Class Struggle # 30 November 1999/January 2000
Communist Workers Group of New Zealand. Section of Liaison Committee of Militants for a Revolutionary Communist International. PO Box 6595 Auckland. NZ email: email@example.com.
Contents:Editorial: Feeling Good in the Bright Future? NZ students fightback against fees. US escalates war against Colombian rebels. For Permanent Revolution in East Timor. Maori leaders and union officials suck up to APEC. Marxism and Indigenous Peoples' Struggles: Towards a Socialist Polynesia. Review: "War on the Waterfront" on the MUA lockout in Australia by Tom Bramble. On Ireland and the National Question. John Stone Kosovo Now. John Stone. 'Reclaiming Marxism.." Reponse to International Workers' Committee declaration.
For the Withdrawal of Russia from Chechnya. Draft of POR (Argentina) statement
Editorial: Feeling Good in the Bright Future?
The great rightward moving circus of the November 27 election adds to the general cynicism in the air that nothing is going to get better – probably worse. Cynical workers’ instincts are correct. They see all parties dealing with superficialities – Jenny kissing Clinton, Helen playing to the polls, Winston and Prebble playing the law and order and race card to appeal to voters’ prejudices. We appear to be in the grip of a global economy that denies many of us jobs and social security. No amount of hype about national identity or hopes for the future pinned on APEC, the All Blacks or the Americas Cup can substitute for this lack in peoples’ lives. But it is not dysfunctional families, bad All Black coaches or diesel in the decaf that is the problem –it is a dysfunctional society. Capitalism is a society that cannot meet the basic economic or emotional needs of the people and no parliamentary charades or feel good bright future spin doctoring can disguise this reality.
Labour and the Alliance with the smell of office in their nostrils are retreating from all but the most pathetically tame challenges to the neo-liberals. Labour long ago gave up any pretence to even a pale pink socialism. And now it wants to follow Tony Blair down the Third Way (3W) where the name socialism is banned and the working class is the name of a pop band. It raises the question again of how far right Labour has to go before it ceases to have any contact with the working class. We may be at the point of no return. And what of the Alliance? Originally a break from Labour to the left, the NLP followed Mat Rata out of Labour as it started openly attacking workers. Now the Alliance postures as a left ‘heart’ of Labour, but it is to the right of Labour when it took office under Lange in 1984 and yonks to the right of Big Norm Kirk in 1972. It won’t re-nationalise any of the state sector that in 1984 Labour took for granted before Douglas and his acolytes began selling off state assets. Today a Labour/Alliance 3W government would do little to slow down or reverse the policies of the last 15 years. A centre-left government, if not at the mercy of a centre dominated by maverick Maori or by Winston Peters, would be dragged further to the right by the weight of multinational capitalists in the NZ economy.
Those on the reformist left who claim that the economic ‘horror’ of globalisation can be tamed by international alliances of groups of states or NGO’s mobilising protests against the US and its IMF/WB/WTO etc, don’t understand what their up against. They imagine that the great rightward show is the result of a monopoly of power and wealth concentrated in the hands of the MNC’s and that this can be redistributed by reforms at national and international level. Even such a consistent critic of US world domination, Noam Chomsky, can offer no hope but the naïve belief that US citizens can rally around their democratic institutions and reclaim them in the common interest. This position is that of good vs bad capitalists. In NZ, Bruce Jesson’s last book Only their Purpose is Mad takes this line. Good capitalists are productive of goods. Bad capitalists are parasitical on the producers. Finance capital has taken over the economy and now rules the world. He argues that all we have to do is get rid of the finance capitalists, and capitalism can be made to run for the benefit of all. Jane Kelsey in her latest book Reclaiming the Future makes a similar case for mobilising against the power and wealth of international capital by NZ reclaiming its sovereignty over the national economy.
This productive capital = good and money capital = bad view is a variant of the classic neo-Ricardian economics that Marx rejected. It saw production as natural under capitalism because it was no different to pre-capitalist production. By itself natural production would mean that all producers get the full value of their product. However, under capitalism, the capitalists were parasites because they took part of that natural value as their profits. Mr Money Bags is the personification of money capital ripping off the producers. What the reformist left can’t understand is that finance capital is a necessary part of capitalism. Its "power" is a symptom of productive capital in crisis that is both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ together. Its good part is that it develops nature to produce more with less labour time.
The measure of historical progress is therefore, economising on labour time (which is the expenditure of labour power and who will object to having to spend less time working?). Its bad side is that this progress in production means not that wealth is shared equally but is accumulated as the private property of the capitalist class that owns the means of production. Capitalism becomes more destructive as it ‘overproduces’ goods but at the same time destroys the environment and starves increasing numbers. Therefore the good and bad cannot be separated in capitalism and the whole system has to go.
A real left position must start from the need to revolutionise capitalism from the bottom up. We have to reject both the neo-liberal and reformist arguments as harmful to workers. Both must lead to workers being further exploited and impoverished, defeated and demoralised. That’s why we say that the only solution is revolution, and we have to start preparing for revolution now. Join us in building an internationalist communist movement!
Students fightback against fees
For Free Education!
On the 12 October 1999 students at the University of Auckland stormed the Old Arts building, and occupied part of that building for a number of hours, before being sold out by the dishonest manoeuvre of certain misleaders of the union. It became painfully obvious that the long-standing need for a left pole of student activists had reached a high point. The whole episode served to bring about the formation of that genuine leadership as Fightback! an organisation of student activists committed to fighting for students' rights. Part of one of the first communiques in Fightback! reads:
" Brothers and Sisters, Friends and Comrades,
Our organisation has been through its baptism of fire. The basic need for our organisation has existed for some time now but the events of the past ten days have provided the catalyst for the formation of our group, Fightback! Anyway there are seventy people who have affirmed their willingness to be active in it. There are around 4000 signatures on our petition supporting the occupation and our demands for ‘a nil fee increase with a view to establishing free education..’ This proves that we do indeed have wide support among students, despite the brayings of our detractors....."
What led up to the occupation?
Student protest in Auckland wasn’t what it used to be. Years of New Right rule seemed to have worn down the resistance of students. Numbers at demonstrations seemed to be on a permanent decline. Gone were the days of 10,000 Auckland uni students marching through Queen Street. The Union had just voted to become voluntary: a great defeat for students.The student mis-leaders shook their learned heads in despair. Right wing members of the 2000 elect executive proclaimed that student protest was dead, that students didn’t want to demonstrate and that they didn’t want a free education. In the Education Action Group (EAG) advocates of militant mass action were ridiculed and sidelined. We were told that the focus had to be on "silent protest" and "achievable demands".The way the EAG was organised meant that the bureaucratic misleaders had virtual control over it, and it became apparent to militant members that if there was to be progress those bureaucrats were going to have to be left behind. The bureaucrats were trying to hold back the students, instead of leading them. A small group of proven activists decided that there was going to be an occupation. At this point, the biggest hurdle had been successfully crossed. Once it was decided that there was going to be an occupation, the rest was easy.
A demonstration was planned for Tuesday, the 12th. A wall had been built by the EAG to symbolise the student debt, standing at over three billion dollars. A hammer was procured and the debt wall was smashed by student activists, to an audience of TV cameras, students, and Helen Clark, the leader of the Labour Party. The quad was full of students hyped and ready for action. The march they had been promised started, and headed more or less directly toward the agreed target, the Old Arts building. Once within striking distance, the leading marchers made a run for the building, and they were followed by a mass of students into the old building and into the pages of history. By 1:30 pm students were occupying the Information Centre of the Old Arts Building. Throughout the day students streamed through the occupied information centre, offering their support. It is difficult to say exactly how many people participated in the occupation, as many came and went a number of times. What became clear was that there were more than enough people who believed in the occupation for it to work. This was to be confirmed over the next days and weeks.
By late evening word began to filter through of a sell-out. A press release was rumoured to have been released by some bureaucrats condemning the occupation. After a number of attempts the press release was located and a copy brought to the occupation. The press release did not state in whose name it had been put out, but the contact details of Kane Stanford and Sherid Thackwray were given. The release was made to look like some sort of official AUSA statement. Certainly the university Vice Chancellor John Hood took it as a green light to call in the cops. In a letter put out by the university it clearly states that Hood felt he could call in the cops due to three factors: the disruption caused by the occupation, the nature of the occupiers’ demands, and the "..position of AUSA on the matter." Clearly, the people who signed the deceitful press release had sold the occupation out. At an emergency meeting of AUSA executive the next day made it clear that the sell-out press release was not the position of AUSA.
Here it is worth noting that one of the signatories of the press release condemning the occupation, Sherid Thackwray, whose job it is to organise and lead student protest, was literally jumping up and down saying over and over that "we need to occupy, occupy,occupy!" just two short days before the occupation, two days before she betrayed the students she was supposed to represent. She is the Roger Douglas of AUSA and should be treated accordingly.
The reason these bureaucrats came up with for their behaviour was that the occupation was endangering the service agreement they were about to sign with the university. This is totally untrue. The university has made it clear that the service agreement was never in any danger. Even if it were, the approach of these so called leaders to beg like dogs at the tables of the university council instead of fighting with the students demanding our rights is a downright embarrassment. The union is not about selling sausages and coke, but about representation. The reason the union was in the position of having to beg the university was the fact that it had just gone voluntary. This was a great defeat for students at the university and the situation highlights the need for the union to win back compulsory membership.
A communique written in the occupation reads: "...This occupation states that it will not be held back by the opinions of "members" Thackwray and Stanford......Yesterday these same ladies and gentlemen scrambled over each other calling for an occupation, for occupying the Vice Chancellor’s office etc....today they bark like rabid dogs, indignant that this occupation as taken place despite their best attempts..." This communique was not issued because the police evicted the students before the chance to issue it arose.
By the evening the occupiers received word through the university security guards that the university was not going to attempt an eviction during the night. This of course was untrue. The occupation made a grave error in talking to and trusting those security guards. In fact, the students made the horrendous mistake of lending those security guards a television set, in the naive supposition that if the security guards were treated well, they would reciprocate. It was a mistake made due to inexperience, and no doubt will not be repeated. Security guards are nothing but private police, and they are the enemies of students and of working people in general.
As a result of this the barricades on the doors were left down at night, and the police simply walked in a 5 am pre-dawn raid. The students did not have time to think or organise, and as a result four people were arrested. Had the barricades been up, the students would have had enough time to organise themselves at least to avoid the arrests.
Fightback was formed as a direct consequence of the obvious inability of student leaders to lead the struggle for a decent education system. It is an organisation that is committed to fighting for a free education, for universal allowances, for access and for quality. Fightback! contains the majority of good elements from the EAG plus a whole lot of others who have come out of the woodwork to play an active role in this organisation. Fightback now needs to continue the good work by building and preparing for a number of things, like winning back universal compulsory membership in the union. Fightback is raising money to help pay the legal costs of the four brothers and sisters who were arrested at the occupation. 2000 promises to be an exciting year for Auckland uni, and Fightback! promises to be an integral part of that. The occupation lasted a few short hours. But in those short hours the students of the University learnt a number of valuable lessons. Foremost among those lessons was that the students of this institution had the power to perform miracles, if only they could have the strength to believe in themselves, in collective action, and the right to a free education.
US Escalates its war with Colombian Rebels.
Recent setbacks for the Colombian government at the hands of the FARC-EP guerrilla movement and a general strike in September has resulted in the US preparing to escalate its military operations in that country. The FARC-EP controls about 40% of the country. As the economic situation becomes even more desperate and the masses reject the terrible austerity measures being imposed by President Pastrana, the situation is ripe for a guerilla-led insurrection which could destablise the whole of Latin America.
Already Colombia is the third largest recipient of US military aid as the US tries to prop up a key client state rich in minerals and oil. Now the Pentagon and the White House are preparing a new deal which will see over US $2 billion in extra military aid over the next 3 years to enable the Colombian military to engage in a full scale counter-insurgency war against the main guerilla force the FARC/EP.
The Brazilian magazine Isto E, reported on October 18 that a military pilot had been offered around USD$10,000 to fly secret missions against the guerillas in Colombia. Other reports show that
the US is training mercenaries in Chile ready for use against the FARC/EP. On October 20 the Colombian newspaper El Espectador reported the visit of one of the top US military leaders, General Charles Wilhelm, to meet the leaders of Colombia's military. The purpose of the meeting was to set up a new CIA "intelligence agency" that would oversee an intensified war against the rebels. The US has also been putting pressure on its other Latin America client states to contribute troops to a "multinational" force to be headed by the US.
As we said in our article last month (See Class Struggle # 29), the military escalation in Colombia demonstrates that the US is starting to panic out of fear that the popular struggle will bring about a new Vietnam! What is needed to defeat this is international backing for a massive struggle which has the potential to unite a peasant rebellion with a massive urban based workers general strike and pose a direct challenge to the US backed regime. Most important, US workers and workers in other US client states like New Zealand must lend all their efforts to stopping their own ruling class’ military from unleashing another Vietnam war, or another NATO Yugoslavia-type bombing.
For Permanent Revolution in East Timor
Against the re-colonisation of East Timor
The betrayal of the national revolution in East Timor is the direct result of the legacy of social imperialism and Stalinism. The US, and its client states, Australia and NZ played a rotten role in supporting Indonesia's invasion and occupation of East Timor in 1975. While the so-called 'left' in these countries protested this role they failed to oppose imperialism outright and opted for a strategy of UN guided independence. Rather than building international working class support for an independent workers' and peasants' militia, they supported the East Timorese leadership in forming a national bourgeoisie in East Timor. This strategy is a popular front in which workers and poor peasants remain trapped in an alliance with their national bourgeoisie who put their faith in the UN with the disastrous results that we have just witnessed. Against this sellout we advance the Leninist and Trotskyist position of 'permanent revolution' where the revolutionary party leads workers and poor peasants armed militias through the struggle for bourgeois democracy against imperialism and onwards to the socialist revolution.
Imperialism to the rescue?
