First Published: Revolution, Vol. 1, No. 7, April 15, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The following article was written based on discussions among people in a Party branch. We hope it will kick off still more discussion, taking the article “On the World Situation, War and Revolutionary Struggle” from the November 15, 1975 Revolution as a framework–Ed.
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The November 15, 1975 Revolution article, “On the World Situation, War and Revolutionary Struggle” has started more than one discussion over the past months. Talking about it again recently, we began to get a hold of some of the ways our practice and experience have shown its importance.
Not only are the capitalists gearing up the machinery of war, the bourgeois media is trying to gear us up for war. News reports are full of scare stories about the size and strength of the Soviet military machine. And they have used the Soviet intervention in Angola to try to line people up behind U.S. imperialism.
It’s certainly true that some of the ruling class’ propaganda is getting over, based partly on peoples’ opposition to Soviet aggression and on the fact that people feel caught in a position where there seems to be no way out but to fight for them. But every day we see the hatred people have for war, and the feelings that this is a hell of a way to live.
Recently we ran into a veteran at the unemployment office who had been looking for a job without much luck. He said he hoped there would be another war because war means jobs. Just then an older man came out of the office and, hearing what the veteran said, replied, “Not me. If that’s their solution, I’m not going–that won’t solve their problems. I served in Korea and I’m not going to fight for them again.”
The war in Vietnam shook up this country. Shook it up because some things about the ruling class became clearer. They talked about democracy, but supported dictatorship; talked about foreign aid but protected their own profits; talked about the aggressive North Vietnamese while they tried to bomb the country “back to the Stone Age” when it became clear that the Vietnamese people would never accept the yoke of U.S. imperialism and were inspiring others around the world to oppose them.
For many–brother after brother came home in a box–being against the war was a question of life and death. The great majority of American people came to oppose the war–and for the working class it taught many of us that we had no interests in common with the war makers. The war in Vietnam raised questions for many more about the nature of a system which depends on war, but the questions remain unanswered for large numbers of workers.
The ruling class today is preparing like crazy to come up with a “cause” that will convince the working class to fight for them. If we fail to build a conscious working class movement now, we will be unprepared. We must find a thousand ways to build a movement that will show that our only recourse is to fight against them, even in the event of war.
Some of the questions raised by the threat of war are the same as before–because in fact war is an inevitable law of capitalism. But, as the possibility of a world war between the two superpowers becomes more likely, it raises up a number of questions we never faced before.
1) Who is the “aggressor”? A simplistic rule of thumb about wars is to be against the aggressor. But this could lead us into supporting a U.S. war against Soviet aggression. Lenin attacked such thinking during WW1 when Germany attacked Belgium and occupied it and various other powers declared war on Germany. He pointed out that when these imperialist countries attacked Germany it was not for defense or the “liberation and indemnification of Belgium.” Each country sought to defeat Germany and grab up some of the spoils of the German Empire.
He said that it was impossible to side with the other powers (England, Russia, Italy, France) against Germany because the effect would not be to help Belgium but to help strangle Austria-Hungary or Turkey and any other area these powers sought to grab. “Herein, precisely, lies the specific feature of imperialist war, war between reactionary-bourgeois, historically obsolete governments, waged for the purpose of oppressing other nations. Whoever justifies participation in the present war perpetuates imperialist oppression of nations.” (Lenin, “Socialism and War,” Lenin on War and Peace, Three Articles)
Our movement has to say that it is not a question of who fires the first shot, but of what class they represent. The two superpowers represent the same class interests and are the most powerful aggressors against the rest of the world. Siding with the U.S. against the Soviet Union (or vice versa) means standing against our class.
2) The Soviet Union is not a communist country run by the working class. The question of capitalist restoration there is extremely important to understanding why the Soviet ruling class represents exactly the same class interests as the U.S. ruling class. For our movement it is extremely pressing to expose Soviet social-imperialism while at the same time putting forward communism as the goal of the working class. We cannot allow ourselves to fall into the error of promoting anti-communism in our opposition to the USSR.
3) We must oppose any attacks on any peoples by either superpower. Ours is a worldwide working class movement; and it is allied with other forces fighting imperialist oppression.
We have to be clear on who’s “us” and who’s “them.” The sides line up fundamentally as class against class, not country against country: the working class and its allies worldwide against the class of imperialist exploiters. We cannot be put in the position of accepting or defending attacks on our class brothers and sisters around the world by any of these imperialists.
4) One of the bourgeoisie’s rallying cries is “defend the fatherland ”better we should fight “over there” than have to fight on our own soil. This is just another cover for using us as cannon fodder in their quest for world domination and, particularly now, control of Europe.
Our answer is unswerving–we won’t fight to protect the interests of the class whose existence depends entirely upon oppressing and exploiting us and others like us worldwide. This is not defense of our lives and families–it is defense of a system we despise and plan to overthrow.
