Editorial: Reagan-Gorbachev, Afghanistan
"Disarmament" and "peace" are lies
‘Reduction of armaments' and the march towards war
A daily propaganda has been made this year on the ‘reduction of armaments' and the ‘peace-talks' between USA and the USSR with the Reagan-Gorbachev meetings, the whole thing based on the ‘rights of man', and ‘perestroika'. ‘Disarmament' is once again in fashion, but in reality, as always ‘the reduction of armaments' is an enormous lie. It's a facade of propaganda which covers the forced march of capitalism towards a permanent search to perfect its military equipment. The part consecrated to armaments in the national budgets of all countries has never been so high, and it is not in any way going to diminish. As we have developed in preceding numbers of this Review, capitalism in its period of decline since the first world war survives in a permanent war economy and "even in a period of ‘peace' the system is ravaged by the cancer of militarism". The increase in armaments is more and more inordinate, and its only possible denouement is in generalized war that could only mean, given the military technology of our epoch, the destruction of the planet and humanity.
The modernization of weapons
Today's propaganda should fool no-one. The withdrawal of certain missiles in Europe has the advantage for the USA that it makes its allies take more direct charge of military expenses; what's more, the withdrawal is completely negligible in relation to the overall firepower of the western bloc. For the USSR, it allows for the suppression of materiel outmatched by the sophistication of the present western armaments. The ‘START' accords for the ‘limitation' of armaments, like all these types of conferences between the representatives of the great powers, are really about the renewal of materiel and don't constitute a real reduction of the latter. Like the SALT 2 accords of the summer of ‘79, which led to the installation of the famous medium range missiles, justified at the time by the ‘disarmaments' of inter-continental warheads which had become obsolete, the present accords, presented as a ‘reduction of armaments', are in reality about dumping outdated material, and taking steps towards the development of new military systems.
It is true that for each national state armament expenses only aggravate the crisis and don't in any way permit it to be resolved. But it's not economic reasons which explain the campaign on the ‘reduction of armaments'. Capitalism isn't able to reduce armaments. When the USA, which wants to lessen its gigantic budget deficit, envisages the lessening of military expenses, it is not to reduce them globally in the western bloc, but to increase the part paid by its European and Japanese allies to ‘defend the free world'. It's the same for the USSR, which is being more and more strangled by the economic crisis, when it's forced to ‘rationalize' its military expenses. The increase in armaments is inherent in imperialism in the period of decadence, in the imperialism of all nations, from the smallest to the lamest and "from which no state can hold aloof" as Rosa Luxemburg said some time ago.
If today the talks speak of ‘the end of the cold war' and similar formulae, that must be understood not in the sense ‘peace' will now be on the agenda, but rather as a warning that capitalism is more and more being pushed towards a ‘hot war'. Furthermore, despite the attempts to justify war preparations the language of pacifism, the Reagan administration, which like the rest of the right wing of the political apparatus of the bourgeoisie is more at ease with open warmongering, hasn't muzzled the declarations of the actor/gangster of the White House about ‘being vigilant', ‘remaining strong'. In particular it has saluted Thatcher because without sacrificing her ‘anti-communist' credentials, she was also the first to suggest discussing ‘business' with Gorbachev; the ‘business' in question being nothing other than the diplomatic side of military pressure.
Intensification of East-West conflict
The pacifist talks today are part of the same reality as the war mongering at the beginning of the 1980s, when Reagan was denouncing the ‘Evil Empire' - the USSR. Today, when American diplomacy meets Russian diplomacy in Moscow, the discussion is on the ‘rules' of the growing confrontation on a world scale under the leadership of Moscow and Washington. In no way was it about putting an end to this confrontation.
Only the speeches have changed. The reality is always that of world capitalism's march to war, today characterized by a western offensive against the strategic positions of the USSR, and by the search for the means to resist and respond to this offensive on the part of the Russian imperialist bloc.
A great discretion reins today about the incessant battles in the Middle East and above all about the massive presence of the fleet of the great powers in the region. It seems clear that the media has orders to make the least noise possible about what takes place in the Persian Gulf - about the highly sophisticated armada, which has been on a war footing since the summer of ‘87. In the past 20 years, the direct military presence of countries like the United States, France, Britain, Belgium, and even the so-called ‘unarmed' West Germany, has never been as strong outside of their frontiers, on what the strategists call the ‘theatre of operations'. Are we really to think that all this armada is there only to ‘ensure the peaceful circulation of shipping'? Obviously not. This presence is part of the western military strategy and the latter is not dictated by a few second-rate Iranian gunships and the tugboats which refuel them, but by the historic rivalry between East and West.
The western offensive is aimed at the USSR and it has just scored another point with the retreat of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.
The USSR has been obliged to yield under the direct military pressure of the Afghan ‘resistance' equipped with American Stinger missiles, which have allowed the latter to considerably reinforce its firepower; and under the ‘indirect' pressure of the western fleet in the Gulf. It is now being obliged to abandon in part the occupation of the sole countries outside of its east European ‘sphere of influence'. And, unlike the USA which won the alliance with China at the time of their retreat from Vietnam in 1975, the USSR cannot count on any such deal. The USA has ceded nothing; this is also the real content of the Reagan-Gorbachev meetings. The western bloc is determined to maintain its pressure. This is also confirmed by the projected retreat of the Vietnamese army from Cambodia.
