Year in Review: 2007
The events of 2007 demonstrated that it was impossible to fight the growth of militarism, in the United States and internationally, through the old political parties and the machinery of the bourgeois state. Just as US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair had launched the war in 2003 in defiance of world public opinion, so Bush escalated the war in 2007 despite his defeat at the polls in November 2006.
The failure of democracy was particularly striking in America, where the population voted overwhelmingly in November 2006 Congressional elections for candidates who claimed to be opposed to the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. Once in office, however, the Democrats collaborated with the Bush White House, approving hundreds of billions more for the war.
Soon after the beginning of the year, Bush announced plans to significantly escalate the war in Iraq. The “surge” would involve the addition of approximately 30,000 troops to Iraq by May, concentrated in centers of resistance to the American occupation in Baghdad and Anbar province.
The WSWS published a statement in response to the escalation and the broader war plans of American imperialism. It noted:
While the Bush administration claims that the war in Iraq is being waged for democracy, its escalation has served to expose the breakdown of democratic processes within the US itself. The mass opposition to the war articulated at the polls last November, and supported by millions around the world, finds no genuine expression within the US political establishment or its two major parties.
The WSWS editorial board also issued a statement denouncing US preparations for war with Iran and translated the statement into Farsi, the principal language of the Iranian population. Later in the year, the WSWS denounced Bush's invocation of World War III and published a three-part series examining the geopolitical significance of Iran for American imperialism.
The Socialist Equality Party and its youth movement organized an Emergency Conference Against War, held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and attended by youth and workers from 17 states and Canada.
The resolution adopted at the conference explained the connection between the war in Iraq and the mounting attacks on democratic rights, jobs and living standards at home, and drew a sharp warning:
Iraq is not the first and, unless the capitalist system is overthrown, will not be the last target of imperialist war. The 21st century is not even a decade old, and already it has become all too clear that without the intervention of the working class, the tragedies and bloody crimes of the last century will not only be repeated—they will be exceeded.
In May, the WSWS published a three-part article by Bill Van Auken, making the case that “taken together, US operations in Iraq have amounted to sociocide—the deliberate and systematic murder of an entire society.” The article stated:
Iraq, once among the most advanced countries of the region, has been reduced, in terms of basic economic and social indices, to the level of the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa.
What is involved is the systematic destruction of an entire society through the unleashing of violence and criminality on a scale not seen since Hitler’s armies ravaged Europe in the Second World War.
Among the indices of social breakdown were:
- A death toll in the hundreds of thousands
- An estimated 2 million external refugees and another 1.9 million internally displaced
- A 150 percent increase in infant mortality
- Half of all children suffering from malnutrition
- A catastrophic decline in the status of women
- A real unemployment rate of up to 70 percent
While the horrific character of the war was increasingly apparent, the Democratic Party, having taken control of Congress in January as a result of the November elections, did nothing to stop Bush’s escalation. In the course of the spring, the Democrats:
- Dropped plans to vote on a non-binding resolution disapproving of the surge
- Offered to extend funding for the war for an additional 18 months in return for an empty promise that US troops would be “redeployed” after that
- Passed a Senate resolution by a 94-1 margin opposing any cutoff of funding for the war in the name of “support for the troops”
- Dropped any discussion of including a withdrawal deadline in legislation to fund the war
Finally, House and Senate Democratic leaders bowed to the demands of the Bush White House that Congress approve war funding without any restrictions of operations in Iraq. The WSWS commented:
The fundamental reason for the Democrats’ impotence is the character of the Democratic Party. It is, no less than the Republicans, a party of US imperialism. The Democrats have from the onset supported the basic imperialist aims underlying the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the broader striving of the American financial elite to utilize its military power to dominate the world’s resources and markets.
At the same time, the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination had begun, with Senator Hillary Clinton, the putative frontrunner, facing a challenge from Senator Barack Obama, whose attempt to adopt a critical pose in relationship to the Iraq War was based entirely on tactical differences over how best to achieve the aims of American imperialism. Of the future president, the WSWS wrote nearly two years before he took office:
Like his counterparts... [Obama] is a tried and true defender of the geo-political interests of corporate America. If elected, he would not hesitate in using military force to secure US domination of the Middle East, Central Asia and the world.
