Setting our own agenda

In his letter (‘Protect young’ Weekly Worker August 20) comrade Martin Jennings suggests that the removal of the age of consent will open the way for the sexual “exploitation” of the young by those who are more “advanced than they are in their sexuality” and that the presence of a law will protect them from such abuse. Not only is this a dangerous misconception; it also misses the main point for raising the demand in the first place.

The sexual “exploitation” of youth would still continue even in the unlikely event that the present ages of consent for straight and gay sex were equalised at 14. So communists should not get involved in juggling with a ‘correct’ age of consent – the ‘correct’ time to indulge in any sexual activity will be different for each individual, but they themselves should have the right to decide when they are ready. Anyway, who is to say that individuals at 18 are not still open to sexual exploitation by others more “advanced” in their sexuality? How do we counteract this? Raise the age of consent? Indeed, should we allow the state itself to determine what exactly exploitation means? No. The state must not be allowed to set a political agenda which determines who should sleep with whom and under what conditions this should take place.

It is also important to point out that the CPGB makes the call for the abolition of the age of consent not as any isolated, single-issue campaign, but one which is linked to wider political demands to transform our class - from the position with which it accepts the understanding that it needs to be governed to one that elevates itself to a governing position. It gives workers in Britain the politics to challenge the capitalist class and transforms our class into a new ruling class. This is an important point to grasp. We do not campaign for the ruling class to grant our demands so as to strengthen official Britain. We campaign for these demands to be won using our methods, ranging from protest meetings and strikes to workers’ councils of action. We fight for democratic rights on our terms – the age of consent representing one of the most basic of these demands.

Bob Paul
East London

SWP communist

Being a lifelong communist I don’t see the reason why the far left is split into fractions and ignoring the words of Karl Marx, “Workers of the world, unite”.

Though being a member of one of these ‘fractions’ (the Socialist Workers Party) I am an advocate of practically all far left organisations as they all strive for the same thing: peace, socialism and internationalism.

The question that I am trying to put across is why is the left split. Is it due to differences in ideals and how to get them, or is it because of ambitious career politicians we are so used to seeing in the major parties?

Carl Taylor

Cuba invites

Please thank the participants in the Communist University ’98 for the warmly received revolutionary greetings which they sent to the 11th conference of the International Communist Esperantist Collective (IKEK).

Our organisation aims to link communist Esperantists together and to use the international language to assist international relations in the labour movement, especially the communist parties and other class struggle parties. IKEK and its bi-monthly journal Internaciisto are open to all tendencies in the workers’ movement.

I am pleased to invite readers of the Weekly Worker to learn Esperanto, contribute articles to Internaciisto, and participate in the 12th conference of IKEK, which will be held in Cuba at the end of 1999.

Mayra Núñez Hernàndez
IKEK secretary, Cuba

Injury to all

The rationale given by the US imperialists for bombing the Khartoum pharmaceuticals factory is because of its ‘capacity’ to create components for VX nerve gas.

What the US government doesn’t - and won’t - tell you is that components for this particular type of nerve gas can be made at any pharmaceutical facility. VX is one of the simpler chemical weapons to make, which is why it is a favourite of terrorists. This medicine factory is located in the middle of the industrial district of the Sudanese capital.  It was considered a ‘showpiece’ of the economic growth of eastern Africa, and foreign dignitaries - including those from the US - often toured the site on official visits.

According to the Sudanese information minister, the plant was privately owned, financed partially by the Nairobi-based Preferential Trade Area Bank, and commissioned two years ago.  Osama bin Laden had no role in the functioning of the pharmaceutical company. The closest possible links involve the construction company that built the building.

Many people have felt compelled to question the timing of this attack in light of the ongoing investigation into Clinton’s private affairs. At the beginning of this week, people around the world saw Clinton finally admit that he had a sexual relationship with former intern Monica Lewinsky.  Much like the weeks before, this week’s headlines were dominated by stories about Lewinsky, the Clintons, independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr, etc, ad nauseam. And, of course, the US military strikes do mean that Lewinsky may very well be relegated to inside pages.

Because of this, many people viewed the bombings as a real-life version of the movie Wag the Dog.  In the movie, a US president is caught in a bedroom with a girl scout. But there is an important difference between the movie and real life here.  In real life, the bombings were real, the deaths were real; there is no Hollywood magic littering the streets of Khartoum. There are no blue screens, no matte overlays, no wardrobe department - except that of Clinton himself.

Often times, in the rush to demonise a foe, the media in this country - acting as the mouthpiece of the imperialists - suffers from a selective memory loss.  In analysing the origins and history of bin Laden, one finds very interesting details hidden under the media fury.

What do bin Laden and Manuel Noriega, former leader of Panama, have in common?  Both of them were at one time on the payroll of the CIA.  In fact, bin Laden received much of his military training and equipment from the US government. His CIA training comes from his days working as an intermediary between the US and the mujahedin terrorists in Afghanistan in the 1980s.  Many of these mujahedin terrorists were trained at the very air base Clinton bombed on Thursday. In light of the links between bin Laden and the CIA, one can only look at the bombings on Thursday as a case of a falling out among thieves.

Malcolm X referred to the Kennedy assassination in 1963 as a case of “chickens coming home to roost”.  In many ways, the emerging conflict between bin Laden and his former paymasters is also a case of chickens coming home to roost.  Bin Laden served his imperialist masters well during the 1980s.  But he became disillusioned with the US after the Gulf War, and went into business for himself. The US instantly labelled him a “terrorist,” ignoring the fact that he was still in the personnel files of the CIA.

And all of this culminated Thursday when, without any direct evidence linking bin Laden to the bombings, the US sent missiles into Sudan and Afghanistan.

The Marxist Workers’ Group condemns the US terror bombings in Sudan and Afghanistan.  At the same time, we also stand against the car-bombings of the two imperialist embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The attacks on both embassies, designed to attack only the US, succeeded in killing innocent workers at and near each facility. Hundreds of office workers, maintenance personnel and embassy staffers native to Kenya and Tanzania were killed in the blast.

This is the usual fruit of individual terror - the deaths of workers. For this reason, we can give no quarter to individual terrorism, which represents the methods and ideology of the ruling class. However, we must point out that it is the long track record of imperialist domination and oppression that led to the development of such groups in the first place.

The working class worldwide must rally to the defence of these semi-colonial countries against US imperialism.  We must understand that such US government terrorism is really intended to bolster American imperialism in its quest for continuing world domination. But the working class has much more in common with its brothers and sisters internationally than with its ‘own’ imperialist ruling class. As the imperialists murder innocent workers in Sudan and Afghanistan, they are also attacking workers at home.  While they bomb a main medical supply facility in a country wracked by famine and disease, they are cutting welfare and medical benefits to poor people here.  And while they search the globe for cheap, exploitable labour, they cut jobs, wages and benefits in the US.

But the working class, united in struggle around the world, could fight back against all of this. The historic principle of the labour movement, “an injury to one is an injury to all,” must be raised once again to the forefront of working class struggles.  And it must be made international.

Whenever imperialism seeks to oppress working class people internationally, including by attacking impoverished semi-colonial countries, workers here must respond with their most powerful weapon - the ability to shut down production.

It is the working class that built this country and it is the working class that can shut it down.  Strike action in defence of our working class sisters and brothers around the world is a more powerful weapon than anything the imperialists can pull from their arsenal.

Marxist Workers’ Group
Detroit, USA