FIFTEENTH OF FEBRUARY marks an historic day of anti-war protest worldwide. Never before have we seen a mass anti-war movement of this character before a war even starts. It is even bigger than the movement against the Vietnam War in its early stages.
Anti-war movement in Britain.
Special anti-war issue of The Socialist.
The Socialist Party in England and Wales (CWI) has published a special anti-war issue of its weekly paper, The Socialist, to sell at the enormous protest in London this coming weekend.
With the demonstration expected to be well over half a million strong, if not a million or more, it is vital a clear socialist alternative to war, imperialism and capitalism is available.
The Socialist provides an unparalleled analysis and commentary.
CWI online is pleased to publish The Socialist editorial, ’After 15 February – Where do we go from here?’ as well as two other in-depth articles, ’Fighting for a system change’ and ’What is socialism?’.
After the 15 February mass demo
Where do we go from here?
This powerful movement has already terrified and partly checked the actions of the warmongers. However, US and British imperialism’s vital interests, their desperate lust for oil, is propelling them to embark on this bloody war despite the huge level of opposition.
To build a movement that can derail Bush and Blair’s ’war on terror’ we need to link the case against the war to all the other issues that make working-class people angry against New Labour and the capitalist system they uphold. If a war starts, it is only through sustained, organised mass civil disobedience – winning the support of wide sections of the working-class in Britain, including stoppages and strikes – that it could be stopped.
Following on from the successful demonstrations we believe that the anti-war movement has to be built at local level especially, in order to mobilise and co-ordinate such a level of protest.
Parallels have been drawn with the effective civil disobedience of the anti-poll tax movement, which mobilised 18 million non-payers, defeated the hated tax and eventually brought down Margaret Thatcher.
The effectiveness of the anti-poll tax campaign was not just in the huge demonstrations that were organised but also in the fact that there were over a thousand local anti-poll tax unions.
It was in particular the local anti-poll tax unions that maintained the propaganda and information drive that built up the 18 million non-payers and also defended those threatened with jailings, organised resistance to bailiffs and warrant sales and organised action in the workplaces to defend non-payers.
Through such consistent activity there developed an unshakeable confidence to continue the struggle until the tax was beaten.
WHILST THERE are differences between the anti-poll tax struggle and the anti-war campaign, certain lessons need to be drawn and acted upon now.
Democratically convened anti-war coalitions need to be established in as many localities as possible. Once established, we believe these local groups should establish links with local trade unions, colleges, NUS and community organisations to build a network of anti-war activists that can organise sustained civil disobedience in the workplace, in the colleges and in the communities.
In particular we believe some of the most effective action will be organised through the workplaces. To achieve this, anti-war activists need to link the case against the war with other issues, like the increasing numbers of working people taking strike action against New Labour’s cuts, low pay and privatisation.
The firefighters have concluded through their strike action that New Labour can find billions for its bloody war but not millions for their justified claim. Thousands of firefighters are refusing to pay any more money from their union subs to the Labour Party. Also, railworkers in Motherwell, Scotland have made a brave stand in refusing to transport war materials.
With the increasing numbers of working people taking strike action against New Labour’s cuts, low pay and privatisation, there should be a linking together of all these campaigns into an anti-war and anti-government movement.
New Labour is a party of big business, which spends its time protecting the profits of British Petroleum and their ilk, whilst destroying public services and attacking the living conditions of working-class people.
We need to get rid of New Labour and establish a new mass party that stands up for workers’ interests.
The Socialist Party is fighting for such a party – a party that brings together the anti-war movement, trade unionists, anti-privatisation campaigners and the anti-capitalist movement to achieve the goal of system change that could abolish the threat of war and terror once and for all.
Fighting for system change
WAR AND conflict are rooted in the exploitative and oppressive nature of capitalism and imperialism. Capitalism is a social and economic system which exists to perpetuate the control of the ruling class in its drive for profits. These profits come from the exploitation of those who produce the wealth in society and run the service industries – the working-class.
Because workers only receive a portion of the value of what they produce in the form of wages, they cannot buy back all the goods produced. This means that the extension of the market can never keep pace with the expansion of production, causing periodic crises, stagnation and conflict between nation states.
