The In Defence of Marxism Manifesto on the imperialist war against Iraq

The war that is being prepared by the USA is a blatant act of aggression against the Iraqi people. It has not a single atom of progressive content. All the arguments used to justify this monstrous war are false to the core. This war is not in the interests of anyone except the imperialists and the big oil companies that stand behind the White House clique. Let us unite to organise a massive campaign of agitation against the war, with demonstrations, pickets, leafleting and mass meetings in every workplace, school and college.

Mobilise against War and Capitalism!
The fight against imperialism is a fight against capitalism

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Can this war be justified?

The war that is being prepared by the USA is a blatant act of aggression against the Iraqi people. It has not a single atom of progressive content. All the arguments used to justify this monstrous war are false to the core. The sending of weapons inspectors was merely a pretext to deceive world public opinion while the Americans proceeded with their military build-up in the Gulf. It has nothing whatsoever to do with weapons of mass destruction. No matter what the Iraqis do, they will be bombed and invaded.

The farce of "inspection" has been shown up for what it is. Not a shred of credible evidence has been found. The last team of UN inspectors claimed to have destroyed 95 percent of the weapons of mass destruction held by Iraq. Very little can have been left over. In any case, after more than a decade of sanctions, the military potential of the Iraqi army is greatly reduced. It cannot pose a serious threat to the USA, which possesses a huge stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.

Detailed plans for the invasion and occupation of Iraq were already prepared well before Xmas, that is to say, before Blix and his crowd had even begun their task. It is therefore absolutely clear that the question of weapons of mass destruction has nothing to do with the US aggression against Iraq. The central issue has always been regime change - that is, the removal of Saddam Hussein and his replacement by an American puppet.

Blix and his team, while pretending to be impartial, are playing the role of provocateurs. The Iraqis are being constantly provoked in the hope that they will respond with an act of force. This will immediately be used as a pretext for the commencement of hostilities. Baghdad has accused them of spying and this is probably the case. Their true purpose is not to prevent war but to provide an excuse for it.

The attempt to portray the attack on Iraq as part of the "war on terror" is equally hollow. There is not the slightest shred of evidence to link Iraq to al-Qaida. The attempts of the CIA to establish a link between Iraq and al-Qaida border on the ridiculous. The "al-Qaida cell" they said they had discovered in northern Iraq is not even in territory controlled by the Baghdad government. This is not surprising, since the Baghdad regime is well known to be secular and has never been friendly to the fundamentalists.

A year and a half ought to have been sufficient time to find evidence of Iraqi involvement in the events of September 11th. Yet no such evidence has been produced. There was not one Iraqi citizen among the terrorists who hijacked the planes that attacked the World Trade Centre, but quite a few Saudis. Yet they are preparing to bomb Baghdad and not Riyadh!

The argument about "democracy"

The other argument that this is a war to restore democracy in Iraq is also baseless. The idea of US imperialism bringing democracy to the people of Iraq would be comical if the implications were not so serious. The aim of Bush and co., is not to introduce a genuinely democratic regime in Baghdad but to install a puppet government - as they have done in Afghanistan - which would be dependent upon Washington and therefore obedient to its will. Coming from George W Bush the attacks on the Iraqi dictatorship is the most blatant hypocrisy.

Bush and Blair weep crocodile tears about the lack of democracy in Iraq but apparently do not notice the lack of democracy in Saudi Arabia, one of their key allies in the region, where elections and free speech are unknown, women are not even allowed to drive a car and are stoned to death for adultery and thieves have their limbs amputated. And what about America's other main ally, Turkey?

The Turkish bourgeois regime has an appalling record on human rights. It has killed, tortured and imprisoned many thousands of trade unionists, slaughtered prisoners in their cells and has waged a bloody war against the Kurds for decades. Yet it is now preparing to take its place alongside America and Britain as part of the crusade for democracy and - the rights of the Kurds! This little detail is in itself a sufficient testimony to the moral bankruptcy and loathsome hypocrisy of the entire enterprise.

The argument that Saddam Hussein is a vicious dictator would carry more weight were it not for the fact that the USA and Britain have always known this and continued to support, finance and arm Saddam Hussein even when they knew he was bombing the Kurds with chemical weapons. In fact, a large part of his weaponry came from the USA and Britain, including supplies of deadly anthrax.

All history shows that US imperialism has no problem with supporting dictators, on condition that they support the aims and further the interests of the USA. The argument about democracy can therefore have no validity when it is advanced by these ladies and gentlemen. The task of overthrowing Saddam Hussein is the task of the Iraqi people, and nobody else.

The national question

The interests of the people of Iraq certainly do not enter into these equations. The imperialists are no friends of the people anywhere. Yet they sometimes use the national aspirations of peoples like the Kurds and Iraqi Shiites for their own purposes, but these peoples should never place their trust in the good will of the imperialists, who are utterly indifferent to their sufferings or interests.

Let us not forget that the Americans and British remained silent about the bombing of Kurdish civilians in Iraq with chemical weapons in the 1980s, though this was well documented in the press at the time. Their lucrative arms trade with Saddam Hussein came first and they showed not the slightest interest in the plight of the Kurds at that time.

