Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Communist League of Britain (M-L)

Britain and the Struggle against Superpower Hegemonism and War


Published: Revolution, Vol. 3, No. 4 November 1978
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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How are we as communists in Britain to view the hegemonism of the two superpowers? What can we do to prepare the working class and people of Britain in this situation where a new war of world proportions is inevitable?

In the Manifesto of the RCL points are made about superpower hegemonism and war and the tasks confronting the workers in Britain. In Section B paragraph 18 this is said:

The peoples of Western Europe must strengthen their unity and make preparations now for a people’s war of national resistance against any invasion by Soviet social-imperialism. In the event of an inter-imperialist war between the two superpowers on Western European territory the working class and peoples of Europe must fight for independence from both superpowers and must not support either of them. We should be for the defeat of our own bourgeoisie if it took us into such an inter-imperialist war.

Also in the RCL Manifesto it is said in Section B paragraph 14:

The Revolutionary Communist League supports the attempts of the bourgeois governments of Western Europe to unite politically and economically in order to resist the threat from Soviet social-imperialism and control by US imperialism.

And in Section C paragraph I the RCL Manifesto says:

Within Britain the principal contradiction, which plays the leading and decisive role, is the contradiction between the working class and the imperialist bourgeoisie.

In Section C paragraph 3 this is said:

The working class must overthrow the dictatorship of the imperialist (monopoly capitalist) bourgeoisie by socialist revolution, smash the bourgeois state, and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.

These theses are correct and are a consistent summing up of our international and national aims. We are communists in the country of a minor imperialist power. We must, as the RCL Manifesto does, uphold our internationalist duty to the world proletariat and take our share of the struggle for world revolution.

Because many theoretical problems have arisen in this respect we must elaborate a little on the meaning of the above quoted paragraphs.

What follows puts forward the Marxist view on the question of the relation of Britain to the superpowers, the tasks of communists in the present political situation and that of the war which will arise from the present situation. We also for the benefit of those who have forgotten the Marxist view on the question of class and nation make clear our adherence to this in opposition to the “left” revisionists in the main and the inevitable Right trend which also exists. We ask our readers to look at present day politics from a Marxist-Leninist viewpoint. We hold that Marxism-Leninism is distinguished from revisionism today by the application of Leninist principles presented by Comrade Mao Tsetung in his theory of the differentiation of the three worlds. Comrade Mao Tsetung said to K. Kaunda of Zambia in 1974:

In my view, the United States and the Soviet Union form the first world. Japan, Europe and Canada, the middle section, belongs to the second world. We are the third world.

The third world has a huge population. With the exception of Japan, Asia belongs to the third world. The whole of Africa belongs to third world, and Latin America too. (Quoted in People’s Daily Editorial, “Chairman Mao’s Theory of the Differentiation of the Three Worlds is a Major Contribution to Marxism-Leninism”, page 4).

We urge readers to have regard for the history of the socialist revolution and to study hard the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao as these things equip us best in seeking the truth to serve the proletariat. We are aware that the “left” opportunist trend, which owes its views to the mistakes of the Albanian Party of Labour is widespread. At every turn it agitates for a cut and dried formula negating the living essence of Marxism-Leninism. Our views will never bow to the dogmatism of those with ulterior motives, or who are too lazy to look at the facts. In short, any Marxist-Leninists should uphold the theory of the three worlds and repudiate the, “leftist” absurdities.

FIRMLY UPHOLD THE THEORY OF THE THREE WORLDS

The politics of the modern world is such that we can clearly see that the new world war is inevitable. This results from the growing contention between the two superpowers, Soviet social imperialism and US imperialism. It also results from the expansionist demands of Soviet social imperialism which is the newcomer to the imperialist scene. This superpower requires, if it is to survive, a new carve up of the world spheres of influence. It must oust the older, better placed imperialism, it, must do this because the world is already divided up in the interests of US imperialism. The Soviet social imperialists therefore are most ready to resort to war to get what they want. That is why they place the greatest emphasis on war preparations of an offensive kind. The national economy of the Soviet Union is geared, like Hitler’s Germany, to the principle of “guns before butter”. They also use the pretence of still being a socialist country as a disarming ideological weapon against those who oppose them.

