Polemic: The proletarian political milieu faced with the Gulf War

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Imperialist war is a test of fire for the organizations which claim to belong to the working class. It is in fact one of the questions that enables one to determine the class nature of a political formation. The Gulf conflict is a new illustration of this. The classical bourgeois parties, including the 'Socialist' and 'Communist' parties, have obviously acted in conformity with their nature by aligning themselves openly with the policy of war, or by calling for 'international arbitration' which is simply a fig-leaf for the war-drive. As for the organizations that call themselves 'revolutionary', like the Trotskyists, they have also shown what camp they're in by calling openly or hypocritically, according to circumstance[1], for support for Iraq. This test has thus made it possible for the groups who are on a proletarian class terrain to stand out clearly, it has given them the opportunity to make the voice of internationalism be heard, like the revolutionary currents during the two world wars.

But while the groups of the milieu have on the whole affirmed a principled class position against the war, most of them have done so with arguments and analyses which, far from bringing clarity to the proletariat, are more a factor of confusion.

Since the beginning of the Gulf crisis, the ma­jority of the proletarian organizations have not failed in their basic internationalist responsibil­ity: whether in their press on in the form of leaflets, the whole proletarian milieu has taken a clear position of denouncing imperialist war, rejecting any participation in either camp, and calling on the workers to wage their struggle against capitalism in all its forms and in all countries[2]. In brief, the existing proletarian organizations have shown ... that they are in the camp of the proletariat.

However, in order to be able to take an inter­nationalist position, some of them have had to draw a prudent veil over the arguments that are their stock-in-trade. This is the case, for example, with the support the proletariat is supposed to give to 'struggles for national in­dependence' in certain under-developed coun­tries.

Internationalism and ‘struggles for independence'

At the beginning of this century, the workers' movement witnessed a very animated debate on the question of national liberation struggles (see in particular our series of articles in International Reviews 34 and 36). In this debate, Lenin was the leading light of a position which held that the proletariat could support certain struggles for national independence even though the phenomenon of imperialism had already in­vaded the whole of society. However, this did not prevent him, during the course of the first world war, from taking up a completely interna­tionalist position - clearer, in certain respects, than that of Rosa Luxemburg, who defended the opposing point of view on the national question. At the Second Congress of the Communist International, it was Lenin's position which be­came that of the international. However, reality (especially the Chinese revolution of 1927.) rapidly demonstrated the falsity of Lenin and the CI's position, so that by the 1930s, the Left Fraction of the Communist Party of Italy - even though it was from the 'Leninist' tradition - had abandoned this position.

But even so, the majority of the groups who claim descent from the 'Italian Left' continue to defend the positions of the CI as though noth­ing had changed. This leads them into the most amazing contortions.

Thus we can only salute the internationalist concern of the International Communist Party when it writes that:

"The workers have nothing to gain and ev­erything to lose from supporting imperialist conflicts ...Whether oil rent enriches the Iraqi, Kuwaiti or French bourgeoisie won't change the lot of the proletarians of Iraq, Kuwait or France: only the class struggle against capitalist exploitation can do that. And this class struggle is only possible if it breaks out of the 'national union' between classes, which always means sac­rifices for the workers, who are divided by pa­triotism and racism before being massacred on the battlefronts," (Leaflet of 24 August, 1990, published by Le Proletaire).

But this organization would do well to ask it­self how the Arab proletarians could defend their class interests by enrolling in a war for the constitution of a Palestinian state, as the ICP calls on them to do.

Such a Palestinian state, if it ever saw the light of day, would be no less imperialist (if less powerful) than Iraq is today, and the workers there would be no less ferociously ex­ploited. It's no accident that Yasser Arafat is one of Saddam Hussein's best friends. For the 'Bordigist' current (to which Le Proletaire) be­longs, it is time to recognize that over the last 70 years, history has frequently demonstrated the falseness of these positions.

Otherwise, its tight-rope walk between inter­nationalism and nationalism can only end in it falling either into the void, or the bourgeois camp (which is what happened, at the beginning of the 80s, to a good part of its components like Combat in Italy and El Oumami in France).

