From the War in the Gulf, to the War at Home - article from Red and Black Notes on the need to fight the invasion of class war with class struggle at home.
On Wednesday March 19 2003 at about 9:30 PM, the United States and its allies began a murderous assault upon Iraq. The millions in the United States and around the world, who marched against war, have seen their "message" ignored. But war is the health of the modern state. Capital can no more give up war, than it can give up exploitation. In attacking Iraq, the largest imperialist power on earth has picked on a somewhat smaller one: The big fish eat the small fish.
Whether the small fish has any teeth remains to be seen. In Afghanistan, the US had a fairly easy time in achieving their goal of ousting the Taliban, even though it failed to capture Bin Laden or senior Taliban officials. Even Bush confessed to reporter Bob Woodward, that the war in Afghanistan "was almost too good to be true." But Iraq promises to be a much more costly war for the US.
Air strikes, which terrorize the Iraqi population and destroy their cities, can only accomplish so much for the US. And the looming ground presents the spectre of heavy US casualties, which will certainly undermine support for the war at home. The last time the US sustained any significant casualties was during the Vietnam War, and the deaths of US troops in any significant number will surely resurrect those demons.
And the US risks more. The longer the war continues, the greater the disruption of oil production and the greater the possibility the global economy will sink into recession.
The Iraqi Kurds have received encouragement to rise up against Hussein and the offer of a Kurdish State has been floated, but such a development is opposed by Turkey. Although it recently agreed to let the US use its airspace even as it moved its troops to the Iraqi border, in anticipation of a Kurdish uprising and to send a message to its own Kurdish population. If the war drags on, the deeply unpopular Arab nations of the region could well be drawn into the conflict; ironically one of Bin Laden's stated goals.
So why has the US chosen to embark on this gamble? Quite simply they have no other choice. The war has little to do with Bush's daddy, a cowboy mentality, or even September 11, and everything to do with the economy. The US economy is trembling under 31 trillion dollars of debt, and with a faltering stock market and a plummeting dollar, massive oil reserves and the possibility of a permanent US presence in the Gulf makes for an attractive prize. In short, it is the capitalist system that has brought the world to war.
And only through a break with the capitalist system can future wars be averted. Not by appeals to so-called moderate nations like Canada, which plays 'soft cop' in this conflict appealing to the United Nations to continue its starvation sanctions. Not by chanting "Vive la France." For France has its own reasons for opposing the US, and they have little to do with concern for the Iraqi people; rather, they concern the French imperialist state's position vis-à-vis the US.
To break with capitalism means to engage in class struggle: This means bringing the economy to a halt. The most powerful weapon working people have is to withdraw labour from the capitalist system. During the war in Afghanistan, dockworkers in Nagasaki, Japan refused to load military supplies bound for the region. Train drivers, who refused to move a freight train carrying ammunition for British forces bound for the Gulf, repeated this action in Britain in January. And while only a full scale break with capitalism can create a new world, resistance can be practiced on multiple levels: absenteeism, informal work to rule actions ("go-slows"), even occupations and creative industrial repairs.
If actions against the war were significant and the battle in Iraq does not go smoothly, it could provoke the kind of break down in authority in the armed forces as was seen in Vietnam: desertions, mutinies and a concern for one's own survival over that of the unit. Were these conditions to take shape, the imperialist war might well begin to resemble a civil war.
And in these conditions, begins the fight to build a new world:
A world without war, without classes, without bosses ,without money
First Published in Red and Black Notes #16/17, Spring 2003, this article has been archived on libcom.org from the Red and Black Notes website.