Afghanistan: There’s only one way to fight the threat of world war: By strengthening the proletarian struggle
With the events in Afghanistan and all their repercussions, capitalism has taken one more step towards world war. It would be criminal to hide this fact.
Up till now, through its struggle, through its refusal to submit passively to the diktats of austerity the world proletariat has prevented the bourgeoisie from imposing its apocalyptic solution to the crisis of its economy. It must now take its struggle onto a higher level. In order to do that, the workers must not abandon their struggles of economic resistance, but on the contrary unify them, generalize them, and above all take up their real meaning in a resolute and consistent manner: in other words, see them as part of the struggle to do away with the barbarism of war by destroying the capitalist economic laws which give rise to it.
Once again, the threat of war is shaking the world. Only a year ago, under the pretext of ‘punishing’ Vietnam for its actions in Cambodia, China went onto the offensive with over 300,000 soldiers in a war that left tens of thousands dead in a few days. Today, another so-called ‘socialist’ country, under the guise of ‘helping a regime threatened by the hands of imperialism’, has sent 100,000 soldiers of its ‘Red Army’ to put another country under military occupation. But whereas last year the specter of world war was quickly extinguished after the initial alert, today there’s nothing fleeting about this threat. On the contrary, even before the USSR’s intervention in Afghanistan, the danger of war was being frantically stirred up in the press, on television, and in the speeches of the politicians.
What is the meaning of the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan?
What underlies the present campaigns about the threat of war?
How can a third imperialist holocaust be prevented?
The lies of the bourgeoisie and the threats of war
Like the time that it invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, the USSR claims that it has sent in its divisions ‘at the request of a friendly people threatened by imperialism’. This lie is as old as war itself. Capitalism has always launched its imperialist wars to ‘defend itself from foreign threats’ or to ‘protect’ this or that people. Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938 to ‘protect’ the German-speaking population of the Sudetenland. In the mid-sixties, the USA sent in half a million soldiers to ‘defend’ South Vietnam against ‘Communist aggression’. Imperialist propaganda has a long list of lies. Today the American bloc is playing the game of denouncing the Russian intervention and its hypocritical justifications, because it will use every chance it can get to step up its own propaganda in favor of its own imperialist designs and war preparations. Under the pretext of facing up to the ‘Russian danger’ -- which is the subject of a deafening barrage by the press, radio and television -- the American bourgeoisie and its allies are pushing ahead not only with their ideological campaigns, but also with an enormous deployment of military forces (the Pershing II missiles in Europe, naval forces in the Indian Ocean, the supplying of arms to China and Pakistan).
This ideological campaign isn’t new. It’s already several years since Carter and his friends began preparing public opinion for the idea of a war against the USSR under the pretext of ‘defending human rights’. More recently the oil price rises, and above all the seizure of the hostages in Tehran, have been used as an excuse to step up the whole war-campaign: in order to ‘defend our security’ and ‘protect our interests’, we must be prepared for military intervention abroad. Today, with the invasion of Afghanistan, the campaign has reached new heights. Using all the means at its disposal, the bourgeoisie is trying to get us used to the idea that ‘war is becoming inevitable’, that its ‘someone else’s fault’, that whether we like it or not there’s no alternative and we’d better get ready for it.
Is war inevitable?
It is from capitalism’s point of view. Two worldwide butcheries have shown that generalized war is the only response that this system can have to the aggravation of its economic crisis.
War doesn’t happen simply because there are particularly warlike regimes -- Germany yesterday or Russia today. All countries are preparing for war, all governments are continuously increasing their military budgets, all governments and all parties -- including the so-called workers’ parties -- call for ‘defending the fatherland’, for the national defense which has cost humanity more than 100 million lives since 1914. All of them bear the same responsibility for the holocausts of the past and for those future holocausts which capitalism is preparing. When gangsters are settling scores amongst themselves, what’s the point in asking who fired the first shot? Before a war, the imperialist gangsters who’ve got the most loot generally have the luxury of presenting themselves as the ‘victims of aggression’. After the war, it’s always discovered, as if by chance, that the ‘aggressors’ were the losing side. In imperialist wars, all countries are ‘aggressors’; the only victims of aggression are the exploited masses who are sent to the slaughter to defend their respective bourgeoisies.
