformist leaders, to raise once more its head; from that of the Peruvian workers to throw out the truces and agreements which the CGTP and the stalinists have made with Toledo; with that of Brazilian workers and farmers to break the links of the (PT) Workers Party with the popular front government of Lula and Alencar –which imposes the plans of the IMF, beating workers and massacreing farmers –and with the leaders of the CUT (Central Workers Union) and the MST (landless peasants’ movement), and to begin a political fight of masses against the government of Lula, the lackey of Bush.

Therefore, the insurgency in Bolivia today shows that the exploited people of Latin America face a life and death choice: either the victorious workers’ and peasants’ socialist revolution; or new and terrible defeats as the nations of the continent are turned into colonies and protectorates facing unlimited plunder and destruction. For that reason, the workers and peasants uprising in Bolivia depends on the successful struggles of workers for socialist revolution in each country of the continent, overthrowing the bourgeoisie, destroying its armed forces, and imposing workers and peasants governments based on the independent, armed organisations of the workers and the peasants that put an end to the imperialistic yoke and capitalist exploitation, and go on to form a Federation of Workers’ and Peasants’ Republics of Latin America.

But this historical task will only be advanced if the Latin American proletariat unites with its important ally, the North American working class, and in particular with its most exploited and oppressed fractions, the millions of black and latino workers, exploited and treated like outcasts by the imperialistic bourgeoisie, discriminated against by the US labour aristocracy and the union bureaucracy of the AFL-CIO, who therefore suffer the worst working conditions, unemployment, poverty, as well as persecution and harassment by the police. By uniting with the North American workers of Latino origin, the working class of Central America and South America can build unity with the North American working class to weaken imperialism, to advance the revolution in the United States and assure the victory of the continental and world-wide proletariat in the struggle for socialism. But this will only be possible if the working class and the exploited of all the Americas, the United States but also of Latin America, overcome the dominance of the North American labour aristocracy and defeat the AFL-CIO union bureaucracy, the labour lieutenants of Bush and the Yankee imperialist bourgeoisie.

All out support and solidarity with the heroic fight of our class brothers and sisters of Bolivia!

The Bolivian workers and farmers are the leading edge of the fight against imperialism and its client governments in Latin America. They show how all the workers and exploited people of the continent can break the truces and agreements that the reformist leaders have made that tie the hands of the workers before imperialism, the capitalists and their lackey regimes and repressive austerity governments, allowing these regimes to remain and go on the offensive like today in Bolivia. We cannot allow the masses to continue being massacred by the servant Goni and his killer army! Their fight is our fight! Today we must all be Bolivian!

We call on all the workers, student organizations and parties that claim to be for the workers and against imperialism, to immediately act to win support for and solidarity with our class brothers and sisters of Bolivia, with mobilizations in the streets, picketing of Bolivian embassies, and the widest unity in action.

End the massacre and repression!

Long live the struggle of the Bolivian workers and peasants!

Down with the government of Sanchez de Lozada, assassin and exploiter of the Bolivian people!

Fight imperialism in Latin America!

The international Trotskyists that signed this declaration and who fight for the revolutionary program raised here are committed to initiate actions and to participate in united actions in all every way possible to build support for and solidarity with the heroic fight of our Bolivian brothers and sisters.

At the same time, we call on the workers and peasants of the continent, to demand that the leadership of all the political organizations in Latin America who speak in name of the working class and the poor peasants, and of the unions (like the CTA and the organizations of unemployed people of Argentina; the CUT and the MST of Brazil; the CUT of Chile; the CGTP of Peru; the CONAIE and the unions of Ecuador; the PIT-CNT of Uruguay, etc) that they immediately break all agreements with the client governments, and that they break all ties that subordinate these organizations to the employer's associations. We call on the labour movement to immediately create a continental workers’ and peasants’ movement in support and solidarity with the heroic revolutionary and anti-imperialist fight of the Bolivian workers and peasants, against the imperialism that destroys the people of Latin America and against the governments that are their servants.

We must build a Trotskyist and internationalist revolutionary party, to equip the heroic Bolivian proletariat with the leadership it needs and deserves, and this is the task of the healthy forces of Trotskyist internationalists!

