Internationalism no.123, Fall 2002

Historical lessons of the Kronstadt revolt

Recently Internationalism received a pamphlet from the Chicago Revolutionary Network (CHIREVNET), entitled "The Revolutionary Uprising of Sailors and Workers of Kronstadt, Russia, March 1921." First, we want to acknowledge the effort of the pamphlet's author to consider important events in the history of the workers' movement that have important lessons to be learned on how revolutionaries conceive of the essential problems of proletarian revolution today. The pamphlet cites our book-recently translated into English-The Dutch and German Communist Left: A Contribution to the History of the Revolutionary Movement as the source of its account of the events of the Kronstadt uprising, but it also criticizes the ICC for supposedly regarding the Bolsheviks' repression of the revolt as a "tragic necessity." In this regard, the pamphlet fundamentally misunderstands, miseads or misrepresents our analysis of the Kronstadt events. Over the years, the ICC has consistently and sharply criticized political groups that defend the incorrect view that the suppression by force of the Kronstadt rebellion was a "tragic necessity," as can been seen in the two part series we begin publishing below, or in International Review No.3, or No. 104

The CHIVREVNET pamphlet also reflects a number of essentially anarchist or councilist myths regarding Kronstadt and the lessons to be drawn therefrom. This is particularly, but not solely, true in its understanding of the role of the Bolshevik party in the crushing of the revolt, and the anti-party lessons it draws from the supposed "statist authoritarianism" of the Bolsheviks. To cite only one example, the author argues that:"(….) there is no revolutionary need for political parties since this implies: participating in the capitalist electoral charade-which we all know means more or less the same old capitalist, authoritarian dictatorship by the big capitalist ruling class-and, a desire for state power." This oversimplified anti-party political conclusion completely misunderstands the role of the revolutionary party and the relationship between party and class in the process of coming to consciousness, which has nothing to do with participation in the electoral mystification peddled by the bourgeoisie.

Furthermore, the pamphlet's methodological frame of reference-despite CHIVRENET'S frequent invocation of the Marxist dialectic elsewhere1-fails to grasp the true historical meaning of these events. For example, it does not seek to set the Kronstadt revolt in its historical context - and the author acknowledges this from the outset. Despite its supposed aim of developing a proletarian understanding of the meaning and significance of the Kronstadt revolt, the pamphlet fails to grasp these events through the lens of historical perspective, which is the sine qua non for developing a scientific, Marxist-in short, proletarian-understanding of social, political and historical events. Lacking this grounding, it is not surprising that CHIREVNET falls prey to anarchist moralizing regarding Lenin and the Bolshevik Party. Weakened by anarchism's ageless moralistic essentialism, the pamphlet fails to draw any real historical balance sheet of the Kronstadt revolt and its overall relation to the Russian Revolution itself, the most important event to date in the history of the proletariat's struggle against capitalism. Without this critical frame of reference, the pamphlet fails to understand how the repression of the Kronstadt revolt flowed not simply from certain theoretical errors of the Bolshevik Party or from Lenin's "substitutionism," though these were clearly important factors, but ultimately from the contextual realities imposed on the actors by the failure of the revolution to effectively spread to other countries and the international isolation of the proletarian bastion in Russia from the massive working class concentrations of Western Europe and North America. Without this understanding, the old anarchist moralist explanations for the degeneration of the Russian Revolution prove too tempting for CHIREVNET to pass up. According to this view, the origins of this latter process are to be found in the authoritarian predispositions of the Bolshevik leadership, essentially reducing the question to a matter of good vs. bad historical personalities-to the possession, or lack thereof, of the correct moral outlook …a theory that, in the end, reflects iidealist and petty-bourgeois rejection of historical materialism.

In responding to this pamphlet, we are publishing translations of two articles previously appearing in French in Revolution Internationale #310, March 2001, the territorial press of the ICC's section in France. These articles explain the ICC's position on the repression of the Kronstadt revolt particularly well, demonstrating the origins of these positions in the Marxist balance-sheet of the Russian Revolution drawn by our predecessors in the left fractions that detached themselves from a degenerating Third International, during the height of the Stalinist counter-revolution.