The capitulation of the Democrats outraged those who were genuinely opposed to the war in Iraq and had illusions that the new congressional majority would take action to end it. Cindy Sheehan, mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, who became a prominent antiwar activist, publicly resigned from the Democratic Party. The “left” apologists for the Democrats, including the Nation magazine, avoided any commentary of this act.
The appalling consequences of the war for American society were demonstrated in another episode, the shooting of 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech in April by 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui—the worst such mass shooting incident in American history. Commenting on broader significance of the event, David Walsh wrote that militarism and violence had flourished in the decade preceding the massacre:
The appearance of George W. Bush at the convocation held on the Virginia Tech campus Tuesday afternoon was especially inappropriate. Here is a man who embodies the worst in America, its wealthy and corrupt ruling elite. As governor of Texas, Bush presided over the executions of 152 human beings; as president, he has the blood of thousands of Americans, tens of thousands of Afghans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis on his hands. His administration has made unrelenting violence the foundation of its global policies, justifying assassination, secret imprisonment and torture.
The US has been occupying portions of Central Asia or the Middle East for most of the eight years since Columbine. Following a hijacked election and making use of the terrorist attacks on September 11, the Bush-Cheney regime launched a war based on lies. The lesson taught by the ruling elite is clear: in achieving one’s aims, any sort of ruthlessness is legitimate... The proliferation of violence, the continuous appeals to fear, the incitement of paranoia—all of this has consequences, it creates a certain type of climate.
The capitulation of the Democrats was not the product of the strength of the Bush administration, but an expression of the fact that the entire political establishment was committed to a criminal policy of militarism abroad. Whatever its criticisms of the Republicans, the Democrats were determined to prevent any examination of the fundamental driving forces of the administration’s policies. Despite the best efforts of the Democrats, however, the crisis and criminality of the government expressed itself in a number of significant events in 2007, including:
- In March, Lewis Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, was convicted on four felony counts of lying and obstruction of justice, related to the deliberate leak of the name of a CIA agent to retaliate for her husband’s public criticism of the war in Iraq.
- In August, top White House political aide Karl Rove resigned after months of reports that he had pressured the Justice Department to fire US attorneys who were reluctant to carry out investigations of bogus charges of vote fraud brought by Republican-connected groups in the course of the 2006 elections.
- Later the same month, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned, in part because of the ongoing investigation into the US attorney firings, where he was accused of repeatedly perjuring himself before congressional committees, and in part because of his role in supervising legal memos that justified torture and illegal wiretapping of American citizens.
The expansion of war was connected to the intensification of the attack on democratic rights. In the course of the year, the White House obtained court approval for expanded domestic spying, pressed forward with the trial of Jose Padilla and ultimately obtaining a conviction, made sweeping claims of executive privilege against congressional investigations, and issued an executive order sanctioning CIA interrogations using torture.
The case of Jose Padilla, a US citizen from Brooklyn, was particularly significant. In May 2002, Padilla was arrested in Chicago as a “material witness” to the September 11 attacks. Based on ungrounded charges of a “dirty bomb” plot, the Bush administration later declared him an “enemy combatant” and transferred him to military detention, where he was held in solitary confinement and subject to sleep deprivation, enforced psychotropic drugs, and other forms of “enhanced interrogation.” He was denied access to a lawyer for three and a half years.
Padilla became a test case. The WSWS noted that “the Bush administration wanted to use Padilla to assert its claim that the president could order the indefinite military detention of a US citizen, detained on US soil,” obliterating the constitutional right to due process. In November 2005, concerned that a pending Supreme Court decision might rule Padilla’s detention illegal, the Bush administration shifted him to a civilian prison and charged with crimes completely unrelated to those with which he was originally charged.
Also in 2007, Vice President Cheney publicly declared that his office did not have to comply with executive orders, essentialy placing it outside of the law. Meanwhile, Bush claimed that the military constituted a constituency of its own for the president, which could support presidential action even in the face of widespread public opposition.
The response of the Democrats was full collaboration with these attacks on democratic rights, including the passage by Congress of a new law authorizing widespread government spying, with retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that collaborated with illegal interception of phone calls and e-mail.
In December, it was revealed that two years earlier the CIA had destroyed video tapes that documented its use of torture. The tapes included evidence of the water-boarding of at least two prisoners, including Abu Zubaydah. The Bush administration had followed the torture of Zubaydah very carefully, seeing his treatment as a precedent for the legitimization of torture as an instrument of state policy.
