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Anti-Imperialist Movement Against the US War of Aggression in Iraq and Attacks on Workers and Peoples

By Jose Maria Sison
General Consultant
International League of Peoples’ Struggle

7 May 2003

Thank you for inviting me to speak on the subject of the anti-imperialist movement against the US war of aggression in Iraq and against the attacks on workers and peoples.

Our discussion on the anti-imperialist movement can be fruitful if we understand what is the nature of imperialism and what are the forces against it.

I hope that our discussion would enable us to define clearly the role of the working class in advancing the anti-imperialist movement.

I hope that our discussion would also shed light on the role of the trade union movement in particular in strengthening the anti-imperialist movement and help the delegates in understanding the basis for forming the study commission on workers’ rights of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS).

I. Imperialism and the Forces Against It

Modern imperialism or monopoly capitalism is the highest and final stage in the development of capitalism. It is decadent and moribund capitalism. It generates the crisis conditions that are favourable for waging the proletarian revolution in the imperialist countries and national liberation movements of the oppressed peoples and nations.

In the development of free competition capitalism of the 19th century to the monopoly capitalism of the 20th century, the bourgeoisie accumulated capital by extracting surplus value from the proletariat. At the same time, the bourgeois owners of capital compete among themselves, with some beating the others and attaining the position of monopoly.

The winners in the competition succeed in increasing their constant capital (plant, equipment and raw materials) and decreasing the variable capital for wages. They beat their capitalist rivals by raising the level of productivity and extracting a greater amount of surplus value from the workers. Eventually, the crisis of overproduction arises as the great amount of goods produced far exceeds the capacity of the people to purchase them.

The oversupply of goods relative to the shrinking market demand results in mass layoffs, production cutbacks, bankruptcies and closures, which further cut down the income and purchasing power of the people. Under such conditions, the capitalist winners in the competition absorb or destroy the losing firms to become the monopoly bourgeoisie.

After rounds of "commercial crisis" in the 19th century, monopoly capitalism became dominant in several capitalist countries towards the end of the century. The monopoly bourgeoisie had accumulated capital very rapidly under the impetus of technological innovations and the merger of industrial and bank capital. The emergence of finance capital further facilitated the accumulation of capital by the monopoly bourgeoisie by funding the expansion of production as well as speculation.

The monopoly bourgeoisie or imperialists had to go beyond their national economies to maintain profitability and their monopoly position, which they did by disposing of their surplus goods and surplus capital, and to overcome the recurrent and ever threatening crisis of overproduction. Thus, the imperialist countries vied for more economic territory by taking colonies, semicolonies and dependent countries.

Since then, the export of surplus capital has gained importance over the export of surplus goods not only because it is necessary to sell much of the surplus goods on commercial credit but also because direct and indirect investments are necessary for maintaining dominance over markets, sources of raw materials, fields of investments and spheres of influence.

Old-style colonialism differs from modern imperialism in that the former engages in outright plunder and grossly unequal exchange of goods and the latter introduces some investments in a client country to facilitate the extraction of superprofits.

Monopoly firms and imperialist countries go into international combines in the form of cartels, syndicates, trusts, mergers, alliances and the like as they compete against each other. A temporary balance among the imperialist powers exists for certain periods. This balance is upset when certain imperialist countries become stronger than before, seek an increase of economic territory and struggle for a redivision of the world.

Before the end of the 19th century, the world was already completely divided among the colonial and imperialist powers. To disturb the balance among these powers then was to start a war for a redivision of the world. With the advent of modern imperialism, the Spanish-American War (1898), the Anglo-American War (1899-1902) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) broke out.

Subsequently, the imperialists unleashed far more horrible wars, such as World War I and World War II, following a severe crisis of overproduction and intense inter-imperialist contradictions.

But the global inter-imperialist wars of the 20th century had consequences unwanted by any of the imperialist powers. The first successful socialist revolution in the Soviet Union came as a by-product of World War I. World War II also ushered in several socialist countries and national liberation movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The US rose to become the unquestioned chieftain of the imperialist alliance after World War II and the strongest military and economic power. It unleashed the Cold War in 1948 in order to "contain" the socialist countries and co-opt the national liberation movements.