It is our hope that CHIVRENET will accept our response in a fraternal manner and will continue the process of debate and discussion, which is the fundamental and necessary precondition for political clarification within the workers movement. We encourage our readers to intervene in this debate with written contributions and by raising these issues in their discussions among themselves, with us and other groups of the milieu.

However, it is also important here to mention that the Los Angeles Workers' Voice (now calling itself USWV) has also published a lengthy article on the Kronstadt revolt. It is not necessary to recount here the rather circuitous political evolution of this group from supporters of Albanian Stalinism to their current parasitic attack on the groups of the proletarian milieu (see articles in this issue and Internationalism #122 ). It is enough to recognize that despite the apparent similarities of the analysis of Kronstadt offered by LAWV and CHIREVNET, the two groups currently evidence completely different political trajectories. Although the articles of both publications share similar serious libertarian and anarchist confusions, CHIREVNET's is clearly searching for political clarity in understanding the issues confronting the workers' struggle. By contrast the LAWV's current position on the Russian Revolution, in which it sees the Bolsheviks as counter-revolutionary from about 1918, and the Russian Revolution as degenerating almost as soon as the insurrection was completed in October 1917, is a clear and abrupt step backward from the historical positions of the Communist Left that they defended during their affiliation with the IBRP for over five years.

We suspect that the LAWV's jumping on the libertarian bandwagon on Kronstadt reflects a seductive attempt to gain credibility with the libertarian and anarchist-influenced groups as part of its current parasitic campaign of denigration of the organizations of the Communist Left (the ICC and the IBRP). The LAWV goes so far as to reproduce, without citing the source, the cover of CHIREVNET'S pamphlet on the cover of the latest issue of The New Internationalist. Further, in its article attacking the ICC in the same issue, the LAWV charges that the alleged ICC defense of the crushing of the Kronstadt revolt as a "tragic necessity" is supposed proof of our desire to "empower ourselves" and for a "party-state dictatorship over the proletariat." What may have been an honest misreading of our position by the CHIREVNET becomes a blatant lie and slander in the pages of the LAWV.

We look forward to the positive spirit of debate with groups that are honestly trying to come to grips with serious issues facing the working class and in drawing the lessons of past struggles, which can serve as an effective counter-weight to the divisive and destructive parasitism of elements like the LAWV.

CHIVRENET can be contacted at: Perry Sanders PO BOX 578042 Chicago, IL 60657-8042 [email protected]

The Repression of Kronstadt in March 1921: A Tragic Mistake for the Workers' Movement

Over 80 years ago, in March 1921, less than four years after the seizure of power by the working class in the Russian Revolution of October 1917, the Bolshevik Party put an end, by force, to the insurrection of the Kronstadt garrison on the small island of Kotlin in Gulf of Finland, about 30 kilometers from Petrograd.

Over the course of several years, Soviet Russia had been forced to lead a bloody fight in the civil war against the counter-revolutionary intrigues of the white armies who were supported by a number of foreign powers. Nevertheless, the revolt of the Kronstadt garrison was not a part of these counter-revolutionary endeavors: it was a revolt emanating from the same working-class partisans of the Soviet regime who had been at the forefront of the October Revolution. These workers advanced grievances with the aim of correcting the numerous abuses and intolerable deviations of the new power. The bloody repression of Kronstadt constituted a great tragedy for the worker's movement in its entirety.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a proletarian revolution, the first victorious episode in the development of the world proletarian revolution that was the international working class' response to the imperialist war of 1914-1918. The October insurrection was part of a process of the destruction of the bourgeois state and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and, as passionately defended by the Bolsheviks, its profound meaning was that it marked the first decisive moment in the world proletarian revolution, of the class war of the world proletariat against the bourgeoisie.

Isolation Was The Real Cause of the Degeneration of the Russian Revolution The revolution initiated in Russia in 1917 did not succeed at the international level despite the many attempts of the working class to spread the struggle across the whole of Europe and elsewhere.

Russia itself had been torn apart by a long and bloody civil war that devastated the economy and fragmented much of the industrial proletariat, the real supporters of Soviet power.

