Facing the New Year Make 2002 a year of resistance

by Andy Brooks

Normally the marking of the New Year is taken as an opportunity for bourgeois politicians to trot out their pious phrases of hope and peace and goodwill to all. This year the optimism has been a bit more muted and the calls for peace even more transparent as it becomes clear that the capitalist world is plunging into economic and political crisis.

The recession that began with the Asia crisis a few years ago and hit the United States in 2000 is now biting in Europe. All the three major centres of capitalism, the United States, European Union and Japan are in the grip of escalating recession. The growth rate in the economies of the advanced capitalist countries is predicted to grow by just one per cent.

The crisis of overproduction has led to the classic response of the imperialist world - intensified exploitation of the developing countries to try to make the workers and peasants of the Third World pay for it coupled with increasing attacks on the living standards of the working class in the capitalist heart-lands. They call it "globalisation" or the "new world order" and try to pass it off as a progressive or at least inevitable development in human society.

But as always, wherever there is oppression there is always resistance.

We see it in the developed world from Seattle to Genoa in the growing numbers drawn to the "anticapitalist" demonstrations. We see it in the anarchic attacks on New York and Washington by Islamic nationalists. We see it in the mass protests that have brought down the Argentinean government and forced its successors to devalue the peso and listen at least for the moment, to the demands of organised labour.

The ruling circles in the United States, Britain and Western Europe have long prepared for civil unrest at home and resistance abroad to their manoeuvres. Prior to 1990 the imperialists focused their efforts on the destruction of the socialist world. They partially succeeded. The counter-revolutions in the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc in Europe in 1990 were a major triumph for US-led imperialism and they followed through by moving to partition Yugoslavia through civil strife and finally open warfare while stepping up their efforts to isolate the remaining socialist countries.

With the Soviet Union gone US-led imperialism then moved for the economic re-colonisation of the world, calling it globalisation and the new world order, and now in the name of the "anti-terrorist" crusade.

The most reactionary circles in America dream of world domination. Others only differ in that they accept that US imperialist domination of the globe has to be done in partnership with the European Union and to a much lesser degree with Japan. All believe that they can achieve their aims through economic blackmail, war and the threat of war.

At the moment the greatest challenge to communists and progressives throughout the globe is the threat of war. Fighting continues in Afghanistan. The United States threatens Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Iran and the Democratic People�s Republic of Korea. India and Pakistan are on the brink of war themselves.

But the experience of the last decade shows the limitations on imperialist might and the potential strength of popular resistance even when confronting technically superior, professional armies, especially when linked to the peace movements in the imperialist heart-lands.

Though the United States is the sole super-power with a nuclear arsenal which can destroy the entire world many times over and armed forces equipped with the latest in technological advance it still cannot give them victory.

We need to remember this because this wasn't the case in the 19th century when the capitalist world - essentially Britain and the Great Powers of Europe - enslaved the entire continent of Africa and most of Asia.

There was resistance - the Indian "mutiny", the Afghan wars, the Mahdi of the Sudan and the Boxer uprising in China are some of the many examples we could list. But the colonial powers ultimately succeeded because the resistance was always led by feudal nationalists who could not mobilise all the oppressed classes in their lands to face the superior forces of the colonisers. Nor was there any peace movement in the imperialist allied to the struggles against imperialism overseas.

The Russian Revolution in 1917 electrified the entire colonial world. For the first time in the history of humanity the masses had overthrown feudalism and capitalism and were beginning to build a workers' and peasants' state. The oppressed peoples of Africa, Asia and the Americas saw the fledgling Soviet state defeat the reactionary White Guards and beat off the combined might of the imperialist interventionist armies.

The struggle for independence, the fight to break the chains of colonial slavery began anew based on the new class forces throughout the colonial empires. And within a few years of the defeat of Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire in 1945 - largely through the efforts of the Soviet Union - the old European empires began to face a new resistance which they could not withstand.