The Cold War facilitated the reconstruction of the imperialist powers defeated in World War II. It made West Germany the front line against the Soviet-bloc countries and Japan that against China and the Soviet Union in East Asia. The US imperialists initiated a series of limited and localized wars and installed regimes of open terror. They encircled the socialist and anti-imperialist countries with US military bases and used economic and trade embargoes against them. The US kept the lead over the Soviet Union in the arms race as well as in space research and development.

The costs of the Cold War and the full reconstruction of Japan and Germany eventually undercut US economic power in the early 1970s. The US failed to solve the problem of stagflation and aggravated it by going further into war production and into a losing war with the Indochinese peoples. Towards the end of the 1970s, US policy makers were attracted to monetarism and neo-liberalism. Eventually, Reagan went for these when he became president. He considered wage increases and government social spending as the cause of stagflation and went for accelerated high-tech war production.

The US has been in strategic economic decline since the 1970s. But by borrowing heavily from Japan, Europe and the oil-producing countries to maintain American consumerism and excessive military spending, it was able to cover this up in the 1980s and 1990s. The disintegration of the revisionist regimes in the Soviet bloc in 1989-1991, the US lead in information technology and the stock market boom during the Clinton period served to cover up the growing fundamental ills of the US and world capitalist system.

The Cold War definitively ended with the victory of the US and its imperialist allies, upon the disintegration of the revisionist regimes in the Soviet bloc and the Soviet Union. Such disintegration was part and product of the crisis of the world capitalist system in the period from 1989 to 1991. The economies of Japan and Germany started to stagnate and decline. But by attracting larger amounts of investments in stocks, bonds and other assets from its imperialist allies and from the oil-producing countries, the US appeared able to cope with its economic crisis until 2000.

Even then, the US imperialists still found it necessary to go into a series of wars since 1991. It has done so against Iraq twice, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. It has sought more and more control over global supply of fossil fuel under the illusion that such control would assure itself and the rest of world with such "lifeblood" and could probably keep down the price of oil and keep it from causing inflation, without reducing the profit of the US oil companies.

The key objective of such wars is to extend US control over oil sources in the Middle East, Caspian Sea and Central Asia, prevent oil pipelines from taking shortcuts to Central Europe and East Asia, establish new US military bases in the Middle East, Balkans and Central Asia along the way and avail of the vassalage of the former Soviet-bloc countries.

II. US Wars of Aggression Against Iraq

It is appropriate to mention the crisis of overproduction that has gone on in raw materials, including oil, since the late 1970s. This crisis wrought destruction in the economies of the raw material-exporting third world countries and undermined a number of regimes extremely dependent on oil exports. It caused regime changes in both Iran and Iraq in 1979 and led to the series of wars in the Gulf region.

The US and its NATO allies supplied the Saddam government of Iraq with weapons and encouraged it to wage war on Iran in the 1980s. The US used Iraq to punish Iran for nationalizing its oil industry and for humiliating US diplomatic personnel. US, British, German and other imperialist firms provided Iraq with the expertise and materials for its programs of developing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction until these were scrapped in the 1990s.

After the Iraq-Iran war, Iraq found itself heavily indebted to Kuwait among others. It demanded that a portion of the oil that the latter took from the Rumaila oilfield during the war against Iran be discounted from the debt and that Kuwait should join Iraq in pushing the OPEC to cut down production and raise the oil price to make it easier for Iraq to pay for its debts and its current imports.

When Kuwait refused, Iraq asked the US what would be its attitude if Iraq attacked Kuwait. The US replied that it would not act against Iraq. Thus, the latter proceeded to invade Kuwait in 1990, giving the US the cause for organizing a coalition of forces in the name of the UN Security Council to unleash in early 1991 a US-led war of aggression against Iraq, with the avowed purpose of defending the national sovereignty of Kuwait.

From its first war of aggression against Iraq, the US reaped a bonanza of benefits. With so many countries financing the aggression, the US was able to use profitably and test its stockpile of high-tech weapons. It further secured its control over the supply of oil from the Middle East and got a big share of the oil income of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the emirates by tying these countries to military sales contracts whereby the US would continue to hold and control such weapons as AWACs and anti-missile systems.