The elimination of the factory committees, the progressive subordination of the soviets to the apparatus of the state, the demolition of the workers' militias, the growing militarization of social life-results of the tense period during the civil war- and the creation of various bureaucratic commissions, were all extremely significant demonstrations of the developing degeneration of the revolution in Russia. Even if certain of these factors date to the period preceding the civil war, it was the latter period that witnessed the full blossoming of the process of degeneration. More and more, the leadership of the "Party-State" developed arguments that claimed that the self-organization of the working class might be fine in principle, but that-in the present instant-all efforts must be subordinated to the military struggle against the counter-revolutionary forces. A doctrine of "efficiency" began to undermine the essential principles of proletarian democracy. Under the cover of this doctrine, the state began to institute a militarization of labor, which submitted the workers to the methods of surveillance and extreme exploitation. Having emasculated the factory committees, the path was opened for the state to introduce the "management of one" and the Taylorist system of exploitation at the point of production, the same system Lenin had denounced as the enslavement of man to machine. The havoc of the war economy, coupled with the international blockade, rendered the entire country on the brink of famine; and the workers were forced to satisfy themselves with rations that grew more and more meager each day, and were often distributed in a very irregular manner. Many sectors of industry ceased to function entirely, and thousands of workers were forced to resort to their own resources in order to survive. The natural reaction of many workers was to leave the city altogether in order to find some means of subsistence in the countryside.

As long as the civil war raged, the Soviet state maintained the support of the majority of the population, as it was identified with the struggle against the old possessing classes. The sufferings of the civil war had been endured with a relative willingness on the part of the workers, laborers, and small peasants. However, following the defeat of the white armies, many began to expect that their living conditions would become less severe and that the regime would loosen a bit its grip on economic and social life. Nevertheless, the Bolshevik leadership, at all times confronted with the devastation of production caused by the war, was rather reluctant to permit any loosening of the state's control over social life.

The Kronstadt Uprising At the end of 1920, peasant uprisings spread across Tambov province, the middle Volga, Ukraine, Western Siberia and several other regions. The rapid demobilization of the Red Army fanned the flames of the revolt as the "peasants in uniform" returned to their villages. The main grievances of these revolts were the ending of grain requisitions and the right of the peasants to determine the use of their own products. At the beginning of 1921, the spirit of revolt spread to the workers in the cities that had been at the forefront of the October insurrection: Petrograd, Moscow and Kronstadt.

Petrograd witnessed a series of important spontaneous strikes. In factory assemblies and street demonstrations, resolutions were adopted that demanded an increase in food and clothing rations, as the majority of workers were suffering from cold and hunger. In conjunction with these economic grievances, other more political demands appeared as well: the workers wanted an end to the restrictions on moving outside the city, the liberation of imprisoned workers, freedom of expression, etc. Without any doubt, some counter-revolutionary elements such as the Mensheviks and the Social revolutionaries (SRs) played a role in these events. Nevertheless, the strike movement in Petrograd was essentially a spontaneous proletarian response to intolerable conditions of life. The Bolshevik authorities, however, could not admit that the workers might strike against the post-insurrectional state, which was regarded by them as a "Workers' State", and charged the strikers as provocateurs, idlers and individualists.

These were among the social troubles in Russia, and above all in Petrograd, which would serve to detonate the sailors revolt at Kronstadt. Even before the strikes in Petrograd broke out, the Kronstadt sailors (which Trotsky described as being the "glory and honor of the revolution") had already opened up a struggle of resistance against bureaucratic tendencies and the reinforcement of military discipline within the Red Fleet. However, when news of the revolts of Petrograd arrived and with the declaration of martial law, the sailors immediately mobilized. On the 28th of February they sent a delegation to the Petrograd factories. The same day the crew of the cruiser "Petropavlovsk" held a meeting and voted a resolution that was to become the program of the Kronstadt insurgents. This resolution advanced both economic and political grievances, and demanded notably the ending of the draconian measures of "war communism" and the regeneration of the power of the soviets along with the freedom of speech, a free press and the right of expression to all political parties.

