The hounds of war have been unleashed. In the small hours of the March 20, US and British forces started to roll towards the Iraqi frontier. Simultaneously, Baghdad was rocked by explosions as 40 Cruise missiles struck home with their deadly load.
This act of naked aggression is a crime of US imperialism. All the attempts to disguise this crime and provide it with a cloak of legality are false and dishonest. The constant harping on the crimes of Saddam Hussein are utterly hollow on the lips of the very men who supported, armed and financed him for years. Just as the crimes of Saddam Hussein are not the cause of the war, so they play no part in our attitude to it.
On the side of Britain and America this is a reactionary imperialist war of aggression. In the war between a poor Middle Eastern country, fighting for its existence and a mighty imperialist superpower that aims to crush it, occupy it and reduce it to a status of foreign conquest, occupation and colonial-type subjugation, all our sympathies lie with the underdog and the victim. This is what determines our attitude.
From a military point of view, this is a most unequal conflict. Iraq's army is poorly armed and equipped. It was smashed in 1991, and has not been able to re-equip since then under the vicious regime of sanctions. As for the so-called weapons of mass destruction, according to the inspectors, over 90 percent of them were destroyed in the late 1990s.
The imperialists have no moral or human scruples. They are utterly indifferent to the lives of the Iraqi people. There will be many civilian casualties. It has already emerged that the "smart bombs" that were supposed to be a surgical strike against the nerve centres of the regime had missed their target and hit a street. There will be many more such cases.
The rich have already fled from the city. The poor have nowhere to go. While President Bush retires to bed with a tranquil conscience, the women and children of Baghdad lie cowering in cellars waiting for the inevitable bombardment. Many will be killed by American missiles that will rain down for days in order to reduce the number of American casualties.
Those who survive the initial bombardment may have to face the horrors of street-fighting in the rubble of Baghdad, which can claim many more lives. For those who emerge alive from the ruins of their homes, countless new horrors are being prepared.
Already a million Iraqi children are hungry and undernourished as a result of the monstrous sanctions imposed by the United Nations on behalf of imperialism. These children are in no condition to withstand further shocks. But the Americans will pulverise the already ramshackle infrastructure and destroy water supplies and transport. This will mean a huge loss of life as a result of starvation, diarrhoea and other diseases.
This is a condemnation of the moral rottenness of Bush and Blair, the disgusting hypocrisy of their alleged "humanitarian" considerations. They are mobilising considerable resources to control the mass media and manipulate public opinion with their fraudulent propaganda and so-called "sanitised" picture of the war. Thus the crimes of imperialism are made even more heinous by trivialising and concealing the horrors that flow from their actions.
The slogan of Peace
In recent weeks from these columns we have systematically denounced and unmasked the war plans of the imperialists. We pointed out that the diplomatic farce played out in the Security Council was an irrelevance, designed to distract the world's attention while the US military continued to pour troops and weaponry into the Gulf. The decision to invade Iraq was taken a long time ago and was never going to be changed by a vote on the Security Council, or anywhere else.
War is always terrible. But it has one advantage. It tears away pitilessly all the illusions and legal fictions and reveals the real situation in the world.
Those people who still talk of the need for peace, to give diplomacy a chance, to do something - anything - to prevent war, have missed the point. All history shows that every serious question is ultimately settled by war - whether war between the nations or war between the classes. One may regret this fact, one may rail against it, but it remains a fact nonetheless.
It is useless to complain about war under capitalism, just as it would be useless to try to teach a man-eating tiger to eat grass instead of flesh. War is the continuation of politics by other means, and in this case it is just the expression of the objective need of US imperialism - the most powerful imperialist nation on earth - to conquer new markets, raw materials and spheres of influence. Most importantly of all, it is an expression of the fact that following the demise of the USSR, the USA has colossal power in its hands and wants to use it to establish its position as the only imperialist superpower in the world.
For the ladies and gentlemen in Washington, war is just another business - though admittedly quite an expensive business. That is why President Bush has been so reticent to put a figure on the present conflict. One estimate is $95 billion, but the total cost is anyone's guess. This is at a time when the US economy is in serious difficulties, companies are closing and workers are being made unemployed. The workers of the USA and the rest of the world will be asked to pay the costs of the war. Once again the refrain of the ruling class will be "guns instead of butter".
$24 million went up in smoke in a moment this morning as the Tomahawk and Cruise missiles were hurled against Iraq. This is considered to be a sound investment in Washington, since at the end of the day American businesses will obtain very profitable contracts. In fact, $800 million worth of contracts have already been dispensed to US companies, much to the disgust of the British building contractors, who have so far got nothing.
It is impossible to foresee the exact course of the war or its duration. The politicians in Washington and London fervently hope it will be brief. But they are not at all sure. Bush's speech last night issued a warning to the American public to the effect that the war may go on for longer and be more costly than they have been led to believe. The fact is that no-one knows how long and difficult the war may be.