The destruction of the tapes served not only to protect the CIA, but to conceal the responsibility of the entire government, including congressional Democratic leaders who were regularly briefed on the interrogations. Commenting on the clear involvement of the Democrats in the cover-up of torture and attacks on democratic rights, the WSWS stated:
The complicity of the Democrats underscores the lack of any serious commitment to the defense of democratic rights within either of the two parties of the US corporate elite. Should the Democrats win control of the White House in 2008, there will be no significant change in the basic policy of the US government. From torture, to domestic spying, to illegal wars of aggression, the Democrats have been exposed again and again as direct accomplices of the Bush administration.
Throughout 2007, the WSWS analyzed the growing signs of economic and financial crisis, centered in the collapse of predatory “subprime” mortgage lending in the United States. In the aftermath of the collapse of the dot.com bubble in 2000, the American ruling class responded by sharply lowering interest rates. A new speculative bubble was generated in the mortgage markets. Banks and financial institutions made huge profits through predatory lending and then the packaging and resale of these loans in mortgage-backed securities.
At the same time, rising home prices and easy credit were used by workers to compensate for stagnating wages. Lenders specialized in getting working class families to agree to mortgages that included a low initial rate, but that sharply increased in later years (so-called adjustable rate mortgages). As the new rates came into effect, millions of homeowners could not afford the higher bills.
The entire process was inherently unstable and began to unravel throughout the year, manifested in rising home foreclosures. Troubles in the subprime mortgage market began to spread to other assets, leading to a series of sharp falls in global markets. Consumer spending began falling sharply as a result of declining home values and general economic insecurity.
The WSWS explained the broader significance of the speculative frenzy:
The move of major financial institutions into the subprime market is an expression of a more general process—the shift of finance capital into ever more risky ventures in the search for profit…. Among other things, the flow of cheap money has helped finance a surge in leveraged buyouts in the US, which hit $418 billion last year, more than triple the level in 2005.
In June, the collapse of two key hedge funds controlled by Bear Stearns, a leading Wall Street firm, demonstrated the fragility of these highly leveraged hedge funds.
Wall Street was in convulsions from March to August, with huge swings from day to day. On July 19, the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke an all-time record of 14,000 and then plunged 638 points over the next weeks, wiping out hundreds of billions in stock market value.
On August 7, the largest publicly held French bank, BNP Paribas, suspended operations in three of its subsidiaries that were “engaged in trading in US mortgage-backed securities.” The Dow Jones sank 387 points, and the repercussions were felt around the world.
In a commentary published August 17, the WSWS traced the origins of the current crisis in the falling rate of profit in non-financial corporations and the US Federal Reserve’s policy of interest rate cuts aimed at creating new bubbles.
Underscoring the deep integration of the world economy in the era of globalization, the crisis had its impact in both Europe and Asia. Several British banks were among the first affected, with Northern Rock being the first to collapse, even though it did not have direct exposure to American subprime mortgages. The bailout of Northern Rock, as well as the German banks SachsenLB and IKB, involved swift guarantees of massive amounts of public funds.
There were massive fiscal imbalances in China, as the huge foreign currency holdings led to a stock market bubble. By the end of the year, China’s trade surplus contributed to inflation that hit an 11-year high and sparked social unrest.
The year saw important political developments in Europe, with a new prime minister in Britain and a new president in France, while “left” groups played a new and prominent role in both Italy and Germany.
In May, Nicolas Sarkozy, candidate of the right-wing UMP, won the French presidential election over Socialist Party candidate Ségolène Royal, succeeding the outgoing UMP president, Jacques Chirac. The WSWS stressed, “the differences between Royal and Sarkozy are tactical, not fundamental.” Both agreed on the defense of the national interests of French imperialism and on making French corporations more competitive globally by profound structural reforms—at the expense of the working class.
The elections also signified “the end result of the decades-long decline of the official workers’ movement” in France. The groups that once claimed to be Trotskyist were completely integrated into the camp of bourgeois politics. The only party to profit from the bankruptcy of the official “left” was the extreme-right-wing Front National, which was able to capitalize on workers’ disaffection with the Communist and Socialist Parties.
