Socialist Party | Print
AS WE go to press, Bush's military machine is preparing for action. Air-strikes against Afghanistan are imminent. The overwhelming majority of people feel that something must be done; that further devastating terrorist attacks must be prevented.
But bombing and sending troops into Afghanistan offer no solution. It will be ordinary workers and poor people who ultimately will pay the price. Military action threatens more instability and turmoil which could fuel further terrorist outrages.
Bush says: "You're either with us or with the terrorists" and Tony Blair agrees. But there are thousands of people who oppose terrorism without backing Bush and Blair's war aims.
There is unease about the consequences of military action. And a growing minority are demonstrating opposition in protests in the US, Britain and around the world.
Working class people have no trust in Bush and Blair to defend jobs and services. So why should we trust them to wage a 'war against terrorism'? Even before the 11 September attacks, thousands of workers faced losing their jobs. Now thousands more will pay the price for a crisis not of their making.
At the same time innocent Afghans will be killed, maimed and starved to death, so that US imperialism can defend its interests.
Bush and Blair are the representatives of an unequal and exploitative system which has condemned millions to poverty, war and oppression. These are the conditions which lay the basis for the kind of terrorist attacks which took place in the US.
While the capitalist system remains in place, terrorism will not be eradicated.
We have to organise in opposition to military action against innocent people in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
We have to build an anti-war movement to challenge Bush and Blair's war aims. But we also have to build mass socialist forces in the US, Britain and internationally to end the horrors of capitalism.
Only a socialist society would ensure an equal, co-operative and peaceful world.
THE WORLD economy is rapidly approaching recession. It's not only a response to the tragic events in New York but longer-term problems such as overproduction. Share markets dropped steadily after profits warnings from many companies.
The bosses want the workers to pay for this crisis through job losses and worsening conditions. While US airline executives queue up outside Bush's office demanding aid, many US companies are laying off workers.
In Britain British Airways (BA) are threatening that 5,200 more jobs will go.
"The world economic slowdown tends to hit the airline industry first as business passengers stop travelling. This summer, BA anticipated the world slowdown by announcing 1,800 redundancies, to be found by next March on a voluntary basis. They also said that next year there would be significant reductions.
"They used the New York tragedy as an excuse to accelerate the redundancies, bringing forward their plans from next financial year to now. They hoped to get these changes through when everyone's stunned.
"We've been through the ups and downs of the economic cycle for so long that redundancies are part of the airline industry. However we've had agreements in place now for 50 years that mean no compulsory redundancies.
"Staff would either be redeployed or offered voluntary redundancy or early retirement. British Airways has responded to structural problems in the industry by shrinking its capacity.
"But every job cut, every squeeze on wages, has gone to reduce ticket prices. The airline industry has for ten years cut prices yearly in a price war. If it continued, airline workers would have to pay the company to work and the company pay passengers to fly!
"The overwhelming response to this threat has been to say no. There'll be no tearing up of agreements that have existed 50 years. Compulsory redundancies will be resisted by the whole workforce united,
"Only a few agreements cover the whole workforce and the redeployment agreement is the most important. Every union says that this would be an attack on basic principles.
"But the trade union leaders say the 7,000 jobs don't have to be found until the end of next March so there's still time to beg Labour to help the industry. Most workers, though, want to fight the compulsory redundancies as soon as possible.
"The crisis is proving that transport can't operate on a capitalist basis. When it was nationalised the airline industry worked on almost zero margins. Now you've got consolidation, mergers etc.
"Workers are anxiously looking at the example of Swissair, one of the most prestigious airways, recently taken over by a low-cost, low wage airline which will try to impose cutbacks, wage cuts etc.
"In that situation workers will need to fight for their jobs and conditions."
HORROR AND outrage are natural responses to the carnage in New York and Washington.
These emotions have swept the world, especially the US. President Bush and the American ruling class want to use this mood to mobilise public opinion, and governments internationally, to back their 'war against terrorism'.
Support for Bush has gone from around 50% to over 90% in the opinion polls, the highest ever for a US president. If the suicide attackers' goal was to undermine the US ruling class, they achieved the complete opposite. Temporarily, the US capitalist class's position is strengthened.
Marxists always explain that individual terrorism is counterproductive and strengthens the ruling class's position. This is a hundred times more the case with the atrocities in the US. They were a kind of mass terrorism in which thousands of innocent people died. We absolutely condemn this action.
