Issue 259 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published January 2002 Copyright © Socialist Review
The year opened with the world looking a much more unstable place than 12 months ago. It is embroiled in war, threatened with deep recession, and the contradictions caused by the reach of global capital are more acute than ever. The choices facing millions of people around the world are increasingly between the destruction of lives and livelihoods or collective action in order to change the world for the better.
The terrible consequences of the 'war against terrorism' are all too evident. India and Pakistan have come to the brink of war over Kashmir--a war which would involve two sides armed with nuclear weapons. The killing of Palestinians continued as part of the escalation of war there by Israel and with the virtual imprisonment of Yasser Arafat. The bombing of Afghanistan continued with the toll of civilian casualties now higher than the number of victims of 11 September--and no sign that the original war aim of capturing Osama bin Laden is any closer.
Two effects of the war so far are to greatly increase the confidence of the US to intervene elsewhere, and to raise the confidence of those powers who want to take advantage of the war to settle their own scores locally. Despite the triumphalism of the war's supporters, who claim that action has so far resulted in success, there is every sign that things will get worse before they get better.
The US and the other major western powers want their economic dominance to be matched by military power. They want to control every part of the world and have fixed their sights on a number of 'rogue states' which supposedly do not conform to the values of the west. Interventions in Iraq and Somalia have been widely canvassed. But they are meeting widespread resistance even from some of the European powers, who recognise that a full-scale attack on Iraq will not be as easy as taking on Afghanistan. The Bush regime and its allies in Tony Blair's government will, however, be determined to carry on its attacks.
Destruction does not just take military forms. Economic devastation has long afflicted the poorest countries in the world--now job losses and welfare cuts are on the cards in the richest countries as the recession bites. But our rulers are not getting it all their own way. Everywhere there is opposition to their priorities. In recent months we have seen mass protest at the war--and that opposition is not going away. It feeds in to the anti-capitalist protest movement which has continued to grow. The demonstrations in Brussels just before Xmas exceeded all expectations--and they showed that police brutality in Genoa and the events of 11 September have not dampened the spirit of resistance which inspired Seattle over two years ago.
Most importantly, events in Argentina give hope to those of us fighting global capital that rank and file resistance is possible. Working people too showed that they are not prepared to pay the cost of economic collapse. Their protests crowned a year of demonstrations in Quebec, Gothenburg, Genoa and Brussels, but went much further, toppling governments and frightening the world's ruling classes. The year 2001 saw the stakes raised--this year the choices facing working people will be even more stark. The strength of the ruling class has been much in evidence, but so too has resistance. We have to beat back the attacks on workers, the poor and dispossessed. But we also need to stress that until we build an alternative to the horrors of capitalism, these attacks will continue. The fight against capitalism and the fight for socialism go hand in hand.