5) The danger of foreign invaders–Russians, Chinese, Martians–has long been a favorite hysterical pot-boiler of the ruling class. It is just so much patriotic hooey to get us to go kill people fighting for their national liberation or to defend the U.S. imperialists’ “right” to dominate the world.
But what if it happened for real? What if the Russians did attack? Then would we join up in the U.S. army and fight the invaders? NO. If the situation had developed to the point where the U.S. ruling class was forced to fight on its own soil, it would sharpen up the question of the working class fighting to overthrow the ruling capitalists and taking state power.
These are complicated issues. Clarity and unity of action among the masses of workers will not be easily achieved. It requires going deeply among the masses, learning from the masses, relying on the masses. Learning from all their struggles, all their hatred for the bourgeoisie.
The working class has a great hatred for war. This is to a certain extent based on an understanding that it means great misery, suffering and sacrifice for our class, our families, our children, all on top of the daily torment of capitalism. And in many cases it is based on the awareness of workers that, while we sacrifice and die, the rich grow richer and extend their power.
The ruling class even acknowledges this hatred of the masses for war, but says “That’s the way it is. We need wars to defend our interests. If you want jobs and a decent income, you’ll have to join up or support our war preparations.” They try to put people in a trap. For youth, and many others, the army offers “the only job around.”
We must unite with this hatred of the masses for war and say, “It doesn’t have to be this way! We can break through!” We unite with this sentiment of the masses and link it with the day to day struggles of the working class, in the thousand and one battles it must fight against the bourgeoisie, and build this as part of the revolutionary movement of the working class to get these parasites and exploiters off our backs once and for all.
As communists we must build our understanding of the science of Marxism-Leninism and train the advanced fighters of the working class in this science, the outlook of our class. We must study carefully the world situation and not burrow into a narrow accounting of our own shop or industry. The best way we can build the fight against war is to build the fight against the bourgeoisie, but it must be done consciously, constantly, arming the masses with a deeper understanding of the situation.
Daily we become clearer in our understanding that ideological and political line determines everything. As the November article stated, “The growing danger of world war, arising from. . .imperialist contention, especially of the two superpowers, makes it all the more decisive for the working class and its Party to base itself on a correct understanding of the forces involved in the international struggle. Such an understanding must, and can only be, rooted in the Marxist method, taking class analysis as the key and fundamental tool, and with this tool digging beneath the appearance to the essence of things.”
The same article points out that while the capitalist rulers of each superpower push “the line that there is no choice for people and countries in the world except to side with one superpower against the other,” the stand and view of the working class is that “war is the continuation of politics by other means, and politics, in turn, is the extension and expression of economics, that is, of class relations.”
The principal expression of the class relations in the U.S. comes down to the contradiction between the working class and the bourgeoisie which is influencing all other events. As the Programme of our Party says in analyzing superpower contention and danger of war arising from it: “Either the working class in the U.S. and the Soviet Union will prevent such a war by overthrowing these greatest oppressors, in conjunction with the worldwide struggle against them, or they will launch a world war before they can be overthrown.
But even if they launch such a war with all the suffering it will bring to the people throughout the world, this will only hasten their own downfall and the end of imperialism.. .In launching a third world war, the imperialists, especially the rulers of the U.S. and the USSR, would further expose their barbarous nature, deepen the determination of the people of the world to bury them once and for all, and give rise to a revolutionary storm shaking the world as never before.”
This means we must go among the masses and deepen struggle and understanding around class antagonisms. We must constantly educate ourselves and arm the masses with the tools to become a class for itself. In essence the main question in opposing war is a question of opposing the bourgeoisie.
This, as the November article points out, is the road forward:
The more broadly the Party mobilizes the working class and the masses of people in struggle against imperialism, including its acts of aggression and War, and through the course of many battles raises their consciousness–exposing the imperialist system, as the source of the evils and sufferings in society, including war, and bringing to the fore the outlook and interests of the working class in overthrowing imperialism–the more the struggle of the working class will be able to weaken the imperialists and advance toward the point where it can overthrow them and bring an end to the misery and destruction of capitalism, even if the superpowers do launch a third world war.
There are those who would say that the threat of war fundamentally alters the situation for the working class. A whole host of sophisticated arguments litter an otherwise simple lie: they say our main task is to oppose the aggression of the USSR. This implies that we must unite with the U.S. ruling class. The effect of the argument is to say that our unity with the bourgeoisie is becoming principal over our contradictions with them. This, needless to say, will only lead us away from revolution.
Our understanding must become firmer that our interests and those of the bourgeoisie are fundamentally opposite.
Moreover, if we leave this understanding in the realm of theory it will be worth a subway ride if we’ve got a token. We must put it into practice in the real world by building a movement to beat back the bourgeoisie–we must dig into our work.
Every day at work we see the bosses’ chains on us and the working class’ struggle to be free of those chains. Nowhere is it clearer that the sides are lining up, class against class. We have nothing to gain from any alliance with the bourgeoisie. Our interests are with the class of the future–the international working class.