War against war

The spectre of war is casting its shadow over the world. Imperialism is about to enter phase one of its global ?war against terrorism? - with the counterrevolutionary Taliban regime in Afghanistan the first to find itself in the target sights.

Loudly beating the war drum - of course - is Tony Blair. On Tuesday, he told the world?s media: ?We certainly have the power to do very considerable damage to the Taliban regime. The Taliban regime know exactly what they need to do. They could do it perfectly easily. They could act at any point in time. If they stand in the way of bringing bin Laden to account, they are every bit as much our enemy as bin Laden himself.?

Cynical games. As Blair knows full well, the chances of the Taliban meekly handing over bin Laden - or anyone else for that matter - to the ?great Satan? are zero. When asked about this in an interview last Friday with the Voice of America - which was then pulled following strong objections from senior officials on the National Security Council - the regime?s No2, Mullah Omar Mohammad, was blunt: ?No, we cannot do that. If we did, it means we are not muslims.?

This comes on top of bin Laden?s defiant message, faxed to a Qatar news agency, which called for a worldwide muslim jihad ?against the new Jewish and christian crusader campaign that is led by Bush under the banner of the cross. We ask god to make us defeat the infidels and to crush the new Jewish-christian campaign on the land of Pakistan and Afghanistan.?

Preparing itself for the surely inevitable assault, the Taliban regime is attempting to mobilise hundreds of thousands of extra reserve troops. Of course, if it cannot find the appropriate numbers (300,000, according to Mohammad),  there are always?volunteers?. Ethnic minorities - such as the Tajiks - now find themselves the victims of Taliban press-gangs.

For sure, the circle is closing in on the Taliban. Both the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have cut diplomatic links. The Saudi government stated that the Taliban had failed to use their links with the kingdom ?for building the ties of brotherhood? and that it now ?fully backs action aimed at eradicating terrorism and its causes?.

The grand coalition is taking shape. As an imperialist ?thank you?, the US has lifted economic sanctions it imposed on both Pakistan and India as a punishment for their nuclear programmes - sanctions ?would not be in the national security interests of the United States?. Iran too is being courted. Jack Straw went this week to Tehran - the first senior British figure to visit the country since the 1979 revolution/counterrevolution.

As part of the drive to win over the ?reformist? government, and islamic opinion in general, Straw penned an article for the Iranian press, which stated that ?one of the factors that helps breed terrorism is the anger that many people in this region feel at events over the years in Palestine?. Naturally, Israeli rightwingers huffed and puffed about how the foreign secretary?s comments were ?despicable?, ?ignorant? and ?bordering on the anti-semitic?. Sharon refused to met Straw. After talking to Blair on the phone for 15 minutes, Sharon then agreed to see the foreign secretary after all. No more blank cheques for Israel, it seems - at least for the time being.

Russia is also pledged to support the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance/United Front - consisting of various mujahadeen factions and surviving elements of the People?s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (which presided over a progressive regime from 1978 until 1992). This force is reportedly in high spirits and is already launching its own military offensive against the Taliban. Russia has furthermore agreed that the US can use as military staging posts the former Soviet republics that border Afghanistan - Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Naturally, Vladimir Putin - the ?butcher of Grozny? - wants to portray Russia?s brutal seven-year war against the Chechen people as a ?natural? extension of Bush?s new global war against terrorism. Now hoping for a free hand in Chechnya, Putin argued: ?International terrorism has made clear their wish to set up a fundamentalist muslim state between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea.? Desperate to assist in the whitewashing of the crimes of the Russian state, the German prime minister, Gerhard Schr?der, has already called for a ?new evaluation? of Russia?s campaign in the Caucasus.

The strategy of US imperialism is becoming clear. Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, announced there will be ?no D-Day? - no ?single massive strike?. Rather a combination initially of cruise missiles and special forces. This will no doubt be followed by some kind of land invasion, which would aim to join with the United Front in order to bring back the former king, Zahir Shah - he was overthrown by his cousin, Mohamed Daoud in 1973. The plan is for Zahir Shah to be installed as interim president over a provisional government of national unity which embraces tribal and political factions.

In any conventional war the Taliban have no chance against the USA. But, as the Soviet Union found to its cost in the 1980s, Afghanistan is perfect guerrilla fighting territory. What proved a quagmire for the Soviet armed forces - who had the advantage of operating just over the border from home and enjoyed governmental allies in the form of the PDPA - could equally prove to be a quagmire for US forces. Holding Kabul and Kandahar is easy. Holding the countryside and thus the road network is another matter entirely.