Among a world wide chorus on the left, the South African Communist Party echoed the call from Gusmao and the CNRT (National Council of Timorese Resistance) for the imperialists to interevene in East Timor. "The SACP calls upon the United Nations to immediately dispatch an international peacekeeping force to halt the escalating social and human disaster and to force the Indonesian regime to respect the democratic will of the people of East Timor. We also call upon all progressive forces in South Africa and across the world to do all in their capacities to pressurise the United Nations and their respective governments to act now and lend all available support to save the people of East Timor." Blade Nzimande SACP General Secretary SACP Head Office 6th September 1999
The Australian Green Left (paper of the Democratic Socialist Party) even misquotes Lenin to justify calling on its semi (read 'Jackal') imperialist government to send in the troops. Green Left says that Lenin supported the right of Belgium to be liberated from the occupying German army in WW 1. Yes, but he did not mean that he would then support the Allies because their defeat of Germany would liberate Belgium!
Lenin's position was that there were oppressor nations and oppressed nations. No oppressor nation, in that case Britain and France, could free Belgium, an oppressed nation, from another oppressor nation, Germany. To say this is to create false hopes in the working class for whichever imperialist ruling class can claim to be defending an oppressed country, when by its very nature any and each imperialism must oppress nations. Lenin's actual policy was for workers to fight their class enemy and not other nations. Belgian workers could tactically bloc with their army to fight to get rid of Germany, but only for the purpose of making it easier to get rid of their own ruling class. They would not under any circumstances form a military bloc with Britain or France because that would be to swap the one imperialist master for another.
The situation is even clearer in East Timor. There is no war between imperialist powers over East Timor. Despite many claims that Indonesia is imperialist or fascist, it is a semi-colony of the US. Its rule over East Timor was part of its role as a US client state ruling over the region in the interests of the US. The US helped put Suharto in power in 1965. He then murdered 1,000,000 communists and between 1975-77 killed over 200,000 East Timorese to prevent it from becoming a 'Cuba of the East' to please the US. The US not only encouraged the invasion of East Timor but armed, trained and funded the Indonesian occupation. The role of Australia was from the start to act as the US sheriff's deputy. Australia played the most openly oppressive role in East Timor as the nearest imperialist state with a direct economic stake in oil in the Timor Gap. So far from the liberation of Belgium justifying a call on British or French troops, in the case of East Timor the Green Left's demand that Australian troops be used to free East Timor was like calling on the Germans to invade Belgium –again!
Well Gusmao, the Green Left and the SACP got their wish. A UN mandated peacekeeping force, Interfet, went into East Timor, 20 days after the Referendum result proved what everybody already knew, that the unarmed UN was incapable of dealing with the pro-Jakarta thugs backed by the military. To imagine that this new force will protect the people of East Timor from further attacks is to be deluded. The same powers that backed Indonesia, now claim the role of peacekeepers. But they are merely ensuring that the Freedom Fighters are not able to prevent East Timor from becoming a newly established semi-colony of Australia and the US. This is because the UN is no more than a stooge for the US where it can be used as a front for its interests. Where the UN is blocked by Russia or China the US sidesteps the UN as in NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia. Living Marxism (better known in other contexts as Leaving Marxism) put it very well. The UN is now a front for the US empire. "The sun never sets on the UN's empire" that now stretches from East Timor to Haiti.
UN IS imperialism.
So why is it NOT possible to give even critical support to UN military intervention in the hope that under some conditions imperialism will do the right thing? Because even when imperialism is hiding behind the UN, in the pretence that it is defending the rights of small countries, this is only to make sure that the workers and poor peasants are disarmed and prevented from turning their war of national liberation into a socialist revolution.
The UN will implant a new comprador ruling class under its tutelage so as to ensure that imperialist rule is kept in place and the super-exploitation of East Timor's resources can continue. The UN is just a front for imperialism. Its official policy is to prevent the outbreak of war, or to contain wars, when that suits imperialism and Russia and China (neither of which is imperialist –despite some claims). But its unofficial policy is to prevent and contain class war wherever it breaks out. To suggest that the UN is a force for democracy and peace is therefore a delusion that plays into the hands of the bosses everytime.
This delusion in the UN as "anti-imperialist" is being fed weekly by a fawning, sensationalising media which reports how "our boys and girls" in Interfet are facing up to the risks of an armed intervention. The UN forces are painted up as the only alternative to further widespread death and suffering of the East Timorese. But is this true? As we have seen in Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq etc. they may contain the militias and create "safe havens", but at the expense of disarming or subordinating the Falintil. At the time of the referendum, the CNRT and the UN agreed to keep the Falintil in their cantonments. Had the West put one 100th of its funding into the Falintil that it put into the Indonesian army in the last 25 years, Fretilin would have secured its independence long ago. So it is necessary to draw the conclusion that the war was created deliberately in East Timor and that a peacekeeping operation is a continuation of imperialist war by other means. Far from peace, the UN presence and Interim Government that will be formed by the UN, have much wider and sinister implications for the popular struggle in East Timor and the whole of Indonesia.
First, the Interfet troops are required by the UN mandate to disarm the East Timor resistance, the Falintil, the only popular force capable of defending the people and resisting imperialist super-exploitation. They will use the same arguments that Gusmao used to silence the armed youth before and after the referendum. They will say that armed resistance will provoke an Indonesian clampdown! We are talking about 3000 troops who have survived nearly 25 years of Indonesian military repression! But whatever their excuses, the real reason will be to prevent the independence movement from becoming a revolutionary movement which links up with the wider Indonesian revolution.
Second, the occupying force can be used to justify a further imperialist invasion against any workers and peasants revolution in the whole of Indonesia! The struggle for democratic rights came to a head in East Timor only as the result of the pressure from the struggle of the Indonesian masses for democracy. This includes the national struggles of the Aceh and the West Papuans. The US and the rest of the imperialist powers hope that they can oversee a shift from a militarised regime to a western style democracy that will contain any attempts be workers and peasants to go beyond a unified Indonesian bourgeois state to a workers' state. The pressure to get Habibie to agree to a vote on autonomy was part of this thrust. Now that Habibie is history and the Wahid/Megawati leadership is in place, the US led ‘democratisation’ process can continue. But will it contain the mass pressure from below?
Why is the US for "human rights"?
It took Clinton's threats of an economic and military blockade of Indonesia to put some restraints on the military. And this is because the IMF has been holding back on a payment of the billions that Indonesia needs to keep its economy afloat. We have to be totally cynical as to the US reasons for using this blackmail. 25 years ago, President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger directly conspired in the Indonesian invasion in 1975 to prevent the "Red" Fretilin from spreading communism and creating a Cuba in Asia! Now that the US has won the cold war, and defeated the evil "communism" it has unrivalled world dominance and can promote human rights and pose as champion of democracy. But can it deliver democracy? No!
The US is looking beyond Wahid to Megawati Sukarnoputri as the new democratic leader in Indonesia.
Her father, President Sukarno was the first leader of Indonesia from Independence in 1945 until he was replaced by Suharto's coup in 1965. The US sees Megawati as a viable leader to 'democratise' Indonesia and provide the 'human face' that Clinton speaks about. But democracy is not compatible with Indonesia's role as a US semi-colony. It is heavily indebted to the Western banks and the IMF/WB. To pay back this debt it has to sell its resources and labour cheaply, forcing down living standards. Such deteriorating conditions will generate mass resistance making it impossible to rule by means of the 'human face'. Megawati will capitulate to the military leaving the two forces, the military and the workers and poor peasants confronting each other without benefit of democratic institutions.
The students and workers who have been increasingly active over the last two years are the basis of such a movement. While their immediate protests are for democracy, they need to put up a programme for permanent revolution that recognises that democratic rights cannot be won while Indonesia remains a capitalist semi-colony. They must organise independently of the Indonesian bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie. Failure to do this means that workers will remain trapped in a popular front strategy led by the national bourgeoisie, who's class interests always lie more with the imperialist powers than with the popular masses. In order to protect their class interests they must sooner or later turn on the workers and peasants and attempt to smash them with the same tragic consequences as we have just seen in East Timor. (see Class Struggle # 22 June/July 1998 "Indonesia and Permanent Revolution.")
The Lesson of East Timor.
The East Timor struggle is an object lesson. When Fretilin was isolated and militarily defeated, this opened the way for the petty bourgeois nationalist leadership of Gusmao and Horta to call on the 'international community' for 'peace and democracy'. After the recent vote, the CNRT issued several statements calling on immediate Western intervention. Horta called for a tourist "boycott of Bali". More significantly Gusmao refused to allow the Falintil to deploy their armed units, before, during or after the referendum, to defend the population for fear that this would spark a civil war. So behind the pretext of avoiding a 'civil war' we witnessed the criminal betrayal of that national revolution by its petty bourgeois leadership and its Western 'pink-green left' accomplices.
Gusmao and Horta have long made their class position clear. They put more trust in the imperialists than in their own troops who were ordered to stay in their camps. In echoing this call, their pink-green left supporters turned their back on the reality that it is imperialism that has created this war in the first place, and will only commit itself to 'peacemaking' if it can guarantee its super-profits in East Timor without having to go to war. Gusmao has already made his deal. He will be part of a new bourgeoisie in the newly independent client state of imperialism. He will not be personally exploited by imperialism. Rather imperialism will use him to act as their agent in exploiting East Timor. His tears for the dead sacrificed in the struggle are crocodile tears because the crying will not stop with the winning of independence. Even if the UN makes a showcase of East Timor and rebuilds its infrastructure before handing over control, this will be a diversion from the mounting conflicts arising all over the world as imperialism intensifies its wars and conquests. The pink-green left quotes Marx and Lenin to serve as a ‘left cover’ for this rapacity. It calls on its own imperialist military to act as peacekeepers and disarms the workers and peasants militias. And it has the audacity to call itself Marxist!
Pink-Green left against Armed Struggle.
The answer to East Timor's struggle has always been; (1) To unite the armed struggle in East Timor with the workers and poor peasants struggle in Java and elsewhere in Indonesia; (2) To build international support for material aid to the Freedom Fighters; (3) To fight the imperialist arming of the Indonesian army which has acted as a tool of imperialism in Indonesia. How realistic is this strategy? The Western pacifist left says it is unrealistic if not impossible. Why?
The 'pink-green' left always expresses its patronising belief in the 'backwardness' of the working class, and especially the poor peasants, of the 'third world'. They do not believe workers and peasants in the ‘third world’ can free themselves –this freedom must be delivered by the West to its former colonial subjects. What the Western left does not see is that this attitude is itself an expression of the ideological backwardness of "social imperialism". That is, the dependence of the Western middle class and labour aristocracy upon the privileged living standards made possible by the super-exploitation of the 'third world'. In other words, the bosses buy their loyalty to the Western ruling class’ position of imperialism, but with a "social" ie. democratic cover.
Social imperialism is a middle class guilt-ridden expression of the same old Eurocentric imperialist 'civilising mission' that has shaped Western attitudes towards the 'colonial and post-colonial world' from the 19th century onwards. The Western left echoes its ruling class position that bourgeois democracy is a necessary step that third world countries must take under the tutelage of the democratic institutions of the West. Today this guilt becomes evident in the sponsoring of particular struggles by Western middle class intellectuals. All over the world there are little "free East Timor" groups which see themselves as "servants" of Horta or Gusmao, when in fact they are the "sponsors" of these petty bourgeois leaders. What's even more evident is, that increasingly these latter-day missionaries become 'soldiers for Christ' and 'give their lives' to work for the many charities that pass as aid organisations. The Western media, looking for human interest stories, seizes upon human rights "disasters" as if they were a natural consequence of barbarism, and interviews aid workers as authorities on 'human rights'.
It is not surprising then that the social imperialist left has no hope of popular armed uprisings leading to victorious revolutions in the colonial and post-colonial world. They see it as their mission to help the backward colonial and post-colonial masses towards the 'promised land' ie. western democracy and human rights. They reject the armed struggle and offer Christian charity. However, when their hypocritical strategy leads to 'human rights disasters' like East Timor, they then call on the West to intervene as armed peacemakers. But as we have seen, this is to call on the Tiger to mind the calf.
This stagist evolutionary theory limits their immediate perspective in their own countries to the fight for democracy by the method of a cross-class, popular front. They project this strategy onto the international arena where the UN becomes the force for "international democracy" against reaction. So in East Timor they cannot draw the correct conclusion that the UN has been exposed as a pathetic pawn of US policy, and that no imperialist intervention is the answer to East Timor's plight. Instead the Western left is tailing the social imperialists who believe Clinton when he says that there is a " human face" to the "global community". They are now crowing about the power of 'international opinion' in bringing the renegade Indonesian army to heel and a peaceful transition to East Timor.
Proletarian internationalism means joining up the struggles against national oppression by taking on the source of that oppression at every level. Fretilin was doomed to isolation and defeat by a Western left that tailed its bourgeoisie. It will remain isolated and defeated unless its struggle for liberation is joined by militant anti-imperialist workers capable of taking on the main enemy at home. This duty falls mainly to the workers in the imperialist states or their client states actively occupying East Timor. The US is the main enemy of East Timor, followed by Australia which is a lackey imperialist state feeding off the scraps left by the US and Japan (these scraps are quite large concessions to oil in the Timor Sea).
NZ as a semi-colony of the US acts as the US deputy’s, deputy (i.e.Australia’s deputy) in East Timor. In NZ a united front called 'Material Aid for the Freedom Fighters of East Timor" (or MAFFET) has been formed to oppose NZ's military role as in recolonising East Timor, in particular the disarming of the Falintil, and to mobilise working class material aid for Falintil. The Communist Workers' Group participates in that united front. MAFFET's job is to take this message into the labour movement and build support for the Freedom Fighters against imperialism. It also means getting the UN out of East Timor.
To organise workers and poor peasants to this level will require the building of a revolutionary communist international which can struggle to win workers and peasants away from the reformist misleaders of Megawati's party, against the stagist programme of the Peoples Democratic Party in Indonesia, the bourgeois leadership of the CRNT in East Timor, and the reformist and centrist left in the 'Western' countries. We have to unite internationally to fight for democratic rights against imperialist and local reactionaries, and to prove in practice that immediate and democratic demands can only be won by "going all the way" to socialist revolution.