Tony Blair resigned as Great Britain’s prime minister in June, after 10 years in power. The elevation of his successor, Gordon Brown, with virtually no leadership contest, confirmed that the Labour Party was little more than a right-wing rump deeply hostile to working people.
There was not one iota of principle involved in the bitter conflict between the Blair and Brown factions. They were joint architects of Labour’s abandonment of its reformist policies. Brown suspended his own leadership ambitions in 1994 with the promise that he would replace Blair at some future point. Throughout Labour’s 10 years in office Brown backed all of the government’s deeply unpopular measures. Once installed in office, Brown confirmed his determination to continue New Labour’s agenda.
The contest confirmed the reduction of the party’s left wing to a rump, whose candidate, John McDonnell, was unable to mount a challenge after failing to get the backing of just 45 MPs—out of a total of 355—including some within his own Socialist Campaign Group. Later in the year, the pseudo-left Respect-Unity coalition split, as did the Scottish Socialist Party.
In Italy, the “center-left” government of Romano Prodi, supported by Rifondazione Comunista (PRC) and by the Pabloite group Sinistra Critica, demonstrated its right-wing character by continuing Italy’s engagement in the war in Afghanistan, extending the lease for the American military base at Vicenza in northern Italy, and carrying through far-reaching attacks on the working class such as the hated pension reform. The PRC backed Prodi despite a demonstration of 100,000 in opposition to the government’s war policy.
In June, the Left Party was officially founded in Germany, through a merger of the former Stalinist ruling party of East Germany, renamed the PDS, and a group of trade union bureaucrats and former Social Democrats from West Germany, headed by former SPD party leader Oskar Lafontaine. The central purpose of the new party was to keep the working class under control and suppress any independent movement against the status quo.
In mid November, the right-wing Howard government in Australia was thrown out of office. The ignominious defeat marked the end of the last remaining partner of Bush’s original “coalition of the willing.” The anti-government vote was so extensive that it not only decimated the Liberal-National Coalition, but Howard himself lost his seat after having held it for 33 years.
Throughout 2007, the WSWS analyzed the growing crisis of Pakistan’s US-sponsored military dictatorship, a key ally in the occupation of Afghanistan. The Bush administration sought to prop up the rule of General Pervez Musharraf by enlisting the support of Benazir Bhutto and her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and ultimately brokered a deal under which the PPP facilitated Musharraf’s “re-election” as president.
Bhutto—who during the preceding five years had repeatedly said that she was determined to prevent a mass movement against the Musharraf dictatorship for fear it would “spin out of control”—returned to Pakistan in October. But a Bush-sponsored deal with Musharraf quickly unraveled. In early November, Musharraf imposed a state of emergency, then lifted it for what were to be stage-managed national and provincial assembly elections on January 8. Two weeks before the vote, Bhutto was assassinated. Her murder had all the hallmarks of a state killing orchestrated by the security forces.
The development of the world economic crisis brought with it a number of significant working class struggles that posed basic political questions.
Beginning in June, postal workers in Britain began a series of strikes against cutbacks by the Royal Mail, including the elimination of Sunday delivery. Wildcat strikes broke out, which increased the determination of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) officials to call off the action. The union called new 48-hour strikes in October, but in response to the outbreak of new unofficial stoppages, the SEP of Britain issued a statement calling on postal workers to take the initiative independently of the union:
Postal workers are in a fight to the finish. Nothing can be defended unless they break out of the straitjacket being imposed by the CWU. What is required is an independent political and industrial offensive against not just Royal Mail, but its sponsors in parliament.
To mount such a struggle demands the creation of rank and file committees that will reach out to workers faced with similar attacks throughout Britain and to postal workers in Europe who also face the threat of privatization.
The WSWS also exposed the role of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the state-capitalist group that has a significant influence in the CWU leadership. The SWP and the CWU bureaucracy joined forces to sabotage the struggle and push through a contract that represented a comprehensive defeat for the workers on every issue.
In July, train drivers in Germany who were organized in the craft union GDL demanded a pay increase of more than 30 percent. The WSWS pointed out that both official railway trade unions were acting as strikebreakers. The attempts of the independent GDL union to compromise would necessarily lead to defeat, despite the radical mood of the train drivers and the wide support that the strike enjoyed in the general public.
