First Published: Marxist-Leninist Quarterly, Vol. I, No. 2, no date 
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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A man may perish by the sword, yet no man draws the sword to perish, but to live by it. – Janes Harrington, A System of Politics, VII, I
The Kennedy Administration came to power with a program of reversing the world relationship of forces, which has increasingly been favorable to socialism; only the naive and deluded failed to perceive the hare’ foreign policy line laid down between the flashy campaign phrases and pompous declarations of concern for the peoples’ welfare. In the last year or so Kennedy has carried U.S. policy over to the offensive and has scored a few significant victories against the forces of peace, socialism, and national liberation. During the Eisenhower years U.S. imperialism, which then as now fought to establish, preserve, and extend the areas of the world subject to its exploitation, reeled under a series of blows inflicted by the forces of national liberation and socialism; it responded brutally and dangerously to those blows but remained off balance. Kennedy took power determined to regroup the imperialist forces and to roll back the national liberation and socialist forces by means of an integrated and many-sided counter-offensive.
To grasp the significance of this new turn and to prepare to defeat imperialism’s hopes an’:1 plans will re quire a frank and unflinching look at Kennedy’s strategy and tactics and at the present divisions in the world Communist camp. The fate of the world and of our hopes for peace rest on the ability of the peoples of the world to stay the hand of the aggressors; that ability, in turn, rests on the restoration of unity and clarity in the international workingclass movement, of which the Communist movement is the core. The editors of MLQ, in consultation with the National Coordinating Committee of the Progressive Labor Movement, present the following theses, which we shall proceed to elaborate upon and which we hope will provide a basis for wider discussion among socialists and other opponents of war and imperialism.
1. The forces of socialism are, on a world scale, stronger than the forces of capitalism – “The East Wind prevails over the West Wind.” Socialist victories in China, Eastern Europe, and Cuba have immensely strengthened the forces fighting to bury capitalism everywhere in the world. The revolutions in the colonies have weakened imperialism and intensified the general crisis of twentieth-century capitalism. In particular, China and Cuba have given a special character to the onward march of the national liberation movements by demonstrating the limits of bourgeois-nationalist leadership and the possibilities for transforming anti-imperialist revolutions into socialist ones.
2. The new relationship of force represents the fundamental threat to imperialism in general and to U.S. imperialism in particular, but in addition, the latter faces a growing threat of another character – the decline of the U.S. economy within the capitalist world. To deal with this decline and especially with the pressure of Franco-German competition, as well as with the economic competition from the socialist world, Kennedy continues to rely on the traditional policy of market expansion, but is more determined than ever to use political and even military means to destroy the socialist and national-liberation forces and thereby deal with all facets of the general crisis more or less simultaneously.
3. To reverse the world relationship of forces the Administration is mounting a six-pronged counter-offensive against the peoples of the world, under cover of the awesome threat of nuclear war.
4. Divisions in the world Communist movement threaten to open the way for imperialist advances. The resurgence of revisionism, especially in the form of Tito-ist ideology, which has struck deep roots in many Communist parties, endangers the cause of peace and socialism by fostering debilitating and disarming illusions and by undermining the peoples’ will to engage in revolutionary struggle.
5. In the United States the struggle for peace has become inseparable from the struggle for socialism, not in the sense that every peace fighter mush show socialist credentials but in the sense that socialists must take every opportunity to expose the source of the war danger – capitalism – and to organize the people to destroy it.
Ours has been a century of revolutions, the most important of which have been the Russian, Chinese, and Cuban. The Russian Revolution, and its subsequent consolidation by the invincible Soviet peoples against seemingly insurmountable imperialist onslaughts, presented the working people of the world with their first great victory over capitalist exploitation, imperialism, and war. The Chinese Revolution, the triumph of which was paid for by three decades of bloodshed by workers, peasants, and intellectuals, marked the decisive turning point in the struggle against capitalism, for it brought more than 600,000,000 people into the socialist orbit and demonstrated the utter futility of imperialism’s dreams of containment and counter-revolutionary stabilization. The Cuban Revolution – in the words of Raul Castro: “Cuba is a small country with a big revolution” – did more than add another former victim of imperialism to the camp of revolutionary socialism: it destroyed the myth of United States invincibility in the Western Hemisphere.
