LONDON — Karl Marx would have been sad, I suspect, to see the May Day demonstration in London. The demonstration brought to mind Trotsky’s letter to Diego Riviera: “we are concerned here with either real traitors or complete imbeciles. But imbecility, raised to this degree, is equal to treason.”
The demonstration filled about half of Trafalgar Square, and consisted of a few thousand people. To some degree, the speakers addressed concerns that Marx would likely have applauded, such as support for firefighters in their wage negotiations with the government, or opposition to cuts in government old-age welfare pensions.
Yet on foreign policy, the demonstration was affirmatively on the side of fascism and the suppression of the working class. Earlier in the week, a few “asylum seekers” from Afghanistan had been deported from Britain back to their native land, on the grounds that there was no longer a need to grant them political asylum. A May Day speaker denounced the deportation, and condemned the Blair administration for “destabilizing” Afghanistan. In other words, the ostensibly “revolutionary” so-called “Marxists” of London May Day 2003 were complaining about the destabilizing removal of a feudal regime which exterminated Communists, which subordinated women in every way possible, and which kept itself in power through foreign (Arab) soldiers utterly hostile to the will of the people. Marx wanted to destabilize such tyrannies by overthrowing them. He was for revolution, not the perpetuation of oppression.
At the side of the stage, next to the immense red flag with a hammer and sickle, flew a flag with the face of Saddam Hussein. Now Engels might have denounced the Anglo-American war in Iraq as a form of colonialism. But it is possible to criticize the Anglo-American policy without honoring Saddam Hussein. Hussein’s regime was only nominally socialist; in practice it was worse than the worst capitalist regimes denounced by Marx and Engels. Saddam lived in palaces built on wealth stolen from the starving people of Iraq. The bounty from the natural resources of Iraq was plundered by a regime allied with a rapacious multinational corporation (TotalFinaElf). Various foreign entities (France, Germany, Russia, and the U.N. oil-for-graft bureaucrats) were, to various degrees, bought and paid for by the expropriation of the surplus value of the labor of the working people of Iraq.
It is now perfectly obvious, even to a reader of the Guardian, that the people of Iraq loathed Saddam, and are glad to see him gone. Some Iraqis want the Anglo-Americans gone too, but that does not change their abhorrence of Saddam. The May Day demonstrators in London, were bemoaning the removal of a tyrant whose rule was completely contrary to Marx’s utopian vision.
Therefore, people who genuinely support a “free and democratic Palestine” (as many of the May Day demonstrators claimed they did) should recognize that the May Day demonstrators and their type are of no use to the cause of a truly free Palestine. Saddam Hussein permitted no freedom and no democracy, yet the May Day crowd extolled him. Saddam Hussein killed immeasurably more Muslims than the Israelis ever have, and the May Day crowd flew his banner. A Palestinian regime which murderers Palestinians by the millions will enjoy the applause of the May Day crowd, so long as the regime is hostile to the Anglo-Americans.
Hitler was accurately described by Stalin as “the bloody assassin of the workers.” On May Day 2003, the face of another bloody assassin of the workers waved over Trafalgar Square, even as his wicked face was being eradicated all over Iraq. Long, long ago, British communists and socialists had some reason to believe that they were progressives on the right side of history. Today, their parties have become the worst sort of reactionaries, siding with the most backward, thieving, and oppressive tyrannies.
There are still many people in this world who find in the writings of Karl Marx an inspiring vision of fairness and social justice. May Day in Trafalgar Square suggests that if those readers are genuinely concerned with social justice, they are going to have to find political movements other than the Socialist Alliance and the British Communists — other than parties who are so consumed with hatred of their own nation that they have become allies of the bloody assassins of the workers of other nations.