Interfet and UN troops out of East Timor!
For workers and poor peasants councils and militias!
For international material aid for the armed struggle!
For Self-determination for East Timor, Aceh, West Papua and other oppressed peoples !
For a Revolutionary Communist International!
For a Federation of Socialist Republics of Asia!
North Shore Maintenance Workers under attack!
A group of 140 workers on the North Shore are up against the bosses’ ideal form of "negotiation" under the Employment Contracts Act. Their boss is trying to get them to sell their overtime rates…
Their boss (North Shore Maintenance) wants to scrap penalty rates for anti-social hours of work. The boss is using the same tactic as used on the Babbcock dockyard workers, that is a contract offer which includes a bribe of $400 cash as a "once-and-for-all" buy out of penalty rates of pay.
North Shore Maintenance has been taken out of the political control of the North Shore Council (and North Shore residents) by being restructured as a "Local Authority Trading Enterprise". The day to day management has little fear of being held accountable through the council, and little fear of losing their jobs. They have brought in the same hatchet man that Babbcock used to take on the dockyard workers.
The workers are organised with the Engineers Union, and the Amalgamated Workers Union. Others remain unorganised. The leadership of both of these unions would be familiar with these tactics, since they both were involved in the Babbcock dispute. The tactic at Babbcock, as will be used again, was to let the contract expire, and to play up the fears of workers in order to undermine solidarity. Eventually the bosses were able to bribe and scare enough workers into voting for signing the new collective. At Babbcock, the workers involved were split between 3 unions (PSA, EU and AWU). The boss was able to play the workers off against each other. How? It appears that the Engineers Union was able to sway the settlement (and to consolidate their jobs as negotiators) by selling out the conditions of other workers. The AWU covered most of the workers who worked in the worst conditions and gained most from the penalty rates. However the EU workforce were convinced to take the bribe on their own, and held the majority when it came to vote. The AWU members were out voted.
Within the ECA, bosses have armed themselves with a range of weapons to use against unions. The bosses can often use the courts against union leaders to land them with heavy fines. The provision is there to legalise the theft of paid union officials homes or "assets", to pay for the bosses imposed fines. The bosses if they wish can simply try to bankrupt a union with legal fees by persisting in legal actions against unions. Stagecoach has shown other bosses how signing enough workers onto individual contracts with rotten conditions, brings down everyones conditions. This also scares the union bureaucrats who worry that they may lose their jobs as the workers representatives, if the union becomes more and more ‘dismembered’ by the bosses.
Maori Leaders and Union Officials suck up to APEC
Revolutionise the Unions!
by a Communist Worker.
With the end of the September APEC fiasco in Auckland, we raise the serious question of the public's perception of its relationship with the interests of its own ruling class. The lead up to the September summit was for the organisers an exercise in breaking the event up into two distinct components. One, involving official coercion by the NZ government and its parliamentary opposition to manipulate community interests into getting involved in APEC. Two, relying on the catalyst of 'voluntary pragmatism' that was essential to widening the public's popular support. To the disciples of the 'law of value' (the essence of capitalism), the bonus of a US Presidential visit played an important part. It gave to the APEC events, the stamp of approval of those deceived by the celebrity status of a leader who has become synonymous with tyranny for millions of workers around the world.
As a worker of Maori descent (Ngati Tiipa, Ngati Koroki Hapu o Waikato) I want to show how one particular group, the Kotahi Tangata Whenua (first people of the land), on the receiving end of imperialist tyranny for generations, was sucked into this mood of celebration. To be able to explain this 'pragmatism' one needs to briefly go back to the conduct of certain tribes (iwi) and hapu (sub-tribes) of the last century.
The term 'kupapa' in modern usage, has become synonymous with 'collaborator' and 'traitor', but in the past was used in reference to iwi or hapu who sided with the colonial forces of the crown against other iwi for their own immediate interests. Indeed, honours bestowed upon kupapa by the crown were considered more worthy and relevant to the pursuits of iwi leaders in their quest to find favour with a colonial culture that was seen as more progressive, at least in a material or technological sense. The superior collective approach of traditional iwi society (albeit with heavy doses of social hierarchy) was willingly subordinated by kupapa leaders who had also become Christianised to the dominant colonial culture. All in the name of being practical (pragmatic).
The idea of being feted or having one's 'mana' enhanced by the approval of the leadership of a materially advanced and numerically superior culture has not been lost on tribal leaders of today, including those who have no kupapa heritage of the distant past. If the collaborationist nature of today's leaders is one aspect of the totality of that leadership, then it has to be seen in relation to the traditional role and status it played in reflecting the mana of the people it represents. Its primary function is to advance its tribal interests to the exclusion of all others. A practice no different from any other collection of people involved in parochial exclusivist activity. By treating itself in this fashion, this leadership and everything that hangs on it, becomes divorced from the consequences of the capitalist interests being waged around it. This becomes even more startling when its leaders champion and support blindly the imperialist actions being committed in the name of being able to feed at the trough of economic and social uncertainty.
A variation of Trotsky's 1904 theme of 'substitutionism' when applied to modern Maori leaders might read: -the organisation of the iwi (runanga) substitutes itself for the tangata (people), and the business interests within the runanga are substituted for the runanga. All of this can only be done when the condition of total political unconsciousness exists among the people. The potential for this happening at this moment is real, given the state of political ignorance that exists among Maori and the wider community at large. Though this same ignorance has been seen as a major virtue for being a reformist or mainstream politician, it has itself sprouted an offshoot of political misguidedness –the infatuation with celebrity. This is clearly illustrated by the extent to which people have become accustomed to treating anything with made in the USA on it as being the pinnacle of human endeavour and achievement. This of course, extends to the hosting of the President, the most powerful individual on earth.
In the period leading up to the APEC leaders summit, communities and schools were eagerly preparing the ground work for the opportunity to meet with destiny –the man regarded by many as the saviour of freedom and democracy and the profit motive. This was in spite of the fact that during this period he had sanctioned the increased use of military force against Iraq resulting in yet more massive suffering; as many as 6,000 deaths a month, many of these children. He also gave approval for Turkish incursions into Northern Iraq, a region that the US had declared out of bounds for Iraqi military operations, to hunt and kill thousands of Kurdish PPK liberation fighters.
But probably the most infamous event, the pinnacle of US imperialist led aggression for 1999, was the cowardly bombing of Yugoslavia, approved yet again by the same President who, a few months later, people in little old Aotearoa/NZ would greet and be photographed with at every opportunity. The fact that legal proceedings filed in the US, Canada and in Europe against the US President (and other Western leaders) specifically for war crimes against humanity, have not seen the light of day in the mainstream media lends weight to the old saying that what the people don't know, the people won't question.
As an oppressed minority in Aotearoa, the Maori issue in relation to the US Presidential visit has to be seen in the context of the reformist NZ Labour Party and all other parties with bourgeois programmes which claim to represent Maori. The Labour Party strongly backed the economic agenda of APEC towards the liberalisation of trade, as well as giving tacit support to its Blairite cousin in Britain for its military aggression against Yugoslavia in earlier months. As a longstanding component of the NZLP, the Maori section was hardly likely to deviate from the position taken by the party in supporting APEC, given the potential economic benefits perceived by some Maori leaders as being the prize at the end of the trail of paper signings.
Its enthusiastic support was to boil over into a little spat between Tainui and Ngati Whatua over who was to give the official powhiri (welcome) for the US President just weeks out from the summit conference. This spat was reminiscent of a similar incident between the two iwi over the opening of the 'Te Maori' exhibition at the Auckland Art Gallery in 1988. Totally missing the point that the welcome was for a colonial oppressor, and indicted war criminal, the leadership once again failed to take what was on offer as the high moral ground in favour of a narrow focus on economic advantage, or worse, being seen with somebody famous. Adolf Hitler might have been in the running here too.
Given the experience of the legacy of a colonial past, the divorce between history and its consequences has been complete as far as the present leadership in Maoridom is concerned. If Tino Rangatiratanga or iwi is the desire, then Maori workers have to rid themselves of those elements within the top leadership by exposing the essentially bourgeois program that they follow, and juxtaposing it alongside the reality of the living conditions under which those workers live. This is part of the process of getting a Labour/Alliance government into power. Extracting oneself from the confines of parochial tribal politics and the economist focused work-site situation, is an important first step toward branching out into the knowledge of struggle being waged by workers internationally.
Leaders have to be confronted directly with the question: as capitalist lackeys how do they justify their continued support of an agenda that clearly has a detrimental effect on communities and workers as evidenced by the Tainui Trust Board's (pre-Kauhanganui Rununga) involvement in alcohol-related (a pub in Sydney) and gambling (a casino project in Hamilton) activity? Koro Wetere, as a leader within Tainui and a highly placed chairman of Tainui Development Ltd., as well as prominent member of the NZLP, was quoted as saying that problems related to gambling are not the responsibility of Tainui (Waikato Times 12-2-99). This doubly exposes the rottenness of the top leadership within Maori circles in general, but also the calibre of what remains in the upper echelons of the NZ Labour Party and the top officials of the Council of Trade Unions.
The part played by union activists in their role to highlight the deficiencies within the union structure has to also be played in tandem with activity outside of the normal economist-bound issue directly affecting workers pockets. The time for the activist site delegate is upon us. It is at this level that rank and file workers will come into contact on a daily basis and the means by which political consciousness can be raised. Only by this method, can effective mobilisation take place in response to imperialist designs through its capitalist tribunes such as APEC, WTO, MAI, IMF, Word Bank etc.
Auckland, APEC 99 protest action was stunted by the almost total absence of union representation. This is a clear example of the lack of grassroots rank and file political consciousness. The potential to have the ranks of protest against APEC swelled one hundred fold by the presence of unionists was lost by the collusion of the top union officials not wanting to upset their reformist colleagues in the Labour Party/Alliance.
The role played by top union officials in subjugating the debate on any issue that threatens to unleash rank and file awareness, is the major challenge to anyone who takes on the task of activist delegate. There are plans to work for amalgamation of the CTU, NDU and TUF, and the new CTU union leadership has promised to adopt a more fighting stand. The time is ripe for activist delegates to build support in the rank and file to put these claims to the test. It will often be necessary to replace the old leadership with new ones who are accountable to the membership. What we need to do is rebuild our unions as fighting, democratic unions.
Marxism and Indigenous Peoples Struggles.
In the last issue of Class Struggle we took a look at the early history of the Maori Question. We argued that there was no serious attempt to explain the relation between the oppression of Maori and the class struggle before the 1970’s. So-called Marxists applied Euro-centric conceptions to the Maori, either rejecting their claims as an oppressed people and simply labelling them workers, or adopting the view that all pakeha benefited from exploiting Maori and substituting Maori for the proletariat as the vanguard of the revolution. In part two we begin with the publication of Towards a Socialist Polynesia in 1982 which for the first time gave a scientific Marxist analysis of the Maori Question and show that against the neo-liberals, liberals and radicals, that document still serves as a guide for revolutionaries.
Part Two: Towards a Socialist Polynesia
Towards a Socialist Polynesia (TSP) was written by Owen Gager in mid 1982. It was the NZ Spartacist League's (a forerunner to the CWG) response to the events of the previous decade culminating in the Anti-Springbok tour movement, and the publication of Awatere's Maori Sovereignty. Against the petty bourgeois nationalism of both Maori and Pakeha, TSP tried to present a materialist analysis of the real history of race relations as a result of NZ’s white-settler colonisation and ongoing semi-colonial development. Petty bourgeois nationalists came out against British imperialism and its NZ 'imperialist' pretensions at the expense of Maori, and identified with Maori opposition to imperialism. In this way the struggle was posed in nationalist/racist and not class terms.
Gager's pamphlet shot through this nationalist front with a Marxist broadside. NZ was a capitalist colony. Capitalism was not imported into the South Pacific completely knocked down and ready for assembly. It had to be imposed by a process of bloody conquest and ‘primitive accumulation’. That meant dispossessing Maori by force if necessary. The object was not to destroy Maori society for its own sake (though some settlers regarded Maori as civilised only in their "graves" and one Atkinson, saw it as his scientific duty to "shoot the natives") but to destroy their primitive communist resistance to class society –capitalism. The Treaty was a fraud. It was a ‘trick’ admitted at the time, to pacify the savages while the pakeha ruling class was able to muster the imperial troops to take the land. All of this rotten history had one purpose –to convert tribal land into capitalist property, and to convert Maori into landless labourers so that they would be forced to work as wage workers and be exploited by capitalism.
TSP proved that this was the case by demonstrating that the history of Maori resistance to their expropriation and super-exploitation as waged workers was anti-capitalist. This process was part of the ongoing capitalist expansion into the South Pacific in the 19th century and it set the pattern for NZ's semi-colonial development in the 20th century. The post-war boom accelerated this process by propelling Maori from the rural reserves into the urban ghettos. But the end of the boom brought with it a massive shock as the new jobs, incomes and expectations were suddenly dashed. Awatere and the new generation of rebels expressed outrage at this betrayal of the dream of assimilation by economic progress. In its place they raised the demand "Aotearoa is Maori Land.!"
What TSP did was to point out clearly that it was a sham for a few petty bourgeois Maori to stage a national revolution when the majority of Maori were already detribalised and in the working class. Awatere was merely putting out the claim for a Maori fair share in kiwi capitalism. The sovereignty gambit was an opening shot designed to guilt-trip the petty bourgeois pakeha anti-racists behind the movement and to up the ante in the Treaty settlement process. TSP rejected this petty bourgeois nationalism as anti-migrant when Ripeka Evans, Donna Awatere's collaborator, called for Pacific Island migrants to "fuck off" home. Their "Black Unity" did not extend to their Polynesian cousins. But most pakeha anti-racists joined forces with petty bourgeois Maori nationalism at the expense of other migrants. To make it worse so did most of the so-called Left when they found reasons to call Awatere some kind of 'Marxist revolutionary'.
The Republican left.