In the immediate period most US public opinion will support Bush's inevitable military action. This provides an opportunity, from the US ruling class viewpoint, to overcome the Vietnam syndrome. Since the movement against the Vietnam War (in which 50,000 US soldiers died over a decade) the US ruling class have been terrified of risking American soldiers' lives. Now, with mass casualities in New York, they calculate the situation has changed.
However, even at present in the US, the mood isn't uniform. Amongst sections of students and young people there is a questioning of the policies of the Bush administration, and a fear of the consequences of military action. Over time, as these consequences become clear questioning of - and outright opposition to - US imperialism's policies will become the norm.
The last few weeks have shattered the idea that the US can exist in a bubble, ignoring the consequences of US foreign policy. Ultimately, the US working class will have to confront the fact that US imperialism's policies have led to the US being hated by millions in the neo-colonial world. For example, every month 6,000 children die in Iraq as a result of sanctions - as many as are estimated to have died in the World Trade Centre and Pentagon.
How quickly the US's mood changes will partly depend on the nature of the military action taken. Internationally, the US has formed a widespread alliance in favour of a 'war on terrorism', including many leaders of Muslim nations. However, there is extreme caution among many, including the major European powers of France and Germany about what this 'war' will actually mean. Blair has acted as US imperialism's quartermaster, rushing around trying to consolidate support for Bush's proposals.
However, even the extremely short-sighted US administration has its divisions. One section, around the Defence department, favours widespread military action, including against Iraq "to finish off the Gulf War". Others, such as Colin Powell, who argue to 'limit' initial action to Afghanistan, clearly have some concept of the devastating turmoil that could be created by US action in the Middle East.
However, although the 'limited' action proposed by Powell will be easier for the countries of the Alliance to support, it will still have devastating consequences. It will mean the death of thousands of innocent Afghans, and if ground troops are sent in, is likely to lead to US soldiers dying.
The US may well manage to overthrow the Taliban, but any regime they help to power will be extremely unstable. What is more, it could lead to serious revolt in neighbouring Pakistan and the possible prospect of an extremely right wing 'Islamic Fundamentalist' regime coming to power.
In Britain public opinion is already more mixed than in the US. Understandably, amongst the majority, there is a mood that 'something should be done' against the attackers. There is a distrust of what Blair, and especially Bush, is proposing to do.
Only 37% of people in Britain have 'a fair amount' of trust in Bush to take the right decisions. If British troops are involved in action, opinion could temporarily harden behind the government's policies. However, this won't be true amongst the whole of society. A significant section of young people are already getting active against the war. Last Saturday 5,000 attended a demonstration advertised only by email and word of mouth.
As socialists we will attempt to organise that minority and build for the national demonstration on 13 October. At the same time we will explain and analyse what is taking place, and why US and British imperialism's policies, far from winning a 'war against terrorism' will only create many more people desperate enough to carry out suicide attacks.
A real solution can only be found by building mass socialist organisations, which offer an alternative to the nightmare that capitalism means for millions on the planet.
OPINION POLLS in the US show overwhelming support for military action in Afghanistan. But as Diane Stokes from Socialist Alternative (SA) in Chicago reports, the mood is more complex than the polls would suggest.
MANY WORKERS, temporarily at least, think we have to support Bush in the effort to remove the threat of terrorism.
As Marcus, a union steward of Lebanese and Jewish heritage put it: "This time it's different. We've been attacked by fanatical terrorists. We have to stop them for our own security. Even if we don't agree with Bush's policies we have to get behind him to defend ourselves. What else can we do?"
When some of the facts about the history of relations between the US and Afghanistan or the US and the Middle-East are explained, people like Marcus will often consider what is being said. How deeply convinced some workers are that the US should go to war remains to be seen.
When the civilian casualities begin to mount in Afghanistan and soldiers begin to be returned home in body bags, as they did during the war in the Gulf, support for a protracted and complex war will undoubtedly diminish.
In the welfare office where I work, I had a conversation with Alfredo. He was born in Puerto Rico, but moved to Chicago a number of years ago. Alfredo was in the army during the Vietnam War. When I asked him what he thought of Bush leading us into another war, he simply replied: "He's dangerous. War is terrible. You lose your friends. You lose everything."
Young workers and students are also concerned about being drafted into the military machine.
Justin, a white worker from the suburbs, joined the army reserves so he could get financial aid for his college education. The stark reality that his unit could be called up for service was just setting in.
