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FRFI 182 December 2004 / January 2005
David Yaffe sums up its contribution to the struggle for socialism in Britain
Our newspaper Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) is 25 years old. The name of our newspaper is itself a political statement. It declares that fighting racism and imperialism must be at the heart of any socialist movement in imperialist Britain. It is a position that has directed the political theory and practice of the Revolutionary Communist Group for over 25 years.
From our first issue in November-December 1979, a consistent revolutionary anti-imperialist standpoint has determined the political content of FRFI. The core positions have not significantly changed but have been expanded and made more concrete as political experience and practice has forced us to develop them. The political outcome of struggles has often been different to what we had wanted and expected. The optimistic outcome that we fought for has frequently been set back by the opportunist forces mobilised against any militant working class or anti-imperialist movement. We have confronted such developments and learned the hard lessons from them for future struggles, as can be seen from the pages of FRFI.
What are these core positions? First and foremost, at the most general level, we are Marxists and materialists. The capitalist system, by restricting production to the narrow limits of profit making, is a crisis ridden system. It can never satisfy the basic needs of the vast majority of humanity. Capitalism necessarily turns into imperialism, a worldwide system of brutal exploitation of the oppressed nations by a small number of rich, powerful capitalist nations – with the majority of the world’s population living in poverty while a small minority squanders unprecedented wealth. As a result, capitalism creates the seeds of its own destruction, forces from among the working class and oppressed which have an interest in overthrowing it and replacing it by socialism – a system which organises the production of wealth on a socially organised basis.
Our understanding of capitalism allowed us to recognise from the beginning that globalisation was not a new stage of capitalism but a return to those unstable features of capitalism which characterised imperialism before the First Imperialist War. There has been a frenetic international expansion of capital which has had devastating consequences for the vast majority of humanity. Far from being a beacon of unhindered capitalist development, as many left intellectuals have maintained, globalisation is a sign of economic decay and increasing instability in a world of obscene and growing inequality. It has led to wars and will inevitably bring resistance and revolution.
FRFI is published in the oldest imperialist country. The imperialist character of Britain has been decisive in determining British economic and political developments. Britain is still a major imperialist power, second only to the United States. The high monopoly profits that a small number of imperialist nations derive from the super-exploitation of oppressed nations makes it economically possible to create privileged sections of workers in imperialist countries. These workers, a labour aristocracy, constitute the social basis of opportunism. Imperialism creates a split in the working class. The upper stratum of the working class now dominates the British labour movement and ties it to imperialism – the economic foundation of its status and privileges. The labour aristocracy expresses itself politically through the Labour Party and it controls the trade union movement. FRFI has always regarded the Labour Party as a racist, imperialist party. Alone of the main publications of the British left, FRFI called on workers not to vote Labour in the 1979 elections and has consistently argued this position over 25 years. FRFI was able to point out what the Blair Labour government would be like well before the 1997 election. Seven years of an openly racist, imperialist and warmongering Labour government have underlined the fact that no anti-imperialist or socialist movement can be built unless the British left makes a fundamental and irrevocable break with the British Labour Party.
Imperialism is at the root of racism in the world today. Racism is the form that national oppression takes in the imperialist country. The imperialist nations brutally exploit and impoverish the oppressed nations then erect a barrier to keep out immigrants/ refugees/asylum seekers fleeing from the resulting war and poverty. FRFI has always opposed all immigration controls and the RCG has played a central role in many anti-racist and anti-deportation campaigns from the Earlington Family Defence Campaign against police brutality in Islington, North London in 1980, through the four-year-long Manchester-based anti-deportation Viraj Mendis Defence Campaign in the 1980s, to the anti-racist marches in Haringey, North London in 2001.
At the time of our first issue British imperialism faced a growing political and economic crisis. This found expression in the war in Ireland, the assault on the liberation movement in Zimbabwe, British support for the racist government in South Africa, the racist offensive against black people in this country and attacks on working class living standards, in particular the offensive against the public sector. In all these cases it was the oppressed masses and poorer sections of the working class who were bearing the brunt of the attack and who were fighting back and resisting. From these developments we drew certain important political lessons which are guiding our political practice today.