In 1983 the present US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Saddam in Baghdad when he was launching gas attacks against Iranian soldiers. As long as he was killing Iranians, Saddam Hussein was regarded as a faithful ally. The Americans and British gave Saddam Hussein credit to buy arms and he was given all sorts of other military aid. In the same way, the USA also supported, armed and financed Bin Laden and the Taliban - as long as they were killing Russians. The US imperialists are directly responsible for creating these madmen whom they now demonise as terrorists and the Axis of Evil.

One year before the Gulf War, the US sent him communications helicopter engines, 21 batches of anthrax strains and hundreds of tons of deadly sarin nerve gas. They supplied information from their Saudi AWAX bases. Nor can the Americans and British plead ignorance. They knew all about the crimes of the dictatorship. Just before he crushed the Kurds at Halabja in 1988 London sent a government minister to Baghdad to discuss trade with Saddam. After he had killed 5,000 Kurds in a gas attack, they gave him an additional £340 million (UK pounds) in credit for trade deals and the Americans gave him an extra billion dollars.

Last December the US government confiscated the 12,000 page document submitted by Iraq on its weapons programme. The excuse was that it was "sensitive information" that needed "a little editing". The "editing" went so far that they only allowed a quarter of the original document to be made available to the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council!  The real reason was that they had to hide the fact that no fewer than 150 companies (American, British and others) had supplied Iraq with its nuclear, chemical and missile technology, frequently in illegal transactions like the "super-gun" scandal in Britain. They want to cover the tracks that would expose their complicity with the regime of Saddam Hussein and his weapons programme over a long period.

So all the protestations about the crimes of the Iraqi dictatorship are the most cynical hypocrisy. The planned invasion of Iraq has nothing whatsoever to do with democracy or humanitarianism. It is merely a cynical exercise in big power politics. As a matter of fact it was the British imperialists who first initiated the brutal policy of bombing Kurdish villages in the 1920s, and it is a matter of public record that in 1919 Winston Churchill (then the Secretary of State for War) advocated the use of mustard gas on what he called "uncivilized tribes" (i.e. Kurdish civilians). This was the first systematic bombing of civilians in history.

In 1991, after the Iraqi defeat, the Shiite population in southern Iraq were encouraged to rise up against the central power. But under the pressure of Saudi Arabia, which feared the growth of Shiite (and Iranian) influence in Iraq, the Americans stood aside and allowed Saddam Hussein's forces to butcher the Shiites. How can anybody argue that the imperialists care a damn about the fate of the national minorities in Iraq?

An American-led war of conquest in Iraq will not help the oppressed nationalities of that country. They will be manipulated and utilised to defeat the Iraqi forces on the ground and thus limit the number of American casualties (it is hoped…). But the day afterwards they will find themselves once more abandoned and betrayed.

Let us be clear about this: it is an act of betrayal to present this war of aggression as a means of attaining Kurdish self-determination. Turkey, the main US ally in the region, would never allow it. The Turkish bourgeoisie is not contemplating joining this war for the sake of democracy, and certainly not for the sake of the Kurds! It has its eyes on the oilfields of Kirkuk and Mosul, which the Kurds also claim. Ankara has made it plain that if the Kurds try to take the oilfields, the Turkish army will invade and crush them, with the Americans looking on.

We defend the right of the Kurdish people to have their own homeland, but point out that this is only possible through the revolutionary overthrow of the reactionary regimes in Baghdad, Teheran and Ankara. On a capitalist basis there can be no real solution to the Kurdish problem. The Kurds must unite with the working people of Turkey, Iraq and Iran in the fight for workers' and peasants' power. On the basis of a socialist federation, it would be possible to achieve an autonomous Kurdish Socialist Republic, with the fullest democratic and national rights - including the right to secede, if they so wished.

Those who argue that the only way to achieve national self-determination is by supporting imperialism against Baghdad are deceiving the people. This is a criminal and reactionary policy that will lead the Kurds and Shiites once more into a blind alley. There is no way out for the Kurds, Shiites and other peoples of the region on this basis.

A war without victims?

Since the US and British imperialists are meeting with unexpectedly fierce resistance at home, they are trying to convince public opinion that this will be just a little "surgical strike" directed exclusively at military targets. The civilian population will not suffer and will rush into the streets to greet their foreign "liberators" with tears in their eyes and bunches of flowers in their hands. However, as always, the distance between official propaganda and reality is abysmal.

Although it has not been publicised in the press, American and British aircraft have been bombing Iraq continually for more than ten years. Last year alone Britain spent four million pounds a week on these criminal activities. In the same period over a million Iraqi children have died as a result of the cruel sanctions that have crippled the economy and pushed a once prosperous nation into conditions of poverty and despair. Now, not content with this, Bush and Blair are preparing for a new and bloody onslaught.

The Americans are, of course, concerned to minimise casualties: that is to say, American casualties. They will therefore want to start, as usual, with a devastating bombing campaign to "soften up" (i.e., pulverise) Iraqi air defences, communications and headquarters before sending in American and allied forces to establish footholds within Iraq, as part of a campaign that US planners hope will "isolate" the leadership within rapidly tightening pockets. The plan envisaged four US divisions plus one UK armoured division and planners are working around two attack dates, one for early January and a second for late February. The British force will include the 7th Armoured Brigade - the Desert Rats - and up to 200 Challenger tanks, as well as elements of the SAS.