"I can't really complain about the war because I'm in the reserves. But I'm thinking about what I would do if I'm called up. My friend told me she would lock me up in the closet for a few months so they couldn't take me away".
The frenzy of war propaganda coming from the corporate media has temporarily captured the imagination of a number of working class people. This is reflected on the job where some people feel they will stand out as unpatriotic if they do not display a flag or talk tough about terrorism.
By extension, generalising about the nature of the enemy leads to racism, and scapegoating about entire countries and groups of people from countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as Muslims and Arabs in general.
The FBI have admitted that hate crimes have increased and 77 incidents nationally are being investigated.
The government is using the drive to war to restrict the rights of people of Arab descent in the US as well as that of other immigrants.
Airlines are considering the use of racial profiling for domestic flights. Congress is discussing expanded powers for the FBI and CIA in the areas of wiretapping, access to e-mail and use of government informers and agents. Additionally thousands of immigration border patrols and other police measures in violation of fundamental democratic rights are being proposed.
John Sweeney, head of the AFL-CIO (main trade union federation), recently issued a statement that backs a military response to the terrorists' attacks. United Electrical Workers (UE), which is not in the AFL-CIO, issued a statement opposing the war (see below).
Local 1199, a hospital worker's union in New York, recently held a meeting where members voiced their protests against the war in a public statement.
The AFL-CIO will attempt to force compliance with the military policies of the ruling class upon the unions. This will be occurring as the economy is rushing towards a recession.
Sharp struggles may emerge within the rank and file to declare their democratic rights and independence from both the economic and political policies of the capitalist class.
It is ever more urgent for Socialists, anti-war and anti-capitalist activists to combine their struggles and bring the working class and oppressed into the movement.
EVEN AT this early stage, the anti-war movement is gathering pace across the US. Thousands have been involved in peace demonstrations.
Over 2,000 marched in Berkeley. 500 demonstrated in Oberlin College, Ohio, where, as The Guardian reported (24 Sept), Socialist Alternative - the Socialist Party's sister organisation in the US - was to the fore.
A national anti-war network has been formed, covering at least 150 university campuses.
A march on Washington is planned for 29 September when the IMF/World Bank were supposed to have met.
Like all Americans, the members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) are devastated by the mind-numbing loss of life caused by the terrorist attacks of 11 September...
Many of the slain were union members, murdered at their place of work and on the job...
We condemn unreservedly the hidden, unseen, faceless killers who are responsible for this crime against humanity... We continue with plans for our convention - the highest expression of our union democracy - with renewed commitment to freedom and solidarity...
Today's war against the terrorism of an evil few must not be confused with attacks on an ethnicity or religion. Verbal slurs and physical assaults against our Arab-American and Islamic neighbours and co-workers must be countered, condemned and stopped.
As we mourn and as we rage, we also declare our resistance to efforts to use this tragedy to curtail our civil liberties or to engage in military adventures that can lead only to more carnage and senseless loss of life.
Our greatest memorial to our fallen brothers and sisters will be a world of peace, tolerance and understanding, underscored by the solidarity of working people.
MORE THAN 10,000 people took part in a demonstration against the war in Berlin on Saturday 22 September.
The demonstration was organised by a broad anti-war alliance, involving more than 100 organisations.
SAV, the sister party of the Socialist Party in Germany, is part of this alliance and intervened with the slogan: "No more victims, stop the war". Thousands of leaflets were distributed and a SAV member spoke on the platform. SAV is supporting plans by Widerstand International (International Resistance) to call a school students' strike on the first day of military attacks.
One demonstration of 1,600 school students has already taken place and the idea of a strike is gaining more and more support.
3,000 marched in Sydney and 2,000 in Melbourne, Australia. 500 demonstrated outside the US consulate in Toronto at very short notice. A rally has been called for 29 September.
Members and supporters of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) - to which the Socialist Party is affiliated - are participating in and initiating anti-war protests around the world.
THE BUSH administration and Western allies are set on major military conflict with the Islamic groups linked to Osama bin Laden and the Afghan Taliban regime. But geography is a big problem. Afghanistan is a land-locked country and cannot be attacked without the co-operation of a third country. Pakistan, with its 1,400-mile border with Afghanistan, is strategically very important.
The US wants the right to fly over Pakistan to attack Afghanistan and to site aircraft and logistical support on Pakistani bases. Any 'special operations' strikes launched from Pakistan into Afghanistan will require regular troops to protect air bases from counter-attacks.
