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From The Socialist newspaper, 12 October 2001

Bush And Blair's War: What We Say

Why does the Socialist Party oppose this war?

AS SOCIALISTS we are totally opposed to the methods of terrorism and the indiscriminate killing of innocent people. We immediately condemned the horrific attacks on the World Trade Centre (WTC) and Pentagon which resulted in the deaths of so many.

But at the same time we do not support Bush and Blair's war. Military action is not a solution. On the contrary it can only exacerbate an already unstable situation worldwide.

Ordinary, poverty-stricken Afghans will be the innocent victims of attacks on their country. Even before 11 September, as many as five million were dependent on food aid to fend off starvation.

Millions had already fled to squalid, disease-ridden refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Now thousands more are desperately trying to escape death from famine or US missile attacks. Bush talked about bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age but it is already there. A humanitarian disaster of epic proportions is now facing the Afghan people.

Workers internationally will also pay the price for Bush and Blair's war through job cuts, attacks on public spending and tax increases. The events of 11 September aren't the cause of the crisis in the US and world economy as some have tried to argue.

Both were slowing down before 11 September, but the fall-out has had an aggravating effect. Employers in many industries are taking advantage of the situation to push through mass redundancies. Thousands of jobs have been slashed in the airline industry alone and thousands more are threatened in other sectors.

The ruling class in the US and elsewhere are also using the attacks to justify a serious undermining of democratic rights. Repressive legislation is being passed to supposedly combat terrorism but will be completely ineffective in doing so.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act was introduced as a knee-jerk reaction to IRA bombings in England in the early 1970s. It did not defeat the IRA, but it was responsible for miscarriages of justice such as the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six.

Repressive laws will undoubtedly be used against legitimate anti-globalisation/anti-capitalist protesters and workers taking action to defend their interests.

The attacks have also fuelled racism against Arabs and Muslims around the world. In the US, people have been shot in racist attacks and in Britain an Afghan taxi-driver was paralysed.

Thousands of other incidents of threats and violence have been reported. The politicians have made speeches preaching tolerance, fearful that the situation could get out of control. But their racist policies, on asylum in particular, have contributed to the backlash which has taken place.

Asylum seekers will be targeted by Blunkett's new legislation. They could be denied asylum and deported under mere suspicion of being linked to terrorism.

Attacks on Afghanistan will have a destabilising effect throughout central Asia and the Middle East. The military regime in Pakistan, for example, has given backing to Bush's war aims for its own economic and strategic reasons. But in doing so, it risks a backlash from Islamic fundamentalists within the army and society in general. This in a country which possesses nuclear weapons.

If there is any attempt to broaden the war beyond Afghanistan, this could provoke mass unrest throughout the Arab and Muslim world and risk further retaliatory strikes.

Surely something must be done about terrorism ?

BUSH AND Blair hypocritically wage 'war on terrorism'. But it's the bloody policies of the capitalist system, which they represent, that are responsible for creating the very conditions which allow terrorism to flourish.

George Bush senior helped arm, train and finance bin Laden and Islamist groups to wage a guerrilla war by proxy against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Now bin Laden is public enemy number one.

Whenever US imperialism's economic and strategic interests or prestige are threatened, it has readily wreaked its own terror on countries around the world.

Over a million civilians were killed in the Vietnam War. 100,000 Iraqis died in the Gulf War and the suffering continues.

6,000 Iraqi children die every month from hunger and disease - the same number as died in the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon.

Global capitalism is based on obscene inequalities of power and wealth. The assets of the 200 richest people are more than the combined income of the poorest 2.4 billion. More than one fifth of the world's population live on less than one dollar a day.

And now the World Bank estimates that, as a result of the economic crisis, ten million more people will be pushed below this level worldwide and 40,000 more children will die.

The major imperialist powers, with the US at their head, use their economic dominance to exploit the poorer countries of the world, subjecting millions to poverty, starvation, disease and war.

The wealth ratio between the richest and the poorest countries in the world, which was three to one in 1820, was 74 to one in 1997.

A handful of giant multinational companies control four-fifths of world output and more than two-thirds of world trade.

Through capitalist institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organisation, the imperialist countries impose cuts in social spending, privatisation, job losses etc. on already impoverished neo-colonial countries. The IMF is in fact running at least 75 of the poorest developing countries in the world.

To further their own interests, the imperialist countries have no qualms about propping up and fostering dictatorial and oppressive regimes worldwide. Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Milosevic in Serbia and Pinochet in Chile were all at one time courted and backed by US imperialism.

In Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East imperialism rides rough-shod over national, ethnic and religious rights and aspirations. Over 700 have died in the year-long intifada, most of them Palestinians. Yet the US continues to back the Israeli ruling class financially and military.

US imperialism hopes to take advantage of the 11 September attacks and the 'war against terrorism' to assert itself around the globe in defence of its own interests.

Blair's belligerent speech to Labour Party conference raised the prospect of intervening in every international 'hot spot', regardless of the wishes of ordinary people in those countries.

