First Published: International Correspondence, No. 3, Spring 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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EROL Introduction: On November 8th, 1980 a forum to celebrate the anniversary of the Russian Revolution was held in New York City. It had been organized by the Bolshevik League of the United States and the Bolshevik Union of Canada. A variety of other groups were invited to participate. The forum sought to organize support for an “Appeal to All Revolutionary Communists” and a future conference on the struggle against imperialist war and the tasks of communists being promoted by a number of participating organizations.
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Comrades and friends,
We have been told by the mass media that Reagan’s election was a “landslide” victory, even a so-called “Reagan revolution.” Yet a closer look at the facts shows otherwise.
Reagan won barely 51 percent of the popular vote against two supposedly more liberal candidates. This is hardly a landslide. While he piled up a huge electoral vote victory, this came in an election in which just slightly over half the eligible voters actually voted. Thus, only about one-fourth of the eligible voters voted for Reagan. Despite predictions of the closest elections in years, a lower percentage of voters turned out for this election than in any presidential election in 32 years. This was the fourth straight presidential election that voter turnout declined. Particularly absent were working class, Black, and other exploited and oppressed peoples. While the Black vote in 1976 was 11 percent of all votes, this year it was only 7 percent. Nor were the so-called “radical” middle class third parties able to capitalize on this discontent among the working class and oppressed peoples. The largest of these reformist parties, the Citizens Party, got only about one-quarter of one percent of the vote. If there was any landslide, it was a landslide of disgust and rejection of the choices given us. Though certainly not yet revolutionary, it is the continued growth of this kind of sentiment that is extremely important, and, not coincidentally, downplayed in the media.
Reagan did, of course, win a decisive victory among those who voted. This should not be surprising, since Reagan was financed by decisive sections of the financial oligarchy that rules the U.S. Although his initial backers were mainly conservative capitalists chiefly from California and the Sunbelt, the Rockefeller wing of the bourgeoisie moved into his camp as Reagan began to cinch the nomination. Their first choice, Bush, had to settle for the number two spot behind the aging Reagan. Representatives from Rockefeller-dominated institutions like the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations soon began to assume key roles, such as Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, and Caspar Weinberger.
Carter, though himself a former Trilateral Commission member, lost much of the Rockefeller’s groups’ backing to Reagan. Carter did, however, maintain support from big capitalists and many Wall Street investment bankers, including George Ball and Felix Rohatyn, both of whom defected from Anderson. As always, all the major candidates represented only the giant banks and corporations. The only choice we had was between which one would rob us for the next four years.
Actually, the winner of this election had already been chosen for us by the capitalists long before election day. As the media, which they control through stocks, commercials, and other direct and indirect means, more and more dumped on Carter, the voters were led by the hand to vote for Reagan, or at least against Carter. Also, as the capitalists decided to abandon Anderson, himself also from the Trilateral Commission, his campaign utterly collapsed. This is American democracy for you, a total fraud and deception.
Although a coalition of capitalists united behind Reagan, this does not mean they are a monolithic group. On the contrary, there are great tensions and conflicts between various capitalist groups, especially between the Rockefeller forces on the one side and others who either come from the Sunbelt or are more inclined to favor protectionism and restriction on foreign trade. Many of the latter forces have funded anti-detente groups such as the Committee on the Present Danger and the American Security Council. An example of the conflict in Reagan’s camp can be seen in what happened to Richard Allen, who had been Reagan’s chief foreign policy adviser. Allen, himself on the Committee on the Present Danger, temporarily withdrew from Reagan’s campaign because of revelations that when he was in the Nixon administration he used his position to make private business deals. Allen’s absence can only strengthen the position of the likes of Kissinger and CFR director George Shultz. It is interesting that the timing of this first Reagan administration scandal occurs just when the final selections for his advisers are to be made. We should also note that those who would know best of the deals made under Nixon by foreign policy officials would be other Nixon foreign policy officials, like, say, Henry Kissinger. In any case, this is but the first of many scandals and rivalries to come under Reagan as the capitalists behave like capitalists and as the jockeying for position among rival monopoly groups goes on.