This contradiction between internationalism and nationalism, which is an essential condition for belonging to the proletarian camp, and the support for national struggles is 'resolved' by another Bordigist organization, but not in a very clear way. In October 1990, we read in Il Programa Comunista:

"One can understand that, in their despair, the Palestinian masses cling to the myth of Saddam, as they did yesterday and in different circumstances to the myth of Assad; the devel­opment of events will soon show that the 'heroes' of today, like those of yesterday are just repre­sentatives of the state's will to power, and that the path to their emancipation lies only through the socialist revolution against all potentates, Arab or non-Arab, in the Middle East."

Here we can see all the ambiguity of Programa's position.

In the first place, the concept of the 'masses' is confusionist par excellence. The 'masses' can mean anything, including social classes like the peasantry which, as history has shown, is far from being allies of the proletarian revolution. For communists, the essential issue is the com­ing to consciousness of the proletariat - this is the reason for their existence. Now, there does exist a Palestinian proletariat and it is relatively numerous and concentrated, but it's particularly intoxicated with nationalism (just as the Israeli proletariat is).

In the second place, we don't see why we have to be particularly 'understanding' about the Palestinian population's submission to na­tionalist ideology. The fact that the petty bour­geois strata who constitute a large part of this population are infected by nationalism is not surprising, since it corresponds to their nature and place in society. But the fact that the pro­letariat itself is a victim of this infection is a real tragedy expressing its weakness in relation to the bourgeoisie.

One can always 'understand' the historic, so­cial and political causes of such a weakness (as, for example, one could 'understand' the reasons why the European proletariat was mobilized be­hind the banners of the fatherland in 1914), but this doesn't mean that one should make the slightest political concession to this weakness. Those who, during the First World War, spent their time 'understanding' the nationalism of the French, German or Russian workers were the 'social chauvinists' a la' Plekhanov or the 'centrists' a la Kautsky, and certainly not rev­olutionaries like Lenin, Luxemburg and Liebknecht who devoted all their energies to fighting this nationalism.

Why this particular interest in the Palestinian 'masses' if one is calling on them to make the socialist revolution? Only the proletariat is re­ally capable of responding to such an appeal ­and it is an appeal that has to be addressed to the workers of all countries.

The revolutionary combat can't only be waged in the Middle East; it has to be world-wide. And the enemies to be overthrown aren't just all the 'potentates' but all the bourgeois regimes, and especially the 'democratic' regimes which domi­nate the most advanced countries.

Here we can see all the absurdity of the Bordigist position. Out of a stupid loyalty to the 'classic' position of Lenin and the Communist International, the Bordigists continue to recite, like a litany, all the old phrases about the 'masses' in the colonial or semi-colonial coun­tries. After what happened in Vietnam, Cambodia and other 'liberated' nations, Palestine is one of the last places where illusions in 'national liber­ation' still exist (among those, of course, who want to delude themselves).

Today, however, it's obvious that the struggle for an 'independent and democratic' Palestinian state has reached an impasse, and we're seeing an effort to abandon the classic position which held that workers could support certain national struggles. But it's done without openly saying so, in the same shamefaced way that they 'understand' bourgeois mystifications.

However, the fundamental problem posed by this 'loyalty' to the erroneous positions of the Communist International is that it leads to ridiculous contortions. The real gravity of holding desperately to this position (even if the pressure of reality forces one to abandon its substance) resides in the fact that it is the fig­-leaf that different varieties of leftism hide be­hind so ignominiously in their support for impe­rialist war.

It's in the name of 'national liberation' strug­gles 'against imperialism' that these leftists, like the 'Pure Juice' Stalinists, have helped to enroll large numbers of workers in inter-imperialist massacres (remember Vietnam!).

Today the leftists, and particularly the Trotskyists, are calling on the Iraqi workers to go out and get themselves butchered, and once again it's in the name of this 'anti-imperialist' struggle. In this sense, any lack of clarity on the national question can only facilitate the dirty work of the 'radical' sectors of the bour­geoisie.

'Revolutionary defeatism' and internationalism

It's not only the position supporting 'national liberation' struggles which leads to concessions to leftist campaigns. It's the same with the slo­gan of 'revolutionary defeatism' which, also in the name of 'tradition', has been employed by certain groups in relation to the Gulf war.