The Bolivian workers and peasants have given us great examples of heroism, of readiness to fight, and of revolutionary will. If they have yet not managed to open the way to the Fourth Bolivian Revolution, it is because of the leaders that they have in front of them, try at each step to prevent it. This life and death situation makes it more urgent and necessary than ever to provide the Bolivian proletariat with a new leadership –a revolutionary, Trotskyist and internationalist party, able to prevent them from sacrificing their forces and having their struggle expropriated once more by the truces, pacts, and class collaborationist alliances with "progressive patrons" and "the patriotic military".

The program of Trotskyism, of Permanent Revolution - defended in the 1940s by the POR (Revolutionary Workers Party) the Bolivian section of the IV International, became flesh and blood when the Theses of Pulacayo were adopted by the Bolivian working class in 1946 as its revolutionary action program - is now more correct than ever and has passed the test of the class struggle. Unfortunately, Pabloism and the revisionism of the IV International became a political influence on the POR and its leadership, preventing it from playing a revolutionary role in the revolution of 1952 and in the revolutionary events of the Bolivian masses in the second half of 20th century.

Therefore, though Trotskyism has passed the test, the currents that call themselves Trotskyist have not. In the three previous incomplete revolutions – in 1952, in 1971 and 1985 – these currents demonstrated all their impotence, renouncing the Theses of Pulacayo, that is to say, the fight for the armament of the masses and the strategy of building Soviets (or independent armed workers and peasants organisations), and instead subordinated themselves to the bureaucracy of the COB, if not directly to bourgeois nationalistic currents like the National Revolutionary Movement (MNR) or to allies in "the patriotic military". These are the Pabloite currents that have deprived the Bolivian working class of the revolutionary leadership that it deserved: a revolutionary internationalist Trotskyist party.

Today, at the threshold of a new revolution, the forces that will bring that party into existence are being formed: they are the advanced workers who denounce the leaders who betrayed the Theses of Pulacayo, and who have taken on the task of rebuilding the COB, so that it becomes a proletarian organisation that can lead the peasants and all the exploited people towards a victorious insurrection overthrowing the government and its military backers. They are those workers, the exploited peasants and the heroic women workers who are the driving force of the workers and peasants militias, the assemblies, the strike committees, and the blockades. These, along with the honest Trotskyist militants who oppose the capitulations and betrayals of the General Staffs of the renegade currents of Trotskyism, and who seek a revolutionary way out, are the emerging forces that will create the revolutionary party.

But this party will only be able to make and complete the Bolivian revolution if it joins in the struggle to regroup the forces of a healthy internationalist and principled Trotskyism, if it learns the lessons forged by the acute events of revolution and counterrevolution world-wide, if it adopts the Theses of Pulacayo as a revolutionary internationalist program that sees Bolivia as a link in the Latin American and world-wide revolution, and if it fights against the reformist leaders in Bolivia - the union bureaucracy of the COB, Quispe,, Morales –as an indissoluble part of the wider fight against that new counter-revolutionary international the World Social Forum, and against the renegade Trotskyists that support the WSF.

Only in this way, mounting an internationalist struggle on the ruins of the revisionist and liquidationist currents that usurp the flags of Trotskyism in Bolivia, can the revolutionary internationalist Trotskyist party that the Bolivian working class needs and deserves be built as a section of the world-wide party of the socialist revolution. It is the task of the revolutionary internationalists, on the threshold of the Fourth Bolivian Revolution, to urgently collaborate to regroup our forces by campaigning for an International Conference of principled Trotskyists and internationalist revolutionary workers organizations.

October 12 of 2003. –
Lucha Marxista (Peru)
Groupe Bolchevik (France)
Communist Workers’ Group (New Zealand)
Grupo Obrero Internacionalista-CI (Chile)
Liga Obrera Internacialista-CI (Argentina)

From Class Struggle 53 November 93-January 04

For Permanent Revolution in Iraq

As the US-led occupation faces increasing problems the international left is debating how to help free Iraq from imperialism. The position of the CWG and its allies overseas is that the international labour movement should give aid to workers’ organisations resisting the US, because it is the Iraqi working class which alone has the ability to defeat the occupation. Many on the left disagree, and are developing political illusions in the Islamist and ex-Baathist forces which represent the Iraqi capitalist classes. The argument for aid to working class Iraqi organisations is complicated by the fact that the most important Iraqi revolutionary group, the Worker Communist Party of Iraq, is pursuing some very bad policies. In this exchange from an international e-list, a CWG member answers an attack on the WCPI, and puts the argument for critical support for this group, and for permanent revolution in Iraq.
Dear Comrade S,

