Defending a revolutionary position against war

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In January the ICC participated in an Anti-War Day School organised by Disobedience, which belongs to the same milieu as the No War But The Class War (NWBTCW) group in London. The group states in a broadsheet given out at the February 'Stop the War' demonstration that "To say No War But the Class War! means that we don't take sides between America and Iraq, Iraq and the Kurds, America and France...Rather we make sides, by asserting that the dispossessed, the workers, the poor of all nations have one enemy - the exploiters who dispossess them, who make them work, who make them poor". In the present circumstances, with the progression of wars in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and soon Iraq, the importance of even a small milieu opposing war on a working class basis should not be underestimated. For this reason we produced a contribution to the discussions at the Day School (see WR 261) emphasising the historical experience of the working class in opposition to war.

The most important point to come out of the experience of this Day School, is that only by drawing on the historic experience of the working class in its struggle against war, defended by the Left Communist groups, can we really put forward the perspective of a class opposition to imperialist war. This is because the intervention of these groups stems from a coherent platform that integrates the historical experience of the working class. Unfortunately there is a tendency in this milieu to cut all contact with the groups of the Communist Left, as shown by the fact that the London NWBTCW group will not give the dates or times or venue of its meetings to either WR or Sheffield No War But the Class War in which the Communist Workers Organisation has a major influence.

The danger of stunts

The intervention posed by the Disobedience group resolves itself largely into a discussion on 'stunts' that do not even take the workers on demonstrations as their point of focus. For instance, one orientation put forward at the day of study was for people to go to the US's British airbases and cut the perimeter wire, in order to go into the airbase and create a nuisance. The important point about this kind of proposal is not just that it will have no conceivable impact on what the bourgeoisie is doing, but that it is not orientated towards an intervention in the working class.

As with the Zero War conference in Australia, which raised many similar issues, there was a preoccupation with such stunts, despite the serious discussion:

"The conference now departed from the mortal world, as the majority of participants appeared to ascend into a sort of magical world in which even the most fanciful and adventurist 'direct action' schemes were portrayed in all seriousness as realistic - not to mention 'revolutionary'. The most nonsensical - and perilous - stunts were proposed." (WR 261).

At first sight these actions may seem to indicate revolutionary zeal, but, as we said in our contribution to the discussion, "The problem with many who are critical of the STWC is that too often they still buy the argument that 'at least it's doing something' and end up either tailing along in its demonstrations, or trying to devise radical-looking 'protest' stunts which substitute themselves for the real development of the proletarian movement."

This desire to 'do something' expressed itself in the Day School in two ways that both lead to a loss of any sense of the slow development of the struggle of the working class, the only force that can really stop war and put an end to the capitalist system. The first presentation given at the day of study was a review of the 'achievements' of previous anti-war movements. This was presented in a quite uncritical way and emphasised the size of the movements rather than making a critique of their class character.

A fundamental problem with this milieu is that it has no real concept of the class struggle - typical of the autonomists, modernists, anarchists and libertarians in such groupings. They see things in terms of their own 'individual' struggle. This was exemplified by one handout at the day of study that explained what the author meant by class struggle. This suggested that people take jobs in the defence sector so that they could engage in sabotage of the war effort. In other words, the class struggle is understood as individual acts of sabotage.

Therefore intervention becomes simply a matter of will. The overall state of the class struggle does not provide the context within which we can understand our intervention. In response to this we pointed out that the working class currently faces enormous difficulties and that while this makes intervention against war on a class basis very hard it is the only basis on which we can go forward.

The open defence of imperialism at the day of study

One of the sessions at the day of study was run by an element called Karvee (we are not sure of the spelling). He has also at times referred to himself as the 'Melancholy Troglodyte'. He advocated supporting certain bourgeois groups in the Middle East - Kurdish Maoist groups. He said that these groups had arrived at a class position because they opposed both Saddam and the US. Since they are Kurdish nationalists no doubt they do 'oppose both sides' in some sense.

His view is that if the 'bourgeoisie is weak' then a renewed assault on Iraq would open the door to the 'formation of soviets' - that is to the Kurdish nationalists. In terms of practical proposals he proposed that the Disobedience group should send a message of solidarity to these groups, and that the group should send people to the Middle East in the aftermath of the conflict. He emphasised that he was not speaking of 'revolutionary tourism', but was not very specific as to what people were supposed to do when they got there (assuming the US did not take them off to Cuba, or the nationalists didn't shoot them).

The ICC pointed out that what was being suggested was to send messages of solidarity to bourgeois imperialist gangs in Iraq and Iran. However, the majority at this session were not convinced of the need to oppose such groups.

It is not as strange as it seems to have bourgeois positions in support for their wars put forward in an anti-war meeting. In fact this is simply a reflection of what is happening at the anti-war demonstrations themselves. And, as we have mentioned above, even in the 'clearest' discussion of all the sessions - the first one - the Disobedience group showed a clear tendency to assimilate itself to the anti-war movement - to become simply its radical wing.

This shows how fragile is the group's grasp of its basic position that only the class war can oppose imperialist war. It also shows just how difficult it is to oppose war on a working class basis, and just how important it is to spend the time in frank and open discussion, and particularly the need to reappropriate the historic experience of the working class, through discussion with the organisations of the Communist Left. It is therefore tragic that this milieu does so much to cut itself off from the ICC and the CWO.

Hardin, 27/2/03.

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