This slogan was put forward by Lenin during the First World War. It was designed to respond to the sophistries of the 'centrists', who while being 'in principle' against any participation in imperialist war, advised that you should wait until the workers in the 'enemy' countries were ready to enter into struggle against the war before calling on workers in 'your' country to do the same. In support of this position, they put forward the argument that if the workers of one country rose up before those in the oppos­ing countries, they would facilitate the imperi­alist victory of the latter.

Against this conditional 'internationalism', Lenin replied very correctly that the working class of any given country had no common in­terest with 'its' bourgeoisie. In particular, he pointed out that the latter's defeat could only facilitate the workers' struggle, as had been the case with the Paris Commune (following France's defeat by Prussia) and the 1905 revolution in Russia (which was beaten in the war with Japan). From this observation he concluded that each proletariat should 'wish for' the defeat of 'its' bourgeoisie.

This last position was already wrong at the time, since it led the revolutionaries of each country to demand for 'their' proletariat the most favorable conditions for the proletarian revolution, whereas the revolution had to take place on a world-wide level, and above all in the big advanced countries, which were all in­volved in the war. However, with Lenin, the weakness of this position never put his intran­sigent internationalism in question (we can even say it was precisely his intransigence which led to the error). In particular, Lenin never had the idea of supporting the bourgeoisie of an 'enemy' country - even if this might be the logical conclusion of his 'wishes'.

But the incoherence of the position was used later on a number of occasions by bourgeois parties draped in 'communist' colors, in order to justify their participation in imperialist war. Thus, for example, after the signing of the Russo-German pact in 1939, the French Stalinists suddenly discovered the virtues of 'proletarian internationalism' and 'revolutionary defeatism', virtues they had long ago forgotten and which they repudiated no less rapidly as soon as Germany launched its attack on the USSR in 1941. The Italian Stalinists also used the term 'revolutionary defeatism' after 1941 to justify their policy of heading the resistance against Mussolini. Today, the Trotskyists in the numer­ous countries allied against Saddam Hussein use the same term to justify their support for the latter.

This is why, in the Gulf war, revolutionaries have to be particularly clear on the slogan of 'revolutionary defeatism' if they don't want to give an involuntary aid to the leftists.

This weakness, from the internationalist point of view, in the slogan of 'revolutionary de­featism' can be seen in II Partito Comunista no 186:

"We are not however indifferent to the out­come of the war: as revolutionary communists, we are defeatists, and thus favor the defeat of our country and more generally of the western countries; we wish for the most resounding defeat of US imperialism which, being the most powerful in the world, is the worst enemy of the international proletarian movement, the guard-dog of planetary capitalism."

Il Partito "wishes for" the defeat of American imperialism ... like the leftists, whose 'anti-impe­rialist' crusades are just pretexts for calling on workers to participate in imperialist war.

Obviously, Il Partito rejects such participa­tion. But what's the use of "wishing" for some­thing if you renounce any means of turning this "wish" into reality? For communists, theoretical reflection isn't a kind of gratuitous speculation; it's a guide for action.

As for the leftists, they're consistent in their position. And here precisely is the great danger of Il Partito's position. With its "wishes", this organization encourages rather than combats the 'anti-imperialist' mystifications which weigh on a part of the working class. And in doing so, its internationalist protestations don't carry much weight against the logic of leftism.

Whether it wants to or not, Il Partito becomes a conduit for the leftists' ideology. Fortunately, however, the position of this group doesn't stand much chance of being heard.

It's 't rue that the defeat of the world's main gendarme would weaken the whole bourgeoisie much more than its victory. The annoying thing is that this sort of scenario exists only in the abstract, where you can plan anything you like.

In reality, unhappily, in the absence of divine intervention, victory goes to the strongest ­even Saddam Hussein, despite his megalomania, doesn't believe he can defeat the USA[3]. Thus, by openly revealing itself as a species of futile and puerile speculation, by showing how ridicu­lous and absurd it is, Il Partito's 'analysis' at least has the merit of reducing the danger in­herent in this false position of 'revolutionary defeatism'.