But the USSR's retreat doesn't mean the return to peace, on the contrary. Just as the Israeli-Arab accord at Camp David between Egypt and Israel more than 10 years ago, under the benediction of Carter and Brezhnev, resulted in an enlargement of conflicts, in the massacres of populations and the social decomposition of the situation in the Middle East, the present retreat of Russian troops doesn't open up a perspective of ‘peace' and ‘stability' but rather of a reinforcement of tensions, and in particular a probable ‘Lebanonisation' of Afghanistan, which is a tendency common to all countries in this region.
The ‘perestroika' of Gorbachev, just as it is a ‘democratic' veneer for home consumption, a cover for pushing through redoubled anti-working class measures, is also in foreign policy a pacifist veneer over a more and more unpopular military occupation - a policy which will in fact be continued and reinforced, even if it is under the more ‘discrete' form of political and military support to factions, clans and cliques of national bourgeoisies which don't find their place in the camp of the ‘Pax Americana', notably the local Communist Parties and their leftist appendages.
The conflict between the great powers will be pursued by permanently playing on the different governmental or opposition factions in all the extremely bloody ‘local' conflicts, with a growing military participation by the principal antagonists, to the point where they are directly face to face - if the bourgeoisie has its hands free to keep social peace and guarantee loyalty to its imperialist designs. But this is far from being the case today.
Pacifism: a lie directed against the working class
It is fundamentally because the bourgeoisie is at grips with a proletariat which doesn't bend docilely to the attacks of austerity, a proletariat which doesn't show any profound adhesion to the diplomatic/military maneuvers which lead to an acceleration of inter-imperialist tensions, that today's propaganda on the one hand keeps silent about workers' strikes and demonstrations, and on the other hand has been converted from yesterday's warlike language into a ‘pacifist', ‘disarmament' campaign.
At the beginning of the 1980s the proletariat was suffering from the reflux of several important struggles which had developed internationally, from 1978 to the defeat of the workers in Poland in 1981. The propaganda of the bourgeoisie could at the beginning of the ‘80s be based on the feelings of disorientation that had been engendered by such a situation. It tried to instill feelings of fatality, impotence, demoralization and intimidation, in particular through a barrage of war propaganda and war-like actions: Falklands war, invasion of Grenada by the US, Reagan's diatribes against the Evil Empire, Star Wars, etc, the whole thing being accompanied by military actions that more and more involved the great powers on the field of operations, up to the installation of western troops in the Lebanon in 1983.
Since 1983-84 workers' strikes and demonstrations have multiplied against the different austerity plans in the industrialized countries and equally in the less developed countries, marking the end of the short preceding period of reflux and passivity. And if many proletarian political groups are unfortunately incapable of seeing, behind the daily images peddled by the propaganda of the bourgeoisie and of its media, the reality of the present development of the class struggle, the bourgeoisie itself senses the danger. Through the different political and union forces at its disposal it is evident that the bourgeoisie knows that the essential problem is the ‘social situation', everywhere, and particularly in Western Europe where all the stakes of the world situation are concentrated. And there are more and more ‘enlightened' bourgeois sounding the alarm about the danger of de-unionization in the working class and the risk of ‘unforeseen' and ‘uncontrolled' movements. It's as a result of this danger that the bourgeoisie puts forward the false alternative of ‘war or peace', the idea that the future depends on the ‘wisdom' of the leaders of this world, when it really depends on the international working class taking control of and unifying its struggles for emancipation. Because of this danger everything is done to hide and minimize the mobilizations of the workers and the unemployed, to spread ideas about the weakness, impotence or ‘dislocation' of the working class.
If the bourgeoisie is a class divided into nations regrouped around imperialist blocs, ready to sharpen their rivalries, up to using all the means it has in a generalized imperialist war, it is by contrast a unified class when it's a question of attacking the working class, imprisoning its struggles, of maintaining it as an exploited class submitting to the dictates of each national capital. It's only faced with the working class that the bourgeoisie finds a unity, and the present unanimous choir about ‘peace' and ‘disarmament' is only a masquerade aimed essentially at anaesthetizing the growing proletarian menace.
Because, despite their limits and numerous setbacks, the struggles which have developed for several years in all countries, touching all sectors, from Spain to Britain, from France to Italy, including a country like West Germany which until now has been the least touched by the devastating effects of the crisis, are not only the sign that the working class is not ready to accept passively the attacks on the economic terrain, but also that preceding attempts at intimidation through the 'warlike' campaigns, or the noise about the 'economic recovery' have not had the desired effect. Equally symptomatic of the maturation of the consciousness in the working class is the fact that, as in Italy and Spain last year, we've seen during the electoral campaign in France - traditionally a time of social truce - the eruption of a number of particularly combative strikes. It's this development of the class struggle which lies behind the bourgeoisie's ‘peace' campaigns both in the eastern bloc and the countries of the west.
MG 7 June 1988
 See IR 52 and 53
 See the polemic in this issue on the underestimation of struggles by today's communist groups.
 See the editorial in IR 53.