Stop the Testing at Mururoa!
For French/Pacific Island Industrial Action against the Tests!
No to Anti-French Chauvinism!
published by the International Bolshevik Tendency, New Zealand
Section in The Bolshevik No 6, August 1995
Half a century ago, on 6 August 1945, US imperialism unleashed the
atomic bomb on the defenceless citizens of Hiroshima. Three days later it
repeated this atrocity on Nagasaki. US President Trumans motivation was
not to bring the war against Japan to an end, as the western imperialist
histories claim, but to heavy the Soviet degenerated workers state,
getting in some operational experience with the new nuclear arsenal in the
process. Why else wait only three days to unleash the second bomb, rather than
give the Japanese military a chance to surrender?
The peace movement has generally interpreted the postwar nuclear
madness ushered in by those grisly events of 1945 with vague and unscientific
notions of a runaway technology which no human agency can now control, or of a
supposedly innate male competitiveness, whereby middle-aged little boys in
uniform still act out their confrontational games in a sandpit of the whole
world. Marxists, by contrast, have always seen the nuclear arms race as having
very specific social-political roots--namely, the international class war.
Living in the shadow of the bomb always meant, in reality, living in the shadow
of US imperialisms desire to roll back the "spectre of communism",
represented, principally, by the Soviet bloc.
The imperialists always blamed international tensions in the
postwar world on "Soviet aggression". Little wonder then that many believed
after the collapse of the August 1991 coup in the USSR that Boris
Yeltsins counter-revolutionary triumph heralded the end of the nuclear
threat. But things are far from tranquil in the New World Order begot by the
close of the Reagan/Thatcher era, and stories of war and the threat of war
continue to dominate the headlines. The central class-based conflict between
the United States and the Soviet Union has been replaced by conflicts of the
more traditional kind under the bourgeois system, that is, conflicts between
different groups of national capitalists.
Revival of Imperialist Rivalry
Thus in the quagmire that is the Balkans, the collapse of the
federalist Yugoslav deformed workers state led rapidly to bloody
nationalist strife as the various embryonic capitalist states sought to
maximise their own interests in the new private-enterprise era. Meanwhile, the
major imperialist powerhouses in the US, Western Europe and Japan have been
freed up from the need to subordinate their differences to their common
hostility to the USSR--now, assisted by waves of mutual xenophobia, US/Japanese
trade-wars threaten to erupt, and the NATO alliance is bitterly divided over
intervention in the Bosnian conflict. The rivalry between the imperialists will
inevitably propel hundreds of millions of human beings into a conflict fought
with weapons far more destructive than mere tariffs.
As the rivalry between the different imperialist blocs continues
to sharpen, the parallels with the inter-imperialist tensions that led to the
slaughter of 1914-18 grow stronger. And eight decades after the 1914
conflagration was sparked in a Bosnian town named Sarajevo, the frequency with
which that name recurs in the news reports today is a chilling reminder that,
under capitalism, the cycle of war is just as relentless as the trade
The French Governments decision to renew its nuclear testing
programme at the Pacific atoll of Mururoa is symptomatic of the revival of
inter-capitalist jostling in the post-Soviet world. We of the Permanent
Revolution Group--NZ Section of the International Bolshevik Tendency
(IBT)--oppose the testing as an act of imperialism. Right-wing Presidential
victor Jacques Chirac is attempting to put his own stamp on French
imperialistic ambition. His announcement that France would break the moratorium
on nuclear testing demonstrates his commitment to beefing up Frances
military prowess. With the capitalist reunification of Germany threatening to
undermine the postwar balance of power in favour of France and Britain, no
doubt Chirac believes it necessary to do a little sabre-rattling of his
For Chirac and Co, the strength of opposition felt around the
world was probably unexpected, and certainly unwelcome. And with the storming
of the Rainbow Warrior by French commandos as it entered French territorial
waters on 10 July--10 years to the day since the original Greenpeace vessel was
gutted in Auckland harbourthe worldwide coverage of this thuggery
didnt do French reputation much good.