Side by side with these and other socialist revolutions have been numerous anti-imperialist, nationalist revolutions. They have produced regime’s with varying merits and degrees of promise but have al] weakened imperialism appreciably. In most cases the opportunities for imperialist economic plunder have been greatly reduced or removed altogether by peoples unwilling to tolerate governments that mortgage their countries to foreign capitalists. Even where the imperialists have retreated under the most favorable circumstances and left behind collaborationist regimes (e.g., Gabon, Cameroun, Congo-Brazzaville, Philippines), the people have taken steps forward and are in a much stronger position to fight; for genuine independence. That all collaborationists have to pretend to be nationalists and anti-imperialists and that most have to pretend to be socialists demonstrate the extent to which anti-imperialism and socialism have taken root among the masses.
At the end of World War II, U.S. imperialism appeared destined to dominate the world for the next half century. The U.S.S.R. was bled white, with almost 20,000,000 dead; the U.S. imperialists alone had the terrible atomic bomb; the emerging revolutionary movements of Western Europe had to face an American army of occupation; the prospects for a bourgeois restoration in Soviet-occupied Eastern Europe were by no means remote; the corrupt Koumintang regime, massively reinforced by U.S. arms and money, prepared to put an end to the Communist insurgency; and everywhere else United States power was manifest and ascendant. “The American Century – thus spoke the bourgeois press as it contemplated an American hegemony that would dwarf the British hegemony of a previous era.
It was not to be. In 1946, when Truman brandished the atomic bomb and brazenly intervened in the Chinese civil war, Mao Tse-tung confidently predicted a Communist victory and contemptuously described U.S. imperialism and the atomic bomb as “paper tigers.” Mao and his party did not underestimate, and do not now underestimate, either U.S. power or the fearful potential of advanced weaponry. They understood, and today understand, that the paper tiger does indeed “have nuclear teeth.” They call the tiger “paper” not to deny that it can bite but to deny that it is invincible. An aroused, armed, determined people would defeat imperialism, Mao argued, and the Chinese people were aroused, armed, and determined.
It is no secret that many in the Chinese Communist Party, in the world movement, and in the U.S.S.R. so feared the power of the imperialists that they tried to push the C.C.P. into what would have been a disastrous “compromise” with Chiang. Then as now, many loyal and personally heroic Communists overestimated the enemy and failed to appreciate that his antagonism to the masses was a fatal weakness. The primary lesson of the postwar era is the invincibility of the socialist camp when it is united on a program of class struggle and when it relies on arousing tens of millions rather than on bureaucratic backroom dealing. Waging class struggle means many things – armed conflict, economic rivalry between countries, negotiations, and even retreats – but above all it means bringing the people everywhere into conscious efforts to destroy their oppressors.
When the Kennedy Administration assumed the leadership of U.S. imperialism, it indicated its determination to reverse the world relationship of forces and also to reverse the relative decline of the United States within the imperialist camp. For U.S. imperialism the crisis is a double one. The breakup of the colonial empires and the advance of socialism and national liberation – dramatically demonstrated by the Cuban Revolution, which also has been led by those who turned away from the pleas of the faint-hearted not to “provoke” the United States by raising the socialist banner – presents a continuing and long-range threat to the life of the capitalist system. The resurgence of French and West German capitalism presents an ominous and immediate threat to U.S. domination of the imperialist bloc.
Kennedy’s strategy for dealing with this double crisis has not been unusual; in fact, it has been ordinary, even trite. Only the style of demagogy offers something new. Kennedy has stepped up the Cold War and resorted to crisis-manufacturing, at the risk of unleashing a nuclear holocaust, in order to meet both crises at once.
His aims are clear: to demonstrate that the U.S.S.R. can be made to retreat before nuclear blackmail; to convince the peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin America that the socialist camp will not defend them against U.S. attacks and pressures; to force economic and political concessions from the West Europeans under the excuse of rising international tension; and thus to make the underdeveloped countries, and even the advanced capitalist countries, safe for American capital.
Kennedy has not, as some misguided leftists thought he would, tried to solve the economic problems of the United States – a lagging growth rate, chronic unemployment, shrinking markets, and a decline relative to the U.S.S.R. and some capitalist countries as well – by popular “welfare state” measures and a peaceful trade policy toward the socialist bloc. Quite the contrary! He knows what some professed Marxists cannot seem to understand – that Capitalism has no “progressive” way out of its general crisis. He has instead resorted to measures to step up capital exports, in various pleasant disguises, push his friends and allies out of their traditional spheres of influence – the Congo-Leopoldville is merely the most blatant case – and reestablish a commanding position on the European continent, principally by using Britain as a stalking horse in the Common Market.