The real level of civilian casualties will be far higher than what is being suggested. In the first 48 hours alone, according to a leaked report from the Pentagon, 800 cruise missiles will rain down on Iraq. That is more than twice the total number of missiles launched in the whole 40-day campaign of 1991. All the talk about smart bombs is merely a device to fool public opinion into thinking that there will be next to no civilian casualties. That is nonsense. It is now common knowledge that the propaganda about "smart bombs" in Yugoslavia was designed to mislead public opinion.

The real aim of the invaders was revealed by the Pentagon spokesperson, who said that they intended to shatter Iraq "physically, emotionally and psychologically." A military strategist called Harlan Ullman has stated: "There will not be a safe place in Baghdad. The sheer size of this has never been contemplated before (…) You have this simultaneous effect rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but minutes." And George Bush says he is ready to use nuclear weapons in Iraq "if necessary". This is the ugly and brutal face behind the smiling mask of "humanitarian democracy."

The cost in human lives is likely to be horrific. A confidential report of the UN Health Organization, quoted by John Pilger in The Daily Mirror (January 29, 2003) estimates that "as many as 500,000 people could require treatment as a result of direct and indirect injuries." Moreover, the amount of death and suffering will be greater than those directly killed in the bombing.

After the last Gulf War the Americans and their allies left behind between 300 and 800 tons of depleted uranium-238 in anti-tank shells and other explosives on the battlefields of Iraq. The consequences of this for the Iraqi population were horrific. Depleted uranium causes cancer in the blood, bones and kidneys and it is emitted in clouds of tiny radioactive particles that can be breathed into the lungs. It is practically impossible to destroy and therefore large parts of Iraq are permanently contaminated by radioactivity.

Paediatricians in Basra have reported an increase of up to 1200 percent in the incidence of cancer and leukaemia in children since the last war. The number of defective births has doubled in the areas where depleted uranium was used. Babies are born with no eyes or no brain. This kind of thing was almost unheard of before 1991. Because of the monstrous sanctions imposed on Iraq after that war, the Iraqi doctors are unable to obtain anti-radioactive machines, antibiotics, chemotherapic drugs or other equipment needed to treat these children.

These effects were well known to the US experts since they were studied by them before the last war. This tells us all we need to know about the humanitarian sentiments of the leaders of our western civilization. Now they plan to inflict new horrors on the people of that unhappy country.

In recent months there has been a sharp increase in bombing of Iraqi targets - with an increase in missions in the northern and southern no fly zones by upwards of 40 per cent. This has already softened up anti-aircraft and anti-shipping missile facilities and command posts to the degree that troops could quickly force their way deep into Iraq. We already pointed out some time ago that the recent bombing of Iraqi targets represented the first shots in the war against Iraq. Now this has been confirmed. All the fussing about the UN was merely a smokescreen behind which Washington has been pressing on with its military preparations for invasion. In effect, the war has already begun.

Gangster methods

In the period of the degeneration of the Roman empire, the government was in the hands of corrupt and lawless emperors who behaved like ordinary bandits. The present day leading political representatives of the US ruling class are a gang of thugs, swindlers and corporate thieves who have brought their own brand of morals from the business world: the morals of the jungle that we saw in Enron we now see applied to the vast arena of world politics.

These people are ignorant parvenus, narrow and crude, like the class they come from. They lack the finesse of the old patricians - the Roosevelts and the Kennedys. In the past the latter did this kind of thing with greater skill. The mailed fist was usually hidden inside the velvet glove of diplomacy. Now it is brutally smashed on the table, and in people's faces. This has the advantage of demonstrating the real nature of imperialism to all those with eyes to see and brains to comprehend. Today's leaders are the money men and women, whose political vision goes no further than their bank balance and whose grasp of world politics goes no further than the crude employment of violence. More than one of them ought to be in gaol for corporate malfeasance. Instead they stand at the head of the most powerful nation on earth. Such is the spectacle presented by world politics in the first decade of the 21st century.

The conduct of the mafia clique in the White House closely resembles that of the medieval robber barons (the true historical forefathers of the mafia), but whereas the old robber barons were somewhat limited in scope by the primitive nature of their weapons and the limited size of their realms, our modern condottieri are armed with the most powerful arsenal of weapons of mass destruction ever seen in the history of the world. The tools of their trade are cynical power politics, backed up by gunboat diplomacy. They tear up treaties without batting an eyelid. They declare war on a country without even a pretext and retire to bed, where their sleep is untroubled by any qualms of conscience. These are the men and women who now hold the destinies of the world in their hands!

