Trotskyism: beating the drums of imperialist war

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Since its passage into the bourgeois camp, Trotskyism has never missed an opportunity to attack the consciousness of the working class by pushing proletarians to take the side of one imperialist camp against another during the conflicts that have followed one another since the Second World War. Their position in the face of the military chaos in Ukraine confirms this once again. These watchdogs of capitalism oscillate between openly warmongering positions, calling for support for one of the warring camps, and others, apparently more “subtle” and “radical”, but still justifying the continuation of barbaric militarism. The lies and mystifications of Trotskyism are a real poison for the working class, intended to disorientate it by posing as a form of Marxism!

The position of the Nouveau parti Anticapitaliste (NPA), in France belongs to the category of patent warmongers: “No to the war! Solidarity with the resistance of the Ukrainian people! [...] In situations like the one in Ukraine at the moment, as long as the bombing continues and as long as Russian troops are there, any abstract ‘pacifist’ position such as the call for ‘calm", ‘stop the violence’ or ‘ceasefire’, de facto sets the parties back to back and is tantamount to a denial of the rights of Ukrainians to defend themselves, including militarily.” It could not be clearer! This bourgeois group openly calls on proletarians to serve as martyrs for the defence of the Fatherland. In other words, for the defence of the national capital that feeds itself on their exploitation.

With the same contempt, but with greater subtlety and a perfidious double language, Lutte Ouvrière (LO), in the name of the defence of ‘internationalism’, pretends to condemn a war which “is being waged on the backs of the peoples” in order, in the final analysis, to call on the proletarians to be used as cannon fodder in the name of “resistance to imperialism” and the “the right of nations to self-determination” ... behind their national bourgeoisie. Its candidate in the French presidential election, Nathalie Arthaud, did not hesitate to urge “the workers” to defend the poor little Ukrainian state against “bureaucratic” Russia and “imperialist” America: “Putin, Biden, and the other leaders of the NATO countries are waging a war with the skin of the peoples for whom they share the same contempt”.

As if Zelensky and his clique of corrupt oligarchs were not themselves responsible for the dismemberment of the Ukrainian population and in particular of the working class, whose men are forced to fight for interests that are not their own. Le Mouvement Socialiste des Travailleurs (MTS), a South American member of the so-called Fourth International, denounces both the Russian invasion of Ukraine and NATO interference. But behind this supposedly internationalist position, we find this time the recognition of the “right of the people of Donbass to self-determination”, which is exactly the alibi put forward by Putin to invade Ukraine!

In the UK and the US, the Internationalist Bolshevik Tendency (IBT) develops an even more tricky position: in an article entitled “Revolutionary Defeatism and Proletarian Internationalism”, after recalling Lenin's already ambiguous position that “in all imperialist countries the proletariat must now desire the defeat of its own government” (what he calls “dual defeatism”), the IBT adds: Dual defeatism does not apply when an imperialist country attacks a non-imperialist country in what is effectively a war of conquest. In such cases, Marxists not only call for the defeat of their own imperialist government but actively favor the military victory of the non-imperialist state.[1]

It is thus enough to define Ukraine as a non-imperialist state and the choice is quickly made to push the proletarians to the massacre! It is true that the IBT exploits to the absurd a weakness in Lenin’s position on imperialism[2]. The error of the Bolsheviks and the Communist International, who lived directly through the transition from the ascendant period of capitalism to its decadent one, without having drawn all the implications, is understandable. But, after a century of wars of aggression by any country against any other (Iraq against Kuwait, Iran against Iraq, etc.), to peddle the same position is pure mystification!

The whole mystification is based on the bourgeois motto of “the right of the nations to self-determination”, making imperialism a struggle between the “great powers” alone. But, as Rosa Luxemburg stated as early as 1916 in The Crisis of Social Democracy: Imperialism is not the creation of any one or of any group of states. It is the product of a particular stage of ripeness in the world development of capital, an innately international condition, an indivisible whole, that is recognisable only in all its relations, and from which no nation can hold aloof at will”. The so-called national defence struggles can no longer be part of the demands of the working class. On the contrary they are a real poison for its revolutionary struggle, a mystification aiming, under a revolutionary verbiage, at enrolling the proletarians under the flags of imperialism, whatever the camp they choose to support!

H., 27 March 2022

[1] It is worth pointing out here that the Spartacists, now called the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), from which the IBT split in 1982, has a similarly profound analysis, but in reverse: in one and the same leaflet, they issue an apparently revolutionary call “to turn this war between two capitalist classes into a civil war where workers overthrow both capitalist classes”, and then tell us what they would do if the war escalates: “should NATO or any imperialist power directly enter this war, it would be an obligation for any revolutionary to side militarily with Russia for the defeat of the imperialists”. With leftism, you always have to read the small print! (Spartacist 4 Supplement, 27.2.22)

[2] With his definition of imperialism as the policy of the great capitalist powers, Lenin was not always clear on the question of imperialism, unlike Rosa Luxemburg.


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