Wednesday, June 20, 2007

On The Duty of Communists for Anti-imperialist Internationalism

The following was submitted by comrade Hug Yue as a contribution to the discussion on the communist position on Iraq.

We start by acknowledging that a nation has the right freely to determine its own destiny. It has the right to arrange its life as it sees fit, without, of course, trampling on the rights of other nations. This is beyond dispute. Yet the struggle for the freedom of self-determination is a bourgeois-democratic demand, not a socialist one. What is the position to be taken by communists on the National Question in light of the objective conditions as they exist in the world today?

We can get some idea by looking at the position of the communists of 1904. Tsarist Russia was a backward, semi-feudal and semi-colonial country and an imperialist state. It was economically subordinated to the wealthier imperialisms of Britain, America, France, Germany and Belgium. In 1904 tsarist Russia was at war with Japan—a young and aggressive imperialist power. The immediate cause of the clash was the conflict between Russia and Japan over China (Manchuria), but in fact, Japan was aiming to invade and conquer Siberia.

The war of 1904 between Russia and Japan was a war between two rival gangsters. Russian Tsarism oppressed the workers and peasants, but would Japanese rule have been any better? It is sufficient to recall the horrors of Japanese colonial rule in China to answer the question. What was the position of the Russian Marxists in the war of 1904? All the tendencies, from the Bolsheviks to the Mensheviks, adopted a defeatist position—t hat is they stood for the defeat of Russia. This was even the position of the Russian Liberals (Cadets), and every democratic trend. The defeat of Russia would lead to the overthrow of Tsarism—that was the reason why all revolutionaries and consistent democrats stood for a defeatist policy. Their position was shown to be correct in the first Russian revolution of 1905, which flowed directly from the defeat of Russia in the war. Surely we can also agree that revolutionary defeatism is just as viable a strategy now.

In October of 1896 Rosa Luxemburg wrote an article in Sächsische Arbeiter-Zeitung, the German Social Democratic paper in Dresden. The piece was titled "Social Democracy and the National Struggle in Turkey." Social Democracy in those days was just another name for communism. At the time the Armenians wanted to separate from Turkey. Luxemburg said, “Now what can be the position of Social Democracy towards the events in Turkey? In principle, Social Democracy always stands on the side of aspirations for freedom. The Christian nations, in this case the Armenians, want to liberate themselves from the yoke of Turkish rule, and Social Democracy must declare itself unreservedly in support of their cause.” Like the Iraqi resistance, the Armenians secessionists were not led by the working class. Unlike the Armenian secessionists, however, the Iraqis are suffering from a brutal foreign military occupation.

Today U.S. imperialism is waging an illegal war of aggression against the people of Iraq in what amounts to an international act of armed robbery to steal their oil. As this war unfolds the gangster clique in Washington is actively planning an expanded war against the nation of Iran. With Iranian oil under U.S. control, the U.S. will own the oil spigot that regulates the ability of China’s economy to grow. This is a recipe for another world war. We can see signs of this now, with the joint military exercises, which include strategic bombers that took place between China and Russia last year. And also by the “strategic and cooperative partnership” entered into between China and India on April 12, 2005—a partnership in which “India and China can together reshape the world order,” says India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. The international left cannot sleepwalk through yet another widening of the war. Marching in circles carrying signs is not enough to prevent the looming global catastrophe.

There are many parallels between the national liberation struggle of the people of Iraq today and the struggle of the Vietnamese people to expel that same invader from their lands. The response to each should be the same—solidarity. We must fight for the defeat of our own ruling class and for victory to those opposing the foreign military occupation of their lands.

Soon it will be two years since researchers from Johns Hopkins University collected data for a study which concluded 655,000 additional Iraqi deaths were caused by the U.S. war, and things have only gotten worse since then. They are dying from drinking the water; as many as one in eight Iraqi children die before reaching the age of five. The Iraqi people are fighting against the cause and source of these conditions—the U.S. government.

The struggle of the Iraqi people to expel the foreign invaders from their land is an anti-imperialist struggle. It is the duty of anti-imperialists in the occupier nation to support this struggle, if only on a tactical level (such as when they kill the invading military forces). Those who ridicule the notion that the Iraqis are fighting a legitimate battle that deserves our material (if critical) support should be exposed for the opportunists they are. This issue is not complicated. Ask yourselves these two simple questions, is this an anti-imperialist struggle? Yes or no? Does international law support the right of the Iraqi people to take up arms against foreign occupiers? Yes or no? Notwithstanding this very straight forward issue, there are those who objectively side with the occupation by proudly proclaiming, “I will not sell out Iraqi women, gays, and communists to a bunch of Islamic fascists.” In their zeal for political correctness they crawl into bed with their own ruling class.