Pakistani port and transportation facilities are needed to support a US military build-up. Bush is also demanding intelligence co-operation from Pakistan, including details about bin Laden and his global network links.
AFTER MUCH US bullying and some carrots (eg, agreeing to reschedule $600 million of Pakistan's vast $36 billion debt), President Pervez Musharraf agreed that Pakistan should give the US "intelligence and information" as well as use of Pakistan's airspace and "logistical support". The general told Pakistan television the country was threatened with "destruction and must save itself". Musharraf did all he could to persuade the Taliban to deliver over bin Laden.
The ruling military Junta faces an impossible situation. Pakistan has close links to the reactionary Taliban - the military backed it during five years of civil war - and is one of only three countries that recognises the regime. Tribal and religious affiliations are strong and transcend international borders.
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, three million people fled to Pakistan. Today there are still over two million Afghans in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan's north-west frontier, near the Afghan border. Attacks on Afghanistan will lead to probably millions of new refugees, which will be enormously destabilising and detrimental to the economy.
Musharraf hopes that 'limited' attacks on Afghanistan and a 'light' US presence in Pakistan will contain the anger of Islamists. But by accommodating to US demands, he will antagonise the Taliban and will provoke a backlash from Islamic groups and many millions of Pakistani Muslims.
DURING THE 1980s Pakistan received huge amounts of mainly US 'aid' to help train and arm the reactionary Mujahidin fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan. But, since the Soviet retreat and the end of the Cold War foreign aid has vastly diminished.
The country has experienced prolonged economic crisis. The average annual income is only US$470. Deepening poverty, the discrediting of capitalist politicians, and the lack of a mass socialist alternative to show a way out, have all helped give rise to support for Islamic groups.
Mounting protests by Islamic students and religious leaders against the US, and increasing military repression in response, are leading to huge instability and ultimately threaten civil war. A widespread nationwide strike protest was organised by 35 Islamic groups on 21 September.
Musharraf has attempted to contain the opposition, claiming "only 1%" of the Pakistan's 142 million population are "Islamic militants". This is a vast underestimation. Millions are affected by Islamist extremism.
A Gallup poll on 20 September showed that 62% of Pakistanis are opposed to Musharraf's pro-US stance, and the number of 'militants' is likely to grow rapidly once the US attacks start.
There are an estimated 700,000 armed Islamic groups in Pakistan and tens of millions of privately owned arms. Many of the armed groups are 'Jehadi', which fight forces from the Indian-held part of Kashmir. Other groups mainly espouse fundamentalist Islamic goals. Many of these include fighters supplied by the Taliban regime.
The Pashtun tribal areas, whose kin across the border in Afghanistan dominate the Taliban regime, are well armed and pose a particular threat to potential US bases.
Many in the Pakistani military establishment and intelligence services have close links to the Taliban regime and are sympathetic to Islamic groups - some could even collaborate in counter attacks.
Since Pakistan was born out of a bloody partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947, the country has faced domestic upheaval and regional confrontation. Politics is blighted by endemic corruption and the country has suffered periods of brutal military rule.
Musharraf came to power in 1999 after a coup ousted a discredited civilian government. The military pledged to revive the country but economic underdevelopment, cronyism and national and religious oppression continues.
Sections of the Pakistani ruling class, that see themselves as pro-Western and 'modernising', would like to use the opportunity of the present crisis to crack down on the influence of Islamic groups and to win direct economic and financial aid from the US. But the ruling elite is weak and divided, and incapable of lifting the mass of people out of poverty.
A US war will only open up political, social and economic turmoil in nuclear capable Pakistan. "If the government is seen as a willing puppet of the US, it could be torn apart in internecine violence", (STRATFOR, 16/09/01).
As a result a reactionary, unstable Islamic regime could come to power, raising the nightmare prospect of a regional nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India.
BEATING THE nationalist drums, Musharraf has said that failure to back the US would allow India to gain strategic advantage.
Both countries occupy Kashmir, an area of vital territorial importance. Tens of thousands of lives have been lost in a conflict dating back to the carving of Islamic Pakistan from majority Hindu India. With India and Pakistan both now with nuclear capabilities, the US has characterised Kashmir as one of the world's "hot spots". In 1999, the two countries nearly went to war.
Paradoxically, President Bush's military policy is now dangerously ratcheting up tensions and rivalry between the two states, with, in the long run, quite horrendous possibilities.