Reagan’s victory, along with the victory of other conservatives, has been interpreted by some as a supposed “shift to the right.” This is only partially true. As is well known, many people were just fed up with Carter. Only one in ten Reagan voters cited his conservatism as a key reason for their vote. Many voters blamed Carter for the economic crisis, and felt Reagan was the lesser of the two evils, or at least could do no worse. Polls showed that two-thirds of the voters saw economic problems as a key reason for their vote.
But these factors alone do not explain the significance of Reagan’s victory. What stands out as the most significant trend of this election is that Reagan appealed to an open and strident chauvinism, and was victorious. Reagan’s platform was the most openly warmongering, promising to “Make America Great Again” and achieve military superiority in the world. He hailed the Vietnam war as a “noble cause” to build support for similar wars in the future. Reagan gave unequivocal support to the bloody expansionism of the Israeli Zionists, and announced he would bolster support to right-wing military and fascist regimes from Latin America to South Africa to South Korea and Taiwan. Reagan’s whole campaign was geared to preparing public support for imperialist war.
While Carter and Anderson, too, ran on war platforms of more military spending and stepped up U.S. military moves to grab Middle East oil, Reagan’s jingoism was the loudest and least disguised. It was chiefly because the majority of the U.S. bourgeoisie thought Reagan the best to lead preparations for war that they backed him. And it was Reagan who most successfully mobilized this pre-war, pro-war sentiment. According to a recent poll, two-thirds of the voters wanted the U.S. to be tougher with Russia, even, in the wording of the poll, if it increased the risk of war.
Besides his well-known support for almost unlimited military spending, Reagan’s whole platform calls for greater militarization of the whole society. His economic plans call for reduced government spending in every area but the military. Reagan wants an even greater acceleration of the arms race. The MX missile system, supported by both Carter and Reagan, would require the largest construction project in the world. It could cost well over $100 billion, and needs 9000 miles of roadways, the equivalent of one-quarter of all U.S. highways. This is what the capitalists mean when they talk of “re-industrialization.” Reagan’s proposed massive tax cuts and reduction of government spending will only mean reduced jobs and services for the working class and oppressed peoples. We will be the real ones to pay the cost for Reagan’s plans for war and to have the government guarantee even greater profits for the capitalists.
Just like Carter, Reagan will cater to virtually every wish of the oil companies. At the same time, he would re-introduce legalized discrimination by making a lower minimum wage for Black, Puerto Rican, and other oppressed nationality youth. As for the trade unions, Reagan sees them as reliable tools of the capitalists in whipping the working class into line. Reagan’s aide George Shultz, along with many other ruling class leaders, wants to set up so-called tripartite committees of representatives of the corporations, the unions, and government. These committees would try to enforce class peace by squashing strikes, getting workers to accept speed-up and other attacks, directly subordinating the trade unions even more to the capitalist class and its state apparatus. This approach was outlined some years back in a report for the Trilateral Commission. It foreshadows the kind of measures that will be increasingly taken by the government and the unions to strangle the workers’ movement in the face of growing preparations for war.
Reagan’s platform of war preparations is not the result of some blind, ideological belligerence. True, he has become the maestro for a vile chorus of chauvinism. His election is being taken as a signal to intensify attacks against the working class, the oppressed peoples, and working women. But all the flag-waving and arrogant pronouncements of so-called “Christian values” are not the motivation for this. On the contrary, the chauvinist hysteria is to build support for the war preparations by the American, Christian, pro-apple pie and motherhood capitalist class. Reagan is now their chief political representative, and thus the one chosen to lead the charge.
To win the election, Reagan, of course, had to insist that he was against war. It is typical of all capitalist politicians to plead they are for peace while planning for war. Woodrow Wilson was reelected in 1916 during the first world war around the hypocritical slogan, “He kept us out of war.” Five months later the U.S. entered the bloody contest to redivide the world. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson said he would never wage a major war in Vietnam. “Never” lasted only a few months, also. It was no accident that the issue of war was so pronounced in this campaign.
Reagan’s war preparations are not the mere quirk of some extreme right-winger. Carter, with his draft registration, the establishment of rapid deployment forces for the Middle East and the Caribbean, and plans for a limited nuclear war, also ran on a war platform. The reason they both emphasized active war preparations is that the system they represent has no other solution to the crisis it is in than war.