Under capitalism, It is not possible to rid the world of terrorism and conflict. Even if the US succeeds in capturing bin Laden and destroying his bases in Afghanistan, the conditions which give rise to terrorism - poverty, corruption and oppression - will still remain.

War, poverty, violence and instability are rooted in the very nature of this class-ridden system, which is based on exploitation, inequality and the ruthless pursuit of profit. It's only by eradicating capitalism worldwide that these horrors can be ended.

How do we stop the war?

US OPINION polls at first showed overwhelming support for military action. But there is also disquiet about the prospect of innocent Afghans being killed, of casualties amongst US soldiers and of action provoking further attacks, making a volatile situation even more unstable.

In Britain a majority say they would oppose military strikes if they harm civilians. Bush and Blair say they will do everything possible to avoid "collateral damage". But in the Gulf War, 40% of so-called 'smart' bombs were not so smart after all, missing their targets and killing and maiming civilians.

Past wars show that the popular mood can shift rapidly especially when the full consequences begin to hit home (see article on Vietnam War page eight). Anti-war movements have sprung up quite quickly in the US, Britain and elsewhere.

Many of those participating, especially students and young people, were also involved in the anti-globalisation/anti-capitalist protests. They have made the connection; that a system which leads to global poverty and environmental destruction is also responsible for violence, war and conflict internationally.

Members of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), to which the Socialist Party is affiliated, are campaigning in the US, Britain and elsewhere to build democratic, inclusive, broad-based anti-war coalitions. In particular we would look to involve workers organised in the workplaces so that they can add their collective, social strength to the anti-war movement.

Bush and the US administration have tried to build a broad 'pro-war' coalition to back any action they take against 'terrorism'. But this has proved far from straightforward. There have been divisions within the US administration, between the 'doves' who want to limit action to Afghanistan and the 'hawks' who want to go further and attack any country 'harbouring' or 'supporting' terrorists.

Top of the list would be Iraq, where they would like to 'finish off' the Gulf War. However any attempt to widen the conflict could inflame Arabs around the world. The reactionary regime in Saudi Arabia, for example, has had to state openly that, unlike in the Gulf War, it won't let its military bases be used to attack Afghanistan. This is because it fears unrest amongst Islamic groups within its own country.

Despite these divisions, Bush has acted against Afghanistan. However there are clearly worries about what could happen next. Capturing Osama bin Laden and destroying his bases would be virtually impossible without overthrowing the Taliban. But what to put in its place?

A coalition involving the Northern Alliance would be extremely unstable. Their record on human rights and women's rights is as bad if not worse than the Taliban's.

Ordinary Afghans have to decide their own future. Only a government of working people and the rural poor, as part of a socialist federation of Middle Eastern states could rebuild war-torn Afghanistan.

A serious weakness internationally at the moment is the absence of mass workers' parties which could play a role in transforming society.

There have been recent examples internationally, where mass movements involving the organised working class, removed unpopular regimes. In Serbia, for instance, ordinary people succeeded where imperialist bombs failed in removing Milosevic.

But because no party existed with a clear idea of how to build an alternative society, merely switching government has solved none of the problems which ordinary Serbs face.

Because mass parties have not provided an alternative to the poverty, corruption and oppression of capitalism, sections of youth in the Middle East and other regions have turned to the blind alley of terrorism as a way out of the crisis.

In the 'developed' countries, parties like New Labour have gone completely over to supporting big business and global capitalism. Blair in particular has flown round the world, doing Bush's dirty work, at times sounding even more war-like than Bush himself.

The Socialist Party and the CWI have been campaigning for the building of new mass parties to represent the interests of workers, young people and oppressed groups in Britain and internationally. Building an effective anti-war movement and building new working class parties are interlinked.

And mass workers' parties will play an important part in the task of eliminating war in general, which can only be done by ending the unequal, exploitative and oppressive capitalist system internationally.

What's socialism got to do with it?

BASED ON production for profit for the privileged few, capitalism is incapable of meeting the needs of the majority of the population worldwide.

Socialism is about planning production for need not profit. This would eliminate the contradictions of the current system which lead to global economic crisis and conflict. Socialism is about working-class people, the majority of society, owning and controlling the economy and democratically deciding how resources should be produced and allocated for the benefit of all, in an environmentally sustainable way.

This would be very different from the top-down, undemocratic planning which existed in the bureaucratic, Stalinist regimes of the ex-Soviet Union and Eastern Europe until just over a decade ago. Genuine socialism would mean ordinary people having maximum control over every aspect of their lives.

Globalisation has meant that capitalism is economically more integrated than at any time in history. This means that the struggle to change society has to be an international one if it is to end poverty, disease and environmental destruction and transform ordinary people's lives.

Based on co-operation rather than ruthless competition for profit, privilege and prestige, socialism is the only system capable of bringing about an end to violence and war on a global scale.

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In The Socialist 12 October 2001:


Devastating Consequences Of War

Nuclear Threat? War Raises New Fears

Vietnam - How The Anti-War Movement Grew

Bush And Blair's War: What We Say

Railtrack - New Labour's U-Turn


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