In the first part of our reply to the Revolutionary Union, we dealt at length with the views of the October League on the question of working within the trade unions and criticized the RU line of “jamming the unions.” In this section we hope to clarify the divergent views of our two organizations concerning the international situation, particularly on the questions brought up in the August, 1974 issue of Revolution.
In its article, RU defends its position of calling for the overthrow of the Iranian government (quite a feat for U.S. Marxist-Leninists) and attacks the publication by THE CALL of a New China (Hsinhua) News Agency release on the visit of the Shah of Iran to the U.S. According to the RU, by publishing the Hsinhua article on the visit, “OL obviously is confusing the role of the People’s Republic of China and the Communist Party of China in the world struggle with its own role and the role of Communist Parties and organizations that have not yet led the people in their countries to power.” (p.22) This is a charge, by the way, that has been recently repeated in an article by Guardian columnist Irwin Silber, who calls our stand “flunkeyism” towards China.
The RU then goes on to justify its call for the overthrow of the Iranian and Mexican governments. They claim that by taking the same stand as the Chinese and Albanian comrades on the struggle of the third world peoples and governments, the OL is “aiding the Trotskyites and revisionists who are vehemently attacking the Chinese and the international and revolutionary united front line the Chinese have been instrumental in developing.” Despite all this apparent praise for the line of the Chinese, RU is in fact developing a view of the international situation that is anti-Marxist and anti-Third World and very damaging to the cause of the revolutionary united front.
THE CALL will of course, continue to publish the news agency releases from China and other socialist countries which are of much interest to the working class of the U.S. But underlying the RU attack on the publication of the Hsinhua release lies an erroneous view of the international situation which must be opposed. It is a view marked by great-nation chauvinism and in fact, as we will show, plays right into the hands of the two imperialist superpowers in their strivings to conquer the countries of the Third World.
The question of Iran is a fine case in point. OL’s stand on the question of Iran and the countries of the Persian Gulf has been developed through our study of the rapidly-changing world situation and is based on our own analysis and not that of any other country or party. The kind of China-baiting of communists that goes on in the U.S. is rooted in the oldest, most reactionary traditions of anti-communism.
Iran is an oppressed country that has long suffered under the yoke of imperialism, especially that of Britain and the U.S. Today, the Soviet Union has also joined the ranks of the imperialist thieves who hope to cut up this juicy pie. At present, the Iranian people and government are making some important strides forward in defense of their national rights and resources. They are deepening their opposition to bullying and control not only by the old-line imperialists, but especially by Soviet social-imperialism, which today presents itself as the most aggressive and dangerous imperialism in the Persian Gulf area.
The resistance by Iran and the other Gulf countries has objectively weakened the efforts of the superpowers to bleed the Gulf region of its resources, including about half of the world’s oil reserves. Through the development of organizations such as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and others, Iran and the countries of the Gulf have united with the world’s small and medium-sized countries in their struggle against domination and hegemonism.
Iran, with known oil deposits of nearly 14 billion tons, ranks fourth in the world among the oil-producing countries. But since 1902, its resources have been totally controlled by the West. Back in 1971, Iran and other OPEC countries forced the oil monopolies to raise the posted price for each barrel of oil taken from the region, breaking for the first time, the absolute domination of the foreign powers. On July 31, 1973 the Shah of Iran ratified the bill on a new oil agreement between the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and the Western oil consortium, which will enable Iran to recover from the western monopolies, all rights over production, management and ownership of the oil installations.
These steps taken by Iran and other third world countries to control their own resources should be supported by the working people of all countries, not just in China, but especially here in the U.S. where the government and the oil monopolies are using great-nation chauvinism against the oil-producing nations to set the stage for aggression against them. While the communists in each country have their own particular tasks, the job of building the world-wide UNITED FRONT AGAINST IMPERIALISM is the job of communists in every country. Stalin, in his work, “Foundations of Leninism,” wrote:
Now we must speak of the world proletarian revolution for the separate national fronts of capital have become links in a single chain called the world front of imperialism, which must be opposed by a common front of the revolutionary movement in all countries. (FLP, Peking, P. 29)
This front must be built on opposition to imperialism of all stripes and not on the subjective understanding or position of the various classes or countries towards socialism. We will come back to this question later.
Soviet social-imperialism has long tried to use its influence in the Gulf area to blackmail and bully Iran. For years the social-imperialists forced Iran to sell its natural gas at far below the world market price after which the greedy Soviet rulers sold the same gas on the European market for tremendous profits. Last month Iran demanded and won the right to renegotiate the natural gas agreements with the Soviet Union, raising the price considerably. This was an important victory, not only for Iran, but for all the Third World countries whom the Soviet Union had over a barrel.