On the 1st of March, two delegates from the Bolshevik party met with the crew of the Petropavlovsk, denounced their resolution and immediately threatened repression if the sailors did not back down. This arrogant and provocative attitude of the Bolshevik authorities poured oil on the fire and galvanized the anger of the sailors. On the 2nd of March, the day of the reelection of the Kronstadt Soviet, 300 delegates voted for the Petropavlovsk resolution and adopted a motion for the "peaceful reconstitution of the soviet regime". The delegates formed a "Provisional Revolutionary Committee" (PRC) charged with the administration of the city and the organization of its defense against any armed intervention of the government. This was the birth of the Kronstadt commune, which began to published its own Izvestia, the first issue of which declared: "The Communist Party, master of this state, has proven itself incapable of bringing the country out of the chaos. The innumerable incidents which have recently transpired in Moscow and in Petrograd clearly show that the party has lost the trust of the working masses. The party neglects the needs of the working class because it believes that its grievances are the fruit of counter-revolutionary activities. In this belief, the party commits a profound mistake."

However, the revolt of the Kronstadt Commune remained totally isolated. The call of the insurgents for the extension of what they called the "Third Revolution" failed to gain an echo. In Petrograd, despite sending a delegation to the factories, despite the distribution of tracts and the Petropavlovsk resolution, the Red Fleet's call did not succeed in mobilizing the working class of the whole of Russia who could recognize their own situation in the program of the insurgents and who alone could fully sustain the revolt. The Petrograd workers ceased their strike movements and returned to work under conditions of martial law. The Russian working class had been broken, demoralized and scattered by the dislocations of the civil war.

The Crushing of the Kronstadt Commune The immediate response of the Bolshevik government to the rebellion was to denounce it as a part of the counter-revolutionary conspiracy against the power of the soviets. Certainly, all the vultures of the counter-revolution, from the white guards to the SR's, attempted to recuperate the rebellion to their own purposes and offered it their "support." Nevertheless, except for the humanitarian aid offered through the channel of the Russian Red Cross controlled by the émigrés, the PRC rejected all the advances made by the forces of reaction. It proclaimed that it was struggling not for the return of autocracy, or the Constituent Assembly, (wherein were assembled, beginning in 1918, the enemies of the revolution) but for a regeneration of the soviets liberated from bureaucratic domination: "It is the soviets and not the Constituent Assembly that are the ramparts of the workers" declared the Izvestias of Kronstadt. " In Kronstadt, power is in the hands of the sailors, the red soldiers and the revolutionary workers. It is not in the hands of the white guards commanded by General Kozlovsky, as deceptively affirmed by Radio Moscow."

One cannot deny that there were petty-bourgeois elements in the program and ideology of the insurgents, as well as among the personnel of the navy and the army. In fact, this was an opportunity for these elements, hostile to the Bolshevik Party because it had been at the forefront of the revolution of 1917, to demonstrate their contempt. However, the presence of these elements did not alter the fundamental nature of the movement itself.

The Bolshevik leadership reacted to the Kronstadt rebellion with an extreme firmness. Its intransigent attitude very rapidly eliminated any possibility of discussion or compromise. During the military assault on the fortress itself, the Red Army units sent to crush the rebellion were constantly on the verge of demoralization. Some of these units fraternized with the insurgents. In order to ensure the loyalty of the army, eminent Bolshevik leaders were dispatched to the scene from the 10th Party Congress, then in session in Moscow. At the same time, the rifles of the Cheka were pointed at the backs of the soldiers in order to doubly ensure that any demoralization would not be able to spread. When the fortress finally fell, some of the insurgents were massacred, summarily executed or quickly condemned to death by the Cheka. The others were sent to concentration camps. The repression was systematic and without mercy.

At the time of these events, an overwhelming fear of the danger that the White Guards would only exploit the Kronstadt revolt in order to level their account with the Bolsheviks obliged some of the voices most critical of Bolshevik power to support the crushing of the rebellion.

A Mistake for the Whole Workers' Movement If there is one aspect of the crushing of the Kronstadt revolt that anti-Leninists of all stripes continually do their best to mask, it is that the Bolshevik Party's mistake was shared, at the time, by the entirety of the workers' movement, including the fractions and currents of left communists who had been excluded from the International.

Thus, the Workers' Opposition, a fraction in opposition to the Bolshevik leadership, expressed its full support for the repression; and Alexandra Kollantai (who was at the forefront of this fraction) went so far as to indicate that the members of her fraction would be the first to volunteer to serve in the crushing of the rebellion.

