In New York and the world over: capitalism sows death

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We know now that the attack on New York has left more than 6,000 dead. Over and above the mere figure - appalling enough in itself - the destruction of the World Trade Centre marks a turning point in history whose full implications we cannot yet measure. It is the first attack on American territory since Pearl Harbour in 1941. The first bombardment of continental America in history. The first bomb attack on a major industrial country since World War II. It is a real act of war, as the media put it. And like all acts of war, it is an abominable crime visited on a defenceless civilian population. As always, the working class was the main victim of this act of war. The cleaners, secretaries, maintenance and office workers who constituted the vast majority of the dead were our people.

We deny any right to the hypocritical bourgeoisie and its hired media to weep over the murdered workers. The ruling capitalist class is already responsible for too many massacres: the awful slaughter of World War I; World War II, more terrible still, when for the first time the civilian population was the main target. Let us remember what the bourgeoisie has shown itself capable of: the bombing of London, Dresden, Hamburg, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the millions of dead in the concentration camps and the gulags.

Let us remember the hell visited on the civilian population and the routed Iraqi army during the Gulf War in 1991, and its hundreds of thousands of dead. Let us remember the daily bloodletting that is still going on in Chechnya, with the complicity of the Western democratic states. Let us remember the complicity of the Belgian, French, and US states in the Algerian civil war and the horrible pogroms in Rwanda.

And let us remember that the Afghan population, today living in terror of America's cruise missiles, has suffered twenty years of uninterrupted warfare which has left two million refugees in Iran, another two million in Pakistan, more than a million dead, and half the population dependent on food supplied by the UN and other NGOs.

These are just some examples among many of capitalism's filthy work, in the throes of an endless economic crisis and its own irremediable decadence. A capitalism at bay.

The attack on New York was not an "attack on civilisation". On the contrary, it was itself the expression of bourgeois "civilisation".

Now, with unspeakable hypocrisy, the ruling class of this rotting system stands before us, its hands still dripping with the blood of the workers and the wretched of the earth murdered by its bombs, and it dares to pretend to weep for the deaths for which it is responsible.

Today's campaigns against terrorism by the Western democracies are particularly hypocritical. Not only because the destruction visited on civilian populations by these democracies' state terror is a thousand times bloodier than the worst terrorist attack (the millions of dead in the wars in Korea and Vietnam, to mention only those). Not only because, on the pretext of fighting terrorism, these democracies are joining hands -amongst others - with Russia, whose acts of war against its own civilian population in Chechnya they have denounced a thousand times. Not only because they have never hesitated to use coups d'Etat and bloody military dictatorships to impose their interests (the US in Chile for example). They are hypocrites also because they have never denied themselves the right to use the terrorist weapon and to sacrifice civilian lives, if these methods could serve their interests of the moment. Let us remember just a few examples drawn from recent history:

  • During the 1980s, Russian aircraft shot down a Korean Air Lines Boeing in Soviet Union airspace; it emerged afterwards that the aircraft's deviation from its normal route had been arranged by US military intelligence, in order to study the USSR's reaction to an incursion over its territory.

  • During the Iran-Iraq war, the US shot down an Iranian civilian airliner over the Persian Gulf. It was a warning to the Iranian state not to try to spread the war to the Gulf emirates.

  • During its nuclear weapons tests on the Pacific island of Mururoa, the French secret service sent its agents to New Zealand to mine and sink the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior.

  • During the 1970s, a terrorist bomb in Bologna station which killed a hundred people, was at first attributed to the Red Brigades, before it was discovered that in fact it had been planted by the Italian secret police. The latter were inextricably tied to a mafia-style movement around the Gladio network set up by the US throughout Europe, and which was also suspected of a series of bloody attacks carried out in Belgium.

  • During the civil war in Nicaragua, the Reagan government delivered arms and money to the Contra guerrillas. The action was illegal, and had to be hidden from the US Congress. It was paid for by arms sold illegally to Iran, and by the proceeds of CIA drug trafficking.