In more recent times we saw that popular resistance together with the strength of the peace movement led to the defeat of US imperialism in Vietnam and the rest of Indo-China.

People's war defeated superior US armies and the mounting US deaths fired the peace movement in the United States and Europe to demand an end to the fighting. If it wasn't for the peace movement in the United States the ruling class, which is indifferent to casualties (the two world wars are proof of this), would not have eventually withdrawn from Indo-China.

Fear of the peace movement restrains imperialism today. It has forced the US ruling class to wage war almost exclusively from the skies and through special elite forces to limit casualties. But at the same time it has limited imperialism's reach even after the end of the Soviet Union.

Though they bombed Iraq into the ground the imperialists were unable to march on Baghdad because they feared the casualties they would suffer. The Americans were driven out of Somalia through just one day of fierce fighting which led to the downing of a few helicopters and some GI deaths.

Even in Afghanistan the Americans have failed to achieve even their prime objectives.

Let's look at Afghanistan. The proclaimed aim was the death or capture of Osama bin Laden, the Saudi Arabian rebel accused of masterminding the September 11 attacks on the United States. That hasn't happened. The secondary objective was the replacement of the Taleban regime in Kabul with a puppet government headed by the ex-king of Afghanistan. That hasn't occurred either.

American bombing was decisive in bringing the Taleban down but the winners on the ground were the Northern Alliance and their allies Russia, Iran and India. Those three regional powers now have as much influence as Britain and America, if not more, on the new government in Kabul.

A major aspect of the "new world order" has been the marginalisation of the United Nations and the UN Security Council by the United States and the European Union as an international body for the resolution of disputes since 1990. They have preferred to elevate the secret but well-publicised Group of Seven conferences while limiting the UN to simply rubber-stamping whatever Washington and the other imperialist powers have already agreed to do.

But this has its limitations, demonstrated vividly in the current crisis over Kashmir. The Kashmir crisis goes back to the shambles of the partition of Britain's Indian Empire in 1947. Britain, who believed a weakened and divided sub-continent would preserve British imperialist interests, inspired partition of India. Millions upon millions died in communal rioting and the first Indo-Pakistan war that followed.

Kashmir's decision to join the Indian Union was made by their feudal prince without consultation with the people - a fact recognised by one of the first decisions of the fledgling United Nations which agreed on for a plebiscite or referendum to allow the population to vote on whether they wanted to be in India, Pakistan or for independence.

Successive Pakistani governments - mainly pro-imperialist military cliques - have tried to resolve the issue largely through alliance with the United States. That has never helped the people of Kashmir.

A cease-fire line divides Kashmir - a third remains under Pakistani control and India administers the rest. The vast majority of the population are Muslims with close ties to Pakistan. There can be no doubt that any popular vote would lead either to union with Pakistan or independence. India has never accepted this, arguing dubiously that the religious issue is irrelevant - India has an immense Muslim population in central India that has no interest in Pakistani politics. The real reason is that Kashmir is important strategically and economically to both countries.

Today India and Pakistan are once again on the brink of war. India is led by the reactionary BJP a front led by the secret Hindu-nationalist RSS, a fascist reactionary nationalist block led by high-castes, landlords and industrialists. One of their followers killed Gandhi and more recently they have been responsible for mosque-burnings and other anti-Islamic provocations in India.

India has always defeated Pakistan in war and this is almost certainly the case now and the BJP government is spoiling for a fight, partly to distract the people from the woeful failing of their years of misrule but mainly because they want to establish themselves as the biggest power in the region - in alliance with the United States.

India, under past Congress governments of Nehru and Indira Gandhi, followed the path of independence, and indeed those two leaders were pillars of the non-aligned movement. The BJP leaders, who have been cosying up to Washington since they came to power some years ago, have replaced India's traditional policy with one of partnership with imperialism, chauvinism, communalism and aggression. Some of them even talk of joining Nato now.