By supporting Iraq, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) gave up Palestinian contracts with Kuwait. But it could not get from Iraq what it lost from Kuwait because of the UN sanctions against the former. Thus, the US and Israel gained a leverage for making the PLO bend towards their way. Also, they laid the ground for the future US conquest of Iraq and for the "reconfiguration" of the entire Middle East in accordance with the US-Israeli scheme.

Throughout the 1990s, the US and the NATO succeeded in a series of manoeuvres to break up Yugoslavia and expand NATO towards the southern flanks of Russia. At first, they encouraged Milosevic to wave the flag of Serbian nationalism, carry out the reforms dictated by the IMF and World Bank and push Slovenia and Croatia to separate upon German and Italian urgings. Next came the turmoil among the Serbs, Muslims and Croats in Bosnia, which the US ultimately decided at the expense of the Serbs with arms supplies to Bosnian Muslims from US military bases in Turkey.

After imposing the Dayton Accords to insure the defeat of the Serbs in Bosnia and also after getting new military bases in Macedonia and Albania, the US and its NATO allies pushed the anti-Yugoslavia and anti-Milosevic forces in Kosovo to arm themselves and demand separation. Thus, the US and NATO imposed the Rambouillet Agreement on Yugoslavia and invoked it to launch a war of aggression against Yugoslavia.

Among the imperialist powers, the US grabbed the most advantages from the war. It was able to push the expansion of NATO in Eastern Europe and forge bilateral military agreements with particular East European governments. It was able to demonstrate again how it could use high-tech weaponry to destroy fixed structures, civilian lives and infrastructure in order to make target governments surrender.

After the war, the US companies got a lion’s share of the contracts for reconstruction. Most important of all, the US was able to secure the supply route of oil from the Caspian Sea region and Central Asia towards the Mediterranean via Turkey and away from the possible pipelines over Russia to Central Europe and also away from the Danube-Rhine river line.

The September 11 attacks fit well into the imperialist plans of the US, especially the Bush administration and its gang of so-called neo-conservatives. The US imperialists have used 9/11 as a license for misrepresenting as terrorist certain governments assertive of national independence, national liberation movements, social movements and progressive leaders, for unleashing wars of aggression and for carrying out repression on a global scale, under the policy auspices of a preemptive and permanent "war on terrorism".

Behind all the anti-terrorist talk of the biggest terrorist in the world is the scheme of the US to drum war hysteria and actually to launch wars of aggression in order to justify intensified war production. This is regarded as the decisive way for reviving high-tech production and stimulating the US economy and in effect the world capitalist economy. The US imperialists also target for launching wars of aggression such countries and regions from where the US can immediately pick up material gains like sources of oil and supply routes.

Its war of aggression against Afghanistan enabled the US to penetrate more deeply than ever before and gain military footholds (basing and access rights) in the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. It can use these footholds for manoeuvrings against Russia and China. It has secured an oil supply route from the Caspian Sea and Central Asia over Afghanistan and Pakistan down to the Arabian Sea coast and Indian Ocean. It has therefore strengthened its hold over oil supply to East Asia and South Asia, which are huge oil markets.

The second US war of aggression against Iraq and US occupation of this country have far reaching consequences. The US has gained direct control over the oilfields and oil reserves of Iraq, which are the second largest in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), next only to those of Saudi Arabia. It can effect its control over Iraqi oil resources by tying these to overpriced projects of reconstruction and humanitarian assistance and by privatising these to the US oil companies.

Having gained a firm grip now on the whole of OPEC, the US can render it impotent or use it to push the privatisation of the national oil enterprises in OPEC. It can reverse the trend of shifting from the US dollar to the Euro as the currency of oil transactions. This was a trend started by Iraq in November 2000 that infuriated the US. Unrestricted US control of OPEC extends to the control of oil exploration, development, production and marketing beyond the scope of OPEC.

The US has taken over the military bases of the Iraqi armed forces and will surely retain all the major ones necessary for controlling all regions of Iraq. US military control of Iraq is necessary for robbing the Iraqi people of their oil and other natural resources and for exercising hegemony all over the Middle East. The US intends to divide and rule the Iraqi people and use local puppets as the base for a US colonial administration, masquerading as an office of reconstruction and humanitarian assistance.