Politically, these measures have had their counterpart in a policy, manifested during the Cuban missile crisis of October-November 1962, that tells the allies to be prepared to line up behind any U.S. actions, no matter how perilous, without prior agreement. “I was informed; I was not consulted,” said DeGaulle when asked if he had known of Kennedy’s plans. In its policy statement entitled The Rising Danger of Nuclear War: The Cuban Missile Crisis and Its Aftermath, the National Coordinating Committee of the Progressive Labor Movement said that Kennedy had opted for a go-it-alone policy that would brook no interference from his allies. We see no reason to dissent from that view, but perhaps the statement ought to have emphasized that it is one thing for Kennedy to will a policy and quite another thing to make it stand up. DeGaulle’s veto of British entry into the Common Market and the other much discussed strains in NATO make clear that Kennedy can implement his arrogant policy only temporarily, when he is prepared to threaten the world with war. He does not and cannot have the power to overcome rivalries in the imperialist camp. On the contrary, his very recklessness, while producing a united imperialist front for the moment, only drives the other bourgeois powers to pursue policies promising some protection against future adventures. Kennedy’s real hope for reestablishment of undisputed U.S. domination of the imperialist camp and for braking the: developing political crisis within that camp rests on his ability to smash the peoples’ movements around the world and to strengthen U.S. capitalism’s position on the world market by effecting a rising rate of exploitation at home and abroad.
Specifically, he is trying to put American business on a firmer competitive basis by a tax relief policy designed to promote automation and cut costs and by an ostensibly anti-inflationary policy that means little more than holding down the wage level. The foreign counterpart of this policy is subjugation of the Common Market to U.S. interests and a general offensive designed to make the underdeveloped countries accept U.S. capital on exploitative terms. If Kennedy could inflict severe defeats on the socialist camp and rough up recalcitrants in the underdeveloped countries with impunity, he would simultaneously improve his bargaining position vis-a-vis the French, Germans, and others.
Naturally, his allies are resisting; even more naturally, the peoples of the world are resisting. Kennedy’s sophisticated new look will not help him: the demand of the peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin America for a twentieth-century standard of living, as well as for peace and freedom, will not be turned aside, whatever short-run victories the imperialists are able to achieve; the socialist camp, despite its present divisions and uncertainties, will not be split decisively and overcome piecemeal; and the American working class, which so many superficial observers are quick to write off as “corrupt,” gives no indication that it can be made to carry the overhead costs of Kennedy’s Grand Design.
Various forces are thwarting Kennedy’s attempts to step up capital exports and secure new markets. The new postcolonial regimes are demanding that foreign capital accept restrictions and that they be guaranteed less exploitative terms; even the collaborationist-led states are taking advantage of cold war tensions to secure better terms from the imperialists. The expansion of the socialist camp to include Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, and North Viet Nam has removed these areas from imperialist penetration altogether. French and German capital are now strong enough to compete with U.S. capital in Western Europe and, increasingly, on a world scale. To make matters worse for imperialism generally and for U.S. imperialism in particular, the socialist camp has reached the point where it can grant aid and credits to enable weak countries to keep out of the imperialist orbit and is approaching the point of direct competition with capitalism on the world market.
In order to reverse the world relationship of forces, which favor socialism and freedom, U.S. imperialism has been carefully organizing a counter-offensive. Its strategy is to split the socialist camp from the national liberation movements; to split the socialist camp itself, if possible along racial lines; and to roll back the forces of socialism and national liberation, far enough to permit their isolation and eventual destruction. The three principal tactics are nuclear blackmail, which rests on a domestic policy of massive arm:, buildup and “first-strike” capability; local and limited wars to check and push back the socialist and national liberation movements; and repressive measures at home and abroad to terrorize the people into silence and acquiescence. As Kennedy demonstrated in the Cuban crisis, he is ready to threaten all-out nuclear war in order to wrest concessions from his opponents. Despite the easing of the Cuban crisis the world is closer to nuclear war than ever before. Until the imperialists are disabused of the notion that they can impose their will be threatening nuclear war, they can be relied upon to escalate each new crisis by raising the same spectre.