The entire imperialist system is in a dire economic crisis. A crisis of overproduction, known popularly as a recession, that began in the U.S., Canada, and Britain, has spread to France, West Germany, and even to Japan. Unemployment in Britain is now over 2 million, the highest since the 1930’s. The phoney “socialist” countries, like Russia, China, and their various allies, which are really revisionist, state capitalist countries, are also being hit by economic crisis and slowdowns in industry and agriculture. Hardest hit among the revisionist countries has been Poland. The severe economic crisis there and the attempts by the government to cut the living standards of the Polish workers and peasants to pay back the $20 billion in debts owed to Western banks led to the recent strike wave in Poland.
The imperialists are trying to shift this crisis not only onto the backs of their own workers, but especially onto the colonial, semi-colonial, and dependent countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. For years they have milked these countries for superprofits by exploiting cheap labor and grabbing their raw materials. They have forced usurious loans from private banks and supposedly public international agencies like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Repaying these loans, plus the enforced backwardness of the economies of these countries, has resulted in a tremendous inflation there. Brazil, which is supposedly so economically strong, has a 97 percent inflation rate. Mexico, supposedly so stable since its oil boom, has a 27 percent inflation rate. The debts owed by these oppressed countries are well over $300 billion. They need to borrow such vast sums just to pay back their old debts that they are heading soon for a disastrous financial collapse. At the same time, international bank loans are already over $1 trillion. Thus, according to a June speech by David Rockefeller to the International Monetary Conference, “international spending is nearing its limit.” This means that the imperialists, especially those of the weaker economies such as the U.S. and Britain, must turn from the old methods of refinancing loans to the even older methods of enforcing austerity to guarantee loan repayment by sending in the troops to carry the booty home if need be.
All these economic problems are further complicated by the incessant world-wide inflation. This inflation is built into the system which today stays afloat on a mountain of debt, all to be repaid with interest, of course. Originally inflationary policies were supposed to stimulate the economy by stimulating demand. Yet instead of solving the economic crisis, inflation has actually cut the living standards of the working class, and thus intensified the crisis. Today there is both high inflation and high unemployment. Reducing one means increasing the other, and the end result is a further deepening of the capitalist crisis.
As Marx and Engels pointed out long ago in the Communist Manifesto, the bourgeoisie gets over its crises “by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by eliminating the means whereby crises are prevented.”
On top of all this is the world-wide scramble for oil. The U. S. oil companies and their vassals in OPEC have engineered one phoney “oil crisis” after another to get higher prices and astronomical profits. Exxon set a record for profits in 1979 with more than $4 billion. They have already surpassed that for the first 9 months of 1980. The imperialists need more oil, both for industry and war, and even greater profits to explore in more places.
At the same time, U.S. industry in particular is declining miserably. U.S. plants are older and more inefficient than those of Western Europe and Japan. The U.S. imperialists are finding it harder to compete in the world market and their share of world trade has been declining. They are desperately in need of new markets. They must quickly get new sources of investment that will return very high profits, lest they sink deeper into decline. They especially strive to exploit the cheap labor in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where profits are on the average five times higher than in the U.S.
All these crises lead to an even sharper political crisis in each imperialist country. As the economic pie shrinks, the various monopoly groups vie for greater political power. In Canada, the various sections of the bourgeoisie are fighting over economic questions like the price of oil from Western Canada’s vast oil reserves. Unable to agree on a constitution, the break-up of Canada is a real possibility. In the U.S., the seeds of a similar situation are developing. Oil-rich Alaska passed a proposition this September calling for a commission to suggest altering Alaska’s statehood status to the U.S. This was largely in reaction to a federal bill pushed by Carter keeping 100 million acres of Alaska wilderness off-limits for oil exploration. An August 7 New York Times editorial warned of an “energy war between the states,” pitting energy-producing states versus energy-consuming states. This crisis can only heat up as the capitalist economy further collapses.