This is the part of the debate where I bow out, mainly owing to my utter contempt for the Worker Communist Party of Iraq. I remember well, a few years ago, when I was introduced to them. I was newer (obviously) at the practice and theory of Marxism and revolution and
extremely eager to get my hands on, as you say, genuine non first world socialist thinking. I discovered that Mansoor Hekmat (the recently deceased icon of the WCPI) was actually a Londoner; the WCPI (which "I" must always be qualified; Iran been used by these folks as
well), despite what your friend says, have no real base in these countries. This is not entirely their fault, under both Saddam and the Mullahs respectively there has been no opening to function. (PS the CPI have been refused membership in the ruling council, so they aren't part of it, though they applied and were rejected).

Nonetheless, they operate in a fantasy world. They also are among the worst sort of sectarians and exemplify why we must discard the notion of a central command somewhere in an 'international' party or amalgam of parties. In Canada, just before the bombing of Iraq, they took to the streets with slogans calling for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. On International Women’s Day, they took to the streets with calls for the overthrow of the Islamic republic. The Canadian and North American states do not need such encouragement—who the Hell is that demand targeting? It only means that yet more 'revolutionaries' in this county are doing the bidding of the imperialists, sorry to say.

After the 9-11 attacks, both WCPI's demanded that they wanted to join the anti-war coalitions. Their price was that we elevate denunciations of Islam and call for secular socialist state formations to the top of our demands, along with our calls for peaceful solutions based on international law, and this was in a coalition that included religious groups, moderate Muslim forces and the like.

Considering many of them as individuals have been tortured at the hands of the Mullahs or at the hands of Saddam, I accept their human disposition to have a visceral contempt for anything that smacks of going easy on Saddam Hussein. However, they also are currently more
concerned with making certain Baathists are 'removed from their influence' over all spheres of Iraqi life, schools, police, etc.

Fighting the imperialist occupation to them is secondary, or at least not clearly primary. However, as Trotsky said (since you like him) if 'democratic Britain attacked 'fascist' Brazil, we would side with Brazil'. Ironically, though I'm no Trot, I'm upholding that basic principle
and the Hekmatian bunch are simply opportunistically doing whatever the flavour of the month is. I'm not interested in anything they have to say, their political experience has been one that makes the Islamists in Iraq currently look far more principled-- not an easy task at all… They are not the genuine voice of anything but themselves.

Dear Comrade M,

I think your comments on the Worker Communist Party and the situation in Iraq contain some serious factual errors. I'm not for a moment suggesting that these inaccuracies are deliberate, but I think they are worth challenging, partly because they reflect what I think are problems with your general political perspective.

You say that I was wrong to claim that the Iraqi Communist Party went into the Governing Council, but the party itself has confirmed joining the Council. Here is an excerpt from an interview an Iraqi Communist Party central committee member gave in July, and which the party has posted on its official website:
"After properly and carefully evaluating the grave situation in the aftermath of war, which is truly a national catastrophe, the Party leadership decided to accept the invitation to join the Governing Council....It must be emphasised that the party's aim has not changed: to ensure that the Iraqi people exercise their right to determine their political future with their own free will, and to bring about a speedy end to occupation, restoring Iraq's national sovereignty and independence, and building a free and democratic federal Iraq. This will be the main criterion for evaluating and judging the Governing Council." 
[full text at

I think your claim that the Worker Communist Party does not have a 'real base' in Iraq is also untrue. A Communist Workers Group of New Zealand member recently traveled to the Middle East to meet some members of the WCPI. Unfortunately he couldn't get into Iraq, but he did have a chance to talk to Iraqi communists (most of them pro-Governing Council and thus hostile to the WCPI) who had recently spent time in the country. He got the strong impression that the WCPI was a force to be reckoned with on the ground in Iraq.

When I put this comrade's information together with the wealth of information on the WCPI's website and the reports that have made it to left news sites like indymedia and in some cases even into the bourgeois media, then I find it hard not to believe that the WCPI as well as the Organisation for Women's Freedom in Iraq and the Unemployed Workers' Union are not organisations of some size playing a significant role in the Iraqi left and workers' movement.