The fractions of the German-Dutch left, even if its position was clearly differentiated from Kollantai's enthusiastic support of the repression, did not condemn nor critique the Bolshevik policy. Thus, the KAPD2, at the time, defended a thesis according to which the Kronstadt Revolt was a counter-revolutionary plot against Soviet Russia, and thus did not condemn the repression. Herman Gorter, a militant of the Dutch left, affirmed that the measures taken by the Bolsheviks were "necessary" in the face of the Kronstadt Revolt, as he believed the latter was a counter-revolutionary insurrection emanating from the peasantry.

From within the Bolshevik Party itself, Victor Serge, even if he affirmed his refusal to take-up arms against the sailors at Kronstadt, did not protest against the repression out of loyalty to the party.

Thus, it is clear that this tragic mistake was not committed by the Bolshevik Party, and even less by its leadership, alone. In reality, the Bolsheviks only carried out a tragically mistaken policy that was the natural consequence of the incomprehensions of the entirety of the workers movement at the time, a movement that did not see that the counter-revolution could emanate from within the post-insurrectional state itself. This is not because, as the anarchists argue, "the maggots were already present in the fruits" of 1917 (i.e. the existence of a class party always already contains within it the seeds of counter-revolution); but because, due to the international isolation of the Russian Revolution, the Bolshevik Party was absorbed by the state and the latter identified itself with this state against the working class. This mistake of the whole workers' movement of the day was expressed in the general confusion surrounding the idea that the institutional apparatus that emerged following the revolution of October 1917 was a "proletarian state."

1 See their pamphlet, Some Important Lessons of the International Working-Class In the Revolutionary Class Struggle for Socialism/Communism: The Emancipation of the Working-Class Is the Act of the Working Class Itself!

2 Kommunistiche Arbeiter Partei Deutschlands or Communist Worker's Party of Germany, excluded from the Communist International in 1920 due to its critical stance towards many of the International's positions, particularly against its policy of the "United Front."

History of the workers' movement: 

Heritage of the Communist Left: 

Development of proletarian consciousness and organisation: 

Latest parasitic attack: LAWV targets ICC

Over the summer the Los Angeles Workers Voice (LAWV) - actually they now call themselves the U.S.Workers Voice - began a smear campaign against the ICC. In their article, "ICC - What Do They Stand For?" in their publication "The New Internationalist", the LAWV unleashed a barrage of one liners charging that the ICC "specializes in pouring cold water on the workers' mass struggles;" that the ICC seeks to impose "their party dictatorship over the proletariat;" that the ICC seeks "to use the working class to empower themselves;" that our views and tactics are "embarrassingly absurd, and …mainly just give the Communist left trend a bad name" - unsupported by any evidence or argumentation and presented in a manner more characteristic of the worst tactics of bourgeois leftism than the revolutionary workers movement. They even go so far as to falsely charge that the ICC defends the position that the suppression of the Kronstadt uprising in 1921 in Russia was a "tragic necessity" when we have repeatedly defended precisely the opposite position, in published articles specifically denouncing that view (see our article on Kronstadt in this issue, or International Review No. 3 or International Review 104.

All these slanders, distortions, and lies about the ICC are thrown out there willy nilly to distract attention from the very serious criticisms the ICC made in "In defense of the revolutionary milieu: The LAWV's Parasitic Attacks Against the IBRP" in Internationalism 122. It is particularly striking that, if you look beyond the litany of false statements about the ICC, the LAWV article contains no denial or refutation of the essential points of our critique of the LAWV's comportment during the process by which they split from the IBRP and their sudden rejection of fundamental class line positions that they had defended for nearly half a decade. There is no denial of the facts of their secret discussions that excluded the other IBRP member in the US, and which they hid from their own organization, a gross violation of fraternal relations within a proletarian organization. In fact they appear to defend such a breach of revolutionary organizational behavior because of the alleged need to escape the "dictatorial" oversight of the central committee. Nor do they respond to our criticism of their sharp political regression on fundamental class line positions, without explanation - such as their rejection of the proletarian nature of the Russian Revolution, their rejection of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the failure to make clear their position on the decadence of capitalism, or on the nature of state capitalism.