During the German rail strike, transport and railway workers in France walked out in a massive display of militancy, opposing pension cuts ordered by the Sarkozy government. The scale of the strike took the government by surprise, and Sarkozy turned to the trade union leaders, particularly the Stalinist-led CGT, to defuse the confrontation.
The French strike movement broadened in November, as gas and electricity workers staged walkouts and rail workers struck again, all fighting against demands by Sarkozy to end favorable pension arrangements for workers in these industries. In a statement issued November 19, the WSWS editorial board pointed to the implications of major struggles of the working class going on simultaneously in France and Germany:
There is no national answer to the crisis facing working people. Behind Sarkozy stands the European Union, the European governments and the big international corporations and banks.
It is no accident that German train drivers are on strike simultaneously with French railway workers. On both sides of the Rhine they are fighting against the subordination of the public services as well as every aspect of their personal lives to the diktat of big business. These struggles must be coordinated and united.
In Sri Lanka, the Socialist Equality Party advanced a revolutionary perspective for tens of thousands of public school teachers who struck in September. The one-day strike was the most widespread in the country’s history, but the government responded with police repression and court action. Ultimately, the unions called off any further strike action and capitulated to the government.
The WSWS provided extensive coverage of the betrayal of auto workers in the US at the hands of the United Auto Workers (UAW). There were two major events: the takeover of Chrysler by a hedge fund and a new General Motors (GM) contract.
The GM contract negotiated in the wake of a two-day strike in September freed the company of its obligation to pay health care benefits to its nearly 400,000 retirees and their dependants. The retirees would instead be paid from a multibillion-dollar union-controlled trust fund, known as a Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Association (VEBA), making the union officials full-fledged shareholders in the exploitation of workers. The contracts also enacted the first two-tier wage scheme for new-hires.
In response to these historic setbacks, the WSWS published an article drawing the lessons of the UAW contract betrayal. It called for the auto workers to break with the UAW as a prerequisite for conducting any viable fight to defend jobs and living standards:
The demise of the unions and all labor organizations based on a nationalist program demonstrates the inherent limitations of trade unionism and the need for an independent political movement of the working class based on an internationalist and socialist perspective. None of the questions facing workers today can be resolved on the basis of the trade unionist conception of placing pressure on the employers and the nation state.
In November, 12,000 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) walked off the job, beginning the first writers’ strike in twenty years. As the strike continued far longer than anticipated, the writers won support from broad sections of the entertainment industry. WSWS arts editor David Walsh went to Hollywood to take part in the WSWS intervention among the striking workers. The WSWS interviewed workers, providing the strikers a voice.
The year 2007 marked a major advance in the campaign by the International Committee to defend the political legacy of Leon Trotsky, the co-leader of the Russian Revolution and founder of the Fourth International. This began with lectures given by David North in Great Britain exposing the falsifications of two British academics and biographers of Leon Trotsky, Ian Thatcher and Geoffrey Swain.
These lectures were later posted on the WSWS as a four-part review of the volumes by Thatcher and Swain, and then published as a book, under the title, Leon Trotsky and the Post-Soviet School of Historical Falsification. North argued that the falsification of history was a life-and-death question for the international workers’ movement.
No one who has studied the origins of the Stalinist terror and grappled seriously with its consequences is inclined to underestimate the politically reactionary and socially destructive implications of historical falsification. We know from the example of the Soviet Union that the political process that first manifested itself as the falsification of the history of the Russian Revolution eventually metastasized into the mass extermination of Russian revolutionaries.
The principal objective of the new school of falsifiers, North explained, “is to discredit Leon Trotsky as a significant historical figure and deny that he represented an alternative to Stalinism, and that his political legacy contains anything relevant in the present and valuable for the future.” He presented a detailed exposure of the distortions and lies in these books, drawing attention to the contrast between their efforts to denigrate Trotsky and their apologies for Stalin.
North explained the objective significance of these attacks on Trotsky: Under conditions where the ruling parties, especially those once associated with the workers’ movement, were increasingly discredited, the publication of these books aimed at preventing a resurgence of interests in Trotsky and revolutionary socialism. “This is, as we know, the era of preemptive war, and these works represent a sort of preemptive strike against the reemergence of Trotskyist influence.”