Consider some of these reports: "A Forum Organized by the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq at General Railway Company in Baghdad. On September 9, 2003, the OWFI organized a forum at the General Railway Company in Baghdad, which has over 11,000 employees all over Iraq. Two hundred employees attended the forum, which was chaired by Yanar Muhammad, the head of the OWFI, and Layla Muhammad, the activist who returned from Australia to join the struggle of women in Iraq..."

"Hundreds of toilers from al-Huda suburb in Baghdad join the Worker-communist Party of Iraq. Al-Huda is a residential suburb in the center of Baghdad where hundreds of homeless families live. The inhabitants of this area are deprived of the basic requirements of making a living. On top of that they are pressured by the USA administration and local police to evict the area. Two weeks ago, the police forces attacked people in this area and arrested 8 of them.

They went to all parties and institutions seeking their release, with no yield. When the Organisation of Baghdad of the Worker- communist Party of Iraq learned about their situation, it decided to involve and solve their problem. The CWP Iraq was able to release the

"The Worker-communist Party of Iraq’s Forces Clash with a Crime Gang in Baghdad. On September 19, 2003, while patrolling the neighborhood where the office of the Worker Communist Party of Iraq is located on Al-Rashid Street in Baghdad, the Party’s forces clashed with an armed gang. While shooting at the security guards protecting the governmental buildings in the area and injuring one man, the gang intended to loot shops and governmental buildings. Under heavy fire, the gang was forced to escape the area..."

"The Workers’ Council of the North Oil Company Leads a Protest against Police misconduct. On September 21, 2003, the workers of the North Oil Company in Kirkuk organised a protest demonstration against the abusive conduct of the Police toward the company’s employees.

.Muhammad Raadi Oraybi, an activist from the Northern Oil Company’s workers council, was detained for 6 hours for standing against the despotic practices of the police. Raadi’s arrest sparked off a protest action in which more 400 workers took part..." From the English-language section of the WCPI's site (

More recently the WCPI has been involved in an important strike by armed workers at the Brickworks at Nahrawhan near Baghdad.

You try to use Trotsky's hypothetical war between Brazil and Britain to criticise the WCPI's call for the overthrow of the Iranian theocracy and (in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq) the regime of Saddam, but nothing Trotsky said can be used to justify political support for either regime.

Using a hypothetical extreme example to challenge his audience, Trotsky said that in the event of a war between near-fascist Brazil and bourgeois democratic Britain workers around the world should prefer the military victory of Brazil, because Brazil was a semi-colonial country whose government was ultimately a product of imperialism, Britain was the world's number one imperialist power, and a victory for Brazil would weaken imperialism.

But Trotsky never for a moment suggested that workers anywhere should give a modicum of political support to the government of Brazil, or to any other national bourgeois government or party anywhere in the semi-colonial world. Trotsky said that workers should aim their guns
in the same direction as the Brazilian bourgeoisie so that they could defeat this bourgeoisie in the process of defeating imperialism. Defeating the imperialists and defeating the local capitalists were not two distinct 'stages' - they were telescoped into a single task.

Trotsky's whole politics was built on his theory of combined and uneven development, which had as one of its corollaries the argument that capitalist classes in the colonial and semi-colonial world were too weak to stand up to imperialism. Colonies and semi-colonies could only be broken out of the circuit of global capitalism by socialist revolution. Brazil vs Britain was a hypothetical case, but Trotsky and his followers put his argument into practice during both the Russian and Spanish revolutions.

In 1917, for instance, Trotsky refused to give any political support to the national bourgeois Kerensky government established after the February revolution (before the war Russia was regarded by the Bolsheviks as an imperialist country, but by 1917 it was surely effectively a semi-colony of the West).

When White Russians in the service of imperialism attempted a coup to get rid of Kerensky's government the Bolsheviks gave Kerensky military support -pointed their guns in the same direction as the Kerensky government's - without abandoning their call for the overthrow of this government by the workers. Only months after crushing the White coup they crushed Kerensky's government and put the soviets into power.

