Publication of the Liaison Committee of Militants for a Revolutionary Communist International
Albania: Spontaneous revolt against anti-communists-
- The ruin of the Balkan capitalist model -
- Key events in the two months of unrest that have drawn Albania into Revolution -
- Victory to the Albanian uprising! -
- Voices from Albania -
The MRTA holding of the Japanese ambassador's house in Lima and the tasks of the working class -
Human rights in Peru -
Good picket against Fujimori in London -
Colombian general strike's picket -
Christmas massacre in Bolivia. Summary of a report from Poder Obrero (Bolivia) -
Ecuador: General strike ousts President Bucaram -
Guerrilla struggles re-emerge in Latin America. Workers' Voice (U.S.) -
What lessons from the Korean general strike? Communist Workers Group (New Zealand) -
The Civil War in Zaire -
Imperialists out of central Africa! Workers' Voice (U.S.) -
Down with Milosevic, Zajedno! Crisis looms over Serbia; Workers' Voice (U.S.) -
Pauline Hanson and Australian racism; Communist Left of Australia -
New Zealand: The coalition from hell; Communist Workers Group (New Zealand) -
Detroit Newspaper strike: UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER! Workers' Voice (U.S.) -
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal! -
DOSSIER: Joint declarations of the LCMRCI and the LTT (Iraq, Palestine, Ireland, Trade Union work in Britain, Europe) -
Banditry and colonialism will not destroy Poder Obrero in Peru -
The bankruptcy of Workers Power's LRCI -
In this issue we re-reproduce articles from different groups and comrades of the LCMRCI and fraternal groups.
We give particular importance to the recent struggles in Latin America. Most of these issues were ignored or badly reported in the European left press. We have an article on two important mass actions in the Andes: the Ecuadorian general strike which overthrew a just-elected populist government; and the armed confrontation between the army and the miners in Bolivia.
Our comrades in Peru sent articles related to the occupation of the Japanese diplomatic residence in Lima and how their organisation is existing and struggling in such difficult circumstances. We are reprinting an article from Workers Voice in which it is analyse the development of significant guerrilla struggles in the two major countries which surround the Central American isthmus: Colombia and Mexico.
We cover the new troubles in Serbia and, especially, Albania. The latest is a very important development. It is an spontaneous mass rebellion which is not using any anti-Communist or ethnic-nationalist cover and is directly against one of the models of capitalist restoration in the region.
The New Zealand comrades wrote articles on the class struggle in the Pacific: the Korean demonstrations and the new reactionary coalition in New Zealand. We also reproduced two articles on Central Africa. The Communist Left wrote on racism in Australia. Workers' Voice presents an account of the defeat of the Detroit's newspaper strike, in which they were involved.
At the end we are publishing a Dossier with all the documents adopted by the LTT and the LCMRCI. We also have a summary article on our differences with the organisation where we come from: the LRCI.
We invite the readers to send their comments.
Who we are:
The Internationalist Bulletin is the international public journal of the Liaison Committee of Militants for a Revolutionary Communist International which is composed by Poder Obrero (Bolivia), the Communist Workers Group (New Zealand), Poder Obrero (Peru) and by comrades in Britain and continental Europe. It contains the documents and articles from our press which are a record of our political development, and of our regroupment discussions with other tendencies.
The LCMRCI was formed in May 1996 as the result of a fight inside the League for a Revolutionary Communist International around the question of defending Serbia from Nato's bombs. For more than four years we criticised the LRCI's increasing adaptation to democratic imperialism. The LRCI started asking imperialism to assist pro-independence movements in the collapsing bureaucratic workers states and making united fronts with and behind Yeltsin's August 1991 counter-coup. It ended with the adoption of a pro-imperialist neutral position when the imperialist attacked Haiti and the Bosnian Serbs. They even asked NATO powers to send arms and weapons to support their Muslim-Croat allies.
Our Liaison Committee is not yet a democratic-centralist tendency. We have comrades and groups who are dispersed all over the planet. Some of them were able to create national groups and other comrades are working inside bigger organisations. We initially tried to co-ordinate our common struggles against the LRCI's degeneration and to elaborate common positions.
We are trying to develop our forces and our ideas with the aim of refounding a revolutionary communist international. We don't have an arrogant petite bourgeois posture which stands on condemnations of all the rest of the far left for being completely centrists or part of the counter-revolution. We understand that a process of discussion and regroupment is needed, with the aim of exchanging ideas and experiences, and developing the new foundations for the re-foundation of a Trotskyist international.
Since early 1996, the LCMRCI has been engaged in reproachment talks with the Leninist Trotskyist Tendency with the intention of resolving differences and forming a pole of attraction for an international regroupment. Despite some progress, and cooperation in drafting of joint declarations on Iraq, Palestine and other issues (which we re-print as a dossier) and joint work, we need to narrow our differences on the national question and tactics towards mass parties.
More recently the LCMRCI has also entered into discussions with Workers' Voice in the US, with a view to narrowing our differences. These discussions are at an early stage, but there is a common commitment to persist with a regroupment of the left-moving forces of the so-call Trotskyist left based on marxist method. As an indication of the level of co-operation achieved to date, we reprint several WoVo articles with which we are in agreement.
The LCMRCI is committed to working towards a serious regroupment of the left-moving currents splitting away from the ossified centrist tendencies. We want this process to be public and open to all revolutionary currents. We invite groups and individuals interested in regroupment to enter into discussion and to respond to the material in our Bulletins.
Albania: Spontaneous revolt against anti-communists
Albania is becoming Europe's hot spot. The imperialist media is showing its concerns about this "lawless" and "chaotic" country. Albania, which was the fastest growing European economy in 1993 and 1994 and a model of Tory fast capitalist restoration, is facing civil war. The state, the army and the police have collapsed. In the south every family has a gun. The insurrection is now spreading into the north and has arrived in the Capital Tirana.
The Albanian rebellion is marking a new step in the post-Cold War world. It is the first popular revolution against an open anti-Communist capitalist regime in one of the post-Stalinist countries.
Since 1989 many upheavals have shaken China, the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe. The people rose in anger against the Stalinist regimes and a significant proportion of the population had illusions in the western model of parliamentary democracy plus market. Since 1989 all the collapsing Degenerated Workers States in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have been transformed into incipient capitalist states. A social counter-revolution has occurred under a "democratic" and neo-liberal cover and was supported by considerable layers of the population which wanted to achieve the standard of living and ourgeois democratic rights of the Western imperialist countries. Everywhere the bureaucracy decided to abandon their previous regimes and to dismantle the nationalised and planned economies and the state monopoly of foreign trade, finances and big industries. The bourgeoisie, which was forbidden to be a ruling class for four or more decades, has been allowed to accumulate as much money and property as it can. The state apparatus and ideology became servants of imperialism and the new emergent property class.
In every country the Stalinists supported that project. They only put up some resistance to the most savage capitalist measures. The former "Communist Parties" were re-created as social-democratised "Socialist" parties committed to a market economy. The working class, ideologically disarmed and very confused, was incapable of stopping the return of the capitalists to power. The reintroduction of the bourgeois system created terrible consequences: massive unemployment, the destruction of industries, the liquidation of job security and many social benefits, and the increased social polarisation between a minority of new great riches and millions of people living below the poverty line.
In many places national and ethnic conflicts erupted. With the liquidation of the central plan economies every national region wanted to link directly to the foreign markets and their elites wanted to became the new bourgeoisie. Workers from different ethnic groups were mobilised to kill their brothers and sisters from other communities with the aim of creating new mini semi-colonial states. Their anger against the effects of capitalist restoration was badly diverted into ethnic communalism. Imperialism also connived at popular demonstrations against Stalinists which were incapable of applying full-IMF shock therapy programmes.
In countries which where the vanguard of the new right wing neo-liberals, like Poland, Hungary or Lithuania, the discontented population was able to peacefully elect post-Stalinist governments. None of these wanted to re-create the bureaucratic workers states. On the contrary, they are continuing with the market reforms albeit trying to avoid the most radical neo-liberal "excesses".
Albania is something different. It is a spontaneous insurrection against a former popularly elected "democratic" president. Berisha, won his first presidential elections in March 92 by a landslide (63% of the votes). He was considered the "Balkan Havel". He was presented as a cult leader which led a "velvet revolution" which overthrew Hoxha statues in Tirana in 1991-92. For the west he was the man which establish "democracy" in a country which had nearly five decades of Stalinist rule and was under the rule of the Axis powers, a monarchy and Turkey. Like Yeltsin, he was also a former Secretary of the Stalinist ruling party who became a born-again anti-Communist neo-liberal.
These are not demonstrations led by the pro-imperialist opposition and the church against the "Socialists", like in Serbia. Rather it is a war against one of the most pro-Western post-Stalinists regimes. It is a subversion against the anti-Communists; a spontaneous anti- Anti-Communist revolution. It is the first European mass armed general mobilisation which is officially being labelled as led by "red terrorists", "far left" and "communists".
The Albanian revolt was not organised by any political force and no one political party is leading it. It is an spontaneous explosion similar to the revolutions of Russia in February 1917, Bolivia in 1952 or Rumania in 1989. The toilers are not mobilised around any socialist demand.
Their main concern is that they want their money back. Most of the Albanians invested their savings in get-rich-quick investment pyramids set up by the regime but approved by the IMF. The pyramid schemes - the various pseudo-banks that succeeded in sucking in funds from almost every Albanian household with the promise of exorbitant interest payments before going bust - is part of the most barbaric form of finance capital exploitation of the savings of the people. Many of the poor Albanians sold their houses or farms and have now lost everything.
The big problem is that it would be very difficult for any new government to guarantee to return money back to them. The amount of money invested in that financial societies is more or less the yearly national Albanian product. The rebellion is targeting one of the most horrific aspects of capitalist restoration. Everywhere privatisation and investment pyramid are creating a new bourgeoisie which is connected to the Mafia and which uses the worst methods of primitive capitalist accumulation.
These financial institutions were used by the regimes to appease the population and to try to show to many poor people that they could overcome poverty or the lost of their jobs with these fabulous ways of savings. The collapse of such institutions created similar problems in many regimes from the Andes to the former Soviet bloc. The Albanian case is the first one which has produced a revolution. In neighbouring Macedonia, where one third of its population are oppressed for being ethnically Albanians, there are also problems with investment pyramids. This explosion could spread to all the region.
An article published in the New York Times (15 March) suggested that "the people rampaging through Albania's streets and displaying captured Kalashnikovs are not "The People" who toppled Ferdinand Marcos in Manila or the velvet revolutionaries of Prague in 1989. Rather, they are driven by an unlikely coalition of unreformed Communists and the Albanian Mafia that threatens to plunge the country into civil war." Berisha and many imperialist papers are accusing the revolution of being a Mafia-Marxist plot.
In every insurrection it is inevitable that the organise crime wants to take advantage of the situation and that the lumpen-proletariat would make looting. However, around one million Albanians were defrauded by the semi-banks which Berisha used to financed his campaign and to pay for the privileges to his collaborators. It was the Albanian regime and police which had several links with the Mafia.
Italy's chief anti-Mafia prosecutor, confirmed a report that Italian-organised crime groups had sunk money into the pyramid schemes for money-laundering and to raise startup capital for new ventures; and that Albania had become a significant producer of marijuana and was dabbling in the cultivation of coca, the raw material for cocaine. Shqiponja, a company run openly by Berisha's Democratic Party, was used to run guns and drugs, and these rackets are continuing in other forms.
The areas under rebel control are not in a state of barbaric anarchy. Local councils are being formed and they are organising militias and the distribution of basic goods. The people there are more free and safe than the ones who are living in Tirana.
There are many former Stalinist officers and cadres which are trying to capture the leadership of the spontaneous revolt. Many of them would have links with the Mafia, were involved in the Hoxha's security police and would like to make good deals with imperialism and the new bourgeoisie.
However, we can not judge a movement by its episodic leaders. We need to see the mass movement itself and in which direction it is going. The rebels are not raising US flags or demanding concessions to the market. They are fighting against neo-liberal measures and a right-wing regime. The rebellion, despite all its great limitations, started in the most pro-Socialist areas, are using red flags and is under attack for being "far left".
The Albanians are using the classical proletarian insurrection methods: strikes, mass demonstrations, disarming the police and the army, assaulting barracks and create local councils and militias. Marxists have to intervene in this process trying to prevent the new dual power bodies from becaming bureaucratised, destroyed, dissolved or re-integrating into the system.
All their delegates have to be elected and recallable in rank and file assemblies. The armed militias should only recognise their authority. The new bourgeoisie and former security agents have to be expelled from them.
Stalinists 'reconcile' with Berisha
The Stalinists are showing once again their counter-revolutionary role. They have decided to join Berisha's regime and to rearm the repressive forces.
On March 2, Berisha declared a state of emergency, one day later he was re-elected nearly unanimously for a new five-year term and he launched a military offensive against the rebels. However, he failed and was forced to ask his opponents to rescue him. Berisha had banned the "Communist" Party of Labour and put in jail the leader of the Socialist Party, former prime minister Fatos Nano. When the insurrection begun he accused the "Comunists" of being the instigators and that he would not deal with them. The Socialist Party didn't allow their deputies to attend the parliament.
Despite all of this hostility, the Socialists and all the opposition parties created with Berisha a "government of reconciliation" on Sunday 9. Berisha already sacrificed the man who had been his prime minister since he made his government in April 92. The new cabinet is led by Bashkim Fino, a leader of the SP and a former major of Gjirokasta (one of the leading rebel cities), and is composed by 5 members of the DP, 5 from the SP, 4 from the Social Democrats and one each for other five minor opposition parties.
Berisha has capitulated to almost all the opposition demands. He called for general elections in June, he made a national unity government and he declared amnesty to the rebels. His chief of security, Bashkim Gazidede, resigned.
However, the insurrection was not stopped. The rebellion which started in the southwest corner of Albania, from the Adriatic ports of Vlore and Sarande to the inland towns of Delvine, Gjirokaster, Tepelene, Permet and Berat, took control of Berat, Elbasani, Lushnja and the Tirana airport, in central Albania, and later Durasi, the country's main port, and Shkodar, the main northern city. About 300 prisoners from the Central Jail were released during a mayhem, including two archenemies of Berisha, the leader of the Socialist Party, Nano and the last "Communist" chief of Albania, Ramiz Alia.
"Berisha accepted that he has no institutional control," Skender Gjinushi of the opposition Social Democrats reported after meeting with the president. "He has no army, no police, Tirana is in total anarchy."
Berisha tried to play off the ancient rivalries between the southerners, which speak the Tosk dialect and are relatively more develop, and the northerners, which speak the Gheg dialect, and have more mountaneous tribal traditions. Berisha came from the north and he put his follow countrymen in top executive positions in the police and the government. However, the north is now shaken by the insurrection. In Shkodar all state institutions were set on fire, the armoury emptied, and the headquarters of the secret police and a local bank were destroyed.
The new "socialist" premier said that the reorganisation of police and army would be a top priority of his emergency government and he promised to triple the salaries to the police forces, and to campaign to hire new staff for the now powerless ministries of interior and defence.
The SP is desperate to re-establish order. They had also been involved in dirty business. They begun the return to the new savage capitalist economy. One of the main pyramid schemes was controlled by them. Fino said that the government would work closely with the political parties and the local committees in the insurgent Albanian towns to stabilise the country.
In the first weekend of March masked police controlled Tirana. Many Albanians, including criminals, were allowed to be conscripted in 24 hours as new policemen. The Socialists are re-creating the bourgeois repressive institutions with the aim of disarming the insurrections or smashing its most intransigent wings.
A leader of the European Security Council, Vanitsky, after meeting with Fino and officials from local committees in insurgent-held towns in southern Albania, said that the Albanians are asking for military intervention and that it could be a possibility to send 4,000 troops. Already, Italy, Greece and other European countries are moving in that direction.
In mid-March, Fino's main aim was to try to make agreements with the rebel cities. Many southern city councils created a "National Committee for People's Salvation" which is not part of the new national unity government. Already more than 150,000 weapons, including tanks and planes, are in rebel's hands. The Socialists wants to re-create the bourgeois state apparatus and to use the elections to form a new legalised regime.
The elections are seeing as a distraction manoeuvre to appease and divide the rebels. However, one of the leaders of the new ruling coalition, Nerita Ceka, recognised that it would be impossible to convene elections while there are so many armed groups and he would like to extend the period of the new government. Some insurgents declared "We are not interested in elections or in a provisional government. Albania's south and very soon the rest of the country would not depose their weapons until Berisha have to leave" (El Pais, 10 March)
For revolutionaries the main task is to maintain, democratise, consolidate and centralise the new local power councils. We have to demand no conciliation with Berisha or any of the bourgeois parties! Transform the councils and militias into working class alternative power!
It is possible that Berisha could resign. Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini told the newspaper La Repubblica that Fino had to decide whether Berisha's presence was "an obstacle to pacifying the country or not, and whether his continuation in the role can be accepted at least to prepare elections or not." The west and the government could sacrifice him with the aim of integrating several southern forces into the reconstruction of the state. However, there is also the risk that Berisha's gunmen could create a military focus in the north.
Albanian workers have have a big problem. There is no revolutionary party. The few Albanian trotskyists were heavily persecuted by the Fascist occupation forces and by Hoxha's Stalinists. The only "Marxist" tradition is the one created by Hoxha who imposed a model of complete autarky and isolation even against the rest of the so-called "socialist" states.
In August the former Hoxha party, the "Socialists" dropped the term "marxism" from their programme. It is indispensable to create the first nucleus of genuine Marxists who should advocate the strategy of an internationalist revolution of workers councils and militias. In these actions many radicalised workers and young people should try to fine answers and revolutionary alternatives. Trotskyists needs to participate in this process.
Two important questions are being raised with the Albanian uprising. First, it is showing that capitalist restoration can not be a peaceful process and that it is the first signal that spontaneous insurrections could be the answer to many years of market experiments. What is happening today in Albania could happen tomorrow in Russia. Second, it shows to the workers of France, Britain and Germany and other European countries which are ruled by right wing governments which were part of the same international as the Albanian "Democratic" Party, that there is a revolutionary way to react against so many attacks.
The ruin of the Balkan capitalist model
Berisha promised that Albania would be the Balkan's Taiwan. In the last years Albania attracted around $150 million in investments because it was realised that this country is in the middle of Europe's largest onshore oil-field.
Albania was not in civil war and was very close to two European union powers: Italy and Greece. Albania benefited from the Yugoslav wars.
A lot of money was accumulated in smuggling arms and goods to the north. It also benefited from high investments of the Italian Mafia using the pyramid schemes and the country as a drug producer and commercial bridge.
During Hoxha's time there were very few cars in the streets. With the new regime many cars were imported, more than one thousand private companies were opened and the country started to look to the west. New fortunes started to emerge.
Berisha's friend took advantage of their positions to try to become rich. Hundreds of million dollars were accumulated by the financial schemes. The company that enjoyed a monopoly on the export of oil was run directly by the Democratic Party [DP] and chaired by its chief, Tritan Shehu, now the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.
Before the insurrection, the west "ignored" all the violations to human rights, the authoritarian-ism and the electoral fraud which made Berisha a new president.
In 1996 Albania joined EFTA, the Council of Europe, signed the NATO Partnership for Peace agreement, has an association agreement with the European Union, has Most Favoured Nation status with the USA and is steadily moving towards joining all of the world's main institutions.
For The Economist (8 March) Albania's growth "was the most rapid of all the ex-communist countries." During the past three years the Albanian Government was proud that it has introduced one of the most severe and aggressive reform programs in all of Eastern Europe. Albania has produced one of the highest growth rates in GDP in Central & Eastern Europe and has managed to shed many of the state controls that had forbidden any forms of private initiative.
According to a Democratic Party's 1995 document, the market economy is being transformed into a dominant force in Albania. The budget deficit from 44% of GDP three years ago, was planning to be only 7% this year. More than 55% of the GDP comes from the private sector. Inflation has decreased 25 times as compared to 1991. For two successive years Albania has the greatest economic growth in Eastern Europe, 11% for 1993 and 8% for 1994. Export and import comparing 1992 - 1994 increased 3.2 times and 2.7 times respectively. In 1994 foreign investment was three times higher than in 1993. 65% of the national property is privatised.
They proudly recognised that "all the success of the Democratic Party that have been achieved during these three years of its governing, would have never assumed these dimensions without the invaluable moral, technical, and material help of the European Union Christian Democrats and People's Parties and European Democratic Union, of the centre right parties and their leaders in Europe, as well as the special and all-round assistance of the two American institutions, the Republican and Democrat party's, from the foundation of the DP to its victory in 1992 and successively."
North Korea, the Asiatic tiger model, showed that the savage capitalist model led to increased polarisation and huge workers discontent. Now Albania, before it has reached any serious comparative economic success, has exploded.
Capitalist transition meant scandalous attacks against the masses. Between 1990 and 1992 Albanian overall GDP fell by 41%, and industrial production. Industrial output, which contracted further in 1994, has fallen by 74% since 1990 and now only contributes 13% of national GDP (compared with 37% in 1990).
Most of Albanian industries collapsed. Despite all its successes, Albanian economy, like most of eastern Europe is only producing 70% as what they produced in 1989.
For more than four decades Albanian workers had not experienced unemployment. With Berisha half of the population couldn't find a job in their own country.
According to official figures around 352,000 Albanians are working abroad (21% of the labour force), and unemployed, who are mainly in urban areas, number around 261,000 (19.5% of the domestic labour force) of which only one quarter of them received some benefits. The reality was that more than 400,000 Albanians don't have a job.
Speculation, trade and services, and the destruction of factories, proved that the savage model of capitalist restoration could not be made under a democratic veil and would force the mass to fight to survive.
Key events in the two months of unrest that have drawn Albania into Revolution
• Jan. 15: Manager of one of Albania's wildly popular pyramid schemes announces that her fund has collapsed; thousands of people who lost money besiege her home.
• Jan 16: Another high-risk investment fund halts payments. Thousands protest. Government freezes $255 million of assets held by get-rich-quick schemes.
• Jan. 19: Riot police beat protesters in Tirana, the capital. Opposition accuses government of lying to people about funds.
• Jan. 25: Enraged investors take control of Lushnja in southern Albania.
• Jan. 27: President Sali Berisha orders army into action to remove protesters' roadblocks.
• Feb. 5: Police fire plastic bullets and water cannon at 10,000 people demonstrating in southern city of Vlora.
• Feb. 27: Berisha's party nominates him for another five-year term.
• Feb. 28: Four people killed in violence in Vlora.
• March 1: Berisha announces government's resignation.
• March 2: Parliament declares national state of emergency, imposes curfew, media censorship. Vlora declares virtual independence from central authority.
• March 3: Parliament re-elects Berisha.
• March 5: Government jets bomb village in southern Albania.
• March 6: Berisha and opposition meet, announce 48-hour amnesty for insurgents to turn in arms.
• March 8: Insurgents take control of southern Albania with capture of Gjirokastra.
• March 9: Berisha announces coalition government with all the opposition, early elections.
• March 11: Unrest spreads to northern Albania.
• March 13: Unrest engulfs all major population centres, including Tirana. Evacuation of foreigners begins.
• March 14: Albanian gunmen fire on U.S. and Italian military helicopters evacuating foreigners. One U.S. helicopter returns fire.
Victory to the Albanian uprising!
In late February a spontaneous insurrection started in the poorest European country. Dini, the Italian foreign minister, has declared that the revolt is being lead by "delinquent bands incited by far left activists" which are trying "to attack Tirana". The Sali Berisha's government declared a state of emergency on March 2. However, southern Albania is under the control of what the Tirana tyrants are calling a "communist rebellion" led by "red terrorists". The Socialist Party, which is the biggest opposition force, is calling for a national unity government of experts which could appease the population. Revolutionaries all over the world should fight for no compromise with the right wing corrupt "democratic" dictatorship and for the development of workers' and poor councils and militias.