These are the same “leftists” who call advocating support for the Iraqi and Afghani people “the terribly flawed logic of ‘my enemy's enemy is my friend’.” They, like Gorge W. Bush, will call the resistance fighters “Islamo fascists” or some variation of the term, they will trot out the Islamist’s treatment of women, etc. Such people do not really understand nature of the global struggle against U.S. imperialism. Only privileged Americans would characterize support for this anti-imperialist struggle as undeserving of our support. These “comrades” have not internalized the important lesson that class trumps all other forms of oppression.

There are those who believe that the central oppression is not one of class but is, rather, gender based, and if only women were in power it would all be so different. Well, yes, with a bunch of Margaret Thatcher types running the show it would be slightly different, but capitalism and imperialism would remain. The same is true if Blacks were calling the shots, or gays, etc. Yes, there would be important differences, such as progress in the areas of sexism, racism, and homophobia, but class would out in the end. Without a radical transformation of existing class relations it would be business as usual. Just look at South Africa. Now they have a capitalist government with a Black face selling weapons materials to Israel.

While this segment of the left prattles on and on about rights of women and the other crimes of the “Islamo Fascists,” they do not address the issue of oppressed and oppressor nation, or of occupied or occupier nation, or imperialist and anti-imperialist struggles. No, they do the same thing Bush and the bourgeois media do, hold up examples of the evil religious fundamentalists. The question is, however, do these wrongs negate our duty as anti-imperialists to support their struggle to be free of the foreign invaders—the invaders acting in our names? For the most part the answer on the left is yes, that indeed the islamo fascists (most of these people don’t know what fascism really is) must endure the crimes of our government because they do not meet the political correctness test we here in the occupying nation have set for them.

Sure, it would be nice if the Iraqi and Afghanistan resistance movements were led by communists or other working class formations. But the sad fact of the matter is that our government, with the silent acquiescence of the American people, installed and/or supported reactionary dictators like the Shah (Muhammad Reza Pahlavi) of Iran and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. These two U.S. supported thugs murdered many of the progressives, leaving the religious leaders as the primary force to oppose the current occupations. Are we to now wrench our bloody hands and say “we can’t help you because you are not communists” or because “we disagree with you on the issue of women’s rights or gay equality”? To do so would be to elevate those issues above the right of a people to throw off a foreign invader; it would be a slap in the face of the global struggle against U.S. imperialism. It’s not about fascists versus imperialists; it’s about the people choosing their own fate.

As a comrade from the Communist Party of Peru recently told me, “National liberation will eliminate the contradictions from foreign occupier to capitalist and proletariat In Peru we need to fight for national liberation before we can even think about building socialism.” When Hugo Chavez of Venezuela was asked by a reporter “How would you end the Iraq war?” He said, “If I was an Iraqi, I would fight for my homeland.” How true. This simple and clear issue should not divide us. It should be obvious that foreign occupation is not in the interest of the Iraqi or the U.S. working class.

While people in other parts of the world are fighting and dying in the just struggle against international imperialism, we here in the belly of the beast enjoy a special privilege of limiting our feeble protests to only lawful means (read acceptable to the bourgeoisie). This is nothing short of American Exceptionalism—a racist belief that our lives are more precious than those of our darker-skinned comrades in places like Palestine, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq. History demands more from us.

In her Junius Pamphlet, Rosa Luxemburg quoted Fredrich Engels as saying “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.” She goes on to say, “[T]he triumph of imperialism leads to the annihilation of civilization. At first, this happens sporadically for the duration of a modern war, but then when the period of unlimited wars begins it progresses toward its inevitable consequences. Today, we face the choice exactly as Fredrich Engels foresaw … either the triumph of imperialism and the collapse of all civilization …. or the victory of socialism, that means the conscious active struggle of the international [working class] against imperialism and its method of war.” Today we are in the period of “unlimited wars” and now stand at that crossroads—the victory of socialism or world-wide death and destruction.


Anonymous said...

Do we have to support teocratic fanatics?

HJM said...

According to the author, you do. Others of us in the CPSL disagree with that opinion, preferring to support the working class, not reactionary "anti-imperialists".