TSP rubbished these so-called Marxists fawning on Awatere. For example, Peter Lee claimed that Awatere was some kind of antipodean Walter Benjamin (The Republican, #43 December 1982). Then Jesson took Awatere's reference to Gramsci at face value to mean that the Maori people could recover their "treasures" and lead the struggle of New Zealand's independence. He failed to notice that Awatere's ‘counter-hegemonic bloc’ fundamentally misrepresented Gramsci. Her bloc was not Gramsci’s class bloc where other classes were led by the working class. Rather it was an alliance where the working class was led by the Maori people! Thus the Republican Marxist" left of Jesson and Co took this to mean that the Maori Question could only be resolved by a national independence struggle in which the working class remained subordinated to the Maori as a people. (Jesson, "Reviewing the Maori Sovereignty Debate" The Republican, #48 December 1983; #49 February 1984). The Maori People were a liberating force who in alliance with Pakeha radicals had a common interest in a "Republic of Aotearoa" (The Republican, August 1984 "The Latest Contribution to the Maori Sovereignty Discussion"). But for Jesson the Maori as part of the proletariat and therefore as a force for socialism was non-existent. Since Maori People were a figment of petty bourgeois Maori nationalists, this was his way of putting the petty bourgeois in front of the working class in the national revolution.
Gager anticipated Lee's argument by showing that the European Marxist Walter Benjamin had long ago warned that appeals to tradition were not a basis for as progressive national movement but rather a reactionary ploy to divide and rule the working class:
"Walter Benjamin, in Illuminations, saw fascism's role as rendering politics aesthetic, while ‘communism responds by politicising art’ His understanding of the reactionary implications of making politics "cultural" still expressed the perspective of Leninism. ‘Cultural treasures’ writes Benjamin are the spoils of war between ruling classes which owe their origin not only to the efforts of the great minds and talents who have created them, but also to the anonymous toil of their contemporaries – in Maori society, all those who could not claim to be ariki or rangatira."
Gager continues: "Maori culture, as it is now, consists of the spoils of war which the white ruling class has plundered. Historical materialism, on the contrary, wishes to retain that image of the Polynesian past which unexpectedly appears to the Polynesian worker in crisis, singled out by history at the moment of danger. That danger affects both the content of Polynesian tradition and its receivers. The same threat hangs over both: that of becoming the tool of the ruling classes. In every area that attempt must be made anew to wrest Polynesian tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it. Only that militant will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the Polynesian past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from enemy if he wins. And that enemy has not ceased to be victorious". (TSP 22)
Even worse than the Republican left was the Stalinist left. Stalinist political groups such as the Workers Communist League (now defunct), the Stalinist SUP dominated trades unions and the Stalinophile (literally, loving Stalin) 'trotskyist' Socialist Action League (and their Young Socialists) flocked to the cause of Maori Sovereignty. TSP exposed them as racists who limited their support for Maori struggles to that of becoming equal under capitalism. But where the Republican left wanted Maori in the vanguard, most Stalinists wanted them in the rearguard. So when Maori workers overstepped their subordinate role in the labour movement they got dumped just as The Polynesian Resource Centre –Te Moana –was evicted from the Trade Union Centre in 1981 when Ripeka Evans criticised the white trade union leadership. "By 'allowing' Maori people to lead the 'anti-racist' struggle, but in limiting their demands to 'full equality' and 'minority rights', WCL actively suppresses the revolutionary potential of the Maori proletariat in order to maintain its 'leadership' of the white working class." (TSP, 9).
The reason for this was the rotten legacy of colonial racism embedded in the pakeha ‘labour aristocracy’ and ‘bureaucracy’, which were the class fractions the Stalinists were based on. This was amply demonstrated by the WCL.: "The Stalinist Workers Communist League claims it has a "class" analysis of racist and colonial oppression in New Zealand. But their programme itself is clearly racist. For them, the history of New Zealand's movement towards independence is a pakeha history, to which the Maori people are an appendage...For them, the achievement of white settler power based on denial of Maori suffrage in New Zealand is an "advance". The failure to see that white "independence" achieved at the expense of Maori independence assumed a reactionary and imperialist character leads logically to a recognition of Polynesian workers as a class with no revolutionary potential, and which must limit itself to a "miniumum programme" of democratic rights, forgetting 'independence' and 'socialism'." (TST 9)
Against the petty bourgeois "Marxists" TSP argued that Maori were historically an oppressed people. It supported Maori self-determination up to and including secession if the majority of Maori demanded it. Support for self-determination by Pakeha workers would then be necessary to win Maori workers to the struggle for socialism. This was because Maori were trapped in the reserve army of labour and could not win equal rights under capitalism. Nor could the Treaty settlement process honour a fraudulent treaty. It could only fake this by creating local versions of Bantustans – like the independent Pacific Islands whose 'cultural treasures' were returned in exchange for the wealth that was spirited away. The whole process would have the effect of encouraging and reinforcing class divisions in Maoridom – an effect that capitalism could not possibly avoid – but in the name of sovereignty (now tino rangatiratanga). This would devolve the responsibility for poverty onto Maori themselves and not the oppressive racist state that has ruled over them for nearly two centuries. Therefore, Maori could only win their democratic rights by means of a ‘permanent revolution’ ie. socialist revolution.
TSP called Awatere and Co petty bourgeois nationalists. And hasn't she proved TSP right 1000 times as cheerleader of Maori in ACT! They were not the voice of the majority of Maori workers. They rapidly turned to "honouring" the Treaty. TSP predicted the role that petty bourgeois nationalists would play in getting "10% Kiwi capitalism" in the name of a re-invented cultural tradition. Events have proven Gager correct. The Treaty is still a fraud. The whole Treaty process has seen Maori coopted by class further into capitalism – a few have become bosses and the majority stayed workers with a widening gap between. It can be nothing else when the land, resources and labour-power expropriated for 150 years are now accumulated as capitalist private property. The token settlements that have been trickled back are little more than capitalised benefits advanced as seeding capital to spawn mini-corporations who will swim as sprats among the MNC sharks. The Treaty Settlements work like a local version of the World Bank/IMF. The local NZ state hands out seeding capital but locks everyone into the local economy, just as the IMF/World Bank locks it into the global economy on the terms of the imperialists.
Who else has been able to see all this? What other left analyses have followed? And do they add or subtract from TSP? We can look as several recent attempts to develop an Antipodean Marxism on the Maori question before passing judgement on their strengths and weaknesses. They all put class before ethnicity or nationality and attempt to explain Maori politics in terms of the integration of Maori into global capitalism. Yet they all have problems in the way they integrate their analysis of the Maori struggle into the development of NZ's semi-colonial capitalism.
The strengths of Evan Poata-Smith's work is that it is based on an analysis of New Zealand as a capitalist country. Therefore Maori inequality/oppression is NOT the result of the primitiveness of Maori or the inherent racism of Pakeha. The Pakeha (and more recently the brown table) capitalist class is the problem. Poata-Smith recognises that what he calls "cultural nationalism" is not a strategy for liberation. It is similar to the concept of petty-bourgeois nationalism raised in TSP since it is middle class or petty bourgeois Maori who benefit from it at the expense the majority of working class Maori. "Real liberation for Maori will not occur without a fundamental transformation of capitalist society".
What weaknesses? These result from a failure to explain clearly how Maori fit into a class system or how the experience of exploitation of Maori workers by Maori capitalists will generate a break from the trap of a reactionary nationalism. So Poata-Smith does not explain how the transition to socialism has to have a concrete programme and revolutionary leadership to make it happen. While academic articles are not usually the place for calls for revolution, this failure is also evident in Andrew Geddes’ pamphlet The Way Forward to Tino Rangitiratanga which draws heavily upon Poata-Smith. Published by the Socialist Workers Organisation in 1997, apart from general statements about Maori liberation happening only in a "socialist society", there is not much indication in this pamphlet on how to get there.
Geddes uses the examples of fighting for democratic rights such as the funding of Maori language broadcasting, and the return of stolen land and taonga, as part of the struggle for socialism. True as far as they go. These are democratic demands that must be part of a transitional programme. But there are two problems with this. First, the SWO does not define self-determination to include the right to secede.
In anticipation of this, TSP stated that if the majority of Maori respond to their worsening economic oppression with a call for secession (independence), then pakeha workers must support them in order to win them to socialism. How this will happen needs to be spelled out. Specifically, pakeha workers need to give critical support the demands of urban iwi for inclusion in the Treaty settlements, and for a share of fisheries and other resources. But at the same time revolutionaries must fight to extend the struggle to the expropriation of all capitalist property on the grounds that both Maori and Pakeha have contributed generations of labour to create the wealth of the country. Concretely, this means supporting the return of Maori land, fisheries, compensation etc as part of a programme that, at the same time, calls for the nationalisation of the land and fisheries under workers' control (with Maori guaranteed traditional rights of use), the re-nationalisation of state assets without compensation, the expropriation of capitalist property, for a workers state able to plan the economy, and a workers’ militia to defend the state from the international bourgeoisie.
Second, the SWO does not integrate immediate, democratic demands with transitional demands that include many other demands to unite Maori and non-Maori workers in class struggle all the way to "workers power". Therefore there is a split between the immediate demands and the goal of socialism that becomes, like the petty bourgeois Marxists, a split between a minimum and maximum programme, in which Maori have minimum (democratic) rights, but Marxists have the maximum (socialist) solution. Ironically in a strongly Stalinophobic (literally a fear of Stalinism) socialist organisation, the petty bourgeois "Marxist" notion of stages is slipped into its politics in a disguised form of support for Maori liberation.
Against this petty bourgeois position, communists link immediate and democratic demands with fully revolutionary demands for workers’ militia and a workers’ state in a transitional programme. This requires concrete analysis to be fused with revolutionary practice. There is a need to relate the Maori and Class questions in a programme of action all the way to the seizure of power. First, the inability of capitalism to deliver to Maori has to be explained by reference to NZ's semi-colonial character, where the local economy is dominated by US, Japanese and Australian companies. Thus the polarisation of classes and divisions in Maoridom will intensify and further impoverish Maori workers and small farmers as well as squeeze Maori petty bourgeois and small capitalists down into the proletariat. The fate of the Sealords deal and the legal battle over urban iwis highlights the contradiction between class and nation dramatically. Only by applying the theory of NZ as a semi-colony in crisis to understand the clear limits to the Maori Nationalism struggle can it be turned into a united class struggle.
What about the liberal left like Jane Kelsey. Has their critique of Rogernomics as incompatible with the Treaty resulted in any serious analysis or programmatic options? No. Because the cause is defined as merely a neo-liberal elite that can be defeated in parliament. What of the latter day radicals like Tama Iti etc? Where have all their protests gone? Gone to parliament under MMP, which is the latest fraud to be perpetrated on the workers and oppressed. From Mat Rata to Mason Durie, the Maori intelligentsia envisages Mana Motuhake as sharing power in the bourgeois state. Maori will have their own economic base and governance. All that is required is for Maori to mobilise as a people and assert their right to share power under a new constitution. Even the centrifugal forces of globalisation can be offset by counter-hegemonic indigenous rights movements backed by international law.
For example, Elizabeth Rata applies Regulation Theory to NZ and sees tribal capitalism as a post-Fordist mode of regulation. That is, she recognises that Maori have been coopted into state-defined tribal entities to produce a settlement that is in the interests of international capital. The problem is that Regulation theory is neo-Ricardian rather than Marxist. It explains that the exploitation of Maori requires a political conspiracy on the part of the white ruling class to deceive Maori by reinventing tribalism so the white elite can keep most of the land and wealth ripped off under colonialism. ("The Theory of Tribal Capitalism" in Review –The Fernand Braudel Centre, Vol XX11 (3) 1999). This is similar to Kelsey’s view that if a section of the ruling class is imposing a neo-liberal mode(l) of regulation (capitalist conspiracy) then it must be possible to mobilise to remove that mode(l) by a process of radical social democratic evolutionary socialism. But while the pink-greens still regard the issue as about land or capital –ie. an economic base of sorts, to which end political and cultural movements are put, the post modernists see it as about indigenous rights and nothing else. The means become the dead end.
The promised land: post-modernism meets Maori
Now that most of the Maori compradors have been bought off and the pakeha liberal left have bought into the honouring of the Treaty the debate is now about how much? First the fiscal cap was imposed and rejected. Then a sped-up process of settlements by iwi rather than hapu. But the liberal nationalists are satisfied that the Maori nation can now take its place alongside the pakeha nation in a multinational commonwealth of difference. All that is required is some attitudinal change and goodwill. So we see the post-modern turn as Maori are transformed into fully blown 'subjects' in the marketplace –with the past "pardoned". The Treaty will be turned into the base document of a Constitution. What the new right and the postmodernists all agree on, is that the market creates the conditions for freedom and these can now be realised. Every ethnic group and nationality can take their place in international society – with their "difference" recognised and respected. The Treaty Industry becomes part of the 'culture industry' looking to protect Maori 'culture' as a commodity that can fund their ethnic "difference". This means that "difference" becomes reduced to consumer taste ie. a difference that the sovereign consumer notes when s/he buys a commodity. Maori have been re-landed and re-branded. The ‘promised land’ of liberation becomes the freedom to buy and sell in the market. But as we know NZ semi-colonial capitalism will deny that freedom to most Maori so long as we do not revolutionise the relations of production.
As TSP predicted, most Maori "honoured" as a reserve army of labour find themselves trapped still in the proletariat with the obvious consequences. There are few bosses. Not because of 'stone age' economics like neo-liberal mouthpiece Gareth Morgan thinks, but because if you didn't have individual title you couldnt raise capital. Talk about the new right blaming the victim. Today the corporatisation of iwi opens up the capitalist road, but too little too late to get anywhere. As we have seen, NZ semicolonial capitalism is in the hands of the MNC's. They won’t sacrifice their profits for the sake of any Treaty. We have "the GAP" instead. Maori still own no more than about $10 Billion in assets. The majority earn well below the average wage. Maori youth unemployment is over 20%. The new Maori bosses' economic prospects are as small fish among the sharks, not good. The self-employed have been dispossessed. Small farmers and fishers swamped by globalisation. Which class will benefit and what will the masses do? Are urban iwi any answer? No. But as multi-ethnic working class organisations they have potential. This potential is not to set up a separate backward economy for an urban peasant existence, or try to compete in the corporate rat race, but to mobilise Maori along with all workers through the unions to expropriate the national wealth as their historic stake in socialism.