Economic power is concentrated in the hands of a small minority whose priority is to defend their own profits and interests. The combined sales of the world’s richest 200 companies are greater than the combined GDP of all but ten nations on earth.
Through their political, economic and military domination of the globe, the most powerful imperialist countries practice policies of super-exploitation against the workers and poor of the neo-colonial word in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The globalisation of the world economy has speeded up and deepened this process over the last two decades.
Western economies, through their control of the world economy, determine what prices these countries buy and sell goods at on the world market. They are forced to buy consumer goods at inflated prices and sell raw materials for less than they are actually worth. This means super profits for Western companies.
On top of this, through institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the workers and poor of the neo-colonial world are suffocated by huge ’debts’. In 1999, the poorest countries in the world ’owed’ $2.5 trillion to the industrialised economies.
It is capitalism and imperialism that have created the conditions of poverty and exploitation which opens the way to conflict, wars and civil wars. A world in peace and stability is utopian as long as 1.2 billion people ’live’ on $1 or less a day and when more than half of the world’s poorest countries are embroiled in ongoing or incipient crises.
The situation is made worse by the policies of divide and rule which particularly US imperialism has used to maintain its control in the neo-colonial world.
Capitalism means violence, conflict and huge spending on military weapons. In the last century, 200 million people died in wars that were basically about profits, domination of world markets and the prestige of the big powers.
As a result of these conflicts, huge waves of refugees have swept across the globe – in the 1990s, 50 million people were forced to flee their homes in Africa.
The arms race means huge profits for big business as well. Since the end of World War Two, military spending has been approximately $1 trillion a year. The governments of India and Pakistan who between them have 350 million people living on less than $1 a day, have six times more soldiers than doctors.
System in crisis
IS IT possible to reform capitalism, to turn it into a more humane, caring and peaceful system? The Socialist Party supports any reforms that can be won under this system. We fight for higher wages, to improve working conditions, for better public services etc.
But capitalism is a system in crisis which cannot overcome its own contradictions. It is based on exploitation and oppression and the capitalist class will always seek to defend and extend their profits and interests by attacking the living standards of working people and the poor and through the use of military force when necessary.
Only through a revolutionary transformation of the way that society is organised and structured will it be possible to bring about an end to war, poverty, environmental destruction and all the problems that the profit system creates.
We have to fight for a different society; one that is based on the needs of the majority of humankind not on the profits, power and prestige of the tiny layer of capitalists and the politicians who represent them.
To do this we must mobilise millions across the planet in a struggle to overthrow capitalism and to create a socialist society worldwide. (See What is Socialism? page 7)
Over the last decade increasing numbers of young people have declared themselves to be ’anti-capitalist’. Hundreds of thousands have taken part in demonstrations from Seattle to Seville from Porto Alegre to Genoa.
For every young person who has actively participated in protests, hundreds of others identify with the idea that the existing order of things is unjust and needs to be changed.
Many anti-capitalists have become involved in the growing anti-war movement. Amongst the hundreds of thousands who have protested against war with Iraq, many are also drawing the conclusion that the system needs to be changed.
’SYSTEM CHANGE’ requires the building of a mass movement and one in which the working-class have a decisive role to play.
Because of their role in production, workers face common attacks from the capitalists which can only be defeated by collective action.
They have the power and strength to bring production and the economy to a halt and challenge the control of the capitalist class.
The massive 24-hour general strikes in Spain and Italy in 2002 showed graphically the potential power that workers have. Millions withdrew their labour, virtually closing the country down.
Strike action also lays the basis for the collective, democratic control and management of society which is essential for beginning the task of building a socialist alternative to the capitalist profit system.
Recently, there have been examples internationally of mass movements which have had the potential to challenge capitalism.
In Argentina at the end of 2001 and beginning of 2002, two weeks of mass protests forced the resignation of four presidents. In Serbia in 2000, a mass movement – the ’bulldozer revolution’ – involving action by the organised working-class, overthrew Slobodan Milosevic.
However, in both movements there was no clear idea about how to end the poverty, exploitation and repression of the existing system. Merely switching governments solved none of the problems which ordinary Serbs and Argentinians were experiencing.