The Hindu nationalist BJP government in India has given full backing to the US in order to boost its own position. Three air bases and port facilities have been offered, as well as logistical support. In return, the BJP calls for co-operation and aid against Pakistani-sponsored guerrilla groups in Kashmir.
The regime has developed new ties with the US in recent years, partly against the 'common foes' of China and Islamic fundamentalism. But it now fears the Bush administration will tilt too far towards Pakistan at a time when the US is demanding unprecedented co-operation from Masharraf.
Indeed, the US looks set to lift nuclear-related sanctions on both countries, and to end its policy of blocking international financial assistance for Pakistan through the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
The BJP government's strategy means taking big risks. With its vast population, India is home to more Muslims than Pakistan. American air strikes from India will make US aircraft and personnel targets for Islamic armed groups. The entire country can face huge religious and political polarisation. This will exacerbate separatist movements, and threatens the eventual break-up of the sub-continent.
THE MASSES of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India will pay the price of Bush's war, just as they have suffered the most under the rule of the generals and reactionary religious and nationalist regimes. Only united mass movements of the working class and poor can overthrow the despots throughout the Middle East and Indian sub-continent. A mass socialist movement would struggle to end capitalism, feudalism and the domination of the Western powers in the region, replacing them with a socialist confederation of states.
WHEN THE Taliban entered the capital, Kabul, in 1996 they dragged the former President Najibullah from the United Nations (UN) compound, tortured him to death and hung him from a lamp-post. It set the scene for Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
The Taliban has banned all opposition groups, political parties and trade unions. They've virtually enslaved women, stopping education for girls, preventing women working (many widows are consequently forced to beg) and have prohibited music, sports and games. (Despite being on a constant war footing, the regime has even banned boxing!)
Transgressors of Taliban Sharia law are ruthlessly dealt with. Adultery is punishable by stoning to death, homosexuals are buried alive. A UN funded football stadium in Kabul is now used to stage public executions.
This clerical dictatorship is led by the reclusive Mullah Mohammed Omar who is suspected of being under the thumb of Osama bin Laden.
The Taliban is the Frankenstein monster of the US's Cold War strategy. It was the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) working through Pakistan's counterpart spy network - the Interservices Intelligence Directorate (ISI) - who financed, armed and trained Islamist guerrillas to fight the Soviet army.
The Taliban control 95% of the country through a patchwork of alliances with local warlords but most of their support is drawn from ethnic Pashtuns. However, as much as 20%-25% of the Taliban's frontline fighters are drawn from Arab volunteers and mercenaries throughout the Middle East.
THE NORTHERN Alliance which is backed by the US, Russia and Iran controls only 5% of Afghanistan. Bolstered by US support it has launched a new military offensive to recapture Mazar-I-Sharif from the Taliban.
The main military forces are Jamiat-I-Islami led by General Mohammed Fahim Khan who succeeded the recently assassinated General Massoud. This group is based on ethnic Tajiks who make up 25% of the population. It is nominally headed by the ousted Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbini who still holds the country's UN seat and has embassies in 33 countries.
The second main grouping, Junbish-I-Milli-yi Islami, is led by a former opponent of general Massoud the ethnic Uzbek, General Abdul Rashid Dostam. After the Soviet withdrawal, Dostam, a former army commander under Najibullah, switched allegiance spelling the downfall of Najibullah's regime.
The third main force in the Alliance is the ethnic Hazari Shia groupings of Hizb-I-Wahdat led by Karim Khalili and Mohaqiq.
The Alliance is clearly hoping that US military intervention will severely weaken if not topple the Taliban enabling them to take power. However, if such an outcome occurred it would more than likely lead to more internecine and inter-ethnic fighting.
To mollify such criticism Massoud's brother has said the Alliance would welcome an interim UN administration in Kabul. But judging by the UN's lamentable peacekeeping record it too is unlikely to end the suffering of Afghans.
THE THOUSANDS of Afghan refugees fleeing to Pakistan must be thinking: "what have we done to deserve this?"
According to the United Nations, Afghanistan has the highest rate of population displacement in the world. Some five million people (one-fifth of the population) are refugees driven out of their homes by war and the worst drought in decades. Of these over two million are in refugee camps in Pakistan, one and a half million are in Iran and the remainder are 'internally displaced'.