So the answer is to transform the national question into the class question. It means not trying to survive in 'bantustans' like the Pacific Island neo-colonies, but taking a proletarian stand to take back the lot! Why stop at reclaiming bits of land etc on the bosses Treaty terms? That's still fraud. Maori as proletarians helped make this country. Accumulated generations of surplus labour is congealed as the wealth of the nation. The working class needs a revolutionary programme to unite the masses in the struggle for socialism. Nationalise the land under workers control with Maori rights guaranteed! Re-nationalise privatised state assets without compensation under workers control! Expropriate capitalist corporates! Fight for a workers’ and working farmers' government based on workers councils and militia! For a socialist republic of Aotearoa in a federation of Asia/Pacific socialist republics!
Part 3 on Marxism and the Aboriginal struggle in next issue of Class Struggle.
WAR on the WATERFRONT
By Tom Bramble. Published November 1998, by the Brisbane ‘Defend our Unions Committee’
The author, Tom Bramble is a member of the Brisbane `Defend our Unions Committee' and a supporter of Socialist Alternative (a breakaway from the International Socialists).
The `Defend our Unions Committee’, was involved in the mass action which rose in defence of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) after Patrick's locked out its waterfront workforce in April 1998. This booklet should be recommended reading for all union activists. Bramble is able to expose the rotten role played by the MUA leadership. In Brisbane he showed that union leaders backed away and demobilised the working class from shutting down Patrick's operations. He covers the union history behind this betrayal and the links of the MUA with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the Australian Labor Party (ALP). However, Bramble seems to read the end result of the lockout with an overall favourable light for the organised / unionised working class of Australia.
The most promising aspect of the whole dispute was the huge turn out of workers in support of MUA pickets. Where pickets were threatened by police or Patrick's' security, the mass movement of working people to reinforce the pickets would have given the ruling class enough to worry about. Before Patrick's made its move to lockout the MUA labour solidarity was shown. In Melbourne, 12 thousand construction workers had a one-day
strike (March 20th) to show their solidarity for MUA members. The Melbourne Australian Workers Union, oil industry workers had (2nd April) promised to strike if Patrick's workers were sacked.
When the sackings took place (8th April) working people mobilised mass pickets. The booklet is rich with examples, the "clearest on the night of Friday 17 April when literally thousands of workers turned up at East Swanson dock in Melbourne on a tip-off that 1000 police would be descending to break up the picket. " (p15). "By 3 am, 4000 picketers had turned up" (p16). The proof that working people can build huge pickets, quickly and effectively against an attack from the ruling class, would have had that ruling class worried.
The MUA leadership limited the struggle to the capitalists’ rule-book. John Coombs and most other officials of the MUA were fully into the legal path. They had centralised the power and left the union membership and lower union officials in the dark about their strategy. In Queensland, "time and again the local MUA leadership and the ACTU leadership pulled the plug on any significant direct action" (p22). They refused to accept a call for state-wide strike and repeatedly asked union members to "trust the leaders". Bill Kelty of the ACTU in 1997 promised the union movement's backing and support to defend the MUA. Of the ACTU's promises, Bramble says: "what they had in mind was only a limited campaign: defending MUA coverage, but not jobs and conditions" (p 13-14).
The members did not know what the MUA officials were negotiating, and the ACTU officials were also in on the negotiations, while members heard the news faster from the radio. The officials tactic was that of "strategic unionism", which in NZ is called "partnership" (by the Public Service Assn) or "strategic partnership" (by the Engineers Union). This is a rotten partnership that means the union officials end up taking the same role as the bosses managers. Bramble describes the role of union officials: "The officials' acquiescence to pro-business agendas is underpinned by their social position within the labour movement. The primary role of full-time trade union leaders has always been to negotiate with employers over the terms of workers' exploitation rather than to oppose capitalist labour relations. " (p39) "…union leaders themselves suffer no hardship from the deals that they do: it is not their jobs which are lost, it is not they who have to suffer speed-ups" or "…the stand-over tactics of bullying supervisors or security guards, and it is not they who have to stand by the phone as casuals waiting for the call for work" (p40). Unlike workers, the top officials are doing all right out of capitalism and their interest is not to challenge it. In times of open class struggle, it becomes clear that it is in the interests of workers to oppose capitalism the basis of exploitation. The role of union officials is to negotiate, to disarm the working class, and to limit the class struggle, in order to negotiate.
Bramble shows how historically the MUA became a more centralised organisation with less shop-floor debate. The elections of officials went from 1 to 2 to 4-yearly. He discusses the wider political context in which the militant culture of the waterfront union was undermined. The years of the ACTU "Accord" with the Australian Labour Party were years where union militancy was frowned upon by the official –the labour lieutenants for capital. Union officials had ridiculed any opposition to the Accord, based on falling economic position of workers. They had halted calls for strike action. During the lockout the union officials keep a lid on the interests of working people, they lead away from direct action. Examples of this were clear in Brisbane, where on a number of occasions MUA members and supporters were ready to establish an effective picket, which blocked all transport of Patrick's facility. Bramble laments the lack of an another leadership, capable of "winning the argument.. ..on the picket lines" (p35). He gives a brief criticism of the existing left currents within the MUA: "these have been little other than factional platforms for elements of the MUA leadership", and "have done little or nothing to distinguish themselves from...the federal leadership of Tas Bull and John Coombs". An example of this rottenness: a leading Communist Party of Australia figure was a member of the 1988-90 waterfront reform team.
While Bramble says there was a lack of socialist influence within the MUA, he focuses mostly on building a rank and file. What was shown was a committed militant rank and file that organised a strong strike effort. What was lacking was a communist party capable of offering a leadership, a fighting alternative to the sell-out. The question is posed: which political organisation in Australia could have offered that communist leadership? Socialist Alternative? A comrade from Australia says: " Even though Bramble is good on the logistics of understanding how the Accord demobilised workers, Socialist Alternative does not have a Marxist analysis. They do not understand the colonial nature of the Australian economy, the fact that it is resource based, or the weakness of Australian manufacturing which only developed during the post war boom under the umbrella of protection. They do not understand the collapse of manufacturing and the bankruptcy of the bureaucrats who had no political answers. The Accord was a consequence of this. When the crisis struck initially the working class was militant and so was the Aaronsite CPA (as opposed to the current organisation which was pro-Moscow). When it was clear that there was a wholesale collapse (in 1976 when shipbuilding totally collapsed, the once militant Aaronsite bureaucrats had no alternative but crawl to the government (more protection). To do this they had to sell out class struggle (embodied in the Accord)."
MUA & Patrick's deal
The ACTU and MUA negotiators took a deal back to the MUA in September 1998. The deal was a loss for unionised workers. 736 permanent jobs were cut, leaving the "core workforce" at less than 700, and the core workforce was guaranteed only 2 days work per week. 66% of MUA members would be casual workers. Jobs in the maintenance, cleaning and security areas were to be contracted out, with likely loss of wages, conditions, and union coverage. There was more casualising of conditions: on call 24hrs a day all year, a minimum shift of 2hrs, 12hr shifts without penalty rates, compulsory weekend work, up to 15 midnight shifts in a row, and drivers may have to drive for their full shift (up to 12hrs). Management has taken control of the allocation of workers, which allows them to victimise union militants. And P&O, the other big player in the Australian waterfront industry, which was open throughout the lockout, will expect similar concessions.
Weighing up an overall balance sheet on the struggle Bramble gives some points to the MUA. He says that in the wider political context, the government of Howard and Reith "failed": (1) to bust the MUA; (2) to introduce scab labour onto the waterfront: (3) to intimidate other unions; (4) to give itself an electoral boost on the agenda of union busting.
However, while the MUA won some points, we have to give the bosses an overall victory on points.
1.The MUA has on the ground, lost coverage of sections of the waterfront workforce, in such key areas as maintenance and security. The MUA leadership was keen to prove itself as willing to give concessions and play a role `managing' MUA members demands. It has proved to the capitalist class that its role is to serve as capitalism’s lieutenant within the workforce. Capital has no need to smash the leadership of the MUA, and it did not. It was able to hurt the militant rank & file, and can continue to police the rank & file through oppressive
supervisors and security.
2. While the scab company failed, and the scab stevedore labour was dumped, the contracting out of some work and some loss of coverage has weakened the power of organised waterfront labour. The MUA has been badly undermined. The remaining workers, who have faced demoralising redundancies and are now largely a casualised reserve army of labour. The antidote to this must start with a thorough debate on the left and within the trade unions. The debate that began on the picket lines needs to be ongoing.
3. With the above losses the threat of similar losses must threaten other unions. The weakness of the left parties (method and programme) and splintered organisations, would not be overcome by mass rallies alone.
4. Howard's coalition government continues to set the political agenda for Australian capitalism. After the deal, the reality now kicks in for the remaining workers. Deaths and injuries have occurred on the waterfront since the settlement. The MUA has failed to protect the life and conditions of working members.
The "war" was a defensive struggle for working people, against the capitalist offensive. Through the union bureaucracies betrayals one "battle" has been lost. But the "war" on the waterfront is not over, with the MUA leadership drawing up a temporary truce agreement.
The "war" is not confined to the waterfront. The Howard government is anti-worker, an outright bourgeois government. The ruling class still faces the reality of falling profits on an international scale, and this is turned into pressure on the working class, whether we are organised or not. Union members need to use the power they have to challenge the union officials. Members should be able to recall (sack) officials who are not performing according to the will of the members. The union leaders should not be paid any more than the rank and file membership. Their wages and conditions need to be pegged to those of the workers that they represent. Even if only one side is fighting, class war is ongoing. When as working people we organise and show unity, we find our strength. When we take control of the "means of production" (in this case pickets blocking access to the port facilities) then we are using our power. Industrial action that challenges the bosses over the "control" of the means of production is a direct challenge to the ruling class’s ability to rule. It is our most effective weapon. It is a challenge to the social leadership, a challenge to the social relations of production, a challenge to the capitalist state.
War on the Waterfront is important because it highlights the urgent need for a party with a communist analysis to draw out the political lessons and campaign for fighting democratic unions.
On Ireland and the National Question
This article is a reply to Jack Conrad (Communist Part of Great Britain), who wrote his "Theses on Ireland" in a recent issue of the Weekly Worker. Conrad argued that the Loyalists in the North have national rights. John Stone of the LCMRCI/CEMICOR illustrates what is wrong with Conrad's Theses using with a number of examples of national struggles. He concludes that Conrad's position on Ireland is to advance the democratic rights of a oppressive minority (the loyalists) at the expense of the rights of an oppressed majority (the nationalists).
Do oppressor communities have the right to create their own states?
Jack Conrad's theses on Ireland have two significant innovations. First, they advocate the right of self-determination, including the right to create their own state, for a group of people who the author recognises don't constitute a nation. Second, it proposes to give that right to the British-Irish. I would argue that for Marxist self-determination is only applicable to nations and it is not a universal principle. To accept that any "ethnic community" could have that right would mean a significant alteration in a Marxist principle, even more when this is a privileged community whose benefits have been achieved by backing an imperial power at the expense of the rest of the same nation.
In order to clarify the differences I would like to start by saying where I agree with Jack. First, the British-Irish are not a nation - they were and are a privileged segment of the Irish nation that oppressed the Catholics, nationalists and republicans and served Britain against the Irish national right of self-determination. Second, the six-counties of Ulster comprise a reactionary, segregationist and oppressive statelet created by British imperialism against the will of the overwhelmingly majority of the Irish nation. Third, the struggle of Irish republicans, despite their democratic and national bourgeois limits and wrong methods, was and is a legitimate anti-imperialist cause. Fourth, we agree that Britain has to immediately withdraw from every part of Ireland allowing this nation to re-unite.
It is important to clarify some concepts. Jack is demanding to extend the right of self-determination to ethnic communities. There is a big difference between nations and ethnic groups. Nations are constituted by a series of peoples divided by antagonistic classes who share the same territory, a common history and many cultural, linguistic (one or more languages) and economic links. Communities are groups of persons who share SOME of these characteristics. They could be based around a common faith, kinship, race, roots in another country, languages, or cultural manifestations. In many societies some social classes, occupations or stratum overlapped with what are today considered ethnic groups.
Every nation has many ethnic groups or communities. Britain has hundreds of them. Some British communities (like the Afro-Caribbean or Muslim) are larger than the British-Irish. Marxists should demand the right for every community to cultivate its own languages and dialects, to have its own schools and associations, to freely worship their cults, to oppose their segregation on racial, linguistic or religious grounds, and other democratic rights. However, we are not in favour of giving them the right to create their own state. There are TENS OF THOUSANDS of ethnic groups all over the planet and it is simply impossible to advocate their right to create sectarian ethnically-based states because they would create problems for the rights of others. When the rights of some of these communities are at the expense of the rights of other communities we are not going to back them. For instance, we don't defend the right of the White British to put quotas on coloured people or immigrants. Imperialism also created many communities as tools for imposing its dominance over native populations. These communities were created as privileged stratum based in native or imported migrant inhabitants. There were one million French descendants in Algeria. Most of them come from poor backgrounds. However, the Algerian anti-imperialists correctly opposed giving them the right of self-determination.
Today Britain has other enclaves in lands that it took from other countries. In Gibraltar, the Malvinas and in the Caribbean or Oceanic Islands, a significant proportion or even most of the population would not like to separate with what was the largest overseas empire. The USA has many political-military bases all over the planet. For example, in Guantanamo and the Panama channel it has its own enclaves. Perhaps a significant proportion (or even a majority) of the local population would like to retain the occupation of the world's mightiest power instead of returning to their former backward semi-colonial countries. However, communists should support the right of Cuba or Panama to expel the Yankees and to re-take their own territories. But if tomorrow Puerto Rico votes for independence we are not going to recognise the right of a part of that island that wants to become part of the USA.