The combination of cyclical crises of overproduction with all the other economic and political crises means that capitalism, imperialism, is not passing through a partial or temporary crisis. On the contrary, the entire capitalist system is gripped by an all-round general crisis. The overproduction crisis takes place on the basis of this general crisis. The multiplicity of crises and their gravity mean that there will be no boom following this recession, but, at best, stagnation. The capitalist economists only hint at this when they tell us there will be a “slow recovery.”
The imperialists can only try to solve their economic and political problems through expansion. But herein lies the problem. Since roughly the beginning of the twentieth century, the entire world has been divided up among a handful of so-called “great” powers. Grabbing new areas for investments, markets, and sources of raw materials thus means re-dividing the world. Sometimes that can be done more or less “peacefully,” through loans, trade alliances, etc. Once in a while an imperialist can oust a rival in an election in a semicolonial or dependent country. This was recently done in Jamaica. The pro-Russian and pro-Cuban regime of Manley had bucked the I.M.F. and said it would not repay its debts. The election that replaced him with the American stooge Seaga was really a bloody campaign of terror, murder and intimidation.
Yet ultimately, even such measures are not enough. The worsening economic crisis is forcing the imperialists to seek a radical redivision of the world soon. This cannot be accomplished by treaties, negotiations, and other peaceful means. It can only be accomplished by force, by war.
Thus Reagan’s war preparations are part of the general war preparations being taken by the imperialists to redivide the world. The war they are planning will be an imperialist war, a war to see which set of robbers will plunder which set of countries. It will be an unjust war which the working class and oppressed peoples have absolutely no stake in supporting. It will be a war to see which countries’ oil companies will dominate the Middle East, which banks can strangle the poorest countries with their vampire loans, and which corporations can run sweatshops in which countries. All the chauvinism, all the “love America” crap, is designed to hide the predatory, imperialist nature of this coming war. These are the vicious, capitalist aims that they will send the working people of so many different countries to slaughter each other for.
Reagan’s plan of a North America Common Market must thus be seen in the light of war preparations. The US will not sit idly by while Canada, in which the US owns about half the economy, breaks up. It is not hard to imagine Reagan coming up with some pretext to invade Canada if U.S. interests, especially access to oil, were threatened. Similarly, the government of Mexico wants no part of such a scheme. Yet Reagan has taken an openly warmongering stance in regard to the Caribbean, and is likely to invade any country in which Russian interests gain. This would be to guarantee the oil routes to the U.S. which run through the Caribbean, and to grab more of Mexico’s oil. An invasion of Mexico itself, no doubt to supposedly “protect” it, cannot be ruled out. It would not be the first US invasion and annexation of Mexican territory.
Reagan’s prescriptions of a “tough” stance in the Middle East are all too obviously plans for a war for oil. Another key area for Reagan’s war plans is Asia. He wants a permanent Indian Ocean fleet, along with bolstered military support of militarist regimes like those in South Korea and the Philippines. Southeast Asia, described by the Washington Post as “a high growth, low-risk market,” provides both oil and an enormous pool of cheap labor enforced by dictatorial regimes. Yet the Russians, the Japanese, and the Chinese are trying to move in at the expense of the U.S. The Russian-backed Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia is a prelude to greater confrontations. Asia, along with the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean, are all key points where the two imperialist blocs led by the U.S. and Russia are squaring off.
The U.S. and Russia are not the only imperialists preparing for a war to redivide the world. Military buildups by Britain, France, Japan, and others show the bankruptcy of the “two superpowers” theory that sees these countries as less aggressive or even progressive. The economic contradictions within the U.S.-led alliance and NATO could blow it apart, with France and West Germany pursuing their own predatory aims more independently. Such a development would not lessen the danger of war, but only heighten capitalism’s general crisis and overall rivalry for world hegemony.
A key focus of war preparations is the oil-rich Middle East. The September 20 New York Times says, “Almost one-fifth of the Army’s active divisions, one-third of the Marine Corps, half the Navy’s carrier battle groups on patrol and a variety of Air Force wings have been allocated to the effort. This means strength hitherto committed to Europe would be diverted.”
