Imperialist war always puts revolutionaries to the test. Against the propaganda of the ruling class, which aims to win over the working class, or at least to silence it, the first duty of a revolutionary organisation is to denounce the war: to say as loudly and as clearly as it can that imperialist war is never in the interests of the working class.
Revolutionaries oppose the war
All of the groups of the proletarian political milieu in Britain have taken a class stand against the war in Afghanistan.
The proletarian political milieu is composed of those organisations that are part of the communist left, that is of those groups who trace their origins to the minorities that opposed the degeneration of the revolution in Russia, defended class positions against the rise of Stalinism and fascism and denounced the Second World War as being every bit as imperialist as the first. In Britain there are three organisations of the proletarian milieu: the Communist Workers Organisation1 (CWO), which is part of the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party (IBRP); the International Communist Party that publishes Communist Left2; and the International Communist Current, whose section in Britain is World Revolution. Following the barbaric acts of September 11, all of these organisations published leaflets and/or statements on the web denouncing the attacks and opposing the imperialist war that was immediately promised. They have all called on the working class to oppose the massacres of their fellow workers and other oppressed strata, and to join the class war against capitalism.
Immediately after the attack on the World Trade Centre, the ICC issued a statement for the web which was also distributed as a leaflet at meetings, paper sales and elsewhere (‘Bush, Blair and Bin Laden are all terrorist gangsters’). Once the USA launched its first air strikes on Afghanistan, we put out an international leaflet (‘Only one answer to imperialist war � the international class struggle’) which was distributed in more countries and in bigger numbers � at demonstrations and workplaces as well as smaller meetings and street sales. Both texts are available from our address.
The IBRP’s initial statement was entitled ‘USA Coalition Declares War on the World’. It is direct and unequivocal in its denunciation of the war and in its recognition that capitalism is the real cause:
“The devastating suicide attacks on key symbols of US capitalism’s financial and military might may have shaken the complacency of the most powerful state in the world but in no sense is it a victory for the exploited working class. Not only are ordinary wage workers amongst the thousands killed, but the assaults are being used to legitimise heightened state repression. The ‘war against terrorism’ will be used within the metropolitan countries as a weapon against internal oppositions and particularly against the working class, and any emerging proletarian political organisations. In that sense, organised state terror has already preceded September 11th’s events, with its police attacks on anti-globalisation protesters. However, the events of September 11th have increased the prospect of humanity being thrown back into barbarism.
This is not a rhetorical flourish or a question of mysterious ‘forces of evil’ leading the planet to Armageddon. On the contrary, it is the concrete calculated policies stemming from the rivalry between the very material interests of the capitalist powers which makes the 21st century just as dangerous and warlike as the last”.
There is nothing here of the hypocrisy of the ‘left’ and the ‘peace’ movement who say ‘yes, the attacks were terrible, but�the US had it coming to it’ and so excuse the slaughter of innocent people in America. The attacks and the US response are acts of barbarism; their cause is not simply US imperialism � as if no other country were imperialist - but capitalism itself. To say that the US is to blame is to let capitalism off the hook. Those who say such things become accomplices of imperialist war.
At the ‘peace’ demonstration of October 13, where the ICC distributed its international leaflet, the CWO comrades gave out their broadsheet Aurora which also made a clear distinction between class struggle against war and “the saccharine sweet sirens of pacifism�”, which calls for “prayer, candlelit vigils, e-mailing George Bush or Tony Blair or writing to the local MP”. Against these false solutions Aurora calls for the defence of workers’ living standards by struggling outside and against the unions, for the paralysis of capitalism’s economic and military apparatus, for reviving the perspective of the revolutionary overthrow of world capitalism. Or, again, from the IBRP statement: “Only the international working class, once aware of its own interests, is capable of changing the world. We have no interest in supporting either side in this ‘new war’ � if the ruling class has its way our only role will be as victims and cannon-fodder. All the bourgeois factions whether US-led, national liberationist or Islamist are equally against the working class. Only by paralysing these forces and politically defeating all the irrational ruling class ideologies will we be able to create a world without war, exploitation and terror. Socialism or Barbarism. There is no third road.” .
The ICP are equally clear in their denunciation of the way the ruling class has cynically used the attacks to try and get the working class to support war:
“Following the terrifying massacres in the United States, the regime’s spokesmen, both Right and Left, are loudly proclaiming that the war which is about to happen, or rather which has already begun, is between the North and South, between us � the rich, and them � the poor. A war to protect our civilisation, capital’s civilisation. [�]
“Whoever hijacked the Boeings it was certainly the right moment in terms of propping up capitalism, just as the choice of targets � a military building and buildings full of workers � will make it easier to weld together the opposed classes of American society. Bearded priests are playing their part in tricking the disinherited masses of the poor countries by channelling their class rebellion into nationalism and religious fanaticism.
“But the working class in the North of the World has nothing to gain from supporting this war either. Rather than safeguarding its miserable, non-existent privileges as citizens of the rich West, all it can really expect from the war is death and increasing poverty; as they should already know from the experience of two terrible world wars and two no less terrible post-war periods” (‘The capitalist regime uses Terrorism and Anti-terrorism to force the proletariat into the Imperialist War’).
Like the IBRP, the ICP is clear that war is an inevitable consequence of capitalism and that the only way to oppose imperialist war is to wage the class war: “Workers have to oppose this war, but neither cursing it nor relying on the pressure of public opinion is enough; what is needed is to oppose bourgeois power with the power of a mobilised working class”.
In a second article we will look at the analyses the proletarian organisations make of the motives behind this war and the perspectives it opens up. Here we will find, alongside points of convergence, a number of disagreements. But these differences, significant though they are, do not diminish the importance of the fundamental class positions examined above. These positions are the product of many decades of political struggle and they are essentially what marks revolutionaries off from the world of bourgeois politics. They form the basis of proletarian solidarity against the derision, lies and outright repression which the bourgeoisie has above all aimed at communists in times of war. It is from this starting point alone that we can embark upon a fraternal debate about the areas that separate us. North
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