For communists in Britain, it is essential to take a clear view on the oncoming war. This means grasping the politics of today which are giving rise to the threat of war. War is an extension of politics by other means. We can see the hegemonist politics of the superpowers. We can see their contention for world domination. These politics of exploitation, oppression and death is opposed by the politics of the proletariat. These are the politics of resistance, liberation and socialism. It is a matter we are deeply involved in.

The contemporary world is divided into three parts. The distinctions between these three must be comprehended clearly if in the forthcoming struggle we are to know who are our friends, who are our enemies and which forces can be our friends in certain circumstances.

The first world is composed of the two hegemonist superpowers, Soviet social imperialism and US imperialism. It is self-evident that among all the imperialist powers in the world, it is only these two which have the clout to influence world events. It is only these two which can dream of world domination. For them the question is “which of we two shall prevail?” For the other imperialist powers it is a question of survival, of getting through the day. No realistic second world imperialist politician would expect to see his imperialist bourgeoisie to come out on top.

The third world comprises the main force, that is the heaviest force, opposed to imperialism. The national democratic revolution in the third world, involving political, economic, military and cultural struggle against imperialism is going forward in a fine way. This struggle is knocking the inflated arrogance of the superpowers into a cocked hat. Whenever the third world peoples and nations raise their hands in struggle, imperialism suffers setbacks.

In the second world, composed of minor imperialist powers, the imperialist bourgeoisies are in a real fix. Imperialism cannot survive without exploitation of the oppressed nations and the scope for such exploitation is restricted more and more by the struggles of the nations and peoples and by the superpowers who grab the lionís snare. The superpowers have no sentimental regard for the lesser imperialisms and subject them to increasing bullying. The second world imperialisms have no way out except to club together against the superpowers and concede to the oppressed nations’ just demands. It is a bitter pill for them to swallow and it is one which debilitates the imperialist system. It is a great aid to the peoples of the third world and the communists in the second world who can use the possibilities offered by this weakness. It also makes possible the vacillation of these disgruntled imperialists towards the international united front against superpower hegemonism. This is good for the world’s peoples.

For communists in Britain therefore, the world situation greatly affects the political struggle against the British imperialist bourgeoisie. In this intense political situation Marxist-Leninists in the second world can see two possible forms which the coming war will take. The first possibility is that of superpower war and the second possibility is that of a war of resistance to superpower aggression and hegemonism.

If we are to remain true to the interests of the proletariat worldwide we cannot assume a political position which ignores either of the possible forms the new war will take. No Marxist will indulge in prediction, empty crystal ball gazing, about the nature of the tasks that will confront us in due course. Nor can the class standpoint of the proletariat be weakened in any way. For the proletariat, the outlook on the oncoming war is determined by the need to raise proletarian politics high and seek an outcome detrimental to world imperialism and conducive to the proletariat taking power in more countries than before.

Of the two possibilities which are an extension of current politics we have this to say: one possibility is that the two superpowers may embark on a war to annihilate each other as competitors and seek a post-war situation where one power dominates. This would be an inter-imperialist war and all those who allied themselves with the war aims of one or other power should be condemned and opposed. If such a war was to break out as a consequence of the political and economic struggle between the two superpowers our view in principle is to oppose both superpowers. Should, in the event of a inter-superpower war the British imperialist bourgeoisie weigh in on the side of US imperialism, we should be for the defeat of the British imperialist bourgeoisie and we should prepare the masses for turning the war into a revolutionary civil war. We would be for taking power directly in contradiction to the British imperialist bourgeoisie and both superpowers.

If however the more aggressive superpower, Soviet social imperialism were to invade or threaten Europe with invasion while US imperialism chose not to act, we would have to take a different view. Such a war would be the extension of Soviet global strategy and peopleís resistance to that strategy in a situation where the other superpower considers itself too weak to act. As with the first example this possibility is a consequence of present day politics. In such a situation, where British imperialism resists the Soviet threat we should see such resistance as just. To see otherwise, and perhaps brand such struggle as inter-imperialist and unjust, would be to comply with the imperialist aims of Soviet social imperialism and to strengthen it in its bid for power against the other superpower. In this case failure to unite with the struggle against Soviet social imperialism by British imperialism would amount to complicity in the inter-imperialist struggle. So our task, at that time would be to call for a just war of national resistance.