In light of this, the Iran-Iraq war must be seen not just as a regional power struggle, but as an important step to World War Three. The imperialist powers are involved on both sides of this war. They are sending in massive arms and exploiting the situation for their own parasitic interests to gain uncontested control of the oil in the Middle East. The war also involves a rivalry between Iran and Iraq as to which national bourgeoisie will be the regional strongman. It is a reactionary, unjust war, against the interests of both the Iranian and Iraqi workers and peasants. The workers and peasants of both these countries must work for the defeat of their own government, and use the crisis of the war to work to overthrow their own ruling class.
War, as we have shown, is thus an inevitable outgrowth of the system of imperialism. All dreams of peace, disarmament, and preventing war while maintaining this system are only dangerous illusions. These illusions disarm the proletariat and divert it from the only solution to ending the slaughter of imperialist war, that is, proletarian revolution and socialism.
When the war comes, it will most likely at first be supported by the proletariat, who will get swept away with patriotic and chauvinist hysteria. Yet as the war drags on and as the bloodshed continues, the proletariat will more and more question in whose interest the carnage is. The real possibilities of revolutionary crisis will emerge. There will be a real possibility for the proletariat to rise up and transform the imperialist war into a civil war to overthrow its “own” bourgeoisie.
This is precisely what happened during World War One in Russia. In 1917, 63 years ago, the Russian workers and peasants, led by the Bolshevik Party, transformed that imperialist war into a civil war and overthrew their bourgeoisie. They proceeded to build a peaceful and prosperous socialist society ruled by Soviets, the council of workers and peasants that took state power in the October Revolution. In the 1930’s, when the entire capitalist world was devastated by the Great Depression, the Soviet economy continued to expand and provide jobs, food, housing, and security for the masses. Although capitalism has since been restored, the Russian workers will one day rise up again and re-establish socialism. This can be seen in the wave of sentiment and the mass underground distribution of photos of Comrade Stalin that is presently sweeping Russia. Many Russian workers desire a return to the socialism of Lenin and Stalin, and an overthrow of the crisis-ridden imperialism of Khrushchev and Brezhnev. The seeds of such a new revolution can also be seen in other revisionist countries. The recent strike wave in Poland not only revealed a reactionary, pro-West and pro-Vatican tendency in the workers’ movement, but also a tendency that targeted its enemy as the “red bourgeoisie.”
To transform the coming imperialist war into a civil war, we must thus follow the path of the October Revolution. Yet what chiefly hinders the proletariat from following this course today is the unpreparedness of the working class, the dominance of opportunism among the so-called communists, and the absence of a vanguard proletarian party modeled after the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Stalin.
This lack of preparedness was not always the case. In World War One, when the majority of the Second International supported the imperialist war, Lenin led the building of an internationalist trend opposed to imperialist war and preparing for proletarian revolution. In 1915, an international socialist conference in Zimmerwald, Switzerland, was held against the war. Lenin led the left wing of that conference, which issued the famous Zimmerwald Left manifesto to the international proletariat. These Lefts became the embryo for the Communist International. These events, along with the October Revolution itself, had great impact on the U.S. working class. Contrary to the usual anti-working class myths, large numbers of U.S. workers opposed the imperialist war. Revolutionary working class leaders like Big Bill Haywood, Eugene Debs, and Charles Ruthenberg, despite constant arrests and government raids, led huge rallies of workers against the war and in support of the Bolshevik Revolution. The Seattle general strike in 1919 consciously opposed and prevented shipment of arms and supplies by the U.S. to support the counter-revolutionary forces trying to crush the young Soviet Republic. This is the rich, revolutionary tradition of our working class, a tradition we must popularize and promote.
Yet the exact opposite happened during the Vietnam War. Despite massive opposition by the working class and Black and other oppressed peoples, protest was stifled by the trade union bureaucrats and the national-reformist so-called “Black leaders.” The hopelessly petty-bourgeois peace movement also assisted in keeping the working class politically impotent. This was an example of the treachery of social-pacifism.
It is on the question of war that the vile treachery of the false “communists” stands out most clearly. Most are really social-chauvinists, who openly support one or another imperialist bloc. These include the supporters of the theory of “three worlds” who support NATO and China’s military escapades. Also social-chauvinists are the various supporters of Russian imperialism, who applaud each expansion of the Russian empire from Angola to Grenada to Afghanistan.
