First Published: The Call, newspaper of the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) of the United States, January 31, 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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“There is no detente in Europe today. There is only imperialist rivalry which inevitably leads to war.” These words were spoken by comrade Fernand Lefebvre, Chairman of the Communist Party of Belgium (Marxist-Leninist) (CPBML), during a recent discussion with The Call, focusing mainly on the international situation.
The question of war and revolution are critical matters for Belgium. The 11 million Belgian people have already seen their country become a field of battle during two previous imperialist world wars. Although a small country, Belgium is highly industrialized and therefore has been the scene of sharp contention between imperialist powers in past wars.
At the same time, Belgium is itself an imperialist country and once held major colonies in Africa. Today, Belgium is part of the second world, standing between the third world countries and the two imperialist superpowers, the U.S. and the USSR.
“The U.S. and the USSR are the two principal enemies of the world’s peoples,” stated Lefebvre. However, he explained, the relationship between the two is not one of equilibrium. The intensified rivalry between them, he noted, arises from the fact that ”The U.S. imperialists are on the decline while the Soviet social-imperialists’ are on the rise.”
What are the consequences of this development for the countries of Western Europe? “We are the main strategic focus of their contention,” said comrade Lefebvre, “and it also means the Russians are more aggressive than the Americans. The USSR is the more dangerous superpower in Europe. It already dominates Eastern Europe while, at the same time, it is preparing for war against Western Europe.”
“The principal contradiction in Belgium at this time,” Lefebvre explained, “is between the working class and the monopoly bourgeoisie.” For the CPBML, this means “that its task is the revolutionary struggle for socialism, for the strategic objective of the dictatorship of the proletariat.”
However, the socialist revolution in Belgium is not isolated, but is a component part of the world revolution, the Chairman of the CPBML pointed out. “Since the two superpowers are the main obstacles to world revolution, their rivalry and development must inevitably have an effect on the development of the principal contradiction in our country.”
“It is possible,” he continued, “that the principal contradiction in Belgium could change in the event of war. There are historical precedents for this. For instance, when the Nazis occupied Belgium in World War II, the principal contradiction became one between the whole people and the Nazi occupiers.”
“But even in these circumstances,” Lefebvre stressed, “the class contradiction persists and the class struggle continues nonetheless. Due to their class nature, the Monopolists split into three camps during the last war. One group went with the Nazis, one with Anglo-American imperialism, and the other vacillated between these two.”
The lesson drawn by the CPBML from this experience is that the bourgeoisie cannot be relied upon to stand up to the superpowers and struggle against the danger of a new war.
“It is true in Belgium today,” Lefebvre added, “that there, is a certain part of the bourgeoisie that wants to fight the superpowers. If they do so, then we can give them some support within the united front. But here our policy must be one of both unity and struggle.”
“Some measures this group could take against the superpowers would only be in their own narrow Class interests. This we would oppose. We would only give support if their stand, while motivated by their class interest, also coincided with the interests of the entire people.”
“There is no unity without struggle,” Lefebvre summed up on this point. “We support everything that helps Europe to stand up to the two superpowers, but we denounce everything that is against the working class.”
“We are for a nonaligned Belgium,” stated Lefebvre. “Our country should participate in neither of the superpower blocs, NATO nor the Warsaw Pact; and it should develop within the context of an independent Europe. Moreover, there must be unity between Europe and the third world against superpower hegemonism, with the third world countries as the main and motive force.”
“But here again,” he pointed out, “there are contradictions and thus both unity and struggle. Take the case of the European Economic Community (EEC). It has two aspects. On the one hand, the EEC represents the Europe of monopoly capitalism and the contradictions it sows among the various countries. It strengthens the dictates of the monopolists and their extraction of profit. This is a bad thing for the working class.”
“On the other hand, ”he continued, ̶0the EEC is a great economic force. It is nearly equal in size to each of the superpowers and stands in some opposition to them. And to the extent that the superpowers run in to this opposition, this is a good thing. To get even stronger, the EEC is obliged to grow and to link up with the third world.”
“But here is another contradiction,” said Lefebvre. “There is neocolonialism in the EEC’s relation to the third world. This we must oppose.”
“On the other hand, there can be a positive relation on the basis of equality. The recent Lome Convention was a move in this direction.” (This meeting agreed to new economic relations between Europe and the third World – ed.)
The CPBML’s opposition to both NATO and the Warsaw Pact raised the question of the party’s line on military affairs and national defense. “The only genuine defense must be a popular defense, relying on the masses of people. Our basic line is for the development of a people’s army, led by the working class. In this sense, a popular defense depends on the growth of the party. Only the party is able to put a people’s army on its feet,” the CPBML leader emphasized.
“At the same time,” he explained, “we also call for, an autonomous European defense, for the European countries to move outside of the superpower military blocs. We see propaganda around this question as important for developing the political conditions for forming a popular defense.”
As for work within the bourgeois army, the CPBML is opposed to pacifist and simple anti-militarist propaganda. “Today this line leads to a mercenary army,” stated Lefebvre. “It strengthens the fascist trend within the Belgian bourgeoisie and, what is more, such an army cannot wage a genuine resistance. Such a line only profits the Soviet social imperialists.”
“This is a lesson of World War II. It is very important, for instance, that the leadership of the military resistance to the Nazis was in the hands of the Communist Party. Due to the wavering and collaborationist role of the bourgeoisie, it was incapable of organizing a real defense against foreign aggression.”
The CPBML also stressed that it was very important not to fall into idealism, especially on these military matters, and to pay great attention to concrete conditions.
“Take our tactical line on NATO in the immediate situation. This is a delicate and complicated situation, and it is one in which we are still doing deeper study. Our basic line is clear. We are for the people’s army and a popular defense. But we must be realistic in regard to the immediate situation. Our party is not yet strong enough to put a people’s army on its feet.”
“It is also clear that Belgium’s membership in NATO goes against its national independence. But today, when there is neither a people’s army nor an autonomous European defense force, what would it mean to weaken NATO while the Warsaw Pact stood in place or expanded? Would this not serve the aims and interests of Soviet social-imperialism? This is not a simple question.”
“As for the line that we should form a united front with U.S. imperialism in order to fight Soviet social-imperialism,” said Lefebvre, “this is totally incorrect.” “This view has been advanced by the opportunist AMADA group in Belgium” he explained.
“Inevitably combined with this opportunism is the view that the struggle against the bourgeoisie and for proletarian revolution should come to a halt. To argue that, the Russians, and not the Belgian bourgeoisie, is the principal enemy within Belgium today, is ridiculous. It assumes the Russians are already here and are now occupying us. It is nothing but right-wing national chauvinism,” Lefebvre added. On the other hand, he noted there is a tendency to underestimate the Soviet social-imperialists.
He pointed out that a sharp two-line struggle took place in the CPBML in 1974-75. Some people argued, similar to The Guardian and other centrists in the U.S., that the Soviets were the main enemy only in Eastern Europe. Everywhere else, supposedly, U.S. imperialism alone was the principal enemy. This line was defeated, and a small group was expelled from the party.
“People who think like this,” said Lefebvre, “simply don’t understand revisionism. They will end up in the revisionist camp.”