I'm sorry to go on at such length about Trotsky and 1917, but I think it's important that Trotsky's strategy of permanent revolution is distinguished from the strategy which you appear to support and which he rejected, which is that of political support for and a political alliance with national bourgeois parties and governments.

The WCPI is right to call for the overthrow of the Islamic regime in Iran by the workers of Iran. The WCPI is talking, after all, about a brutal dictatorship that condemns half its population to a medieval existence as third-class citizens, and has locked up or simply executed tens of thousands of leftists and trade unionists. Who would want to support the continued existence of such a regime? Even the Stalinist left, which was deeply implicated in the coming to power of the Islamists, now calls for the overthrow of the regime.

Third Worldist politics have led you to adopt a position which no leftist organisation inside the real Third World country of Iran would today touch with a barge pole. The situation is no different when we turn to Iraq. In my experience, the Iraqis living in Auckland simultaneously wanted to overthrow Saddam and opposed the US invasion. There was no contradiction here – it was well-understood that US imperialism had put Saddam into power in the first place, and had kept him in power by collaborating with him to defeat the workers' uprisings that believe it or not saw soviets established in parts of Iraq after the First Gulf War. It was also understood that Saddam's rotting regime was completely incapable of stopping the US - only the mobilisation of the people who despised Saddam could defeat the US.

Where the WCPI goes wrong is in refusing to give any support at all to Third World capitalists resisting imperialism militarily. I quote from a recent CWG leaflet:
"The Worker-Communist Party condemns Islamist and Baathist fighters against the US as no better than the US itself. But by taking this attitude, the Party turns its back on tens of thousands of young workers who fight under the leadership of local capitalists. If US troops are shooting into a crowd, the people in the crowd have the right to shoot back, even if they happen to be Muslims. If a US chopper is shooting up an Iraqi village, an Iraqi has the right to
shoot it down, even if he belongs to the Baath Party. The rank and file of the resistance has to be won from its rotten leadership, not condemned for the policies of that leadership.

The bankruptcy of the Worker Communist Party’s position was shown after the US invasion in March – the Party refused to support the resistance to invasion and, desperate for some sort of ‘solution’, ended up calling on the UN to intervene to save Iraq."

I agree with you that the WCPI has a too-extreme attitude to Muslim groups in the anti-war movement, but I think you are quite wrong when you argue that the flaws in the WCPI's position 'exemplify why we must discard the notion of a central command somewhere in an 'international' party or amalgam of parties'. On the contrary, the WCPI is a screaming example of the need for an international party which can bring comrades from different regions
together to analyse and criticise each other's positions.

The WCPI is a prisoner of Iraqi history: it was formed as a reaction to the stagist politics of the Stalinist Iraqi Communist Party, but its founders never got a handle on the reasons for the political degeneracy of the ICP. In the 1970s they saw the ICP (encouraged by Moscow, Castro etc) go into government with Saddam, and were rightly disgusted. But they wrongly concluded that the ICP's Stalinist politics of political alliances with the national bourgeoisie was the
logical consequence of Leninism and 1917, and so they threw Bolshevism out with the bathwater and went for ultra-leftism instead.

Because of the isolation of Iraq and the immense power of the ICP-Moscow propaganda machine, the WCPI's founders never had access to the original rejection of stagism which Lenin and Trotsky made in 1917. They equated Stalinism and Bolshevism. The WCPI went into exile in Western countries where the self-described Trotskyist groups had mostly long since abandoned the theory of permanent revolution (it's no coincidence the WCPI is polemicising against a Cliffite group). It's not surprising the exiles didn't see much to alter their impression of Bolshevism.

But the WCPI's mistakes could potentially have been avoided by the criticism of groups that were still loyal to the politics of 1917. Now the WCPI's membership in the global anti-war movement provides the ideal opportunity for us to simultaneously work with them and criticise them in an effort to improve their politics. That's the idea behind our attempt to get international solidarity with the WCPI and the organisations it has founded going.

At the end of the day, the WCPI and the work it is doing in Iraq are surely important enough to deserve solidarity and assistance, even if the arguments get nowhere. It is surely perverse for a socialist of your obvious sincerity to have friendly words for Mugabe and Mahathir but 'utter contempt' for a socialist organisation on the frontline of the resistance to US imperialism.

From Class Struggle 53 November 03/January 04