However, the errors of revolutionaries aren't always so inoffensive. In particular, we should guard against slogans like "For us, the workers of all countries, the main enemy is 'our' own state", a slogan which is included in the state­ment by the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party (IBRP), entitled 'Against Bush and western imperialism; against Saddam and Iraqi expansionism; No to war in the Middle East', (reproduced in Battaglia Communista September 90 and Workers Voice no 53).

It's no accident that this slogan is the same as 'The main enemy is our own bourgeoisie', which is a leaflet distributed in France by a group called ‘Internationale Ouvriere pour Reconstruire la IVeme Internationale', ie a Trotskyist group. This slogan (which is similar to that of 'revolutionary defeatism') was also put forward during the first world war, notably by the Spartatists in Germany. Today we can see how easily it can be recuperated by the bourgeoisie.

In fact, any slogan addressed to this or that sector of the proletariat, attributing it with tasks that are distinct or different from those of other sectors, is ambiguous and can easily be turned against the working class by the leftists. Even if the world proletariat is separated in to national sectors because of the divisions in bourgeois society itself, its historic struggle has to head in the direction of a world-wide unity. It's precisely the task of revolutionaries to contribute actively to this world-wide unity.

This is why a communist organization today can only have one single program - as is the case with the ICC - not a different one for each country. As Marx wrote: "the proletariat can only exist on the scale of world history, just as communism, which is its activity, can only have a world historic existence."

In the same sense, the perspectives revolu­tionaries have to put forward are the same for all countries and all sectors of the world prole­tariat, contrary to what the IBRP does in its document when it tries to concretize the afore­mentioned slogan. In fact, this document, pre­sented as the emanation of the same organization, exists in two versions, and we have to say that the one aimed at English-speaking workers has a much more leftist ring than the Italian version (we await the French and German ver­sions). In the English version, but not the other, we read:

"We have to fight its [our 'own' state's] war plans and preparations in every possible way. This means in the first instance that we demand the immediate recall of all Western forces sent to the Gulf. All attempts to send further forces must be opposed by strikes at ports and airports, for example. If fighting breaks out we must call for fraternization between western and Iraqi soldiers and turning the guns on the offi­cers.

"Second, it means fighting attempts to impose more austerity and cuts in services in the name of the 'national interest' ...

"This oil crisis, as in 1974, will provide them with the perfect alibi to explain away the fail­ings of the system. Our response must be to ig­nore the lies, ignore the nationalist hysteria, and fight for a higher standard of living. In particular, we call on the British North Sea oil workers to step up their struggle and prevent the bosses increasing production. This strike must be extended to include all oil workers and extended to other workers. No sacrifice for im­perialism's war!"

In the first place, we must unfortunately point out that the British branch of the IBRP makes the first point of its intervention the classic slogan of all the leftists within the so-called 'anti-war' movement: "western troops out of the Gulf". It thus makes its own little contribution to the campaigns of the extreme left of the bourgeoisie which not only aim at ensuring that the Gulf is controlled by the 'Arab people' (ie , the local imperialisms), but above all at peddling the illusion that you can block the bourgeoisie's war-drive through legalistic campaigns based on 'peace demonstrations' and the 'mobilization of public opinion'. And we know that these illu­sions are the best way of diverting workers from using the only weapon they have against the development of the war: the struggle on their own class terrain, rejecting the inter-classism of the pacifist campaigns.

Such erroneous positions aren't new for the CWO, the British branch of the IBRP, they put forward the same leftist "Imperialism out of the Gulf", when the armada intervened in the Iran-Iraq war[4].

Concerning the CWO's call for strikes in the ports and airports, we can say that it received an echo in France where the sailors in Marseille stopped work to delay (for one day) the de­parture of troops for the Gulf. We should how­ever point out that this strike was called by the Stalinist-controlled CGT. And there's nothing surprising in this: if these crap-heads decided to launch such a 'spectacular' action, it's because they knew perfectly well that at the present time such a method of 'struggle' holds no dan­gers at all for the bourgeoisie.

The point is that it's not through particular struggles in this or that sector that the work­ing class can fight the bourgeoisie's war-drive (and this is equally true for the oil workers, whose solidarity with their Iraqi class brothers can't take the form of a specific struggle in 'their' sector, even if, suddenly seized by scru­ples, the CWO then calls for its extension).

