Just dealing with one of the effects
In his recent article ("Class, Micropolitics and Solidarity", October Socialist Standard), Jonathan Clay talks about the action in which four of us disarmed a Hawk attack plane destined for Indonesia. He states that this action was "inspired, but ultimately doomed”, and says that no doubt we realised this all along. I object most strongly to what was one of the most successful anti-arms trade actions ever being dismissed as "doomed”. Nine months after we disarmed that particular plane, it is still in England. It was due to be sent months ago to a counter-insurgency squadron in Indonesia from where it would have been used against civilians in East Timor. The many East Timorese who have written to thank us for our action certainly don’t think it was doomed.
Jonathan Clay goes on to say that our action was undertaken to publicise the situation in East Timor, and that the jury ignored the law in acquitting us. Had he taken the slighted trouble to get his facts right, he would have found that we had a defence in law—that of using reasonable force to prevent crime, a defence under the Criminal Law Act 1967. We did not undertake this action as a publicity stunt—who would risk ten years in prison for publicity? The judge allowed our defence to be put to the jury, who acquitted us on that basis. To suggest that the jury ignored the law is insulting to them and does nothing to help people understand that this kind of action can in certain circumstances be legal. I wonder what actions Jonathan Clay has undertaken to uphold justice and international law—or is he just an armchair activist whose only contribution is to make ill-founded criticisms of other people’s actions?
Seeds of Hope—East Timor Ploughshares
When we said that your action was “ultimately doomed" we meant that it would fail to prevent the Indonesian military getting their attack planes in the end (that's what ultimately means). The most that you could achieve was what you did achieve—to delay delivery and to gain publicity for your cause. We assumed you realised this but if you really expected to stop delivery altogether we misjudged your level of understanding of existing political realities.
Are you holier than us? Probably, but then we don’t share your belief in the efficacy of the law to improve things. In fact, for us, the law is a reflection of private property and profit-motivated society and exists to uphold it. But it is precisely this society—capitalism—with its built-in competitive struggle between states for sources of raw materials, investment outlets, trade routes, markets and strategic positions to control these, which is the root cause of situations like that in East Timor.
Such situations will go on occurring, in some part of the world, as long as capitalism continues to exist. What are you doing to speed the end of capitalism? Or are you just a single-issue activist concentrating exclusively on trying to deal with just one of its many nefarious effects?
A good thing
Jonathan Clay’s article. "Class, Micropolitics and Solidarity" in October’s Socialist Standard was a very welcome and timely one in that it warned against taking a dismissive attitude to defensive class struggle.
Only working class solidarity can get rid of capitalism and achieve world socialism and any expression of such solidarity is a good thing, whether at work, in communities fighting to protect their local environment, or in the various getting-togethers to resist the bosses' latest laws. At least it shows that people will never roll over and die, as the ruling class so dearly wants us to. Obviously none of the above will do much at present to bring about a free society because the required mass class consciousness isn’t there.
However, now more than ever, people involved in defensive struggles are likely to approach the only conclusion there is: that the money system as a whole is the problem. Attacks on the working class are getting more savage by the day, every way of running capitalism has been tried and discredited and there is widespread rejection of the parties of capitalism (including the lefties and their sorry antics). Life itself is an education and the Socialist Party exists to spread the socialist case as widely as possible.
Socialists are all for working class solidarity, but are "under no illusions" that it is mass solidarity for the abolition of capitalism that is so desperately needed.