Since the last week of February thousands of people have attacked barracks and taken up arms. Members of the security and repressive forces have been disarmed, injured and killed, and one was burned. Rioters set fire to town halls, banks, police stations and Berisha's house. Vlora, the main southern city with a population of 80,000, is the capital of a rebellion which also embraces Himara, Saroda, Teplene and Gjikoraster (Enver Hoxha's natal town). Albania has a population of three million and probably no more than a quarter million people live in the rebel areas. However, the discontent is growing and it could extend to the capital, Tirana.
Many rioters have a very basic aspiration: "we want our money back". One third of Albanians were defrauded in the pyramid schemes. Many poor people sold their houses or lands for money which they put into "financial" institutions which could return to them up to 100% interest per month. Between $1 to $3 billion was collected in these pyramid societies in the poorest European country, which has a GNP of only $2.5 billion, and where most of the 3 million people have to live on monthly wages of around $60 (£40). The money capitalised by these financial institutions was used in Berisha's electoral campaign. Many people voted for him with the idea that if he was not re-elected they could lose their savings.
Albania was proud to be the fastest growing economy in Europe. In 1995 it had nearly 12% yearly growth. However, this was an artificial boom. After the 20 October local elections the main pyramid schemes exploded.
State of emergency
Berisha's initial answer to the crisis was to manipulate his puppet parliament. He was re-elected, almost unanimously, for a five year mandate. He had the support of 113 MPs, with only 4 abstentions and 1 vote against. The Albanian congress is very anti-democratic. It was elected in May 96 under conditions in which, as even a European investigation commission declared, 32 out of the 79 articles of the electoral were violated. As a result his "Democratic Party" was over-represented, with 122 out of the 140 seats. The ten Socialist Party's MPs boycotted it. Important parties, such as the Democratic Alliance and the Social Democrats, don't have a place in such a parliament.
Berisha destituted the chief of government, Alekxander Meksi. He put the chief of the army, Sheme Kosova, under house arrest, and replaced him with Adam Copani, from the intelligence service. Since Sunday, March 2, Albania has been under a curfew which is in effect between 8:00 pm and 7:00 am. The work day ends at 3:00 pm, except for some shops and bars which can work until 6:00 pm. There is no independent media, all of the media is under strict control of the regime. Even the BBC and the "Voice of America", the only foreign radio stations which broadcast programs in Albanian, are suffering interference. Koha Jone, a critical newspaper financed by the Soros foundation, was firebombed by the dictatorship.
Berisha, like Tudjman, had received democratic credentials from the European Union. The imperialist powers believed that Berisha could construct an economic model for the Balkans and appease the discontented ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and Macedonia. Albania allowed its coast and mountains to be used for NATO exercises. Berisha's regime is very well backed by countries like Germany and Britain. Fini has declared that "Italy is prepared to send financial and technical help". Already Italian troops have carried out a commando operation in Vlora, taking 36 foreigners with them.
Most of the opposition is united in the "Democratic Forum", a popular front of 11 parties (from right-wing liberals to former "communists"). They are proposing three solutions to the crisis: general elections in six weeks; a government of national unity between the ruling dictatorship and the opposition; and full "transparent" investigation of the financial scandal.
One of their main forces is Neritan Ceka's Democratic Alliance, a group which comes from Berisha's Democratic Party and which participated in the regime that promoted this savage capitalist counter-revolution. Ceka declared "This armed uprising could end tomorrow if Berisha agreed with a cross-party coalition." Berissa, after a five-hour round of discussion with ten opposition parties, declared a 48 hours cease fire beginning on March 7.
Berisha has been forced to retreat from his initial hard-line actions. He wanted to send 30,000 forces to conquer the southern coast but was defeated in his initial attempts. He realised that he doesn't have the force to smash the insurgents. The demoralised Albanian army, overlooked by Berisha in favour of the police force, seems to have little stomach for a fight that could became a civil war. Western diplomats think that there is little prospect for the army to reconquer control given its poor firepower and indiscipline. Conscripts are paid $2 (£1.24) a month and have little incentive to risk their lives.
The most important party in the "Democratic Forum" is the former Stalinist Party of Labour, renamed the Socialist Party. This is the same party which carried out the bureaucratic expropriation of the landlords and capitalists and the creation of a degenerated workers state, which for more than four decades led the country into a Stalinist autarkic society, and which begun the first stage of capitalist restoration that lasted until 1992, when Berisha took power and speeded up the process. Recently, the SP has started to drop references to Marxism in their program. These changes created a lot of internal problems and struggles between the pro-liberal "modernisers" and semi-Stalinists.
The Socialists are not trying to generalise the insurrection. They are offering their services to stop it. In exchange they are demanding a technocrat government which would organise new elections. The Democratic Forum leaders are saying that if Berisha "agreed to a government which include the opposition" they can "guarantee people would lay down their guns."
However, most of the rebels don't want to gave up their weapons and their armed struggle if Berisha is not overthrown. They didn't risk their lives to pressure the dictator with the aim that he could open his cabinet to former members of his own party and old members of the nomenclature.
One of the limitations of the movement is that most of the people have great illusions in democracy. All the forces, from the dictatorship to the former authoritarian Stalinists are using that flag. Revolutionaries should use democratic slogans with the aim of unmasking the conciliatory opposition. Crucial demands are for putting the media and the electoral and judiciary courts under the control of the workers and peasants; for workers supervision of the funds for the parties to stop capitalist and imperialist support to their puppets. We have to be for the abolition of the presidency and the parliament and for an all-powerful assembly in which all their deputies have to be elected and recallable in rank and file assemblies.
After their defeats in the 1996 elections the SP went into crisis. In this circumstances, however, it is most probable that the former Stalinists could became a serious pole of attraction, especially to the industrial and rural workers. The SP's main figure, Fatos Nano, is becoming very popular. In 1994, after being sentenced to a 12 year period for corruption, his followers claimed that he was the Albanian Mandela.
Revolutionary communists should demand that the socialist and toilers organisations break the coalition with the capitalist and pro-imperialist parties. Instead of making blocks with Berisha's former comrades and trying to create a national unity government, they should fight for a massive armed uprising which would overthrow the regime and all the new rich.
The SP had quite a lot of support in the south. However, the insurrection seems to be an act of explosive spontaneity. According to The Financial Times (7-3-97) "there was no indication that any political organisation has masterminded the protests and raids". The Western diplomats are terrorised by what they think is a lawless region in which young workers are commanding stolen tanks. One of them said that south-west Albania is a "Mad Max country".
The reaction fears the crumbling of their order and the beginning of a new order. In situations like this is always very possible that gangs could try to take advantage. However, is in these new conditions than the extraordinary creative capacity of the exploited masses could arise.
In the last two months of mass demonstrations and during the insurrection the workers and poor created new organs to control the distribution of food and basic goods and to defend themselves. It is indispensable to maintain, democratise, expand and centralise them. So, they should be the basis for a new workers council regime.
There is no solution in the market. It is responsible for the destruction of the people's savings and standard of living. Around one million Albanians defrauded by the pyramid schemes need their money back. All the savings for the Albanian toilers have to be repayed. Only the rich speculators should lose their money. A new workers council government should compensate the poor with money taken from the new exploiters and imperialists, who accumulated so much profit under Berisha.
Privatised companies have to be re-nationalised without compensation. The new capitalists have to be expropriated. The foreign debt needs to be canceled. Albania needs to break with NATO, the IMF and the European Council. The planned economy has to be re-installed, but not under a bureaucratic mismanagement. It has to be administrated democratically by rank and file committees with an international orientation towards the expansion of world's socialist revolution.
The Albanian situation could create an explosion in the area. Nearly half of the ethnic-Albanian population lives outside Albania. Most of them constitute the majority of the inhabitants in wetsern Macedonia and in Kosovo. Serbia denies democratic rights to 90% of Kosovo's people who are Albanians. The Serb and Macedonian regime used anti-Albanian chauvinism to unite the population around them and to avoid attacks on their austerity meassures.
Albania is closed to two of the EU's countries who have the most militant working classes. Several general strikes and mass demonstrations happened in Italy and Greece in the last years. In Serbia the imperialists applau-ded the development of reactionary demonstrations against the former Stalinists. In this case, they are worried because the anger is directed against one of the most pro-western and neo-liberal regimes in the east. The Times expressed it: "If Mr Berisha is engulfed by the chaos and the opposition - controlled by the former Communists, triumphs, the West may regret its nonchalance."
In the last years the people's anger against the restorationist measures was distorted into ethnic chauvinistic wars (like in former Yugoslavia, the Caucasus and Central Asia) or under anti-Communist pro-imperialist leaderships (like recently in Serbia). The Albanian "red" uprising doesn't have an ethnic symbol and is directed straight against one of the most pro-western and anti-Communist models. The extreme left has to be proud to be associated with that uprising and we need to avoid the conciliatory policies of the former nomenclature. New revolutionary internationalist parties in the Balkans are indispensable. These parties need to re-take the Bolshevik traditions of Rakovski, Trotsky and Lenin and fight for a new socialist and workers-democratic federation of the region. Only under such a framework would it be possible to end the plight of the Albanians outside Alba-nia, the Muslims, the cleansed Serbs, the Roma, etc.
· Down with Berisha and the capitalist regime!
· For the re-nationalisation without compensation to all the privatised companies!
· Against the financial escandals: open the books! Workers control of industry and the economy!
· For a revolution based in workers council and militias!
7 March 1997
The MRTA holding of the Japanese ambassador's house in Lima and the tasks of the working class
Poder Obrero Peru
For around three months the Tópac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) is holding the residence of the Japanese ambassador. The Castroite guerrilla liberated more than 400 rich people, including Fujimori's mother and sister, more than ten European and Asian diplomatic and even top leaders of the security and repressive forces. They wanted to show their predisposition to dialogue and their willingness to became a respectable and legalise force.
Until the first week of March nine rounds of discussions happened between the government and the MRTA's commando. These conversations ended when the guerrillas discover that the repressive forces were making a tunnel with the aim to enter violently into the occupied residence.
Fujimori visited Castro. It was the first time that he as President went into an official visit to Cuba. The Peruvian dictator is the most right wing and repressive ruler in Latin America, while Castro is the leader of the last Degenerated Workers State in the Western hemisphere. Both need each other. Fujimori wants that Cuba could convince the Tupacamaristas to drop their most radical demands, to accept minor concessions and to be exiled in La Habana. Castro wants to show to the continental bourgeoisie that he is a valuable man that could support the international reactionary order. In fact, Granma, the paper of the Communist Party of Cuba, congratulated Fujimori's victory against the Shining path "terrorists".
On Tuesday 17 December at 8.20 pm, in a bold military action, a commando of the MRTA took around 500 hostages at a reception in the residence of the Japanese ambassador in Peru. Among the hostages were more than a dozen ambassadors, various military figures involved in the offensives against subversion, big businessmen, supreme judges and three ministers, including the chancellor.
This event has broken into an almost sepulchral peace that has seemed to characterise the political situation in Peru. This peace has been broken only by the machinations of the prudish opposition, against the amnesty with the military assassins, the privatisation of the oil industry, the re-election of Fujimori, and by the seizure and later release of General Robles. The working class and its organisations - with some exceptions - have been in a retreat that has continued to permit the political stability of this Bonapartist civic-military regime.
Peru has one of the highest levels of cost of living in the southern hemisphere, with average monthly wages not sufficient to cover a family's costs for more than a few days, and with 90% of the population unemployed or underemployed. While the people are ground down by the recession, the multinationals are favoured, with legislation such as the elimination of labour security, and privatisation. The links of Montesinos, (Fujimori's main collaborator and leader of the all-powerful National intelligence Service (SIN)), with the narco-traffic; the poor quality of new public buildings such as schools; the 'Popular y Porvenir' financial scandal; these are some of the most notorious cases of recently exposed corruption which the régime and its servile parliament have tried to hide. Fujimori continues to approve laws which are strengthen his authoritarian hold. All these conditions contributed to massive decrease in the government's popularity, but without producing a solution for mass organisation.
The occupation of the ambassador's house has destroyed the prevailing myth that the armed groups have been absolutely defeated. Nevertheless, it has also distracted the masses from their initial questioning of the régime's authoritarianism and policies of starvation and centralism, and has fuel ed the repressive forces which aim to eradicate all popular and working class resistance. The bourgeois 'opposition' started to defend the régime around the slogan for a 'national unity', which actually aims to isolate and defeat the MRTA's putschist action and to maintain the political stability which Fujimori has achieved.
The government had secured this popular support largely through having supposedly managed to contain and defeat 'terrorism'. The capture of the Japanese ambassador puts Peru at the centre of world news in spite of the censorship of the bourgeois press and demonstrates that this country is still in internal conflict.
The bourgeoisie have made a lot of fuss about this. A large proportion of the Peruvian élite is being held hostage. In spite of its massive patronage of the media, progress towards peace has been slower than progress against an amnesty with the military assassins. The national flag is seen displayed on domestic houses in affluent areas but not, by and large, in zones inhabited by the poor, reflecting a social contrast which is also demonstrated in varying support for the action of the MRTA.
The popular majority do not support the action of the MRTA, but nor do they feel solidarity with the wealthy hostages. Calls for national unity have not gained support among the poor. While the president's wife offers Christmas turkeys and other special foods to the embassy hostages, and the media are fulsome about her concern that the hostages have no water or electricity, the popular masses are conscious that they themselves survive from day to day in worse conditions than these. Popular opinion everywhere combines opposition to violence, with ironic comments about those who, for the first time, are having to endure the daily living conditions of the Peruvian masses.
The working class does not identify with the MRTA. It is a petty-bourgeois movement with the opportunistic methods appropriate to petty-bourgeois ambitions, laying claim to the struggle of the masses. But it has raised anti-imperialist demands and we must defend it against our common enemy, the bourgeois state. This state and its government do not have the right to criticise the morals of the MRTA action, where this action is considerably less violent than the actions of the police; the death squad 'Grupo Colina', under the protection and support of the government, has committed far more bloody acts, legally sanctioned and rewarded.
Workers should support all popular struggles for the release of political prisoners, but the correct method for this is through strikes and other direct mass action. The seizure of the embassy was carried out by an élite who are completely divorced from mass movements. They do not call for the mobilisation of workers, but merely struggle in defence of their own partisan interests (their own legalisation, release of prisoners, funds).
The Peruvian working class has suffered massive defeats. The parliamentarian stalinists (IU) and the militaristic stalinists (MRTA and Sendero Luminoso) have been largely responsible for these defeats. Both variants of stalinism are ideologically based in a framework of the national bourgeois state and are opposed to the revolution of workers' and peasants' councils. The parliamentarist stalinists have supported privatisation and repression. The equally repressive militaristic stalinists have also colluded in the demoralisation and fragmentation of the working class.
The MRTA aims to demonstrate to the bourgeoisie that it is not as violent and bloody an organisation as the PCP/SL, and that it deserves to be legalised. The reactionary media never tires of accusing the MRTA of the abduction and murder of various business figures. The workers do not by any means sympathise with these bourgeois victims. But they must place their own class independence above these actions, which attempt to demonstrate to the exploited that the road to victory is not through their own self-organisation but through relying on isolated and putschist 'vanguards'.
The MRTA does not defend workers' democracy. We revolutionaries oppose the murder carried out by the MRTA on various of their dissidents. But we cannot consign the MRTA militants to the mess of bourgeois justice because this state is not fit to stand in judgment on them. This state which starves its masses to death, does not have the right to judge the action of the MRTA, whatever methods it uses.
At first, the aim of the MRTA action was to seek the release of its imprisoned members, for which it initially raised progressive demands. But currently it is apparently negotiating a 'peace agreement'. If this is confirmed, all it will be possible to say is that the MRTA is seeking a 'heroic' capitulation in order to distinguish itself from the shameful capitulation of Gonzalo's PCP- Sendero Luminoso.
Javier Diez Canseco (leader of the United Left) and the reformist left maintain that the government should come to an understanding with the MRTA and should be negotiable about the prisoners, in just the same way as it decreed an amnesty with the Grupo Colina. The exploited could not make the same mistake of placing the state terrorists in the same bag with the petty-bourgeois rebels. The workers' movement must fight for the unconditional release of the rebels, and for absolute condemnation of the state assassination squad. Only workers' tribunals have the right to judge POLITICALLY, the rebels who have attacked the workers' interests.
Some of the released hostages have expressed conciliatory sentiments towards their former captors. The President of the Association of Exporters has categorically denied that any of the hostages has been tortured. Toledo (the third most voted candidate in the last presidential elections) compared the conditions in which the embassy hostages were kept, to those in which the MRTA prisoners live, where only one half hour visit is permitted per month, and where there is no access to television, radio or newspapers. The Fujimori regime, which always put obstacles to the entrance of the International Red Cross into the prisons and that it could interview the prisoners, now have to use its services with the aim that it could daily and person-by-person oversee the psychological and physical integrity of the captured members of the government which ordered or supported tortures and massacres.
The MRTA is trying to convince the Peruvian leading lights that it can be reintegrated into the system just has happened with its comrades in Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua and nowadays, Guatemala. 'Expreso' newspaper and other reactionaries are arguing that the MRTA is in extinction and for that reasons is not worthily giving them the legalisation. Serpa, who is commanding the MRTA's operation, is the only member of the national leadership who is free in Peru and it is clear that this is a blatantly desperate call for attention.
At the moment the most likely outcome is a negotiated settlement. A military solution is unlikely to arise. The USA and other powers have sent special commandos, and Russia has proposed a multi-national rescue team. A military intervention could prove counter-productive to the bourgeoisie's project to attract foreign capital. El MRTA does not take an aggressive stance, and instead of radical threats to kill hostages, releases the president's mother and tries to ingratiate itself with them.
On Saturday 28 December the government envoy and the head of the MRTA met for talks for the first time. In its ensuing communication the MRTA still did not call for a change to economic policy or for the liberation of all the hostages. It is likely that the head of the MRTA will end up releasing the hostages in exchange for his own safety, for perks for the political prisoners, and for agreement to start talks towards legalisation of the MRTA.
Revolutionary Marxists do not support this 'guerillerist' strategy but neither do we call on the MRTA or the PCP/SL to give up their arms to the capitalist armed forces and the state. We call on the fighters in both movements to give up their strategies and to dedicate their military forces to self-defence tasks defined by assemblies of workers and poor peasants.
The CGTP and other popular and workers' organisations have lost the political initiative. Their bureaucrats are conforming to a perfect neo-liberal model of demands for peace and negotiation. We workers must struggle to revitalise our unions and to mobilise mass resistance to these bourgeois attacks. Anti-imperialist and workers' organisations must seize this moment to organise events and to mobilise demands for the release of all political prisoners, employment stability, full employment and defence of the social demands of the workers. The state of emergency decreed by the government in Lima and Callao is aimed at stopping all mass organisation, and to ensure that the silent and growing discontent of the poor does not explode. We must take advantage of the fact that the government is in a weak position and weaken it still further with greater force. We do not accept the government's call for national unity. We do not want unity with a government which weakens us with starvation wages and more unemployment. Now we call for an independent struggle, uniting all our struggles against the common enemy.
We call for:
· Immediate increases in wages and salaries up to levels which cover the cost of living.
· Full employment.
· Foreign debts to be written off.
· Unite all union struggles; for a congress of elected and revokable delegates to lead the workers' struggles.
· Freedom for all anti-imperialist prisoners.
· Down with the amnesty on state terrorism, and the state of emergency.
· For an anti-capitalist revolution of workers and peasants' councils and militias!
Lima, first week of January 1996
Human Rights in Peru
The list of human rights violations in Peru is a long one.
Here are just a few examples:
In the maximum security prison inside the Callao navy base, cells are 8 meters underground. The prisoners there are detained in cells with no natural light.
All prisoners are held in total isolation for their first year, thereafter they are allowed only 30 minutes in the yard each day. Only immediate family members may visit them. Prisoners are not allowed books, newspapers, or radios.
Women prisoners are guarded by men.
Some maximum security prisons, like the one in Yanamayo, are built in regions whose climates are so harsh that prisoners suffer serious health problems as a result.
Guards are allowed to mete out punishments as they see fit.
In extremely short trials, defendants are often sentenced by the military to life in prison. The judges are masked and thereby remain anonymous to the defendants.
Since 1990, the construction of high security prisons has increased dramatically in Peru. Most of these are designed to confine prisoners in isolation conditions. The experiences of Germany in this field have led to several visits by high-ranking Peruvian officials to consult with their German counterparts on this issue.
Isolation detention is part of the "psycho-social campaign" designed to break the prisoners and force them to abandon their struggle. The maximum security prisons, which President Fujimori once described as "prison tombs", are, in short: "The place where they will rot and only come out when they are dead."
The anti-terror laws now in force in Peru were enacted in May 1992. This state of emergency allows for the mass arrest of opposition activists. Mechanisms of protection, codified in international accords against torture and inhumane mistreatment, have been eroded by these laws. All prisoners are tortured and mistreated, and they are subjected to unfair trials. Since 1983, thousands of people have "disappeared" due to state-sponsored murders or torture. Almost none of these acts of state-sponsored human rights violations have ever been investigated.
On the contrary: On June 16, 1995, President Fujimori issued a general amnesty which quashed all investigations or indictments of human rights violations which occurred after May 1980. The few persons who had been convicted of such crimes before this amnesty had their sentences annulled, and if any happened to be in prison, they were released. This get-out-of-jail-free policy, therefore, freed all state murderers and torturers. This criminalization of the victims is also in line with Fujimori's economic policies, which have been enacted on the backs of Peru's poorest classes."
Good picket against Fujimori in London
Alberto Fujimori, the President of Peru, was in London between Sunday, 9 February, and Tuesday, 11 Feb. He came to Britain to attract foreign investments and to receive support for his hard policy towards the MRTA guerrilla forces still holding 72 VIP hostages at the Japanese Embassy in Lima.
He decided to make only one public appearance. He choose to do it at the London School of Economics. However, the LSE's authorities didn't want to give information about it until some minutes before. Nearly all the people who attended the LSE's Old Theatre were diplomats and businessmen. Most LSE students were not allowed to enter in the place in which they normally hold their Union General Meetings.
Despite the semi-secret character of the meeting and only a few hours of preparation a very successful picket was organised. Between 70 to 100 people come to it. Most of them were LSE students and Latin American exiles such as members of the Colombian Refugee Association (CORAS), Poder Obrero supporters and friends, as well as many Peruvian activists. However supporters of the Peruvian armed groups didn't come.
It is quite remarkable that the PCP-Sendero Luminoso supporters didn't do any single protest against Fujimori and neither did they come to the LSE picket. The most active British groups were the Workers Internationalist League and LCMRCI supported by the Spartacists, Socialist Workers Student Society and the LSE Labour Club, who sent sizeable delegations while members of Socialist Outlook, Revolutionary Internationalist League, Socialist Labour Party, Revolutionary Communist Group and Workers Power also attended the picket. There were some clashes with the police and they tried to arrest one comrade for possession of a drumstick.
The main demands were against the terrible conditions of the 5,000 political prisoners (who could be imprisoned until the end of their lives in "living tombs" without access to the Radio, TV or literature and with only one half an hour visit per month) and for their unconditional release; for the cancellation of the foreign debt and the re-nationalisation of the privatised companies; etc.
Nearly no oppositionists managed to enter the Fujimori conference. In his speech the Peruvian President showed how a demagogue can be so cynical. He said that the "terrorists" and not the army killed 25,000 Peruvians. Every single human right organisations would say that the overwhelmingly majority of political assassinations in Peru were committed by the army and the para-military.
He said that he was one of the best democrats and feminists of the world despite the fact that Peru had the world's record in political disappears, that he dissolved the congress and his constant macho expressions which included the expulsion of every homosexual from the Peruvian diplomatic service.
The conference was so anti-democratic that nobody was allowed to speak and make questions. One student constantly denounced the amnesty of the Colina para-military group and the strong links between the narco-traffic and the government.
The very good thing is that Fujimori didn't leave London without a protest reception. The BBC and the Peruvian and Japanese TV filmed the picket. A very solid and combative action was organised in less than 48 hours. We congratulate the Latin American exiles, the LSE students and Poder Obrero friends for that good initiative.
Colombian general strike's picket
On Tuesday 11 in Colombia more than 800,000 state workers started an indefinite general strike. According to The Guardian (11 February 1997) "this would make it the largest protest since 1977."