  • The very democratic Israeli state - already responsible for the slaughter of Palestinian refugees in the camps of Sabra and Chatila - is at this very moment conducting a campaign of assassination and terrorist attacks in Palestinian territory, against the leaders of Fatah, Hamas, and others.[1]

It is impossible to say with certainty today whether Ossama Bin Laden really is responsible for the attack on the Twin Towers, as the US state accuses him of being. But if the Bin Laden theory does turn out to be true, then this is really a case of a petty warlord escaping from the control of his former masters. Bin Laden is not just some fanatical terrorist overfed on Islam. On the contrary, his career began as a link in the chain of American imperialism during the war against the USSR in Afghanistan. Scion of one the richest families in Saudi Arabia, closely linked to the Saudi royal family, Bin Laden was recruited by the CIA in Istanbul in 1979. "War had just broken out in Afghanistan, and Istanbul was the conduit chosen by the Americans for passing volunteers through to the Afghan resistance. Bin Laden was first responsible for logistics, then became the financial intermediary for the arms trade, jointly financed by the US and Saudi Arabia to the tune of about $1.2 billion every year. In 1980, he arrived in Afghanistan where he remained almost until the departure of the Russians in 1989. He was responsible for sharing out the money among the different factions of the resistance: a key and eminently political role. At the time, he enjoyed complete support of both the Americans and the Saudi regime, through his friend Prince Turki bin Faisal, the king's brother and the head of the Saudi secret service, as well as of his family. He changed 'clean' to 'dirty' money, and then the reverse" (Le Monde, 15th September). According to the same paper, Bin Laden also set up a network of opium traders, together with his friend Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the Hezb-e-Islami and also supported by the Americans. Those who today are denouncing each other as "the great Satan" and "number one world terrorist" as if they were irreconcilable foes, are in reality the inseparable allies of yesterday.[2]

The general framework

Revolutionaries and the working class need to go beyond the disgust we feel at the murders in New York, and the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie when it denounces them. We need to understand the reasons for the massacre, if we are not to remain mere spectators terrified by the event. Against the bourgeois media, which tells us that the fault lies with fundamentalism, "pariah states", or "fanatics", we reply that it is the entire capitalist system that is really responsible.

For us[3], the beginning of the last century was marked by the entry of capitalist society world-wide into its period of decadence. By the 1900s, capitalism had completed its historic mission: the integration of the entire planet into one world market; the elimination of old power structures (feudal, tribal, etc) has laid the basis for the construction of a truly human community for the first time in history. At the same time, the productive forces' arrival at this stage of development meant that capitalist relations of production became a barrier to their further development. Capitalism could no longer be a progressive system. It had become a straitjacket for society.

The decadence of a social form never opens a historic period of mere decline or stagnation. On the contrary, the conflict between productive forces and relations of production can only be a violent one. Historically, this is what happened during the decadence of the slave economy of the Roman Empire, marked by convulsions, foreign and civil wars, and barbarian invasions, until the rise of new, feudal relations of production allowed the blossoming of a new form of society. In the same way, the decadence of the feudal mode of production was marked by two centuries of destructive war, until the bourgeois revolutions (in particular in England in the 17th century, and in France in the 18th) demolished the power of the feudal lords and absolute monarchs, opening the period of domination by the capitalist bourgeoisie.

The capitalist mode of production is the most dynamic in human history, only surviving through a continuous overthrow of existing production techniques and - still more important - through a continual expansion of its field of action. Still less than any other mode of production, could capitalism's decadence be a period of peace. Materially, capitalism's entry into decadence was marked by two gigantic and opposing events: the First World War, and the 1917 workers' revolution in Russia.

With the war of 1914, the confrontation between great imperialist powers would no longer take the form of limited wars, or conflicts in far-off countries during the rush for colonies. Henceforth, imperialist conflicts would be world-wide, incredibly bloody and destructive.

With the revolution of October 1917, the Russian proletariat succeeded for the first time in history in overthrowing a capitalist state; the working class revealed its nature as a revolutionary class, capable of putting an end to the barbarity of war and opening the way towards the formation of a new society.

In its Manifesto, the Third International - created in 1919 with the precise aim of leading the proletariat on the road to world revolution - declared that the period opened up by the war was that of capitalist decadence, the "period of wars and revolutions" when - as Marx put it in the Communist Manifesto - the choice is posed between the victory of the revolution and "the common ruin of the contending classes". The revolutionaries of the Communist International believed that the choice lay between victory, or a descent into hell for all of human civilisation.

They certainly could not imagine the horrors of World War II, the concentration camps, the atomic bomb. Still less could they imagine the unprecedented historic situation we find ourselves in today.

Just as the war of 1914 marked capitalism's entry into its period of decadence, the collapse of the Russian bloc in 1989 marked its entry into a new phase of that decadence: the phase of capitalism's decomposition. The Third World War, under preparation since the end of the Second in 1945, has not happened. Since May 1968 in France, and the biggest strike in history, a succession of workers' struggles shook the main capitalist countries until the end of the 1980s, showing that the world proletariat, and above all the proletariat in the heartlands of the capitalist system, was not prepared to go to war as they did in 1914, or even as in 1939. But although the working class refused the war implicitly, it was unable to raise itself to an awareness of its real place in capitalist society, and of its role as capitalism's gravedigger. One of the most striking examples of this difficulty, is the inability of today's communist groups to be anything more than tiny, scattered groups, without any significant echo inside the working class.