The critique of Swain and Thatcher pointed to the way in which the historical falsifications had been received by academia as a whole. “How is one to explain the benign reception of these two miserable books?” he asked. “It is, I believe, bound up with the predominance, for more than a quarter century, of truly reactionary modes of thought, associated with post-modernism, which repudiate the very concept of objective truth.”
The contemporary repudiation of objective truth, supported by the claim that the only issue is the internal coherence of a narrative, which is to be judged on its own terms, is inimical to serious scholarly work, or even to rational thought. It encourages a climate where “anything goes,” where falsification flourishes, where there is no protest when lies are told about history.…
A new generation now confronts immense and life-threatening problems. Everywhere it faces crisis and decay. The very future of the planet is in question if answers are not found to the crisis of the world capitalist system. The study of history must play a central role in the discovery of those answers required by humanity in the twenty-first century. But how can history be studied if its record is falsified? The working people and youth of the world need truth, and the struggle to discover and defend it is the intellectual driving force of human progress.
The contrast between such tendentious and politically motivated falsifications and the work of genuine, conscientious researchers was underscored by the publication of two significant volumes on the history of the revolutionary workers movement, both reviewed by the WSWS in 2007. These were Alexander Rabinowitch’s The Bolsheviks in Power and Bryan Palmer’s James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left, 1890-1928.
Rabinowitch, emeritus professor at Indiana University, delivered a significant work of historical scholarship. On the basis of research spanning 20 years, much of it in newly opened archives in the former Soviet Union, he explored the political and social aftermath of the overthrow of the bourgeois Provisional Government and the development of the Bolshevik regime during 1918.
In their review, Frederick Choate and David North praised the research and exposition of the details of the first year of Bolshevik rule in Petrograd, while noting that Rabinowitch did not have an interpretive framework with which to place this material in its correct historical and political context. Nonetheless, they wrote, “For the Marxist reader, much can be learned from the material Rabinowitch presents even if one disagrees at various significant points with his appraisal of their political meaning.”
Bryan Palmer’s volume provided a serious exploration of the first 38 years of Cannon’s life, covering the period of his rise to leadership in the Industrial Workers of the World, his role in the founding and early years of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), and then his decisive break with Stalinism and support for the Left Opposition, culminating in his expulsion from the CPUSA and the founding of the Trotskyist movement in America.
As Fred Mazelis and Tom Mackaman explained, “It is a major work of research and scholarship, reflecting a serious commitment to the history of the working class movement. It will become a vital reference point for the future study of Cannon and the early Communist Party.”
The ICFI’s defense of Trotsky’s life and work was part of a broader elaboration of revolutionary perspectives. In 2006, two former members of the Workers League (predecessor of the Socialist Equality Party in the United States), Alex Steiner and Frank Brenner, who had been inactive politically for a quarter-century, published under the title “Objectivism or Marxism” a bitter attack on the theoretical work, political line, and practical activity of the International Committee of the Fourth International and the World Socialist Web Site.
This criticism, rooted in utopian and anti-Marxist conceptions linked to the Frankfurt School, provided an opportunity to clarify important issues of revolutionary history, Marxist theory, and socialist politics. Marxism, History and Socialist Consciousness by David North was the answer of the International Committee of the Fourth International to their document, published in the WSWS and in book form in August 2007.
In a detailed reply, North analyzed the arguments of Steiner and Brenner in detail, including the denunciation of the ICFI for “morphing…into the WSWS” and “mothballing…the organizational expression of revolutionary internationalism.” Explaining the historical significance of the WSWS, North wrote:
Since the founding of the WSWS in February 1998, more than 18,000 articles have been published by an international editorial board that directs the collective work of a constantly-expanding cadre of Marxist writers assembled on the basis of the principles, history, theoretical outlook and perspective of the International Committee. In both theory and practice, the WSWS represents a historic milestone in the development of revolutionary internationalism.
