The anti-war movement and the class struggle

(Leaflet of the Seattle Communist Study Group for the anti-war demonstration of October 17, 2009)

The unemployed and homeless need relief. The problem of global warming cries out for solution. But the Obama administration is hell-bent on escalating and expanding the war in Afghanistan. Behind this depravity lie the class interests of the very rich, and putting an end to it is going to require effort to turn the anti-war and other simmering movements into really class-conscious movements of the working people. It’s going to require careful work to link these movements together in struggles against the common class enemy, while continuing to develop each in its own right. And at every turn activists are going to have to deal with theoretical issues.

Imperialism and Afghanistan

During the past 30 years the Afghan people have twice suffered invasion and occupation by foreign armies. Brezhnev tried to justify the December 1979 Soviet invasion on the basis that the Soviet Union had a right to “come to the assistance of” an endangered fellow “socialist” country. But neither the USSR nor Afghanistan were in any way socialist, and in 1984 Brezhnev admitted that this brutal invasion and occupation of another country was predicated on the imperialist motive of “safeguarding the security of its own southern borders.” (Today, Obama uses this same imperialist logic when he says that the U.S. war in Afghanistan is “fundamental to the defense of our people.”)

This Soviet invasion came in the context of fierce rivalry between the U.S. and USSR for world domination, and the U.S. response was to pour billions of dollars into the largest CIA dirty war ever in order to bleed their global rivals, the Soviets, on Afghan soil. President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brezinski, put it this way: “The day the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.”

The army of mujahideen “freedom fighters” that the CIA constructed was led by fundamentalist warlords and mass butchers, many of whom are in today’s Karzai government. But since the objective of this war was not the U.S. itself dominating Afghanistan, after the Soviets were driven out the U.S. pretty much left the country to be dealt with by the U.S.-allied Pakistani bourgeoisie, which wanted a stable Afghan government next door. The mujahideen warlords, however, had begun fighting among themselves. So, in order to achieve their objective, the Pakistani state under Benazir Bhutto threw its weight behind the Taliban, a new group that had sprung from mujahideen circles. And when the Taliban came to power, the U.S. government maintained low-level but friendly relations with these fundamentalist reactionaries for a number of years.

Meanwhile, during its dirty war against the Soviets, the CIA had encouraged the terrorism of Osama bin Laden. But in the 1990s this alliance blew up when bin Laden broke with the Saudi Arabian government, and with the support of bourgeois dissidents in Saudi Arabia and other oil rich states, launched a campaign to drive the U.S. from these countries.

Today, on Afghan and Pakistani soil, this fight over whether the U.S. and its allies will retain their imperial prerogatives in the oil-rich countries of the greater region continues. Of course, the Taliban itself has limited objectives concerning Afghanistan, and al Qaeda is greatly weakened, but their achievement of some kind of victory would encourage further dissidence on the Arabian peninsula and elsewhere, and control of the resources of this region is a bedrock of the U.S. global empire. Thus, no matter how unpopular the war is, Obama and Co. drive onward. But the other side in this war is led by ultra-reactionary exploiters and oppressors of the people, and theirs is not an anti-imperialist struggle in any Marxist-Leninist, revolutionary or working-class sense. Marxism-Leninism, revolutionism and working-class solidarity all demand supporting the people of Afghanistan as they struggle to build their own struggles against both the foreign occupiers and the domestic reactionaries and clerics.

 Unending war

 U.S. imperialism is co-owned by both the Republican and Democratic parties, who beneath their verbiage struggle for the political interests of the very biggest capitalists: Wall Street and the monopoly capitalist class as a whole. The U.S. monopoly capitalists, and even much weaker capitalists like those represented by the Taliban and al Qaeda, are all literally driven into wars by the competitive nature of the capitalist system itself: expand, capture markets, maximize profits---or wind up bankrupt. Thus, war is not a mere policy that can be reformed out of capitalism, because it flows from the inner logic of the capitalist system itself. Thus, even though facing defeat in Afghanistan and Iraq, bi-partisan U.S. imperialism is already preparing for more wars. Obama’s proposed military budget is a record $534 billion (officially), which is 4% above Bush’s last war budget. And the Taliban, al Qaeda, and representatives of other weaker capitalists are also gathering arms.

