Thursday, May 3, 2018

In Response to the Syrian Air Attacks (2018)

From the May 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

So the self-appointed guardians of democracy, America, Britain, and France have launched their much-anticipated air attacks upon Syria to punish that state in pursuit of their conviction that it had used chemical weapons.

The Socialist Party sympathises with all our fellow workers who are the victims of this brutal war and many others. When this war ends the final death toll among civilians will be hard to establish, much less to attribute the cause of the killings. The devastation is a testament to the dangers and horrors of modern warfare. The Syrian dictatorship is one of many equally savage regimes in the region: Saudi Arabia, for example, is engaged in a prolonged war with rebels in Yemen that is seeing misery piled upon misery. Israel has snipers shooting down unarmed protestors in Gaza.
The reality is that the horrors of modern war are not to be laid on the shoulders of a religion nor an ideology, nor even on specific individuals. The justification for armed conflict can always be found when military, political and economic needs demand it. The Western capitalist bloc stirred up a civil war in Syria and now they are reaping the whirlwind. It is a continuation of the same battle for control of the Middle East and its oil resources that has gone on ever since the end of the Second World War, with crisis after crisis and war after war.

When hostility breaks into open warfare, each side's ruling class does even more terrible things to the other side, destroying its towns and slaughtering its people. This gives the belligerent countries even more propaganda points to make. Each side claims that it only started fighting in the first place because (in some miraculous way) it could see what barbarous actions its enemies were guilty of in the war. In other words, the propaganda of each hostile country claims that it only went to war because of the atrocities committed during the war on the other side. The truth, however, is exactly the opposite. It is not the atrocities which lead to war; it is the war which leads to the atrocities. What happens, over and over again, is that a government, reacting to the pressures inseparable from private-property societies, treats some of its citizens very badly. Then the government gets into a war against other states; only to realize that its previous ill-treatment of this or that minority has simply provided a ready-made fifth column for the enemy.

When the nuclear-equipped superpowers come up against each other directly, we have every reason to be fearful for the future of humanity. War is competition for profits (either via trade routes, mineral wealth, resources or areas of influence) writ large, and to safeguard its future profits, its control of world resources the world's greatest and largest military power is accumulating an unimaginable array of weaponry.

The Syrian regime may win in the short term through sheer mediaeval brutality, but you can’t run a modern state without a sophisticated infrastructure and a working-class trained to run it. And that inevitably gives capitalism its Achilles heel, and workers their ultimate weapon against war itself. If you want to have done with brutal dictatorships like Syria's, it's a waste of time to go to war: others will spring up everywhere. Get rid of capitalism, the fertile soil which produces endless numbers of dictators and atrocities.

Editorial: Here We Go Again? (2018)

Editorial from the May 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard
This month marks the fiftieth anniversary of the May 1968 events in France. It all began on 22 March 1968 when, following the arrest of anti-Vietnam War protesters, students at Nanterre University staged a sit-in. Further conflict led the University authorities to close the University on 2 May. Students then occupied the Sorbonne University. The students were unhappy with recent educational reforms that geared French education towards the needs of industrial capitalism and the centralised nature of the Universities' governance and were opposed to the Vietnam War. Police repression and heavy handed action by the University authorities swelled the number of protesters. The French workers joined the students and called a general strike, which resulted in factory occupations. For the more radical workers, their grievances went beyond the issues of better wages and working conditions, and included demands for more workers' control in their workplaces. The unions, the government and the employers negotiated wage increases and more trade union rights in a bid to end the conflict. In the National Assembly elections of June 1968, an increased number of Gaullist MPs were returned. Soon thereafter, the protests and strikes died down.
However, this is just not to revisit these events, for France is witnessing another revolt by students and workers. On 22 March this year, timed to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary, the unions called a nationwide strike to oppose Emmanuel Macron's labour and welfare reforms. At the forefront of these struggles are the railway workers, who are resisting government attempts to scrap job security, automatic job promotions and early retirement at 52 for new workers, and have responded by arranging two-day strikes for each week for three months. Airline pilots are also striking over pay and public sector workers are taking industrial action in opposition to Government plans to cut 120,000 public sector jobs over five years. Care workers and pensioners are also in revolt. Students are protesting about the proposed introduction of selective University entry requirements, which they say will discriminate against students from poorer backgrounds. The left hope that they can achieve the same unity between the workers' and students' struggles as in May 1968.
Macron is trying to shift the balance of power from the working class to the capitalist class, so as to make French capitalism more competitive. In this respect, he is no different from other French political leaders. Both Jacques Chirac and Nicholas Sarkozy tried to introduce similar reforms, but were defeated by concerted strike action. Fran├žois Hollande also faced resistance when he attempted to introduce legislation to make it easier for employers to make workers redundant.
Although the circumstances in May 1968 may be different from those at present, the underlying dynamic is the same. This is the struggle between the capitalist class and the working class over the material resources of society.
We have solidarity with the workers and students with their struggles, but we would urge them to take the next step to organise with workers in other countries to take political power so that they can convert private and state property into the common heritage of all human beings.