The menace of world war between two imperialist blocs has disappeared, but the danger for humanity remains as great as ever. Capitalism's decomposition is not just another phase, to be succeeded by others. It is the final phase of decadence, which can only have one of two outcomes: either the victory of the proletarian revolution and the passage to a new form of human society, or an ever more rapid fall into the infinite barbarity already suffered by many underdeveloped countries, and which has just struck for the first time at the very heart of bourgeois society. This is what is at stake today.

The disappearance of the Russian bloc has not put an end to imperialist rivalry, far from it. On the contrary, it has allowed the open expression of the imperialist ambitions, not just of the old European great powers, but also of secondary regional powers, right down to the smallest countries and the most petty warlords.

In 1989, President Bush announced the end of the conflict with the "Evil Empire", promising us a new era of peace and prosperity. In 2001, the USA is struck to the heart for the first time in its history and Bush's son, president in his turn, is proposing a crusade of "good against evil" which will last until "the eradication of all terrorist groups with a world reach". On 16th September Donald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of Defence, repeated that this will be "a long, far-reaching, and sustained effort", which will extend over "not just days or weeks, but years" (quoted in Le Monde, 18th September). We are thus faced with a war whose end not even the ruling class claims to see. Gone is the celebration of ten years of American "prosperity", its place taken by the "blood, sweat and tears" that Winston Churchill promised the British people in 1940.

The situation that we are facing today confirms word for word the resolution adopted by our 14th Congress[4] in the spring of this year: "the fragmentation of the old bloc structures and disciplines unleashed national rivalries on an unprecedented scale, resulting in an increasingly chaotic struggle of each against all from the world's greatest powers to the meanest local warlords (?) The wars characteristic of the present phase of capitalist decomposition are no less imperialist wars than the wars of previous phases of decadence, but they have become more widespread, more uncontrollable, and more difficult to bring to even a temporary close (?) [the capitalist states] are all caught up in a logic which escapes their control and which makes less and less sense even in capitalist terms, and this is precisely what makes the situation facing mankind so dangerous and unstable".

Who profits from the crime?

As of the time of writing, nobody - no state, no terrorist group - has admitted to the attacks. It is nonetheless evident that these demanded a lengthy preparation and significant material means. The debate among specialists remains open as to whether they could have been the sole work of a terrorist group, or whether the extent of the action required the involvement of some state's secret service. All the public declarations of the US authorities point at Ossama Bin Laden's Al Qaida organisation, but should we necessarily take these declarations at face value?[5]

Without any really concrete elements to hand, and with the limited confidence we can accord the bourgeois media, we are therefore obliged to follow the good old method of any detective worthy of the name, and look for a motive. Who profits from the crime?

Could another great power have organised the coup? Could a European state, or even Russia or China, its ambitions overshadowed by the US superpower, have tried to deal a blow at the heart of the United States and so discredit its superpower image in the world? At first sight, such a thesis seems to us unbelievable. The results have been all too predictable: a reassertion of the US' determination to strike militarily wherever they please on the planet, and of its ability to draw all the other powers in their wake, willy nilly.

Then there are the so-called "pariah states" such as Iraq, Iran, Libya etc. Here again, these seem to us unlikely culprits. Apart from the fact that these states are always less "pariahs" than we are led to believe (for example, the present Iranian government is rather favourable towards a rapprochement with the US), it is obvious that they would run an enormous risk if ever the crime were discovered. They would be threatened with complete military obliteration, for an advantage which seems highly uncertain.

In the Middle East, Israelis and Palestinians accuse each other of terrorist involvement. We can eliminate straight away the Palestinian hypothesis: Arafat and his cronies know very well that only the US prevents Israel from wiping out their runt of a state, and for them the attack on New York has been an unmitigated disaster immediately discrediting in US eyes everything Arab. By the same reasoning, in reverse, we might consider the Israeli trail - an attack aimed at showing the world, and especially the US, that it is time to finish with the "terrorist" Arafat: Mossad[6] would certainly be capable of organising the crime, but it is difficult to imagine Mossad operating on this scale without the acquiescence of the United States.