Perhaps Jack Conrad would object that these pro-imperialist communities do not compare with the British-Irish who have a three-century historical tradition. But this is not a valid objection. Lets look at the case of the Boers and the White Anglo-South Africans. The White settlers arrived from Europe in South Africa at more or less at the same as the British settlers crossed the Irish Sea. While the different Irish communities are part of the same nation, speak the same language and share many racial and cultural features, the Afrikaners and White Anglo-South Africans spoke a different language and had strong racial, cultural and even national differences in relation to the rest of the population.
The Whites represent a similar percentage of the South African population as the British-Irish in relation to the whole Ireland. They also dominate entire regions. Many racial segregationists insisted on allowing the Boers to achieve their national self-determination and to have their own state. In fact they, unlike the British-Irish, have real national differences with the rest of the population. In South Africa there are at least twelve linguistic-national groups and the Afrikaners have their own fully developed language, culture, race, territory and history.
In South Africa the anti-imperialists were against giving the Whites any right to self-determination and were also against the Bantustans. We were against the White capitalist segregationist project of dividing the South African peoples into racial or nation-linguistic groups. Marxists wanted to win many workers from the White population (at least five times larger than the British-Irish) but they never advocated the demand of self-determination for the Boers or Anglo-South Africans. They knew that the White proletariat was privileged with better wages than their Black brothers and sisters and that the best way to win them was in the fight for better social and economic conditions, to end the segregationist authoritarian state, and to build an equal and multi-ethnic society. Many leaders of the ANC, CP and other left organisations were whites. The progressive whites did not fight for a separate state in which the European descendants could cultivate their own culture because it would mean a state based in the most reactionary layers and against the rest of the population.
The right of self-determination is not a universal principle even for every nation. When the right of a nation to build its own state can only be realised by oppressing another nation should we support that right? An Afrikaner or white Anglo-South African state could only be achieved by walking on the national rights of the Southern African peoples. That is why we demanded that the Euro-Africans from Zimbabwe, South Africa and other Black countries should accept majority rule. We don't support the right of the Sikhs to create their own Khalistan at the expense of many Punjabi Indians.
In Palestine we don't support the right of the Israeli Hebrews to establish their own separate state. Their nation was built up by expelling most of the native population. Four million Jews came from all over the world and, despite their huge linguistic, ethnic, cultural and historical differences, tried to unite in one single nation against the Arabs. If we were to recognise the Israeli State we would have to recognise its rights over Palestinian lands and over the expulsion and segregation of four million Arabs, and we would be supportingt the right of a religious community to create a country based on the First Testament. In Palestine we are for a multi-ethnic workers' state in which the toilers of all the communities (Christian and Muslim Arabs, Oriental, Arab, Western, Russian and Black Jews, Druses, Beduines, etc.) will be equal.
Jack Conrad believes that the best way to win support amongst an oppressor community is to advocate its democratic right to secede and create its own state if that is the majority will. The problem with that idea is that it subordinates another democratic principle: the right of the historic majority of the same nation! In the struggle between an oppressed and an oppressor community we can't put their rights on the same level. Even more, their own rights can be in contradiction with each other. For example, the capitalist 'democratic' right to hire and fire workers or to acquire property and capital is in mortal antagonism with the workers' democratic rights for job security, better living conditions and control of the means of production. In the case of South Africa, Palestine or Ireland the right of self-determination of the oppressor people would affect the right of self-determination of the oppressed people.
Jack Conrad says that they are one million British-Irish and that they should not have to identify with loyalty to the Queen or with Protestantism. Albeit both aspects are dominant trends inside that community, what distinguishes these people from the rest of the Irish is that they are descendants of former British settlers and have historic cultural allegiances with Britain. Conrad argues that if we became the champions of the democratic rights of that privileged community we might be able to split it, and that the cornerstone of such rights is to accept their possible wishes to make a new partition of Ireland. Tom Delargy pointed out that Jack's theses have two contradictory points. It is not feasible to reconcile the right of self-determination of the Irish nation as a whole with the right of its pro-British layers to veto it and to re-divide the nation and the country.
During decades and even centuries, the Irish people overwhelmingly, continuously and repeatedly expressed their democratic desire for a united republic. It is not possible to transform that reality into the opposite, converting the minority's pro-imperialist veto into a democratic decision imposed against the majority of the Irish population. For eight centuries Britain ruled Ireland. Its domination was so ruthless that several rebellions were crushed in blood. Britain caused the death of more than one million during the potato famine and today more than 80% of the Irish descendants live abroad. In 1921 the Orange statelet was created as a reactionary colonial outpost against the will of the great majority of the Irish nation. Ulster was created in the six counties to turn the tiny minority of pro-British in the whole of Ireland, into the majority in Ulster. Catholics, nationalists and republicans remained as second class citizens, and suffered discrimination in jobs, housing and police and state posts, and terror and abuse from the British army, the RUC and the paramilitaries.
If Irish national consciousness was defined in the struggle against British imperialist domination, British-Irish consciousness is defined in the struggle to defend what was the largest overseas empire against its first and last colony (Ireland). The British-Irish want to be more British than the British. Like many other peoples which benefited from imperialism against the native population this strengthens the allegiance with the imperialist motherland. The political representatives of this community are united in their desire to keep their privileges, to smash the IRA (the main armed force that prevented its total dominance), and to veto the national reunification.
In order to win some sympathy amongst the British-Irish Jack Conrad proposes that revolutionaries should accept a new re-partition of Ireland for those Loyalists who do not want to be part of a united Ireland. He even suggests a formula in which the Northern six counties would be divided roughly in half: one county and four half-counties for each community. This alternative would not satisfy anybody and would not solve any problem. The Orange State would be reduced by approximately a half but with a more concentrated British loyalist majority. The loyalists would resent the Irish Catholics because they captured some of their post-1921 territory and that would increase their desires to be part of the UK. The Irish nationalists would still be unhappy because the island would still be divided and many Catholics would remain in ghettos inside the British-Irish State. Sectarianism and communalism would persist.
Jack Conrad constantly uses the example of the Russian Cossacks in support of his position. They were the Tsar's most reactionary tools used against the workers and the oppressed nations. Conrad asks, why if the Bolsheviks granted a soviet republic to them should we not allow the same right to the British-Irish? Conrad confuses many things. First, the Bolsheviks were against giving any single national or democratic right to the Cossacks. Even more, at the beginning of the civil war they said that all the Cossacks were a reactionary stratum that needed to be smashed. In the course of the war Lenin realised that it was possible to split this mass around social and class questions. Later on, WHEN THE REDS DEFEATED THEM, Lenin imposed the victor’s conditions. The Cossack elite was expropriated and a non-sovereign council SOVIETIC republic based in the oppressed Cossack labourers was established in the middle of Russia as part of the Soviet Federation. The Bolsheviks would never have accepted the right of a reactionary and segregationist Cossack state to secede.
Today Jack Conrad is advocating a principle that the Bolsheviks never fought for: the right of an ethnic group to secede, and even worse, the right of an oppressive community to create its own state against the wishes of the majority of their oppressed nation. A British-Irish state created in this capitalist system and without a revolution would be a continuation of the same Orange segregationist and ultra-reactionary statelet.
A big problem that the CPGB has is the way in which it deals with the question of bourgeois democracy. It raises it as a universal principle. Jack Conrad is in favour of federal bourgeois republics in Britain and in Ireland allowing the Unionists to secede. Advocating democratic rights for an oppressor community means to deny democratic rights to the oppressed whole-nation. The struggle for a pure bourgeois democracy led to the immolation of the democratic rights of the majority of the Irish nation. It also creates a barrier between democratic and socialist demands. The only way to achieve full democracy and national rights inside capitalism is to expropriate the ruling class and to socialise the means of production. The only real solution to the constitutional, national and social issues in the British-Irish islands is the expropriation of the capitalist class by a socialist revolution and the formation of a federation of workers republics.
However the CPGB's programme stands for a bourgeois democratic stage. Its central goal is to sort out the monarchy's crisis by advocating a pure bourgeois solution: a federal republic. Marxists should not propose replacing the UK for another kind of capitalist federal state a la Germany, USA or France. Unfortunately, anti-capitalist revolution, socialism and the federation of workers republics are absent from the CPGB immediate programme. Adapting to bourgeois democratic principles mean to sacrifice the struggle for democratic rights for the oppressed majority and for a socialist alternative.
John Stone (LCMRCI/CEMICOR)
Letter to Weekly Worker
During the Nato's bombardment of Yugoslavia, many leftwing groups demanded arms for the Kosova Liberation Army (see Class Struggle # 27&28 ). After NATO's victory, and in the light of what the KLA is doing in government, it might be useful to re-examine some of these positions and characterisations.
I appreciate comrade Michael Malkin's compliments (Weekly Worker September 30) and the fact that the CPGB has a policy of opening its pages to critiques of its line. I agree with comrade Mark Fischer that the CPGB is a thinking and democratic organisation. I hope that this article might push my CPGB friends towards a rethink of their support for the KLA.
Michael wrote a one-page response to my short letter. Perhaps because he has not read our more detailed material, he has not understood our positions. We do not oppose Albanian self-determination, we do not think of the Serb president as the "beloved Milosevic" and we did not defend Yugoslavia because we imagined it to be a type of workers' state. Before Nato prepared its attack, both the LCMRCI and the CPGB were in favour of Kosovar independence from Serbia. Nevertheless, when the largest and mightiest imperialist alliance ever seen attempted to militarily destroy a small country, we said that, despite our mortal opposition to the reactionary regime of this incipient bourgeois state, we were obliged to defend it. In the interest of the Albanian, Serb and international working classes we had to demand united action against Nato. As supporters of Kosovar self-determination we have to be against an organisation which has become Nato's tool for imposing a neo-colonial 'protectorate'.
Michael wrote that if the KLA adopted a "subsidiary, internal security role as a local gendarmerie, helping to police a Kosovar `protectorate' ... and particularly if the KLA indulges in ethnic cleansing on its own account, then it would clearly cease to merit support as a force for Kosovar liberation, and really would become what others on the left now say that it already is: that is, a tool of imperialist interests" (Weekly Worker May 6).
Five months later it is crystal clear that this is the actual reality. More than 2,000 Serb and gypsy children, elderly people and civilians have been murdered. The overwhelming majority of the non-Albanian population has been driven away. This is a repetition of the method the KLA's commander, Agem Ceku, employed when he was one of the leaders of the Croat army that wiped out all Serbs from Krajina, transforming it into the first post-war European republic from which an entire population was expelled. Kosova is today probably Europe'smost ethnically cleansed and homogenised country.
The Albanian mafia, one of Europe's most powerful, is making a lot of profit in Kosova. One of its `businesses' consists in expelling non-Albanians and later reselling their abandoned farms and houses. New capitalist bandits are being encourage to dismantle some nationalised companies and to create a new class of rich Albanians.
Kosova is and will remain for some years a Nato neo-colony. Like in Macedonia, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Bosnia and the Czech lands, its forces will be there to guarantee the best conditions for capitalist restoration and accumulation against any resistance from the masses or from other disobedient countries. The KLA is encouraging Kosovar workers to attack their Serbs neighbours and to place their trust in the emerging Albanian bourgeoisie and world imperialism.
An article in the Weekly Worker predicted that for Serbia "Defeat in war, can lead to conditions of social fluidity and instability which provide opportunities for the advance of progressive forces. Wars produce crises which can lead to socialist revolution" (April 22). However, it is one thing for an imperialist power to be defeated in the middle of an imperialist war (like Russia 1917) and another for a new semi-colony to be defeated by all the imperialist powers. The Serb working class is demoralised and dispersed after so much destruction: the pro-western rightwing opposition or Seselj's fascists are the best placed to capitalise on anti-Milosevic discontent. On a world scale imperialism feels very confident. It has already sent troops into East Timor and is preparing an invasion of Colombia. During Nato's war the right wing won a majority in the European parliament for the first time. Everywhere IMF austerity measures and the multinationals have been boosted.
Michael described the KLA as "freedom fighters" and "nationalist revolutionaries" (Weekly Worker May 6) and compared it with the Algerian FLN or the East Timorese Fretilin. The latter were petty bourgeois revolutionary nationalist guerrillas who fought against imperialist domination of backward capitalist colonies, for agrarian reform and democratic rights. Their victory weakened the planet's bosses and encouraged proletarian demonstrations in the 'third world' and in the imperialist heartlands.
The KLA never fought against a single imperialist power. On the contrary, it became the loyal puppet of all of them. It never fought against capitalism and servile forms of production. On the contrary, it is working to liquidate all possible remnants of a planned economy in order to develop semi-colonial backward capitalism. It is whole-heartedly supporting the establishment of an imperialist protectorate and permanent NATO basis in an area where it had no presence for around 50 years.
Michael dedicated two thirds of his article to an attack on the way in which I described Yugoslavia. For me it was a degenerate form of a workers' state which never achieved any form of socialism, but whose planned economy was a progressive step against capitalism. Such states are non-viable in the long term. When the system collapsed, as happened in Eastern Europe, the bureaucracy opened the way to capitalist restoration. Only its overthrow via an internationalist political revolution based on workers' soviets could have prevented such a reactionary outcome.
Michael does not provide us with any positive characterisation of the class nature of Yugoslavia. There is no such thing as a classless state. We entirely agree with the CPGB when it says, "Tito's Yugoslavia certainly had progressive and positive characteristics: the bourgeoisie and big landowners were expropriated, factories were nationalised and nominally run by workers' councils" (Weekly Worker April 22). That is why we were obliged to fight against its ruling nomenclature, while defending such progressive conquests against reactionary movements. On which side of the barricades did the KLA stand? It openly attacks 'communism' and proposes to dismantle all such conquests. It intends to `liberate' Kosova from multi-ethnicity and 'oriental communism', aiming to create a western-controlled, capitalist semi-colony.
