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imperialism & war

No to Bush's war for oil and empire!

A new local leaflet. The demonstration this Saturday begins at noon at the Seattle Center.
Into the streets February 15-16!

Spread leaflets and organize for more protests!

No to Bush's war for oil and empire!

Under the banner of the so-called "war on terrorism", Bush is on a campaign to further dominate the world on behalf of the U.S. corporate and financial oligarchs. In the Middle East this translates into another sordid imperialist war for oil and empire. The immediate target is the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. Longer range aims include the establishment of a larger permanent military presence in the region with which to deal with other rivals, such as the Iranian bourgeoisie, and to shore up its reactionary, monarchist and theocratic allies against popular revolutions of the people. (U.S. oil monopolists will have first-rights in dividing up the huge Iraqi oilfields as a "bonus".) But the motives of the Iraqi regime are just as sordid. Saddam Hussein, once a U.S. ally, is now a rival for control and profit-making from the oil resources of the region. After he assumed full power in Iraq at the end of the '70s, he led Iraq into two decades of confrontations in order to build up Iraq as a major regional power. It fought Iran for a decade in its own war for oil and influence. It invaded Kuwait for the same reason. And despite the mass hardships caused by the vicious US-dictated sanctions, the regime is still fighting for the same purposes. Thus, although it has been the U.S. which has been instigating renewed full-scale war, both sides are only fighting for the wealth and power of their respective capitalist classes.

Bush's lies

There is a third side however, the oppressed masses in Iraq, and the growing anti-war movement in this country and around the world. Bush and the entire bourgeois establishment recognize this. So to gather support for what is really a war for oil and empire, we have Bush and Powell, whose allies include many repressive regimes having or seeking weapons of mass slaughter, cheaply trying to scare us with images of Saddam Hussein giving such weapons to al Queda for terrorist attacks in the United States. Although unlikely, Saddam could have a few such weapons. (Yet even if he had many, like Israel, it would not change the reactionary motives for war on the U.S. side.) But Powell's "heavy proof" of this has turned into another administration scandal with the exposure that much of the material he soberly presented at the U.N. was directly lifted from Janes Report, and a 12-year-old academic paper - typographical errors and all! Moreover, one of the most cynical lies pushed by Bush is that the U.S. wants to liberate the Iraqi people. So U.S. imperialism has "liberated" many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis by knowingly murdering them with its sanctions policies? It has "liberated" hundreds of thousands more with miscarriages, horrible birth defects, and epidemic leukemia caused by the depleted uranium munitions it used in Gulf War I? And what about Bush already saying that the Kurds of Iraq will not be given the right of self-determination? But there's more. Now the Pentagon has devised its "shock and awe" strategy: 3000 guided bombs and missiles to be unleashed in the first 48 hours of war, ten times the number unleashed in the first two days of the first Gulf war, a time when the Iraqi army was much larger than now; 800 cruise missiles to be fired into the city of Baghdad during these two days, more than during the entire first Gulf War. There is more. The Los Angeles Times reports the Pentagon has been quietly preparing for use of nuclear weapons against buried targets or chemical or biological targets "if needed". Further, it says that "Some officials have argued that the blast and radiation effects of such strikes would be limited." (Just "limited"!) No, "our" leaders care nothing about the Iraqi people. Their war-plan is not about liberating them. They envision a cruel high-tech mass slaughter - all to increase the wealth of some suits who have never dirtied their hands with honest toil. And when it's over these "civilized" imperialist scoundrels plan to impose a government that the shell-shocked, mourning and angry people have no say over.

The roots of imperialism

Is there any wonder why from Florence, Italy, to Portland, Ore., several million people have gone into the streets to protest U.S. imperialism's war drive during the past few months? This is the tip of an iceberg of a potentially powerful political force. But to realize its potential this movement must confront and resolve serious ideological and political questions. The most fundamental of these is that the "war on terrorism", war against Iraq, U.S. intervention in Colombia and the Philippines, and the future imperialist wars the Washington think tanks and Pentagon are already planning are rooted in defense of the interests of the American capitalist class, i.e., its profit-making empire. This is a defense against reactionary representatives of rival or would-be rival capitalists such as Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden, and defense against progressive movements and rebellions of the workers and other oppressed people such as in Colombia or the Philippines. Modern capitalism, wherever it exists, means not only the exploitation of wage-labor in the home country, but its laws of accumulation and competition force it into wars to crush just rebellions and revolutions of the toilers, and into fierce international rivalries for markets, spheres of influence, natural resources, cheaper labor, and to hold competitors in check. Win in the struggle against rivals or be ruined! These facts explain why all capitalist or state-capitalist (i.e., China) governments arm, and it's what lies behind hundreds of wars - big and small - which were fought in the past century. Militarism and war are a natural outgrowth of capitalism. They're built into it, with periods of peace only being periods of preparation for new wars.