The six prongs of the imperialist counter-offensive are:
1) Preserve Africa for imperialist exploitation. The imperialist powers have retreated in Africa with considerable skill and duplicity. First, they balked the hopes of men like Lumumba, Nkrumah, Toure, and Keita for unity. Africa has been effectively “Balkanized” – i.e., instead of two or three large, viable states or regional federations, an enormous number of small, poor, unviable or barely viable states have emerged. In some instances, these states are led by nationalists who,, whatever their vacillations and opportunism, have demonstrated genuine anti-imperialist principles (e.g., Ghana, Guinea, Mali); in other instances, they are led by the vilest collaborationists and imperialist lackeys (e.g., Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville); between the two groups are a great many states led by men who play the imperialists’ game, although not without some degree of independence (e.g., Nigeria, Upper Volta, Sudan). Each of the new African states has produced its own bureaucracy, privileged strata, and propertied classes with vested interests in African disunity and exploitation of the people, and most of these states have powerful groups favoring some kind of accommodation with imperialism.
The many-sided African drama has been acted out with particular intensity in the Congo-Leopoldville. In the contending forces there we can see a representation of the contending forces in Africa as a whole: Lumumba, Gizenga, and Gbenye, representing the principles of economic as well as political independence, national unity and centralization, and all-African solidarity; Tshombe and Muonongo, representing the Anglo-Belgian interests around the Union Miniere syndicate and the cynical aspirations of elite African participation in the imperialists’ degradation of their country; Mubuto, Bomboko, and Kasavubu, representing the “outs” among the would-be elite and serving as agents of U.S. economic and political penetration; and Adoula, the classic liberal man-in-the-middle, trying to compromise the irreconcilable and increasingly becoming a tool of the pro-U.S. cabal.
The African peoples, including the Congolese, face immense difficulties and struggles on the road to genuine independence, but despite setbacks, traps, and betrayals their forward march has been magnificent. The present struggles in the Rhodesias, South Africa, Angola, and Mozambique indicate that a new revolutionary upsurge is beginning, and the Algerian revolution promises impressive new developments. Viewed against the conditions of ten years ago, the African achievement has been breath-taking, but the ferocity of the imperialist counter-attack, in which the United States is playing a greater and greater role, cannot be ignored.
The murder of Lumumba; the subjugation of Katanga not by rallying the Congolese people but by U.S.-sponsored U.N. intervention; the organization of the Monrovia bloc of powers willing to come to terms with imperialism; the continuing French pre-eminence in the French-speaking sub-Saharan republics;; the bloody suppression of democratic forces in Cameroun and the assassination of Cameoun’s leading progressive, Felix Moumie; the breakup of the; Mali Federation – all these, not to mention South Africa, Rhodesia, Mozambique, and Angola, indicate the determination of imperialism to cheat the African peoples of the fruits of independence. The Congo-Leopoldvi11e alone represents a major triumph for Kennedy, although it can be safely predicted that it will be a major triumph reduced to ashes before many years have passed.
2) Hold the line in Southeast Asia. Imperialist policy in Southeast Asia has taken a more bellicose and adventurist turn in the last year. First, Kennedy and McNamara responded to the remarkable restraint and patience of the socialist camp and the Laotian Left during the negotiations for a coalition regime – remember that the pro;-imperialist forces had been disgraced and routed in the field – by immediately escalating the war in South Viet Nam. McNamara admits that 11,000 troops are in action there with orders to shoot first, that special air and naval units are supporting the reactionaries, and so forth, Whatever the outcome of the current wave of criticism of these actions by Senators and others who recognize a rat-hole when they see one, the Administration is clearly intent on fighting to the bitter end against every popular advance in Southeast Asia.
The British, simultaneously, are moving to engulf the powerful national, liberation and socialist movements of Singapore and Brunei in a Federation of Malaysia, constructed to guarantee the predominance of the reactionary elements in Malaya. A federation under imperialist auspices would threaten Indonesia and anchor the holding operation in Viet Nam. Unfortunately for the imperialists, the Brunei insurrection, the cynical Filipino claims to North Borneo, the protests of the Indonesian government, and the rising opposition of the popular forces within the federation cast grave doubts over its future.
Perhaps most important, U.S. imperialism has taken long strides forward in India, The near-collapse of the of the Indian economy, long admitted by even the most sympathetic American economists, has thrown Nehru and his bourgeois nationalist regime into Kennedy’s arms. The facts of the Sino-Indian border dispute have been laid bare in a number of journals, notably Progressive Labor, Monthly Review, and the National Guardian, and need not be reviewed here. The Sino-Indian border war has been greeted warmly in Washington and has no doubt strengthened, for the time being, reactionary power in India. At the same time, the remarkable performance of the Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army has sobered up both Washington and New Delhi, at least to the: point where they can have no illusions about the outcome of a full-scale war, should Nehru be stupid enough to start one. The Sino-Pakistan agreement and the principled response of Burma, Ceylon, Nepal, and Cambodia to the hostilities have dashed imperialist hopes for a wave of anti-Chinese sentiment across the region.