A New Zealand Tradition
In New Zealand, opposition to the proposed resumption of testing
has revitalised a tradition in this country. Over 20 years ago, against the
then practice of atmospheric testing, the Kirk Labour Government took the
French to the World Court. And in a symbolic gesture, designed to engender
nationalistic feeling, Kirk ordered a frigate into the testing area. The
overwhelming desire of those leading the latest opposition to the tests is to
rekindle that kind of action at a governmental level.
From the outset, the Bolger government attempted to grab the reins
on the anti-French bandwagon. Leading Government Ministers such as Graham and
McKinnon slated the French decision as that of an arrogant colonial power.
However, when it seemed as though Government action was going little further
than some bold posturing, the pressure came on to raise the ante. Labour leader
Helen Clark, together with the Alliances resurrected Jim Anderton, were
quick to call for New Zealand to break off diplomatic relations and send in the
Navy. Concerned not to be outdone, Bolger agreed that New Zealand would
probably send some kind of naval vessel, to afford "protection" to any protest
flotilla that headed off to Mururoa.
Unfortunately, the perspective of calling on the New Zealand
Government to take stronger action dominates the current protest movement.
Backing up these calls is an unsavoury generalised anti-French prejudice,
coupled with a good dose of little-New Zealand chauvinism. But putting any
faith in New Zealands capitalist rulers as some kind of "progressive"
force is radically misplaced. The foreign policy of the New Zealand capitalist
state is moulded, not by concern for ordinary human beings, but by the cynical
pursuit of its own little-imperialist interests.
The Main Enemy Is at Home
This current Government has proved its reactionary credentials
through intensifying the wave of attacks on New Zealand workers and
beneficiaries begun by the Lange/Douglas Labour regime in its restructuring
binge of the latter 1980s. And the National Government has consistently lent
its support to the attacks of the major imperialists on the neo-colonial
worldfrom the butchery against the workers and peasants of Iraq in
1990/91, to Clintons gunboat diplomacy against Haiti last year. To expect
these architects of draconian benefit cuts and the union-busting Employment
Contracts Act to defend the interests of ordinary working people in New
Zealand, the Pacific or anywhere else is dangerously wrong. To encourage those
expectations is to sow illusions in what remains, for New Zealand workers, the
main enemythat is, our "own" capitalist state.
The French imperialists must be stopped from perpetrating further
outrages against the wishes of the workers and oppressed peoples of the
regionfor example, the Kanaks. We want the French Government out of the
Pacific. But class-conscious workers must present the same intransigent
opposition to the role of New Zealand (and Australian) junior imperialism in
the Pacific as well.
No Illusions in NZ Junior Imperialism!
We remember the treatment meted out by New Zealands rulers
against the independence struggle conducted by the Mau in western Samoa; we
remember Samoas "Black Saturday", when, in December 1929, New Zealand
cops opened fire on a peaceful demonstration. And we remember the sending of
New Zealand troops to oppose liberation struggles in Korea, Malaya and Vietnam.
Cheering on our own capitalist rulers to send in their gunboats against the
French merely buys into the kind of jingoistic hysteria which has regularly
seen workers butchering each other for the sake of the profits of small
exploitative national elites.
Any strategy which aims to end French testing based on support for
little-league New Zealand imperialists against French imperialism is doomed to
failure. And it encourages New Zealand workers and French workers to see
themselves as pitted against each other, rather than having a common strategic
interest in a fight against the global capitalist system. Fighting for an
international proletarian unity in action against the tests offers a genuine
prospect of victory in this campaign. By contrast, the path that begins with
calling on the New Zealand bourgeoisie to "get tough" with Chirac, along with
the petty chauvinism evinced by refusals to eat "French" bread, is one that has
often ended with workers dying on muddy battlefields for the sectional
interests of their own capitalist bosses.
