Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Gallipoling on to World War 3
Gallipoli did not mark NZ’s coming of age. Colonies fight wars of independence from their imperialist motherlands, they don't go and fight wars against other countries because the motherland says GO. It was Maori who fought their war of independence against the motherland and its settlers, who in World War I resisted the draft, while those who fought on the side of the motherland were the first to enlist to prove they were equal to the ‘master race’. We need to deflate this bullshit kiwi nationalism born fighting imperialist war on the wrong side at its rotten roots before it carries us into the Third World War.
The only war that matters is Class War
It seems to us that most people critical of the ANZAC celebrations are still throwing around analyses of World War I that are premised on the assumption that wars are between nations, rather than between classes. Nations are the vehicles for rival bourgeoisies to struggle for supremacy using their workers as cannon fodder. The whole point being that the victorious powers then make use of their expanded empires and put the surviving proletariat to work making more profits.
But the Great War opened up the prospect of such inter-imperialist wars turning into open class wars. This can be seen in a number of ways. Resistance to the draft, which was often punished by death; the famous temporary truces between the ranks in ‘no man’s land’ that were also met with severe punishment; mutinies, best known that in Germany in November, 1918; and ultimately, revolutions. The Bolshevik Revolution was mainly the response to the war by workers and poor peasants in Russia. The February 1917 revolution was kicked off by women textile workers facing starvation. It was followed by the October Revolution when the majorities in the soviets of workers, troops and poor peasants stood for the overthrow of the capitalist government.
The revolution in Germany began with the mutinies of troops in 1918 and led to the formation of workers and soldiers’ councils and militias. A bloody civil war ensured in which the Social Democratic party headed a new Republic unleashing the military and fascist paramilitaries against the revolutionary Communists. Reacting to the new threat of the Russian revolution spreading throughout Europe the hostile warring states joined forces to invade Soviet Russia only to be defeated by the Red Army.
As we know the war resistance that opened the way for a Europe-wide (and thus a world-wide) revolution was contained in Russia, defeated in Germany, and the coup d’ grace was the rise of fascism in Italy in 1919 which then spread to Spain and Germany by the 1930s.
So the Great War resulted in a repartition of the capitalist world but which included the rise of a new threat to the existence of capitalism itself, the Soviet alternative to capitalism. This led inevitably to the Second World War in the attempt to isolate and destroy the Soviet bloc. Again while the Allies fought the Axis their ultimate target was the Soviet Union. Again they failed in that objective as the Soviet Second World spread to China and Indochina and became a beacon to revolutionaries in the colonial world.
The end of the Cold War and restoration of capitalism in Russia, China, Indo-China and Cuba, has not solved the problems for imperialism. Instead of being able to grab back what was lost to them between 1917 and 1990, Russia and China have come back from the dead as imperialist rivals.
So the defeat of the soviet world in the 1990s is not the victory of the global capitalist class over the world’s workers. Rather it marks the opening up of a new struggle between the old declining US bloc and the rising Russia-China bloc for global supremacy. And that struggle to the death will surely create the conditions for new revolutions. We are heading towards a new world war between these two blocs and once again the workers are being prepared to fight one another in the interests of their respective imperialist ruling classes.
Inevitably like the previous Great War and the Second World War, a Third World War will be a class war. The working class can learn from history and refuse to fight this war on behalf of their imperialist rulers, and instead turn it into a global class war against the imperialist ruling classes.
Resisting the Great Wrong War
The Great Wrong War, which was the title of the book by Stevan Eldred Grigg, was caused by the rivalry of the great powers of the time to re-divide Europe and the overseas colonies. Workers from all these countries were sent to war to kill one another to increase the power and wealth of the victorious powers. The end of that war drove the defeated Germany into deep depression and prepared the ground for the rise of fascism and the Second Wrong War.
The response by communists who did not get sucked into this jingoism was to refuse to fight and to mobilise against their own ruling class as the ‘enemy at home’. Lenin’s famous slogan was to “turn imperialist war into civil war”. This means workers in every country refusing to shoot one another and instead turning their guns on their own ruling classes. While some of the ANZAC troops mutinied in France but against the conditions they faced rather than the war itself. There was however, strong opposition to the war at home among unions and some Maori.
For all the enthusiast empire sabre rattling in NZ there was also a strong resistance to the war from some Waikato Maori and the labour movement.
“The Waikato leader, Te Puea Herangi, supported those men who resisted conscription by gathering them up at Te Paina, a pā she had rebuilt at Mangatāwhiri. Her stance attracted a lot of hostility from other Māori and Pākehā who accused her of being a German sympathiser. Those Waikato men who refused to report for training when balloted in 1918 were arrested and taken to Narrow Neck training camp at Auckland. Any who refused to wear the army uniform were subjected to severe military punishments, including ‘dietary punishments’ (being fed only bread and water) and being supplied with minimal bedding. Only a handful of the Tainui conscripts were ever put into uniform and none were sent overseas. By 1919 only 74 Māori conscripts had gone to camp out of a total of 552 men called. The imposition of conscription on the Waikato people had long-lasting effects, and the breach it caused was probably only restored with the Tainui Treaty settlement in 1995.”
The current celebration of nationhood ‘born’ 100 years ago by the mass slaughter of workers for profits should be resisted today as a blatant rallying of workers to prepare to fight a Third Imperialist war on the side of the US/NATO bloc against the rival power of China and Russia. The workers answer to imperialist wars is to take up arms but refuse to fight one another for profits and when repressed by the state to turn their guns on their own ruling classes.
Stop a Third World War!
There is really only one political response to celebrating imperialist wars and that is refusing to fight in them unless you are defending an oppressed country from imperialist invasion. Even then, the working people have an interest in uniting with workers in other countries and not following their ruling classes which are the agents for imperialism.NZ has a great record of resistance whose lessons should be learned today in the face of mounting US warmongering aimed at weakening and defeating the Russia-China bloc. On ANZAC day we should celebrate the Waikato Maori, especially Te Puea who organised resistance to the draft targeting Waikato Maori. We should also celebrate the opposition and resistance to the war by the radical elements of the labour movement which in 1913 had a General Strike put down by the army under the command of a British Governor General.
So there is nothing stopping the working people of NZ from learning the real lessons of the ANZACS and refusing to participate in the hype around current wars that are softening us up to march off again to another imperialist war.
Turn Imperialist Wars into Civil Wars!