The US is now moving fast to "reshape" the Middle East politically. It has in effect proclaimed itself as the hegemony over the Palestinian and Arab people and has made clear that they must yield to the wishes of both the US and Israel. It has trotted out the so-called road map that requires the Palestinian Authority to act as a local police force of the state of Israel and wipe out all resistance to Israeli occupation before the US and Israel can allow Palestinian statehood in 2005.

It has made bellicose statements against Syria and Iran in order to frighten them into submission. It has demanded that they give up their anti-imperialist and pro-Palestine position against Israeli occupation and to cooperate in dismantling the Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine. It has gone so far as to threaten Saudi Arabia with "democratisation" upon failure to follow US dictates in detail.

It is gloating over the fact that by controlling the OPEC it has control over global oil policy beyond the fold of the OPEC. It is also using its increased control over oil to compel China to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear research and development program. China is dependent on Middle East oil supply to a great extent. In turn North Korea depends on China for oil supply and other products.

At the moment, US imperialism brims over with arrogance. It looks like it can commit any monstrous act of aggression or repression with impunity and can proceed to exploit and terrorize the people of the world. But it is also outraging the workers and people of the world and inciting them to fight back.

III. Attacks against Workers and the People Generate Resistance

Since 1991, the US has succeeded in wars of aggression. These wars are part of the US strategy to resolve the monopoly capitalist crisis of overproduction. They expose the rottenness of the world capitalist system. Conquests and occupation ultimately impel the people to kick out the invaders and colonial occupiers.

So far we have pointed out the crisis of overproduction in raw materials as factor in destabilizing the Gulf region since the late 1970s. We also need to point out the crisis of overproduction in basic industrial and agricultural goods produced by the imperialist countries since 1980s. This eventually plunged Japan and Germany into stagnation and decline

in the 1990s and until now. Since 2000, the crisis of overproduction in high-tech products, leading to a protracted kind of economic and financial collapse, has afflicted the US.

Since the Reagan administration began in the early 1980s, the US has been confident that it can solve the problem of stagflation (stagnation and inflation combined) by doing away with job security, imposing wage freeze on the workers, trampling down on their democratic rights and cutting back on government social spending. The working class was supposedly the bete noire (black beast), culpable for wage inflation.

The self-proclaimed neoconservatives have been the earliest and loudest in trumpeting the neoliberal myth of the free market. But in fact they have given the tax cuts, the subsidies and state purchase contracts to the monopoly firms. Most benefited have been those in the military industrial complex and the oil monopolies.

After Reagan’s spending spree on high-tech military production, which did not generate employment, Bush the senior was confronted with huge budgetary and trade deficits and with huge debt. He had to increase taxes and tried vainly to undertake a trade offensive. Subsequently, Clinton pushed the line of "free market" globalization as his Republican predecessors had done. But he pushed the production of high tech goods, especially for consumers, as the propellant of a "new economy" of growth without inflation, shied away from tax cuts for the monopolies, cut down military expenditures and restored budgetary surpluses.

Even then, he could not reduce the foreign debt as he could not cut down drastically the trade deficits and as he encouraged US imperialist allies and oil-producing countries to buy US securities. After all, the US economy was actually buoyed more by foreign borrowing than by high-tech consumer-goods production. When the "high tech" bubble burst in March 2000, a chain of other bubbles burst in the overblown financial market, leading to an overall decline of industrial production in late 2000.

Now, Bush the junior wants to revive the voodoo economics of Reagan in the erroneous belief that this was responsible for laying the ground for the apparent American prosperity in the 1990s. He is giving huge tax cuts to the monopoly firms and favors the increased war production and wars as the way to stimulate the US and global economy and to pick up oil sources and supply routes. Under such policies, the economy has no way to go but sink further in crisis.

An extremely dangerous situation, fraught with war, has arisen in the world. Military successes of its wars of aggression have emboldened the US to impose the worst of imperialist policies on the working class, on the oppressed peoples and on countries assertive of national independence. Unable to solve the US economic and financial crisis, the Bush regime can act threateningly and provocatively against other countries, using jingoism and war hysteria to clinch the presidential elections of 2004 as he did the mid-term elections of 2002.