Pakistan's military and civilian leaders have traditionally always looked to the United States for help. Though it must be noted that they have developed friendly ties with People's China and Democratic Korea while popular leaders like Benazir Bhutto and her late father did try to introduce some popular reforms in the past.

The current Pakistani military regime is in deep trouble. Forced by Bush to act as a willing tool in America's adventure in Afghanistan the Pakistanis were rewarded with nothing at all for their loyalty. If anything, the Americans would like Pakistan to cool its relations with China and north Korea but the Americans will do nothing to solve the Kashmir problem.

Because of the danger of war and a nuclear one at that � and because of the large Asian minority in Britain our Party needs to make our position clear on this issue.

It is important to support the demand for a referendum for the Kashmiri people to let them decide if they wish to be part of the Indian Union, Pakistan or in an independent state of Kashmir. We need to uphold the UN resolution regarding Kashmir.

The problem cannot be resolved by war or victory by one side or another and we must support all efforts to ensure that a war does not occur.

The only beneficiary of such an outcome would be imperialism itself that would welcome a weakened India and Pakistan into their military network of alliances after such a bloodletting, as part of their ambition to Dominate Central Asia and encircle Russia and People's China.

At home we can be heartened at the semi-spontaneous resurrection of the peace movement. The first anti-war demonstration in November brought 50.000 to London, the second topped 100,000 - this compares with the few thousand in the Malvinas/Falklands war and the Gulf and the 20,000 plus peak during the Yugoslav war during the last week of the bombing.

This reflects the growing disillusionment amongst young people and a broad spectrum of the public and it is a heartening symptom of quantitative change. This is also shown in the resurgent militancy in some sections of the trade union movement. The civil service strikes, which have involved thousands, have been followed by RMT actions against rail companies over pay which look like spreading across the entire privatised network.

These are important first signs of resistance at rank-and-file level to the continuing offensive against the working class by successive Tory and Labour governments particularly now that the slump is beginning to impact on British society.

Our main Congress resolution looked at British capitalism's endemic problems in depth and last week's New Worker highlighted the steep decline in manufacturing output reflected in more redundancies and closures throughout the country.

We have to express clearly - that the short-term answer is to put the burden of the crisis back onto those who can well afford it � the rich.

They've got plenty and they must be forced to disgorge a fraction of their wealth through progressive taxation to the levels that existed in the 1970s. This would provide decent lives for working people through the maintenance of public services and utilities, the restoration of the public sector through re-nationalisation and the improvement of the National Health Service.

All of it could all be funded through progressive taxation, the slashing of the defence budget and the scrapping of the so-called nuclear deterrent.

We have to also say that the only long-term answer is socialism revolutionary change led by a mass-based communist party.

Our critics and enemies say this is far-fetched and unrealistic. But our stand is both realistic and practical. Our support for the Labour Party in elections - with the provisos spelt out once again at the 13th Congress for support of independent Labour candidates like Livingstone who have mass support within the movement - is one which complies with the demands of the class as a whole. The only alternative to a Labour government in bourgeois elections is a Conservative government. It is as simple as that.

The 13th Congress of our Party was a triumph for our determination to build a genuine communist movement in Britain.

We demonstrated our commitment to genuine communist unity by strengthening our ties with the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) along lines which should be the model for relations with any other Marxist groups that want to march together with us. And our commitment to proletarian internationalism was reflected by the number of delegations from overseas who came to our 13th Congress and the fraternal messages that we received from communist and workers parties all over the world.

At the Marx House Congress we charted our programme for the next two years towards the class and towards building the Party. We declared that we are going to build a monolith party - one that speaks as on throughout the land.

Building the monolith requires commitment, understanding and acceptance of democratic centralism as spelt out at the Marx House Congress and the determination to ensure that all decisions are carried out. it will mean that the Party's voice will be heard much louder in the months to come.

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