The Democrats and opportunists

A second question is that the "war on terror" and war against Iraq are not just an aberration of Bush or the Republican right wing. Both the Democrats and Republicans are parties of the very biggest capitalists, including the oil capitalists. They're parties of militarization and war. But from conservative Republicans to liberal Democrats there is unease over Bush's unilateralism. Thus while the Democratic Congressional leadership gave Bush a blank check to attack Iraq, even unilaterally, other Democrats, including the likes of Al Gore and Michigan Democratic senator Carl Levin, worry that unilateralism will weaken the system of alliances that prop up U.S. global power. They don't support the oppressed peoples around the world, but the continuation of imperial alliances. They oppose not imperialism, but unilateralism. They back a multilateralist policy according to which Bush should first line up support of other big capitalist governments via the UN, before invading Iraq. They are not against war as an option. This includes liberals like Michigan's David Bonior and Seattle's Jim McDermott, who went on a "peace mission" to Iraq. McDermott described their message as "If you don't have unfettered inspections, you are going to have war." Another liberal, Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland introduced legislation in Congress as an alternative to the other warmongering proposals. The resolution calls for UN weapons inspections and other "peaceful" means to disarm Hussein. It doesn't mention what to do if that fails, but it only denounces "unilateral military action", thus hinting that war with a coalition would be OK. As well, in writing about her resolution, Lee says she favors "containment and inspections [which] have worked and can work in the future." (San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 27, 2002) What is this "containment" she refers to? Actually, "containment" was the policy of the Clinton administration. It involved starving the Iraqi people with sanctions, maintaining the U.S. military's "no fly zones" over huge areas of Iraq and periodically bombing Iraq when Hussein didn't meet the demands of UN or U.S. arms inspectors. Indeed, Clinton's policy took the U.S. to the brink of out-and-out war with Iraq and always reserved the right to do so. This isn't a policy for lasting peace, only an alternative way of ruining the Iraqi people. The Democrats are so anxious to appeal to their real base, the imperialist bourgeoisie, that when they oppose Bush, they like to pose as being even more warlike than Bush. Congressional Black Caucus member John Conyers, who poses as one of the most anti-war of politicians, is calling for reviving the draft! Other Democrats are calling for Bush to be more warlike against North Korea, and just about all of them are criticizing him for supposedly losing sight of the "war on terrorism". An anti-war movement that supports the Democrats would be step by step turned into a pro-draft, pro-war in Asia, and pro-repression movement.

Bush's unilateralism and the loyal opposition's multilateralism both proceed from common class goals. Both hold that the U.S. has every right to dominate the Middle East, both agree that it's fine to use U.S. military might to safeguard this domination, and both could care less about the consequences to the Iraqi people. In short, both policies and both parties are imperialist to the core. Yet during the past year the big national anti-war coalitions (A.N.S.W.E.R., N.I.O.N, etc.) have repeatedly paraded out the imperialist ladies and gentlemen of the Democratic Party to speak at rallies. Moreover, a prime mover of the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition, the Workers' World Party (WWP), claims to be anti-imperialist! But its brand of "anti-imperialism" boils down to supporting weak imperialists like Saddam Hussein against the U.S. imperialist goliath. It doesn't say "Support Saddam!" in its press, but instead it hints, provides sham-Marxist "theoretical" justifications for this position, etc. WWP does this because its politics aren't based in the interests of the masses of workers anywhere. It chooses between the two sides presented it by imperialism, and vainly relies on the U.S. liberals to somehow save its favorite Third World bourgeois-nationalist regime of the moment.

Building the movement against imperialism

We need a different kind of movement than the Democrats, leaders of the big coalitions, and sham anti-imperialists would have us build. Increasing numbers of activists are going to have to take matters into their hands from below by fighting for a real anti-imperialist stand. This means recognizing the class connection of the bourgeoisie and war. It means basing the anti-war movement on fighting the real causes of war, and not just the political rhetoric. This means basing the anti-war struggle on the working masses. In particular, it means

showing the connection of this war with the whole system of militarism, world capitalist agencies, and U.S. global domination

showing that imperialism is not simply a mistaken policy, but reflects the class interest of the ruling bourgeoisie and its exploitation of the world, and seeing that it is the workers and other people oppressed by this bourgeoisie who are the basis for a durable anti-war movement

relying on mass actions and directly mobilizing workers, minorities, and youth via leafleting, discussions, meetings, etc.

undermining the influence of the imperialist parties, both Democrats and Republicans

building solidarity, not with reactionary rivals of U.S. imperialism, but with the masses abroad, such as Iraqi masses, the Palestinian people, the Colombian people, and other victims of the "war on terrorism"

This means anti-war activists must go directly to the workers, minorities, and youth. The necessity for this is illustrated by the role of the AFL-CIO bureaucrats. They have supported anti-war resolutions being passed in many local unions and labor councils. But underneath the flowery words of the resolutions they support stands an underlying acceptance of all the lying premises of their capitalist masters. And, since most are part of the Democratic Party, their difference with Bush is that they want to send the sons and daughters of the American workers to slaughter the sons and daughters of the Iraqi workers (and their parents and children) as "the last option, not the first", i.e., slaughter them multilaterally. So activists should engage workers directly, leaflet workplaces and communities, and bring protests to the streets of working class neighborhoods. This also helps develop ties to the black and Latino and other minority communities, which are overwhelmingly working class, and strengthens internationalist links to immigrant communities. This will broaden the anti-war struggle, by linking it with the vast working majority of this country. After all, it's the working class who will bear the burden here for the war, feel the weight of lost soldiers, higher taxes, cutbacks and repression. But workers are not only interested in the way war harms them directly, but in world events, the fate of other working people around the world, and whether imperial domination is just. Anti-imperialist agitation punctures bourgeois views, and helps the workers move closer to having a truly class movement, conscious of being not a special interest group, but part of a world movement in opposition to the present bourgeois ruling classes. This will bring us closer to the day of eliminating the very cause of war, capitalism.

Seattle members and friends of the Communist Voice Organization, February 10th, 2003.

Contact us at:  mail@communistvoice.org

For revolutionary theory read Communist Voice at:  http://www.communistvoice.org.