The very process of capitalist production is exploitative as the owners of capital extract surplus value from the workers. But the exploitation becomes more intensified when the monopoly bourgeoisie increases constant capital (for plant, equipment and raw materials) and decreases the variable capital for wages in the attempt to maximize profits, counter the falling rate of profit and beat the competitors. The imperialist policy stress on "free market" globalization has accelerated the concentration and centralization of capital.

The result is the crisis of overproduction, which means mass layoffs, production cuts and bankruptcies of the losing firms. To conceal the real causes of the crisis, the monopoly bourgeoisie whips up chauvinism, racism and fascism, tends to become bellicose and actually launches wars of aggression. In this regard, the Bush regime manifests the worst characteristics of monopoly capitalism in crisis.

Against the attacks of the monopoly bourgeoisie for more than two decades using the anachronistic slogan of "free market" globalization, the workers and other working people have carried out strikes and mass protests against the policies and consequences of privatisation, liberalization and deregulation.

On the world stage, the battle in Seattle against the World Trade Organization signalled a new and higher level of struggle against the imperialist powers (Group of 7+1) and their multilateral agencies, OECD, IMF, World Bank and WTO.

The broad masses of the people of the world have also been sharply alerted by the scheme of the US to use the 9/11 attacks as the license to demonize as terrorist and attack governments assertive of national independence, national liberation movements, people’s revolutionary movements, progressive social movements and anti-imperialist leaders.

Since the US took the warpath against Afghanistan and then against Iraq in the current decade, the people of the world have become more vigilant, resolute and militant against US imperialism. Thus, in the first four months of 2003 mass actions against US imperialism and against war arose all over the world, surpassing in many cities the magnitude and intensity of mass actions against the US war of aggression against Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s.

However, there is the tendency for the anti-war mass movement to dwindle when the imperialist aggressors are successful, even if the rallies in favor of the imperialist war have not surpassed the anti-war rallies up to now. The forces and leaders of the mass movement against imperialism and war must not be demoralized by the success of aggression against Iraq but must be further outraged by such success and by the occupation and recolonization of Iraq.

As the crisis of the world capitalist system worsens, we can expect all the major contradictions in the world to sharpen. These are the contradictions between the imperialists and the oppressed peoples and nations, between the imperialists and governments that assert national independence, among the imperialists and between the monopoly bourgeoisie and proletariat in the imperialist countries.

The oppressed peoples can wage various forms of resistance. These are the legal and illegal, armed and non-armed. Armed revolution through protracted people’s war is now going on in some semi-colonial and semi-feudal countries. More of such armed revolutions are possible in the same type of countries before city armed uprisings can become successful in the more developed countries.

The development of the legal democratic mass movement is possible in all types of countries. It has been demonstrated in strikes and protest rallies against "free market" globalization and against imperialist war that large numbers of people can be roused and mobilized through the adoption of broad united front policy and tactics. It is possible for the Left forces to win the forces of the Middle and take advantage of splits among the forces of the Right.

In every patriotic and progressive class and sector of society, the various forces can unite and draw other forces to struggle against imperialism and reaction. In turn, the forces of all patriotic and progressive classes and sectors can draw in other forces and forge a multisectoral unity. At the international level, the people of the world must develop broad solidarity against imperialism and must participate in a broad united front.

Inasmuch as you are holding this conference to form the ILPS study commission on workers" rights and to lay the ground for the purpose, let me point out the crucial importance of uniting the workers and trade unions of the Left, winning those of the middle and taking advantage of the splits among the Rightist leaders of unions in order to fight imperialism and reaction. This can be done at the national level (in the imperialist and client countries) as well as at the international level through the ISA, ILPS or otherwise.

At best, the working class must have a revolutionary party as its advanced detachment in order to carry forward the historic mission of the class to win the battle for democracy and build socialism. But it is appropriately not in your conference agenda as your objective is to promote the solidarity of workers and trade unions on an international scale through the ISA and ILPS.

It is quite gratifying that you are holding this conference in order to form the ILPS study commission on workers’ rights and thereby realize the ILPS policy of periodically holding a workers’ conference to be prepared by the study commission and approved by the International Coordinating Committee of the ILPS.

I hope that this paper can serve at the least as the starting point of discussion. I am sure that the discussion becomes richer and more productive as you bring into it your experience, ideas and opinions that you have gathered in the course of workers’ struggle in your various countries. Thank you. ###

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