Perhaps America's accusations are justified, and the attacks are the crime of a group somewhere in the enormous nebula of terrorist groups festering in the Middle East and around the world. In this case, it would be much more difficult to determine the motive, since these groups have no easily identifiable state interests. Moreover, even if the Al Qaida group turns out to be guilty, this does not necessarily clarify anything: the disintegration of the capitalist economy has for years been accompanied by the development of a huge parallel black economy based on drugs, prostitution, the arms trade and the smuggling of refugees. The austere Taliban regime has not - far from it - prevented Afghanistan from becoming the world's main supplier of opium and heroin. In Russia the entrepreneur Berezovsky, an intimate friend of the Yeltsin clique, has barely disguised his business links with the Chechen mafia. In Latin America, leftist guerrillas like the Colombian FARC finance their armies through the heroin trade. Everywhere, states manipulate these groups in their own interests. And this has been going on since at least the 1939-45 war, when the American army took the Mafia gangster Lucky Luciano out of prison to prepare the landing of Allied troops in Sicily. Nor is it to be excluded that certain secret services could act on their own initiative, independently of their governments.

Our last hypothesis might seem completely "crazy": that the American government, or a fraction within the CIA for example, might have, if not actually prepared the attacks at least have provoked them and let them come to fruition without intervening[7]. It is true that the damage done to the United State's credibility world-wide, and to the economy, seem so enormous that such a theory is barely imaginable.

Nonetheless, before putting it completely to one side, it is worth making a more detailed comparison with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour (a comparison which has frequently been made in the press), and to take a short historical detour.

On 8th December 1941, Japanese aircraft attacked the American base of Pearl Harbour, in Hawaii, where almost the entire US Pacific fleet was stationed. The attack took the military authorities of the base completely by surprise and caused massive damage: most of the ships at anchor were destroyed, along with more than half the aircraft, 4,500 American servicemen were killed; the Japanese lost only 30 aircraft. Before the attack, most of the US population were opposed to entering the war against the Axis powers, and the isolationist fraction of the American represented by the "America First Committee" had a powerful, if not a dominant influence. The "cowardly and hypocritical" Japanese attack silenced all reticence. President Roosevelt, who had been in favour of entering the war from the outset and had done everything possible to support the British war effort, declared: "We are forced to realise that modern war, conducted in the Nazi style, is a disgusting business. We did not want to enter the war. We are in it, and we will fight with all our strength". Henceforth, he was able to build an unfailing national unity around his policies.

After the war, the Republican Party[8] backed a far-reaching inquiry to find out why US forces had been taken so completely by surprise. From the inquiry, it emerged clearly that political authorities at the highest level had been responsible for the Japanese attack and its success. On the one hand, in the US-Japanese negotiations which were being conducted at the time of the attack, the US side had imposed unacceptable conditions on the Japanese, in particular an embargo on US oil exports on which the Japanese economy was largely dependent. On the other, although the authorities were well aware of Japanese military preparations (thanks to their possession of the Japanese military codes, and their interception of the radio messages of the Japanese high command), they never passed on this information to the commanders of the Pearl Harbour base. Roosevelt went so far as to disown Admiral Richardson, who had opposed the regroupment of the entire Pacific fleet in the same base. The only ships absent from the base were the three aircraft carriers normally stationed there, which had left port a few days earlier, and which were to prove by far the most important during the war. In fact, most serious historians today consider that the US government deliberately provoked the attack on Pearl Harbour in order to justify the US' entry into the war, and to rally the entire population and the other sectors of its own bourgeoisie behind the war effort.

It is difficult today to say who is responsible for the attack on New York and in particular whether it is a new version of the attack on Pearl Harbour. But what we can say without any doubt, is that the United States are the first to profit from it, demonstrating an impressive ability to take advantage of their own reversals.

How the United States profits from the situation

The Economist explains it very succinctly: The coalition that America has assembled is extraordinary. An alliance that includes Russia, the NATO countries, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the other Gulf states, with the tacit agreement of China and Iran, would have been inconceivable on 10th September.

For the first time in its history, NATO has invoked article 5 of the Atlantic Treaty, obliging all the member states to give assistance to any state attacked by a foreign power. Even more extraordinary, Russia's President Putin has agreed to let Russian bases be used for "humanitarian" operations (like the "humanitarian" bombing of Kosovo no doubt), and has even offered logistical help; Russia is no longer opposing the use of bases in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan for American military strikes on Afghanistan: US and British troops are already present on the ground, giving their aid to the Northern Alliance, the only Afghan opposition with forces still in the field.