On balance, it cannot be denied that U.S. imperialism has made some important gains by strengthening its position in India, pressing forward its plans for a Federation of Malaysia, and demonstrating that it will exact a high and bloody price for anti-imperialist advances in Viet Nam.
3) Crush the Cuban Revolution. The Cuban crisis of October-November 1962, as the National Coordinating Committee of the Progressive Labor Movement statement in our last issue said, was over socialism, not missiles. U.S. imperialism has its largest investments in Latin America, which are endangered by the very existence of the revolutionary Cuban regime. So long as Cuba stands, the peoples of Latin America can see a brilliant example of the truth that U.S. imperialism is a paper tiger, that it can be defeated, that workers and peasants can triumph over its vaunted power.
Last year’s crisis and its aftermath have revealed Kennedy’s aims If possible, he means to wear down the revolutionary regime by economic aggression, sabotage and internal disorder; if necessary, he means to invade the island and crush the regime by external force. The crisis also revealed Kennedy’s broader aims: to use nuclear blackmail to force Soviet retreats and to demonstrate to small countries that the U.S.S.R. will not go to war to protect them – i.e., that they must capitulate before U.S. pressure or be smashed.
This policy has had some positive results for Kennedy. Premier Khrushchev’s crude treatment of the Cuban regime during the 1962 missile crisis dealt a serious blow to the principle of proletarian internationalism and played into the hands of those who have been slandering the Cubans as Soviet lackeys. (Soviet economic pressure to try to force Albania and China into ideological line has dealt another heavy blow to that principle and has given the enemies of socialism valuable ammunition.)
More dangerously, the Soviet leadership has responded to U.S. nuclear threats by allowing itself to be drawn into nuclear gamesmanship in which nuclear weapons instead of mass political movements become the major factor, The confidence of the majority of the world’s peoples in the Soviet determination to fight for peace remains unshaken, but confidence in the willingness of the Soviet leadership to rely on mass movements instead of poker games in which hydrogen bombs and missiles are the chips has been badly shaken. The peace cannot be protected unless the peoples of the: world are rallied against imperialism; therefore, to shake confidence in the Soviet Union’s willingness to rally the peoples is to shake confidence in its very ability to defend the peace-Whatever the details of the decisions to put missiles in Cuba and then to withdraw them, the outcome has had serious negative features. If nuclear weapons were indispensable to Cuban defense, they ought not to have ’been removed; if they were not indispensable, they ought not to have been put there in the first place. Cuba can be defended only by rallying the peoples of the world, especially of Latin America, to her cause and by pledging the whole socialist camp to fight for her against a U.S. invasion. Kennedy must be made to understand that a blow at Cuba is a blow at every socialist nation. The socialist camp must place its main emphasis in the struggle against imperialism on the political consciousness and action of the peoples, including those in the socialist camp itself, not on overseas bases, which the U.S.S.R has always opposed on principle.
The Soviet statements of February 1963, pledging the socialist camp to Cuba’s defense in case of war, have helped correct the earlier errors, as has the firm stand of the Cuban people in defense of their national independence and right to build socialism. Although criticisms of Soviet actions are necessary and proper, it must not be forgotten that the firm stand of the Cuban people has been made possible by generous Soviet assistance. As the Cuban leaders so often reiterate, Soviet economic assistance has filled many of the gaping holes opened by the abruptness of the economic transformation and in particular by U.S. economic aggression. No one could believe that the Cuban revolution, for all its heroism and determination, would have survived without the massive military assistance provided by the U.S.S.R., Czechoslovakia, China, and other socialist countries.
Cuba’s unflinching reaction to imperialist threats, including the ultimate threat of war, and the strong Soviet statements of February 1963 have done much to deprive Kennedy of the gains he sought during the nuclear confrontation. The imperialists nevertheless did make gains, for they managed to sow doubts about the firmness of the socialist camp and about the confidence of the Soviet leadership in the masses. The notion that the U.S.S.R. will retreat when the chips are down has gained wider currency.