It is no accident that the leading clique in Washington are all oil men - and women. George W Bush, apart from being the son of oil magnate George Bush Senior is the founder of the Arbusto oil company, He is also a former shareholder in Spectrum 7 Energy, another oil company and a former Director of Harken Oil and Gas. His vice president Dick Cheney is a former CEO of Halliburton Industries and is involved in Unocal, Exxon, Shell and Chevron - a veritable telephone directory of big oil companies. And let us not forget Condoleeza Rice. She is a former director of Chevron Oil and Caspian Oil. She is so intimately involved in the oil industry that she even had an oil tanker named after her. This close connection with the big oil corporations undoubtedly plays a most important role in their calculations.

These imperialist brigands were just looking for a pretext to attack. Already the contractors and oil companies are preparing for the full-scale looting of Iraq. If they are prepared to give more time and play games in the UN, it is only because they need a little more time to get their troops into position. Of course, every ruling class in history requires an ideology to justify its actions. At the close of the middle ages the actions of the unscrupulous rulers who used every kind of method to seize power and hold it - assassination with poison or dagger, intrigue, plots and lies - found a very capable justification in the writings of Macchiavelli. Although they lack the profundity of the great Florentine, the army of hack writers, spin doctors and propagandists, the hired prostitutes of the ruling cliques in Washington and London have been hard at work inventing a thousand and one plausible-sounding reasons to justify the crucifixion of Iraq.

Contradictions in the imperialist camp

The American imperialists, who show complete contempt for world public opinion, find themselves isolated, except for Britain, but they are more or less indifferent to this. They know that their isolation will be temporary, that their dubious "allies" can be won over by a mix of bribery and threats. Senior US officials have made it clear that Resolution 1441 gave Washington a legal basis to go to war unilaterally if the Security Council could not agree on how to respond to further violations by Baghdad. The attack will therefore probably begin before the end of March, because the intense heat of the desert would cause serious problems after that.

In this adventure of US imperialism the British government is playing a contemptible role. London has now committed 40,000 troops - one third of the total strength of the British armed forces. Tony Blair is acting as the pet poodle of Washington, ready to jump whenever the Master gives the order. The ridiculous pretence that Britain is an equal partner to America is believed by nobody, not even by Blair himself. On the contrary, this slavish subservience to Washington is a clear reflection of Britain's subordinate position in world affairs. It has been reduced to a virtual satellite of US imperialism, with no will of its own.

It is clear that there are deep splits and contradictions between the different imperialist powers. The USA, France and Russia are all jockeying for position on the world stage and particularly in the Middle East. They are still squabbling over the precise mandate given by the Security Council to the effort to disarm Saddam. But these squabbles are really irrelevant. The time for diplomatic niceties has passed. The protests from Paris and Berlin have no effect. They will become quieter and quieter in the next few weeks. Already the Russians have changed their tune, and the French are in the process of changing theirs. After all, discretion is the better part of valour!

In fact, there was not much they could do about it, unless they wanted to go to war against the USA. Unilateral action by the USA would have exposed the complete impotence of the Security Council and called the bluff of Paris and Moscow. Faced with a fait accompli, the Russians have already cut a deal with Washington to give their backing to the invasion of Iraq in exchange for contracts, money and a bit of "understanding" for their little Chechen problem.

The Russians, therefore, having made a lot of noise, are performing an about-turn when the moment of truth arrives. They will have been offered some nice little concessions under the table, to reward them for their troubles. The French are a bit more complicated. They want to push their own role in the world and have interests in Iraq that do not fit in with America's plans. But they too will be made to understand that if they veto Washington's plans in the Security Council, the Americans and British will attack Iraq anyway, and they (the French) will be left humiliated (which is bad) and without any oil contracts (which is worse). They are also preparing to change their tune.

The Europeans are not more moral and peaceful than the Americans, only weaker. Their attachment to peace and diplomacy is because they lack the military hardware to impose their will American-style. The USA elbows its way through the world, pushing all opposition aside and imposing its positions by a mixture of bullying, threats and bribery. It is as if the world of The Godfather had been transported to the arena of world politics.

The UN stands exposed

There is none so blind as one who will not see. Despite all the evidence provided by their senses, there are some simple souls who still believe in something called international law. These well-meaning people are, incredibly, still willing to appeal to the United Nations to prevent war.

While the right wing reformists like Blair openly support imperialism, the left reformists are demanding that any force used against Saddam Hussein has to be sanctioned by the Security Council. They do not say "no to the war" but: "No war without the backing of the UN". The same people not long ago greeted the passing of resolution 1441 as a victory for peace! They try to claim that resolution 1441 does not speak of military action, only "inspection" and "disarmament"! They urged Saddam to co-operate with chief UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix. And so on, and so forth.

Those who had been beating the drum for the involvement of the UN in recent months got what they asked for. The UN voted for resolution 1441 that in practice paved the way for aggressive military action against Iraq and provided the USA with a convenient excuse for future aggression. The ink was not dry on the UN resolution than the terrible twins began a campaign on the lines that Saddam could not be trusted. Hours after it was passed by a unanimous vote Bush was already admonishing the Security Council not to "lapse into unproductive debates over whether specific instances of Iraqi non-compliance are serious".

In what way all this has served the cause of peace, it is impossible to say. Immediately after getting the endorsement of the UN for tougher action against Iraq George Bush accelerated planning for a massive military attack against Baghdad. Bush and Blair have repeatedly made it clear that any breach by Iraq could lead to immediate military action without a fresh Security Council resolution. Well before the Security Council's vote on Friday to disarm Iraq, Bush had approved a plan for the removal from power of Saddam Hussein.