The war-drive is the only response the bour­geoisie as a whole can have to the irreversible crisis of its system, and to the generalized de­composition that this crisis is engendering to­day. Only the struggle of the whole working class, as a class, on the terrain of the class, and not as this or that specific category, can really serve to counter imperialist war. It alone can open the door to the proletariat's only his­toric response to imperialist war: the overthrow of capitalism itself.

For the same reasons, the call for "fraternization between western soldiers and Iraqi's soldiers" and "turning the guns on the officers" isn't valid as an immediate perspective in the present situation.

This slogan is perfectly correct in general. It is an application of the internationalist position of calling on workers to 'turn the imperialist war into a civil war'; and it was one of the ways this call was concretized at the end of the first world war, notably between the Russian and German soldiers. But such a concretization presupposed a considerable degree of maturity in the consciousness of the proletariat: this didn't exist at the beginning of the war but de­veloped during the course of it. On the other hand, this consciousness didn't exist at the end of the second world war. For example, the German workers who were ready to desert gen­erally advanced the idea because in the occu­pied countries the chauvinism among the work­ers was so great that the German soldiers risked being lynched.

Today, we're obviously not in the period of counter-revolution that prevailed in 1945, but the present situation is also a long way away from the one at the end of the First World War as far as the consciousness of the class is con­cerned. This is why an immediate, on the ground response by the proletariat to the Gulf war is not on the cards. Once again, the prole­tariat's response to this war will essentially be posed away from the main battlefronts, in the big metropoles, and this fundamentally on a historic level.

The role of revolutionaries isn't to engage in a purely verbal radicalism and put forward recipes for stopping the Gulf war there and then. It is to defend, within the proletariat as a whole, a clear view of what's really at stake in the Gulf war, and the responsibility this poses to the class and its struggles.

And here we can see that the political inabil­ity of the different groups of the proletarian milieu to put forward slogans appropriate to the present situation is linked to the problem of understanding what's really at stake in this sit­uation today.

Incomprehension of what the war is about

Like many of the more serious commentators in the bourgeois press, most of the groups have managed to show that the immediate origins of the Iraqi adventure: not Saddam Hussein's 'megalomaniac folly', but the fact that Iraq, af­ter 8 years of a terrible and murderous war with Iran, was gripped by a catastrophic eco­nomic situation and a foreign debt of nearly $80 billion. As Battaglia Communista wrote in its September issue: "the attack on Kuwait was thus the classic gesture of someone who's at the point of drowning and is prepared to risk everything."

But on the other hand, the fundamental rea­sons for the formidable military deployment by the USA and its acolytes completely pass these groups by.

For Le Proletarire: "The USA has clearly de­fined the 'American national interest' which has led them to act: guaranteeing a stable supply of and a reasonable price for the oil produced in the Gulf. The same interest which made them support Iraq against Iran now makes them support Saudi Arabia and the oil sheikdoms against Iraq" (from the leaflet cited above).

The CWO puts forward the same idea, also in a leaflet:

"In fact the crisis in the Gulf is really about oil and who controls it. Without cheap oil, prof­its will fall. Western capitalism's profits are threatened and it's for this reason and no other (our emphasis) that the US is preparing a bloodbath in the Middle East."

As for Battaglia Communista, it defends the same with even more pretentious language:

"Oil, indirectly and directly, in nearly all the productive cycles, in the process of the forma­tion of monopoly income has a determinant weight and, consequently, the control of its price is of vital importance ... With an economy in clear signs of recession, an alarming public debt, a productive apparatus in strong debit compared to European and Japanese competitors, the USA least of anyone can allow at this time a loss of control of one of the variable funda­mentals of the world economy, the price of oil."

On the other hand, Programma Comunista comes up with the beginning of a response to this argument, which is also put forward by many leftist groups whose only aim is to vilify the rapacity of American imperialism in order to justify their 'critical' support for Saddam Hussein:

"In all this, oil only enters as the last factor. In the big industrial countries, the stocks are full and in any case, the majority of OPEC is ready to increase production, and thus stabilize the price of crude oil."