There are three main currents in the left communist milieu in the world today, the IBRP, the ICC and the Bordigists. The LAWV has already denounced the two main currents, the IBRP and the ICC - as essentially Stalinist, substitutionist, non-proletarian, and a disgrace to the workers movement. It is of course a curious charge against two historic currents in the left communist movement coming from individuals who spent most of the past quarter century as adherents of a stalinist organization that extolled the virtues of Albanian Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha. Their bizarre political trajectory and behavior today are marked by that terrible experience in capitalism's leftist political apparatus. On the other hand they retain certain non-proletarian political behaviors they learned in leftism -maneuvering, slandering, personalizations (especially their attacks against AS in the IBRP), immediatist and activist misconceptions, the retention of stalinist verbiage and conceptions - like "agit prop", "party building" and the pandering to the daily struggle. At the same time, in their incomplete attempt to break with Stalinism, they have lapsed into grave libertarian errors, mistakenly identifying the grossest Stalinist distortions of revolutionary principles as inevitable manifestations of marxism - leading to their rejection of the need for a centralized revolutionary party, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the Russian Revolution (after 1918).

The LAWV was particularly scandalized by our pointing to their simultaneous manifestations of Stalnism and libertarianism, which they ridiculed as incoherent oxymoron of "stalinist libertarism." Of course, we did not use that term but they are correct that there is incoherence here, but the incoherence is theirs, not ours.

The LAWV's smear campaign against the political organizations of the communist left reflect an attempt to drive a wedge between the ICC and the IBRP, on the one hand, and the various new groups developing in the US, on the other, in order to isolate left communist forces from the rest of the milieu emerging in North America today. This goal is revealed in the LAWV'statement that "no serious Communist can unite with the ICC today," and that the ICC deems anyone who disagrees with it as "useless or even enemies of the working class." This last slander is particularly pernicious. The ICC doesn't hide its disagreements with other groups. We have enough respect for militants who seriously seek to defend the interests of the proletariat and advance the revolutionary struggle to engage in open and honest debate. We believe that the open confrontation of ideas and political perspectives is a vital aspect of the deepening and extension of class consciousness.The existence of differences between organizations and groups doesn't preclude the ability to work together for the common revolutionary goal. There is no secret that the ICC and the IBRP and its affiliates have long had serious political divergences, but we defend the IBRP as part of the revolutionary political milieu. In fact our original critique of the LAWV was written in solidarity with and in defense of the IBRP. Despite the LAWV's attempt to paint the ICC as narrow sectarians, at the time of the Kosovo War, and the outbreak of the Afghanistan war, we appealed to the LAWV and other IBRP sympathizers in North America to draft a joint leaflet against US imperialism's policies in the name of a united left communism. At the time of Kosovo this proposal for joint action was summarily rejected by the LAWV. During the Afghanistan war, they didn't even bother to respond.

The LAWV's attempt to distort our record on the class struggle is also part and parcel of this attempt to isolate left communism from the rest of the political organizations in the US. What the LAWV calls "pouring cold water on workers' mass struggles" is the ICC's effort to fulfill its responsibility as a revolutionary marxist organization to analyze each struggle, each confrontation, as it arises, to understand the dynamic in which it unfolds, and the balance of forces between the classes, as a basis for determining its understanding of the appropriate intervention to make in such a struggle. Such analysis may be mistaken in this or that instance, but it is important that revolutionaries bring communist consciousness and the analytical tools of marxism to the struggle. As Lenin put it, the mass struggle, needs a mass of consciousness. Marxists are not cheerleaders for the class struggle, indiscriminately hailing and celebrating every little strike or union confrontation because of immediatist or romanticist illusions about the class struggle. Workers face very difficult conditions of class struggle today, in the context of the rising pressures of the social decomposition of capitalism, the political disorientation that followed the collapse of stalinism and the bourgeoisie's ideological campaign about the alleged death of communism, and the efforts by the bourgeoisie to strengthen and refurbish its union apparatus. To fail to recognize and comprehend the conditions under which the working class struggles today and adopt an appropriate intervention is a failure to live up to revolutionary responsibilities.