Steiner and Brenner’s critique of the supposed “objectivism” of the ICFI has at its center a rejection of the central emphasis placed by the Marxist movement on the study of the socio-economic conditions and class character of political tendencies. This was connected to their promotion of “utopia” as the basis for developing socialist consciousness. In a critical passage summing up the Marxist understanding of the relationship of socialist consciousness to objective reality, North wrote:
The problem of socialist consciousness presents itself in one manner to those who recognize the latter as the ideal reflection of a real socio-economic process, and in quite another manner to those for whom no such objective and necessary relationship exists between the economic foundations of capitalist society and the formation of social thought. For the Marxists, the fight for socialist consciousness does not consist of convincing the broad mass of workers to conduct a struggle against capitalism. Rather, proceeding from a recognition of the inevitability of such struggles, arising out of the objectively exploitative process of surplus-value extraction, intensified by the deepening economic and social crisis of the capitalist system, the Marxist movement strives to develop, within the advanced sections of the working class, a scientific understanding of history as a law-governed process, a knowledge of the capitalist mode of production and the social relations to which it gives rise, and an insight into the real nature of the present crisis and its world-historical implications. It is a matter of transforming an unconscious historical process into a conscious political movement, of anticipating and preparing for the consequences of the intensification of the world capitalist crisis, of laying bare the logic of events, and formulating, strategically and tactically, the appropriate political response.
In the course of the year, the Socialist Equality Party in Australia mounted a series of important political interventions in defense of democratic rights, against the abusive treatment of the Aboriginal population, and in both state and federal elections. These included elections in New South Wales, a campaign to expose the collaboration of Australia in the persecution of David Hicks, in Guantanamo Bay, and opposition to the Howard government’s anti-Aboriginal Northern Territory intervention.
On June 22, the Socialist Equality Party issued a statement, Australian government imposes military-police regime on aborigines. It explained that the measures being carried out against isolated Aboriginal communities would be extended to the Australian working class as a whole.
A subsequent analysis explained that the key to the government’s plan was the opening up of Aboriginal land for exploitation, private housing and the profit of commercial enterprises such as the mining industry, tourism and agriculture. “Economically unviable” communities would be starved of government funds and shut, cutting residents off welfare programs into cheap labor schemes.
The SEP also defended Dr. Mohamed Haneef, the young physician detained without trial by the Howard government and the intelligence services as a supposed collaborator in the 2005 terrorist attacks on the London Underground. The frame-up quickly became a political debacle for the Howard government after prosecutors refused a court order to grant Haneef bail, and his lawyer responded by releasing documents that clearly established Haneef’s innocence and compelled the government to drop charges and release him.
Finally, in October and November, the SEP ran candidates in the federal election, warning against any illusions in the Labor opposition, which was favored to win because of the overwhelming popular hostility to the right-wing Howard government.
As a question of principle, the SEP rejected any deals with other parties to transfer votes under the Australian system where voters must select all parties on the ballot, ranking them in order of preference. The SEP called for its voters to rank other parties randomly, giving no preference to the Labor Party or the Greens, in contrast to the policy of the pseudo-left groups, which participated in the elections as acolytes of these two bourgeois parties.
In Britain, the SEP stood candidates in elections to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. Our campaign fought to develop a new socialist movement against a government of the super-rich that had criminally supported US imperialist aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At the center of the campaign was a fight for the international unity of the working class against all forms of nationalism, racism, and other forms of ethnic and religious chauvinism. This had a particular significance because of attempts to portray Scottish or Welsh nationalism as the basis for the construction of a new workers’ party, with attempts to support the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Plaid Cymru’s arguments that the problems in these countries were due to “English” rule. As we explained in our election manifesto, “National separatism has nothing to do with socialism. It expresses the interests of a layer of the aspiring middle class who are seeking to make their own relations with local capital, the transnational corporations and the European Union.”
In Sri Lanka, the SEP fought throughout the year on behalf of Nadarajah Wimaleswaran, a party member on Kayts Island, near the northern city of Jaffna, and his friend, Sivanathan Mathivathanan, who disappeared while travelling between two naval checkpoints there.
Persistent public campaigning by the SEP forced the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission (HRC) to hold a hearing on the disappearance. The police and military authorities largely boycotted that and subsequent hearings, which nonetheless brought to light considerable evidence suggesting that Wimaleswaran and his companion had been detained by the security forces. While the SEP and the wives of the two men continued to raise the issue, the HRC investigation was effectively shut down.
In a tragic car accident in Britain, the International Committee (IC) suffered a loss with the untimely death of comrade Raveenthiranathan Senthil Ravee (Senthil). Born in Jaffna, Senthil emigrated to Paris in the wake of the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of 1987. In Paris, he came into contact with supporters of the IC, where he fought to build the influence of the IC among Tamil exiles. Senthil fought to assimilate the lessons of the Trotskyist movement in Sri Lanka, understanding the betrayal of the LSSP and the principled struggle of the RCL against it. He embraced the Tamil-language section of the WSWS, launched in 2000, as a decisive instrument in building the ICFI on the Indian subcontinent.