Obviously none of this is disinterested. Russia intends to profit from the situation to silence any criticism of its bloody war in Chechnya, and to cut off supplies delivered to the rebels from Afghanistan (which the Pakistani Inter Service Intelligence is certainly involved in). Uzbekistan has welcomed American forces as a means to put pressure on its overbearing Russian neighbour.

As for the European states, their support for the US has been reluctant and each of them intends to preserve its freedom of action. For the moment, only the British bourgeoisie has demonstrated a total and military solidarity with the USA, with a force of 20,000 men already on exercises in the Persian Gulf (the biggest operation of its kind since the Falklands War) and the despatch of elite SAS units to Uzbekistan. Although the British bourgeoisie has distanced itself somewhat from the United States in recent years, with its support for the creation of a European rapid reaction force able to act independently of the Americans, and its naval co-operation with the French, its own history in the Middle East and its vital historic interests in the region oblige it today to line up behind the US. Like the others, Britain is playing its own game, but in this case the game demands a faithful co-operation with the Americans. As Lord Palmerston said in the 19th century: "We have neither eternal allies, nor permanent enemies. We have only eternal interests, which it is our duty to defend" (quoted in Kissinger, Diplomacy). This has not prevented Lord Robertson, the current NATO General Secretary, from insisting on the independence of each member state: "It is clear that there is a solemn moral obligation on each state to offer its assistance. That will depend both on what the state under attack decides is appropriate, and also on the way in which the member states consider that they can contribute to the operation" (Le Monde, 15th September). France is a good deal more equivocal: for the Defence Minister Alain Richard, NATO's principles "of mutual defence will be applied [but] each nation will do so with the means it judges appropriate"; while "military action may be one tool for dealing with the terrorist threat, there are others". "Solidarity does not mean blindness" adds Henri Emmanuelli, a leading figure in the governing French Socialist Party.[9] President Chirac took the opportunity of his visit to Washington to make it absolutely clear that "We can of course consider military action, but only insofar as we have decided jointly on the objectives and the methods of an action whose aim is to eliminate terrorism" (quotations drawn from Le Monde, 15th and 20th September).

There is nonetheless a difference between the situation today and that of the Gulf War in 1990-91. Eleven years ago, the Alliance brought together by the United States included the armed forces of several European and Arab states (Saudi Arabia and Syria in particular). Today by contrast, the US has indicated that it intends to act alone on the military level. This gives us some idea of how far both their diplomatic isolation and their distrust of their own "Allies" has increased since the last war. Of course, they will force the others to support them, in particular by making use of their intelligence services, but they will tolerate no hindrance to their own military action.

We can point out another way that the dominant fraction of the US bourgeoisie is taking advantage of the situation. There has always existed an "isolationist" fraction within the American bourgeoisie, which holds that the country is adequately protected by the oceans, and sufficiently wealthy, not to involve itself in the world's affairs. It was this fraction that resisted US entry into World War II, and which Roosevelt reduced to silence - as we have seen - following the attack on Pearl Harbour. It is clear that this fraction no longer has any influence: Congress has just voted an extra $40 billion for defence and the "anti-terrorist" struggle, of which $20 billion can be spent entirely at the President's discretion. In other words, this represents a formidable strengthening of the power of the Federal State.

Why Afghanistan?

The American police and secret services have been remarkably rapid in pointing the finger at the presumed guilty party: Ossama Bin Laden and his Taliban hosts.[10] And long before it has been able to line up the slightest concrete proof, the American state has already designated its target and declared its intentions: to do away with the Taliban state. At the time of writing (and we can obviously expect the situation to have evolved significantly before this Review comes off the press), the press has announced that five British and American aircraft carriers are in the region or on their way, that US aircraft are landing in Uzbekistan, and that an attack in planned in the next 48 hours. When we compare this with the six months of preparation before the attack on Iraq in 1991, we can only wonder if it was not planned in advance. At all events, it is obvious that the US bourgeoisie has decided to impose its order on Afghanistan. Equally obviously, this is not to conquer the economic wealth or the markets of this exhausted country. So, why Afghanistan?

While the country has never been of the slightest interest from the economic point of view, a glance at the map is enough to understand its strategic importance during the last two centuries. Since the creation of the Raj (the British Empire in India) and throughout the 19th century, Afghanistan was a flash-point for the confrontation between British and Russian imperialism, in what was called at the time "The Great Game". Britain viewed with suspicion Russian imperialism's advance into the emirates of Tashkent, Samarkand, and Bokhara, and still more so towards Britain's sphere of influence in Persia (present-day Iran). Not without reason, the British considered that the final aim of the Tsar's armies was the conquest of India, from which they drew enormous profits and a great prestige. This is why they twice sent expeditionary forces into Afghanistan (the first suffered a humiliating defeat, losing 16,000 men with only one survivor).

