Break with Labour “Old” and “New” —Build a Bolshevik Party!

Defend Iraq! All U.S./British Troops Out of the Near East Now!

Spartacist League/Britain Statement

The following statement was issued on March 21

With the loyal backing of Blair’s “New” Labour government, the nuclear madmen in the White House have unleashed the military might of U.S. imperialism for the bloody slaughter of Iraq. This is nothing but a colonial war of naked imperialist aggression to be followed by a colonial occupation of this oil-rich Near Eastern country. We stand for the military defence of Iraq against U.S. and British attack. Every setback for these imperialist forces abroad is a blow in defence of the interests of the working class and oppressed masses around the world. It is the job of the working people of Iraq, and throughout the Near East, to get rid of the bloody regime of Saddam Hussein and all the colonels, sheiks and dictators, including the Zionist butchers who are using the cover of this war to ratchet up their daily killing of Palestinians with the aim of forcible expulsion. It is our job here to build the revolutionary leadership that can mobilise the only force with the social power and class interest to challenge the rule of capitalist imperialism: the multiethnic working class.

The working class in Britain and the Iraqi people face a common enemy in the British imperialist rulers today represented by Blair’s Labour Party. To unleash more troops for the slaughter of Iraq, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has announced he will enforce a settlement on the firefighters who have been baited as “Saddam’s friends” for struggling to better their miserable wages and working conditions. But just as the imperialists want to enforce class peace at home in order to wage their dirty colonial wars abroad, every successful fight in defence of the workers’ interests breaks a cog in the imperialist war machine. In bringing munitions trains to a grinding halt in Scotland, ASLEF [Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen] train drivers demonstrated the social power of the working class that can and must be mobilised against this war. But to mount such a class-struggle opposition requires a policy of uncompromising opposition to, and independence from, all the institutions and agencies of capitalist class rule.

The Stop the War Coalition makes much of uniting the broadest forces possible against the war. But unity with whom and for what? Socialist Worker (22 March) demands that the “Labour rebels” who voted against war turn their words into actions by “building the anti-war movement.” But what were their words? Arguing that “the case for war against Iraq has not yet been established, especially given the absence of specific UN authorisation,” the amendment put forward in Parliament by “antiwar” Labour MPs ended by declaring “total support will be given to British forces if hostilities do commence”! Needless to say, “total support” to the military forces raping Iraq renders impossible any effective class-struggle mobilisation against war. Here is the real face of “unity” based on a programme of bourgeois pacifism, one which sows illusions in capitalist “democracy” as the road to peace while rallying behind “god, queen and country” when the bombs start dropping.

And when the bombs started dropping on Baghdad, the Stop the War Coalition was not far behind, decrying: “This war is a travesty and tragedy. There is no UN mandate and no justification.” For the past 12 years there has been a UN mandate for sanctions which have taken the lives of over one and a half million Iraqis, far more than were killed in the 1990-91 Gulf War! Bob Crow, the left-talking leader of the RMT [National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers], likewise declaims that Blair has taken “illegal action” (i.e., without the authority of the United Nations) to argue that “we should also take illegal action.” Vaguely referring to civil disobedience, Crow certainly isn’t talking about anything so “illegal” as trade union action in defiance of the government and its anti-union laws. On the contrary, the trade union tops in Britain could not even summon up the nerve to participate in the 10-minute work stoppage called by the European trade unions on 14 March.

To mobilise any genuine proletarian opposition to the war, workers must understand that war is simply the concentrated expression of a system based on the exploitation of labour; that for the imperialists guns are butter; that the United Nations since it was established at the end of World War II has operated solely to perpetuate and enforce the world’s domination by the imperialist powers, centrally the United States. That this den of imperialist thieves, their satraps and victims is now being flouted by American imperialism is simply testimony to the U.S.’ emergence as the world’s unrivalled military power following the capitalist counterrevolution that destroyed the former Soviet Union. The Labourites who run the Stop the War Coalition do not strive for the abolition of capitalism but simply want to align British imperialism more independently from the Americans.