In contrast to the ICC's analytical approach to class struggle, the LAWV uncritically rushes off to every union called rally or demonstration as if it were some manifestation of autonomous "workers' mass struggle." In the last issue the New Internationalist they claimed that they intervene in a principled manner in these demonstrations. The empty meaning of this "principled" intervention can be seen in a leaflet they published in the same issue of New Internationalist,which they distributed at a teachers demonstration in Los Angeles. Most of the leaflet is devoted to a recitation of the facts of the dispute, followed by some very ambiguous recipes for action which are neither principled nor clear. The LAWV's says, "to advance, and prevent more routs don't new political and industrial organizaions need to be built up?" There's no attempt to give any revolutionary marxist content to this rather ambiguous statement - actually a question, not a statement. One wonders what they really mean, what kind of new industrial organizations … the creation of militant caucuses within the existing unions, the formation of new "class struggle" unions, as some leftists advocate, or mass assemblies and strike committees outside the framework of the union apparatus, as revolutionaries might suggest? What kind of new political organization - maybe a labor party, like the Trotskyists advocate? Why don't they speak openly and honestly to the workers about what they mean? Or do they know what they mean?

As we pointed out in Internationalism 122, "we are now confronted with the presence of a parasitic group of former leftists, with only a half-baked comprehension of communist left positions, heavily imbued with an amalgam of localist, immediatist, activist, and stalinist ideological conceptions from their past, and libertarian distrust of centralization and the Russian Revolution." They now function to distort the positions of the communist left and slander its two most significant political organizations. We appeal to working class militants and political groups to be on guard against the opportunist overtures of this strange political formation. If you wish to understand and debate the political positions of the left communist movement, we encourage you to engage in discussion with the ICC and the IBRP. You don't have to agree with us - after all the goal of political discussion is the clarification of ideas, even if that means better understanding the differences in point of view. We urge that you be on guard against this erratic group of former Stalinists, who after a brief sojourn in the left communist milieu, suddenly claim to be the only coherent, principled left communists in the whole world, and seek to keep the existing left communist groups isolated from the rest of the emerging workers movement in North America and sabotage the process of open discussion and debate among those committed to the revolutionary destruction of capitalist exploitation

JG, 11/10/02.

Political currents and reference: 

US Ratches up Imperialist Strategy

In the wake of Stalinism's collapse, the end of the XX century was celebrated by the dominant class all around the world as the beginning of a new era of peace and prosperity in the life of capitalism. The disappearance of the division of the world in two major imperialist blocs was supposed to end the bloodshed and the potential thermonuclear obliteration of human beings and any other form of life in the planet. The chronic state of economic crisis and the poverty suffered by most of humanity was said to be finally on the way to being resolved thanks to economic globalization and other marvels of democratic capitalism.

History itself has already proven the worthlessness of these projections. Imperialist wars and chronic economic crisis are a permanent feature of decadent capitalism. They are scourges to which the dominant class has no solution. In the last years, rather than disappearing, imperialist conflicts end economic disasters are reaching dramatic levels all over the world.

At the level of the economy, all major industrialized countries are facing open recessions, while the so-called developing nations, capitalism's weakest sector, are moving from one economic catastrophe to the next, facing ever growing difficulties to keep their heads above water.

At the level of imperialist conflict, the challenge of the US hegemony and the battle of the American bourgeoisie to maintain its world dominance are more and more spreading war and political instability around the world.

In this context of growing barbarism one of the most important elements in the current international situation at the level of imperialism is, undeniably, the American bourgeoisie's growing awareness and adjustments of its imperialist strategy to the realities and needs of the present historical situation. The US flexes its military muscle

These adjustments to its strategy, to judge by the "debates" and dissensions that we have witnessed among the bourgeoisie in the last 10 years, has not been an easy process. For instance, Mr. Bush the elder lost his chance for reelection to a second term because of his administration's hesitations in the face of the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the ensuing Balkans wars. And, as we pointed out several years ago, the real root of the scandals that plagued the Clinton administration was the divisions on imperialist policy within the American bourgeoisie, in particular vis a vis the Chinese question. Nonetheless, whatever their divisions, the dominant fraction of the bourgeoisie has already managed to put in practice a strategy of which the planned invasion of Iraq is one of its latest manifestations.

