Defend Iraq

The CPGB’s critique of the International Bolshevik Tendency is not assisted by its decision not to side unequivocally with Iraq against the west.

Of course, your position on that issue needs to be decided on the merits of the issue, not on whether it furthers your critique of the IBT or anyone else. But I think your position is wrong, and the analogies which Mark Fischer uses to back up his case (Weekly Worker January 7) are not really analogies at all.

In Socialism and war Lenin is unequivocal that in a conflict between an imperialist power and an oppressed nation Marxists side with the oppressed nation regardless of who fires the first shot or the nature of the regime. Trotsky made the same point in the 1930s in relation to a war between ‘democratic’ England and ‘fascist’ Brazil.

The same thing applied in the war in the South Atlantic - in Britain it was surely necessary to side with Argentina, regardless of the nature of the regime in Buenos Aires. I was in Britain during that war and I remember being appalled by the British left, or most of it, who would dream up all kinds of excuses to get out of siding with Argentina. The worst, of course, were Militant, who even refused to call for the withdrawal of the British forces and argued that Argentina was on some kind of par with Britain because there was a stock exchange in Buenos Aires. Militant were much more concerned with how to bring down the Galtieri regime than with how to bring down British imperialism.

Philip Ferguson
Auckland, New Zealand

Free Mumia

In October last year the US courts ruled against the appeal of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the black activist and journalist who is on death row for a crime he did not commit. Ever since his days as a teenager fighting for racial equality and social justice in the Black Panther Party, the US government has targeted Mumia for elimination. The FBI has a file 700 pages long on Mumia, and called him “armed and dangerous” even though he had committed not one crime in his life.

The rulers of this society want him dead for exposing the racist nature of American capitalism. Mumia’s conviction over 17 years ago was the product of phony evidence and perjured testimony coerced from alleged witnesses. Although Mumia’s lawyers have cut through all the lies and exposed the political agenda behind the persecution of Mumia, he remains on death row and the death warrant could be signed over the next few months. Of the thousands on death row, predominately black, Mumia’s case shows most clearly how the death penalty is used as a political weapon to maintain the oppressive rule of the capitalist state.

International action to fight the death penalty and save Mumia’s life is urgent. A public meeting has been called for January 28 to bring together the different groups and individuals who support Mumia and to launch a non-sectarian united front coalition which can organise significant protests in the coming months.

Barbara Duke

Missed opportunity

Saturday January 9 saw one of the biggest demonstrations ever in Basque history. More than 100,000 people braved the pouring rain to march through the streets of Bilbao.

Women and men of all ages marched together with friends, family and workmates - sometimes three generations could be seen marching together. A truly massive mobilisation of the Basque working class.

The demonstration - called by the Basque nationalist parties (PNV, EA, HB) - demanded the immediate restoration of the Basque political prisoners to the Basque country. This elementary demand has been the focus of a series of militant demonstrations in the three months since the Basque elections. Basque prisoners - including the entire former leadership of Henri Batasuna - are currently dispersed all over Spain, often more than 500 miles away - making it next to impossible for family and friends to regularly visit those in prison.

The Basque government itself has pointed out that this is in clear violation of Spanish law, which states that prisoners should serve their terms close to home. Apparently, the Spanish government likes to give Basque prisoners special treatment. Special treatment of a different sort from the former PSOE ministers jailed for their part in the notorious GAL operation. They have been let out ‘pending appeal’ - after only four months.

The last six months have seen an entirely new political situation. September’s ETA ceasefire was followed by October’s elections, with the nationalist parties winning a clear majority on a record turnout. The new government is a PNV-EA coalition supported “from outside” by Herri Batasuna/Euskal Herritarrok. There is a real danger of HB/EH actually entering the bourgeois government. At the moment HB leaders say this is “not on the agenda”, but they do not rule it out for the future. Given that a number of HB leaders are known to be in favour of such a move, it is likely to be the focus of a major battle for the heart and soul of Herri Batasuna.

The present situation provides enormous opportunities for socialists, but what has been the role of Izquierda Unida (United Left)? The IU could have taken a lead in the situation. They could have fought for the UGT to support these demonstrations, bringing together their banners, marching in trade union contingents and raising demands against the PNV. What an opportunity.

The Basque labour movement is at present tragically divided between nationalists (ELA and LAB) and non-nationalists (UGT). Who gains when they fight each other, when they make deals with the management against each other, when they cannot even organise joint May Day demonstrations? The bosses are laughing all the way to the bank.

Izquierda Unida should have gone all out for those demonstrations. Never before has there been a better opportunity to go directly to the base of the nationalist parties. But, while probably thousands of IU supporters turned out from all over the Basque country, they had no profile - and did not intervene.

Every IU member there should have had specially produced leaflets to hand out, attacking the PNV on its record and outlining a socialist alternative. Everyone of those 100,000 should have gone away knowing there is a clear alternative to both the PP and the PNV.

The IU did none of this - what a missed opportunity. It is not long ago that someone in Bilbao won 19 million pesetas (£90,000) on the national lottery and forgot to collect the prize. I wonder if they are in the leadership of IU?

Jim Padmore
Vitoria, Spain

Keep your distance?

I must ask what are your opinions on the European Union and the single currency. I am sure that you understand the problems Great Britain faces in the EU, with the loss of sovereignty to Jacques Santer, Sir Leon Brittan and Neil Kinnock. Blair has sold us down the river in the name of ethical socialism with only the resignations of Peter Mandelson and Geoffrey Robinson to console us.

I myself am a member of the Youth Against the EU, which is a cross-party group including communists, socialists, liberals, greens, nationalists and Conservatives (who are the most dominant). I rest more on a centrist point as, although I was raised as a child under the Conservatives, my family (on my mother’s side) is from Merthyr Tydfil, Old Labour’s second oldest seat, which means a red spirit is in me, as well as a blue one. I am no Thatcherite though.

You may want to distance yourself away from me. But I agree with many things you say - especially on devolution and welfare (the NHS is very important to me for many reasons). The left wing in this country has been divided in a very bad way ever since 1983 and the communists isolated since 1991.

If the left becomes united against Blair the remaining socialists will, hopefully, join you which will weaken Blair’s grip on power greatly. A new strategy will be needed to rid the Labour Party of its greatest enemy since Baroness Thatcher. I was once a Labour supporter, until Blair was elected. I would enjoy very much being able to support your Party.

Gareth Brown