In support of that strike and continuing the campaign denouncing BP's financial support for para-military killing of left and union activists, the Colombian Refugee Association (CORAS) organised a very successful picket.
Between 30 to 40 people were shouting for two hours at lunchtime in front of the Colombian embassy on Tuesday February 11th. The most significant demand was one that tried to link the fact that the Ecuadorian general strike on 5-6 February brought down the President "Loco" Abdal« Bucaram and that the Colombian general strike which was just starting that day should bring down President Ernesto Samper.
The picket was extremely combative and noisy. The police were very provocative. They tried to prevent any slogans in Spanish and they tried several times to prevent the raising of a 12 feet long banner in support of the general strike.
CHRISTMAS MASSACRE IN BOLIVIA
Summary of a report from Poder Obrero Bolivia
On 19 and 20 December the Bolivian government carried out the "Christmas Massacre". Around 100 people were wounded and eleven killed in Amayapampa, Capasirca, Pucro, Uncía, Siglo XX and Llallagua, all located in Bustillos Province (north of Potosi) .
This was the response of president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada to the struggle of the workers and peasants who live around the gold mines of Amayapampa and Capasirca, which are now under the property of the Canadian company, Da Capo Resources Ltd. The miners demanded no sacks and a living minimum wage. The peasants demanded that this company pay taxes and stop destroying the ecology.
In these confrontations the workers and peasants were able to disarm policemen and soldiers and to defend themselves. On 19 December several workers and peasants died, as did Colonel Eddy Rivas, chief of the Special Security Group. On December 20, when the army repressed Llallagua, the capital city of the province, many workers and students were injured or killed. In addition the army suffered more than 30 casualties.
The massacre was led by Franklin Anaya, minister of government, and Willy Arriaza, chief of the National Police. It happened in the same province where, three decades ago, the military dictatorship killed striking miners in the "San Juan massacre." Bustillos is a mining province, and the centre of the most important miners' union (like Siglo XX and Catavi) between 1940 and 1990. The peasants of that province, the population of Llalagua and the students of the Siglo XX university actively supportedthe miners.
The union bureaucracy and the government made a deal in which the miners and the population would return the arms to the army and the Canadian company would pay some taxes for the development of the area. Now the workers could suffer the consequences of a selective, repressive vengeance.
On 9 January around 5,000 co-operative miners decided to occupy the mine Pailaviri in the famous Potosi's Rich Mountain. After more than one week of confrontations the miners won a victory. The government decided to give to them properties of the former state mining company (COMIBOL) like the canteen, the device, etc.
The COB will hold a national aggregate this Thursday, February 24, in which it will discuss the organisation of a campaign of street demonstrations. February is a significant month because this is when the government and the COB (Bolivian Trade Union Congress) usually have their annual discussions on the national wage increase. Every year since 1994 the COB has declared an indefinite general strike around March.
The government is making a propaganda war against the left with the aim of preparing a serious repression.
We are working in Bolivia for a national claim which will fight for a minimum living wage and the nationalisation of all the privatise companies and mines. The workers and peasants need to develop rank and file committees and self-defence organisations. We are for a general strike, organised by a national strike committee composed of delegates elected and recallable by rank and file assemblies.
Ecuador: General Strike Ousts President Abdal« Bucaram
By Juan Ponce
On 5-6 February a massive general strike occurred in Ecuador. The country was completely paralysed. Around two million people, out of the 12 million Ecuadorians, took the streets. As a consequence of it, the Ecuadorian Congress voted on Feb. 6 to remove the President Abdal« Bucaram from office.
The president of Congress, Fabi«n AlarcÙn, was named interim president of the country. The crisis was far from over, however, since Bucaram was refusing to step down and Vice President RosalÍa Arteaga had issued a proclamation naming herself president. As a result, Ecuador had at the same time and for more than two days the unstable situation of being led by three civilian presidents.
In the last two decades Ecuador experienced 20 general strikes. The recent one was convened by the Workers United Front (FUT), the Coordinadora de Movimientos Sociales and the Confederation of Indian Nations. All the opposition, the mayors of the main three Ecuadorian cities and several business and professional chambers supported the strike.
In a very curious act the last four Ecuadorian presidents - themselves opposed by general strikes during their governments - backed the 5-6 February total stoppage. The demonstrations in Ecuador have escalated since early January because the population were against the increases in electricity, phone and other basic services.
The unions protested against the privatisation and the new currency convertibility plans. The bourgeois opposition tried to divert the movement and to transform it in a protest against the "concessions" to Peru, the extreme corruption and the "madness" behaviour of a president who likes to sing in pop concerts and led a football club. Bucaram was in Lima in January as the first Ecuadorian president to travel to Peru on an official visit.
Ecuador and Peru were at war in 1941 and they had several military border clashes in the last 16 years -most recently in April 1995. Bucaram said that he wanted to forbid the mistakes of both countries and to achieve a final peaceful solution. This was put in question by the opposition who said that Peru had taken a long piece of Ecuadorian territory and that their 'fatherland has nothing to forgive' Peru for.
Bucaram's fall from grace in the short six months since he took office has been described as a freefall as he has quickly alienated almost the entire country. After campaigning on a populist platform, his price hikes and other economic measures disillusioned the poor who had backed him, while also angering business and civic leaders.
The neo-liberal right didn't like a president who was very populist and didn't want to implement more radical privatisation. The union bureaucrats wanted to create an anti-Bucaram bloc between the right and the left. They organised a "Patriotic Front" which demanded a "provisional government".
Ecuador's Constitution is vague on who replaces a sitting president, although Congress's power to remove a president from office is clear. By citing Bucaram's "mental incapacity," only a simple majority approval in the 82-seat Congress was required, avoiding a lengthy impeachment process.
On February 6 Congress met in an emergency session and voted 44-34 to remove Bucaram from office for "mental incapacity." Congress then voted AlarcÙn in as interim president and called for new elections within a year.
Bucaram declared a 'state of siege and mobilisation'. With that the state has the right to arrest anyone or to confiscate property. He also announced that all the last prices increases were to be annulled and wages increased 25%. Nevertheless, he didn't receive any support from the people or the army.
The army declared that it will not intervene in politics but it gave some backing to the vice-president. A new deal was then arrived at. The congress accepted AlarcÙn as president but only for a very short period of time until the parliament has to decide on a new interim government which must then call for general elections within a year.
Workers in Ecuador have to maintain their class independence and opposition against all the different bourgeois factions and presidents. The labour, indian and poor peoples organisations need to create their own "parliament". A national workers and popular assembly needs to be launched and based in delegates elected and recallable in rank and file assemblies.
Such bodies should try to became a real dual power with the possibility to have their own self-defence militias, to unionise the troops and to control enterprises and urban and rural areas. A limited general strike stopped a better fight. Instead of trying to build an anti-Bucaram "patriotic" popular front, the workers and peasants assemblies need a National Strike Committee to led the struggle in a more democratic and militant way.
The demand for a constituent assembly is on the agenda. However, the left have to distinguish it from the right who also want constitutional changes with the aim of helping the privatisation process. A constituent assembly is no more than a more democratic bourgeois parliament. We are in favour of it because the proletariat needs to win the battle for consistent democracy.
However, our main tasks have to be to transform the strike and Indian committees into soviet-type bodies and to develop the self-defence groups into militias. The workers and peasants organisations have to take power and establish a proletarian republic. The self-determination of the original nations and the solution of the boundary problems with Peru could only be achieved in a socialist federation of Latin America.
In the last years the Latin American bourgeoisie was trying to implement a neo-liberal model through stable and militarised democracies. It is the first time that a general strike brought down a newly popular elected government. The workers in other countries could feel how powerful could be their actions.
On Tuesday 11 February the Colombian state workers started an indefinite general strike. In April it is probable that the Bolivian Workers Confederation (COB) will launch the fourth indefinite general strike in four years. In Argentina there was a series of national stoppages. The Latin American working class is recovering from heavy attacks and it could start to change the balance of forces in the entire hemisphere.
Guerrilla struggles re-emerge in Latin America
Workers' Voice (U.S.)
Two years after the signing of NAFTA and the emergence of the Zapatista forces in Chiapas, the guerrilla struggle has revived once again in Mexico, Colombia and other parts of Latin America.
The present guerrilla movements are becoming active during a period of a sharpening class struggle throughout the continent. This summer, against a background of mass upsurge, guerrillas of the National Liberation Army and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) carried out their biggest armed offensive in decades.
These relatively large-scale attacks have been directed, for the most part, against military bases and imperialist- owned oil installations in Putumayo (the oil-rich southeastern corner of the country, bordering Ecuador). In one surprise attack alone, 54 soldiers were killed and 26 kidnapped when 500 well-armed FARC guerrillas stormed a military base in a densely-forested region south of Bogota.
Colombia: Government repression and U.S. oil interests
Since the present government was first elected in Colombia, it has lost a lot of credibility among the population.
During the course of the summer, it is estimated that over 100,000 workers, peasants and farmers have been involved in demonstrations throughout the country. As in Mexico, there is widespread anger over government corruption and repression, the lack of public services and social programs, and declining living standards for farmers and peasants in the countryside.
At the same time, imperialist oil companies such as Shell and Occidental Petroleum plunder billions of dollars of super-profits from the region - with the open collaboration of the Colombian government.
One factor that has contributed to the rapid growth of the FARC has been the government plan to destroy thousands of acres of coca crops in the Putumayo region.
The FARC guerrillas, who are partly funded by local coca farmers, have attacked the oil pipeline in Putumayo on average once every eight days this summer. They have also helped to organise large-scale, violent demonstrations by farmers and peasants against the government's coca eradication program in Putumayo. In 1996 alone, the guerrillas have clashed with the army over 400 times!
And the strength and effectiveness of their attacks show that they made careful preparations for some time before launching their offensive.
Western imperialist interests, particularly the U.S., have begun to fear that the Colombian government is losing control over the masses, particularly in light of the recent guerrilla attacks. In August, the U.S. ambassador revealed on Colombian TV that a group of civilians had approached him to test the potential U.S. reaction to a military coup.
The FARC and the EPR
Like the newly-emerged EjÅrcito Popular Revolucionario (EPR, People's Revolutionary Army) in Mexico, the FARC is a rural peasant organisation with a (minimum) Stalinist program and strategy of small-scale military struggle. It is virtually divorced from the urban class struggle; though it has, in its actions, opposed imperialism, and has occasionally given active support to unionised oil workers.
The EPR is a relatively small, but well-trained guerrilla force that has recently become active in the poorest states in southern Mexico. The Colombian FARC, however, is a relatively large, well-funded organisation, armed with weapons such as mortars, grenades and rockets.
It is estimated that the FARC may have up to 10,000 guerrillas, active in more than half of Colombia. In fact, the FARC is one of the oldest guerrilla organisations in Latin America and has been directly linked to the Communist Party (CP) in Colombia for over 30 years.
In the 1960s the FARC defined itself as the armed wing of the Stalinist Communist Party. It was greatly influenced by the Cuban revolution, led by Fidel Castro. But after Cuba's support for the organisation faded in the mid-1980s, the FARC, once again, became more closely associated with the Colombian CP.
Since the 1994 signing of the so-called North American "Free Trade" Agreement (NAFTA) by Mexico, Canada and the U.S., Mexico has been rocked by one economic or political crisis after another. In turn, this has sent shock waves into the rest of Latin America, due to the close economic ties between the countries there.
The January 1994 Zapatista uprising in Chiapas was timed to coincide with the enactment of the NAFTA treaty. Almost exactly a year later, the Mexican economy was in shambles, following the crash of the peso and the Mexican stock market. During the first part of 1995, the country was rocked by powerful demonstrations, occupations and strikes, with Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo unleashing a massive campaign of government repression on the Zapatista forces and other peasant organisations.
Almost two years later, NAFTA has led to the loss of over one million jobs in Mexico. This comes on top of the lay-off of thousands of workers as a result of the government privatisations.
Zedillo's hard-line repression of Mexican workers and peasants quickly won him the confidence of imperialism. In the summer of 1995, a massive $50 billion bailout of the Mexican economy was approved by Clinton and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In return for this imperialist "loan," Zedillo was expected to carry out severe austerity measures on the Mexican people, and to keep the heat up with his (U.S.-financed) army and police forces.
Zedillo's austerity "package" has included cuts in government spending, hikes in the cost of electricity and across-the-board increases in value-added tax. The imperialist bailout has also required Mexico's state-owned oil industry, Pemex to deposit its dollar earnings with the U.S. Federal Reserve bank as "collateral" on the $50 billion "loan."
The IMF also demanded that Zedillo carry out a massive campaign of privatisation of Mexico's state-run public services, such as the Route-100 (Sutaur) national bus company. (The state airline, telephone and steel companies have already been privatised, with Pemex next in line.)
The problem, of course, was that the living conditions for most of Mexico's population were already intolerable. This is why the Route-100 bus drivers organised a massive national strike in 1995, and carried out further mass actions across Mexico this year. This also contributed to the emergence of a new guerrilla movement in the poorest states within the southern part of the country.
Enter the EPR
The EPR made their first public appearance in June this year, at a memorial service held in the village of Tepetixtla, Guerrero. The service was organised to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the brutal massacre of 17 unarmed peasants by state police, in Aguas Blancas (near Tepetixtla).
The memorial was interrupted by the appearance of about 70 EPR guerrillas dressed in battle fatigue, and armed with machine guns and assault rifles. After making a speech to the crowd, including a reading of their political program, the EPR forces fired off one round of ammunition for each murdered villager from their machine guns and fled into the mountains. By the time the Mexican army arrived, the guerrillas had disappeared from sight.
It is also widely believed that the EPR timed their attacks as a response to the sell-out "peace agreement" that the Zapatistas have been negotiating with the Mexican government.
Before the EPR actions, Zedillo had planned to make much of this agreement in his state of the union speech in September. Then came the guerrilla attacks in July and August. In a series of well-planned, small-scale military strikes, the EPR attacked several police stations and army barracks in seven different states across southern Mexico, from Tabasco on the Atlantic coast to Michoac«n on the Pacific. Even the once-famed tourist resort of Acapulco was not left unscathed.
As in Colombia, the EPR's attacks came as a direct response to increased repression of the peasants and indigenous peoples by the government, the ongoing land grabs by state-backed landowners and U.S. capitalist concerns, and the miserable levels of poverty in Mexico's rural areas.
Guerrero, where state elections are set to take place in October this year, is one of the poorest states in Mexico. About one third of the population in Guerrero is illiterate and only 40 percent of its inhabitants have running water. Most of the workers there do not even earn the already inadequate minimum wage.
EPR Program: denounced by PRD, PRI and ... Marcos
While information about the EPR is incomplete, it is known that they are not connected to the Zapatistas, and that they are smaller, with better arms and military training than the EZLN. The EPR claims to be a coalition of 14 left wing organizations that include students, peasant farmers, indigenous people and workers.
They have also admitted links to the Party of the Poor (PROCUP), a Maoist guerrilla group that was active in the mountains of Guerrero in the 1970s. At the Tepetixtla memorial service, the EPR claimed to have 500 guerrillas operating in Guerrero. In the reading of their manifesto, the guerrilla leaders stated that they stand for the overthrow of Mexico's government, which they describe as "illegitimate".
The EPR called for the present government's replacement by a popular democratic republic, which in their words, can help solve "the immediate demands and necessities of the people". However, since this manifesto was first published, EPR leaders have stated that they want Zedillo to resign and to make way for a "populist transition government."
What the EPR have in mind here is clearly not a revolutionary workers' state in which the working class wields power; but rather a social-democratic (capitalist) government that is prepared to make some concessions to the masses. More recently, the EPR's demands have included revoking the NAFTA agreement, "renegotiation" of the foreign debt, and electricity and drinking water for everyone in Mexico (New York Times, 30 August 1996).
Cuauhtemoc C«rdenas, the leader of the left-liberal bosses' party, the PRD (Democratic Party of the Revolution), was present at the memorial service for the massacred peasants. In a public statement made after the memorial, C«rdenas described the actions of the EPR as a "grotesque pantomime", even going so far as to compare the guerrillas to the state police of Guerrero - i.e. those directly responsible for the Tepetixtla massacre! But then again, during the 1994 uprising in Chiapas, C«rdenas condemned the Zapatistas then for their "violent" methods of struggle!
While the denunciation of the guerrilla attacks by Zedillo and his loyal left oppositionist, C«rdenas, were not unexpected, the criticisms of the EPR's actions by the Zapatistas were more surprising. In a statement that clearly smacked of red-baiting, leaders of the EZLN accused the EPR of being "North Korean-style Stalinists." In a letter to the EPR, Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos stated: "You fight for power, we fight for democracy, freedom and justice. It's not the same. We do not need your help, or want it."
Resurgence of the guerrilla struggle
The example of the EZLN in fact clearly exposes the glaring weakness of the guerrilla strategy in the semi- colonies. Although guerrilla movements are growing once again throughout Latin America, these movements are not providing the leadership the masses of workers and peasants desperately need to organise against the capitalist system in these countries - and against imperialism. This is true of the FARC in Colombia, the EPR in Mexico, and of course, the Zapatistas.
Two years after their uprising in Chiapas, the Zapatistas are directly co-operating with the PRI government on the one hand (which includes a sell-out peace agreement), and actively collaborating with C«rdenas and the PRD on the other. This has included calling on C«rdenas to lead a "Movement of National Liberation" in 1995, and endorsing the PRD in local elections this year.
What the Zapatistas have in common with the EPR, and, for example, the FMLN in El Salvador, is that they act as an armed pressure group on the bourgeois government, and not a mass organisation that can lead an anti-capitalist revolution. This is exactly what lead to the FMLN's betrayal of the workers and peasants in El Salvador, when they signed a peace accord with the death squad government in 1992.
More recently, the URNG (Guatemala's National Revolutionary Union) have followed this path in Guatemala, and the Zapatistas appear to be moving in the same general direction! At the same time, formations such as the FARC and the EPR are engaged in militant and courageous guerrilla battles with the armed force of the state in their countries.
The FARC has occasionally supported the industrial workers in southern Colombia and has attacked the imperialist oil pipelines there. But despite their militant tactics, the overall strategy of the FARC and the EPR is no different from the FMLN or even the Zapatistas.
The so-called "globalization" of the economy coupled with the increased U.S. domination of the Mexican and Latin American economies via "free trade" agreements like NAFTA has brutally increased the exploitation of the masses throughout the continent. Those most severely affected have been the peasants and poor farmers and workers in Latin America's rural areas.
This in turn has been aggravated by the massive repression meted out on the rural population by the ruling class, in addition to the possibility of more military coups in Latin America (Colombia, Mexico, etc.). The intensity of the exploitation and misery of the workers and peasants has provided a fertile ground for the recent growth of Stalinist guerrilla movements, such as the EPR in Mexico.
In itself, the emergence of the FARC in Colombia and the EPR in Mexico will not move the class struggle forward or lead to any decisive victories for the masses in these countries.
The Stalinist tactics, strategy and political program confines the FARC and EPR to individual attacks on military, police and infrastructure targets, as part of guerrilla struggle based largely on the peasantry and the petty bourgeoisie in the countryside.
Despite the discipline and courage shown by groups like the EPR, this strategy, coupled with their isolation from the working class in the cities, will prevent them from dealing any decisive blow to the state or the ruling class in the semi-colonies of Latin America. The recent evolution of the EZLN only serves to underline this.
Without the leadership of the urban working class and the support of the rank and file soldiers of the army, the attacks carried out by these organisations can lead to nothing but popular front alliances and sell-out agreements with the bourgeois state; agreements that provide nothing but the most minimal of concessions to the masses, rural and urban.
Counterpoised to the limited individualist, popular-frontist strategy and program of guerrilla organisations like the FARC and the EPR, the working class and peasants in Latin America need mass communist workers' parties. Mass parties based the poor peasants and indigenous peoples in the rural areas and workers in the cities - armed with a program of working class, anti-capitalist revolution led by the proletariat in alliance with the poor peasantry.
What Lessons from the Korean General Strike?
Communist Workers Group, New Zealand
As we go to press, the unions have pulled back from an all out general strike to a one-day a week strike. President Kim has refused to back down from the new anti-worker laws but has agreed to talk to the strikers. The opening up of negotiations has been the intention of the strikers from the outset, upset at the 'undemocratic' passage of the anti-union legislation. It signals the political agenda of the union bureaucrats to arrive at a negotiated compromise with the Government.
As we show, however, compromise can only hurt workers and set back the struggle for the reunification of Korea as a workers republic.
From the outset of the strike action on December 26 last year, the union leaders have tried to force the government to repeal its anti-worker legislation by mobilising public opinion against the government. They have not built for an all-out general strike to bring down the government. Why is this? The answer is that the union bureaucrats do not want to rock the boat. They are part of the system. They don't want to overthrow capitalism and unite with the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) as a unified workers state, they just want the right to exist and have a bigger slice of the economic cake.
The union bureaucrats share the bosses view that the rapid economic development of Korea as an Asian Tiger can be shared by all. They only disagree on the fairness of the shares. The Economist magazine, the free market mouthpiece for the bosses claims that workers can share in growth and prosperity, provided they are prepared to accept a flexible labour market. This is exactly what the new labour laws in Korea are designed to achieve - the right of the bosses to hire and fire at will and not be met with organised opposition. Such "flexibility" says the Economist, allows bosses to move workers where they can be most productive, providing new jobs and living wages. The problem in South Korea, for the Economist is that for the last 10 years workers have had it "too good", their wages have gone up on average by 15% a year, and they have legal rights to protect their jobs. Today, says the Economist, if South Korea is to remain competitive, workers have to realise that they must be prepared to change jobs and to earn a `competitive' wage. i.e lower than their competitors. Fundamentally the union leadership agrees with this analysis, except that it wants the play by the rules of the OECD(Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) and ILO (International Labour Organisation). That is, it wants the labour market to be regulated by legally recognised unions with bargaining power to improve labour conditions. It sees no reason why this cannot be achieved in a"democratic" Korea backed up by the `international law' of the OECD and ILO.
Unfortunately for these bureaucrats, capitalism is not like that. South Korea's "miracle" economic growth since the war has been at the expense of the working class and poor peasants. Korea became a virtual colony of the US after the war and the workers movement was sold out by the Stalinists who agreed to the US occupying forces edict removing a popular government from power. Unions were outlawed and protest met with repression. Korea was ruled by the military until 1987. The current regime is still far from democratic. It outlaws all unions except its own domesticated house union. So long as workers could win more wages and protect their jobs the government has managed to prevent an open confrontation. Today faced with a worsening economic situation, the Korean economy needs to reduce costs, including labour costs. This has forced the bosses to bring in new legislation to cut labour costs and to restrict the right to take industrial action. South Korea is a semi-colony/. It does not extract much of its profits from exploiting workers overseas. It relies on exploiting its own workers. Therefore there is no alternative for the Korean bosses but to clamp down on their workers.
OECD and ILO.
Therefore, the hopes of the union bosses cannot be met. Joining the OECD does not mean that Korea has any choice in the type of labour legislation it introduces. The ILO is a toothless tiger when it comes to imposing any protection for workers. The dictates of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are far more important than membership of these Western 'clubs'. They oversee the foreign debt and force governments to impose austerity and anti-union laws to repay the debt. With the IMF and World Bank on their backs the Korean bosses cannot back down. This means that their confrontation with workers cannot be resolved by negotiation unless workers accept defeat. The reformist strategy of the union leaders is therefore doomed to lead workers to defeat. How then do revolutionaries intervene in this situation? How does the demand for a general strike relate to the demand to unify Korea.
Turning wildcat strikes into a general strike!
