The manifesto below first appeared in MidEast Solidarity #1, Spring 2001, the Middle East bulletin of revolution magazine. Although now thirteen years old, it is still highly relevant, given the Western powers’ ever-expanding, never-ending wars in the Third World. It lays out a basic approach needed to build what is needed – an anti-imperialist movement – and is counterposed to simply accepting lowest common denominator peace politics, which often reinforce myths about this country’s ruling class, their political servants and their foreign policy. In Christchurch, the Middle East Information and Solidarity Collective generally operated along the lines of the Manifesto, although its sphere of action was most specifically Palestine and Iraq. Similar sentiments to those contained in the Manifesto animated the Anti-Imperialist Coalition in Auckland and the work of ACA activists in Peace Action Wellington. As New Zealand’s ruling class plays its own part in the West’s wars abroad and migrant workers remain on the receiving end of discrimination here, we need to revive the spirit of this Manifesto; we need not a ‘peace’ movement but an anti-imperialist movement. Lastly, a few explanatory notes have been added.
The assault on Afghanistan points up the desperate need not for a wishy-washy peace movement, which treats New Zealand imperialism as morally superior to other imperialisms and pleads with Wellington to exert greater leverage in world affairs, but for an anti-imperialist movement.
1. AGAINST THE NEW ZEALAND STATE AND ITS FOREIGN POLICY
An anti-imperialist perspective in New Zealand can only begin with total opposition to the policies and initiatives of our own ruling class. New Zealand is an advanced capitalist society, part of the First World, presided over by an exploiting ruling class which is part of the problem not part of the solution.
New Zealand nationalism has been historically the ideology through which the capitalist class here coheres society around its own interests and power. In particular this ideology binds NZ workers to their lown exploiters, obscures class divisions within this country and keeps workers from developing an anti-capitalist outlook. At crucial times it serves to line workers up behind our ruling class in wars against workers of other countries.
Much of the left has been part of this reactionary nationalist consensus, most blatantly in the forms of labourism, Stalinism* and anti-‘foreign control’ groups. But even the Marxist left has succumbed to it, as war clear around the campaign against French testing at Moruroa, where most far left groups lined up behind the NZ ruling class.**
In contrast to middle class peace groups and leftists who make calls on the New Zealand government to take action against other capitalist governments, thereby prettifying our own ruling class, a genuine anti-imperialist movement in this country promotes action against, rather than with, our rulers. A genuine anti-imperialist movement promotes international solidarity of workers against exploiters, especially the Western powers, including New Zealand, which plunder and oppress the Third World.
Moreover, only through breaking with the New Zealand nationalist consensus can workers here be won to genuine internationalism and anti-imperialism.
Oppose NZ foreign policy in all its forms! No to all NZ intervention abroad, including ‘peacekeeping’ and other ‘white man’s burden’ activities. For international solidarity of workers and oppressed peoples!
2. NO WESTERN SOLUTIONS
Today the Western powers, led by the United States, intervene at will in the affairs of the peoples of the Third World. This intervention is cloaked in the language of humanitarian intervention (eg Yugoslaviam East Timor) or, in fecent months, the ‘war on terrorism’. In all cases, however, it represents a denial of the right of people in the Third World to rule themselves and sort out their own problems. All these forms of intervention make things worse.
Moreover, at the same time, the Western powers suck resources and funds out of these countries, ensuring their continued impoverishment.
Arguments in favour of Western intervention all end up taking on the form of a moral rearmament of imperialism. Peoples in the Third World are presented as less civilised and inferior, and the Western elites as a civilisng force. These interventions legitimise the carving up of the Third World among the main capitalist powers, They also serve to unite fragmenting Western societies behind some sense of common purpose – like the ‘war on terrorism’ – thereby binding workers in the West to their own ruling exploiters. The worse things get in the West, the more likely our ruling classes are going to try to get us all to unite behind them in making war in the Third World.
No Western intervention – no Western solutions! Oppose the moral rearmament of imperialism! No to all attempts by the Western powers to act as judge, jury and executioner whether through bogus ‘World Courts’ or through bombs and sanctions. No to the Third World debt, imposed by Western financial institutions and governments.
3. NO TO RACE HATRED AND CULTURE WARS
Racism provides a major justification for Western intervention in the Third World and serves to divideworkers in New Zealand from our fellow workers in other countries. While outbreaks of violence against immigrants, especially immigrants of colour, are usually blamed on small-right groups, they are really the result of the workings of the capitalist system – which create the divisions between people in the first place – and government policies, which scapegoat immigrants. It is the mainstream, respectable parties of capitalism which are thus the main enemy.
While the cultural war is directed at dehumanising Arabs and other Third World peoples, we must do everything possible to expose these stereotypes and show the common aspirations and interests of the vast majority of humanity.
No to the demonisation and dehumanisation of Third World peoples! No to immigration controls! For open borders and a world of common humanity!
4. A WORKING CLASS PERSPECTIVE
Racism and national hatreds make it easier for the ruling class to rule and harder for workers to fight for their own rights. Instead of fighting their own exploiters, they fight fellow workers.
Workers who accept racial and national prejudices will never be able to fight effectively for their own rights as workers. Workers who unite across racial and national boundaries, however, can shake the system of exploitation and oppression to its core. No other section of society has this power to change the world for the better.
The building of an anti-imperialist movement requires not only committed activists, drawn from all layers of society, but an orientation to the working class. Only the working class has a vested interest in ending explopitation and oppression all over the world, and only workers’ power can achieve this.
* This was a term bandied about a bit too freely for several years by those of us involved in revolution magazine; we were actually talking about the pro-Moscow SUP and SPA and the right-wing varieties of NZ Maoism, as opposed to the left-wing anti-imperialism associated with pro-Mao groups like the original Workers Party current with which we later formed the Anti-Capitalist Alliance and then actually merged.
** The most crass example was the Socialist Workers Organisation. Their paper ran an article by one of their leaders, Brian Roper, demanding the Bolger government send a frigate to put it up to the French!