Saddam's calm appearance may not be what it seems. It may indicate the fatalism of a man who knows his end is near. But his tone was defiant. He called on the Iraqi people to resist the invaders and defend the integrity of Iraq. There is a burning hatred of American imperialism among the Iraqi people. They do not want to see their country occupied by foreign forces. The main fight will be in and around Baghdad. There is no doubt that the Americans have a crushing military superiority, but the exact cost of this is as yet unknown.
What is to be done?
American imperialism is now the most reactionary force on the planet. It aims to establish the dictatorship of the big US corporations everywhere, and to crush any people or government that stands in its way. It is necessary to mobilise the labour movement to oppose all manifestations of imperialism as part of the general struggle against capitalism, nationally and internationally.
The latest act of aggression has provoked a wave of anger and revulsion everywhere. The insolence and arrogance of Bush and Blair are breathtaking. These hypocrites who constantly harp on about "democracy" show utter contempt for world public opinion. Millions demonstrate their opposition to war and are ignored. Seventy five percent of the British people say no to the war and are ignored. Six million people demonstrate in Spain and are ignored. The British and American bullies fail to get a majority on the Security Council and simply withdraw their resolution, thus preventing a debate, and then present the whole world with a fait accompli. The idea is gathering force: these governments do not represent us. It is a correct idea.
How do we respond to this? To continue to talk about Peace and the United Nations is a waste of time. The war is already a fact, and the whole situation on a world scale will be determined by this fact. What is needed is not pious speeches about the blessings of Peace but a CHANGE OF REGIME. The war flows from the present regime, the capitalist regime that divides the world into spheres of influence and sources of profit, markets and raw materials. The only serious way to fight against war and imperialism is to link the fight against war with the fight against capitalism.
We will naturally support every demonstration and every anti-war action, to the degree that it serves to mobilise and arouse the population against the imperialists. But we will also explain the need to link the anti-war movement firmly with the struggle to overthrow capitalism, the root cause of war in the modern epoch.
It is necessary for the working class and the international Labour Movement to develop its own strategy and tactics in this war. The Italian unions have already given an example in posing the question of general strikes. The Greek unions have called on the European unions to organise an all-European general strike. This example must be publicised, discussed and generalised.
Some comrades have raised the question of an indefinite general strike. But we must maintain a sense of proportion and not run too far ahead of events. We must have a sober-minded attitude to slogans at all times. An indefinite general strike poses the question of power. It has revolutionary implications. Does this correspond to the present stage of the movement? We do not think so.
In most countries, the movement is as yet in its early beginnings. In Europe the workers movement is reviving after a fairly long period of hibernation. After a period of inactivity, the working class needs time to find its feet. It must stretch its muscles and acquire experience. This especially applies to the younger generation that is only now coming to the fore.
To confuse the first month of pregnancy with the ninth is a serious mistake. If the Marxist tendency is to be taken seriously, it must put forward slogans that can get an echo in the working class, and especially the advanced workers in the unions and the mass workers parties. The slogan of the general strike at this stage does not have the purpose of overthrowing capitalism but rather to mobilise and unite the workers in a massive anti-imperialist protest movement. It must therefore be limited in time and not indefinite.
The slogan that can best express the stage we are at is that of a 24 hour general strike, linked to mass protest demonstrations. A 24 hour general strike, if it could be organised, would have a tremendous effect in galvanising the movement and mobilising the maximum numbers. It would enable the working class to feel its power - the power of unity and organisation. At the same time it would be a serious warning to the governments that are supporting the war.
Even the launching of a 24 hour general strike will not be a simple matter. In general in time of war it is difficult to get the workers to strike. There is a massive pressure from the mass media, constantly whipping up patriotic sentiment. In those countries that have sent troops, there is the demand that "we must support our boys". The present situation is highly unusual in the sense that there is a mass anti-war sentiment in the population and the working class at the very beginning of the war. The possibility therefore exists for deepening and widening the protest movement, including industrial action. If a 24 hour general strike can be achieved that would be a considerable step forward.
A 24 hour strike does not in itself pose the question of power. It is like a massive demonstration of strength. But it prepares the way for greater things, especially if it is used to carry out a broad campaign of political agitation and propaganda. It is necessary to politicise the movement and link it to the idea of a change in regime.
In the case of Italy, Spain and Australia, the demand for a 24 hour general strike must be linked to the demand for the calling of immediate elections. Down with the government of warmongers! For a government of workers parties with a socialist programme!
In the case of Britain, the opposition to the war is being expressed inside the Labour Party as a revolt against Blair and the right wing. The revolt of over 130 Labour MPs was a symptom of this. This in turn shows the growing opposition of the rank and file that is putting pressure on the MPs.
The main need is to step up the movement to the left in the local constituency parties. Demand the calling of emergency meetings to deselect those so-called Labour MPs who voted for the war and replace them with people prepared to carry out the wishes of the rank and file!
Stupidity of the ultra lefts
It is really astonishing how the ultra left sects always succeed in adopting a wrong position on every question. They appear to have a peculiar genius for this. Precisely at a time when the revolt against Blair and his faction is developing inside the Labour Party they are waging a noisy campaign in favour of the disaffiliation of trade unions from the Labour Party.