It is telling that New Zealands mainstream "working-class"
party, the NZ Labour Party, has advanced no militant working-class perspective
for stopping the tests, and instead embraces something a lot more
"respectable". The response of Helen Clark (along with Anderton and the other
NLP class-coalitionists in the Alliance) has been to call for the Bolger
Government to take the issue to the World Court, the court of the international
bourgeoisie. At the same time it has joined in with the dominant anti-French
hysteria. The bottom line for the Labour Party is that working-class
internationalism must always be subordinated to defending and promoting NZ
national capitalism; and in the same way Labour has consistently subordinated
working-class militancy to the polite legalism of the parliamentary road.
French Workers Can Stop Chirac
Its unlikely that the World Court will change the Chirac
Governments plans. But a determined campaign of industrial action by the
French working class could stop the testing at Mururoa in its tracks. If the
French workers movement met the schemes of the militarists with a wave of
strikes against all enterprises connected to the nuclear testing programme,
Chirac and Co could find their whole project derailed. A recent poll showed
that 60 percent of the French public is opposed to the resumption of testing
(Dominion, 3 August); outbursts of blinkered anti-French chauvinism will
only undermine this opposition, and serve the interests of those seeking to
push the French workers into the camp of their "own" rulers.
The NZ trade-union bureaucracy has joined with the other
components of the South Pacific Oceanic Council of Trade Unions (SPOCTU) in
promoting a campaign of industrial action against the tests. We support those
elements of SPOCTUs campaign which call for strikes against test
programme activities and action aimed at the French Government. But
SPOCTUs demands for widespread consumer boycotts of French goods and
services only play into the hands of the Chirac administration and must be
The kind of New Zealand nationalism which dominates all mainstream
political forces opposed to the tests has even infected elements of the
ostensibly revolutionary left. The Socialist Workers Organisation (SWO) is an
organisation formed from an unlikely merger of elements of the longtime
anti-Soviets of the "International Socialist Organisation" (ISO) with sections
of the old, fervently Stalinist, "Communist Party of New Zealand" (CPNZ). The
reformists-in-deed of the SWO have correctly highlighted the "anti-French
hysteria" prevalent in the anti-tests movement; but at the same time the SWO
has also pandered to little-New Zealand chauvinism by calling on Bolger to send
in a New Zealand navy frigate:
"We need to put pressure on the Nats to take some real
action. ... We should demand that they [sic] government send frigates to
support the Rainbow Warrior"
(Socialist Worker, 10
Subsequently, in response to a critical letter, the SWO lamely
defended their position, seeking refuge in non-existent distinctions: "The
point made in the article was not about NZ armed forces be sent to
Mururoa but the government sending frigates to support the Rainbow
Warrior" (Socialist Worker, 24 July). The SWO fretted that if they
opposed the Governments plans to send a vessel, "we would deservedly
isolate ourselves from the broad protest movement ...." For the SWO, calling
for what is popular is usually preferable to calling for what is necessary.
Inherent Drive to War
While the contemporary "peace" movement tends to focus on the
nuclear issue, at bottom the question of how to eliminate the threat of nuclear
destruction is not different from the question of how to end war in general.
Only an imbecile would deny the fact that with the advent of nuclear weapons
human beings achieved a new and grisly efficiency in the business of
killingnuclear weapons threaten human existence as no weapons have
before. But fantasies about establishing a "nuclear-free" Pacific, or even less
likely, a nuclear-free planet, cannot remove the shadow of annihilation which
hangs over our species; for that will remain as long as this irrational and
destructive capitalist order, with its inherent drive to war, survives.
Warfare under the bourgeois order is at bottom the product of
economic struggle for markets and resources by different national bourgeoisies.
The modern-day nuclear madness is only the end-game in a world torn by
inter-imperialist rivalry and war. And even besides nuclear weapons, the
imperialist arsenals of the world are capable of wreaking carnage on a
stupendous scale. It is important to remember that 1945, the year of the
A-bomb, was also the year of the horrendous firebombings of Dresden and Tokyo,
where "conventional" incendiary bombs caused death tolls comparable to those of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Who Will Disarm Whom?