As in Serbia and Argentina, working-class, young people and sections of the middle classes internationally will move into struggle when they feel that they have no choice but to fight back against the way that capitalism affects their lives and those of others around the globe. But they won’t all do so with the same ideas, attitudes and outlook.
There is a burning need internationally for mass, democratic parties that can play the role of uniting together, around a fighting, anti-capitalist programme, all those who want to struggle against the system and its effects; parties that can give a revolutionary, socialist lead and direction to the struggles that will inevitably develop in order to build a socialist alternative to war, poverty, oppression and the horrors of capitalism.
This is what the Socialist Party is campaigning for here and internationally through our sister organisations in the Committee for a Workers’ International (see page 9).
Join us in our fight to change the world.
THE FOLLOWING article is extracted from the chapter How would socialism work? in Socialism in the 21st Century by Hannah Sell.
What is socialism?
For 300 years or so of its existence capitalism has transformed the planet over and over again. Rail, electricity, the internal combustion engine, flight, space travel, telephones and electronic computers, the list is endless. The world economy is 17 times the size it was a century ago.
Despite this, all the technology developed by capitalism has not provided clean water for 1.2 billion people or food for the 841 million who are seriously malnourished. Capitalism is capable of spending billions on developing weaponry used to bomb the poor of Afghanistan and Iraq but cannot solve poverty, hunger or disease.
And capitalism is threatening the very future existence of the planet. Scientists predict that, as a result of global warming, sea levels are likely to rise up to one metre this century. This would devastate the inhabitants of the flood plains of Bangladesh and Egypt, and worldwide hundreds of millions of the very poor would be displaced.
Capitalism has enormously developed the productive forces but it is the blind forces of profiteering that are in the driving seat. Capitalism is incapable of fully harnessing the science and technology it has brought into being.
It is incapable of providing for the needs of humanity or of protecting our fragile planet. By contrast, a socialist society would be able to harness the enormous potential of human talent and technique in order to build a society and economy which could meet the needs of all.
It is not possible to create socialism in one country surrounded by a world capitalist market. Nonetheless, there is an enormous amount that could be achieved by a socialist government in the immediate period after it came to power, as part of a transition from capitalism to socialism.
A socialist economy would have to be a planned economy. In Britain this would involve bringing all of the big corporations which control around 80% of the economy into democratic, public ownership under working-class control.
Of course, it would not mean bringing small businesses, such as local shops, many of which are forced out of business by the multinationals, into public ownership.
Nor would it mean, as opponents of socialism claim, taking away personal ’private property’. On the contrary, socialists are in favour of everyone having the right to a decent home and the other conveniences of modern life.
Socialism would be a truly democratic society. Under capitalism most of the important decisions are not taken in Westminster or local council chambers but in the boardrooms of the big corporations. A socialist government would bring major industry into democratic public ownership.
It would be necessary to draw up a plan, involving the whole of society, of what industry needed to produce.
At every level, in communities and workplaces, committees would be set up and would elect representatives to regional and national government. Measures such as a shorter working week and decent, affordable childcare would enable everybody to participate in real decision-making about how best to run society.
A socialist government would ensure that no elected representatives received financial privileges as a result of their position but, instead lived the same lifestyle as those they represented.
At every level, elected representatives would be accountable and subject to instant recall. If the people who had elected them did not like what their representatives did, they could make them stand for immediate re-election and, if they wished, replace them with someone else.
Capitalism today has provided the tools which could enormously aid the genuine, democratic planning of the economy. We have the Internet, market research, supermarket loyalty cards that record the shopping habits of every customer and so on.
Big business uses this technology to find out what it can sell. We could use it rationally instead to find out what people need and want.
The general trend of capitalism, with its increasing monopolisation, is towards internal planning. Ford, for example, uses a huge Internet programme to procure the cheapest possible components worldwide. However, under capitalism this process will never be finished.
A blind system based on profit and competition will never be able to be planned beyond a certain limit. But a socialist government would strengthen and develop the methods of planning currently used to maximise profit and avoid taxes in order to plan society for the benefit of all.
Even on the basis of current production, measures could be taken to meet the needs of the majority. Every year capitalism spends $1 trillion worldwide on arms spending. This alone could provide $1,000 a year for every family on the planet.