This strategic orientation aims to maintain the status quo in the world, i.e. American hegemony, and has, according to the bourgeoisie itself, the following elements:

A Commitment to Maintain a Uni-Polar World in Which the United States Has No Peer Competitor: Already at the end of the first Bush administration, Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz made this goal clear when he wrote that with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US must act to prevent the rise of peer competitors in Europe and Asia. And as Mr. Bush the son declared last July: "America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge-thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace." The same idea affirming that the US will never allow its military supremacy to be challenge the way it was during the cold war, was recently expressed again by Bush: "the president has not intention of allowing any foreign power to catch ch up with the huge lead the US has opened since the fall of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago" as printed in "The National Security Strategy of the US." The esence of this policy is nothing else but the decleared intention of the American bourgeoisie to do all that it can to prevent the arising of a strong competitor around which a new imperilaist bloc could eventually be formed.

A Commitment to Stay On the Offensive: According to this, the old cold war era concept of deterrence is totally outdated. This is the context in which the so-called doctrine of the preemptive strike is being discussed, and which is behind the new drive to relocate troops around the globe, as well as the efforts to gain direct control of strategic regions of the world. As Mr. Bush put it, "the military must be ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world. All nations that decide for aggressions and terror will pay a price."

A Commitment "To Do It Alone": According to this precept, the US will act unilaterally in responding to "threats". In other words, the illusions of stable alliances-NATO, etc.-are being recognized as undesirable constraints in carrying out American military adventures. As Mr. Rumsfeld explained: "the mission must determine the coalition; the coalition must not determine the mission. If it does, the mission will be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, and we can't afford that."

A Commitment to "Nation-Building": In plain words this means a direct territorial control of strategic zones of the world. We have seen this strategic element being applied in Afghanistan and more recently in the planning being put forward for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. According to bourgeois propaganda calculations, the US will need to stay in Iraq after overthrowing Hussein for at least the next 20 years. This drive to gain a direct territorial control over strategic regions of the globe has been described by some bourgeois analysts as a new, but necessary-given the present state of chaos in the world-neocolonialist imperialist tactic that the US must carry out in order to fight the spread of chaos and decomposition. Clearly, the bourgeoisie has seemed to obtain a rather accurate consciousness of the dangers that decomposition poses to the system as a whole; and it is currently developing an imperialist strategy that accords with the recognition of this reality. Nevertheless, the assimilation of the present "nation building" tactic of the US, to the colonialism of a previous era in the history of capitalism, an ideological claim popular among many leftists and certain spokesmen of the bourgeoisie-above all in Europe, is quite far fetched. Colonialism was an expression of the outward expansion of capitalism in a period in which the world market was still being created. In that sense, despite the suffering that it brought to the indigenous populations of colonized regions, it represented a positive step forward in the development of the productive forces of humanity as a whole. On the contrary, the US's tactic of "nation building" today does not have anything positive to offer anyone. It will only, on the other hand, be one more factor in political destabilization of the world. American Imperialism offensive

A concrete manifestation of this strategy is the present effort of the American bourgeoisie to directly control Central Asia. With the collapse of the Stalinist bloc, this zone-which had been for most of the 20th century a privileged sphere of interest for Russian imperialism-has become the target of US attention. The American bourgeoisie has been for many years quite active in the countries that formed in the wake of the collapse of the USSR, not only through its oil companies and financial institutions, but also through actions intended to have a direct military presence in the region. In this sense, the Afghanistan campaign launched under the cover of the "fight against terrorism" in the wake of the September 11th events, has just capped a tendency that has long been underway.

The same can be said of the Middle East. Despite the "Pax-Americana" imposed by the US after the 1991 Gulf War, it has not succeeded in completely keeping this region under its control. Second and third rate powers have not given up their efforts to advance their own interests and to torpedo the American-imposed order in the region. There have been, for instance, many widely known initiatives by France, Germany, China, Russia, et. al., to advance their own interests in the region. Even local imperialist gangsters like Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran have grown bolder in the pursuit of their own interests, often clashing with the US's designs in the region. The Palestinian/Israeli "peace process" has blown into pieces. In this context, a second Desert Storm launched against Saddam Hussein's Iraq is the US's chosen way of regaining the political momentum in the region. What is even more important, is the US's goal of assuring, through an upgrading of its direct presence on the ground in Iraq, a much more thorough control of this crucial strategic zone. Evidently the US's "allies" are well aware of what is really at stake behind the American bourgeoisie's targeting of Iraq, and hence their strident opposition and efforts to derail the US war plans.

ES, 11/10/02.


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