The argument about the UN was not only naïve and short sighted but positively harmful. The vote in the Security Council was merely a smoke-screen, behind which the preparations for war continued at a feverish pace. While world public opinion was being diverted by the antics of the Security Council. Bush and his senior officials had already approved an outline of a plan involving a land attack on Iraq by upwards of 200,000 troops.

Long ago Lenin poured scorn on those who appealed to the League of Nations to "stop war". He described it as "that thieves' kitchen". But the UN is not one whit better than the League of Nations. Where the UN has intervened, as in Korea and the Congo, it has played an openly counterrevolutionary role. Things are no different in the question of Iraq.

The UN is not a neutral arbiter, but only a forum of capitalist powers that can sometimes reach a deal over secondary matters, but on fundamental questions cannot alter anything. The contrast between the supine inactivity of the UN in relation to Palestine and its open defence of the US's aggression against Iraq is glaringly obvious. The UN stands with its arms folded while Sharon butchers unarmed Palestinian civilians and brazenly defies its resolutions. Meanwhile George W Bush, who shows such great zeal in upholding the authority of the UN against Iraq, does not even mention the fact that Israel has been spitting on the UN for decades. On the contrary, he supports Sharon.

What all this shows yet again is the completely reactionary nature of the dis-United Nations, and the hopelessly utopian attitude of those "Lefts" and pacifists who always appeal to the UN to "defend peace". However, it is not inconceivable that the USA, through a combination of bribes and threats, could obtain a new resolution from the Security Council that would suit its purposes. 

The lesson of all this must be plain even to a blind man: just as there can be no impartial arbitration between the classes, so there can be none between the nations. It is therefore completely impermissible for socialists to have any illusions in the UN or to appeal to it under any circumstances. We condemn all attempts to make the fate of the Iraqi people conditional on the intrigues in the UN. Such nonsense only serves to confuse the issue and potentially provides an excuse for a war. We are completely opposed to any attack on Iraq - with or without the blessing of the Security Council.

Democracy and imperialism

The concentration of wealth and power into a few hands is an inevitable consequence of the present stage of imperialism and monopoly capitalism, when a handful of giant monopolies own and control the vast majority of the means of production.

The whole of world trade is controlled by no more than 200 giant corporations, the great majority of them American. All the important decisions are taken by the boards of directors of these big monopolies. Tiny groups of men and women, elected by nobody and responsible to nobody, decide the destinies of whole nations. They decide whether millions will work or be unemployed, will eat or starve, live or die.

Compared to this, the powers of elected governments is really insignificant. George W Bush is the president of the most powerful nation on earth, but in reality he is just the creature of the big monopolies whose interests he must serve. He does this willingly - if not always intelligently - because he himself is a member of the super-rich class of oil barons who constitute an essential part of the American oligarchy. His latest batch of tax cuts were heavily weighted in favour of the rich. In fact 45% of the total amount saved went to the richest 1% of the population.

All the talk about democracy is a hollow phrase behind which they wish to conceal the ugly reality of US monopoly capitalism and imperialism that seeks to dominate the whole world and force all countries to submit to its will.

On the lips of Bush and Blair "democracy" is just a pseudonym for the dictatorship of the big banks and monopolies, "peace" is just another word for the military domination of the USA and the disarming of its enemies, and "humanitarianism" is merely a fig leaf to justify the most brutal kind of military intervention.

In the epoch of imperialism, democracy is emptied of any real content. The really important decisions are taken outside parliament - by the boards of directors of the big companies. In the British parliament, power has passed from the parliament to the cabinet and from the cabinet to a tiny clique of unelected officials and advisers around Tony Blair. In the USA also power is in the hands of the camarilla around Bush. The same is true of all the other capitalist countries that claim to be democratic. Public opinion is treated with contempt. Only the Military-Industrial Complex and the big oil companies matter. But there is the beginning of a sea-change in the USA. The mass demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco even before the start of hostilities are a warning of things to come.

Everywhere democratic rights are under attack and the state apparatus is granted new and draconic repressive powers. Anti-terrorist laws are rushed through without question - laws that tomorrow can be used against the Labour Movement. In the name of the "war on terror" democratic rights are curtailed, and huge sums of money are voted for the security services, who demonstrated their complete ineptitude on September 11, yet whose actions nobody would now dare to question. The horrific treatment of unarmed prisoners in the US camp at Guantanamo Bay shows the cold calculated cruelty of the American imperialists. This amounts to the systematic torture, humiliation and ill-treatment of unarmed prisoners who have never been put on trial. All this is accepted without question by our "free press" because the prisoners are deemed to be terrorists.