This demand is identical with the demands of Tony Blair and the bourgeoisie, which has long desired to separate the unions from the Labour Party, in order that the bourgeoisie could exercise complete domination over it. In fact, the only reason that Tony Blair could drag the Party so far to the right was that the unions and the working class were not active in the Party for a long time.
That must now change. The unions must not withdraw from the Labour Party but must move in to take it over! If a few thousand trade unionists began to make their voice heard in the local parties, the middle class Blairite careerists and carpetbaggers could be emptied out in no time at all. The same process that has taken place in the unions, where the old right wing leaders have been vomited out, can and must be repeated in the Labour Party. That is the only way to pose the question!
In general, what is needed is a change of regime in the workers' organisations themselves. The unions must be transformed from top to bottom into fighting organisations of the working class. That is the prior condition for the socialist transformation of society.
The slogan that can act as the focal point for the mass movement is the slogan of action committees: form action committees against the war in every factory, trade union and Labour Party branch, in every school and university faculty; in every local area. Link the committees firmly to the mass organisations of the class - both the unions and the Socialist and Communist Parties. Link them up on a local, regional and national basis. Step up the anti-war movement on every front!
The mole of revolution
By his actions George W Bush and the American imperialists have dragged the world into a new and unprecedented situation. They have set out on a journey with no road map and do not know how this will end. They are guided by short-term considerations, greed and expediency. They imagine that sheer brute force can substitute for a strategy and a perspective. By these methods they are enormously increasing all the contradictions and turbulence on a world scale.
In the underdeveloped and ex-colonial nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America, the crisis of capitalism strikes with redoubled force. An important element in the calculations of US imperialism in the present war is the need to intimidate these peoples and persuade them that resistance to the USA is futile. In this way the big American corporations can loot them to their heart's content.
In Asia and the Middle East, where the attack on Iraq is provoking the fury of the masses, the instinctive anti-imperialist mood of the people is being diverted along a counterproductive road by fundamentalists who yesterday collaborated with US imperialism and now speak of a "clash of civilizations". This is false to the core.
The American imperialists do not attack Iraq because of its religion but because of its oil and its strategic importance. This is not a clash of religions but, in the final analysis, of classes. It is part of the global war between rich and poor, between oppressed and oppressors. The American and British imperialists are your enemies. But the workers and youth of the USA, Britain, Europe and Australia are your friends, comrades and allies.
All that divides the movement of the working people objectively serves the interests of reaction. We stand for the sacred union of all working people everywhere. Let us unite against our common enemies! Let us sweep aside all religious, ethnic and sectarian divisions. For a united international revolutionary movement against imperialism!
It is impossible to say exactly how this war and the situation that flows from it will develop. But of one thing we can be certain. It will not develop along the lines worked out by Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair. It will unleash forces of which they do not dream, causing chaos and instability everywhere.
Sooner or later, this reactionary and criminal war will produce revolutionary consequences. It has already begun to do so, provoking an unprecedented mass protest movement all over the world before the first shot was fired. This is just the beginning!
In the USA the mood of the masses has been affected by the memories of September 11, and the massive barrage of lying propaganda and disinformation. Two thirds of Americans apparently believe that Iraq was behind the destruction of the Twin Towers. But as events unfold and the scale of the devastation becomes known, the mood of America will change.
To the horrors of war will be added the ever-increasing impositions of a regime that stands blatantly for cutting taxes for the rich and cutting benefits and jobs for the poor. The stage will be set for a massive reaction against George W Bush and all his works.
The masses always learn through experience, and especially the experience of great events. They have already learnt many things and they will learn a lot more. This learning process of the masses will be enormously accelerated by the active intervention of the Marxist tendency. The strengthening of the international Marxist tendency is the most pressing task of the hour.
For a whole period the small forces of revolutionary Marxism were thrown back by the current of history. We were forced to swim against the stream. But now the current is turning. We are beginning to swim with the stream of history.
For a long time the Marxist tendency found itself isolated from the mass movement. But conditions are changing rapidly. We must find a road to the masses at all costs! Sectarian stupidity is an obstacle that must be brushed aside. Let us find a road to the mass organisations and establish firm contacts with the proletarian vanguard, in order to give the movement the conscious guidance and perspective that it lacks! The situation admits no delay.
Karl Marx compared the revolutionary process as "the mole of history". That is to say, it is a silent subterranean process that burrows away for long periods, unnoticed by the majority. The forces of the old order deny the existence of revolution. They do not even notice it until it finally explodes over their heads.
The feverish rush to war, the noisy, lying propaganda, the swaggering arrogance of Bush and the other Mafiosi in the White House - all this cannot hide the fact that the system they defend is rotten to the core and staggering from one crisis to the next. Every day brings new and violent shocks to the system: military, economic, diplomatic. What will come next?
The present tumultuous world situation has its roots in the whole preceding period. The apparent successes of global capitalism have turned into their opposite. Global capitalism is manifesting itself as a global crisis of capitalism.
A regime that produces such monstrosities - war, death, hunger, disease, ignorance and oppression - is surely ripe for extinction. That is why we must fight for a change of regime - the regime of capitalism that has become degenerate and senile and threatens the future of humanity.