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News ::
04 Nov 2003


By Fred Goldstein
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Oct. 30, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper



By Fred Goldstein

The Bush administration's invasion and occupation of Iraq, bombing and
wholesale destruction visited on Afghanistan, and its proclamation of an era of "endless war" have confronted the current generation with the same crises and struggles faced by generations over the past hundred years who have had to fight against imperialist war and intervention.

U.S. soldiers, mostly workers in uniform--for the rich don't fight their own wars--are being called upon to kill and be killed to make Iraq safe for the transnational corporations. The anti-war movement must do everything in its power to mobilize mass opposition to the occupation and to stay the Bush administration's hand that is threatening Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba and any other country that refuses to bow down to its dictates.

But in the course of the struggle against war and occupation, this
question must be addressed: how to put an end to the recurring and
expanding cycle of imperialist war, intervention and occupation. The
answer to this most serious question depends entirely on understanding
the war drive's character and cause.

The Bush administration has proclaimed the right of "pre-emptive war"
based on a phony "war on terrorism" and the supposed threat of "weapons of mass destruction." Beneath the false slogans and fraudulent justifications for war lie profound ruling-class interests--profit interests, which flow from a historically developed social system of global exploitation and plunder that is over a century old.

This system is called imperialism.

In 1916 V.I. Lenin, leader of the Russian Revolution, wrote a
fundamental analysis entitled "Imperialism: the Highest Stage of
Capitalism." In this work, Lenin made special note of the Spanish-
American War of 1898 in which the United States inaugurated its own era of imperialist war by defeating the Spanish empire and colonizing the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Guam.

Lenin wrote this book during World War I, the first worldwide
imperialist conflagration.

Lenin characterized imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism--an
irreversible evolution from its competitive stage to its monopoly stage. In this ground breaking work he showed, by analyzing a mass of economic and political data, that imperialism is characterized by the merger of the giant banks and corporations into what was called finance-capital, which dominated economic and political life.

The great powers of Europe, the United States and Japan had all reached this stage by the end of the 19th century.

In the process they had intensified a furious struggle among themselves to divide the globe into colonies and spheres of influence.

The process of brutal colonization had been going on for centuries,
since the earliest stages of capitalism. Whenever there was a
significant change in the relationship of forces among these imperialist powers, a new struggle would open up to re-divide the globe and war would result.

After Lenin wrote the book, the era of socialist revolutions and
national liberation struggles began in earnest. Imperi alism's drive to roll back socialism and stop the liberation movements became intertwined with the imperialists' own inter-imperialist rivalry, and this became another source of imperialist war and intervention.


Iraq is a classical example of how imperialism operates as a system.

Washington's goal is to roll back all the gains of the 1958 national
revolution that kicked the British colonialists out of Iraq. Direct
imperialist investment was at first put under Iraqi control and
eventually forbidden. The oil was nationalized and the resources of the country were taken out of the hands of the transnational banks and

During the era of the Soviet Union and the socialist camp, the USSR's
military strength acted as a deterrent on any open military attempt by
the West to recolonize Iraq. Furthermore, Iraq was able to obtain Soviet anti-imperialist economic and military assistance.

Once the USSR collapsed, however, the U.S. ruling class felt it had a
free hand in the Middle East and it began to target Iraq. Furthermore,
it made an alliance with its junior partner, former colonialists in London, to keep the other imperialists out.


Imperialism, of course, tries to hide its motives for war from the
masses. But every once in a while, one of its spokespeople gets bold,
loses inhibitions and blurts out something close to the truth. Thus did Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. Drunk with triumphalism over the Pentagon's unrivaled power and dazzled by U.S. technology, Friedman wrote an article headlined "A Manifesto for the Fast World" that ran in the Times Sunday Magazine on March 28, 1999.

Friedman wrote: "The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist--McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell-Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps."

Friedman seemed to have forgotten all about McDonald's when he became an avid supporter of the current Pentagon war against Iraq. He should
peruse an Oct. 14 article in the London Guardian in which its diplomatic editor, Ewen MacAskill, described a London conference that began on Oct. 13.

In the piece, the first of "The 'Doing Business in Iraq' Series"
subheaded "Kickstarting the private sector in Iraq," MacAskill wrote:
"About 100 private companies, mainly from Britain and the U.S., gathered in London yesterday to discuss investment opportunities in post-Saddam Iraq.