We must fight against all attempts to limit democratic rights, especially the right to strike, protest and demonstrate - rights that were fought for and won by the Labour Movement in the teeth of resistance by the capitalists who now so glibly pose as "true democrats". In fact, the wealthy elite have always been the enemies of democracy and only tolerated it in a restricted and mangled form to the degree that they were compelled to do so by the pressure of the masses. The Labour Movement must on no account accept any restrictions on our democratic rights in the name of the so-called war on terror. We are interested in the widest extension of democratic rights because it provides the working class with the most favourable conditions for fighting to change society. However, we understand that none of these rights are safe as long as the land, the banks and the big corporations remain the private monopoly of a powerful oligarchy of the rich.

Propaganda and diplomacy

Before the outbreak of every war there is an avalanche of propaganda designed to confuse public opinion and justify aggression by demonising the enemy and shifting the blame onto the other side. It is necessary to follow the intricacies of international diplomacy and to discover the manoeuvres and interests that lie behind all the high-sounding phrases.

Probably at no time in history has there been such a degree of manipulation of the news as at present. Never has the freedom of the press sounded more hollow than at the present time. The mass media are being mobilised to support the war. In the USA the press has been generally subservient and manipulated by the White House press corps, which now constitutes a formidable apparatus. As the guns begin to roar, even those voices expressing doubts will be silenced.

In the age of imperialism, it is futile to expect that the press and the rest of the mass media will preserve its independence. In a situation where all the main newspapers are owned by a handful of media tycoons, the idea of editorial freedom evokes only a cynical smile. Those papers that offer a semi-opposition on secondary issues do so only to ensure that in the moment of truth they will come down firmly on the side of capitalism and imperialism on the really important questions.

It is the duty of advanced workers to take an interest in the twists and turns of diplomacy and try to see the real class interests defended by their own government. At all times we must remember that the main enemy is our own ruling class, and that under no circumstances can we trust the bourgeois to uphold the cause of peace, freedom and democracy in any part of the world.

If we accept the leadership of the bourgeoisie in international affairs, we will inevitably end up accepting the dictatorship of capital at home. Foreign affairs are only the continuation of domestic policy. War is only the continuation of normal politics by other means. We do not therefore have one policy for peace and another, completely different policy for times of war. In both war and peace we will implacably oppose the bosses and their state and fight to defend the interests and independence of the working class and its organisations.

The reformists will try to persuade us that it is necessary to halt the class struggle in time of war, "for the good of the nation" and to "support our troops". This is a cynical trick. Governments everywhere are cutting social expenditure on the grounds that "there is no money" to pay nurses, teachers and firefighters, no money to build schools, houses and hospitals or to pay decent pensions. Yet there is always plenty of money to build bombers and missiles and to invade Afghanistan or Iraq, just as is there is always plenty of money to pay scandalous sums of money to the corporate parasites and the shareholders of bankrupt companies.

We can have nothing to do with class collaboration either in war or peacetime. We will tell the truth to the working people: this war is a war exclusively in the interests of the oil barons, the military industrial complex and US imperialism. It is against the interests of the working class and the peoples of the world.

As for the troops, they are being shamefully asked to shed their blood for the profits of the oil corporations and arms manufacturers. The interests of the soldiers can only be served by an implacable struggle against imperialism and militarism. This is a priority for the labour movement at the present time.

Only the working people of all countries have no interest in wars and the oppression of one people by another. Capitalism inevitably produces imperialism and the struggle for foreign markets, raw materials territory and spheres of influence. Capitalism means war. The fight against war therefore is inseparable from the fight against capitalism, for the socialist transformation of society.

Capitalism means war

To approach war from a purely sentimental or pacifist standpoint is a futile exercise. It would be like a doctor who, instead of providing an accurate diagnosis and appropriate medicine, limited himself to weeping tears over the patient's symptoms. The patient may be grateful for this display of sympathy, but will not derive much benefit from it.

In order to conduct an effective struggle against war, it is first necessary to understand the causes of war, and this is only possible if we grasp the class interests behind wars. Lenin explained long ago that capitalism means war. In the present epoch of capitalist decline this is truer than when it was first written. The global crisis of capitalism expresses itself as general instability - economic, political and military.

Wars cannot be prevented by the UN or by pacifist appeals for peace. War can only be prevented by mass action and by the revolutionary struggle against imperialism and capitalism. Despite all the carefully laid schemes of the Pentagon, this conflict can yet produce many surprises. The US military planners want the war to be over quickly. They are banking on the quick capture of land, which would be used as bases to permit the penetration of American forces deeper into the country.

The reason for this approach is self-evident. The US is under pressure from the neighbouring countries, including Saudi Arabia to get this over with quickly and with the minimum of civilian targets. The massing of large numbers of US troops in the region is causing deep alarm in the pro-western Arab regimes, which fear the reaction of the masses.

White House and State Department officials are discussing what one senior official called a "seamless transition" from attack to a military occupation of parts of the country. They seem very confident - probably over-confident. But the bloody equation of war is full of imponderables, and nobody can predict the outcome with certainty. Napoleon pointed out long ago that war is the most complicated of all equations.

It is impossible to judge beforehand the morale of the Iraqi army and the masses. It is not clear how far the Iraqi people will be prepared to fight for the present regime. However, the Iraqis will be fighting a defensive war, not in Kuwait but in their own country. There is a hatred for American imperialism that can be expressed in a fighting spirit that may give the invaders some disagreeable surprises.