These possibilities do not fall from the sky. They are as real as the political and economic struggles that are now unfolding before us. The war itself may go through stages and may be judged differently at one part from what it would at another. This was the case with World War Two. All we can say is that it is necessary for us to be ideologically, politically and organisationally prepared for either possibility. It is wrong for us to prepare for one and not for the other. We will certainly be caught on the hop if we are not so prepared. The war may involve both things at different stages. How can we be dogmatic about this problem? Preconceptions both of the “Left” and the Right will certainly harm our struggle.

THE POSITION OF BRITISH IMPERIALISM

The economic and political situation for British imperialism is not good. It is cringing under economic competition from the US, Germany and Japan and to a growing extent from Soviet social imperial ism. The third world is less open to British imperialism since it lost most of its spheres of influence to the US. What remains of its sources of raw materials and areas of capital export exists on the sufferance of US imperialism in return for political favours and military alliance. Soviet social imperialism in Africa is expanding rapidly and US imperialism will certainly make the going harder for British imperial ism as it finds the going harder for itself. In this situation more vigorous second world powers (especially France) take matters into their own hands by acting independently of the US. But they do not have the strength to seriously challenge Soviet intentions. The Soviet Union is calling the shots in Africa. Its real intention is to exhaust the US and other imperialisms so that it can press more firmly its demands in Europe. It also intends to cut the supply lines of Europe from Africa and the Middle East. All this testifies to the fact that Soviet social imperialism is the expanding power.

How does British imperialism look at the contemporary world situation? Once an important power in the world, it is now reduced to the position of being at the whim of greater forces. Imperialism is never reconciled to the fate of taking second place but when up against it declining imperialism will choose the course of survival rather than extinction. So British imperialism makes compromises with all forces stronger than itself. Thus it allies itself with US imperialism and appeases Soviet social imperialism. It also gives way to some limited degree to the third world countries’ just demands for equality. We are against British imperialist reliance on the US and appeasement of the Soviet threat. We are for, and want more of British imperialist conciliation with the third world. The third world is the main force against the superpowers and its peoples are our class brothers with whom we seek iron ties. In the course of our struggles against British imperialism we will find it possible to strengthen the British imperialist bourgeoisie’s struggle against the superpowers and force it to make more retreats in the sphere of exploitation of the third world. This is what we mean by struggling “to make the British imperialist bourgeoisie line up with the countries of the third world in the international united front” (Manifesto B13)

THE WAR THREAT AND THE BRITISH IMPERIALIST BOURGEOISIE

As far as war is concerned we Marxist-Leninists are firstly opposed to it and secondly not afraid of it. The people’s cause is not the root of war. It is the exploitation, oppression and fierce competition of imperialism that gives rise to wars in the modern day. We have no fear of the war inevitably imposed on us by the imperialists because the people’s forces are rising and will be victorious using all means necessary. Socialism and communism is in the final analysis the cause of the vast majority of the people. We take our stand on war therefore from the revolutionary viewpoint of the world proletariat. We know that the future is ours regardless of what the imperialists may throw at us in their last hours. As a matter of fact, we cannot deter them from making war by appealing to them with reasoned arguments. Many have tried this before and perished in the terror that they have not prepared against. Chile is such an example. Chamberlain’s Munich manoeuvres are a very notable example. For there is only one thing that the imperialists will respect. That thing is the armed preparedness of the people. Only one thing will stay the hands of the warmongers and that is the fear of defeat! The masses of the people are different. Their interest lies in peace and reason. That is why socialism and communism provides the way out of war. But we cannot deal with the imperialist gangsters as if they were members of the people. Soviet social imperialism is the most dangerous imperialist gangster in the world today. Did the new Tsars relent when Dubcek practised sweet reason towards Brezhnev in 1968? Of course not. The logic of the Soviet global strategy is one which can only be met with armed force. This is not “warmongering” as Birch claims. It is recognition of the fact that we can only deal with the imperialists by matching our power against theirs. They will certainly gain the cheapest victory over us if we do otherwise. We love peace and are ready to fight for it! What else can we say when the Soviets with their “detente” song going at full blast, rattle the most offensive ironware against us?