Disarmament, including the disarming of any section of armaments
owned by one imperialist power or another, is impossible without first removing
the roots of imperialist rivalry--capitalism. As Leon Trotsky wrote in 1938, in
response to the liberal-democratic "Disarmament" call:
"But the entire question revolves around who will disarm
whom. The only disarmament which can avert or end war is the disarmament of the
bourgeoisie by the workers. But to disarm the bourgeoisie the workers must arm
(The Transitional Programme)
Thus today it is necessary to fight, not for the abstraction of
"ending war", but rather for a resolution of the class war in the favour of
ordinary working people throughout the world. This necessarily means that where
capitalism has already been removed-- as in China, Cuba, Vietnam and North
Korea, and in the former Soviet Union until its counterrevolutionary demise in
the 1991 August coup--we recognise the right of those deformed workers
states to maintain and develop nuclear weaponry as an elemental precondition
for their defence against capitalist restoration.
The idea of the nuclear deterrent has in fact always had a solid
kernel of truth. If the Soviets had not developed nuclear arms in the late
1940s, there is every possibility that Korea, Cambodia and Vietnam would now be
nothing more than nuclear wastelands, and perhaps the world with them.
A half decade after the criminal devastation of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, the US state came close to a further nuclear strike against a second
Asian country--North Korea. When China entered the Korean war in November 1950,
US Imperialist-in-Chief Truman publicly stated that the use of the atomic bomb
against China was "under consideration". In April 1951, Truman signed an order
granting his military commander, the infamous Douglas MacArthur, control of 26
atomic bombs. But by this time the Soviet Union had developed its own nuclear
capacity. At this stage the USSR still lacked the delivery systems necessary to
strike at the North American continent; but the imperialist rulers in London
and Paris felt considerably more vulnerable and pressured Truman to pledge that
no nuclear weapons would be used. It was only the threat of a break with his
European allies which caused Truman to withdraw his order and fire MacArthur.
Without the deterrent of the nuclear arsenal controlled by Moscow, the US
imperialists would have once again dropped nuclear bombs on Asian cities.
We have no illusions in the corrupt, bureaucratic Stalinist
regimes which rule in the deformed workers states. Nuclear testing
conducted by a Fidel Castro or a Deng Xiaoping is just as likely to disregard
the needs of their own populations. We do not accept responsibility for any
crimes committed by them on their own citizens. On the contrary, we want to see
these repressive bureaucracies removed through workers political
revolution and replaced by healthy, democratic working-class regimes. But to
the extent that the Stalinists, in defending themselves, are also compelled to
defend the collectivised economies they sit on top of, we call for their
unconditional military defence.
And so we reject any calls on the Stalinists to disarm, in the
face of the multi-trillion dollar arsenals of a hostile imperialist camp. And
we condemn the brazen hypocrisy of the imperialists: compare the muted and
barely critical response of the Clinton administration to renewed French
testing with their hysterical determination to prevent North Korea having its
own nuclear capacity. US Imperialism--Hands off North Korea!
Capitalist Swords into Socialist Ploughshares
The alternatives for humanity posed by Frederick Engels over 100
years ago--socialism or barbarism--are ever more true now. The only way to
avoid barbarism, indeed even annihilation, is by the working class seizing
power internationally. But that requires pursuing the class war with a renewed
militancy and a new clarity of political vision.
Only a working-class movement armed with the programme of
revolutionary Marxism can break humanity out of the capitalist circle of misery
and death and establish a new order of genuine peace and international
cooperation. In creating a socialist world the preconditions will be laid for
the epoch-making transformation of swords into ploughshares.
For Industrial Action against the Testing at
Mururoafrom France, to New Caledonia, to Tahiti, to New
No Illusions in Our "Own" Capitalist GovernmentThe
Main Enemy is at Home!
French and NZ Imperialists: Get Your Hands Off the