No wonder Bush talks not of months, but years. And then there are the other ?terrorists? and ?rogue states? to crush. The new world order and its associated wars has only just begun - but, as always, foreign wars always begin at home. The US administration has seized the assets of 27 organisations defined as terrorist. The treasury now has the right to freeze the assets of any foreign bank or financial institution which fails to comply with US demands. This initiative expands the category of targeted groups to include all those ?associated with? designated terrorist groups. In parallel, it is also being suggested that the administration needs the power to indefinitely detain without trial immigrants suspected of links with terrorist groups. The administration?s bill would also expand wire tap authority to include cell phones and e-mails, and broaden the definition of terrorists to include those who ?lend support? to terrorist organisations.

In the UK, all three mainstream parties have agreed to cut short their party conferences. The Labour Party will wind up on Wednesday lunch time. Parliament will then be recalled next day for an emergency ?debate?. No doubt Blair will want to rush through the anti-terrorist measures approved by the EU summit last Friday. Here is a golden chance to push through repressive and authoritarian legislation. Home secretary David Blunkett has said the government is ?seriously considering? the reintroduction of compulsory ID cards - abolished by Winston Churchill in 1953.

Some Tory MPs, such as Humfrey Malins, have urged Blair to ensure that any further domestic legal crackdown on terrorists is ?judge-proof? - ie, could not be watered down by a judiciary interpretation of the Human Rights Act. Michael Ancram, the new shadow foreign secretary, has pontificated about how there is no place for ?idealistic? human rights legislation when there is a terrorist threat to hand.

In tandem with these legal assaults, the ideological-propaganda war is now in full throttle. Peter Hain attacked the ?effete? anti-war left - ?it?s time to fight?. After all, Hain wrote in The Guardian, the ?values which the terrorists attacked last week? were ?the same values which inspired the British left in the 1930s to fight fascism in Spain and oppose appeasement of the Nazis, and in the 1970s and 1980s to black liberation struggles in southern Africa? (September 24). Full marks for doublespeak, Mr Hain.

In a grim foretaste of things to come, the self-professed ?anarchist?, Richard Littlejohn, wrote in The Sun about how he would ?like to think that Blair is sickened to his stomach as I am of the puerile reaction of some of his supporters in the fascist left? - and condemned the ?vile, racist, seditious rubbish in The Guardian and The Independent?. Warming to his theme, Littlejohn warned: ?The Guardian, which has always taken the view that my country?s enemies are my friends, has simply reverted to type. You might think none of this is important ? But The Guardian is the bible of the people who rule the country, day in, day out. I don?t mean the cabinet or, particularly, the parliamentary Labour Party. I?m talking about the outreaching classes, the bureaucrats and judicial activists who control every lever of our society, from the criminal justice system to the schools. They are often described as ?do-gooders?. They are not. They are bad bastards ? Blair?s speaking for Britain. Real Britain, not leftwing broadsheet Britain? (September 21).

Equally as crude, fellow Sun writer Trevor Kavanagh lectured: ?The peace campaigners are of the same stock as protestors who warned in the 1930s against standing up to Hitler? (September 24).

We are at a turning point in world politics - made even more pronounced by the certainty of a severe economic downturn, perhaps a slump. The actions now being planned by imperialism will have enormous and  unpredictable repercussions. The regimes of the muslim world are extraordinarily fragile - Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Kuwait, Yemen, Pakistan, Iran, Morocco, Algeria. Here the dispossessed - the real losers from neo-liberal globalisation - in their desperation might hail the bin Ladens and the Talibans as their saviours. The fact that bin Laden is being targeted as the head of ?World Terror Inc? - the evil mastermind behind all attacks on the USA and its interests - can only increase his ?anti-imperialist? appeal for many.

Under these grave circumstances communists, revolutionary socialists and anti-war activists will be the focus of media and establishment hostility - and perhaps legislation. Have no doubts, comrades. We need to prepare ourselves - the Socialist Alliance in particular has to steel itself for the tasks ahead. Taking refuge in pacifistic sentiment is not the way forward. It disarms us.

Unfortunately, a quick glance at the left press reveals an outbreak of peacemongery. It is not good enough just to say ?No to war?; nor should we go along with Socialist Worker when it claimed that it ?abhors? violence - for which the ruling class and the bourgeoisie must be very grateful. Socialists - genuine socialists, that is - cannot renounce violence any more than they can renounce war. We have a duty to support just wars - not only abroad, but also at home, in the form of a revolutionary civil war that smashes the armed forces of the existing, capitalist, state, in order to bring to power the working class.

The SA?s central objective - at this stage - must be to oppose all war plans by the Blair government, defend democratic rights and liberties from the attacks of the warmongers, and encourage all forms of class struggle. Where the TUC and the Labour Party NEC have bowed before the war hysteria, the Socialist Alliance must fight for peace through taking up the weapons of class war.