First we must turn the current strategy and tactics of the union leadership into a strategy and tactics that can win. What of the tactics of the KCTU? It appeals to all classes. It called off the strike over the New Year holiday period to keep public support. It appeals to religion by using the Cathedral in Seoul as 'sanctuary' against the state forces. These tactics show that the union is pinning its hopes on the support of 'democratic' public opinion, especially international opinion and institutions, such as of the ILO charter. Union leaders are attaching much importance to the OECD stipulating that Korea must meet the ILO provision for legalised unions. The KCTU news also states that reports in the NY Times and other major world media outlets, probably made the government reluctant to move against the union leaders. Is this realistic given the Korean ruling classes inability to live with an organised, legal TU movement? What must be done to win the strike? The tactics of 'sit-downs', rallies, motorcades, and 'public' services to win over public support, are good tactics to build broad-based support. But they do not by themselves build the general strike.
Rank and File held back.
The KCTU is one of two union groups. It is an illegal union federation formed over the last 10 years. It has around 500,000 members. Up to 300,000 were on strike by mid-January. The FKTU, the government sponsored union federation with 1.7 million members also went on strike in December and January for 2 days at a time. While it is important to mobilise support from this union, it is very conservative, and cannot be expected to support an all-out general strike without adequate leadership and preparation. There is a contradiction between tactics designed to win popular support by moderate means, and tactics able to build a general strike capable of winning. Workers in major industries such as Automobile, tyre etc. have stopped work.Some white-collar workers came out also, proving an important point about the unity of industrial and service workers.
[ Health workers, teachers, lawyers, TV and Press] rallied in support for the strike. Public support was reported by one newspaper at about 55%. Many students came out in solidarity But despite this broad based working class response to strike action, the leadership is holding back any movement towards an all-out general strike.
Unite the fight with the North!
Partly this is because the union leaders are trying to separate the struggle in the South from that in the North. The government misses no opportunity to label the strike action a front for those who support reunification with the DPRK. The union leadership has attempted to avoid this charge by distancing itself from the demand for reunification. This is part of its softly-softly strategy. But the two struggles cannot be isolated. The attempts by the US and other imperialists to restore capitalism in the North, if successful, will divide and weaken the Korean working class. Resistance to privatisation in the North will strengthen workers in the South. The attack on workers in the South will weaken the resistance of workers in the North to restoration. Imperialism wants to smash the resistance of workers in both Koreas. The only working class answer is to unite Korean workers against imperialism. An all out General Strike in the south must be linked to the demand for Korean reunification, and for a political revolution to overthrow the North Korean bureaucratic dictatorship. Forging this revolutionary link is important to break South Korean workers illusions in the OECD, the ILO and the Federation of Free Trade Unions, all of which have a rotten record in pushing restoration in the former degenerate workers states.
Negotiations mean surrender!
The decision to pull back to a weekly action may be reversed if no acceptable response comes from the President. Workers should have no illusions about the game the union leadership is playing. Strike action will continue to be used as a bargaining chip to negotiate a peaceful parliamentary back-down and the rule of 'democracy'. What will happen if their bluff is called? If the Government does not back down, there is already union talk of mounting a campaign, during the election campaign next year, against the two Governing parties! This proves conclusively that the KCTU leadership's long-term strategy is a gradualist, peaceful process of negotiation which cannot defend the interests of workers under attack by Korean bosses. It is necessary to break from that strategy and fight for an unlimited general strike as part of a transitional programme for socialist revolution.
Workers Councils and Workers Militias!
First, under the pretext of negotiations, the government can prepare for a crackdown and a new military dictatorship. The rank and file should reject winding down strikes during negotiations. On the contrary, if the government backs down it will be because it is forced to resign. Short of a full and indefinite general strike no government will revoke the new laws as these lay the basis for the competitiveness of the Korean economy under conditions of intensifying competition in the Asian region. Workers must reject campaigns to build public support because to win support from the liberal bourgeoisie, religious leaders and the like, the working class must put limits on its independent action. Instead the rank-and-file must organise defence squads, and rank-and-file strike committees to co-ordinate the building and defending an all-out general strike. These committees should be the basis for workers councils in every area.
The demand that the government repeal the two Acts should become a demand for the government's resignation. Because the government is acting under a constitution which allows a virtual dictatorship, a transitional demand for a Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution should be raised. However, because a Constituent Assembly can never be more than a radical bourgeois parliament, in which workers interests become compromised by those of the ruling class, revolutionaries must fight within the workers councils for a workers council government and a workers militia that would replace the Constituent Assembly.
·__For an indefinite General Strike!
·__For a Constituent Assembly!
·__For a government based on workers councils and militias!
·__For Political Revolution in the DPRK!
·__For a United Workers Socialist Republic of Korea!
The civil war in Zaire
Communist Workers Group (NZ)
The current civil war in Zaire is not a product of native barbarism but it is a consequence of imperialist domination. The barbarism in central Africa is a result of both backward capitalism penetration and its inability to develop the economy, linked to the previous social relations. In the nineteenth century the western powers divided Africa into colonies to exploit their raw materials and people. They carved up territories and divided ethnic groups, creating in the process a legacy of rivalry, division and suspicion. To facilitate their rule, the colonial powers promoted ruling classes out of various tribal elites, and elevated traditional chiefs into local warlords. In order to boost their power, these rulers appealed to tribal loyalties rewarded by patronage and corruption which favoured one tribe against another. So it is not only ancient tribal hostility which is the cause of today's conflicts. Modern tribalism is the creation of imperialism as part of its indirect!
method of ruling its former colonies. The lakes area in central Africa is one of the most fertile and populated zones in the continent. It was also one of the last parts to be colonised. Imperialist dominance come only around one century ago. In that region the pre-capitalist social relations were based on a division between those who had more than 10 cows - the Tutsi (riches), and those that cultivated the land -the Hutus. Germany, colonised Rwanda and Burundi until the first world war, and Belgium colonised Zaire since the last century and Rwanda and Burundi after the first world war. They both promoted a deeper division between these two social layers. A modern racist ideology was developed in support of Tutsi supremacy by administrators and anthropologists. It accentuated the "whitish" character of the Tutsi because they had originated from shepherd tribes in the horn of Africa and are more mediterranean-looking . compared with the Hutus were based in mainly the old '!
African' Bantu population.
When the imperialists pulled out during the de-colonisation of Africa after WW2, these new ruling classes were left in charge, administering the semi-colonies on behalf of the former colonial rulers. The legacy of colonial rule was not only the arbitrary geographical groupings of tribes, but economies that had been turned into sources of cheap exports for the world economy. These new states were firmly locked into an international division of labour in which they would produce raw material and agricultural exports, and import machines or finished consumer goods from the West. In Rwanda, for example, coffee was the main crop, accounting for 70% of the farms, and 80% of the foreign exchange earnings. In Zaire, it was the hugely rich supplies of minerals which were eagerly sought by the world economy. Rubber, the main crop in the 19th century, was replaced by cobalt [2/3rds of the worlds production] industrial diamonds [world leader] zinc, tin, manganese, gold, silver, iron ore and uranium etc. But Imperialism is an unstable system and prone to world crises caused by a tendency for profits to fall. Crises mean that capitalism is constantly on the lookout for cheaper raw materials and labour power.
During the last period of world crisis from the early 1970's, world prices for products from the semi-colonies in Central Africa fell dramatically. Coffee fell by half in 1987 causing the fragile Rwandan and Burundi economy to almost collapse. Unemployment and starvation set in. This in turn brought old and new rivalries to the surface as the masses looked for ways to solve the problems of imperlialism. The latest events in central Africa are therefore the product of this long imperialist history. Imperialism today washes its hands of its rotten past, and pretends that the tribal warfare it created is the product of 'African tribalism'. It blames the racially selected 'political' classes which it created, and continues to arm to rule on its behalf, for the 'genocide' of Tutsis and Hutus. It claims that these tribal forces are so destructive that imperialism cannot intervene except to pickup the pieces with humanitarian aid. As soon as the aid organisations come under threat, the democratic imperialist swash the in hands of the problem. Therefore it was colonisation and the de-colonisation process in central Africa that created the conditions which led to civil wars. In Burundi the Tutsi monarchy remained in power while in Rwanda it was overthrown by a peasant Hutu uprising which established a new republic. These two countries are geographically very small but have the highest population density in Africa. Their population speaks the same language (French and Rwandan dialects) and were divided between around 85% Hutu and 14% Tutsi. In Burundi the Hutus are still second class citizens and the army is still monopolised by the Tutsi. In Rwanda many Tutsi and former rulers left to live in neighbouring countries where they became discriminated against. The 35 years of formal independence saw constant genocide against the Hutu in Burundi and against the Tutsi in Rwanda. On 21 October 1993 the first Hutu elected president of Burundi was killed after less than 100 days in office. This led to more ethnic violence.
Meanwhile, in Rwanda the civil war between the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front [RPF] and the Habyramina's Hutu dominant regime provoked the massacre of more than half a million people (mostly Tutsi and Hutu oppositionists). In neighbouring Uganda the massacres were even more massive. A very heterogenous country, Uganda is divided into around 40 nationalities which have very different languages and religions. Idi Amin, Milton Obote and Museveni, between them killed more than one million people during their dictatorships. When in July 1994 the RPF took power, more than two million Rwandan (one quarter of the population) left the country. Many Tutsi and Ugandese repopulated former Hutu properties. The RPF had little popular support in Rwanda but its superiority was based on better equipment and logistic support in Uganda. The RPF was created by the Museveni dictatorship. Museveni has been in power since 1986. He has Tutsi origins and his new army and government was reinforced by the Tutsi émigrés. Behind this conflict there is some inter-imperialist rivalry. The RPF was very well promoted in the US and UK media. France backed its former ally Habyarimana, the Rwandan dictator, because it wanted to defend its franco-phone African region. It was oppose to the RPF led by anglo-speaking Tutsi and Ugandese.
Zaire breaking up?
In Zaire Mobutu has been in power for the last 31 years overseeing the super-exploitation of Zaire by imperialist multinationals. His personal reward is equivalent of around 1/4 of the foreign debt. In the last six years Zaire has faced a very deep crisis. Mobutu tried to buy off the leader of the radical opposition, Tshikeidi, by making him prime minister. After a period of co-operation, Mobutu sacked him. Zaire as a united country is almost ceasing to exist. The biggest country in Black Africa is divided between 4 countries which have a lot of communication difficulties and which are much more integrated with their neighbouring economies than with the rest of the country. The impoverishment and regional division of Zaire is creating ethnic conflicts. The Rwandan émigré were attacked. The Tutsi communities which lived in eastern Zaire before the European arrival suffered discrimination and expulsions.
Imperialism is afraid that the crisis in Zaire could deepen and lead to an unstable situation. Their response is to form a UN force to oversee stability in Zaire. On the one hand they favour a 'democratic' regime over Mobutu's dictatorship. On the other hand they fear a popular movement for democracy turning into a radical movement. The rebel army which occupied eastern Zaire is led by Tutsi fighters. The Rwandan regime openly supports this movement. The enemies of the rebels accused them to trying to create a single Tutsi-led state which would unite Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and eastern Zaire. On the other hand there are some reports which says that the rebels are not exclusively or even mainly Tutsi. They are made up of several currents including that of Laurent Kabila [who is not Tutsi] who fought with Lumumba in the 1960's and formed Partidi la Revolution Populaire (PRP) in 1967. Other groups include the Mouvement Revolutionaraire pur la Liberation du Zaire based in the Bakuvu region; L'Alliance Democratique des Peuples created in 1995 for the self-defence of the [name missing] of Andre Kissasse [not a Tutsi] in the province of Kasai.
The more than one million Rwandan Hutu which survived in eastern Zaire are now returning to Rwanda. In the last two years they were forced to leave their homes and live in the most inhuman conditions in disease-plagued refugees camps. Today they are returning to their homes and lands which are occupied by Tutsi or other people, and accept to live under the Tutsi regime. Is this the solution to the problem? Living under one or other military dictatorship? Some of the left see the Zaire civil war as merely an extension of the Rwandan/Burundi conflict where the Tutsi are now dominant and backed by the US to introduce a more 'democratic' regime in Zaire. They are believers in the liberal ideology that the West can help to 'democratise' Africa. For example, our current was created in a fight against the LRCI leaders who called for the military victory of the US-UK backed Tutsi RPF who produced the biggest refugees exodus in Africa. They even supported the Rwandan army incursions in eastern Zaire against the more than one million impoverished refugee. The West's liberal goals are the IMF/World Bank policies of structural adjustment along with "good governance", a code word for "multiparty" democracy which also means inter-ethnic harmony! But imperialism even in its most pious humane guise, - the church-based UN sanctioned aid agency - is the cause not the solution to the problem!
The workers and poor peasants of central Africa have the solution in their hands. They should critically participate in mass demonstrations and uprisings against Mobutu regime in Zaire and the Rwandan and Ugandan regimes. But they need to organise themselves against the leaders of the rebel movements who are trying to became the new bourgeoisie. This new rulers would maintain the right of imperialism to continue to super-exploit the region, and continue the historic pattern of poverty, starvation and new massacres against the toilers or other ethnic communities. The tragedy in central Africa is that dictators based on one ethnic group can be replaced by another elite. The main social problems caused by imperialism's dominance and super- exploitation arises from the forms of backward semi-colonial economies, intermingled with old pre-capitalist social relations. What is needed to overcome these backward pressures is the independent activity of the working class. The multi-ethnic wage workers from the mines, rural states and urban industries should unite in powerful rank and file controlled unions and councils which should have their own self-defence committees. Only such united and independent workers organisations can lead the masses of small, impoverished farmers in the struggle for democracy and on the road towards socialism. The workers need to win the battle for democracy: for the release of all political prisoners; for workers and popular tribunals to judge paramilitary and massacre;, for freedoms to all parties; for democratic elections controlled by workers and people's committees; for self-determination to all the nations; for the replacement of corrupt armies thorough workers and peasant militias and for a constituent assembly. The central African proletariat should fight for a Workers and Peasants Government that can give the land to the peasants, expropriate the big capitalists and imperialist corporations and cancel the foreign debt to the banks and IMF!
Imperialists out of central Africa!
Workers' Voice (U.S.)
Following is a position statement passed by the National Committee of Workers' Voice in November 1996. While events in central Africa have continued to develop, we feel that the method of the statement retains all of its validity.
If we were to believe the big business media's crocodile tears over the conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi in Zaire, Rwanda, and Burundi, we would come to some very wrong conclusions. We would believe that it is all the result of impossible ethnic divisions among "backward peoples" who are not able to keep their own house in order.
This patronising, racist viewpoint is a smoke screen to conceal imperialism's historic and present role in the barbarism. Behind such "concern" is cold blooded scheming to pursue imperialist interests in the region regardless of the cost in suffering and death.
The unimaginable poverty in central Africa is not the result of a lack of natural wealth. Zaire is one of the world's most mineral-rich countries, with an abundance of diamonds, cobalt, zinc, tin, gold, silver, uranium, etc. Rwanda and Burundi are among the most fertile agricultural regions on the continent.
The problem is that capitalism is an irrational system that is unable to fully realise such potential. Rather then develop these countries to provide plenty for all, the imperialists have used them as a source of cheap raw materials and a market to sell finished consumer goods - all according to prices set by the imperialists, of course.
The Central African states were never allowed to develop an industry where they would be able to process their natural resources into finished goods. Such progress would undermine their role as subservient states subject to imperialist dictate.
As the international influence of the imperialist powers that originally colonialized Central Africa declined, so did Central Africa's infrastructure. In Zaire, for instance, virtually no modern economy has developed, and even the scant infrastructure left by Belgium 36 years ago is crumbling. In spite of the natural resources and the dense population of this African region, the imperialists have consciously chosen not to develop these countries to even the miserably poor levels of other neo-colonies.
In the early 1970s world prices for products from the semicolonies in Central Africa fell dramatically. Unemployment and starvation set in. The imperialists, who are currently posing as humanitarians, did not give a damn. Better to let millions starve then invest in these countries, when it will be less costly to find cheap exploitable labour elsewhere.
The ethnic conflicts in Central Africa are, likewise, the product of imperialist intervention. The Tutsi and Hutu share the same language and culture. In pre-capitalist Central Africa the social divisions ran along the lines of those who had more then ten cows (the Tutsi) and those who cultivated the land (the Hutu). A century ago, when Germany colonialized Rwanda and Burundi and Belgium colonialized Zaire, this division was deepened for the benefit of imperialist divide and conquer schemes.
The Tutsi allied themselves with the colonializers, helping them to savagely oppress the Hutu majority. In league with their imperialist masters, the ruling Tutsis, using feudal relations to prop up the colonialized capitalist states. They reduced the Hutu to superexploited serfs who were forced to give part of their crops to the Tutsi barons.
To facilitate imperialist control of the area, German and Belgian colonialists supported artificially separating Burundi and Rwanda. They did this in spite of the fact that both countries are composed of the same ethnic groups and traditions.
Today in Burundi, the French and Belgian imperialists bolster Tutsi dominated regimes who have systematically killed and oppressed hundreds of thousands of Hutu. In Rwanda things developed differently.
A massive peasant revolt in 1959 formally overthrew the Tutsi dominated system. Knowing how to stay in control by swimming with the tide, the Belgian and French imperialists switched their support to the Hutu military regimes. They even supported the Hutu government as it massacred a million Tutsi in 1994.
In the early 1960s, France and Belgium collaborated with the U.S., through the UN, to brutally crush a popular revolt in Zaire. They installed a dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, whose regime has been one of the most bloodthirsty in Africa. His reward for these services rendered to imperialism is the equivalent of a quarter of Zaire's foreign debt.
Today, it is from a villa in France that a sick Mobutu plots to regain control of the situation in Zaire. French prime minister Chirac still claims that Mobuto is the best man to represent Zaire and find a political solution.
For the French imperialists, the FPR (Patriotic Front of Rwanda) victories in Rwanda, and their allies' (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire, hereafter referred to as ADFLCZ) military advances in Zaire are a big defeat. The French had hoped to divide Central Africa into Hutu and Tutsi nations so as to maintain their domination in the region.
Does this mean that these forces are playing an anti-imperialist role in the conflicts? On the contrary, both are openly pro-bourgeois organisations. The FPR was formed by the Tutsi-born Ugandan dictator, Museveni, who is responsible for the deaths of over one million people. It was predominantly composed of Tutsis who had fled Rwanda to Uganda in 1959.
With the aid of Museveni, the FPR established connections to British and U.S. imperialists. For this reason, the FPR supported the deployment of U.S. troops for "humanitarian reasons" in 1994. In the present conflict, Canada and the US scaled back their plan to send in troops only after their allies, the rebel troops in Zaire, turned the civil war around against the Hutu militias.
The FPR do not represent a progressive step forward since they are as tied to U.S. imperialism, as the Hutu military regimes were tied to French imperialism. That means that Central Africa's legacy of underdevelopment, starvation, and massacres will not end.
France's African aid budget is over $3 billion, nearly four times the size of America's. Then why is it that the U.S. imperialists have stepped into Central Africa and onto the toes of the French moneybags? In part, it is because of increasing inter-imperialist competition. As far as the U.S. is concerned, the African governments that France props up have not been so good for business.
An editorial in the Wall Street Journal summed up the U.S. ruling class' view of these French dominated neo-colonies:
It's no coincidence that, at the same time all this repression is occurring, the World Bank records immense annual out-flows of capital from many African countries. The dictators' autocratic ways impede economic development for several reasons. First, autocratic governments spawn parasitic kleptocracies that stifle the private sector. Then, of course, repression sparks armed resistance which further interrupts economic and political development. These attacks, regardless of their origins, contribute to the seemingly unending cycles of destablization, war, famine and refugee flows. (10 December 1996)
What the U.S. wants is an end to unrest in the area, since it is bad for business and could potentially produce an anti-imperialist revolt. Furthermore, opposing African regimes that France is supporting (and the U.S. has historically supported as well) gives the U.S. a competitive advantage over their imperialist rival.
This is why the U.S. is backing such a "democratic" force as the FPR. The American imperialists believe that such political organisations, with their talk of multi-party democracy, are the best tools for keeping Central Africa a land of super-exploitation. In spite of this change of window dressing, the misery of the African masses will go unrelieved, and may in fact grow worse.
The FPR has little popular support in Rwanda. They were victorious against the Hutu regime largely because of better equipment and logistical support from Uganda. Despite the FPR's principle of ethnic tolerance, Tutsi members have participated in massacres of Hutu civilians.
The conflicts between the U.S.-backed ADFLCZ and the French backed Hutu militias and Zairian military reflect the competing interests of different imperialist forces. Communists must stand for the defeat of both camps by revolutionary working class means.
This does not mean we would abstain from battle. When the Hutu militias and Mobuto's army were attacking Tutsi residents in Zaire, in an attempt to drive them out of the country, we would have fought for the formation of multi-ethnic workers' and poor peasants' militias to protect their right to live where they want.
These militias would, in turn, aim their guns at the ADFLCZ when they massacre Hutu refugees and try to drive them back to Rwanda against their will. To crush Mobutu's regime in Zaire, and build the forces to oppose the ADFLCZ's inevitable attempts to enforce the IMF's will, we would mobilize the masses themselves in demonstrations, unions, militias, and workers' and peasants' councils.
In Rwanda we would give no support to the bourgeois Arsusha international tribunal to prosecute the Hutus charged with the 1994 massacres. Such an organisation will only be used to victimise innocent Hutu. We would counterpose the formation of a working class and poor peasant tribunal, independent from the state.
As the Hutu refugees return to Rwanda, they are finding that their land has been taken by Tutsis. Though the FPR government has formally stated that the farms of the returning Hutus must be returned in 15 days, they have done nothing to enforce this. There is no solution to this burning land question under capitalism, outside of widespread oppression, and possibly civil war.
Multi-ethnic workers' and poor peasants' councils, elected and directly accountable to their villages and work sites, must be formed to find and administer a fair outcome. Such an outcome could only be equitable if the big landowners were expropriated. The FPR would not permit this. Therefore, such councils would be an opposing power to the FPR regime, who would defend the big landowners. We would fight for the councils to take power and establish socialism.
But this will not be possible to achieve in Central Africa's imperialist designed jigsaw puzzle of nation states. This is especially true because the area has been so devastated that the working class barely exists. All efforts must be made to reach out to the international working class - especially the militant proletariat of South Africa. Any anti-imperialist fight in Central Africa can and must spread beyond the current national divisions and create a federation of socialist states in Africa.
Down with Milosevic, Zajedno!
Crisis looms over Serbia
Workers' Voice (U.S.)
Since the end of November, 1996 Serbia has been rocked by months of mass anti- government protests. These demonstrations, led by a coalition of organisations known as Zajedno, have been centred in the capital, Belgrade. They have largely mobilised students, academics and other middle class elements, the Serb working class has played very little, if any, role in the protests.
The demonstrations have received attention, as well as support, from the western media. They have attempted to depict the protests as an expression of spontaneous mass outrage at the government. Needless to say, there is more to the demonstrations in Belgrade than we are led to believe.
After two months of continuous protests, Milosevic conceded the municipal electoral victories to Zajedno.
Milosevic has alleged that electoral fraud took place in the municipal elections last year. It was on this basis that the government voided the electoral results last November and made the call for new elections.
Zajedno refused to accept new elections, and immediately began organising mass demonstrations against Milosevic in Belgrade and a handful of other Serbian cities.
The Zajedno opposition movement is a thoroughly restorationist, right-wing hornet's nest of Chetnik chauvinists, monarchists, and nationalist students. The aims of the movement clearly reflect its middle-class character and composition: The overthrow of the Milosevic government and setting up of a market economy in Serbia, tied directly to imperialism.
Milena Milojevic, a cashier at a Belgrade market, expressed the feelings of the Serb working class very well in an interview with the New York Times.
"Our society has collapsed. You have to be a fool not to see this. I don't waste my time with the opposition rallies - this is for the middle class. If the opposition takes power, it will steal like Milosevic. We need a strong leader, one who doesn't go abroad like these other opposition leaders to speak badly about Serbia and carry out the orders given by the West." (February 6, 1997)
To make matters worse, Patriarch Pavle of the Serbian Orthodox Church recently joined forces with Zajedno's top leaders, Serb chauvinists Zoran Djindjic and Vuk Draskovic!
Djindjic has built a large base of support resting upon Serbian chauvinism. During the Dayton "peace" negotiations, Djindjic angrily denounced Milosevic for betraying Serbs in the Krajina and Bosnia. In Bosnia's elections last September Djindjic openly campaigned for the party of Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Chetnik leader.
