Issue 258 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published December 2001 Copyright © Socialist Review
A war on all fronts
This war is American imperialism clothed in some of its brightest colours. I am sitting in Taiwan in the office of a local foundation that says it promotes peace, and the director is explaining to me why Taiwan ought to support the war in Afghanistan. Something about supporting US foreign involvement and protecting Taiwan from a unification-minded China.
Fortunately, socialists here know that opposing the war and opposing unification with China go on the same leaflet. It is a matter of class. It is foreign imperialism that Taiwanese workers have fought against for over 100 years--the Japanese, the Chinese, the Americans. As Taiwanese revolutionary Su Beng puts it, we have been fighting imperialism our whole lives.
To fight against Japanese colonialism in the first half of the 20th century, the Taiwanese Socialist Party arose advocating a workers' democracy on an independent Taiwan. After the Second World War, on the eve of Japanese defeat, Taiwanese workers rose up and seized control of the island only to be slaughtered by Chinese troops with US guns in US tanks.
The 50 years of foreign rule that has ensued on the island has resulted in political and economic structures that serve a ruling class supported by the US. With the threat of mainland China taking over their capital they holler in two different ways: on the one side are those who call for independence and look to the US to protect their interests. On the other side are those who seek cooperation with mainland China and hope that unification will bring them greater benefits. Both exploit the Taiwanese people and workers.
Where does the US really stand? With some of its biggest businesses invested in Taiwan and 90 percent of its computers coming from the island, it has a specific interest in patrolling the strait when China threatens. But as soon as the exercises have ended the US cuddles right back up to China.
At the Asian Pacific Economic Conference last month Jiang and Bush stood on stage vowing to fight terrorism together. Not a word was said about China's refusal to allow Taiwan to attend the conference. Moreover, China said it would only pledge its support to aid the US war against terrorism if the US stopped supporting Taiwan. Although it later retracted the condition, Washington has in fact hardened its stance on Taiwan in order to appease Beijing.
Socialists here oppose US imperialism. At an anti-war rally last month flyers pictured Bush and Blair and the word 'Wanted' written across their faces. We oppose the war in Afghanistan and we oppose US involvement in the Taiwan strait. But workers know that this does not mean unification with China. In fact, our struggle here against US imperialism is the same struggle against China and for Taiwanese independence.
Capitalist society stands waist deep in the blood of innocent Afghans, and propaganda is pumping out of every bourgeois newspaper and news programme. As dissent is clamped down on, and democratic liberties are slashed by Blunkett, it would be easy to fall into pessimism. However, the magnificent anti-war demonstrations that have taken place in London shine as a beacon of hope that maybe something good can come of this madness. Blair should be worried about this, for as he struts the world stage preaching his imperialist doctrine at home, people are begining to question not just the war but the imperialist actions of the US and Europe that created it. People I had previously considered right wing are more than willing to listen to socialist arguments against the war, and the links between the policies that created the awful acts of terror in the US and privatisation at home.
Socialists have the opportunity to build opposition to the war a mass movement against capitalism. The first priority is to do everything neccessary to stop the war (after all, America was not defeated in Vietnam but at home), but the movement should not just stop there. More and more people are being drawn into politics for the first time, and are looking for answers about the terrible state of the world. We on the revolutionary left must give them the answers and the solution--the overthrow of the capitalist state and interests that lie behind its democratic facade. It will not be easy, but the anti-war movement could be the first step on the road to building a better world--one without war, famine, mass death and racism, where humanity can be truly free from all chains.
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The people of Afghanistan do not accept the domination of the Northern Alliance! The Northern Alliance is composed of some bands who did show their real criminal and inhuman nature when they were ruling Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996.
The retreat of the terrorist Taliban from Kabul is a positive development, but the entering of the rapist and looter NA into the city is nothing but dreadful and shocking news for about 2 million residents of Kabul whose wounds of the years 1992-96 have not healed yet. Thousands of people who fled Kabul during the past two months were saying that they feared the coming to power of the NA in Kabul much more than being scared by the US bombing.
The Taliban and Al Qaida will be eliminated, but the existence of the NA as a military force would shatter the joyful dream of the majority for an Afghanistan free from the odious chains of barbaric Taliban. The NA will horribly intensify the ethnic and religious conflicts, and will never refrain from fanning the fire of another brutal and endless civil war in order to remain in power. The terrible news of looting and massacre speaks for itself.
Though the NA has learned how to pose sometimes before the west as 'democratic' and even a supporter of women's rights, in fact they have not at all changed, as a leopard cannot change its spots. We would like to emphatically ask the UN to send its effective peacekeeping force into the country before the NA can repeat the unforgettable crimes they committed in the said years. The UN should withdraw its recognition to the so called Islamic government headed by Rabbani and help the establishment of a broad-based government based on democratic values.
Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan
Chris Harman (November SR) describes how the anti-capitalist movement is taking to the streets against the war. This is certainly the case in Valencia, Spain. The anti-war demo on 27 October saw 7,000 people march behind a banner which read 'Valencia against the war. Another world is possible!'
The anti-war coalition includes the United Left (Communist), Greens, the CCOO and CGT (trade unions), the Global Resistance Movement, Attac, Catalan nationalists, drop the debt campaigners, anti-Nato campaigners, etc. At an anti-war meeting in the university given by a young activist who'd been in Genoa, 38 people signed up to form an anti-war committee on campus.