Even before the US threat of military action against their country, 2,000 people a day were arriving in the tented refugee camps of Herat near the Iran border. There they endure conditions of searing heat, water and food shortages and inevitably disease. With the UN stopping its food programme and many of the foreign aid agencies pulling out their staff, these conditions can only worsen.
According to Oxfam (21/9/01): "Since last week, food has not been going in. You can imagine the scale that is required - 6,000 truckloads have to go in every month to keep those people going."
To say Afghanistan is a desperately poor country is an understatement. Statistics are hard to come by but at the time of the Soviet army withdrawal in 1989 the average annual income for an Afghan was only $200. Since then a constant civil war, which has destroyed much of the country's infrastructure, has compounded the poverty.
WHEN THE Soviet army withdrew from its occupation in 1989 the fighting did not cease. After the pro-Moscow regime of Najibullah collapsed in 1992 the opposition Mojahidin guerrilla groups engaged in internecine warfare. The capital city Kabul was largely reduced to rubble with thousands killed by indiscriminate shelling.
According to Times correspondent Nick Danziger who has travelled the country: "During the past 23 years more than one and a half million Afghans have been killed as a direct result of the wars that have taken place on Afghan soil. Most of those killed were civilians: children who were out on the street playing or in the mountains shepherding their animals, ordinary people like you and me. The local populace has never been spared - sometimes it was targeted in the belief that this would stop it harbouring the enemy."
"... Much of Afghanistan is like a scene from Mad Max or some futurist [post-holocaust] movie. Everywhere is the debris of war: Russian tanks and armoured personnel carriers with their turrets torn off; the wrecks of former clinics, schools and shops; razed walls; cratered and mined roads."
LACKING IN political options to run a post-Taliban Afghanistan, Western imperialism is even floating the return of the exiled 86-year-old King Zahir Shah.
The king was deposed in a military coup in 1973 led by his nephew Mohammed Daud, who proclaimed himself president of the new republic of Afghanistan.
But this government was also unable to solve the problems of the people of Afghanistan. Following a clampdown on opposition activity, huge demonstrations broke out in Kabul in April 1978. The government collapsed and was replaced by the pro-Moscow People's Democratic Party and military officers trained in the Soviet Union.
This government proceeded to take popular steps to secure its position. They developed education and the health service, they gave rights to women, and they decreed a reform of land ownership.
But the most conservative layers in the countryside opposed these reforms and the government's support was confined to major cities. The government divided into two factions, one favouring repression of the opposition the other favouring compromise.
With neither able to resolve the conflict, the Soviet Union launched a military intervention in December 1979 to prevent the collapse of the regime and installed Babrak Karmal as leader. A collapse would have weakened the Soviet Union in its Cold War with the US.
But the Soviet army found it no easier to suppress the opposition. Now funded by Pakistan and the United States, the Mujahidin or holy warriors could not be pacified by the Soviet army. The inhospitable terrain allowed the opposition a big advantage and Soviet convoys were attacked on the road.
Najibullah replaced Karmal as president. He continued to spread the reforms but militarily his government fared no better. Finally, as part of Gorbachev's capitulation to capitalism and following thousands of deaths, in 1989 the demoralised Soviet army was withdrawn.
This guaranteed the eventual collapse of the regime, which finally occurred in 1992, replaced by a coalition of the Mujahidin groups. But this coalition of warlords fell apart and civil war broke out.
In 1996 the Pakistan-armed and trained Taliban took power. Their rule has been based on extreme repression.
Neither the Taliban nor US imperialism are able to save the Afghan people from a terrible future.
BEFORE THE horrific attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon, an anti-privatisation mood was growing amongst public-sector workers in Britain.
Union leaders, feeling the heat below, were making angry noises, even threatening strike action. Now the GMB union has suspended its campaign against New Labour's privatisation plans, because, it said: "It is simply inappropriate to argue over this at a time when we should be showing solidarity".
Public-sector workers will want to show solidarity with the thousands of US workers killed in the 11 September attacks. But not by sitting back and allowing Blair to privatise their jobs. Urgent action is needed now to ensure that the union leaders deliver on their earlier promises.
All services currently in the public sector should remain there. Indeed, effective action to protect workers' jobs and conditions, as well as the safety and services of the wider public, requires action to bring essential service back into public ownership.
John Edmonds, leader of the GMB union said that privatisation could become Blair's poll tax. Union members will clearly remember that it was mass action that brought down the hated poll tax.