In an interview with the Times last December, Djindjic, a university philosophy professor, candidly admitted: "If we want to build a popular movement, we must use nationalism to do it. Our primary goal is to reform the economy and push Yugoslavia into Western Europe.... This is why we are building our movement on Serbian nationalism." (1 Dec. 1996)
Working class resentment
Serbia differs from most of the Balkans in that it possesses a strong, well organised and militant working class. The imposition of sanctions by the UN has slowed down (but only slowed down!) the Stalinists' and imperialists' attempts to restore capitalism in the republic.
While the demonstrations in Serbia have been fuelled by western propaganda against Milosevic and the Serbian ex-Stalinists, the sheer size and duration of the protests clearly reflect a deeper resentment within the population.
Without doubt, much of the resentment against Milosevic and the Serbian ex-Stalinists is, from a working class point of view, completely justified. In particular, the former Stalinists' close co-operation with imperialism to dismantle the planned economy of the former Serbian (deformed) workers' state, and Milosevic's collaboration with imperialism to betray the anti-imperialist struggles of the Serbs in the Krajina and parts of Bosnia, have fuelled workers' contempt.
Millions of Serb workers have been thrown into poverty by almost five years of UN.-sponsored sanctions, the devastating military and economic embargo, and capitalist restoration. Unemployment stands at 50 percent. Serbia's state-subsidised healthcare, childcare and housing has been all but eliminated. In spite this, the Milosevic government still maintains a (fragile) base of support among the working class, and the workers continue to militantly press their demands on the Milosevic regime.
For workers' power!
The war in the former Yugoslavia has taught the Serbian workers that the U.S. and Western European powers are not their allies. The workers have learned that the imperialists only really care about one thing: crushing the workers' states and turning the Balkans into semi-colonies of super-exploited workers who will churn out massive profits for the west.
As a result, the working class has not been receptive to the goals of the Zajedno movement. But neither have the workers looked to Milosevic to automatically defend their interests. Instead, they have organised militant labour actions against the government to press home their demands.
Milosevic differs from other former Stalinists in Eastern Europe in that he is a "slow road" restorationist. This means that he is willing to make certain concessions to the workers in order to gain some working class support.
Milosevic finds this necessary because he is trying to take a big chunk of the state owned industries for the ex-bureaucracy, and cannot accomplish this without the support of certain sectors of the working class.
The problem is that Milosevic does not cut it for the imperialists. As far as they are concerned, his pace of restoration is just not fast enough, and he has made too many concessions to the workers.
And the fact that, for five years, the Yugoslav Army battled the imperialist-backed forces in Croatia and Bosnia, has not helped his standing among the capitalists. While Milosevic proved to be very useful to the western powers in helping them to bring about the Dayton Agreement, he has now outlived his usefulness.
As in the early 1990s in Eastern Europe, the imperialists are using bourgeois "democracy" as a cover to organize a counterrevolutionary movement and to facilitate fast-track capitalist restoration.
As Marxists, we would bloc with neither Milosevic nor the Zajedno. Both represent capitalist restoration and Serb nationalism. Instead, we would intervene among the militant Serb working class to fight for their own interests.
We would fight for the building of workers' councils and workers' defence militia in Serbia, linked to similar bodies throughout all of the Balkans, and workers' control of the economy. Through this intervention, a Marxist party, rooted in the working class, would be built which could provide political leadership and a genuinely socialist solution.
Only a Socialist Federation of the Balkans can bury forever the ugly spectres of nationalism and capitalist restoration. Only the building of a working-class, Marxist party in the Balkans can bring this about.
Pauline Hanson and Australian Racism
Reprinted from RED, No 36, January 1997, bulletin of
the Communist Left of Australia.
Pauline Hanson, Independent member for Oxley, has become a notorious celebrity both Australia and internationally. She has taken overt racism out of the closet. Australian Governments were doing a good job selling Australia to Asia, in particular Asian capital. Of course much of the multicultural image was just a veneer. The token politically correct multicultural Australia still restricts admission to Asian people, put boat people in prison camps and endorsed Black people to live in poverty and subject to vicious racist repression. It's just that this was done in with a multicultural image with so-called "reconciliation " for Black people. As it is well known, Hanson was one of three openly racist candidates to be elected to Federal Parliament last March. The other two racists, Bob Katter (National) and Graeme Campbell (Independent) have not quite been so prominent. Nevertheless they are part of an Australia wide movement which is especially strong in the country and part!
s of the city suburbs. It is particularly strong in Queensland and Western Australia. Candidates stood under the banner Australians Against Further Immigration. After the election, they polled very well in Paul Keating's old seat of Blaxland which includes the Bankstown area of Sydney. The Liberals weren't standing. But it is noteworthy that the vote went to racists instead of other bourgeois candidates and right wingers.
The extreme right have chosen Hanson as their front person. She has been marketed as a battler, whose politics are common sense developed through the school of hard knocks (her fish and chip shop in Ipswich) who says what ordinary people think. In reality she is far from a lone battling women. She is backed by Graeme Campbell (and his electoral machine) and the local Liberal Party (despite her disendorsement) and the low key fascist League of Rights whose reactionary, racist version of "common sense" she is actually parroting. For the first few months, Hanson had a quiet time in parliament. She waited until September to give her maiden speech. This put the cat amongst the pigeons. Her views are ignorant as well as racist and prejudiced. But she presented a coherent programme. Australia was (according to her) "in danger of being swamped by Asians". She therefore wants a cessation of the migration programme and it to be restructured overtly against Asian migrant!
s. She made a scathing attack on Asian migrants bringing in their cultures and religions. She raised the spectre of Asian invasion. According to Hanson millions of Asians want to take over Australia. This is a lie. Only five percent of Australian residents are of Asian descent. The working class have no country. Workers from Asia should be welcome here. There is plenty of room in this country for anyone who wants to come. And Australian workers have been culturally enriched by the influx of people with different cultures. She wants to formally abolish multiculturalism. What she means is that everyone who lives here must speak English and conform to the Australian stereotype. She also attacked Australian Black people. Well Aboriginals are disadvantaged. And the statistics on malnutrition, death during child birth, home- lessness show this. Of course Hanson mentions nothing about the massive subsidies given to those parasitic bludgers - the capitalist class. Hanson attacked ATSIC as "run by criminals" and "racist". For her racism is do
ing something about the inherent racism of Australian society. Most Black people live outside the law. It is a white, capitalist , racist law which means repression and death. And they have every right to fight back. She, of course, is racist. She stated explicitly that she did not represent those in her electorate of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island descent. She also wants Australia to reconsider it's membership of the United Nations. She thinks this institution also is full of criminals . Who she has in mind is not the imperialist criminals who rip-off most of the World but the Black African, Asian, Latin American and Eastern European states who are victims of imperialist super-exploitation and repression. She wants to abolish the Family Law Act and the Child Support Scheme brought in by the disgraceful Senator Lionel Murphy . She also wants compulsory national service for young people (men and women) turning eighteen. Basically she offers a classical fascist programme of extreme racism, state repression and social reaction. So what has been the reaction to this? Well the Labor Party and Democrats have opposed her. But they have hardly put the boot in. Howard has indeed gone on the offensive, but not against Hanson. His offensive is against political correctness. He has refused to attack Hanson in the name of a free and open debate. Howard's refusal to come out and openly attack the racists has given them a message. Whilst Howard won't come out openly and state his agreement, he will protect the racists and fascists from opponents so they can build their reactionary mass movement. Howard has made chauvinists comfortable about their chauvinism. Howard knows very well what he is doing. By helping the racist movement, he can perhaps split the Labor Party and ensure that racists will prefer the Liberals.
The net result of this has been an upsurge of racism. This involves both verbal abuse and physical racist attacks against Blacks and Asians. A Black kid, Singapore troops get assaulted and robbed in Queens- land. A bread shop, run by an Asian family gets smashed and graffitied in Swansea on Lake Macquarie, near Newcastle. There has been a whole rash of assaults and abuse of Asian and Black kids in the school playground throughout Australia. All this is a product of a reactionary racist environment which Hanson (assisted by Howard) has promoted. The opposition from Labor and the Democrats has been pitiful. More vocal has been the opposition tied to Asian capital. Rob Borbidge, Tim Fisher and Jeff Kennett have all come out strongly condemning Hanson. Their stands are not based on altruism. They are scared of losing investment. Kennett is afraid that there may be a boycott of the Commonwealth Games. Borbidge is afraid Japanese interests might be reluctant to invest. He als!
o fears that Asians might find Queensland less attractive as a holiday destination. This may cost the state millions of dollars. Hanson has facilitated a division within the National party. Bjelke-Petersen built an alliance, uniting middle-class small farmers with international finance capital. He cemented this alliance by taking a strong stand against the union movement and encouraging state repression against Black people and the student left. This alliance is now threatened. Asian capitalists are extremely angry with the overt racist environment. Borbidge must toe the line. But rank and file National Party members are extremely chauvinist and racist. Pauline Hanson is welomed with overflow meetings organised by branches such as Bribie Island. All this is fertile ground for League of Rights, Australians Against Further Immigration, fascist alliance to recruit from the National Party.
Many have apologised for Hanson by claiming that she merely expresses views of ordinary Australians. Well it is true that many of the ideas are shared. But she has actively crystalised these in a malignant way.
When Hewson opposed Hawke for betraying Australia's 'European heritage', public opinion went very much against him. He was ultimately forced to give up the campaign despite backing from Professor Blainey (on ABC TV) and National Action. The League of Rights also were holding mass rallies around rural Victoria. There was no fear then that any ALP Branch would be interested in the extreme racist agenda. Recently one ALP branch on the NSW South Coast wrote to Hanson for a copy of her speech, so they could study it sympathetically. So how can we fight back? The movement Hanson represents is horrendous, reactionary and a threat to not just Blacks and Asians, but unemployed and the organised working class. Most decent people hate Hanson. But the point is to have a programme to fight her. Hanson is not just a person. She is the main public persona of a social movement which started developing under Keating and gained considerable electoral support last Federal election. Australia has traditionally been a racist country. It was formed as a white outpost of the British Empire with it's own mini-imperialist domain over Asia and the Pacific. Australian's and Australian workers were persuaded to think of themselves as superior and privileged as compared to Asian workers. White Australia was a key plank in Labor's early platform. Australia formally had a white Australia policy up until the seventies. This policy changed partly due to the rise of the altruistic middle class whom Gough Whitlam based his support on, but also because capital required Asian labour. Its aim was to undermine the wages and conditions of the highly organised white labour aristocracy. Australia has had traditionally, a rural and mining economy. Australian manufacturing only developed as a significant component of the economy during the fifties and sixties. This manufacturing was weak. It was under-capitalised, underequiped and suffered from small local market. It developed under an umbrella of tariffs and protection. Protection did not strengthn manufacturing. Instead it maintained it in a state of weakness. Protection did not mean economic independence. The imperialists were protected also. Politically protection played the racist role of dividing Australian workers from their class comrades. Chauvinist unions such as the AMWSU (dominated by the now defunct CPA) promoted reactionary slogans such as "Keep industry in Australia" and calling on the government to give money to the likes of BHP. Union bureaucrats believed in defending Australian jobs "by crawling to the Government) and "forgot about Asian workers. Australians were apparently worthy of employment but not Asians! Protectionism has facilitated racism within Australian workers. This current movement of which Hanson is the figure head, stems from the policies of the Hawke and Keating governments. Keating was fundamentally a monetarist who cut the public sector to the bone. He was a total lackey of imperiaiism. His turn to Asia, was linked to decline of British and US imperialisms who have previously dominated this country. Keating realised that it was Japan which was the imperialism likely to take place of Britain and America. Monetarist policies meant suffering for working people and unemployed. They also hurt rural people. Fascism is a movement which can combine traditional racism with hostility to monetarism ( as fascists believe in a strong state). Fascism was also stimulated by Keating's failure to solve the crisis of unemployment. For those who do not understand the crisis of capitalism, pointing to an increase in migrants is an easy rough and ready explanation. Last election the semifascist right won mass support by drawing the link between Keating's monetarist policies, Keating's turn to Asian finance capital and Asian migration. We will be successful in fighting Hanson when we fight for a strong class conscious working class. We will beat Hanson when we show workers that their interests lie in unity with workers internationally, especially in Asia and the Pacific. We will win when we show them that "being Australian" plays the bosses game. We will win the middle classes when we show that the working class can act decisively for proletarian power. In doing so we must take up the progressive demands raised by farmers, to win them to the proletarian vanguard.
Farmers are at the mercy of finance capital, being driven off the land through mortgages and debt. It is only proletarian power which will repudiate debts, expropriate the banks and nationalise the land. Subordination of the working class to the system, in some form of popular front will not win the middle classes. On the contrary, it will show that the working class, or rather its proclaimed "representatives" are not serious in taking power. This drives middle classes into the reaction.
Keating's monetarism has paved the way for Hanson and her racist/fascist allies. In many country areas 28% of young people are unemployed. For the past ten years Hawke and Keating had tried all sorts of gimmicks. Many of these abused the unemployed and none of them worked. The racists and fascists, pointing the finger at migrants and "dole bludgers" offered a simplistic "solution". Unfortunately the left has been too tarred with Keating's bankruptcy and betrayal to bee seen as an alternative. Recently in Sydney there was a mass rally proclaiming "Unity against racism". It was organised by the radical and student left. Of course it was endorsed by organisations such as Democratic Socialist Party, Socialist Alternative and the International Socialist Organisation (through their paper Socialist Worker) and by broad fronts such as Anti-Bases Coalition and Bougainville Freedom Movement. It was also endorsed by the student movement and sections of the trade union bureaucracy. !
It's class character was shown by the fact that it was endorsed by the Young Korean-Australian Business Association. The unity these people want crosses class lines. For the radical left, the fight against racism is not a question of class struggle but one of bourgeois morality. Their front will unite people who already oppose Hanson. But it will not undermine the chauvinism of the labour aristocracy nor will it win the middle classes to the vanguard of the proletariat. A movement based on "people" and "morality" can not address working people in terms of their own interests - opposition to the capitalist system. In fact opposition to chauvinism would disrupt the "unity". Anthony Albanese, Labor member for Grayndler will not be party to any criticism of Keating's record on immigration. Under Hawke and Keating, Labor tightened restrictions on migrants and kept boat people in concentration camps. Stan Sharkey, who addressed the rally supports protection and immigration controls. He would not be party to any movement which would draw fundamental conclusions regarding the Keating Government. Criticism of chauvinism and the Accord, is not on for Sharkey. So therefore this movement is severely restricted in confronting the root causes of racism. The International Socialist Organisation had a meeting on whether the left should support the united front or the popular front. They claimed to be supporters of the former. But why then were they endorsers of the November 23 rally?. And also how do they explain their consistent support for the British AntiNazi League, which they have promoted in Australia?. ISO were the most militant wing of the popular front Bring the Frigate home Committee during the 1990/91 Gulf war when Iraq invaded Kuwait and the US, aided by Australia, responded by sending in the troops and brutally bombing Iraq. ISO members at their public meetings, opposed an orientation to the working class. We live in a world capitalist system. We should have nothing to fear from the internationalisation of capital. On the contrary, this paves the way for the internationalisation of the working class. Australian workers must link up with potentially revolutionary militant struggles in South East Asia and the Pacific. It is reactionary and utopian to cut off Australia from the world. It promotes racist immigration controls which lead to state repression against migrant workers. Chauvinists (reformist and stalinist) do workers a gross disservice by promoting their reactionary "national plans". They also assist the rise of fascism. What is needed is a working class movement against racism and fascism. Such a movement must put internationalist principles before opportunist unity. It must oppose immigration controls, tariffs and protection as well as racists such as Hanson. A weak class collaborationist working class will throw sections of the middle class and labour aristocracy into the hands of Pauline Hanson and her fascist/racist alliance.
New Zealand: The Coalition from Hell
Communist Workers Group
The National-NZ First coalition is terrible news for workers. Many workers were conned into voting for Peters because he talked big about getting rid of the National government. There was no way that he was going to pair up with Bolger. Bolger would have to go, as would Jenny Shipley. Tau Henare said a coalition with National over my dead body. So after Bolger offered plenty of inducements, another Billion or so to spend on health, 5 Cabinet posts rising to 7, and the Deputy Prime Minister/Treasurer post to Peters, the bastards sold out as fast as they could What happened to all the promises? Well it appears that about half of NZ First voters have already turned their backs on the party that sold them out for a $1.2 billion and a few top jobs.
Its bad new for workers because this government is just window dressing for another National term in office. In reality, while Peters has extracted some minor concessions from Bolger as the price of his support, it will be business as usual. Bolger has had to make no real concessions, because Peters didn't demand them. Peters has always been a renegade nationalist, who saw himself as the true national party after it had been taken over by the new right doing the bidding of the foreign multinationals. His conception of a true national party is in the mould of Muldoon - a nationalist party which protects the economy from foreign takeover and runs it in the interests of the people. Hence the label populist describes his brand of nationalism. He campaigned hard by appealing to peoples nationalism, and against foreign control, big business and big government. His ideal state was Singapore, just like Muldoon who was a great mate of Lew Kwan Yew, the Singapore Prime Minister for many years.
Yet each time he raised a populist bandwagon, like foreign ownership, or immigration, he pulled back from a real confrontation with National. So while he built the base of NZ First on these appeals to nationalism, in reality he recognised that any government must follow the dictates of international capital. This meant that NZ First was always going to see National as its natural home so long as Peters and Co got into powerful positions. Peters claims that NZ First makes a difference. Yeah to his pay packet and that of the 4 other cabinet ministers.
In reality, the new right reforms of the last years will be embedded in place at the expense of workers. Jenny Shipley gets to run the SOE's like she ran social welfare, and to follow through with attacks on ACC, Transport and Radio. Already the government is squabbling over whether the 'spur lines' on the national power grid are going to be hocked off or not. The promise to amend the Employment Contracts Act will go the bottom of the agenda. Max Bradford, one of the worst free marketeers in National is in charge of the Ministry of Labour and Immigration. The new spending on health, education etc will hardly make any difference to barriers now put up to free and equal access. Bill English, Nationals youthful ex-Treasury analyst, is in charge of Health. Wyatt Earp Creech, the sheriff of user pays stays in charge of Education. Roger Sowry, another young national rightwinger gets Social Welfare.
Maori will get a kick in the teeth, because Peters Maori policy is Ka Awatea - a prescription for Maori self-reliance from the state. This aims at turning some Maori into willing little capitalists, exploiting their tribal brothers and sisters. Tau Henere has the job of seeing this through. What's more two Maori NZ First ministers are in charge of the Treasury - Peters and his deputy John Delamare. Delamare has a Masters degree in Business Administration - the "how to do" ticket to the new right. He also supported the King of Tonga's right to shut down Parliament in response to the pro-democracy movements campaign!
But while Peters and Delamare might sit on the treasure chest, they don't have the key. Both have already called for more penny pinching in government. Delamare backed up Max Bradford when he said that the $1.2 Billion extra social spending would be capped. Any further spending would be frozen and non-funded items would drop off the agenda! Just like the people who need the money. The other NZ First portfolios are even more marginal or compromising. Tau Henare also looks after racism, sorry racing, and sport! Jack Elder is minister of Police, and McCardle has got employment - there wont be much of that after Bradford has finished with the Labour movement and Elder has mopped up the strife. Donnolly and Kirton, outside cabinet, get to understudy Creech and English in further wasting education and health. This all means that Maori, along with everyone else, will have to become successful in business or land on the scrap heap, and shut up until they win Lotto or drink themselves blotto and land in jail.
The Coalition government is also bad for workers because it lets the "left" off the hook. The left disgraced itself by its pathetic lack of guts in fighting for a common programme before the election. As we predicted for nearly a year before the election, the hostility between Labour and the Alliance which prevented them from doing a deal before the election, could only hurt workers. It meant that the left was totally disorganised, while the right was highly organised. The "far rights" of ACT under its bully boy leader, Prebble, even had the gall to push aside the National candidate for Wellington Central. The failure of the left to unite therefore meant that many workers threw their votes away. In some seats [constituencies] the vote was split so that NZ First or National won. Over all, the dumb splitting of votes on a haphazard basis, cost both Labour and Alliance party votes and therefore list members.
Because of this stupidity, the 'left' basically disqualified itself from government from the outset, allowing NZ First to capture the Maori vote and swing enough list members to form a coalition government. This is bad news for workers because the 'left' must now wait another three years before getting the chance to become the government, when it would inevitably be shown up as sell-outs who could not and would not undo the massive damage done to the working class over the last 12 years.
Lets face it, after 15 years of retreat in the face of Rogernomics and Ruthonomics, a Labour-Alliance coalition would be about as able to reverse the damage as a nun in a knocking shop. But this reality will not dawn on workers finally until the 'left' is put to the test of office. Meanwhile workers will think that a Labour or Alliance government next time will finally get rid of National and its NZ First hangers-on. Already Labour support has risen to 35%, and New Labour MP are forming a "opposition coalition" with Labour in Parliament. Too little and too late. But better late than never.
The prospect facing workers in the next three years is grim. The Coalition will move to cement in the pro-market reforms and push them further to completion. Peters will not be able to stop ministers like Max Bradford from amending the ECA to bring the Employment Court into line with the Business Roundtables wishes. Or Shipley to carve up more SOE's and the ACC. This will mean that workers will have to struggle to rebuild their unions from the ground up to defeat the anti-labour legislation on the picket-line. The impact of free trade will see more and more industries become uncompetitive and close-down with mass lay-offs. The rise of an unemployed reserve army will soon create demands for welfare that vastly exceed the new social spending. Peters proposals to make people work or train for welfare are a slippery slope to work-fare and further cuts in welfare entitlements.
There is an urgent need for unions to unite under the control the rank and file to fight closures and mass lay-offs with occupations and demands for workers control. Such struggles must mobilise workers behind Labour and the Alliance to fight for a workers platform in parliament, and to prepare for a united campaign to become the government in 1999.
Fight the Right!
Unite the Left around a Class Struggle Platform!
Detroit Newspaper strike:
Workers' Voice (U.S.)
As we go to press, the Detroit Newspaper Agency has accepted the MCNU's unconditional surrender. Workers were slated to begin returning on February 24. While the bureaucracy is attempting to call it a lockout, and are trying to get a court injunction, the federal court, which the MCNU labor skates have placed all of the faith in, has yet to rule if the strike was economic or over unfair labour practices.
After 19 months of hard-fought battles by the over 2,000 striking Detroit Newspaper workers, the traitorous leadership of the Metropolitan Council of Newspaper Unions (MCNU) has decided to slit the rank-and-file's throat.
On Valentine's day, an "unconditional back to work offer" was made by MCNU Chairman and top-flight labor skate Al Derey, which means that, if the company accepts, the strike is over. This was confirmed by several "labor relations experts," including former union bureaucrats and bosses.
While the surrender was billed as a "back to work order," the Detroit Newspaper Agency (DNA), the company that manages both the Detroit News and Free Press, have already said that they will not allow all of the strikers to return to their jobs.
In real terms, this means that the striking photographers, pressmen, writers and other support staff are being left to twist in the wind while the bureaucrats place the workers' future in the hands of the government and the bosses' courts.
This also means that the fate of the six unions will also rest in the hands of a bureaucracy that prefers to maneuver with the class enemy instead of fighting it.
MCNU bureaucracy: traitors and sellouts!
The actions of the MCNU labor skates have been nothing short of treason. Since the beginning of the strike, the MCNU bureaucrats have been looking for a way to diffuse and destroy the strike. When the workers were physically battling the scabs, Vance Security goons and the Sterling Heights Police, the bureaucrats were scrambling to find a way to stop the workers from fighting.
When workers were threatening to occupy distribution centers to stop the scab papers, the bureaucrats not only attempted to demobilize them, they stood guard for the scabs.
Finally, when the strikers' actions began to gain a reputation of militancy - thus winning the respect and praise of thousands of workers - the bureaucrats tried to regain its bourgeois "respecability" by establishing the Detroit Sunday Journal, not as a tool for organizing strikers, but a competing bourgeois paper.