4) Halt the advance of the Chinese people. U.S. imperialism realizes that in several decades a socialist China will be the world’s greatest power. Imperialism seeks to apply maximum pressure to halt or at least drastically slow down China’s advance. India, as has been noted, is a key pawn in this strategy; so is the military buildup in the Taiwan Straits and the war in Viet Nam. Kennedy is relying on the Hoover-Dulles policy of isolating socialist countries, forcing them to deflect a large portion of their desperately needed capital resources into military channels, and hoping for internal convulsions. That policy ended in a fiasco when applied to the U.S.S.R. but is being applied to China anyway in a desperate attempt to undermine China’s special relationship to the underdeveloped world. The sight of a great Asian nation overthrowing imperialism, wiping out centuries of backwardness, and building socialism evokes understandable anguish in the White House and Pentagon and, not surprisingly, produces absurd and vicious responses. The fiasco will be even greater this time, for the whole socialist camp, its sharp internal differences notwithstanding, is much stronger than ever before, and the Chinese people and their party have been steeled in four decades of war, civil war, revolution, and national reconstruction.
5) Stabilize the Middle East for Oil Imperialism. Much of what has been said about imperialism’s strategy in Africa and Latin America can be applied with equal force to the Middle East. The tactics too are similar – Balkanization, shows of force, the imposition of collaborationist regimes, the assassination and imprisonment of Communists and other radicals, etc. The February coup d’etat in Iraq was an important victory for the oil barons, for whom even the vacillating, opportunist, anti-Communist Kassem was too much to swallow. Significantly, however, the present regime of anti-Communist thugs must parade as truly nationalist and anti-imperialist. The revolution in Yemen, the persistent struggle of the Kurds for national self-determination, and the rising tide of opposition in Saudi Arabia all demonstrate that C.I.A.-engineered coups like the one in Iraq can only bring a short-lived respite for U.S. imperialism.
6) Use the U.N. to advance the cause of U.S. Imperialism. The use of U.N. forces during the Korean War must not be forgotten, for it was neither an accident nor an unfortunate incident that could not recur. The role of the U.N. in the Congo-Leopoldvil1e to establish U.S. preeminence there can no longer be disguised. The U.N. was called in by Lumumba, who was never given an opportunity to correct his error, and it stood by while Colonel Mobuto, with U.S. money and supplies, seized power and, in alliance with the Katangese and NATO agents, had Lumumba murdered. The U.N. has refused to act on the report of its own special committee of inquiry into Lumumba’s murder. That report specifically implicated President Kasavubu, Army Chief-of-Staff Mobuto, and Foreign Minister Bomboko – all well known “friends” of the United States – in the murder.
The continued exclusion of the legitimate government of 650,000,000 Chinese speaks for itself and reduces the claims of the U.N. to being a world organization to a painful joke.
At no time – not for the putsch in Guatemala in 1954, nor for the Bay of Pigs aggression in 1961, nor for the illegal blockade of Cuba in 1962 – has the U.N. censured or even criticized U. S. imperialism. The contradictions in the imperialist camp and the necessity for even collaborationist regimes to support anti-colonial movements in Angola and elsewhere have often caused the State Department trouble and embarrassment, and the unwillingness of other peoples and governments, even those deeply compromised with imperialism, to follow U.S. policy blindly into a nuclear holocaust has been making it increasingly difficult for Kennedy to get the U.N. stamp of approval for any adventure he chooses to launch. He has responded by by-passing the: U.N. whenever it suits him and then presenting it with a fait accompli. On the one hand, he is having more and more trouble getting prior approval for his warlike policies; on the other hand, he continues to be able to carry out such policies with the knowledge that the U.N. will do nothing to defeat them end can often be relied on to provide at least a thin coating of 1egality, however belatedly. In short, the U.N. reflects precisely the class character of the regimes comprising it.
Kennedy has tried, with some success, to cover his aggression. So long as anti-imperialists, especially Marxists, persist in pretending that the U.N. is above the class struggle or persist in denying the preponderant strength of its bourgeois wing, the masses everywhere will be victimized and confused.
The U.N. has been a useful world forum and can be transformed into an agent of peace, but this objective will be secured only when the people are alert to its character and contradictions. A determined effort to admit China, end U.S. intervention in the remnant of the Chinese Civil War, and destroy U. S. influence over the smaller states must be waged. Whether the U.S.A. would remain in an organization it could not control is problematical, but if not, the nature and aspirations of its ruling class would be thoroughly exposed. Meanwhile, the myth of the U.N.’s neutrality and objectivity must be dispelled.
We do not here wish to discuss the present crisis in the world Communist movement, which is erroneously viewed by the bourgeois press and by misguided people as solely a dispute between China and the U.S.S.R. In this issue of MLQ is an article designed to open discussion of that crisis. The opinions expressed in it are the author’s, and we expect to publish other viewpoints in subsequent issues; in time the editors will have a full statement of their own.