In fact, the oil argument doesn't go very far towards explaining the current situation. Even if the USA, as well as Europe and Japan, are obvi­ously interested in being able to import cheap oil, this doesn't explain the incredible concen­tration of military force that the world's leading power has installed in the Gulf. This operation can only further augment the USA's already vast deficits and will cost its economy a lot more that the increase in oil prices which Iraq originally demanded.

What's more, with the prospect of a major mil­itary confrontation, the price of oil climbed well above the level that could have been set through negotiations with Iraq, had the USA wanted such negotiations (it's certainly not out of a desire to 'respect' the interests of sheikh Jaber and his crew that the USA has been so intransigent about the occupation of Kuwait). And the destruction that will result from the military confrontation will certainly make things a lot worse. If the USA was really, fundamen­tally concerned about the price of oil, you'd have to say that they're not going about things in the best way - their current approach would be comparable to that of a bull in a china shop.

In reality, the very extent of the military de­ployment proves that what's at stake goes well beyond the question of the price of oil. BC puts its finger on this when it tries to broaden its framework of analysis:

"The breakdown of the equilibrium that came out of the second world war has, in reality, opened up a historic phase in which other ones will be constituted, thus accelerating the com­petition between different imperialist appetites ... One thing is sure: whatever the outcome of this conflict, none of the questions that the Gulf crisis has shown up will be solved in this way."

But this seems to be too much for Battaglia. In the next breath, they once more get drowned in .... oil:

"Once Iraq has been eliminated, for example, it won't be long before someone else poses the same question: changing the re-partition of oil rent on a world scale, because it's this re-par­tition which determines the international hierar­chy which the crisis of the USSR has put into question."

This is really original: he who controls the oil (or 'oil rent' to sound more marxist) controls the planet. Poor old USSR, which doesn't know this, and whose economy and imperialist strength collapsed even though it is the world's biggest producer ... of oil.

As for Programma, while it understands that there's something more important involved than oil, it doesn't manage to go beyond generalities:

"The tangled web of a conflict born out of the interests of a colossal power will only be unraveled by creating new ones, undoing and recom­posing alliances ..."

Good luck to anyone who can understand this. But it won't bring much clarity to the working class. And it's clear that Programma doesn't un­derstand much either.

Underestimating the gravity of the situation

In the final analysis, if there is a common ele­ment among the different analyses of the sig­nificance of the Gulf war, it's a dramatic under­estimation of the gravity of the situation facing the capitalist world today. Like stopped clocks, the communist groups, even when they're able to recognize the convulsions that the world im­perialist arena is going through, do no more than try to fit this new situation into the schemas of the past, just as they are satisfied with repeating slogans which were in any case wrong when they were put forward.

This isn't the place to develop our analysis that capitalism has now entered into the final phase of its decadence: the phase of general decomposition (see International Review nos 57 and 61). Neither will we go back over our own positions on the Gulf war (see the editorials of IR 63 and 64 or on the question of militarism in the current period (see our text 'Militarism and Decomposition' in this issue).

But it is our duty say that the refusal of the communist groups to accept the whole gravity of the present situation (and that's when they don't purely and simply deny that capitalism is a decadent system, like the Bordigists) will pre­vent them from fully assuming their responsi­bilities towards the working class.

The war in the Middle East isn't just a war like all others, faced with which it is enough to reaffirm the class positions of internationalism (especially when this takes the erroneous form of 'revolutionary defeatism'. )

The USA's formidable military deployment is not just aimed at Iraq, far from it. Brining Iraq to heel is just a pretext for 'setting an example' in order to dissuade any future threat, wher­ever it comes from, to warn off anyone who might think of destabilizing 'world order'.

This 'order' was to some degree ensured when the world was divided up between the big 'gendarmes'. Although the antagonism between the latter fuelled and kindled a whole series of wars, it also prevented them from escaping the control of the 'superpowers', and, in particular, from spreading to the point where they threat­ened a generalized war - something the ad­vanced countries weren't ready for because the proletariat hadn't been mobilized.

But the complete collapse of the eastern bloc has simply opened up a Pandora's Box of all the imperialist antagonisms between the various components of the western bloc itself, antago­nisms which had been held in check as long as there was the threat from the rival bloc. The demise of the eastern bloc thus condemned the' western bloc to death. This was expressed by Iraq's grab from Kuwait - prior to this, Iraq had acted as a good defender of western inter­ests against Iran.