The main strategy of the MCNU skates has been the infamous, dead-end policy of the "corporate campaign." For the last 15 months, all of the efforts of the bureaucrats have been directed toward the "good nature" of the ruling class. By pushing for advertisers to pull out of the News and Free Press, and by appealing to people to "unsubscribe," these labor lieutenants of capitalism have managed to decimate the morale and militancy of the strikers.
Many of the traitorous actions of the bureaucracy have shown a clear change in the general actions of the trade union movement today. More and more, the union apparatus is drawing closer to, and identifying itself with, the bosses and its government agents; more and more, the specter of the "company union" hangs over the membership of the AFL-CIO.
Workers are beginning to rise up and take the offensive. In the last two years, general strikes have taken place in several key countries. But while workers are beginning to turn, organized labor in the U.S. is being placed in the position as the front lines of the working class retreat.
Civil disobedience: a slow death
During the strike, two strikers' coalitions emerged that were attempting to turn the strike around and put it on the offensive: the "Unity VICTORY Caucus," formed in the early months of the strike (see WoVo, Vol. 3, No. 1 for more on the UVC), and the Action Coalition Of Strikers and Supporters (ACOSS).
Both of these groups had launched an initiative called "Shut Down Motown" (SDM) which was designed to bring the strike back into the public eye and garner wider support for the strikers' cause. SDM was publicly started December 30, at a rally comemmorating the 60th anniversary of the 1936 Flint Sit-Down Strikes.
But the SDM movement was limited by the same strategy as the MCNU bureaucrats: limiting their actions to impotent civil disobedience actions aimed at garnering the sympathy of "good natured" bosses and politicians.
Dozens have already been arrested in civil disobedience actions throughout 1996, including prominent AFL- CIO leaders, religious figures and members of the Detroit City Council. And these actions did not bring the strike one iota closer to winning.
These coalitions continued the same dead-end strategy. In the end, all of their "militant" action has had the same effect as the "corporate campaign" ... none! These coalitions are vowing to continue after workers go back. But the only "solidarity" they will have is among themselves.
For a new union movement!
The defeat of the Detroit Newspaper strike will have wide-ranging implications for the labor movement in the U.S. The fact that they will return to the newspapers, without a contract and very broken, will be seen as a message to all workers: don't fight; accept your fate.
The most "progressive" wing of the bureaucracy backed the MCNU's "corporate campaign." While making nice words, they did nothing to build real workers' solidarity - either through a "national labor march," or through sympathy actions.
Unless a mass, militant movement rises up to reverse the defeat right away, this defeat will symbolize an historic defeat for the workers' movement and the destruction of the unions as workers' organizations that defend the basic economic (not to mention political) interests of the working class.
Without a resistance, this sellout mark the end of the unions as workers' organizations with even minimum independence from the bosses. It symbolizes the growing transformation of the unions into company unions.
The bosses' (and leftists') favorite "militant," Teamsters' president Ron Carey, met with the Teamster bureaucrats of the MCNU and ordered them to make the unconditional surrender.
The union bureaucrats have been critical in the defeat of a strike which started with a militant dynamic committed to shutting down the papers. But this was diffused and destroyed by the MCNU bureaucracy, in favor of "respectable" actions like the "corporate campaign" and the Detroit Sunday Journal.
Since the beginning of this strike, Workers' Voice has urged the rank and file to take control. We warned about the potential disaster that would come if the status quo was to remain. The surrender being played out now is only overshadowed by the implications of this defeat.
The lessons of the Detroit Newspaper strike must serve as a rallying cry for future generations of workers. No more reliance on the "good nature" of bosses! No more substitution of the "corporate campaign" for rank and file solidarity and mass picketing! No more appealing to pro-capitalist labor bureaucrats! Only the rank and file - organized around a class-struggle program - can fight and win!
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!
As we go to press, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has denied hearing oral arguments in Mumia's appeal. This means that the Court will rule on the request for a new trial based on evidence presented before the appeal process began. Most likely, the Court will deny Mumia a new trial, and a new death warrant will be signed.
For thousands around the world, the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal stands as the prime example of "justice" under capitalism. People from all walks of life have voiced their protest against the repression of the man dubbed "the voice of the voiceless."
In spite of the fact that mountains of evidence and reams of documentation exist that prove his innocence, the racist Pennsylvania state government - typified by Republican Governor Tom Ridge and egged on by the ultrareactionary Fraternal Order of Police - continues to keep Mumia on Death Row.
Mumia has continued his fight in the courts, both appealing his conviction of killing a Philadelphia cop and asserting his legal rights as a human being. He has won his right to receive correspondence and talk to his attorneys privately. But, he has yet to win his freedom and - in a legal sense - clear his name.
The racism of the Pennsylvania legal system has been exposed over and over again. Presiding over Mumia's appeal is "hanging judge" Albert Sabo, who also passed judgement at Jamal's 1982 "trial."
Witnesses who had been coerced by the Philly police in 1981 to say Mumia was the shooter, have been subjected to continuous harassment by the cops and courts. And, at an October 1996 hearing, one witness, Veronica Jones, was dragged off the witness stand in handcuffs.
Racism and the death penalty
People who are sentenced to death are very disproportionately mentally retarded, more often than not people of color, and almost always poor people who have to rely on public defenders.
A high number of people sentenced to death are also demonstrably innocent, such as Mumia, Gary Graham in Texas, and Jesse DeWayne Jacobs, who was executed in 1995 in Texas. He was killed in spite of the fact that his sister confessed to the crime, described it in detail and was arrested for it before his execution!
In the case of Mumia, he has been targeted for death since he was a member of the Black Panther Party. The vendetta continued after he became a journalist and intensified when he became a supporter of the MOVE organization. The continued repression of Mumia, the fact that he remains on Death Row, testifies to the truth of "American justice."
Free all class war prisoners!
The frame-up of Mumia Abu-Jamal is certainly the most blatant example of racist justice. But it is neither the first nor the only case.
As you read these lines, dozens of other class war prisoners sit in America's prisons. Former Panther Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt) continues to fight for his freedom from California's "prison house of peoples" even though the "key witness" in the case has been exposed as a paid informant of the FBI and the Los Angeles District Attorney.
Dozens of other political prisoners - Black radicals, Native American activists, labour militants, etc. - face similar harassment and repression from the arrogant "justice system."
Unlike the liberals and reformists, who appeal to "respectability" and continue the ridiculous illusions in bourgeois legality and beg for "clemency" and "parole," it is the duty of Marxists to defend the rights of all class war prisoners and demand their unconditional freedom. But our methods are not those of relying on the courts and cops to free class war prisoners.
The pressure of mass protest, including the 10,000-strong August 4, 1995 Philadelphia demonstration, forced the state to grant an indefinite stay of execution. Only such protests, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, and under the leadership of the working class, can lead to the release of all class war prisoners.
Joint declarations of the LCMRCI and the LTT
In mid-1996 the LCMRCI and the LTT began a process of discussions and joint work. The Liaison Committee of Militants for a Revolutionary Communist International is composed by Poder Obrero in Bolivia, the Communist Workers Group in New Zealand and Poder Obrero in Peru and by members in Europe. It was created on May 1996 with the aim of creating a political framework for the comrades who left Workers Power's LRCI when it capitulated to NATO's attacks. The Leninist Trotskyist Tendency is composed of the WIL in Britain, the GLT in Canada, the LTT in Germany/Belgium, CWG in South Africa, Workers Voice in Sri Lanka and by sympathising groups in Jamaica and Sweden.
Both tendencies have major agreements on the question of the character of the world period and the nature of the new bourgeois states in the post-Stalinist countries. However, differences persist on the national question and the tactic towards mass parties.
In Europe the LTT and the LCMRCI have promoted joint aggregates and public meetings. Workers Republic has published articles from both currents.
We are reproducing the initial joint statement and the five following joint declarations. The resolutions on the middle east were adopted with an active participation of most of the sections of both international currents.
Today the LTT and the LCMRCI are trying to promote an international regroupment conference and journal. Workers Voice (USA), a group which was around the LRCI until 1991 when the LRCI leaders decided bureaucratically to break relations, is also participating in this process.
Joint statement of the meeting between the LTT and the LCMRCI
Last weekend of June representatives of the LTT and the LCMRCI met. The discussion was focused on the following items:
· Bosnia and the national question;
· World Period;
Both currents agree that we are living under the imperialist epoch of wars and revolution. Nevertheless the actual world period is one dominated by a reactionary neo-liberal offensive. A democratic counter-revolution -different from a bonapartist or fascist bloody one- is undermining world-wide workers conquests. For the first time the bureaucratised workers states had been overthrown by social counter-revolutions. Both currents agree that when the state apparatus (the political-military-ideological-repressive super-structure) is no longer committed to defend plan post-capitalists relations, it is possible to describe this states as any form of workers' states.
On Bosnia both currents agree that it was not possible to raise a dual defeatist position in the conflict between the Serbs and NATO and that it was necessary to defend the oppressed nation against world imperialist when NATO forces launched massive air raids against the Bosnian Serbs. Nevertheless, there are important differences. The LTT considered that it was necessary to support the Bosnian Muslims against the Serbs and fighting for the self-determination of Bosnia as a whole while the LCMRCI considers that overall, trough out the conflict it was clear that every side in the inter-ethnic war had a reactionary war and the main task was to unite the workers from every ethnic group against imperialism.
An initial theoretical discussion took place around the national question. According to the LCMRCI it was necessary to defend Marx and Engels conception on the national question while the LTT considers that it was base in mistakes that need to be overcome.
Both currents agree that is necessary attempt a discussion process with all the forces that are in favour of a leninist-trotskyist international against centrism and that it is necessary to open the first stage of a discussion process between the LTT and the LCMRCI. As part of the initial approach both currents agree to attempt common action work in UK and exchange discussion documents in an organise way.
US hands off Iraq! Imperialist armed forces out of the Middle East!
In early September, the United States launched another series of cruise missile attacks on Iraq and extended the no-fly zone in the south of the country, following a build-up of Iraqi troops in the northern Kurdish areas. The US action, which took place amid the growing misery, sickness and starvation of millions of Iraqis as a direct consequence of the sanctions imposed by the UN after the 1991 Gulf War, was cynically explained as an attempt to prevent a 'humanitarian disaster'. It was nothing of the sort. Its aim was to limit the ambitions of Saddam Hussein, demonstrate the superiority of US firepower, and protect the strategic interests of imperialism in the region. It also had the side-effect of enhancing Clinton's chances of being re-elected as US president.
We condemn this brutal 'clean' attack, with its 'smart' bombs and its 'collateral damage' (the murder of defenceless civilians), and support military resistance by Iraq against the US air force's B-52 and Stealth bombers and the armada of US warships massed in the Gulf.
We reject as gross hypocrisy the claims that the attack was intended to defend the human rights of the Kurds. The US has given long-term assistance to Turkey, which has persecuted its own Kurdish minority in the most vicious manner. No cruise missiles were launched when Turkish troops entered Iraqi Kurdistan last year in an attempt to wipe out PKK guerrillas!
None of the imperialist powers is in favour of self-determination for the Kurds, who are the largest 'stateless nation' in the world. Indeed, the intervention of the Iraqi army in support of one faction of the Kurdish leadership is in line with the imperialist policy of keeping the Kurds divided among themselves. The emergence of a united and militant Kurdish movement for self-determination would undermine the present balance of power, and provide an inspiration for the oppressed throughout the region.
US interests were threatened by a number of recent events in the area:
1. The election of an Islamic government in Turkey which began to develop closer ties with Iran in particular, but also with other fundamentalist governments and movements in the region. This government was perceived as more 'anti-Western' than any Turkish government in the post-war period.
2. The UN-brokered 'food-for-oil' deal with Iraq, due to have come into effect later in September, which would have led to the lowering of the price of oil on the world market, cutting into the profits of the huge oil corporations. It would have helped to stabilise Saddam's regime by providing the Iraqi people with urgently needed food, medical and other vital supplies, and would also have benefited Turkey, as the oil would have flowed through its territory in a jointly-constructed pipeline.
3. Indications that Saddam was strengthening his control and that Iraq could emerge as a dominant power in the region, thus threatening Kuwait, the Gulf petro-monarchies and Israel, the main bastion of imperialist influence in the Middle East. The movement of the Iraqi army into the northern Kurdish areas around Irbil was seen as the beginning of the re-unification of the country, and was the cue for the US attack.
4. The bombings also have wider implications - the US wants to show who is boss in the region. The attacks serve as a warning to Iran to curb its expansionist ambitions, and demonstrate to PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who were meeting for the first time on September 4, that the "peace process" the only viable option. The intention is to make it clear to the PLO that it must continue its capitulation, while encouraging Israeli 'hawks' to keep the process on track by reassuring them that they have US protection.
However, major fissures appeared in the alliance that the US used to launch the Gulf War and which it now sought to revive. Only Britain and Kuwait fully supported the action. Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey refused to allow the US to use their air bases for the attack. The reasons for these splits are:
(a) There is no immediate threat to the oil wells.
(b) Saddam's troops are being deployed within Iraq and are not threatening neighbouring regimes.
(c) The reactionary governments of the region do not want to support the principle that the US can bomb dictatorships which massacre their rebellious minorities.
(d) There are differences among the imperialists over how best to deal with regimes they oppose. This can be seen in the opposition to the US embargo on trade with Cuba and the new US bills on Libya and Iran. Some governments think that military action will lead to an increase in anti-Western feeling in Iraq and will therefore strengthen Saddam. They wish to pursue their own agendas in the Middle East and fear that the US action will further destabilise the area and undermine the progress they have made.
The Kurdish 'safe haven' in northern Iraq was set up by the allied coalition in 1991 after the Gulf War. Iran, Iraq and Turkey have no interest in seeing the creation of a Kurdish state, and are using the Kurds for their own expansionist ends. But the Kurdish political scene is dominated by groups that are kow-towing to, and being armed by, these very states! None of the Kurdish bourgeois factions has the interests of the Kurdish people at heart, nor their right to a country and self- determination. Central to the problem are the Aghas - the Kurdish landlords - who operate a clan system which viciously oppresses the poor peasantry. The different clans use both imperialism and the neighbouring regimes to assist them in their reactionary communal conflicts.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), led by Jalal Talabani, is traditionally strong among the people who speak Sulaymaniyah dialects in the south-east of Iraqi Kurdistan, while the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), led by Massoud Barzani, is rooted among the Kurds who speak the northern dialect. Following the Gulf War, Barzani and Talabani have amassed considerable fortunes through punitive taxation and by siphoning off Western aid money. The KDP, for example, obtained between $100,000 to $250,000 a day by taxing the trucks from Iran and Turkey that, despite the embargo, deliver goods to Iraq. But while the warlords have become rich, the general economic situation in Kurdistan has become worse and the four million Iraqi Kurds have become ever more impoverished. The struggle for control of Iraqi Kurdistan between the KDP and the PUK has been intensified by the UN embargo.
Talabani's PUK is getting support from the Iranian mullahs, and in the past has received backing from both Israel and the US. Saddam claims Iranian troops were directly involved in the fighting alongside the PUK. Barzani's KDP, which has also received arms and money from the CIA and the Zionists, is now in alliance with Saddam, whose Ba'athist party has maintained an unremitting hostility to Kurdish self-determination, and carried out the notorious gas attack on Halabja in 1988.
KDP forces, backed by Iraqi advisers, captured the two most important cities in Iraqi Kurdistan held by the PUK - Irbil on September 1 and Sulaymaniyah on September 10. Despite Talabani's appeals for US help, no warplanes attacked either the Iraqi army units or the KDP in northern Iraq. The US attack was restricted to targets in the south, which is rich in oil and is near Kuwait and the other Gulf petro-monarchies. The KDP has been organising its own dictatorship in northern Kurdistan, and is now set to extend its influence to the south-east. It is willing to help Turkey against the PKK guerrillas and Saddam against the PUK, and it is rumoured that Barzani is prepared to formally recognise Baghdad's sovereignty over Iraqi Kurdistan. For its part, however, the US is prepared to keep lines open to the KDP, in an attempt to avoid the consolidation of the Saddam/KDP alliance.
Barzani is a major obstacle to any expression of Kurdish self-determination and workers' self-organisation. Socialists and anti-imperialists should fight for the freedom of all political parties and for the overthrow of Barzani's fiefdom by workers' and peasants' councils and militias. The raising of democratic demands, including full rights for trade unions and workers' parties and for a Kurdish constituent assembly, will be vital weapons. We defend the Kurds against military attacks from Iraq, Iran or Turkey. But we do not give any political support to either of the Kurdish warring factions. Kurdish self-determination will not be achieved by any of these corrupt, self-serving bourgeois nationalist leaderships.
The Kurds will only resolve their social and national problems within a socialist federation of the Middle East, in which they could achieve self-determination, including the right to create an independent and united republic. This requires the building of an internationalist revolutionary workers' party, which must unconditionally defend the democratic and national rights of every oppressed minority in the region, including Armenians, Assyrians, various other oppressed Muslim and Christian peoples, Oriental Jews, Marsh Arabs, Bedouins, etc, in conjunction with fighting for the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, landlords and imperialists. We stand for the creation of workers' and peasants' councils and militias throughout the region.
In this context, a central task of revolutionaries in the Middle East must be the smashing of the capitalist state of Israel - imperialism's main policeman in the region. While supporting every Palestinian struggle for self-determination, we recognise the importance of breaking the Israeli Jewish working class from its Labour Zionist leadership as an important element in this aim.
In the conflict between Iraq and the US and its allies, we are unconditionally for the military defeat of the imperialists. Imperialism can have no role other than to oppress and exploit the masses, and a US victory in Iraq would strengthen its hand in the Middle East. The task of overthrowing Saddam Hussein belongs to the Iraqi and Kurdish masses, not to the US armed forces. We place no confidence in the bourgeois opposition to Saddam either inside or outside Iraq. We stand for the right of workers' and peasants' organisations to fight for their own demands, for a constituent assembly, and for the building of a revolutionary workers' party in Iraq. The struggle against the hated Ba'athist regime must become the springboard for the fight for workers' power in Iraq and throughout the region.
We call on workers' parties, left groups and all anti-imperialist forces to organise demonstrations and pickets outside US embassies around the world.
·_Stop US attacks on Iraq - for the military defeat of US forces!
·_End all UN sanctions against Iraq!
·_Imperialism out of the Gulf!
·_For the right of self-determination for the Kurdish people!
·_Iraqi, Turkish and Iranian troops out of Kurdistan!
·_For workers' and peasants' militias to expel imperialism
from the region!
·_For the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the ruling classes
of the Middle East!
·_For a socialist federation of the Middle East!
13 September 1996
Victory to the Palestinian Uprising!
The Palestinian uprising in September formally began over a hole in the ground, dug by the Israelis in Arab East Jerusalem to complete an ancient tunnel near the western wall of the ancient Jewish temple.
The excavation was perceived by the Palestinians as an outrageous provocation: not only was it trampling on Muslim religious sensitivities by interfering with the Al Aqsa Mosque but it was a de facto repudiation of the Oslo Accord. In the words of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the opening of the tunnel 'expresses our sovereignty over Jerusalem'.
He knew that his provocation would result in an uprising. He also knew that world opinion would condemn him. But all of that was for a purpose, to build support for his hardline among Israeli's and to force Arafat and the PLO security police to renegotiate a new deal with the state and at the same time enforce more concessions onto the Palestinians.
The new Likud-led administration has stepped up the attack on the Palestinians. Netanyahu is using the settler group Ateret Cohanim to drive Arabs out of East Jerusalem. The Old City is already encircled by huge settlements built on confiscated Arab land. Arab houses, community centres and businesses have been illegally seized, occupied or demolished all over the West Bank and Gaza, but particularly in East Jerusalem, where the mayor, Ehud Olmeret, has exploited loopholes in the planning legislation. The disputed tunnel is being built without any planning permission at all.
However, the digging near the mosque was the culmination of a series of provocations that began long before Netanyahu took over as prime minister after the elections in May of this year. In the three years since Labour leader Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn, Palestinian anger and frustration has been growing. The Oslo, Cairo and Taba Accords, signed by the Labour government, were supposed to lead to limited Palestinian sovereignty in Gaza and the West Bank. But the reality has been the continuation of detention and torture, endless curfews, and now a refusal to withdraw Israeli troops from Hebron despite the agreement. The systematic repression of the Palestinians has continued because the real aim of the agreements is not to bring peace, but to guarantee the control of US imperialism over the Middle East.
The direct occupation and control of Gaza and the West Bank by Israel had proved extremely difficult during the six-year Intifada, so the Labour government sought to stabilise the region by using Arafat and the Palestinian Authority as their puppets. In return, the Palestinians were granted token concessions and an armed police force. The 30,000-strong Palestinian security force has been used to repress the growing opposition to Arafat's betrayal of the struggle for self-determination. Arafat and his police have been guilty of the most horrific repression and torture of these youth. But Israeli violations of the accord under the more right-wing Likud government are now eroding Arafat's authority and hence his capacity to control the Palestinians. Arafat used the tunnel question to provoke street demonstrations and limited confrontations as a tactic to press Netanyahu to stop ignoring him.
The confrontation over the tunnel has caused divisions inside both the Palestinian police and the Israeli armed forces. Some Palestinian police opened fire on the Israeli army during the conflict, and on this occasion it was not only unarmed Palestinian youth who were killed but some Israeli soldiers as well. Although Arafat has now regained control over the estimated 20 per cent of his police who broke ranks, socialists must fight for them to come over to the side of the masses. On the Israeli side, about 400 retired soldiers have decided to relaunch the Yes Gvul movement that was active in the Lebanon war, and are demanding the right to refuse to carry out repressive actions against Palestinian civilians.
The renewal of the intifada has been dreaded by Washington, Israel, the so-called moderate Arab states like Egypt and Jordan, and by Yasser Arafat.
They are all aware that the three-year-old Oslo Accord does not grant the Palestinians self-determination. At best it would create a mini-state, a 'bantustan' under an Israeli-style apartheid regime, with Arafat as the dictatorial native 'chief'. Now even this miserable project is in doubt. Dependent on extreme right-wing religious groupings to keep him in office, Netanyahu is refusing to honour many concessions promised by Rabin and Shimon Peres. His government's policy is to strengthen the Israeli presence in the Occupied Territories by building yet more settlements.
The Clinton administration has attempted to save the misnamed peace process, fearing a generalised uprising that would threaten the stability of the whole region. After the latest adventure in Iraq, Arab states are backing away from the US military containment policy, as are most of the European imperialist powers who have their own agenda to follow in the area.
Although Netanyahu would no doubt like to return to the days of the Cold War, when Israel was perceived by the US as a strategic asset against Soviet-influenced Arab regimes, Clinton's aim is to draw the Arab regimes closer to the imperialist fold. But with the US presidential election in mind, Clinton also made it clear that he would oppose any pressure to force Israel to back down.
Netanyahu's policies are also causing consternation in the governments of the 22 states of the Arab League, most of which are facing strong fundamentalist opposition to the Oslo Accord. Even King Hussein of Jordan, Israel's closest ally in the region, had to denounce the building of the tunnel as a 'violation of the sanctity of the holy city'.
Peres, the leader of the Israeli Labour Party, has accused Netanyahu of undermining the peace process. He speaks for the wing of the Israeli ruling class which thinks it necessary to give up some territory to the Palestinians in exchange for stability and the chance to prosper. Socialists should participate critically in mass peace demonstrations, which have a progressive component despite their Labour Zionist leadership.
Hamas has become the major organising force within the Palestinian resistance. While opposing its reactionary political aims and repressive social policy, socialists must critically defend its struggle against the Israeli state and Arafat's puppet regime, and campaign for the release of its political prisoners. The clerics use fundamentalist ideology as a means of social and political control over the masses in struggle, just as Khomeini did in Iran in 1979. The extremely limited and conjunctural nature of this 'anti-imperialism' soon became clear in Iran, as it will to the Palestinian youth if they continue to be misled by these reactionaries. Significantly, the Hamas clerics gave no lead in the uprising against the opening of the tunnel, preferring individual acts of terror which leave the masses unmoved and inactive.