The privatisation of London Underground, health, education, the Post Office and others shows that a widespread onslaught is planned on the living standards of all working-class people, not just those who work in those sectors.
Because of the abrupt end to the TUC, demands like the Fire Brigade Union's for a "national public demonstration in support of public-sector services" was not debated. Such a demand would have been likely to have got majority support at the TUC and it should still be pushed for through the trade unions.
Blair has tried to mollify the union leaders by arguing that as long as the core of a public service remains then it doesn't matter who runs the rest of it. He promises that the workers currently employed in the public sector will keep their present terms and conditions.
But, even the trade union leaders who are Blair loyalists didn't quite fall for this one. Bitter experience shows Blair can't be trusted.
Blair tried to pacify his TUC opponents by saying that private firms running public services will be instructed not to make big profits or exploit their workers. What a load of bull.
If he feels that companies making huge profits shouldn't exploit their workers why doesn't he and Brown take action against the fat cats - like Simpson at Marconi or Corbett before he left Railtrack?
On the day of his planned speech to the TUC, Blair showed his contempt for workers' rights by dismissing criticism of Labour's involvement with McDonald's as irrelevant. This is a firm that has opposed union rights for its workers and has been publicly slammed by a High Court judge for its low pay and poor working conditions.
We've all seen Blair's and New Labour's concessions before. He says one thing and does another. Only a national fight, including industrial action, against privatisation can stop the Blairite threat. Such action needs to be organised now.
The royal London and Barts hospital trust held an open day on 19 September to show the public how good they where at delivering health services
But the UNISON branch organized a protest instead to demonstrate their opposition to the trust's plans to privatise many of the ancillary services by means of a Private Finance Initiative (PFI).
Phil billows, the branch secretary spoke to Bill Mullins
"This is the biggest PFI in the health service, the trust have identified over 1,000 staff to be shunted off to the PFI. The trust are not interested in the trials, that are not due to end until October (these are national trials where staff whose work is privatised can stay as NHS employees, though even this seems to have been postponed).
The trust thought they could have an open day to show how good they are but they are embarrassed by the unison stall. Dave Prentis (UNISON general secretary) said at the TUC the union would give backing to any branch that wanted to take strike action because they were being transferred from the NHS against the workers' wishes. That's why we are here today".
1 - The building of private finance hospitals for the NHS has meant that hospitals, like North Durham, end up costing £22 million more with 100 less beds than if it was provided by the public sector.
2 - Where education services have been privatised, educational standards and achievement have gone backwards, like in Islington.
3 - Former local authority workers who work for a privatised company contracted to Labour-controlled Brighton council have now seen their employer and employment rights changed five times in some cases, leaving things like their pension rights in disarray.
Public-sector workers must organise now to prepare national action in the workplaces and communities. That's why the Socialist Party is supporting Broad Left activist organisations in several public-sector unions who are planning an anti-privatisation conference on 24 November.
Ensuring the success of this conference can lay the basis for an effective co-ordinated fightback against privatisation.
For this conference to be a success, Socialist Party members and union activists need to raise the conference in their workplace and union branches.
The experience of localised struggles against privatisation have shown that privatisation can be stopped - such as that led by Socialist Party members in Wakefield and Waltham Forest - but they have also shown the need for national action. Dudley hospital workers mounted a long and determined struggle to stop privatisation plans but were ultimately defeated as the national union did not deliver solidarity action, which could have ensured their success.
London Underground workers have also continued a sustained campaign against privatisation which has included strike action on health and safety issues.
They have also had widespread public support in London for their action. But again their union leaders accepted a deal solely on the safety and jobs' issues involved, rather than continuing the struggle to keep the tube a publicly owned and run service.
All these experiences will no doubt be brought out at the conference but there will also be the urgently needed discussion on how circumvent the anti-union laws and prepare and ensure victorious national action to stop privatisation.
RAY FLEMING, branch secretary of East London postal section of the Communication Workers' Union, spoke to Pete Mason expressing his support for the conference:
"IT'S A good idea to have a cross-union conference. I welcome any move to halt the steady flow of privatisation, especially in the health service.
"Our main worry in the Whitechapel sorting office is the forthcoming transfer to Twelve Trees Crescent. The rumours are that Consignia will outsource the new mail centre when we move there late next year. The German communications group Siemens is widely rumoured to be the private sub-contractor - but if so will we be employed on the terms and conditions we have now? It's a good example of the privatisation we have to fight against."