During the 20th century, the discovery of enormous oil reserves in the Middle East and the growing dependence on oil of the developed economies - and above all of their armies - still further increased the Middle East's strategic importance. After World War II, Afghanistan became the regional lynch-pin for the armed confrontation between the two great imperialist blocs: the US brought together Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan in CENTO (the Central Treaty Organisation), Iran was stuffed with US radar stations, and Turkey became one of the most heavily armed countries in the Middle East. Pakistan received US support as a counter-weight to an India that proved too drawn to Soviet seduction.

The Islamic "revolution" in Iran withdrew the country from the American line-up. In 1979, Russia's invasion of Afghanistan, in an attempt to profit from this moment of American weakness, was thus a dangerous threat for the whole strategic position of the US bloc not only in the Middle East, but throughout Southern Asia. Unable to attack the Russian positions directly (in part due to the spectacular resurgence of workers' struggles with the massive strikes in Poland), the US intervened by guerrilla proxy. From then on the US, with the Pakistani state and its ISI as henchmen, supported what was doubtless the world's most backward "liberation" movement with the world's most advanced weapons. And to stay in the game, the British secret service and the French DGSE hurried to give their own aid to Massoud's Northern Alliance.

On the eve of the 21st century, two new events increased still further Afghanistan's strategic importance. On the one hand, the break-up of the Russian empire and the appearance of shaky new states (the "five Stans" - Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan - Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan) whetted the imperialist appetites of the second-rate powers: Turkey tried to build alliances with the new Turkish-language states, while Pakistan played on the Taliban government to reinforce its influence and gain strategic depth in its undeclared war with India in Kashmir, not to mention Russia's attempts to re-impose their military presence in the region. On the other hand, the discovery of important new oil reserves around the Caspian sea, especially in Kazakhstan attracted the attention of the great Western oil companies.

We do not have the space here to try to unravel all the rivalries and inter-imperialist conflicts which have shaken the region since 1989.[11] But to get some idea of the powder-keg surrounding Afghanistan, we need only list a few of the current conflicts and rivalries:

  • The absurd geography left by the disintegration of the USSR has left the region's richest and most densely populated area - the Ferghana valley - divided between Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, in such a way that none of these countries possesses a direct road from their capital to their most populous region!

  • After a five year civil war, the Islamists of the United Tajik Opposition have entered the government; however, it is suspected that they have not abandoned their ties to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (the largest guerrilla organisation), in particular the IMU has to pass through Tajikistan (and across its borders patrolled by Russian troops) in order to attack Uzbekistan from its bases in Afghanistan.

  • Uzbekistan is the only country to have refused the presence of Russian troops, and is therefore subject to all kinds of pressure from the Russians.

  • Pakistan has always supported the Taliban, including with the provision of 2,000 troops during the last offensive against the Northern Alliance. It hopes to gain "strategic depth" relative to Russia and India, and to continue profiting from the lucrative heroin trade, much of which passes through Pakistan and the sticky fingers of ISI generals.

  • China has its own problems with Uighur separatists in Xinjiang, but is also trying to extend its influence in the region through the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, regrouping the "five Stans" (except Turkmenistan, officially recognised as neutral by the UN) and Russia. At the same time, China is trying to remain on good terms with the Taliban, and has just signed an industrial and commercial agreement with their government.

Obviously, the USA is not remaining on the side-lines. They already support the unsavoury Uzbek government: "The U.S. military is familiar with Uzbekistan's military and the air base outside Tashkent. U.S. troops have participated in military training exercises with Uzbek, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz troops as part of the Centrazbat exercises held under NATO's Partnership for Peace Program. Several of those exercises took place at the Chirchik military base outside Tashkent. Uzbekistan has also been active in courting U.S. support since the country became independent in 1991, often at the expense of Uzbekistan's relations with Russia (?) During a visit to the region by then-secretary of state Madeleine Albright in 2000, the U.S. pledged several million dollars in military equipment to Uzbekistan, and U.S. special forces have trained Uzbek troops in counter-terrorism methods and mountain warfare" (www.eurasianet.org).