One aspect of that crisis requires immediate comment – the resurgence of revisionism in important sections of the world movement. Imperialism fosters revisionism and feeds on it. It fosters revisionism by ideological struggle against Marxism, by corrupting and bribing sections of the working class and sometimes even its vanguard, and by adopting tactics that confuse even disciplined revolutionaries and that pi ay on their understandable weariness. Imperialism feeds on revisionism by striking hard blows against the people at the moment when revisionist ideas and illusions have sapped their will to revolutionary struggle.
What do we mean by revisionism? First, let us say what we do not mean. We do not class as revisionism all disagreements with the ideas, formulations, and theses of Marx and Lenin. Marxism-Leninism is a scientific world-view and constantly reexamines itself, tests its theses in practice, and discards what is proven false or is superseded. Particular formulations in the works of Marx and Lenin have been proven wrong or proven to to no longer applicable. What continues to have full application are the materialist basis of its philosophy, its dialectical method, and a large body of thought, embracing formulations of the laws of historical change, political economy, the class nature of the state, and the character of imperialism, which has stood the test of time. We do not object to – indeed, we insist upon – the continued testing of these formulations against changes in the world, but we insist also that they be retained and defended until such time as their incorrectness or inapplicability is properly demonstrated by dialectical analysis of empirical evidence. Marxism-Leninism is not a philosophy for bourgeois academicians; it is a revolutionary philosophy for the working class and its allies in battle to liberate humanity from exploitation and bondage. The formulations that have advanced this battle are not to be put aside or bracketed because of occasional doubts or difficulties. Those doubting or finding difficulties have the responsibility to come forward with better formulations – i.e., with formulations that bring us closer to a true understanding of the world and that therefore provide us with better tools with which to advance the cause of socialism and human liberation.
Some of the main premises of the classic revisionism of Bernstein and the Second International are today reappearing in various transparent disguises. Of these, we might mention two:
1) That the state in bourgeois society is above classes and mediates the class struggle.
2) That revolution is no longer possible or desirable or necessary, especially in the advanced countries, since parliamentary democracy provides the vehicle for an evolutionary and gradual transfer of power to the working class.
We submit that serious people cannot accept such theses, even ad a basis for discussion, until evidence is brought forth to show that historical experience and the Marxian generalizations about that experience are no longer valid. It is fruitless to reargue the same questions every other decade. After each previous debate the revisionists were proven wrong, and in time most of them showed their liberal colors and became outright renegades.
Three other modern revisionist theses do offer something new and are achieving quite a vogue among people who should know better. These theses bear heavily on the international problems we have been discussing and threaten to render the international workingclass movement incapable of repelling imperialism’s counter-offensive:
1) That U.S. imperialism will not wage war because of the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons; that the “sober circles” dominating bourgeois society are rational and will act accordingly;
2) That monopoly capitalism can and sooner or later, will disarm and solve its economic problems by building a welfare state;
3) That in time the U.S.S.R. will have such a tremendous material base that it will attract, by the force of its example, the underdeveloped countries into the socialist camp and so capture the imagination of the peoples in the capitalist countries as to guarantee a socialist transition even there.
Let us take these points up in sequence:
U.S. imperialism could and would wage war in spite of the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons, if it thought it could win. That is, only its own certain destruction would deter it; the certain destruction of tens of millions of people would not. The distinction between “sober” and reckless bourgeois is useless. When faced with death all bourgeois, except the suicidal lunatics, may be expected to act with restraint, whereas even the most “sober” bourgeois would pull the nuclear trigger if there were a chance for a quick, decisive victory. The hopes for peace may be said to depend on the rationality of the imperialists only in the sense that, if confronted with the prospect of defeat and destruction, they may be expected to use restraint. They must be made to understand that they will not survive any war they start.
The problem is not “War or Peace?” Nor is it “Coexistence in Peace or Coextinction in War?” Such flamboyant phrases are popular among some leftists who prefer intellectual evasions and participation in church debating societies to ideological struggle and organizing mass actions, but they clarify nothing and muddy everything.