At the beginning of 1999 the CPGB wrote: "The struggle of the KLA is a struggle for democracy" (Weekly Worker January 28). "Imperialism cannot and will not accept that the war of the KLA is a just war" (February 4). In fact imperialism armed and supported the KLA, considering them fighters for `justice' and `freedom'. The KLA, instead of achieving democracy and national liberation, is imposing a pro-imperialist, ethnically cleansed protectorate.
Michael says that my characterisation of the KLA "is just fantasy": "Go back only a year or so and you find that the KLA's ideological hero and model was the Stalinist Enver Hoxha" (Weekly Worker September 30). However, Pleurat Sejdiu, the LPK-KLA's London representative, put this in context in an interview with the paper: "Sejdiu claims that the LPK took on its Enverist political complexion merely because it needed the support of Albania, which was ruled by Enver Hoxha. He volunteered that the LPK would have looked for support from Albania even had it been fascist ... The KLA refused an offer from the Iranian government ... Instead, says Sejdiu, `We want to be part of Europe', and therefore the KLA looks only to Nato for arms ... it aggressively supports the idea of Nato ground troops and accepts as inevitable that a protectorate would` then be established under Nato tutelage" (Weekly Worker April 29). At the end of this article readers are encouraged to visit the KLA's website - where no doubt the KLA would show that it was more pro-Nato than Nato itself.
The CPGB has made many mistakes that I would like it to talk about. First, it departed from its traditional line on Afghanistan, Croatia and Bosnia. There the CPGB was not in favour of making a military bloc with anti-communist and pro-imperialist `national liberation' reactionary forces. In Croatia and Bosnia we rejected Serb atrocities, but we did not call on imperialism to arm the other side, which was equally committed to cleansings and capitalist restoration. As in Kosova we call for multi-ethnic militias to fight against pogroms.
Secondly, it equated the KLA with the Kosovar Albanians. The overwhelming majority of Kosovars voted for Ibrahim Rugova as their president. The KLA rejected him and was backed by a minority. The persecuted Albanian dissident and former KLA public spokesman, Adem Demaci, broke with the KLA because he could not accept its call for a Nato protectorate. The KLA had Albanian military rivals. Sejdiu recognised that Nato was not giving the KLA enough weapons because it was worried that the KLA might use them against the official Rugova constitutional government army.
Thirdly, the CPGB puts the bourgeois democratic principle of self-determination above the interests of the anti-imperialist struggle. Lenin said that, taken in isolation, he would have defended Serbia and Belgium against German and Austrian invasions, but since these conflicts were part of a global confrontation he subordinated the legitimate right of self-determination of the occupied nation to a policy of revolutionary dual defeatism worldwide.
Fourthly, it does not understand that sometimes you have to side with an oppressive regime against the nationalists of an oppressed nation once they become imperialist puppets. For example, we defended the Ukrainians, Tartars and Chechens against Stalinist massacres and deportations. However, during the war against German imperialism we were obliged to critically side with Stalin – who killed millions of communists - against Hitler and the Ukrainian, Chechen and Tartar popular-based, armed nationalists who collaborated with Hitler. In Afghanistan we sided with Moscow's army, despite its atrocities, against the pro-CIA clerical-feudalists who demanded national self-rule. In Nicaragua we were in favour of self-determination for the Miskito and Rama, the most oppressed Indian nationalities; but when they made a bloc with Somoza's Contras we were obliged to back the Sandinistas.
In all of these circumstances we sided with the non-imperialist country attacked by imperialism and we called on the Ukrainians, Tartars, Chechens, Pashtu, Indians or Kosovars to enter an anti-imperialist united front against the world's bosses, because they were even worse than their Stalinist or nationalist oppressors. The defeat of imperialism would provide the best route towards achieving their national and social liberation. If they supported Hitler or Washington they would be enslaved even more.
Fifthly, you can still be in favour of Albanian national self-determination and unification while siding with Yugoslavia against imperialism. For instance, during World War II a Greater Albania was founded, incorporating Kosova and Albanian areas in Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece. It was a Mussolini puppet regime. The Stalinists wanted to destroy Greater Albania and to reincorporate Kosova into Yugoslavia. Kosova was the main area that resisted Tito's Partisans. However, we were obliged to side with the Yugoslav `communists' against a fascist Greater Albania, despite advocating a socialist united Albania as a part of a Balkan federation, because we must subordinate a just, bourgeois democratic, principle (self-determination) to a more important class principle (the defeat of imperialism and reaction).
Sixthly, supporting the KLA was incompatible with the CPGB's correct call to "defeat Nato". In such an unequal confrontation between all the rich and imperialist powers on the one hand and a poor and crumbling state on the other, dual defeatism meant pro-imperialist neutrality. If you advocated victory for what was Nato's main pawn you were indirectly advocating a Nato victory. The CPGB correctly said: "There used to be, and still are, two types of countries in the world: bombable and non-bombable ones" (Weekly Worker April 1). In consequence you have to defend these "bombable" countries and not help the imperialist puppets which were Nato's eyes and ears.
Seventhly, this position led to the strengthening of Milosevic. As the example of Iraq shows, when imperialism defeats an oppressed nation, the dictatorship of such a country is able to stay in power, claiming to be the leader of heroic resistance. On the other hand, had imperialism been defeated, working class confidence would have received such a boost, it would have been able to mobilise and impose a new regime.
Eighthly, the same position created the illusion that a reactionary movement was democratic, revolutionary and for national liberation. The struggle for Albanian national and social liberation demanded the most determined opposition to a Nato-armed movement which advocated the transformation of an oppressed province into something even worse: an imperialist enclave.
For the CPGB a "Greater Albania -incorporating Albania, Kosova and the Albanian parts of Montenegro and Macedonia - would be under the domination of KLA revolutionary nationalism" (Weekly Worker April 29). Where was the KLA's revolutionary character? Which landlords or capitalists were affected? The KLA, instead of advocating agrarian reform or measures to protect nationalised property, is in favour of privatising factories and lands. It offers its services as the best supporter of multinational investments and IMF capitalist programmes. The KLA are heroes with Washington and its military and intelligence apparatus. It is one thing is to support the right of the Albanians to secede and to reunite in a single country, but another to claim a revolutionary content for a movement that wants to expel other ethnic communities and establish its Greater Albania under the hegemony not only of Rome or Berlin, but in particular of Washington.
The CPGB wrote: "Nato arms in the hands of a rejuvenated KLA would not be a cause of condemnation. The KLA must be free to obtain its arms from any source. Our support for the democratic demand for Kosovar independence is not dependant on where its freedom fighters manage to get their guns, ammunition and other military material" (Weekly Worker April 15).
Again it is one thing to support the right of anti-imperialists – who are rooted in a revolutionary struggle - to seek arms anywhere. But it is quite another thing to encourage a movement that was completely dominated ideologically and militarily by NATO to ask for more weapon from their bosses. Where are these weapons now, CPGB comrades? Some have been returned to Nato, while the rest are being used by the new Kosovar corps or militias to repress discontent on NATO's behalf and to expel Serbs and Roma.
I hope this friendly, albeit critical, letter will provoke a rethink on the part of the CPGB comrades. If you want to be the most resolute fighters for democracy and national self-determination, if you want to defend Kosovar workers, you need to fight against the KLA.
During the war Albanian communists were obliged to appeal for a broad struggle against the imperialist bombardment, while organising communal self-defence against Serb pogroms. Now that the war is over, we need to fight for the expulsion of NATO troops and for a workers' independent Kosova - against the KLA.
"Reclaiming Marxism on the Eve of the New Millennium"
The recently formed International Workers Committee (comprising the Marxist Workers' Group of Britain, Marxist Opposition of Finland, Marxist Workers' Group of the United States of America, and "Crveni Kriticar" group of Yugoslavia) has produced a statement of intent. There is much we can agree with but we will focus here on the two main areas were we do not agree. Our differences on the 'Fourth International' and 'proletarian orientation' are critical for any successful "reclaiming of Marxism". Without understanding the causes of the degeneration of the post-war Trotskyist movement, no healthy revolutionary international can be built today.
Why did the Fourth International collapse?
The IWC presents its analysis of the rise and fall of the Fourth International in the following way:
"In response to the Comintern's counterrevolutionary international policy, the Bolshevik-Leninist movement began the process of building a new, Marxist International. The founding of the Fourth International (World Party of Socialist Revolution) in 1938 was the culmination of the 15-year struggle to reclaim Marxism in the wake of Stalinism. As the founding document of the Fourth International, "The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International" (the "Transitional Program"), proclaimed: "The Third International has taken the road of reformism at a time when the crisis of capitalism definitely placed the proletarian revolution on the order of the day. The Comintern's policy in Spain and China today -- the policy of cringing before the 'democratic' and 'national' bourgeoisie – demonstrates that the Comintern is likewise incapable of learning anything further or of changing. The bureaucracy which became a reactionary force in the USSR cannot play a revolutionary role on the world arena."
"As the Second World War approached, the ranks of the young Fourth International fought hard to remain at the forefront of the struggle for socialism. The Bolshevik-Leninists correctly raised the slogan of unconditional defense of the USSR in the face of imperialist attack. They said that the only genuine way to defend the gains of the October Revolution was to fight for proletarian political revolution to oust the bureaucracy and return control to the workers' councils (soviets). During this time, a struggle broke out between the proletarian and petty bourgeois elements in the International. The petty bourgeois current, exemplified by Max Shachtman and James Burnham in the U.S. Socialist Workers Party, was ready to abandon defense of the USSR due to the aggravating contradictions of Stalinism. Their rejection of defense of the Soviet Union was accompanied by a rejection of the Marxist method - materialist dialectics. The International Workers' Committee stands alongside Trotsky -- and, to the extent they agreed, James P. Cannon, the founder of the Bolshevik-Leninists in the U.S. -- in his struggle in defense of Marxism."
"The onset of WWII took a heavy toll on the ranks and leadership of the Fourth International. The pressure from imperialism, Social Democracy and Stalinism weighed heavily on the Marxist method of the young International. That, in combination with a loss of proletarian cadre, led the sections and affiliates of the Fourth International into the centrist swamp. The tendency toward "national Bolshevism" by the Fourth International led to disastrous consequences by the end of the War. By 1945, the Fourth International had backslid into centrism. The sections of the International, gripped by a sterile and catastrophist method of "war/revolution," were disoriented in the face of the growth of the "official Communist" parties, and the development of the deformed workers' states in Eastern Europe and China."
"The fight against revisionism, centrism and bourgeois ideology in the ranks of the Marxist movement is a constant struggle as the pressures of bourgeois society weigh down upon it. Disconnected from the working class and impatient at the prospects of the revolutionary development of the proletariat, the post-WWII Fourth International began to openly court non-proletarian "vanguards." The Marxist method that was forged through the struggle against Stalinism -- Bolshevik-Leninism -- was subordinated to the "Trotskyism" of the post-War FI. Beginning with Titoism in 1948, the post-War International engaged in an ever-rightward moving tailism. This tailism was begun under the leadership of Michel Pablo and Ernest Mandel, and is known by the term "Pabloism." However, at the time when Pabloism took leadership of the Fourth International, all currents in the FI supported this trend. It was only later that the so-called "anti-Pabloites" began to wage a partial struggle against the open revisionism of Pabloism"
"The political collapse of the Fourth international began as the Second world War entered its decisive stages. The 1953 organisational collapse of the International was only the culmination of the previous 13 years of centrist degeneration. The political end of the Fourth international marked the decisive break in Marxist continuity. The international Marxist party of the working class must rehabilitate and reclaim Bolshevism-Leninism – "the only possible form of Marxism for this epoch" –and be built in its best traditions."
We have quoted the IWC position on the Fourth International (FI) at length because we see it as displaying the same failure as post-war Trotskyism to come to terms with the underlying causes of its collapse. The IWC takes the view that the FI collapsed because of its isolation from the proletariat. While we agree that a proletarian orientation is essential, we think it is mechanical to draw a straight line from party organisation to class composition.
More important for us in explaining the collapse of the FI was the fact that its leading section the SWP (US) was based upon a relatively backward working class specifically the US labor aristocracy which shared some of the super profits of US imperialism. If the IWC blames only a petty-bourgeois orientation that would make them blind to the backwardness that not only infected the petty bourgeois faction, but also Cannon's leadership itself. Instead of romanticising Cannon's "proletarian" line, we invite the MWG to re-read and reply to the article "James P Cannonism", by Owen Gager. Here they will find expressed very clearly, an analysis of the collapse of the leading section of the FI that results from the relative privilege of the US working class, rather than an isolation from the working class.
Having concluded that the collapse of the FI resulted from its isolation from the working class, the IWC makes much of its "proletarian" orientation to avoid a repetition of the same fate. But as we argue this is to miss the point and to set itself up for the same fall. It was not Cannon's adherence to the proletariat that ensured that the Fourth International could go into the war in a healthy state. Already the seeds of destruction had been sown. His failure to stand up against the US chauvinism of the labour aristocracy led him to capitulate on the imperialist war. It was this same devotion to US workers' ideological backwardness that led to the refusal of the SWP to recognise the war had ended in 1946; to promote the "American Theses" which attributed to the US working class the most "advanced" ideological standpoint; to oppose Pablo's threat to the US party and then to unite with Pablo in 1959 after a petty bourgeois revolution became Stalinised in Cuba to create a "healthy" workers' state in the US own backyard. Thus, none of these clear breaks and zig zags of the SWP (US) from Trotsky's method and programme can be explained without first rejecting the mechanical proletarian line of argument for a dialectical explanation rooted in the nature of US imperialism.
Or course a communist leadership must recruit workers to the party in order to be fully practically involved in the struggles of working people. It must ensure that its non-proletarian recruits are proletarianised. But more than anything, party cadres have to be immersed fully in the class struggle. We suspect the knee jerk mechanical "proletarian" line of the IWC is overcompensating for its experience of petty-bourgeois sellouts. But it does not follow from this that workers defined as ‘those who must sell their toils/labours in order to survive’ (or do not have their own means of production) are not infected with non-class, backward, chauvinist, racist and sexist ideas. Whether they recognise it or not, self-employed workers, even scab workers are parts of the working class -not that we should defend scab actions. Our aim is to raise the political consciousness of workers so they become class conscious and fight for the proletariat. To do this we need to recognise that some layers of the working class are more advanced, and some are more backward. Lenin in "What is to be Done" explained the spontaneous limits of working class consciousness to bourgeois ‘trade union’ consciousness. To raise political consciousness is primary role of Marxist "leadership".