However, the main imperialist antagonisms be­tween the former 'allies' of the American bloc don't involve the countries of the periphery but the central countries, ie powerful economies like the western European states, Japan and the USA. While the ex-allies of the latter have an interest in disciplining the second-string coun­tries of the 'third world' when they try to step out of line, they have much less of an interest in a police operation whose main aim is to en­sure their allegiance to the USA. The USA's mil­itary intervention, even though this time round it has forced the ex-vassals to limit their pre­tensions, won't put a definitive end to imperial­ist antagonisms, because they are a part of capitalism's life, and they can only be exacer­bated by the aggravation of the crisis, by the system's irreversible plummet into the convul­sions of its decay and decomposition. Without being a world war, the Gulf is thus the first major manifestation of a slide into chaos and barbarism unprecedented in human society.

This is what revolutionary organizations have to affirm clearly to their class if the proletariat is to become fully aware of what's at stake in its combat against capitalism. Otherwise they will be totally incapable of carrying out the task for which the proletariat has engendered them and will be pitilessly swept away by history.

FM 1.11.1990



[1] For certain Trotskyist organizations, the language is different according to whom they're addressing themselves: in their popular press, their support for Iraqi imperialism is hidden behind all sorts of contortions (we mustn't shock the public), but in their ‘theoretical' publications and their public meetings, which are addressed to a more ‘initiated' audience, they openly call for support for Iraq. Here, means and ends are in perfect accord: like any other sector of the bourgeoisie involved in a war. Trotskyism uses the classical technique of dissimulation, disinformation and lies. 

[2] The silence which Ferment Ouvriere has maintained is quite unacceptable. Apparently the FOR is much more lively when it's running stupid trials of other revolutionary organizations, putting all kinds of words into their mouths (see their article, ‘Encore un plat piqnant du CCI in L'arme de la critique no 6) than when called upon to raise an internationalist voice against the barbarity of capitalist war. But it may be that this silence indicates that the FOR has ceased to exist as an organization. This wouldn't be at all surprising: when a revolutionary organization continues to insist, against all the evidence, that capitalism today isn't in crisis, as the FOR has always done, it losses any possibility of contributing to the development of consciousness in the proletariat, and becomes a pointless organization. 

[3] We must render what is Caesar's unto Caesar and give Bordiga the paternity of this position. It was Bordiga who, at the beginning of the Cold War, put forward the idea that the defeat of the American imperialist bloc by the weaker Russian bloc would create the most favorable conditions for the development of the proletarian struggle. This position was dangerous and could easily play into the hands of the Trotskyists and Stalinists. All the more so because it wasn't as stupid as the position of Bordiga's current epigones, owing to the fact that it was talking about imperialist rivals of comparable strength.

Among the epigones we can also include ‘Mouvement Communiste Mondial' which has published a leaflet called ‘To stop the war, we must stop the economy'. In itself, this new grouplet doesn't represent very much but its document is a significant expression of the aberrations of the Bordigist ‘heritage'. As well as the classic ‘wish' for the defeat of the USA this text - in the gold old Bordigist tradition - takes up slogans put forward by Lenin at the beginning of the century, such as ‘against all oppression of nationalities' and ‘against all annexations'.

Today these two slogans can easily be used by the bourgeoisie in its campaigns of mystification. It's in the name of the struggle against the ‘oppression of nationalities' that the proletarians of the different republics of the USSR are today being called - successfully, unfortunately - to abandon their class terrain and to massacre each other on the rotten terrain of nationalism.

Similarly, the ‘struggle against annexations' is, right now, the battle cry of the United Nations, especially the USA, in the crusade against Iraq. 

[4] In the document jointly sign by CWO and Battaglia, Iraq is very correctly stated as an imperialist country. We should however point out that this is the first for the CWO, which up to now has considered that only the super-powers were imperialist. It's a pity that this organization hasn't explained this change of position to readers. Unless the CWO, despite everything, is still holding up to its old (and stupid) position. This might explain the ambiguous title of the joint document which makes a distinction between ‘western imperialism' and ‘Iraqi expansionism'. There's no doubt about it: the IBRP and political clarity are always falling out with each other.  

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