The problem is how to impose coexistence on an unwilling and desperate imperialism. The general answer – the specific answers are admittedly much more difficult – is to confront imperialism with the power to destroy it and to arouse the masses of every country to anti-imperialist struggle and class war. The great danger in the idle talk about “sober circles,” “realistic statesmen,” “the spirit of Geneva,” “the spirit of Camp David,” and all such obscurantist clap-trap is that it generates illusions among the people. The simple truth is that there is no sober or progressive or good imperialism and that there are no sober or progressive or good imperialists; there is only an exploiting, corrupt, decadent imperialism, and there are only exploiting, corrupt, and decadent imperialists.
Coexistence means that imperialism, confronted by a strong socialist camp and engulfed by the resolute action of tens of millions on every continent, dares not opt for world war and must accept, as best it can, the steady progress of socialism and national liberation.
The notion that imperialism will disarm, divert war funds to build up the underdeveloped countries, and transform itself into a welfare stale constitutes an outright embellishment of imperialism and a crude attempt to disguise its nature and its essential characteristics. A society could do these things only if political power were to be wrested from its ruling class; that is, it could do these things only if it were already in transition to socialism under the leadership of the working class. To believe otherwise is to believe that the capitalists will some day decide to preside over the liquidation of their social system and their existence as a class. Apparently, the capitalists are supposed to be too stupid to realize that they could not long survive the implementation of these measures, which would themselves involve major structural changes of a socialist type. The bourgeoisie and the bourgeois state will never be able to solve the problems posed by a prolonged period of peace, To stay the hand of the: warmongers is to prepare to confront them with a revolutionary crisis at home.
Socialists in the advanced capitalist countries must not be victimized by the theory that Soviet economic progress will settle everything in twenty years, A rapidly rising Soviet standard of living will no doubt win the admiration of the workers in the: United States and Western Europe, but the class struggle will determine the outcome, not the relative growth rates. Soviet economic progress will be an important ideological factor; it will not and cannot be decisive.
Socialists in the underdeveloped countries are it even greater danger of falling prey to this fashionable “economism” – so reminiscent of the old Mensheviks. It is sheer idealism to assert that Soviet economic growth will determine the fate of these countries either by enabling the U.S.S.R. to give them massive aid or by providing a shining example. These countries are extruding ruling classes and privileged strata, which will not surrender their class and caste privileges for Soviet aid or in order to follow a splendid example. On the contrary, they will become all the more dependent on imperialism and all the more determined to shut out socialist influence.
Thus, one of the most dangerous illusions being sown by the opportunist wing of the world Communist movement is the idea that the economic development of the U.S.S.R. will be a decisive factor in the struggle for world socialism. From acceptance of this idea flows quiescence, resignation, and fatalism. These have been the hallmarks of the unprincipled class collaborationism that has produced defeat after defeat. The disaster in Iraq and the surrender of the leaders of the Indian Communist Party to opportunism and chauvinism are merely the latest examples.
A correct appraisal of the world situation calls forth quite a different approach – one that is based on uncompromising class struggle, and that supports bourgeois elements and tendencies for the sole purpose of advancing the class struggle and paving the way for the triumph of the socialist revolution.
Modern revisionism, like the classic revisionism of Bernstein and the Second International amounts to capitulation disguised as flexibility, patience, and awareness of new conditions. Revisionism is not a matter of disagreeing with Marx or Lenin, or of correcting their errors, or of revising their dated formulations, for revolutionary socialism has no gods, no bibles, no sacred tenets. Revisionism is the repudiation of revolution and therefore of the struggle for socialism.
To say that war or peace is the great issue of our is to say that socialism is the great issue of our time, for as we have argued throughout, only a socialist victory in the United States can guarantee peace. That a socialist revolution is not imminent in the United States does not mean that war is inevitable. The preponderance of power on the socialist side in the world struggle may, if properly used, keep the imperialists from unleashing world war and thereby provide the time necessary to reconstruct American society. The conclusions are clear: the attempt of the imperialists to reverse the world relationship of forces must be met on all levels; there must be no retreats before nuclear blackmail; the masses everywhere must be taught to see the enemy as he is, without illusions.
American revolutionaries must rally and unite their forces. They must open a new and vigorous fight for socialism while they help to build a new kind of broad peace movement that understands the source of the war danger – imperialism. The special task of revolutionaries in such a movement is to link the struggle for peace to the need for socialism.
We are, in a sense, privileged, for our victory will spell the victory of the people of the whole world. If the road looks intolerably long, let us not forget that we carry the hopes of all humanity and that we are protected and supported by the heroic struggles of tens of millions of magnificent workers, peasants, intellectuals, and others who dream of, and are ready to die for, a world of socialist fraternity and democratic freedom.