Today the bourgeoisie in all countries is accentuating its preparations for war because the crisis of its economy has got it by the throat. For years, it has tried to overcome the crisis by all sorts of policies, all of which had one thing in common: austerity for the workers. But despite this ever-increasing austerity, each one of the remedies tried out by the bourgeoisie has only made the disease worse. Each time it has tried to reduce inflation it’s only succeeded in reducing production; each time it’s tried to raise production it’s only succeeded in raising inflation. As long as it thought it could get out of this situation, it kept telling the workers that they must ‘make sacrifices today so that things will get better tomorrow’. But reality is more and more giving the lie to such optimism. More and more, the impasse facing its economic system has forced the bourgeoisie to make a ‘retreat forward’ -- and that can only mean towards war. In the last few years there has been a proliferation and aggravation of local wars behind which the major imperialist powers have confronted each other: Africa, Cambodia, Vietnam-China, and now Afghanistan. The USSR’s invasion of this country in no way means that ‘socialism is essentially warmongering’. What it does show is that this country -- like China and all the others that call themselves ‘socialist’ -- is capitalist and imperialist like all the rest, that it is subject to the same world crisis which is hitting the entire capitalist system, that everywhere capital is incapable of overcoming the crisis and is everywhere being pushed towards war.
Thus, all over the world, the bourgeoisie is increasingly becoming aware that the only perspective it has is a new generalized war.
In fact, from the point of view both of the level of the crisis and the level of armaments, the conditions for a new world butchery are much riper than they were in 1914 or 1939. What, up to now, has stayed the criminal hands of the bourgeoisie is its incapacity to mobilize the population, and the working class in particular, behind its imperialist objectives. The workers’ struggles which have developed since 1968 are the sign that, up to now, the bourgeoisie has not had a free hand to impose its own response to the insoluble crisis of its economy: world war.
And it’s precisely to change this state of affairs that the bourgeoisie is now intensifying its ideological barrage about the danger of war.
The bourgeoisie is less and less pretending that ‘things will be better tomorrow’. On the contrary, it’s now demanding sacrifices from the workers while letting them know that it’s going to demand more and more sacrifices, including the supreme sacrifice -- their lives, in a generalized war. It is now feeding us the following line: it’s true that there’s a danger of war, but war is an inevitability which doesn’t depend on us and which we can’t avoid. We must therefore strengthen national unity, accept sacrifices, put up with all the austerity implied by all the armaments programs.
What is the way out for the working class?
It’s true that war is an inevitability for the bourgeoisie! From its point of view, in its logic, its the only perspective it can offer society. And its whole campaign today has no other aim than to get the working class to accept this point of view, this logic. While it expresses a real threat hanging over humanity, the whole deafening barrage about war is aimed at instilling a mood of resignation in the workers, an acceptance of a new holocaust that will be even more terrible than the two previous ones.
And if the workers accept the logic of the bourgeoisie, then yes, world war is inevitable!
If the workers capitulate to the lies of the ruling class, if they accept the growing sacrifices demanded of them without responding, if they consent to abandoning their class struggle in the name of ‘national unity’ or the ‘national interest’, which is nothing but the interest of capital, then yes, the bourgeoisie will have a free hand to unleash a new imperialist butchery which, this time, threatens to destroy the whole of humanity.
Workers of the whole world,
You bear an immense responsibility on your shoulders.
The whole of society is threatened by the insoluble contradictions of capitalism. But only the working class is in a position to stay the criminal hands of this system. In order to mobilize the population for war, the ruling class and its state require ‘discipline’ and ‘obedience’. And who else but the proletariat, through its intransigent struggle, is capable of breaking out of the discipline of capital?
Only by taking up its struggles to resist austerity, unemployment and poverty, by strengthening them against the barriers which the unions and left parties -- even if they do it with a radical language -- constantly put against them, only in this way will the proletariat be able to hold back capitalism’s inherent tendency towards generalized war.
But even this is not enough! The only way that the working class will really be able to dispel the threat of war is by clearly understanding that the struggle against austerity and the struggle against war are one and the same struggle, that it’s not enough to resist austerity on the economic level alone, but that it’s necessary to go onto the offensive against the whole system of bourgeois power.
The proletariat’s struggles will only attain their full scope and effectiveness if the class draws all the lessons it can from them, if it sees them as a preparation for the decisive, generalized confrontation which, by overthrowing capitalism, will free humanity from all the calamities which this system imposes on it: exploitation, poverty, famine, genocide, and imperialist holocausts.
International Communist Current
20 January 1980