We conclude by drawing attention once again to the importance of Marx's method. Materialist dialectics is the method that allows the democratic centralist proletarian party to develop a programme through the testing of theory in practice. But it requires at its core, cadres who express the interests of the proletariat and not the petty bourgeoisie or bourgeoisie. The problem with the IWC concept of "proletarian orientation" is that it reads off from the occupation of wage-labourer an essentialist proletarian class consciousness that does not exist, but has to be created by the intervention of the party. In this way, the IWC is in danger of repeating the same mistakes of the FI and falling into the trap of an objectivist/subjectivist split in its method. That is, there is a danger that it will liquidate the party before the idealist proletarian vanguard in just the same way as post-war Trotskyism generically liquidated itself before various objective revolutionary processes and 'vanguards'. This is no way to 'reclaim Marxism' and build a new Revolutionary International!
For the withdrawal of Russia from Chechenia and Daguestan!
For the Independence of the Left and the Independence of the People of Causasus from the Russian Federation.
We reprint a draft statement of the Revolutionary Workers Party of Argentina (POR). The CWG is in broad agreement with its analysis of the situation in Chechenia, though we have some differences on the process of capitalist restoration in the ex-USS.
The government of Yeltzin has unleashed a military offensive against Chechenia. This time Russia repeats yet again the war that killed 40,000 people when in 1996 it invaded the separatist republic and which resulted in a major humiliation for Russia when it was forced to withdraw and concede greater autonomy to Chechenia.
Following the earlier disaster, when he suffered an impeachment, Yeltsin now intends to achieve a successful operation in a short time. This involves a destructive ground attack, daily aerial bombings, directed at key economic targets, petrol refinaries, airports, television stations etc. At the same time the Russian population evicted during the military intervention in 1996 will be returned will these movements and those of an estimated 100,000 refugees who have left in desperation for Inguchetia has been subject to a total media ban (Folha de Sao Paulo, 24/09/1990).
Moscow affirmed that the objective of the attack is to destroy the fundamentalist guerillas that are fighting for the creation of an Islamic state of Chechenia and Dagueston. The same people that are responsible for the assaults that caused the deaths of 3000 persons during August and September in Russia. However, Moscow's objective to check the separtist wave that has put the Russian Federation in a major crisis situation, like the major blow to the economies of the the states that formed the the URSS, because of the threat of the removal from its control of the rich regions of the Caucaus, important because of is production and transporation of oil.
The present war has come at the same time as the biggest crisis confronting Yeltzin since he assumed power in the counter-revolution of August 1991 when the the Soviet bureaucratic workers state was destroyed. The chaos and the slow decline which has come from the restoration of capitalism has been aggravated by the financial crash of the last year. "Aided" by the IMF the BIRD and Japan, these creditors are putting pressure on Yeltsin to impose austerity measures to reduce the fiscal deficit. Besides the separatist turbulence, Yeltsin, who's health is extremely debilitated, is also confronted with accusations of corruption and money laundering involving a group of his advisors and friends. All this comes with the impending legislative elections when Yeltsin's opponents can deal him a strong defeat less than a year from the presidential elections, held under the present invalid constitution.
Plundering the People to begin the Primitive Accumulation of Capital.
There is a big contest in the Caucacus for control of the region that has the biggest reserves of oil on the planet. US oil companies have heavily invested in the region surrounding the Caspian Sea. As well as this the fertile soil of the region has become a powder keg about to explode. "Since the collapse of the Soviet regime the Caspian Sea area has seen many wars, attacks on the lives of Presidents , civil wars and many assassinations." (Los Angeles Times, 29/3/98). The new oil pipeline it is hoped will provide the cheapest oil on the world market. However, as yet the pressure towards conflict between US, Europe, Iran, China and Russia has not resulted in war. In fact, the preoccupation to maintain stability of the region is precisely to avoid a major war over the division of the spoils of the Caucacus.
Meanwhile many in the US expect to get concessions now that: "the oil pipeline project includes many big names in the US oil industry: Exxon, Amoco, Chevron, Unocal, Mobil, Arco and Pennzoil. James A Baker, the 3rd, (ex-secretary of State, partner in the law firm, Houston, Baker and Botts, and representative of the major consortium of international oil companies that operate in Azerbadjian), Arthur Hartman (US ex-ambassador to Moscow, presidential adviser of a company that buys Turkestan oil and transports the oil across the Caspian as far as the pipeline in Baku) and Richard Holbrooke (ex-advisor to the Secretary of State, employee of Credit Suisse First Boston, and a powerful player in the financing of the pipelines." (idem). At the same time, the most prominent US political representatives in the "most recent decades now used the 'know how' acquired at the end of the cold war, their knowledge of the ex-USSR, and their relations with the actual political bosses of the Caucasus, to gain access for the big Yankee petroleum companies to exploit oil reserves in the former territories of the workers states.
In terms of total value, "Chechenia played an important role with reserves that in the 1970's provided a third of the Soviet oil consumption (22 million tonnes a year), production which has collapsed with the onset of the war" (O Estado de Sao Paulo, (28/1/97). Moreover, Russia needs the pipelines to Grozny to transport oil from Azerbadjian to the Mediterranean. Any interruption of the oilflow creates big financial losses for the big oil companies. By agreement, 200 million tonnes of oil is transported across Chechenia from the Caspian Sea to the Russian port of Novorissick on the Black Sea, and from there to the Mediterranean. It is fundamental that the primitive accumulation of capital of the new Russian Bourgeoisie will take off only if Moscow refuses to relinquish control over the Republics of the Caucasus and does not tolerate separatist movements.
Under these conditions, Yeltsin who has a habit of forcibly violating the constitution, and has used force several times when the situation was unfavourable (dissolution of the USSR in December 1991; dissolution of Parliament in September 1993; despatch of troops to Chechenia in December 1994), now turns to using the military like armed police, intensified the attacks against the separatists, declared a state of emergency and called a new election. This will serve several purposes for Yeltsin, such as defending himself from the accusations of theft, in 1993 and 1998 of 100's of billions of dollars. The new war also serves his government's campaign to stay in power and to neutralise parliament which is now controlled by nationalists and stalinists, in negotiations with foreign oil companies. A new unconstitutional measure has been announced that allows the prime minister Vladimir Putin to also administer the government of Moscow. Putin is an ex-member of the KGB with responsibility for control of the post office and the Federal Security Service.
Communist Party of the Russian Federation: The Rotten Legacy of Stalinist Communism.
Following the tradition of Stalinist politics which betrayed the proletariat and the non-Russian nationalities, the "communists" of CPRF fit in with the interests of the Russian bourgeoisie, of Yeltsin and imperialism, and refuse to recognise the democratic rights of the Chechen people. The main weapon used against Yeltsin by the Stalinists parliamentarians is the defeat of 1996 in Chechenia. They had begun a process of his impeachment as President of Russia. But this initiative was blocked by the disastrous war in the Causasian province, when he ordered the total withdrawal of the Russian troops from Chechenia and made an agreement with the separatist rebels in the province on condition of special autonomy following the elections of 27/1/97.
After the election of the new authorities of Chechenia, the "communist" delegate Vikton IIyukhin, chief of the Committee of Security of Congress "affirmed that the elections should not be recognised because the majority of the population did not participate in them, referring to the 300,000 refugees who could not vote because of the war" (O Estada de Sao Paulo, 7/0/97). The Russian chauvinists divided their tasks, the restorationist government expelled a good part of the population and the stalinist opposition used their bureaucratic justifications to oppose the volutary independence movement of the Chechen people, using the formality of an irregularity in the ballot.
For the Russian Stalinists, the Russian Federation offers to reach out and protect the autonomous nationalities. In this form, they hypocritically defend the interests of the capitalists, oppressors of the nationalities. In his time Lenin had this to say about the social chauvinists: "The most plausible formulation of the social chauvinist lie, one that is therefore most dangerous to the proletariat, is provided by Kautsky..."National Autonomy", if you please, is enough! The principle question, the one the imperialist bourgeoisie will not permit discussion of, the question of the boundaries of the state that is build upon the oppression of nations, is evaded by Kautsky, who to please the bourgeoisie, has thrown out of the programme what is most essential. The bourgeoisie are ready to promise all the "national equality" you please, so long as the proletariat remain within the framework of legality and "peacefully" submit to them on the question of the state boundaries! Kautsky has formulated the national programme of Social-Democracy [Communism] in a reformist, not revolutionary manner." ("The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination". CW Vol. 21 p411-412).
The Russian social chauvinists also share with the dominant mafia class a xenophiobia against the non-Russian peoples. The same Viktor IIyukhin, well-known for his anti-semitism, is now a tough in-house critic of the government, attributing the wave of terrorism (most of the public attribute this to the Moscow mafia) on the lack of vigilance over the thousands of persons of the Caucasian nationalities who live in Moscow. For the other side, Zuganov blames the jewish minority for the economic crisis of the country. Against the impulse for solidarity of the working class with the nationalities pressing for a method of struggle against the restoration of capitalism, the CPRF is dedicated to the task of poisoning the proletariat with chauvinism and racism, helping the reaction. In this way the Russian "communists" are preparing the road for the defeat of the proletarian resistance, and creating the basis for the emergence and consolidation of a fascist regime in Russia, the explosive coup that will be necessary for the consolidation of capitalist restoration.
The Fundamentalists Treachery against National Self-Determination.
In most of Russia the centrifugal tendencies to break with Yeltsin are all isolated in separatist fronts who pass to be one of the numerous enemies of Moscow. In particular, at this moment standing out among them, is the guerrilla Shamil Bassiev, the most popular in the previous war (1994-1995), and the current leader of the Oriental Front of the Autonomous Republic of Chechenia. Bassiev recently allied with the suni wahhabi militias led by the Jordanian Jatab who is fighting to make Daguestan into a Islamic Independent Republic. At the same time, the guerrilla leader Busco is close to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
In this current situation workers must act to defend the nationalist movements of Chechenia and Daguestan against the oppression of the capitalist government of Russia, revindicating the right of self-determination and the independent states of the peoples of the Caucasus as they wish. On the other hand, no revolutionaries can ignore criticising the terrorist methods used by the Islamic commanders of the separatist guerrillas like Bassiev. Under the reactionary bourgeois ideology of Islam, and its terrorist methods, the guerrilla movement has little to offer the struggle of the Chechen masses who are for national liberation, and pushes the Russian masses into the hands of the Russian racist chauvinism. Instead this impulse weakens the political struggle of the masses for the liberation of Chechenia and Dageustan. First, because it concedes to Yeltsin the justification for the attacks against Chechenia, and creates many distractions that hold back the collapse of the government under the pressure of the Russian proletariat. And secondly, because it reduces the role of the masses (that must conquer liberty on the road to the social revolution) creating feelings of impotence and the belief that there can be salvation in messianic groups. This type of method is in perfect harmony with the reactionary interests of the Islamic fundamentalist leaders that seek to eliminate any class organisations or independence and popular movements.
In this way, the fundamentalist guerrillas weaken the struggle of the national liberation of the peoples of the Caucasus and substitute the end of the negotiation table for that of the real liberation struggle, and the right to secede from the oppressor state for the concession of autonomy inside a federation. Under the Islamic movement the Caucasian masses are exposed to treachery along the same road that the KLA followed when the Albanian Kosovars subordinated their struggle for national liberation to the interests of the imperialists, and allowed an oppression much more reactionary than the Serbian army. Given the ambitions of imperialism over the Causasian region, we can expect similar treachery on the part of the fundamentalist movements that, in Afghanistan, were backed by the CIA against the USSR. In these times, under the mounting pressure coming from the military camp of imperialism, revolutionaries must not renounce the perspective of the right of the national movements to self-determination. At the same time as the struggle for these rights, the proletariat must openly declare that forming national states at this time is no longer historically progressive as a strategic objective. We are against the fragmentation of the peoples and a proliferation of micro states, but we are for the construction of a united Federation of Socialist Republics, and in this case the reconstruction of the USSR. We must strike out on this march with a vision of the unity of the workers around the world.
Unifying the Struggles of the Peoples of the ex-USSR with the objective of a new October Revolution.
Is is possible to realise real autonomy and reverse the disunity of the workers of the Caucasus against the local capitalists, warlords and criminal organisations, and all the imperialist lackeys who are the major exploiters of the labour power of the workers and natural resources of the region. Lenin had much to say on the tasks of the revolutionaries of the national movements and oppressed and saw the primary task as the struggle for national liberation: "...the Social-Democrats of the oppressor nations must demand that the oppressed nations should have the right to secession, for otherwise recognition of equal rights for nations and of international working-class solidarity would in fact be merely empty phrase-mongering, sheer hypocrisy.
On the other hand, the Social-Democrats of the oppressed nations must attach prime significance to the unity and the merging of the workers of the oppressed nations with those of the oppressor nations; otherwise these Social-Democrats will involuntarily become the allies of their own national bourgeoisie, which always betrays the interests of the people and of democracy, and is always ready, in its turn, to annex territory and oppress other nations." (idem. p 409). It is precisely by creating such organisations of the masses that the proletariat can come to power and subordinate the guerrillas in the struggle for the socialist insurrection, expropriating the ruling classes of the region with the methods of the Proletarian Dictatorship.
Similtaneously we are for the practical unity of the Russian workers against the capitalist restoration, for the revolutionary overthrow of Yeltsin's government, and the expropriation of the new bourgeoisie. Our first task must be no confidence in the guerrilla groups, and the construction of an international Bolshevik party of Lenin and Trotsky, capable of organising the combining of the national movements and the unification of the fight for the realisation of democratic tasks for national liberation with the struggle for a new October Revolution and the reconstruction of the USSR.
Revolutionary Workers’ Party, Argentina
16 October 1999.