Youth in the Occupied Territories have not turned to the fundamentalists out of religious conviction, but because of the treachery and cowardice of both Arafat and the traditional working class leaderships in the region, in particular the Stalinists. Right now, fundamentalism seems to be the strongest political and ideological weapon at hand with which to fight their oppressors.
Revolutionary socialists must intervene in the intifada, advocating the building of workers' and peasants' councils (with delegates elected and recallable by rank-and-file assemblies) and militias, and the forging of links with Jewish workers. At the same time, they must campaign for Jewish workers to support the Palestinians' right to self-determination and fight to break them from their Labour Zionist leadership. They must seek to exploit the contradiction between the Hamas leadership and base by the judicious use of transitional and democratic demands, directed at the clerics, to expose in practice their bogus anti-imperialism. This is the way to win the youth to revolutionary Trotskyism, and demonstrate that the theory of permanent revolution is the only real anti-imperialist ideology because it understands that the democratic revolution can only be completed by the socialist revolution under the leadership of the working class. What is missing is a revolutionary working class leadership that can unite Palestinian and Jewish workers in a fight against all oppression. Only unconditional support for the Palestinian uprising and right to self-determination will create the conditions for a joint struggle by Arab and Jewish workers to smash the Zionist state and stablish a multi-ethnic workers' council republic within a socialist federation of the Middle-East.
Workers in the USA and the European Union must build an working class anti-war movement which brings the US military machine in the Middle-East to a halt.
· Israeli armed forces and settlers out of the Occupied Territories now!
· Release all Palestinian political and Jewish anti-war prisoners!
· For the right of all Palestinian refugees to return!
· Down with Zionism and imperialism!
· For the unconditional support for the Palestinian right to self-determination!
· For the unity of the Arab and Jewish workers to smash the Zionist state and for a socialist multi-ethnic federation of the middle east!
15 October 1996
Twenty five years since Bloody Sunday: Reject the peace fraud!
The six county state is unreformable. The more this uncomfortable fact is ignored or denied the more the truth becomes apparent. Once Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness accepted that 'Britain has no strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland' then the logic was to attempt to accommodate with Unionism. But reaction thrives on compromise. The compromise only strengthened and legitimised the reactionary prejudices and practices of the Loyalist middle class and backward workers. Now it seemed to them that even Gerry Adams equated their struggles to oppress the nationalists with the struggles of the nationalists to achieve equality. Once it was a question of 'persuasion' then the Republican leadership had implicitly conceded Unionist 'consent.' British withdrawal was therefore secondary. But as always Loyalists had to confirm this by coat-trailing marches. Perhaps negotiations would really see an erosion of their privileges. The nationalist community thought that the pea!
ce process might lessen discrimination. The Loyalists were determined to reverse the miserable reforms already won by nationalists. They were pressing home their advantage now that the peace process had pandered to their prejudices. Hence the peace process only produces a heightened expectation among the Loyalist bigots that 'croppy' had lain down. The nationalists had heightened expectations that things were going in the opposite direction. The wider political scene in Britain saw a divided Tory Party and ruling class tearing itself to pieces over Europe and the Major succession. There is an unspoken alliance between the extreme right of the Tory Party, the 'money men' of the City of London, the unionists and the top brass of the military and secret service against Europe. Loyalist reaction, as a rallying point for the extreme right of the British establishment, has proved its worth yet again.
Relations between the working class and lower middle class Protestants and Catholics are worst now than they have been since the 70s - all due to this bogus peace process. Since the peace process began:
1. Private Lee Clegg was released and promoted and now wants to join the SAS. Patrick Mayhew has allowed his appeal against his conviction for murdering 16 year-old Karen Reilly because of 'new forensic evidence.' The relatives of the Bloody Sunday victims contemplate yet again on the blatant bias of British Justice. Labour's Northern Ireland spokesperson, Mo Mowlem, has opposed a new inquiry.
2. Irish POW's are treated far worse since the cease-fire than before. Irish remand prisoners in Belmarsh jail are without legal advice because their solicitors have walked out in protest at the visiting conditions. There was a 4 inch-thick glass screen between them and their clients, with a prison guard taking notes of their every word. Without the possibility of private legal visits it is impossible for them to prepare their defence. They will now appear in court without legal representation and so more 'miscarriages of justices', i.e., frame-ups, are prepared.
3. The Siege of Harryville has entered its 20th week. Catholic have to run the gauntlet of jeering Orange-sashed louts in this isolate nationalist community every time they attend mass. The RUC stands by and enjoys the spectacle. The bigots are protesting that their 'right' to trail their coats and chant 'croppy lie down' through nationalist areas is being opposed.
4. Rosin McAliskey still awaits extradition to Germany. She is six months pregnant and very ill. Michael Howard has refused her bail. She has been strip searched over 100 times since being arrested on 20 November. She could not possibly be concealing anything because of the tight security under which she is held. The strip searching is a deliberately degrading form of torture meant to break her spirit. The RUC arrested her in the first place to place obstacles in the path of her mother. Bernadette McAliskey is the most prominent campaigner against the peace process fraud on the left.
5. RUC officers mutinied when instructed to clear the Orangemen from the Garvaghy Road on July 10. Patrick Mayhew, not RUC chief Annesley, ordered the Orange march to go ahead for political reasons. David Tremble told him that the UVF had guns in Drumcree churchyard and would shoot if the RUC attacked them, so injury and bloodshed to Loyalist had to be prevented.
6. Supporters of Cliftonville football club have to run the gauntlet of massive intimidation at every away match as Loyalist thugs try to drive the last remaining nationalist club out of the northern Football League.
7. The Irish language paper 'La' reported from a `Republican source' that the IRA ended the cease fire by the Dockland's bomb because they were in imminent danger of split over the failure of Adams' `peace process' strategy. The Republican ranks saw the futility of appeasing Loyalism but they had no leftist orientation to mass struggle to replace it.
All those so-called socialists who supported the bogus peace process have to take stock of where they are going. Loyalist 'culture' is the 'right' to discriminate. No 'bread and butter' economic struggles can forge unity as long as Loyalism is in control. Workers' equality is the precondition for worker's unity. The much-heralded economic success of the southern economy is based on low wages, high unemployment and destruction of the welfare state all with the full collaboration of the ICTU bureaucracy. The appearance of rank-and-file groups in Dublin on the buses and rail, like the Locomotive Drivers Association, may be the beginning of the grass-roots revolt against the union bureaucracy in the South. With revolutionary socialist leadership this can promise far more to northern Irish workers that any 'peace process'. The fight for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of British troops is the responsibility of all socialist in Britain, regardless of unionist 'consent!
.'. Revolutionary socialists put the national question in the context of the struggle for socialism. They put the fight for jobs and wages in the context of the fight against all imperialisms and multi-nationals. This is the programme of Permanent Revolution and working class internationalism for which the above organisations fight.
Fourteen Facts about Bloody Sunday
Demonstrate for Troops out now! Self-determination for the Irish people as a whole! Saturday, January 25th 1997, Assemble 12 Noon, Highbury Fields (opposite Highbury and Islington tube).
1. On January 30, 1972, soldiers from the British Army's 1st Parachute Regiment opened fire on civilian demonstrators in the Bogside, Derry, Ireland, near the Rossville flats, killing 13 and wounding a number of others. It has now emerged that snipers from the 8th Infantry Brigade on Derry Walls also murdered on that day. One wounded man later died from illness attributed to that shooting.
2. The march, which was called to protest internment, was 'illegal' according to British government authorities. Internment without trial was introduced by the British government on August 9, 1971.
3. The march took place one week after the British Army beat protesters off the strand near Magilligan during a civil rights protest in which the now-SDLP leader John Hume was involved.
4. Marchers assembled in Creggan, proceeded down Creggan Street and then William Street and had intended to march to the Guildhall in the center of the city, but that was changed to avoid confrontation with the British Army, which had barricaded the top of William Street at Waterloo Street.
5. The march began around 3 p.m. and was attended by about 5,000 people at the beginning. It grew in size to about 10,000 by the time it reached the Bogside Inn and the Free Derry Corner.
6. The Bloody Sunday march was heavily attended by young people.
7. One of those who spoke at the rally at the Free Derry Corner (where the marchers assembled rather than the Guildhall) was Bernadette Devlin, 23-year-old MP for Mid-Ulster.
8. The first shots were fired by the British Army about 3:55 p.m.
9. The British-government-appointed Widgery Tribunal found soldiers were not guilty of shooting dead the 13 civilians in cold blood.
10. The British Army officer commanding the troops, Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford, was in 1973 named to the Queen's 'Honours List,' and given a knighthood.
11. Britain's Prince Charles is 'ceremonial' commanding officer of 1 Para. The British government and the British Army never apologized for these murders.
12. None of the dead or wounded were armed. No shots were fired at the British Army.
13. Patrick O'Donnell, Patrick McDaid, Alex Nash, Patrick Campbell, Peggy Deery, Daniel McGowan, Michael Bridge, Michael Quinn, Joseph Mahon, Joseph Friel and Michael Bradley were all wounded by gunfire that day. Alana Burke was injured when a British Army armored personnel carrier crushed her against a wall.
14. Fourteen who were murdered:
1. Jack Duddy, 17, hit by single bullet as he ran across courtyard of Rossville Flats
2. Michael Kelly, 17, shot in stomach as he stood on pile of rubble near entrance to Glenfada Park, off Rossville Street.
3. James Wray, 22, shot and wounded as he ran through alleyway from Glenfada Park to Abbey Park, then shot again and killed.
4. Gerald McKinney, 35, shot and killed by bullet to chest has he ran with hands raised toward soldiers in Glenfada Park.
5. Gerald Donaghey, 17, shot in abdomen, as he ran up to flat in Abbey Park. Died on way to hospital.
6. William McKinney, 26, shot and killed as he bent over Gerald McKinney in Glenfada Park.
7. John Young, 17, hit by bullet in head and killed as he stood beside rubble barricade across Rossville Street.
8. Michael McDaid, 20, shot dead standing by same barricade.
9. William Nash, 19, shot in chest and killed. At same barricade.
10. Patrick Doherty, 31, shot in buttock while crawling toward Rossville Flats. Bullet traveled up spine and exited chest, instantly killing him.
11. Bernard McGuigan, 41, killed instantly when hit in back of head as he crawled toward body of Pat Doherty near Rossville Flats.
12. Hugh Glimour, 17, killed by bullets that passed through his elbow and across his body as he ran up Rossville Street.
13. Kevin McElhinney, 17, killed as he crawled to a doorway in Rossville Flats. Bullet enter his buttock and traveled through his body.
14. John Johnson died later from illness associated with injury suffered on that day.
This conference is an important initiative for active trade unionists at a time when our movement has less legal rights here in Britain than at any time this century. In fact Thatcher's anti-union laws have become that standard for anti-working class capitalist governments throughout the world. Despite the fact that strike struggles have been at an all-time low for a number of years there has been some revival over the past year. The working class will refute the claims of Major and the rest of the Tory government that 'the strike weapon has fallen into disuse'. It is the duty of all present to galvanise and mobilise the working class that they can influence to fight the bosses and put socialism back on the agenda. What is our role in reviving the movement? For a start we can take example from the AEEU workers in Glacier RPB engineering plant in Glasgow. These 103 workers recently occupied their workplace for nearly three months and forced management to back down with plans for new work practices. Then we can contrast this class action with a whole number of politically debilitating cave-ins and sell-outs by the official union leadership using the excuses that they have to obey the anti-union laws and must not 'rock the boat' and endanger Tony Blair's election prospects. The power of this type of action is in stark contrast to the actions of Bill Morris and the supposedly 'left-wing' T&GWU executive on the Liverpool dockers. For sixteen months they have refused to make the strike official. They have argued against any sympathy actions, slandered militant supporters when the police brutally attacked them. They did not even call on ordinary T&G members for financial support until embarrassed by John Pilger's article in the Guardian a few months ago. UNISON similarly isolated and sold out the Hillingdon hospital cleaner's strike by using the cover of the anti-union laws. 'Left' union official Geoff Martin to make sure they got nowhere. Unison even accepted defeat on behalf of the strikers before seeking their opinion. A majority voted to continue. Monks and the TUC General Council fiddle while we burn! It is high time rank-and-file workers began to develop a strategy to fight back against the destruction of their jobs and conditions.
We must look at the history of Broad Lefts and learn the lessons. This boiled down to a strategy of getting 'left' candidates elected to top official positions in order to defeat the right. This strategy gave us such sell-out luminaries as AEU leader Hugh Scanlon, the T&G's Jack Jones and Albert Williams of UCATT, to name just a few. The electoralist tactics of the old CP treated the working class union members as a stage army. They called them up every now and again to vote in a 'left' or frighten the bosses to achieve a modest increase in wages. Without trying to mobilise the ranks and turn the union into a fighting body electoralism always degenerates into pure careerism. We must recognise the trade union bureaucracy (both right and left) as a separate social layer whom the working class elect but whose allegiance is to the capitalists. They meet constantly with the bosses, they come to understand their problems, they adopt a similar lifestyle based on huge salaries and frequent 'hidden extras' to assist them in seeing the bosses' point of view. They come to despise the workers they represent, to regard their strikes and struggles as a nuisance that impedes their growing affinity with their masters. They strive to achieve the ultimate accolade from a grateful bourgeoisie, a knighthood! They will never consistently serve the interests of the working class and will always betray in the end. We need to use this conference to hammer out a strategy that goes beyond fighting everyday sectoral struggles. We must bring together as many militant union activists as possible into a structured national rank-and-file movement. It must have democratic structures - no sectarian party fronts will meet the needs of the working class. All its candidates for union office must remain under its own discipline. It must give only conditional and critical support to other left candidates against the right wing. Such a movement must reject ultra leftist isolationism as much as opportunist electoralism. It must place working class demands on the bureaucrats and the Labour Party in government. It needs to pledge itself to organise all necessary action (strikes, mass pickets, occupations) in order to fight cuts in jobs and wages. It must fight within the union structures whenever possible to carry the struggle forward. However it must develop its own organisational and political independence from the bureaucracies. It must be prepared to call unofficial strikes and demonstrations whenever the movement of the working class makes this possible. Whenever a serious struggle develops we must argue for community-wide support committees. They can take up demands such as for a 35 hour week with no loss of pay and a decent minimum wage based on need and not what 'the economy can afford'. It is now virtually impossible for workers to follow the boss's law and still win a strike. We must organise to defy and smash all anti-union laws. The bureaucrats have hidden behind them for too long! We demand they lead the fight against these laws but we know that they will not until they are forced by mass movement that threatens to oust them. As revolutionaries we think that it is necessary to build a new leadership in the trade unions to fight for the overthrow of capitalism. However we do not put this forward as an ultimatum for everyone to agree with before they can join the fight. We do not think it should be part of the platform of a rank-and-file movement right now. We seek to make a united front with the best militants and the working class in struggle so that we can fight the bosses together. In the course of this fight we will seek to convince our allies that the only real road to victory lies in the expropriation of the capitalists and a socialist society. We must fight our sell-out leaders in order to begin to forge a new leadership if we are to defeat the bosses.
FOR A WORKERS EUROPE
Our organisations welcome the convening of this meeting to organise the Euromarch '97 to 'Unite Across Europe in defence of Jobs and welfare'. Unfortunately the WIL/CRR fusion conference clashes with this meeting so we can only send one comrade. It is very important that trade union organisations; members of national parliaments; youth, women's, student and environmenal groups; and political parties of the left are supporting this initiative.
However, there is a urgent need for an international working class united front across Europe against the Maastricht-imposed austerity measures. This international meeting must commit itself to building such a movement.The Euro-march is likely to be the first political event after the electoral defeat of the British Tory government. The Blair-led, right-wing Labour Party is equally committed to a 'neo-liberal' capitalist agenda. Unlike the Tories who try to retain US links, Labour has embraced the bosses' Europe whole-heartedly. They will push ahead with anti-working class measures to comply with the convergence critieria for European Monetary Union.
Our groups will be giving active support to the three legs of the Euromarch in Britain scheduled to leave South Wales, Scotland and the North West of England in May. We will work to build these marches and fight for a socialist perspective as a real alternative to right wing little Englander opposition to Maastricht. The workers 'no' to the capitalist EU club must be and can be distinguished from the right wing 'no' of 'economic nationalists' both of the xenophobic proto-fascist right and of the reformist nationalist left.
However our response as mobilisers for the Amsterdam Euromarch and rally needs to be a fighting strategy to win our demands. We cannot be content to make a tame protest to the EU's political masters. We must build upon the actions already taken by the working class in Europe and demand internationally coordinated strike actions and demonstrations. The slogans and speakers for the march must reflect the class struggle nature of the fight we are involved in with a clear analysis of what we are trying to achieve.
Our comrades will fight for the following :
· No mixing of banners between workers organisations and those of any wing of the bourgeoisie. There should be no bourgeois speakers on our platform. For working class independence in the fight against Maastricht. *There must be election of stewards on the marches accountable to and recallable by the marches themselves and not bureaucratically controlled by trade union leaders who mistrust the rank and file mobilisation of their members.
· For 'pavement universities' - open discussion forums for a real debate in the communities we enter around a socialist alternative to Maastricht - for a Workers Europe. However, we need a fighting strategy to win our demands, not a tame protest to the EU's political masters.
The programme for the marches adopted in Florence in June 1996 lacks any perspective for building on the industrial action already taken by workers across Europe against the impact of the convergence criteria.
Without any proposals for a workers' solution, the declaration is nothing more than an appeal to the capitalists to reverse their current policies.
Our march should try to engage immigrant and non-western Euopean workers. We need to defend unconditionally the right of every worker to come and work in the imperialist countries and to scrap all immigrant controls.
We need to raise demands for full employment and housing, for the defense and reactivation of social welfare under workers control, for the re-nationalisation without compensation of all the privatised companies under the control of their workers and users; for a minimum living wage for all in Europe, for complete equality to all the people regardless of sex, nationality or sexual orientation, for completely free education (including higher level) and for the dismantling of NATO.
We will work to build these marches and fight for a socialist perspective as a real alternative to right wing anti-foreigner opposition to Maastricht. The workers oppositon to Maastricht must be and can be distinguished from the right wing 'no' of 'economic nationalists' both of the xenophobic pseudo-fascist right and of the reformist nationalist 'left'.
We must demand unity with the workers of Eastern Europe fighting against their own austerity measures - resulting from the process of capitalist restoration following the collapse of Stalinism. We must fight to polarise the working class opposition to a bosses Europe around a programme for a Workers Europe - the Socialist United States of Europe.
·_No to a bosses' Europe! No to national isolationism! Yes to a workers'Europe!
·_Down with the Schengen agreement and all immigration controls! No to Fortress Europe! _Defend the right of asylum! Release all asylum-seeker detainees! For full employment rights for all migrant workers across Europe.
·_For the defence and extension of workers' rights, and health, welfare and education provisions!
·_For a minimum wage and benefits level to be agreed by local committees of rank-and-file trade unionists and the non-waged!
·_Renationalisation of privatised utilities, and all enterprises threatened with closure or cutback, under workers' and consumers control!
·_No to the single currency! For a co-ordinated campaign of mass protest and strike action to smash the Maastricht Treaty!
·_For rank-and-file workers' assemblies to lead the struggle!
·_Down with the capitalist restoration process! No expansion of the EU into eastern Europe!
·_Self-determination for the oppressed nationalities of Europe!
·_For a voluntary federation of socialist states in Europe!
London, February 22nd 1997
BANDITRY AND COLONIALISM WILL NOT DESTROY PODER OBRERO IN PERU
By Pedro, Rodrigo and Favricio
Immediately after the December 17 occupation of the Japanese ambassador's house in Lima, our organisation, Poder Obrero, held a series of aggregates to discuss the situation. In spite of the fact that the terrorist dictatorship had declared a state of emergency and forbidden any political meetings, we managed to bring together many comrades, and to collectively adopt a very serious political analysis of the new crisis. Our comrades in Bolivia also published a long analysis with similar positions.
We circulated a document explaining our positions in the left and in the unions. We also managed to send this declaration to thousands of people in other countries. When most of the international left was trying to take a position around an issue that had shaken the world media, our document was the one written by native, anti-Stalinist, left-wingers, which had, definitively, a much wider circulation. Tens of international left currents used our materials to make up their own minds about what was happening in our country. We want to thank Weekly Worker (Britain), Lutta Operaria (Brazil), Rebelion (Spain/Colombia), Cockroach (Scandinavia), Class Struggle (New Zealand), Partido Obrero (Argentina), Workers Voice (USA), and other papers and web sites which, despite their differences with us, published our documents.
We also want to give our regards to the different left groups and the Latin American organisations in London who joined a picket, organised by our supporters and friends in Britain, against the Fujimori visit. This picket, in spite of the fact that was called only a few hours in advance and in the middle of rain, was the biggest picket in many years, outside of Peru, against the Peruvian president.
Poder Obrero Peru is an organisation which is alive and fighting. We have weekly aggregates and publish regular declarations. We have a periphery and strong links with our comrades abroad. We participate actively in the creation and development of the Liaison Committee of Militants for a Revolutionary Communist International (LCMRCI). We regularly attempt to be involved in different united front actions with left and trade union organisations in Peru. Our group is relatively well-known in the national and international left. Around the hostage crisis, POP managed to strengthened and to obtain the support of many comrades inside and outside Peru.
Our group works under the most difficult conditions. Many factories and universities are militarised. The unions and the left have been seriously beated. For nine out of ten Peruvians who are unemployed or under employed, there is neither job security nor social benefits. Peru has the worst human rights record. In our country there have been 30,000 political murders, and the highest number of disappearances. Political prisoners, which now exceed 5,000, are judged by faceless military tribunals, and could be condemned to survive all their lives in "living tombs," without access to the media and with only six hours of visits allowed per year.
Comrades in Peru need a lot of support from abroad, and especially from the left in the imperialist countries, which have plundered the semi-colonies. The LRCI (as an organisation which was co-founded by us and whose name was proposed by POP) had a moral obligation to declare some solidarity with the difficult struggles of the only groups which are hoisting their original programme in the Americas, regardless of the serious political disagreements between our groups. In 1995 we decided to publicly distance ourselves from the LRCI's International Secretariat because they stomped on their statutes and programme. We were expecting some elementary respect and some political discussions. However, their leaders decided to campaign against us, trying to show that we don't exist and that we are a "plague."
In early January most LRCI sections received our statement on the hostage crisis. Later, one of their members contacted us with the aim of getting information and our analysis around that issue. Then, in the Workers Power (February), they printed an article on the Peruvian hostage crisis in which they used information from some of our documents, without acknowledging our contributions or even our existence. They repeated some of our ideas, but they also put in some "original" additions.
This is the only international article which the LRCI published on its web site. An article of such importance, which they claim was written by a Peruvian cadre in Lima, should have showed some seriousness and a deep-knowledge of what happened in the country and inside the workers movement. Instead it shows the opposite. This article was a gross piece of misinformation.
The article's subhead said that the MRTA took "Lima's Japanese embassy." It also said that this action was carried out by activists dressed as "waiters." This was the original propaganda of the Peruvian government, who made this claim hoping to hide the terrible deficiencies of its intelligence service. In reality, the MRTA action was taken in the personal RESIDENCE of the Japanese representative. It was carried out mainly by armed and uniformed guerrilla forces who entered thorough different places, especially from a hole in the wall which they made with a bomb.
The article said that the hostages are "74- all key Peruvian" figures. At the time when that article was drafted there where 72 VIP hostages. A lot of them are not Peruvians. The Bolivian ambassador is kidnapped in retaliation of the persecution of Peruvian exiles in that country. There are many Japanese businessmen and diplomatic. The presence of non-Peruvian personalities inside a diplomatic house is giving more difficulties to the Peruvian repression to launch an attack.
