Remarks by Bill Logan on behalf of the International Bolshevik Tendency at a workshop on “Class Struggle and the War” at the Labor Conference to Stop the War, ILWU Local 10 Hall, San Francisco, 20 October 2007

This conference against imperialist war—a conference of working-class militants in the imperialist heartland—has considerable international importance. I bring greetings from the International Bolshevik Tendency.

I want to talk a little about some historical examples of workers’ political action against imperialist war.

The message of the IWW (the Wobblies) forged here in America by your great-great grandparents—was spread by seafarers to my part of the world—to Australia and New Zealand, particularly to the maritime workers. Wobbly agitation against the First World War in Australia and New Zealand had a lasting impact on working-class consciousness. In Australia, two referendums proposing conscription for the army were defeated, largely because of working-class opposition to imperialist war.

In the 1930s the Australian maritime unions defied the government to stop the export of pig iron to feed Japan´s imperial expansion into China. In the 1940s, when the Netherlands sought to suppress Indonesian independence, the maritime unions refused to load ships aiding the Dutch war effort.

In the 1950s, when Australian and New Zealand mini-imperialism joined its big brothers against North Korea, there were currents in the working class that stood in opposition. Most notably, the Australian Seamen’s Union banned the transport of war supplies to Korea.

You see, all this had origins in work done here, in North America. And it went on.

In the 1960s and 70s, when the Australian bosses decided to send a brigade to fight alongside the American army in Vietnam, two and a half thousand waterside workers—longshoremen—walked off the wharves in Melbourne in protest. Through the Vietnam years the solidarity of militant workers throughout Australasia helped ignite and maintain mass popular opposition to the war.

Of course, as you know, the friends of the bosses in the workers’ movement, particularly concentrated among the bureaucrats, don’t allow us to initiate labor actions against imperialist war easily. So there’s got to be a political struggle in the unions—a struggle for a program that sees our interests as inextricably tied to the interests of our class brothers and sisters internationally. Just as in every workplace an injury to one is an injury to all, so internationally, an injury to workers in one part of the world is an injury to workers everywhere.

Some of you in this room have played important parts in militant labor actions in the fairly recent past. There was the April 1999 West Coast port shutdown in solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal that Brother [Jack] Heyman and others took an active role in. Before that, in 1984, there was the hotcargoing of South African goods on the Nelloyd Kimberley to protest racist apartheid. Bob Mandel and Jack Heyman and Howard Keylor here were [involved in] that action, and it set an example for workers around the world and sent a powerful message of solidarity to our South African brothers and sisters.

It is time to again struggle for the kind of solidarity displayed in the Nedlloyd Kimberley action; and this time to act with even more determination, and more decisively, to oppose the imperialist occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. It is hard to overstate the impact that such an initiative by militant U.S. trade unionists would have in undercutting the growth of anti-American sentiment internationally, and reinforcing the best historic traditions of working-class solidarity.

In this fight we must continue to be guided by that very basic slogan first raised 160 years ago—Workers of the World, Unite!

Posted: 25 October 2007