Precisely because of the daily experience of their lives in Britain, of British state brutality and repression, of poverty wages and unemployment, the oppressed sections of the working class will have few illusions about the character of the British capitalist state or imperialist governments, whether Labour, Tory or Liberal. They are therefore the key to the development of an anti-imperialist movement and socialist movement in Britain. Their struggles can begin to unify the working class against racism and imperialism and against the pro-imperialist, anti-working class sections of the British labour movement. FRFI has made this point consistently over 25 years; building a movement against the brutal occupation of Ireland throughout the 1980s in alliance with Irish workers in Britain; demanding an end to British support for the racist apartheid state in alliance with black workers and immigrants in the 1980s; calling for British imperialism out of the Gulf in alliance with Turkish, Kurdish, Arab, Palestinian and Asian workers in the 1990s and in the attempt to build an anti-imperialist current in the anti-war movement to bring British troops out of Iraq today.
The British imperialist state fears the success of liberation movements in oppressed nations. Its economic position and political credibility in the world would be severely weakened if it could not maintain its domination over them. The resistance movements in the oppressed nations are weakening imperialism; an anti-imperialist movement in this country in unity with these struggles can deal a decisive blow against British imperialism. That is why FRFI has always given complete and unconditional support to the liberation movements fighting imperialism and we have supported their right to defend themselves by any means necessary. We stand by our record on Ireland, on Southern Africa, on Palestine and Iraq.
Through our work in solidarity with Irish prisoners we came to support the struggles for the rights of other prisoners. Every issue of FRFI since the early 1980s has carried a Prisoners Fightback page and our principled work on this issue is unique on the British left.
One area where our position has significantly developed was in relation to our support for the socialist countries. We had no illusions about the reactionary nature of the imperialist-backed Solidarnosc movement in Poland, and we understood the devastating effect that the collapse of the socialist bloc in Eastern Europe would have on the international working class movement, the oppressed nations and the vast majority of people in the Soviet Union. FRFI argued in autumn 1990 that far from moderating imperialism’s predatory character, the collapse of the socialist bloc would remove all restraints on imperialism’s drive to carve up and divide the world. FRFI has consistently supported the socialist revolution in Cuba and has reported on the concrete measures that the Cuban Communist Party has taken in building and advancing socialism at home, on the leading role it has played in opposing US imperialism and on its exemplary internationalism towards the oppressed nations impoverished by imperialism.
Finally from our first issue we argued that the main organisations of what we called the British petit bourgeois left, including the Communist Party (now dissolved), Militant (dissolved), the International Marxist Group (dissolved) and the SWP, were a major obstacle to the building of an anti-imperialist movement based on the working class and oppressed in this country. In issue after issue we showed how these organisations consistently attacked the resistance of the oppressed, whether liberation movements taking up arms to defend themselves, black youth fighting police on the streets of British cities with stones and petrol bombs, miners’ hit squads dealing with scabs breaking the strike with police protection or poll tax protestors defending themselves against police violence. Apart from the Communist Party, whose demise followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, these organisations or their offshoots have consistently attacked the socialist countries, including Cuba, supported Solidarnosc in Poland, the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and the collapse of Soviet bloc countries.
While attacking all these forces for not being ‘socialist’ enough they have refused to break with the racist, imperialist Labour Party and called for a vote for the Labour Party in General Election after General Election. They have one standard for the oppressed and another for themselves and their imperialist allies. Little wonder that over the last 25 years, every attempt to build an anti-imperialist movement has been thwarted by these forces, most recently demonstrated through the devastating failure of the Stop the War Movement in Britain. We have to break from the reactionary politics of these left organisations.
These then are the lessons drawn from 25 years of political campaigning around FRFI. If they are learned and acted upon then we can move forward to build a socialist movement that the working class so desperately needs in this country.
What you can do in Britain is not only read FRFI, but also join us in building an anti-imperialist/anti-capitalist movement that will place us alongside all those forces fighting imperialism and building socialism internationally.
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Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! is a fighting 25 years old. Alone on the left, it has fought Labour racism and imperialism. Alone on the left, it has stood in solidarity with the Irish freedom struggle. It has organised with those fighting state racism. Alone on the left it has given a voice to those fighting the rotten racist prison system. Now there is a rising tide of anti-imperialist struggle – in Palestine, Iraq, throughout Latin America. Imperialism faces a huge crisis. Labour old and new is exposed as the party of war. We need to develop FRFI to give a voice to those who are fighting back here in Britain, for those who will have no truck with Labour. For this we need your contributions. Please help us raise £10,000 over the next four months so that we can carry on the struggle against racism and imperialism.
Send your donations payable to Larkin Publications to :
FRFI, BCM Box 5909, London WC1N 3XX.