Just 25% of the cost of George Bush’s Star Wars programme would provide clean drinking water for the billion people who are currently without it. A democratic, planned economy could develop production to much greater levels than is possible under capitalism.
There is no contradiction between developing technology and production and safeguarding the planet. What is needed if we are to save the world is long-term planning that would be able to develop alternative technologies that did not harm the environment.
This could only be achieved on the basis of democratic socialism. A democratically run planned economy would be able to take rational decisions on the basis of aiming to meet the needs of humanity.
It would decide what technology to develop and use, what food to produce and when and where to build, while taking into consideration the need to protect and repair our planet for future generations.
Changing economic relations, the abolition of class divisions and the construction of the society based on democratic involvement and co-operation would also lay the basis for a change in social relations.
Society would move away from hierarchies and the oppression and abuse of one group by another. Human relations would be freed from all the muck of capitalism.
Union Leaders Call For Action
THE LEADERS of five trade unions want trade union action to oppose this war. Paul Mackney of college lecturers’ union Natfhe; Billy Hayes of Communication Workers’ Union CWU; Mark Serwotka of civil service union PCS; Bob Crow of rail workers’ union RMT and Mick Rix of train drivers’ union Aslef demand a recall TUC Congress to discuss the proposed attack.
As Paul Mackney said: "The TUC is bound under its rules to recall the Congress if there is a danger of war. We are calling on the TUC to act on this rule now."
Rule 8 (K) says: "In order that the trade union movement may do everything which lies in its power to prevent future wars, the General Council shall, in the event of there being a danger of an outbreak of war, call a special Congress to decide on industrial action, such Congress to be called if possible, before war is declared."
Paul Mackney suggested that a declaration of war could trigger massive protests in every industry against it within hours.
Rail workers in Motherwell have shown the way by refusing to drive trains with military equipment headed for Iraq. International Socialist Resistance (ISR) is organising school and college strikes and protests for Day X, when war is declared.
Socialists and anti-war activists in the trade unions should organise for similar decisive action in the workplace on this vital issue.
NATO’s divisions open up
AHEAD OF Hans Blix delivering his crucial UN weapons inspectors report, huge divisions have opened up between the US administration (backed by Tony Blair) and France and Germany (backed by Russia).
Attending a conference on International Security in Munich last weekend – as over 20,000 anti-war demonstrators protested outside – US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s arguments inside the hall were unceremoniously rubbished by Germany’s foreign minister, Joschka Fischer.
The French and German governments, with one eye on public opinion and another on maintaining their own strategic interests with Middle Eastern regimes, have countered the US’s war drive with a ’peace plan’ to allow UN inspectors ’more time’.
US exasperation over "old Europe" compounded George Bush’s earlier anger over France, Germany and Belgium’s objection as NATO members to allow US missiles to be deployed in Turkey – a front-line country.
This Franco-German peace plan talks of extending no-fly zones to cover the whole of Iraq and deploying UN troops across the country to stop suspicious transports. Whether this UN ’occupation’ would be acceptable to Saddam’s beleaguered regime is debatable.
But US secretary of state Colin Powell dismissed the plan as a "distraction, not a solution". Powell has also made it clear that if Blix’s report so much as hints at any "non-cooperation" by Saddam then the US will press for war.
The US would prefer to have the fig-leaf of the UN to legitimise their imperialist aggression, but they are prepared to act without it. With or without UN backing, however, this will be a war for profits and prestige and should be opposed.
Who armed Saddam?
SADDAM HUSSEIN is ’a significant problem and a serious threat’, says George W Bush.
But while Bush and Blair prepare a military attack on Iraq, it’s worth reminding these ’freedom loving’ leaders that Saddam’s regime only exists because of the backing of previous US and British governments.
During the 1980s Saddam was built up as a regional strongman by imperialism, notably the US, Britain, France and Germany. These powers made lucrative arms deals, trade agreements and brokered massive financial loans to help Saddam wage a bloody war against Islamist Iran.
The brutal repression of Kurds and Shi’ites within Iraq along with the banning of trade unions, political parties and the imprisonment and murder of the regime’s opponents, was conveniently overlooked.
The Iran-Iraq war lasted from 1980 to 1988, cost one million lives and an astronomical $1,190 billion. Western arms companies grew rich by ignoring UN arms embargoes and supplying both Iran and Iraq.