Furthermore, Iran and its neighbor Pakistan both refused to join the Soviet backed Asian Collective Security Pact which was being peddled as part of a plot to surround China and support Soviet expansionism in the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf and throughout Asia. It is largely for this just stand that China is deeply indebted to these two countries.
Faced with this situation, the Soviet Union has been intensifying its aggressive posture in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean. It backed last year’s coup against Iran’s neighbor, Afghanistan (which by the way occurred about the same time as the reactionary coup in Chile but still went unnoticed in the press) and is pouring millions of dollars into so-called “liberation movements” and interfering in the internal affairs of other countries in the area. Like the Hitlerites of 40 years ago, the USSR uses the secessionist sentiments of various oppressed peoples demagogically to split smaller countries and further its own rivalry with the U.S. Soviet policies of this type are well known since the case of Bangla Desh and the dismemberment of Pakistan.
Since Iran has begun standing up to their advances, the Soviet revisionists have filled the pages of Pravda and TASS with calls for the overthrow of the Iranian government. Suddenly these socialists in name, who practice fascism in their own country, have become the champions of “democracy” for the third world countries. Trying to meddle in the internal affairs of other countries, they have fostered puppet secessionist movements in Baluchistan and Khusistan and other places, aimed at weakening Iran, toppling the Shah and bringing the Gulf area under their sway.
The U.S.S.R. is also backing organizations in Oman which work closely with the revisionist Tudah Party in Iran and with other pro-Soviet organizations, such as the World Peace Council, to lay the groundwork for Soviet expansion in the Gulf. The RU spreads the lie that China supports these organizations and that in fact they are being led by “Maoists.” They use films made years ago, before the Soviet domination of these groups, to try to mislead the people of this country.
Here in the U.S. the RU and its student groups try to organize demonstrations demanding that Iran be disarmed and left weak and defenseless against the growing super-power war threat. They claim that the internal class struggle in the third world countries is their principal concern and is the main contradiction. In typical Trotskyite fashion, they downplay the significance of the national movements against imperialism and social-imperialism.
At a time when the Israeli Zionists were launching their war of aggression last October, these super-revolutionaries in RU launched a page-after-page denunciation of the Arab governments. They refused to give concrete support for the Arab oil boycott, claiming that the Arab governments were really in the same camp with the Zionists and imperialists.
For example, in the Nov. ’73 issue of Revolution, RU claimed that the “state of Israel has proved too useful not only to Western and in particular U.S. imperialism, but also to Soviet social imperialism and to the Arab ruling classes themselves ...”
What unites imperialism, social imperialism, the various Arab ruling classes .and the Zionists is the fear of a true mass movement developing in the Middle East...
The pages of Revolution have always been a place where the national question was blurred over and where the governments of the oppressed nations were treated as equal enemies as the imperialists and Zionists. Such statements are designed to weaken support for the Arab and Palestinian cause and make the internal class contradictions principal over the struggle against the superpowers. This is the main feature of Trotskyism on the international situation and is a direct attack on the international United Front Against Imperialism. In developing our line on the national question we must take as our starting point, the distinction between oppressed and oppressor nations and uphold in practice the right of all oppressed nations to self-determination.
The communist movement must build resolute opposition to the two superpowers and especially to the aggressive designs of our own imperialists. We must render concrete support to every struggle that objectively weakens the superpowers, while at the same time, using the upsurge of anti-imperialist militancy to strengthen the movement and organization of the working class, guaranteeing its independence and initiative.
We must give this support even though at any given time, the working class may not be in the leadership of such a movement and even though, as in the case of Iran, no communist party presently exists. By our rendering support we will improve the conditions for such organization and leadership to grow and develop within that country.
It is true, that such a world-wide front has within its ranks capitalists and feudalists. It is also true that capitalists of all stripes, big or small, exploit the working people of their own country and under their leadership, the national movements are not carried out in a thorough-going and revolutionary manner. For that to happen, communist parties must be built which can win leadership of the national movement through their participation. It is for this reason that we have always joined with and given support to the patriots and communists of every country who face repression as well as to the laboring people of every country who struggle for their just needs.
We have great confidence in the Iranian masses and the millions of oppressed peoples in the Third World. They will certainly organize themselves, take up arms and when the time is right, overthrow any and all classes which stand in the way of their efforts to establish people’s rule. It is not the RU’s job nor that of any U.S. group to call for this overthrow, but rather it is our job to struggle against the aggressive stand taken by the superpowers towards the third world countries. This is what RU has failed to do.