Although bureaucratically degenerated and undermined by Stalinist misrule, the Soviet Union continued to embody gains for the working class achieved through the overthrow of capitalist rule by the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. The International Communist League fought until the bitter end to defend those gains against imperialist attack and the forces of internal counterrevolution. Today we continue this fight in defence of the remaining workers states—Cuba, Vietnam, China and North Korea—including their urgent right to develop nuclear weapons. In contrast, most of those leftists who now protest the nuclear cowboys in the White House for throwing their military might around the world, lined up behind U.S. imperialism and its allies in backing the very forces of counterrevolution that destroyed the Soviet Union.

In his classic antiwar book Socialism and War, written in the midst of the carnage of the first imperialist world war, Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin wrote:

“Opportunism and social-chauvinism have the same politico-ideological content—class collaboration instead of the class struggle, renunciation of revolu-tionary methods of struggle, helping one’s ‘own’ government in its embarrassed situation, instead of taking advantage of these embarrassments so as to advance the revolution.”

Lining up as the loyal lap dog of American imperialism has caused great embarrassment for Blair’s “New Labour” government with the resignation of government ministers and opposition of backbenchers reflecting the increasing fractures between the overtly pro-capitalist leaders of the party and its working-class base.

We fight to exacerbate these contradictions, to split the working class from the grip of Labourism which has long served to tie the proletariat to the interests of capitalist class rule. Our purpose is to build a genuine workers party, one which fights for a thorough-going social revolution culminating in the class rule of the proletariat. But for the rest of the self-proclaimed “socialist” left, aligning themselves behind “left” Labour MPs like George Galloway, Blair’s troubles in time of war are seen as the opportunity to breathe life back into the politics of “Old” Labour—where “Her Majesty’s Parliament” was promoted as the “road to socialism” and public welfare programmes were offered to console those at the bottom of this system of brutal exploitation of the many by the few, and particularly to ward off the possibility of any serious social struggle.

With its calls for a “global general strike” Workers Power merely seeks to put a bit of left gloss on this project of “reclaiming Labour.” This is all so much idiotic hot air. A general strike poses the question of which class shall rule. But for Workers Power it merely poses a parliamentary regime change. Arguing that a general strike could “easily develop into a battle over who rules the country” they point to 1974 when, “faced with a strike over pay by miners, the government turned it into a struggle over who rules the country” (Workers Power, March 2003). In 1974, the Tories were voted out of office and the Labour Party was voted in!

The Labour Party has always loyally served the interests of British imperialism. It went along with the imperial carve-up of the Near East after World War I which created the artificial state of Iraq and left the Kurds without a homeland. The Labour Party joined in a coalition government with Winston Churchill’s Tories during World War II that maintained the relentless subjugation of colonial India. The post-World War II government of Clement Attlee marshalled British troops and bombers for the slaughter of over three million Koreans during the UN-sanctioned Korean War. It was the Labour government of Harold Wilson which sent British troops into Northern Ireland to back up the Orange statelet and its subjugation of the oppressed Catholic population. Not a word in opposition to these troops is today uttered by the Stop the War Coalition.

Far from advancing a struggle for “peace,” those putative leftists who peddle illusions in parliamentary “democracy” promote the chauvinism of the capitalist rulers. They denounce Blair for joining “Bush’s war,” yet it was Blair’s Labour Party government which launched a “war on terror” at home, outlawing immigrant and refugee organisations more than a year before the U.S. imperialist rulers seized on the criminal attack on the World Trade Center to launch its own draconian witch hunt against immigrants. Organisations like the Turkish leftist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) have been outlawed, their offices raided and a number of people now face criminal charges. British troops out of Northern Ireland! Down with the anti-terrorism laws! Full citizenship rights for all immigrants!

Millions of people around the globe have poured out in protest against U.S. imperialism’s drive to war against Iraq. The mammoth demonstration in London on 15 February was a stunning measure of the increasing hatred of Blair’s “New Labour” party. But none of this stayed the hand of the mad bombers in the White House or their toadies at 10 Downing Street. If there is one lesson that can and must be drawn by workers, antiwar youth and others who genuinely oppose this naked colonial war of imperialist aggression it is the absolute necessity of splitting with the social chauvinists and fighting to end the entire system of capitalist imperialism which generates war and the ideology which justifies it. Only socialist revolution can end imperialist war! Defend Iraq! All U.S./British troops out of the Near East now! Break with Labour “Old” and “New”—Build a Bolshevik Party!

ICL Home Page