Pre-revolutionary Iran – another dictatorship ruled over by the Shah of Iran – had been a large market for British arms exporters but as relations between the two countries soured, Iraq became the new market. In February 1982 Baghdad signed a contract with London to repair 50 Chieftain tanks captured from Iranians on the battlefield.
Although British arms sales were formally banned in 1985, non-military exports to Iraq soared to $665 million in 1986 and an illegal flow of arms to Baghdad continued with Tory cabinet approval – despite their full knowledge of Saddam’s gassing of 5,000 Iraqi Kurds in Halabja in 1988. Within one month of this atrocity Tory MP Alan Clark, representing the Department of Trade, flew to Baghdad and offered £340 million in export credits.
Iraq was by now Britain’s third largest market for ’dual use’ machine tool exports. According to its former chairman, one arms company, Astra, was ’taken over’ by MI6 and used as a channel to Iraq.
The US government has been no cleaner in its relations with Baghdad. In 1987 it offered Saddam $1 billion in agricultural commodity credits – a vital prop to war-torn Iraq.
Washington also increased its military cooperation with Saddam’s regime to frustrate Iran’s attacks. At this time (July 1988) an Iranian civilian jet aircraft was shot down by the US navy in the Gulf killing 290 people. The US administration expressed no sympathy.
Without the massive financial and military backing of the US and Britain, it is an open question whether Saddam’s regime would have survived till now.
The Socialist Party opposes the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein but opposes any imperialist intervention to effect ’regime change’ and, in all probability, install a new dictatorship.
Where the US has militarily intervened to effect ’regime change’, the masses of those countries, like in Afghanistan and former Yugoslavia, have endured increasing misery as a result of the military intervention only to be left at the end at the mercy of rival warlords.
The only force that can expel imperialism from the Middle East and bring justice, peace and stability to the long-suffering people there is the working class and oppressed masses of the region.
Only the Iraqi people can effect a ’regime change’ that meets their interests and not those of US imperialism.
CWI – Building socialism worldwide
THE COMMITTEE for a Workers’ International (CWI) is the socialist international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated.
The CWI is organised in 36 countries around a common programme to unite the working class and oppressed people against global capitalism and to fight for a socialist world.
The following reports summarise just a tiny fraction of the campaigns, strikes and political struggles that CWI members have been involved in over the last 18 months.
In addition the CWI organised a European-wide education event for members in July 2002 and, as part of its democratic traditions, organised a World Congress last November.
Check out our website – worldsocialist-cwi.org for more details and also for our ideas for socialist change.
CWI AFFILIATED parties and organisations have initiated many anti-imperialist war activities. In Berlin on 8 October 2001, Sozialistische Alternative (SAV) organised a 5,000-strong school student strike in protest at the US-led war on Afghanistan.
Similarly in Gent, Belgium, on 19 October 2001 International Resistance (IR – the anti-capitalist youth organisation initiated by the Left Socialist Party/Movement for a Socialist Alternative) organised a march of 2,500 striking school students ’against war and against capitalism’.
In the US, Socialist Alternative has resisted the wave of patriotism and chauvinism generated by the ruling class in the aftermath of 11 September 2001. It has built campaigns on several college campuses against a Bush-led war on Iraq and the government’s attacks on democratic rights.
During the period of threatened war between the two nuclear powers of India and Pakistan in late 2001 and early 2002, Socialist Liberation members active in the National Awami Party and the National Student Federation in Kotli, Pakistani occupied Kashmir, organised several anti-war demos.
These comrades have bravely campaigned for working-class unity and a socialist federation of south Asian countries despite police repression, attacks by sectarian militants and even artillery shelling!
The worldwide refugee crisis caused by imperialist/regional wars and by capitalist exploitation has led governments of rich Western countries to block the entry of asylum seekers and to scapegoat these people for failing social services.
In Australia, last April, the plight of refugees detained in the desert outback of Woomera was taken up by the Socialist Party which, with trade union support, took 100 protesters on ’Red Buses’ from Melbourne, a 1,200 km distance!
In Greece, CWI members through Youth Against Racism in Europe have organised trade union and international support for justice for immigrant workers, the victims of a vicious racist attack.