The tone for cultural commentary on the WSWS was set by a lecture by Arts Editor David Walsh to a meeting organized by graduate film students at York University in Toronto, Ontario, in January. Speaking on the topic “Film, History and Socialism,” Walsh explained that the general crisis in both cinema and art is an expression of the overall political atmosphere, but that it can be overcome through a revival of socialist culture.
Walsh outlined the golden age of Hollywood, with the arrival of European filmmakers who emigrated to the US in the 1930s and 1940s, bringing with them a political understanding influenced by socialist conceptions. He said:
The artists may not have agreed with the Marxists about the contradictions of capitalism, but there was a general, instinctive acknowledgment by the most insightful intellectuals in Paris, Berlin, London, Vienna, Budapest and, of course, Moscow, that the existing society was on its way out and thought had to be given to the cultural problems of the future human organization.
Emerging from the wasteland of 2006, one notable feature of 2007 was the release of a number of films dealing with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, of greater or lesser value. These included Redacted, Rendition, and a remarkable film called Battle for Haditha. Films like Pan’s Labyrinth, The Good Shepherd, Children of Men, and Michael Clayton also featured a more critical approach.
Twin films directed by Clint Eastwood showed the World War II battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese and American perspectives. Flags of Our Fathers depicted the cynical exploitation by American officials and the media of the three soldiers who took part in the iconic (and stage-managed) raising of the flag over Mt. Suribashi.
Letters from Iwo Jima was an even more remarkable film, a sympathetic portrayal of Japanese soldiers who died in the battle, based on their published letters. David Walsh wrote:
To make a film about the suffering “your” soldiers endure is one thing, to make one about the horrors inflicted on the “enemy” is something else again. There is a certain significance about this work being made in the midst of the Bush administration’s endless “war on terror,” which consumes countless lives and billions of dollars. American filmmaking has come some distance at least since Saving Private Ryan in 1998.
Walsh critiqued Michael Moore’s newest venture, Sicko, as a step backward from his 2004 anti-war documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, arguing, “Moore dwells on certain points, especially those he thinks will amuse, often cheaply, while passing far too quickly over major issues.” WSWS reviewers attended many major film festivals, and the site published assessments of such directors as Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, and John Huston.
On theater, the WSWS published an obituary of Hungarian-born playwright George Tabori (1914-2007), as well as a review of Fallujah, an important play from Britain on the US siege of the Iraqi city, and of Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia, a dramatization of the life of Russian revolutionary exiles in the mid-nineteenth century.
The WSWS also published an article on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Allen Ginsberg’s (1926-1970) celebrated poem “Howl,” as well as an examination of the work of Emily Carr, (1871-1945), a Canadian painter.
In the field of music, an obituary of James Brown (1933-2006) was written by Richard Phillips, in which he traced Brown’s development from growing up in poverty-stricken Barnwell, South Carolina, during the Great Depression into one of the greatest rhythm and blues singers in the US.
In the sphere of the natural sciences, the WSWS gave considerable attention to environmental issues, particularly to scientific findings that global warming was the result of human activity. The WSWS also examined and exposed notions that political interference with climate research on behalf of big oil businesses was becoming rampant. We published articles exposing Kyoto’s UN greenhouse gas emissions trading program as a lucrative source of profits, illustrating that “the program has hindered investment in technologies that would contribute to a long-term decline in the emissions that cause global warming.”
A two-part statement by the Australian SEP raised the issue of climate change in the 2007 federal elections. It provided a detailed exposé of the carbon-trading scheme, the carbon offsetting, and the bankrupt solutions being offered by all of Australia’s establishment political parties, including the Greens.
The WSWS also published a theoretical and political assessment of a number of books on atheism that were published in 2007, most importantly The God Delusion by renowned evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. The WSWS reviewed the strengths and limitations of Dawkins’s approach. The review of Dawkins, along with a subsequent review of a more reactionary book by Sam Harris, also pointed to the connection between an ahistorical atheism and an anti-Islamic and right-wing support for American imperialism.