The Marxist-Leninist approach to war is to support just wars and oppose unjust wars. Pacifism plays no part in communist thinking both before and in the course of all wars. For example, in World War One, communists opposed the unjust inter-imperialist war to redivide world spheres of influence with the slogan of revolutionary defeatism. Revolutionary defeatism means working for the defeat of ones “own” imperialist bourgeoisie and preparing the masses for revolutionary civil war. During World War Two, communists supported the just war aims of the allies for total defeat of German fascist imperialism and the Axis powers. They agitated for opening up the Second Front–for the invasion of Europe by Anglo-American forces. The fact that only the imperialist chieftains Eisenhower and Churchill could organise such an invasion, did not change the fact that it was a just demand, in the interests of the revolution and the peoples of the world. The fact is that communist parties of Britain and other countries did not grasp the revolutionary possibilities that the world front against the German fascists and the Japanese fascists gave them. They were somewhat akin to the Right opportunists who though grasping the need for an International United Front against the main enemies, deny the leading role of the proletariat, its independent, flexible policies which see unity as a relative and necessary thing for certain objectives but which shun “gentlemen’s agreements” and implicit trust in the treacherous imperialist bourgeoisie which it is necessary to unite with in the above conditions. At the same time it is absolutely necessary to struggle with the bourgeoisie. That was the error of the parties concerned. It does not refute the correctness of the demand for a Second Front at that time.

As regards the “Left”, let them be as “pure” as they like. Let them be more pure than Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tsetung. They are not proletarian politicians likely to lead the proletarian revolution, but sectarian simpletons. The working class will not and cannot pay enduring heed to their idealist and metaphysical notions. They can only remain a sect or a number of sects. We cannot entirely prevents them being so. However, those comrades under their influence should study the history of socialist revolution and Marxism-Leninism so that they may be able to purge out of themselves the fallacies that their leaders impose. What more can we say? Pacifism, even when expressed in the most militant words is a dangerous corrosive.

As far as the British bourgeoisie is concerned its view on the forthcoming war is different. It is not opposed to war but it is afraid of it. Thus it made some concessions to the superpowers war preparations and attempts to wish reality away. It relies heavily on NATO but appeases the Soviet social imperialists. Nothing is certain about the current situation for the British imperialist bourgeoisie. It is too weak to oppose the superpowers consistently and fears the anger of both of them. It has chosen the wise path of unity with other European imperialist powers in the EEC, but fears their domination within the alliance. British imperialism is a cat on hot bricks. Should we demand that they stand up more firmly to the superpowers? Should we expose and oppose the squirming of British imperialism in this situation? We certainly should do these things.

Does this amount to support for British Imperialism? To a certain extent it does. But it is support for that part of British Imperialism which can be made to oppose superpower hegemonism and war. And such “support” can only be forthcoming in a situation where the communists have the right to independence of action and where the masses are given weapons to resist the war threat and carry through the necessary resistance The British Imperialist bourgeoisie are unlikely to behave themselves in the international united front so we must be vigilant and ready to struggle against them and impose to the greatest extent proletarian leadership within the international united front. The stage we are at is for a socialist revolution. Through the twists and turns of many struggles the proletariat of Britain will aim to firmly seize state power.

We are very weak at present and we are accumulating strength. Is this approach invalid because we are weak? No. We shall better accumulate strength in a situation where the nation resists aggression than in one where we are enslaved.

The British imperialist bourgeoisie is afraid of the coming war and is choosing a policy of appeasement. There are contradictions within the British imperialist bourgeoisie on the question of the Soviet threat -the social democrats (Labour Party) are more for appeasement and the Tories are more for resistance. But on the whole Britain has yet to take a clear stand against the superpowers.