More dangerous than these open warmongers are the centrists who cover their social-chauvinism with Leninist-sounding phrases. A leader of the centrist trend is the Party of Labour of Albania. The PLA promotes social-pacifism by claiming war is not inevitable under imperialism. They falsely use the good name of Comrade Stalin to spread this myth. Yet Stalin clearly stated in Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, “To eliminate the inevitability of war, it is necessary to abolish imperialism.” Despite the PLA’s pacifist slogans, its support of Iran in its war with Iraq shows its real warmongering stance. The PLA hails the reactionary Islamic movement, and jails for defense of the Iranian “revolution.” The truth is that the Iranian revolution has been sold out end reversed. The supposedly “revolutionary” regime of Khomeini has tried to smash the workers’ and peasants’ councils, the Soviets of Iran, to crush the oppressed nationalities, and re-enslave women with feudal laws. Defense of this counter-revolution is actually defense of the Iranian bourgeoisie and landowners against the Iranian workers and peasants.
Not coincidentally, pro-gang of four Maoists like the US Revolutionary Communist Party also support Iran. The RCP supports a complete return to the line of Mao, which was so often similar to that of the PLA. But Maoism is just as treacherous and just as revisionist as Hoxhaism. Again, this is especially clear on the question of war. In 1957 and 1960, both Mao’s CPC and the PLA signed statements with the Khrushchevite revisionists calling for “peace.” In 1963, the CPC’s “General Line,” which supposedly demarcated from Khrushchev and supposedly was the basis for an international program, mentions nothing about the need for the proletariat to transform the imperialist war to a civil war. These and other documents argued that a third world war could indefinitely be prevented even while imperialism still exists. The CPC’s treachery became clearer after Mao initiated the alliance with the US and Nixon in the midst of the Vietnam War. In 1971, Mao’s CPC also supported Pakistan in its bloody war with India, again taking the same side as US imperialism. This is what you pro-gang of four-ites want to go back to? Thank you, no!
But there is more to these Maoists than this. They merely play with rebellion by anarchistic, adventurist acts that only lead the working class to slaughter. By promoting New Left antics like egg and paint throwing, and suicidal melodramas like in Greensboro, they only bring down more repression on the working class and provoke confrontations at the most inopportune times. CWP has even raised the slogan of “Payback,” which they openly say means revenge. RCP has carried out numerous similar adventures as CWP. By bowing to the spontaneous indignation of these frenzied, petty-bourgeois intellectuals who have failed to influence the working class, these opportunists help keep the working class paralyzed.
To be able to carry out our internationalist tasks in the coming war, to actually take the path of the October Revolution, we need a Bolshevik Party. The task of rebuilding the internationalist trend has already been begun by the International Bolshevik Conference that issued the “Appeal to All Revolutionary Communists.” All truly revolutionary Communists and class-conscious workers must take a stand on the “Appeal” and must actively carry its internationalist message far and wide. Those groups who oppose the “Appeal” do so because they oppose Leninism, because they oppose real internationalism, and because they are servants of imperialism.
It is true that our forces are young and small. The Bolshevik League this weekend celebrates only its first anniversary. Yet though small, the international Bolshevik trend is growing daily in many parts of the world, in both imperialist countries and colonial and semi-colonial countries.
Similarly, when the vast majority of leaders of the Second International supported the imperialist war, the internationalists were also a small minority among those who called themselves Marxists. In his lecture “War and the Workers,” Lenin answered the pessimists and demoralizers this way:
“We are told, ’Things seem to be asleep in a number of countries. In Germany all the socialists are unanimously in favour of the war; only Liebknecht is opposed to it.’ To this I reply: This one Liebknecht represents the working class; in him alone, in his adherents, in the German proletariat, lies the hopes of all.”
Comrades and friends, this, too, is the course we are pledged to follow.
WORKERS OF ALL COUNTRIES AND OPPRESSED PEOPLES, UNITE!
TRANSFORM THE COMING IMPERIALIST WAR INTO A CIVIL WAR!
LONG LIVE BOLSHEVISM!