Most of the article is an attempt to explain the history of the MRTA. However, most of their facts are very wrong. The article states "The MRTA was formed in 1984" and that its "first armed actions were in 1987." The MRTA was created in early 1982 and, in his first military operation (March 1982), one of its main leaders was killed. The MRTA was created by the FRAS and its secret military group, the Comando Revolucionario Tópac Amaru, which originated in the late 1970s. Its main component was Victor Polay's MIR-El Militante which has its roots in the MIR founded in the late 1950s. The MRTA began its armed struggle 15 years ago and this article just erased one third of it.
The article says that the MRTA commando wanted a "programme of aid to relieve the impoverished Peruvian masses". That has never been its demand. MRTA is not demanding more assistance to the poor, but a change in the entire economic program. The article also says that in Peru there are two guerrilla groups, and that the MRTA could have a "less sectarian" record than SL. The MRTA always wanted to create a big cross-class alliance between the United Left popular front and wings of the APRA, the "progressive" bourgeoisie, the army, the police and the church. Now they want a "national peace agreement" with the civic-military dictatorship. It is incorrect to present SL as the only organisation that kills left-wingers. The MRTA has killed several Maoists and assassinated leaders of four armed groups that split with them.
WP wrote that "Like SL, the MRTA sought to establish a stable popular base for its actions in the coca producing Andean highlands where desperate peasants produced the raw materials for the drug barons to process." How could somebody who claims to have some elementary knowledge of Peruvian policies write so much nonsense?
First, the Andean highlands cross Peru from north to south and divide it between the western semi-dessert coast and the eastern Amazon jungle. Like in the Scottish or Alpine highlands, where it is impossible to cultivate bananas, in the Andean highlands it is impossible to produce coca, a plant which can only grow in tropical valleys.
Second, SL was created in the southern Andes. In the late 1980s it was able to establish armed groups in all the highland regions. However, the MRTA could never consolidate a base in any highland area, and its two attempts (Cuzco and Junin) failed rapidly.
Third, it is completely wrong to identify the peasants from the eastern coca areas with those from the highlands. The later are poor, and most of them speak an Indian language and have other social, ethnic and land problems. The former are relatively well-off, in comparison with the rest of the peasantry and even the urban poor and workers, and some of them have been able to process cocaine. The cocaine Mafia were not land barons, they were concentrated mainly in the drug-traffic.
The article said: "Then in April 1992 ¼ Fujimori became a born again neo-liberal". This is completely false. Fujimori appears as a public figure a few weeks before the July 1990 general elections. The first thing that he did when he was nominated president, on July 28 of that year, was to launch the worst shock therapy and neo-liberal programme in our history.
The article's figures on inflation and on the number of VIP hostages are wrong, and we can continue to show other inaccuracies. However, it is clear that the people who wrote the article do not have any serious knowledge of what is happening in Peru.
The "Peruvian cadre" gives no information of what is happening inside the proletariat and the population, how they see the hostage crisis, and how they react. We showed that most of the poor people think that it is not bad that the rich could suffer, but don't identify themselves with the MRTA. We said that this action coincided with the erosion of Fujimori's popularity. The article doesn't show what is happening amongst the ruling class and their parties. In our documents we exposed the differences between the hard liners amongst Expreso, who want a military intervention to strengthen more committed hard neo-liberal economic measures, and the bourgeois opposition, which would like to use events to modify Fujimori's economic policies and weaken the influence of his intelligence service (SIN).
The article also failed to show the real intentions of the occupation. These are not the actions of a group which is trying to make a Vietnam or a revolution, as the article wrongly suggests, but one which is trying to pressure and convince the capitalists that they could be a moderate and legal movement, a party which should be amnestied and made part of a "peace agreement" like the ones which integrated their brother organisations (in Ecuador, Colombia and Central America) into the system.
In its demands the article doesn't once mention the most elementary and important tasks for the Peruvian toilers under these particular conditions, when the workers are in serious retreat. There is no demand for the end of the state of emergency or the militarisation of the universities, enterprises and cities, for the abolition of anti-union laws, for the return of job security, for an eight-hour work day, etc. One of the slogans that the article raised is for "a minimum wage/benefit of $US 1,000." Why did they choose that figure? Which working class or unemployed organisation is fighting for it? In Britain, Workers Power, without any explanation, changed their demand for a minimum wage of £8 an hour to a demand for only £6. This means they are only fighting for a 50% increase in the minimum wage. In Peru, however, when the workers faced more repression and defeats, Workers Power, is demanding around 1,000% wage increase and that 90% of the population, which doesn't ha!
ve a stable job and doesn't receive any kind of income support, should receive a benefit of this amount.
In summary, the article doesn't reflect anybody who is fighting in the Peruvian class struggle or who has any serious understanding of it.
Every time that they write an article on the Andes, the people which expelled us so bureaucratically take our documents and positions and try to add in their own words, writing in their own pieces of (mis) information. This resulted in a disastrous article when they tried to cover the Bolivian strikes in April, and failed to say that, for five weeks, the Bolivian Trade Union Congress (the COB) was in an official, indefinite, general strike.
Comrades in Europe would have to became familiar with a method based on improvisation, distortion of facts and lacking an honest recognition of the sources that they used. For example, Workers Power radically shifted their positions on the SLP and Scotland, without admitting the influence of articles published in "Weekly Worker" or in the papers of the LTT or LCMRCI.
The way in which they deal with the political issues of our continent is very irresponsible. For years they put pressure on Poder Obrero Bolivia, against these comrades' will and the country's reality, to characterise the political situation of their country as based on a "historical/strategic defeat." When the one-month long general strike was being prepared in March '94, their main concern was to impose that stupid characterisation on comrades who had to attend massive demonstrations and strikes. However, after they excluded us from the LRCI, they suddenly approached the PTS (Argentina) and decided to make a big shift. The LRCI endorsed the PTS position that the Argentinean coup in 1976 was not a "strategic defeat," in spite of the fact that it killed 30,000 activists, banned unions, sacked millions of workers, and was by far more terrible that the imposition of a neo-liberal program and the closure of most tin pits in Bolivia since '86.
Inside the LRCI we were constantly in opposition to the leaders, who characterised the political situation in Latin America as a "decade of defeats," and said that, in most of the semi-colonies, the working class was disappearing and revolutions would have to be made by other forces. Now, because they want to tail the PTS (who is over-optimistic about the world situation) they said that they sympathised with the PTS analysis of Latin America, in which they claim that our continent is in a pre-Revolutionary upheaval
During the Fuji-coup, when we were inside the LRCI , POP raised the demand for the abolition of the presidency and the congress and for a national assembly. The LRCI leaders were against this. Today they agree with the Argentinean PTS when it raises the same demand. Nevertheless, the content that POP and the PTS give to that slogan is quite different. We always said that a national assembly could not be more than a bourgeois democratic parliament, and that we raised the demand with the aim of wining the battle for democracy against the capitalists. The PTS tried to give a soviet character to such bourgeois institutions. However, soviets which exclude the capitalists and in which delegates are elected in rank and file workplace assemblies, are one thing. It is another thing to have a parliament in which the capitalists can participate and use their money, media and armies to manipulate public opinion. Like their former current (the Morenoite LIT), the PTS wants a national !
assembly based on general multi-party bourgeois elections which, at the same time, will have the power to expropriate the imperialists and open the way for socialism. For us only a dictatorship of the proletariat, and not even the most democratic national assembly, could do away with imperialism and capitalism.
When we were inside the LRCI we always had to confront the problem that some of their leaders, and especially Harvey, had an extreme pedantic way of adopting documents regarding our continent. Usually they, who were English academics who did not understand our reality or even our language, wrote papers in which they seriously distorted some facts and grossly ignored others, and wanted to impose these documents on us. This is the opposite of Leninist internationalism, in which the organisation wants to develop roots in the masses and relate to their problems, and in which the international centre must have a two-way dialogue with their sections in the semi-colonies.
The LRCI is failing in its initial attempts to have clear policies for Latin America. Now its main hope is to try to show that it can write on this region in its international pages, even if this writing is not serious.
One year ago the LRCI dedicated its official bi-yearly journal to an attack on us. In "Trotskyist Bulletin" 7 they claimed that Poder Obrero Peru didn't exist. At the same time they said that the international left must avoid us "like the plague, people who have proved themselves neither honest nor honourable."
Many left groups (like the WIL and the RIL) pointed out that, a few days before POP was publicly excluded from the LRCI, we were listed as a component of the LRCI in all the League's publications. If we didn't exist, why did they dedicate their entire official theoretical journal on attack on us?
No international left group avoided us "like the plague." The several groups who wrote documents on the split all condemned the LRCI methods.
Immediately after the rupture, the LRCI's great leader ran to Argentina to try to enter into a fusion process with the PTS, a party to which the LRCI did not give any importance in any of their past internal resolutions. They did the same as Lambert in 1979-80, when he expelled their main Latin American sections and created a "parity committee" with Moreno's PST. This unprincipled block failed, like the LRCI manoeuvre would fail. However, even the PTS, which was in close relations with the LRCI, refused to consider us a "plague." On the contrary, we were invited to send a delegation to participate in their internal meetings. Their leaders expressed to us how much they rejected what they called "bureaucratic methods." Since the agreement was made, 15 months ago, no PTS leader has come to visit any LRCI section. However, one of their main leaders visited our group several times in Bolivia. As we will see, despite the LRCI's call to avoid us like a plague, they didn't have !
any problem with pirating our journal, among many other things which we will report.
The LRCI tried to show that the rupture with us was not significant, and they could still publish a journal in Spanish. They printed their own "Guia" number 14. They did so in an extremely dishonest way. First they took the name of "Guia," which was a paper founded in the Bolivian mines, in 1985, by comrades who were expelled from the LRCI. Second, when we tried to transform "Guia" into an international journal inside the LRCI, their leadership constantly sabotaged our efforts. Third, and even more incredibly, the LRCI leaders photocopied an entire journal from Poder Obrero Peru and changed the cover. They didn't change any of our articles, the layout, or even the numbering of the pages. They simply put on another cover and reproduced our work. They distributed this to some of their contacts. They tried to impress the Argentinean PTS and their own comrades, but they committed a terrible act of piracy.
In late 1994 all of our printing and computing equipment and our office, were vandalised. The LRCI launched an international appeal for financial help. They put advertisements in their papers, and many people who were not members sent money. Around $2,500 was collected. We only received a small portion of this amount, which was used to buy a 386 computer. However, the majority of the collected founds were never received by POP. They used our name and our tragedy to ask for money which they never entirely give us.
For us, even $1,000 is a lot if money. It is more than our yearly income. We have serious financial problems when it comes to printing our materials, travelling inside the capital and, even worse, communication with our comrades who lived outside Lima. We no longer have an emergency fund, which we desperately need in case any of our comrades are arrested or kidnapped. In the event of an arrest, it is essential to use money to safe the lives of our comrades and avoid the possibility of long detentions. For the LRCI the amount of money in question is nothing; it's probably less than the monthly income of their well-paid full-timers.
As in capitalist society, the LRCI treasurer and main leader used money to coerce and corrupt. When Peru was shaken by the Fujimori coup in April, 1992, the main leader proposed the elimination of the small amount of financial help that the international gave us, as a way of punishing us for our political disagreements.
During the LRCI's second world congress (December 91) Harvey promised the Latin American comrades that they would be out of the League soon. Two weeks before that event, which should have been the most democratic meeting of the international, a few British leaders, without consulting any IEC member or section, decided to break relations with the fraternal US section (RTT/Workers Voice), which was very critical of their adaptation to the Yeltsin counter-coup in August 91. These leaders prevented them from attending the congress, even as observers.
Since then the Latin American sections have suffered an increased campaign of sanctions and manoeuvres. Twice the English leaders unconstitutionally tried to prevent one delegate from Poder Obrero Bolivia from being a part of the IEC. In five different IEC meetings, comrades from POP and POB were sanctioned. The British leaders tried to sack one of our comrades from the International Secretariat. They managed to withdraw sectional rights to POP. Just before the third world congress (mid-94) the British leaders decided to transform a group of centrists, who attacked POP as "bourgeois and counter-revolutionary", into official members of the LRCI. After using them to disorganise POP and its participation in the congress, the British leaders immediately decided to expel all of them.
As Blair's "New Labour" needs to impose an anti-democratic organisation, Harveys' "new LRCI" needs to destroy the programmatical and organisational advances of Dave Hughes' LRCI. The first time that Harvey visited us he wrote about how impressed he was that we had a good section with comrades, that despite big poverty, had a lot of experience, links with the class and political culture. However, he needed to smash POP if he wanted to transform the LRCI into a Stalinophobic sect.
In late 1995 all of the Latin American comrades supported a tendency document protesting the LRCI's line on Haiti, Rwanda and Bosnia. The tendency was not officially recognised. Our document was not translated (like all of the Latin American oppositionist documents since 1993) and its signers were threatened with expulsion. A climate of intolerance and paranoia moved the LRCI full-timers to lead a medieval witch-hunt.
The only full-timer of the New Zealand section was suspended and sacked immediately from his job because he was discovering trying to organise a faction. The International Secretariat forbade oppositionist members to use the e-mail for communication between them. An alternate member of the International Executive Committee, was unconstitutionally suspended and threatened with expulsion if he attended the IEC meeting. The LRCI full-timers forbade their members to have any kind of discussions with some left tendencies, and even to have any personal contact with friends which were dissidents. Comrades who had correspondence with the dissidents had to show all their letters to the leadership. A former comrade, responsible for the Latin American work, was forbidden to speak with any other left current from his own continent.
Even Revolutionary History, a serious united front historical journal, was included in this orgy of paranoia. It was considered a hostile institution because it has many experienced and critical comrades. Workers Power's delegate to that board was forced to leave it. The New Zealand comrades were attacked for printing Al Richardson's historical article in their internal bulletin.
In October, 1995 the LRCI's International Secretariat decided to expel one IEC comrade and to exclude all the Latin American members. In their public statement they didn't have the dignity to concentrate on political issues, and they revealed very serious internal questions, which put the security of some of our comrades at considerable risk. We work inside a country which have one of the most sinister intelligence services. In all of our polemics with all of our opponents we always took into consideration the necessity of protecting them against repression. We never once fingered a comrade to the police or to witch-hunters.
According to the LRCI statutes, only the IEC could expel IEC members or sections. Poder Obrero Bolivia and Peru wanted to attend the IEC meeting in December '95, which was to deal with the leadership's open proposition to expel us. According to the LRCI norms the centre was required to finance the tickets of IEC members who came from abroad. The Latin American oppositionists had three full-members of the IEC and one alternate member. We didn't receive the money for any of these travels. One of our comrades travelled to the city in which the December IEC was gathering, and he was not allowed to enter the meeting.
When we were excluded from the LRCI, we were in a terrible financial situation. Some of us had to deal with a debt for around three years of office rent in Lima. This office was used for translations and other activities of the LRCI. In spite of this we never received a penny from them. In November '95 the La Paz office of Poder Obrero Bolivia was vandalised. We lost our equipment there. The LRCI leadership demonstrated absolutely no solidarity. Instead, our comrades were accused of being thieves because they decided to keep a relatively small amount of money from the LRCI, a tiny percentage of the LRCI budget relative to the percentage of the League members in that section, to try to repair their loses.
When the LRCI excluded us we were labelled with the worst insults, in the style that Stalin or Healy used against their dissidents. Inside the LRCI we were more persecuted than the left which was witch-hunted in the Social Democracy, the Labour Party or the SLP. Their members, many of them old personal friends of the Latin American LRCI militants, were forbidden to socialise at all with us. The method of the LRCI leaders was to produce expulsions using slanders. There was no right to defence or appeal of the expulsions, and they even forbade their members to have any contact with any of us, and to get our side of the story. Our comrades in Britain were twice physically provoked by LRCI full-timers.
The LRCI didn't come to the Andes to discuss with us before the split or to try to prevent us from declaring or developing our tendency or breaking with them. They simply decided to smash us in the manner of an imperialist power. At the same time they tried to corrupt one of our demoralised comrades.
In early' 96, Harvey, in a letter printed in Weekly Worker, announced that the only LRCI member in Peru, Justo CÙrdova, had decided to re-join the LRCI and to break with the people who had been expelled. Justo signed all of the many of critical documents against the LRCI leaders, from the call for a Left Opposition in late 1992 to the four documents of rupture. On the last day of 1995 Justo decided to send a letter of repentance to the LRCI leaders. He didn't inform us about this, and neither did he try to convince us to follow him. In his letter he did not retract any of the political positions that he shared with us, and which the LRCI characterised as "centrist" and "sectarian." Even worse, many months later he told us that he considered the LRCI to be big betrayers of the working class, because they asked imperialist powers to send arms and men to support their Bosnian puppets. He was immediately readmitted to the LRCI, despite the fact that the "Trotskyist Bulletin!
" which the LRCI leaders published later labelled him a "thief" and part of the "plague people who have proved themselves neither honest and honourable."
Justo is completely out of politics. He never recruited anyone to the group, he doesn't have any contacts, he doesn't go to any left or union meetings and he doesn't have any deep knowledge of the political situation. His main interest is to obtain money for his family, and to work very hard for that.
Since 1994 he wanted to ask for a leave of absence, hoping to achieve a stable economic situation. Harvey realised this and tried to take advantage of it. Justo received considerable financial help from the LRCI and was tempted by travels and by the offer of an opportunity to live in Europe for a season, with all the costs paid by the League. When we wanted to break with the LRCI's rotten leaders, they sent him a lot of money as a gift, so that he could buy a taxi and start his own small private enterprise. He wanted us to wait until he received that present before the split.
After Justo capitulated he didn't win the conditions that he desired and he came to us asking to join our group. He recognised that he had been tempted by corruption and that he had to denounce it. However, we not only didn't have money, but we demanded some kind of discipline, collective work and economic support, to which he did not want to commit himself. Later, he shifted another time and continued to receive personal financial support from LRCI leaders.
As Bolsheviks we train our comrades to resist the hard conditions of Peruvian repression and not to sell their principles for personal gain or bosses' gifts. All of our members are required to defend our programme, to pay subs and to be active in weekly meetings and in activity amongst the masses. The only member which the LRCI claims to have in the Americas doesn't defend the positions of the leaders, who he openly calls traitors. He doesn't do any kind of political work at all, and instead of paying money to the organisation, he is only around it for purely personal financial interests.
Their is no principle involved in such a purely COMMERCIAL relationship. The LRCI leaders know very well that Justo is not loyal to anybody, and that he is able to sell his soul. Justo characterised the way in which the LRCI elected their executive committee as "Stalinist" and he signed several documents attacking them as heavy handed bureaucrats and traitors. Why do they work together? Because the LRCI leaders need to show their supporters that they have somebody in the "third world." They can stamp his name onto an article in their paper dealing with an international hot-point, and they can use him to show their supporters that they have managed to rescue one of the terrible "deserters." Justo needs the LRCI for a permanent and secure source of material support.
The LRCI is moving far away from the organisation that we co-founded with Dave Hughes. His initial adaptation to Anglo-Yankee imperialism on Bosnia, Haiti and Rwanda has rebounded into an internal regime which has many aspects of imperialist domination. Inside the LRCI all the comrades from the "third world" have been denied their most elementary democratic rights. They were smashed by a bureaucracy. Money was used as a tool of oppression and business.
Despite the intentions of the LRCI bureaucrats who wanted to smash us, we proudly reaffirm our existence and Bolshevik spirit. We ask the honest members who remain in the League to question the rotten methods, and to see us as their comrades who are maintaining the principles of Dave Hughes against this increasing degeneration.
Lima, 1 March 1997
The Bankruptcy of Workers Power's LRCI
The huge crisis of the international left urges the constitution of a revolutionary Trotskyist pole of attraction. Unfortunately, the League for a Revolutionary Communist International has ceased to be that. Incapable of understanding the new period the LRCI will be transformed from a healthy organisation to a confused sect if it does not radically change course.
The LRCI thought that the social counter-revolutions in the east opened political revolutions and a world revolutionary period. Instead of defending the workers' states and conquests against democratic counter-revolution, they adapted to it. In the workers' states they called for democratic united fronts with imperialist parties to establish parliamentary regimes. For them all the countries east of Germany, even after seven years of open anti-communist capitalist regimes - where financial institutions and big industries are being privatised and a market economy reintroduced are still workers' states.
The LRCI say that in most countries working class is shrinking while they claim to be close with the PTS who have the characterisation of world situation ... which is that we are seeing a huge workers' offensive and a pre-revolutionary global situation! They describe Bolivia, the only country in the planet which has had at least around one general strike every year for the last 15 years and more than 100 days of general strikes in the last two years, as the country which has suffered a strategic defeat similar to the destruction of the first workers' state. At the same time they can deny the strategic defeats in the 'socialist' states.
Despite the fact that they characterise Serbia as a workers' state they called for their defeat by a massive NATO attack ever while asking their own imperialist powers to send arms and men to back their anti-Serb allies. On the national question they are adapting to centralist tendencies inside the imperialist countries. They oppose independence for Quebec. They condemn the Basque national movement as 'completely reactionary', and his main leader refuses to defend their prisoners. They initially opposed any kind of national concession to Scotland despite the fact that 80% of its population are for some degree of autonomy. Next they changed their line without any serious explanation.
At the same time they adopted a liberal attitude to the national question in the non-imperialist countries. They advocated the fragmentation of most of the semi-colonies as the starting point of the permanent revolution, when the experiences of Liberia, Lebanon, Africa, etc. are showing that this could start a process of horrific genocide. In the workers' states they declare their willingness to support even a racial-religious group if they want to secede and restore a capitalist state. They adapt to the public opinion inside the imperialist world. They are against the fragmentation of their own states but sympathise with the neo-liberal atomisation of the rest of the world. In Rwanda they tailed the liberal media which supported the Anglophile Tutsi elite army which cleansed two million Hutus. They even sided with the Rwandan attacks on refugee camps in eastern Zaire.
In 1990 they supported the Soviet Army invasion on Azerbaijan while they asked their own imperialist powers to help the Lithuanians (who were popular in the non-Islamic west) against Moscow. In 1981 Workers Power correctly opposed the Jaruselski Stalinist coup in Poland without making any block with the church and the capitalist parties. Nevertheless, ten years later the LRCI called for a united front behind Yeltsin and the capitalist parties to defend the bourgeois parliament. In 1990 they had an opposite line in Rumania and they supported the Stalinist repression of a democratic student demonstration which had less connections with imperialism than Yeltsin. Workers Power was in its first five years a state-capitalist group. In 1980 it decided to shift towards Trotsky's theories and to critically support the USSR in Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, Keith Harvey's tendency, now dominating the LRCI, opposed that shift. He considered the medievalist CIA-backed Afghan bands as a "national liberation movement" which should be actively supported against soviet "expansionism". He still thinks that in 1927 a bourgeois counter-revolution smashed the workers state and that all the post-capitalist countries where purged bourgeois states. For him the workers' states is only an economic category because politically all of them were bourgeois states since 1927. That formalistic approach justifies making united fronts with the bourgeois democrats with the aim of destroying totalitarianism. For him it is better to have a parliamentary liberal regime rather than a Communist Party dictatorship. Today Harvey is the great leader and anybody who still wants to consistently defend the positions of Dave Hughes (the architect of the left turn in the early 1980s, now deceased ) will be purged. In Britain Workers Power shifts its policies towards the SLP in nearly every issue of their paper. At the beginning they gave electoral support to all Labour Party candidates against the SLP. They do no work in the Labour Party but are now trying to influence the creation of a faction inside the SLP which calls for "more SLP candidates".
When the Latin American and New Zealand sections tried to create a tendency the LRCI answer was to deny opposition rights, to suspend members, to threaten the entire opposition with expulsion and to forbid the use of electronic mail communications. The LRCI is no longer interested in revolutionary regroupment. They say that they have the only revolutionary programme and that every fusion should be around it. In fact, the LRCI leadership can change the programme whenever they wish. For example, the LRCI programme said that in the workers' states it is not possible to advocate a united front with bourgeois parties but the leadership called for fronts with and behind monarchists, nationalists and capitalist forces. No group can sustain these incredible political contradictions for long without degenerating into a cult. The LRCI can only reassert its previous politically healthy dynamic by forging a new leadership either from its own resources or, more realistically, by revolutionary regroupment. There is no indication yet on the part of the current leadership of any willingness to do this.