During the turbulent period of the second Palestinian Intifada – which has seen the intensification of the war between the Israeli state and Palestinian militias and a deepening economic recession – Maavak Sozialisti members in Israel have unstintingly supported workers’ struggles and have argued a socialist solution to the national question. Maavak Sozialisti has given solidarity to rail workers fighting privatisation, print workers locked out by reactionary bosses and have intervened in the peace movement demos.
CWI SECTIONS organised contingents of trade unionists and youth to protest at the many worldwide gatherings and summits of capitalists and their political representatives. ’Neo-liberal’ capitalist policies are impoverishing millions of people.
CWI members protested alongside tens of thousands of anti-globalisation protesters in Genoa, Gothenburg, Prague, Brussels, Barcelona, Seville, etc.
At the European Social Forum in Florence, Italy, and at the World Social Forums in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the CWI argued against the ideas that the capitalist system and its institutions can be reformed to benefit the world’s poor – a socialist world is necessary. Moreover, the CWI participants put forward concrete proposals to take the anti-capitalist struggle forward.
Youth are to the fore in this struggle and to marry the anti-capitalist movement with socialist ideas the CWI organised a successful founding conference of International Socialist Resistance (ISR ) in Brussels on 15 December 2001 with 500 in attendance from 14 countries.
The Democratic Socialist Movement (South Africa) mobilised workers and youth for the United Social Movement demo from the poor black township of Alexandra to the rich suburb of Sandton, where the Earth Summit of bosses and capitalist government reps were meeting.
DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST Move-ment (DSM, Nigeria) members have helped organise students in the National Association of Nigerian Students in the fight for free education – against tuition fees and for a living grant.
DSM student members have fought ’cultist’ thugs encouraged by the authorities to attack student activists as well as defending and reinstating student activists expelled by reactionary and corrupt college officials appointed by previous military regimes.
An ISR worldwide day of action for free education was held on 15 March 2002. The action was supported by the World Social Forum following the intervention of the Brazilian student organisation MSE, established by members of Socialismo Revolucionaro (CWI).
THE CWI has mobilised and intervened in the huge workers’ struggles in 2002, including general strikes and massive public sector strikes in South Africa, Italy, Portugal, Spain, France and Greece.
One of the most profound changes of the last decade or so has been the collapse of the Stalinist states of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Here, capitalist restoration has devastated industry and living standards while former Stalinist officials have enriched themselves by looting the old state enterprises. CWI members have defended the genuine socialist ideas of planning the economy with workers democracy.
In Kazakhstan, where capitalist restoration has been combined with the dictatorship of president Nazurbayev, the CWI has been thrust into leading positions in the workers movement.
Comrades such as Ionur Kurmanov, a workers’ leader at the Metallist factory in Uralsk, have faced down state oppression (including police beatings, jailings etc) and have led trade union struggles for higher pay and against redundancies.
In Brazil, Socialismo Revolucionario members led a strike by 1,500 teachers in Cotia, near Sao Paulo over pay, braving beatings and arrests by police.
The Democratic Socialist Movement played an important role in mobilising workers, students and youth behind the January 2001 Nigerian general strike.
CWI MEMBERS often participate in parliamentary, regional and local elections as part of advancing the struggles of the working class.
Some important successes have been notched up through a combination of community and trade union-based activities, meticulous campaigning and restricting any public representative’s wage to that of an average worker’s wage.
In southern Ireland last June, Socialist Party candidate Joe Higgins was re-elected to the Dail (parliament) to represent Dublin West. Joe has established himself as an unswerving opponent of the corrupt capitalist politicians and a champion of workers’ struggles.
Standing in the same general election, Dublin airport shop steward and Socialist Party member Clare Daly came close to winning a second seat.
In countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS – the former Soviet Union), CWI members are represented on six city and town councils.
Offensief, the Netherlands CWI section (a Marxist trend within the left reformist Dutch Socialist Party), got two councillors elected last March bringing the total to five.
In Sweden, Rattvisepartiet Socialisterna also saw two new councillors elected in the September 2002, a total of five councillors in the two most important cities in the north of the country.
And in England and Wales the Socialist Party has secured four councillors in Coventry and London.
Articles from The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, CWI in England and Wales