REVISIONISM AND THE THREAT OF WAR

We are most concerned here with the matter of revisionism in the Marxist-Leninist movement. The greatest danger is the “Left” revisionist tendency which follows the errors of the Party of Labour of Albania. For some time the “Left” revisionists have opposed preparation of the masses against the war threat. On the oppressed nations, they have objectively opposed the Leninist theory of stages of the revolution in those countries oppressed by imperialism. They have objectively taken a trotskyist line in denying the need for the proletariat and peasantry to ally with the national bourgeoisie against imperialism. They are repeating the long exposed views of Trotsky on the role of the national bourgeoisie in the colonial territories. Stalin exposed Trotsky’s erroneous views on the Chinese. Persian and Turkish revolutions in 1927:

What is the fundamental position from which the Comintern and the Communist Parties generally approach the problems of the revolutionary movement in colonial and dependent countries?

It is strict differention between revolution in imperialist countries, counties that oppress other peoples, and revolution in colonial and dependent countries, countries that suffer from the imperialist oppression of other states. Revolution in imperialist countries is one thing: in those countries the bourgeoisie is the oppressor of other peoples; it is counter-revolutionary in all stages of the revolution; the national element, as an element in the struggle for emancipation, is absent in these countries. Revolution in colonial and dependent countries is another thing; in these countries the oppression exercised by the imperialism of other states is one of the factors of revolution; this oppression cannot but affect the national, bourgeoisie also; the national bourgeoisie, at a certain stage and for a certain period, may support the revolutionary movement of its country against imperialism, and the national bourgeoisie, as an element in the struggle for emancipation, is a revolutionary factor. Not to make this differentiation, not to understand this difference and to identify revolution in imperialist countries with revolution in colonial countries, is to depart from the road of Marxism, from the road of Leninism, and adopt the road of those who support the Second International. (The International Situation and the Defence of the USSR – Aug.1 1927)

Now under the banner of upholding Stalin, these “Left” revisionists repeat Trotsky’s rantings holding up the main contradiction in the oppressed nations as that between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The Albanian comrades have much to answer for in their misleadership of many “Leftist” comrades. On the question of war, the “Leftists” do not take the threat seriously and practice pacifism. This is a profound error. Under cover of all kinds of revolutionary phrases they practice bourgeois appeasement of imperialism and seek to imbue the masses with a spirit of fear and forboding. Pessimism on the world struggle is their stock in trade. For all the ills of the world they put forward only intoxicating phrases and stupifying defeatism. They deny the possibility of alliance of the proletariat with weak imperialisms from the point of view of “principle”. Counterposing Lenin and Stalin to Mao Tsetung they deny the living essence of Leninism. Were they alive in 1939 they would certainly have been mixed up with Trotsky’s “Fourth International”.

It is inevitable that there should also be Right opportunism on these questions. So inexperienced is our movement that there are always at these times large numbers of deviations to both the “Left” and Right. The Rightists objectively deny the principal contradiction in all imperialist nations. The contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is that principal contradiction. The Rightists downgrade the struggle for socialist revolution to the point of merely upholding the democratic rights and living standards of the masses. What seems to be theoretically weak about both “Left” and Right deviations is their un-Marxist practice on the relationship of class and nation in the world today.

CLASS AND NATION IN THE MODERN WORLD

Comrade Mao Tsetung has said: “In the final, analysis, national struggle is a matter of class struggle.”

Does this mean nation and class is the same thing? Of course not. Nor is national struggle the equivalent of class struggle. It is in the final analysis that national struggle gives way to class struggle. It is in the third world that at present national struggle and class struggle are closely bound together. Here it is absolutely necessary to distinguish between the relation of class and nation in the oppressed nations (third world) and class and nation in the oppressor nations (first and second worlds). Lenin said in 1913: “In every modern nation there are two nations”.

Why did he carefully use the word “modern”? This is to distinguish between those nations ripe for socialist revolution and those yet to come to the stage of socialist revolution. In the third world, with the exception of the socialist countries, the national question is still unresolved. Although divisions between rich and poor are evident in the oppressed nations, the whole national development of these nations is restricted by imperialism. And this affects all classes. National development is essential to these countries to make progress. The interests of the proletariat and the oppressed masses lies, at this stage, with the struggle for freedom from imperialism. Thus the whole nation requires a vigorous anti-imperialist struggle and the national democratic revolution is the stage that such countries are at. When this stage is realised to some extent it then befalls the proletarian forces to push further forward the class struggle to the detriment of some forces which would have supported the demands of the previous phase, but which inevitable resists revolutionary struggle. All these things are determined by national conditions, assessable mainly by the forces concerned.