It will not be a simple matter to occupy a country like Iraq. This is understood by the clearer-sighted members of the general staff. The CIA is understood to have serious reservations about the whole business. If the Americans did not press home their advantage in 1991 by advancing to Baghdad this was not for any sentimental reasons but from fear of the consequences. Dick Cheney argued 12 years ago that it would be dangerous to invade Iraq. He may have a point. It is true that in the 1991 Gulf War the Iraqi army collapsed very quickly. But this time it is a different scenario.

Some US generals are already warning that if it comes to street by street fighting in Baghdad, American casualties could be high. The Iraqis will be fighting a defensive war on their own soil. In the case of Saddam Hussein and the leading clique, they will be fighting for survival. And although the Iraqis do not possess the quantities of weapons of mass destruction attributed to them by Bush, they may well possess enough weapons to cause some serious damage.

This does not mean that the USA will be defeated in Iraq. The colossal superiority of its firepower should be sufficient to guarantee victory, though at what price is not clear. All sorts of disagreeable surprises may await them. This was revealed in a most peculiar way in July of last year during the major war exercises known as Millennium Challenge - the biggest war game of all time, costing a trifling $250 million. In these exercises, based on the scenario of war in Iraq, the combined might of the US army was pitted against one man - Paul Van Riper, a retired marine Lieutenant general. The result - the US army was heavily defeated, with 15 ships "sunk" and 1,000s of soldiers "killed" before the exercise was hastily called off.

The question of morale is not all on one side. There is also the question of the morale of the America and British troops to consider. This is not a popular war, and even some Western officers have openly expressed their doubts about it. It was recently pointed out that 65 percent of British combat pilots were opposed to the war. If the loss of life is greater than expected (and this cannot be ruled out) it will have a serious effect on the morale of the US troops and, even more importantly, in the USA itself. Bush's gamble is a risky one and may still turn out to have been a serious miscalculation.

Even in the case of a US victory, the problems will have only begun. Wars have often been the midwife of revolution in the past, and will be in the future. The monstrous acts of aggression perpetrated by US imperialism will undoubtedly have serious consequences that are unforeseen by their perpetrators. Whatever the result of the immediate military conflict (which is also unpredictable), chaos will ensue.

The invasion of Iraq will have far-reaching consequences in the whole of the Middle East. The pro-western Arab regimes like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are terrified that a war in Iraq could light the fuse that would bring the masses onto the streets of Amman and Cairo and lead to the overthrow of these rotten and corrupt regimes. Therefore they hope there will be no war. This, however, is a vain hope.

Already the workers and youth of the Arab countries are mobilising against imperialism. However, this is not enough. For the last 50 years the enormous potential of the Middle East and North Africa has been wasted by corrupt bourgeois regimes which are really only the local office boys of imperialism. All the colossal sacrifices of the masses in the struggle for national liberation in the past have led to nothing. The Arab world is more dependant on imperialism today than at any time in the past. It is time for a change of course! The anti-imperialist revolution can only succeed by transforming itself into an anticapitalist struggle of the workers and peasants to overthrow the Arab monarchs, landlords and capitalists.

The enormous oil wealth and economic potential of this vast area can only reach its full potential in a socialist federation of the countries of the Middle East and North Africa. The Balkanisation of the Arab world renders it weak and defenceless against imperialism. The socialist revolution will sweep away the artificial boundaries that separate millions of people with a common language, history and culture, and create the conditions for a flourishing economy and culture. Only a socialist federation can solve the problems faced by Palestinians, Jews, Kurds, Copts, Druzes, Armenians, Amazigt [Berbers] and other peoples of this land. Capitalism has failed all the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa. Only socialism can offer them a way out.

"Guns before butter!"

As the slide towards war acquires an irresistible character, the stock markets of the world are registering steep falls. Oil prices are rising and will rise still further. Investors are nervous. Unemployment is set to rise still further. The dreams of an early recovery of the world economy are indefinitely postponed. The economic crisis means that tax revenue is falling and budget deficits are growing. The huge expenditure on the war will therefore have to be paid for with a new round of cuts in public spending, which will be paid for by the workers and the middle class.

To the complaints of the population, the imperialist governments have a ready reply: "These are harsh and difficult times. We must all be prepared to make sacrifices in the national interest." By this they have in mind the interests of the banks and big corporations that own and control every nation. The wealth of the nation, they explain, is not unlimited. We must make some very hard choices, and we shall not shirk in our duty to do so. However, the profits and bonuses of the rich are sacred: they must not be touched! The "hard choices" will affect the poorest sections of society only.

This means, in other words, "guns before butter". Using the terrorist threat as a convenient excuse, they are all engaged in a colossal and monstrous programme of rearmament. The sums of money involved in this deadly game are truly staggering. Thus, the argument that "there is no money" for the things the people need is seen to be entirely false.

The right wing accuse the Marxists of wanting to leave the nation undefended. This is entirely false. We are not pacifists and accept the need for an army. But the kind of army needed to defend our interests need not be the swollen monster that is the standing army of most modern nations.