 Attacking the people at home

 Obama is fighting for the same class interests at home as he does abroad. Thus, he continues Bush’s fierce assault on the livelihood and rights of the American working people with a vengeance. Look at his ten-month record:

 The working class is the ultimate gravedigger of war and reaction 

What Obama wants to hide with his nationalism is that there are really two Americas: on the one hand, the America of financial parasites and capitalist exploiters, along with their political and media servants, the Pentagon and police, etc.; and on the other the America of the working class and poor, which includes the vast majority of national minorities and immigrants. The interests of these two Americas are diametrically opposed.

The exploitation of the mental and manual labor power of the working class is the source of the capitalists’ wealth. More, the competition between capitalists on a national and global scale forces each of them to seek to drive down the workers wages and conditions or be bankrupted. It is in the material interests of the workers to resist this exploitation, and effective resistance requires establishing class unity. Thus the need to give special support to the struggles of national minorities, undocumented immigrants, and oppressed women---as well as to those who are being super-exploited in the global sweatshops, or who are living under the guns of U.S. imperialism. There’s no other way to establish the needed fighting unity against the international class of exploiters.

So there is a material class interest for the hundred-millions-strong and globally growing working class to become the leading anti-war social force in modern society. But as long as the workers remain in their present low state of class consciousness, organization, and struggle this won’t happen. In order to change this situation political work by the most class-conscious elements in society is needed.

Anti-war activists can play a role in this by developing and spreading anti-imperialist agitation among the workers: agitation that reveals the class basis behind of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, that undermines the influence of both imperialist parties, and that calls for active solidarity with Afghan and Iraqi masses. And this requires going directly to the workers because where the workers have unions, they’re led by bureaucrats who sell out the workers’ economic struggles, and also work to tie them to the imperialists’ two-party political framework. Activists should also take anti-war demonstrations to where the workers and other oppressed people gather in order to inspire discussion among them, encourage them to get active in the anti-war movement, and encourage them to advance the particular struggles in their workplaces and communities---which are all aimed at the same exploitative, racist, and warlike class enemy.

The need for revolutionary theory, and the struggle against revisionism

 To advance such political work requires dealing with theoretical questions at every step, and an integrally connected revolutionary theory is necessary if activists are not to lose their way. We uphold that this theory is Marxism-Leninism, a living theory that can only be developed by applying it to the problems of today’s world. More, for Marxism-Leninism to grow and gain strength means that a fight must be waged to defend it from distortions (revisionism). This fight is highly relevant to building the anti-war movement.

 A prime example is that under the rubric of coalition building, so-called socialists (really revisionists) have for years toned down or dropped criticism of the Democratic War Party so as have coalitions of various “respectable” liberal groups, labor officials, and others in the Democratic Party milieu. And in line with this, these coalitions’ message to the masses have been that the Democratic Party, or some part of it, could somehow be relied on to get the U.S. out of Afghanistan and Iraq -- which has really held back the movement. But a study of real Marxist-Leninist united front tactics not only exposes that these “socialists” follow a revisionist theory, but establishes the framework for what should instead be done in order to unite the masses against the common enemy. Another example is that in the name of the world’s workers, various revisionist groups betray the workers’ cause by advocating support for the likes of the Taliban. Such a stand is rightfully repellent to the workers and all democratic-minded people, and greatly discredits Marxism-Leninism when upheld in its name. But a study of Lenin’s real theories shows that he stood for fiercely opposing the Talibans of his time, and it also shows why, and what should instead be done.

 Entering this ninth year of war in Afghanistan, let us step up work to raise the level of class consciousness and organization in the anti-war and other movements of the workers and oppressed, and let us work in conscious solidarity with the Afghan people struggling against U.S.-NATO, the Karzai regime, and the Taliban!

 U.S. imperialism, get out of Afghanistan!

 Seattle Communist Study Group, October 16, 2009


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Last changed on October 16, 2009.