The United States are thus intervening in a veritable powder keg, supposedly to bring with them "Enduring Freedom". Obviously, we cannot today foresee what will be the end result. By contrast, the history of the Gulf War shows us that ten years after the end of the war:

  • the region is not at peace, since the conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians, between Turks and Kurds, between governments and fundamentalist guerrillas are as bitter as ever, while British and American planes are still bombing Iraq on a daily basis;

  • American troops are based in the region for the long term, thanks to their new bases in Saudi Arabia, and this presence has itself become a source of instability (as witness the anti-American terrorist attack in Dharhan, to mention but one).

We can therefore say with certainty that the intervention being prepared in Afghanistan will bring neither peace, nor liberty, nor justice, nor stability, but only more war and misery to stoke the fires of resentment and despair in the populations - the same despair that gripped the kamikazes of 11th September.

The crisis and the working class

Only days before the attack on New York, Hewlett-Packard announced its take-over of Compaq. The merger is intended to cut 14,500 jobs. This is only one example among many of the crisis which is deepening and preparing to strike the working class more and more heavily.

A few days after the attack, United Airlines, US Air, and Boeing announced tens of thousands of redundancies. Since then, their example as been followed by airlines and aircraft manufacturers throughout the world (Bombardier Aircraft, Air Canada, Scandinavian Airlines, British Airways, and Swissair just to mention the latest).

Better still, the ruling class has the gall to use the attack on the World Trade Centre as an explanation for the new crisis that is hammering the workers.[12] The explanation has an appearance of truth, since $6.6 trillion have gone up in smoke in the stock exchange crash that followed the 11th September. But in reality, the crisis was already there; the bosses were merely jumping on the opportunity. According to Leo Mullin, CEO of Delta Airlines, "even if Congress has approved an overall financial package for the industry, the extra liquidity has been calculated according to the loss of business due solely to the events of 11th September (?) In fact, demand is falling while running costs are increasing. Delta is therefore suffering from negative cash flow" (Le Monde).

The capitalist world is already in the grip of recession, which is of course expressed first and foremost by attacks on the working class. In the United States, between January and the end of August 2001, the number of unemployed has risen by more than one million. Giants like Motorola and Lucent, the Canadian Nortel, the French Alcatel, the Swedish Ericsson, have been laying off by the tens of thousands. In Japan, unemployment has risen from 2%, to 5% this year.[13] The startling rapidity of new announcements of job cuts (57,700 between 17th and 21st September in the US) show how the bosses have leapt on the pretext to put into operation redundancy plans that were already being prepared months ago.

Not only must the working class pay for the crisis, it must also pay for the war, and not only in the US where the bill already stands at $40 billion at least. All the European governments have agreed to increase their efforts to create a rapid reaction force which will give the European powers a capacity for independent action. In Germany, DM20 billion for restructuring the armed forces have still not found their way into the budget. Doubtless, room will soon be found for them. That bill too, the workers will have to pay.

The solidarity of national unity is decidedly a one-way street: from the workers, towards the ruling class! And the cynicism of the ruling class, which uses the workers' dead as a pretext for job cuts, knows no limits.

Today, as always, the working class is the first victim of war.

Victim first of all in its being, but above all victim in its consciousness. The working class is the only force capable of putting an end to this system that is responsible for the war; the ruling class uses the war to call, ever and again, for national unity. The unity of the exploited with their exploiters. The unity of those who are the first to suffer from capitalism with those who draw from it their pleasure and their privilege.

The first reaction of the proletarians of New York, one of the greatest working class cities on the planet, was not one of gung-ho chauvinism. First, there was the spontaneous reaction of solidarity towards the victims, as we saw in the queues to give blood, in the thousands of individual gestures of help and comfort. Then in the workers' districts, where the dead were mourned though they could not be buried, posters appeared with declarations: "Hate-free zone", "To live as one world is the only way to honour the dead", "War is not the answer". Obviously, such slogans are soaked in democratic and pacifist sentiment. Without a movement of struggle capable of giving rise to a powerful resistance to capitalism's attacks, and above all without a revolutionary movement able to make itself heard in the working class, this spontaneous solidarity can only be swept away in the immense wave of patriotism broadcast by the media since the attack. Those who try to refuse the logic of war risk being absorbed by pacifism, which always becomes the first warmonger when "the nation is in danger", as witness this individual declaration on the Willamette Week Online web site (www.wweek.com): "When a nation is under attack, the first decision must be whether to surrender or to fight. I believe there is no middle ground here: You either fight or you don't fight, and doing nothing amounts to surrender". For the ecologists, "Today the nation is united: we do not want to appear to be in disagreement with the government" (Alan Mettrick, spokesman for the Natural Resources Defence Council, 530,000 members, quoted in Le Monde, 28th September).