Far from halting anti-globalisation activity, the war, and the need to organise against it, is bringing the movement here into contact with ever more people fed up with the hypocrisy of our governments.
The arguments in favour of this war are few and far between. The argument most often used against its opponents is this: 'What is the alternative?' The truth, is that there are alternatives and time and again we have heard them presented in debates and on the media.
What we need though is an agreed response--a manifesto, if you like. An argument not only against this war, but in favour of an alternative solution and then we need people to sign up to it, the great and the good (as well of course as the general public).
The next time some warmongering radio dj harangues a poor phone-in victim who is trying to argue against this conflict, calling on them to provide an alternative, they need to be able to say. 'Well actually I have one and you know what--lots of able and intelligent people agree with me.'
I would very much like to work with people on pulling together a manifesto for peace
A short time ago the people of this nation were asked by the government to be less emotional when considering the current 'war' and its consequences. I proceeded to comply with the government's request and began to think rationally, my mind free from the confusing effects of emotion. While my new found rational mind was in complete control I listened to Mr Blair's latest speech. How confused was I! I could not remember what Mr Blair was asking me to do. It seems that I have 'forgotten' how I 'felt watching the planes fly into the trade towers', I have forgotten how I felt on hearing 'those answerphone messages', and quite absent from my memory is any recollection of 'imagining how mothers told children they were about to die'.
As a result of Mr Blair's promptings I then realised that I had forgotten just why we were fighting this 'war' and have begun to use all the powers of my rational mind to oppose these emotional warmongers. My greatest regret is that my rational mind was not powerful enough to enable me to detect this inconsistency earlier.
Clare Fermont writes (November SR) that governments are using the events of 11 September to attack civil liberties and opposition movements. Paul Foot also points out that we are at war, apparently, to root out the horror of New York. The hidden agenda must, logic dictates, be access to the enormous reserves (and consequent profits) of oil and gas in central Asia. The demonstration of brute force is also an extremely influential lesson to the leaders of Middle East oil states.
The British establishment has always been paranoid about the mass of the British people. The reaction of the Blair government is entirely consistent and bears a disturbing resemblance to the reaction of the government in the years after Waterloo (1815).
They were paranoid about 'Jacobins' rather than 'terrorists' but the result was the Corn Laws, the Spa Fields Riot, suspension of Habeas Corpus, the March of Blanketeers and the notorious Six Acts. In that time the people were legally powerless politically. Today many people, including some MPs, feel themselves to be so--many not even voting.
The sequel to the Spa Fields Riot is instructive. Rioters were put on trial for high treason on the testimony of paid Home Office spies, acquitted by a jury and released. The government suspended the Habeas Corpus acts and the climax came with the Peterloo Massacre and the rushing of the Six Acts through parliament. The Seditious Meetings Acts amounted to the suspension of the right to free speech. Another act restricted freedom of the press.
The disturbing parallels with present day events are obvious. The good news is that the British people would not stand for it at all. One great result was the Great Reform Bill of 1832 and the rise of the Chartist movement.
The Argentinian elections took place on 14 October, during one of the country's worst economic crises. The country is in its third year of recession and the economic situation is proving unbearable for the masses and the working class.
The result of the election shows that people reject the present government and its economy minister, Domingo Cavallo. Almost 50 percent of those who voted spoiled their ballot paper, others gave a 'blank vote' (a vote for none of the candidates) and there were a huge number of abstentions--all the more remarkable because in Argentina voting is compulsory.
The defeat suffered by the official candidates of de la Rúacuteá's party left the government in a very weak position. For the first time in the history of the country the president has to rule with a minority in both chambers (the lower chamber and the Senate). In order to govern, de la Rúacuteá will have to rely on the support of the Peronist party--which obtained a very good result in the election--and the trade union bureaucracy.
Apart from the 'anger vote'--the name given to spoiled ballot papers--the other phenomenon in the elections is the result obtained by the left. The left parties which stood in the election were Izquierda Unida (a coalition between the Communist Party and the MST), Partido Obrero and Partido de Trabajadores por el Socialismo (PTS). In addition, the ex-Trotskyist MP Luis Zamora stood in the capital along with a handful of supporters. In total they received 1 million votes throughout the country, making it one of the best results for a long time.
While Izquierda Unida and Luis Zamora presented themselves as the parliamentary left, with the aim of winning an electorate disappointed with the centre-left Alliance, the PTS focused its political activity during the electoral campaign on denouncing the imperialist aggression against Afghanistan, and presented a working class and anti-capitalist alternative. Among the PTS candidates were factory shop stewards, public sector workers and young people. The PTS received more than 100,000 votes and stood candidates in seven electoral districts, which represents 10 percent of the vote obtained by the left.
The crisis of the parties of the capitalist regime show that there is a need for a revolutionary and internationalist party of the working class. The PTS efforts are focused on the task of building such a party with the aim of building an alliance of the working class and the masses that will make possible the revolution and the building of socialism in Argentina.
Partido de Trabajadors por el Socialismo
Mike Gonzalez appears to have got his wires crossed in his piece on Bartoleme de las Casas (November SR). He mentions a claim that 'Aristotle argued, after all, that it was just to force the barbarians into the Christian fold, for their own good of course?'
As Aristotle lived from 384 to 322 BC, ie more than three centuries before the Christian era, it seems unlikely, not only that he ever argued any such thing, but that anybody else could have suggested that he had.