"The companies, mainly oil and banking, are being invited by the U.S.
and British governments to move in as soon as security is restored. The fast-food chain, McDonald's, which has a branch in most parts of the world, was predicted by the conference organizers to open in Baghdad next year."

In Friedman's "Manifesto," McDon ald's was a name that made a cute
juxtaposition next to McDonnell-Douglas. And hamburgers do not sound
nearly as threatening as giant, blood-sucking oil monopolies or
parasitic bankers, exploiting industrialists and military contractors.
Friedman may have left these latter out of his "Manifesto" but they
turned up in London, along with McDonald's.

ExxonMobil, Delta Airlines, American Hospital Group, Bechtel, Motorola
and several giant British monopolies, including British Petroleum, were on hand. The conference, according to the Guardian, "was set up in June last year. Its supporters say it attracted the support of 145
multinationals. The alliance has close contacts with the Pentagon."

So there's the nexus of imperialism in one room in London: the banks,
the giant corporations and the Pentagon gathered to divide up Iraq. One keynote speaker was Dr. John Shaw, an undersecretary of defense from the Pentagon who spoke on "Understanding the Contracting Process for the Reconstruction of Iraq."

For all the talk by Paul Bremer, head of the U.S. occupation in Iraq,
about not privatizing the Iraqi oil industry, one of the key addresses
was by Mahdi Sajjad. Sajjad, a vice president of Gulfsands, a Houston-
based oil company, spoke on "Privatization of the Iraqi Oil Sector."

The U.S.-Iraqi Business Council represents the elite U.S. and British
finance capitalists, who together with the businesspeople in uniform are driving the war. Bush had the support of the entire ruling class,
including those who objected to his diplomacy, to carry out the war.

It was an imperialist war in the sense that Lenin described this in
1916: a war to re-divide the Middle East, based on the USSR's collapse
and Washington's rise to a position of enormous military superiority
over its rivals. For example, the Deutsche Bank, Siemens, the Societe
General, Alcatel and France Telecom were not invited to London.


But a most important conclusion of Lenin's work was that imperialism is rooted in capitalism. In the final analysis, all the giant monopolies rest upon the profits sweated from the working class day in and day out.

The bosses fight each other by expanding the number of workers under
their control, bringing down wages to increase the rate of profits. This means expanding throughout the world in search of cheaper labor, more resources and greater spheres of influence.

Militarism is an essential ingredient of imperialism because war and
intervention are deeply rooted in the monopolies' class need to expand
their profits. It is not merely the result of this or that political
grouping's policy, which could be reversed by changing leaders.

To put an end to war, imperialism itself must be destroyed. That means
the destruction of capitalism--which is the very foundation of
imperialism and cannot, once having reached the monopoly stage, be
reversed or shifted onto a peaceful path.


Lenin demonstrated a second important conclusion: that imperialism was
creating an interdependent worldwide network of production, which in
turn lays the basis for socialism.

By shipping factories, expanding transportation and communication, and
exporting capital investment, imperialism has created a worldwide
apparatus involving the synchronized, harmonized production of hundreds of millions of people around the globe. This network has actually socialized the operations of day-to-day worldwide production. But billionaires own this productive apparatus privately, reducing these workers to wage slaves.

So under private ownership, this worldwide means of production has
become an instrument for expanded suffering of workers trapped in
sweatshops or forced into the giant transnational corporations' global
division of labor.

The owners of this vast socialized apparatus of production have
absolutely nothing at all to do with production itself. They only live
to profit off it. They are utterly unnecessary to it. Yet they operate
it as their own private property.

They close factories when they are not making enough profit, throwing
workers out of jobs. They shut down operations, only to open them up
again in other regions or countries to get cheaper labor. They
impoverish whole countries so that the workers and peasants have to
migrate and be uprooted by the tens of millions.

A handful of directors at General Motors, Citibank, Alcoa and General
Foods can sit in a boardroom and decide the fate of millions of workers across the globe. Human need and the environment mean nothing to them. Only profit.

The world is suffering under this growing contradiction between private ownership and this vast, socialized productive system. The working class creates all the wealth, while the owners use all the instruments of labor to increase their wealth at the workers' expense.

This contradiction can only be resolved by expropriating the factories, mines, offices, health facilities, banks, telephone companies and transportation systems--and putting them under the ownership of the working class to run on behalf of society as a whole for human need and not for profit. That is socialism.

Only when capital is eliminated will the global struggle for profit and domination be eliminated along with imperialist war. Socialism is the only way to do it.

- END -

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and
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allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY,
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