The world revolution, as a series of interconnected revolutions, goes forward as nation after nation accomplishes its national tasks and comes closer to putting the socialist revolution on the agenda. For the oppressor nations the socialist revolution is already on the agenda and it remains for the proletariat in those countries to accumulate sufficient strength to make this historic change.

So what of class and nation in the imperialist countries of the first and second worlds? First it must be said that the question of the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is foremost. Even though in many imperialist countries there is a burning national question (i.e. the Soviet Union and the oppressed nationalities, US and the question of the Afro-Americans, Germany divided into two, Canada and the Quebec question, Britain and Ireland. etc.) it cannot in any case be said that the national question presides over the question of socialist revolution. In all these cases socialist revolution is the best resolution of the national question. Unlike the oppressed, nations, national struggle is a secondary form. In short, national struggle in these countries is not a stage that the revolution must go through. Capitalism, far from solving such problems, makes them worse (e.g. Britain and Ireland) but national tasks are basically completed in these countries and national life, ensuring the fullest development of capitalism, is a fact. This is not true of the oppressed nations which are only awakening to national life. In these countries the development of capitalism is retarded by the overbearing interest of foreign imperialism. That is the main distinction to be made.

So our attitude to the defence of national sovereignty in Britain is entirely different from that question when it arises in the third world. Whereas in the third world it is absolutely necessary to ally with the national bourgeoisie as a class in the struggle against imperialist oppression, in Britain such a question only arises in the situation where the imperialist bourgeoisie stands in the way of the global strategy for domination of one of the superpowers and does not ally with the other superpower for its strategic aims. At all times the need for struggle, against the bourgeoisie presides over the tactical value of uniting with the bourgeoisie against the superpowers. This tactical value of unity is related to the advantages to the international proletarian struggle worldwide and its precise value rests with the weakening of world imperialism that can be achieved with such unity. This weakening of world imperialism mainly is a general weakening, affecting different struggles in different nations differently. But nonetheless it is an advantage which all proletarians can take a vantage of to some extent.

In the third world unity between the proletariat and oppressed peoples on the one hand and the national bourgeoisie and leading figures is strategic in nature. It is impossible there for advances to be made without such strategic alliance for reasons already given.

The theory of the differentiation of the world into three parts elaborated by Comrade Mao is a strategic concept. Is this at variance with the view that possibilities of unity with the imperialist bourgeoisie of Britain is a tactical one? Not at all. The world strategy of the communists embraces a cool estimation of all the basic contradictions in the contemporary world. It embraces the specific conditions of struggle in all the countries of the world. It is an accurate Leninist guide to all the forces of the world clearly showing who are friends (the workers, oppressed peoples and nations), who are enemies (the superpowers) and who may become friends in the course of struggle (the lesser imperialist powers). It is a living concrete analysis and not an abstract dogma which can only be held out of blind faith. As such it embraces a whole-series of possibilities in different countries. Strategies are like that if they are to be of use to the proletariat. Analysing concretely the conditions in the second world we see the truth that it is the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie which is the leading and decisive one. So we recognise that the possibilities of uniting with the British imperialist bourgeoisie depend on the strength of the proletariat and that unity can only be conditional. “Our” bourgeoisie will play a positive role only in certain conditions and it will certainly vacillate wildly under pressure. If we view our tasks tactically on a national scale, we can realise the strategic value of Britain as a nation of the International United Front. To do otherwise would be to dissolve our forces in favour of the British imperialist bourgeoisie -this would let the British imperialist bourgeoisie have its head. In these circumstances it would almost certainly play the traitor’s role and capitulate to the aggressors. What good would that do to the International United Front? So the world strategy is best realised by us taking a tactical approach to the question.

All this means that the proletariat should take the lead in the national struggle against superpower hegemonism. That is how things stand as regards class and nation in Britain.