The present level of arms is not to "defend the nation", but its purpose is intended for imperialist plunder and prestige, as well as a means of boosting the profits of the giant arms companies. It engenders a bloated and parasitic bureaucracy that now absorbs a huge and growing part of the wealth created by the working class in every country. The amount of money wasted on arms is truly staggering.

The 1991 Gulf War cost Britain alone between £2.5 and £3 billion (pounds sterling) at today's prices. Then Britain was able to pass most of the bill to other allies. Now Gordon Brown, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer [Treasury], has set aside £1 billion to cover the cost of the coming war on Iraq. But experts have calculated that in the case of a lengthy conflict the figure could reach as much as £5 billion. To give an idea of their priorities, this amount of money could boost much needed spending on health by 7 percent.

Since the end of WWII the USA has spent a staggering 19 trillion dollars on arms. If one were to spend 26 million dollars every day for the last 2,000 years, this still would be less than the Americans have spent on arms since 1945. The amount spent in this way by America would be enough to transform the living standards of the peoples of the whole world. This detail alone shows the rotten and reactionary nature of capitalism in its period of senile decay.

The main aim of the militarists is not to defend the nation but to create a monstrous and oppressive state machine designed for foreign wars with capitalist rivals. This is part and parcel of the capitalist system, and one of its main "overheads". The workers and the middle class are expected to pay for this vast and bloated machine and the expensive toys the generals play with, with no questions asked. But this vast and very costly machine proved singularly ineffective on September 11 and ever since has been engaged in activities that, far from reducing the risk of new terrorist outrages, have greatly increased it.

The argument about the "war on terror" answers itself. What use is a huge army with nuclear missiles and aircraft carriers against a small band of fanatics armed with knives and cardboard cutters? No use at all.

Likewise, the unprovoked aggression against Iraq has nothing to do with the "war on terror" but everything to do with the ambitions of the USA to achieve complete global domination and a monopoly control of the oil wealth of the whole Middle East. Our attitude to such a war is very clear: outright and active opposition.

Not a penny, not a soldier, not a bullet for the imperialist war in the Gulf! No to wasteful arms expenditure. Instead, we demand: a large scale programme of useful public works. More spending on houses, schools, hospitals and pensions!

For the immediate nationalization of the arms industry and the confiscation of the profits of the arms manufactures.

For a nationalized planned economy under the democratic administration and control of the working class.

Against imperialism, militarism AND capitalism!

One thing, however, is absolutely certain: this war is not in the interests of anyone except the imperialists and the big oil companies that stand behind the White House clique. Even in the USA things will not be so simple as Bush now thinks. If the US army begins to take serious casualties, what mood there is in favour of war will swiftly evaporate. The present electoral successes will then soon turn into their opposite. There is no great enthusiasm in the USA for this war, but rather a state of reluctant acquiescence. That is the position even before the first shot is fired. As events unfold, opposition will grow.

In other countries, the mood is one of outright opposition. In Britain there is very little support for the war outside Blair's small clique, which is completely out of touch with the real mood in the country. In most European countries there is open hostility that can grow into a serious anti-war movement in the coming months.

Every true socialist, every class conscious worker and trade unionist, every young person who wants to fight for a better world, must join in the most active and militant struggle against this unjust imperialist war. It is necessary to create the broadest possible mass movement against imperialism and militarism. It is necessary to oppose the monstrous aggression against the people of Iraq by all means at our disposal.

A key priority is the formation of action committees against the war in every town and city, drawing in trade unionists, socialists, communists, youth activists, students, immigrants and every person who is willing to wage a consistent and militant struggle.

Let us unite to organise a massive campaign of agitation against the war, with demonstrations, pickets, leafleting and mass meetings in every workplace, school and college. Let the voice of the people be heard!

We must denounce every attempt of the imperialists to use facilities in different countries for their aggressive plans. The campaign in Belgium to expose the use of the ports for warships is a good example of what can be done. This example must be followed up in other countries. The initiative of the Spanish Students Union to call for a united struggle of the students of all countries to oppose the war must be supported and publicised everywhere.

Above all we must strive to win the support of the labour movement for the anti-war campaign. Resolutions must be passed in every trade union branch and shop stewards committee demanding that the unions oppose the war. Where possible, we should raise the question of strikes against the war. This question should be placed on the agenda and discussed in the workplaces.

Where a bold lead is given, and the issues clearly explained, the workers will respond. Already we have seen the courageous stand of two train drivers in Britain who have refused to move material destined for the war. This is an important symptom of the mood that is developing in the class.

The launching of a campaign inside the Labour Movement is particularly important in Britain, where the mood of the public is overwhelmingly against the war and the warmongering policies of Blair - Bush's poodle. The disgraceful conduct of Blair and his camarilla of right wing backwoodsmen has outraged the Labour Movement. Already, even before the first shot has been fired, 49 Labour MPs have voted against the government.

We must fight against the war, but we must do so with the correct methods, tactics and policies: the tactics of the workers' movement, the policies of socialism and internationalism that links the struggle against world imperialism with the perspective of the socialist transformation of society at home and abroad.

Oppose this criminal war!
Down with imperialism and capitalism!
No war but the class war!

By Alan Woods and Ted Grant
London, February 6, 2003 

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