RU’s stand on the international situation and on the Middle East in particular is anti-Marxist. Rather than making use of contradictions, weakening imperialism and defeating enemies one at a time, RU lumps all capitalists into the same camp. Mao Tsetung in his work, On New Democracy, wrote:
No matter what classes, parties or individuals in the oppressed nations join the revolution, and no matter whether or not they are conscious of the point mentioned above or subjectively understand it, so long as they oppose imperialism, their revolution becomes part of the proletarian-socialist world revolution and they become its allies. (Selected Works, Vol. 2.)
Of course there are different kinds of allies and class struggle must always continue within the oppressed nations depending on the concrete conditions in each country. These conditions will be summed up by the communist parties and revolutionary organizations in those countries.
But Mao Tsetung singled out for attack those groups that called for a “single revolution” in the oppressed nations, and made the internal class contradictions principal at a time when foreign imperialism was threatening. This is the line of the RU applied to the Middle East. Mao said, “The theory of a single revolution is simply a theory of no revolution; that is the gist of the matter.” (Ibid.)
The RU is fond of pointing out the undemocratic nature of the Shah’s regime in Iran and that of the other Middle Eastern governments. This fact is, of course true, and the revolutionary and democratic forces of the people of these oppressed nations will topple feudalism and autocracy in the course of the anti-imperialist struggle, because these reactionary forces hold back the initiative of the masses.
But the lack of democracy in the third world countries should never be used by communists in the “democratic” West as it is being used by the RU. Stalin dealt with this question in Foundations of Leninism, while discussing the national question. He took the case of the Emir of Afghanistan of whom he said:
The struggle that the Emir of Afghanistan is waging for the independence of Afghanistan is objectively a revolutionary struggle despite the monarchist views of the Emir and his associates, for it weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism...
For the same reasons, the struggle that the Egyptian merchants and bourgeois intellectuals are waging for the independence of Egypt is objectively a revolutionary struggle, despite the bourgeois origin and bourgeois title of the leaders of the Egyptian national movement, despite the fact that they are opposed to socialism...
Lenin was right in saying that the national movement of the oppressed countries should be appraised not from the point of view of formal democracy, but from the point of view of the actual results as shown by the general balance sheet of the struggle against imperialism, that is to say, ’not in isolation but on a world scale. (FLP edition, Peking, pp.75-6)
It is true that the policies of China have a particular character due to the fact that this is a socialist country. The working class government in power carries on relationships with capitalist countries based on the principles of peaceful coexistence. In other words, they agree not to invade or meddle in each other’s internal affairs. Of course there is no reason for China to meddle in the internal affairs of any country, or use aggression against anyone else. At the same time, China does extend aid to the revolutionary forces in every country. This is a just and principled stand and nothing the Trotskyists and revisionists say can change that. The RU seems to be having trouble defending China’s stand. Perhaps that is because they are really mistaking China’s stand for their own indefensible position on the world situation.
Despite RU’s charges, we do not confuse ourselves with China. We don’t have any relations based on peaceful coexistence with any government. We don’t enter into alliances with governments of other countries. It is perfectly correct for socialist countries to make such alliances with capitalist countries to fight other capitalist countries, as in the anti-fascist war. Peaceful coexistence was never meant to apply to relations between the exploited and the exploiters nor to the relations between oppressed and oppressor nations.
The RU seems to be confusing China’s state relations with Iran (based on peaceful coexistence) with China’s resolute support for Iran’s struggle against the superpowers as part of the front against imperialism. It is the duty of people throughout the world to support the latter, not just China’s duty.
This incorrect stand explains RU’s refusal to give concrete support to the OPEC countries in their boycott of the imperialists on the oil front. That is why they refuse to reprint articles from the Hsinhua News Agency in their newspaper. That is in fact why, instead of giving real support to the Iranian people’s struggle and to the people of the Third World, they try to speak for various third world organizations in the U.S. and use them for their own factional purposes to carry out the ideological struggle in the U.S. movement. But all this unprincipled intrigue will never work.
Just as the “left”-sectarian, chauvinist lines of RU’s forerunners, Progressive Labor Party and the Communist League have been exposed before the people as “left” in form only, but rightist in essence, so the line of RU will also be exposed.
The United Front Against Imperialism is surging forward. The victories of the people against the two superpowers are mounting daily. The third world countries are joining together more strongly and scoring unprecedented victories. This is an irreversible trend of history.
The young communist movement and the party it will build must stand on the principles of proletarian internationalism. It must see itself as part of this world-wide struggle and especially work to smash imperialism right here in the U.S.
(First published in THE CALL, October, 1974)