"World peace cannot be preserved by utopian or frankly reactionary plans, such as international tribunals of capitalist diplomats, diplomatic conventions on 'disarmament' (...) etc. It will be impossible to eliminate, or even to hold back imperialism, as long as the capitalist classes exercise their uncontested class domination. The only means to resist them successfully, and to preserve world peace, is the international proletariat's capacity for political action and its revolutionary will to throw its weight into the balance".

This is what Rosa Luxemburg wrote in 1915 ("Theses on the tasks of international Social-Democracy"), in the midst of one of the blackest periods humanity has ever known, when the proletarians of the most developed countries were slaughtering each other on the battlefields of imperialist war. Today too, the period is a terrible one, for workers and for those revolutionaries who keep flying the banner of the communist revolution, whatever the cost. But like Rosa Luxemburg, we are convinced that the alternative is socialism or barbarism, and that the world working class remains the only power able to resist barbarism and create socialism. With Rosa Luxemburg, we declare that the involvement of the workers in the war "is an assault, not on the bourgeois culture of the past, but on the socialist culture of the future, a lethal blow against that force which carries the future of humanity within itself and which alone can bear the precious treasures of the past into a better society. Here capitalism lays bear its death's head; here it betrays the fact that its historical rationale is used up; its continued domination is no longer reconcilable to the progress of humanity (...) The madness will cease and the bloody demons of hell will vanish only when workers (...) finally awake from their stupor, extend to each other a brotherly hand, and drown out the bestial chorus of imperialist war-mongers and the shrill cry of capitalist hyenas with labour's old and mighty battle cry: Proletarians of all lands, unite!" (Junius Pamphlet, 1915, published on www.marxists.org).

Jens, 3/10/2001


1 We could add that all states maintain "dirty tricks" sections in their secret services; when they don't use their own assassins, they are always ready to pay for the services of an independent operator.

2 In fact, according to the revelations of Robert Gates (previously boss of the CIA), the US did not merely respond to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, but deliberately provoked it by aiding the anti-Soviet Afghan opposition of the day. Interviewed by Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998, Zbigniew Brzezinski (ex-security adviser to President Carter) replied: "This secret operation was a great idea. It's effect was to draw the Russians into the Afghan trap, and you expect me to regret it? The day the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter words to the effect that: 'We now have the opportunity of giving Russia its Vietnam (?) What is more important in the eyes of world history? The Taliban or the fall of the Soviet empire?" (quoted in Le Monde Diplomatique, September 2001).

3 See our pamphlet on The Decadence of Capitalism.

4 Published in International Review n°106.

5 We can recall, for example, the trial of the Libyan secret service agents accused of perpetrating the Lockerbie bombing of a Pan Am airliner. Great Britain and the US have continued to insist that the Libyans be judged, even when the evidence suggested that Syria was responsible. But then at the time, the US was trying to win over the Syrians to support the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

6 The Israeli secret service.

7 We could also envisage the possibility that, in such a case, the CIA might not have been fully aware of the scale of what was being prepared.

8 Roosevelt was a Democrat.

9 Let us note in passing that the so-called French Communist Party has expressed no such reservations: on 13th September, the PCF national council observed two minutes silence to express its "solidarity with all the American people, to all the citizens of this great country, and to the leaders they have chosen". And what can we say about the headline of the Trotskyist paper Lutte Ouvrière: "You can't support wars all over the world without them coming back to hit you one day". Translation: "Assassinated American workers, it serves you right".

10 One cannot help wondering about this rapidity: a hired car discovered barely hours after the attack, with aviation manuals written in Arabic, when the pilots had been living for months, if not years, in the US and had completed their pilot's license there; the reported discovery in the ruins of the World Trade Centre of a passport belonging to one of the terrorists, which is supposed to have avoided destruction by the explosion of several hundred tons of kerosene?

11 In particular, we will not go into the constant conflicts over the construction of new oil pipelines to carry oil from the Caspian Sea to the developed countries. Russia is trying to impose a route through Chechnya and Russia to Novorossiisk on the Russian Black Sea coast, while the American government is promoting the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan route (ie Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey) which would completely sideline the Russians. We will simply note in passing that the US government has had to impose its choice against the will of the oil majors, who considered it too expensive and unprofitable.

12 Just as they did in 1974, when the crisis was supposed to be the fault of the rise in oil prices, the same explanation that was served up again in 1980. As for the crisis of 1990-93, it was supposed to be the fault of the Gulf War?

13 We should say that while this rate may seem relatively low compared to other developed countries, it shows the success of the Japanese state not so much in limiting unemployment as in fiddling the figures.

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