The era of wars and revolutions
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The Era of Wars and Revolutions

The Era of Wars and Revolutions
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The outbreak of the war in 1914, the first full-scale war of a capitalist world that had entered its highest stage, imperialism, ushered in the era of wars and revolutions.

While petty-bourgeois pacifists only saw war as the ultimate horror, communists pointed out that this brutal explosion of the contradictions of capitalism also implied the maturation of the objective conditions of revolution. The imperialist stage is characterised precisely by the aggravation of the contradictions of capitalism and of all the social antagonisms they give rise to, which can only be resolved by means of violence, in a war between bourgeois States or in the war between classes - revolution.

This does not mean that crises, wars and revolutions occur daily. Certain texts from the period 1914-1924 would seem to imply this, but these were propaganda texts and not scientific studies. For agitational purposes, it was perfectly legitimate, in the midst of war, to talk of the «disintegration» of capitalist society, of the «final» crisis of capitalism, of struggles «decisive» for the survival of humanity, but these formulas should not be taken literally. Even at the stage in which its contradictions manifest themselves most brutally, capitalist development has a cyclical and not a linear movement. A period during which contradictions and antagonisms are accumulated along with capital leads to a violent explosion. If the proletariat does not have the strength to take advantage of the general crisis in order to win a decisive victory, the bourgeoisie will resolve it in its own way, that is, as the Manifesto states:
On the one hand, by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones»,
and thus by clearing the way for a new period of accumulation of capital, and at the same time, of contradictions and antagonisms, on an even larger scale.

Moreover, these periods of accumulation by no means have a «peaceful» character - the overt violence merely remains localised and does not break out in general conflict. Since the end of the second imperialist war, there virtually has not been a single day of peace in the world. But a conflict bringing the big imperialisms into direct confrontation and embracing all the other countries was impossible, because the material conditions for it were not ripe.

And they are still not ripe even today. Nevertheless they have begun to mature. In a study of the evolution of inter-imperialist relations published last year (1), we analysed the interplay of factors which demonstrate the capitalist world has now come out of the post-war period and entered a new pre-war period. In particular we pointed out the material interests which impel the two superpowers into confrontations, especially in the vast region lying between the Middle East and the Sea of Oman, between the Horn of Africa and the Persian Gulf, a region which today constitutes a «zone of vital interest» for all the imperialist powers. The world economic crisis and the «oil crisis» have only exacerbated these material causes, rendering more meaningless than ever the vain search for the «guilty» party, for the «aggressor», for the «expansionist».

In any case, this question is stupid and hypocritical, for the capitalist mode of production admits neither obstacle nor frontier, is fated to unlimited expansion, tends toward the internationalisation of its particular relations of production and exchange, in short, it is intrinsically aggressive. But this search has reached the height of absurdity in the particular conditions of the second post-war period, whose complex and tormented evolution the «progressive» parties and intellectual sects depict as an idealised reflection of Camelot.

With horror they evoke the period of the «cold war» when the two great capitalist concentrations and their monstrous politico-military machines faced each other across the «iron curtain», keeping watch over their respective flocks of satellites; each proclaiming itself a lover of peace and accusing the other of warmongering; each feeling itself actually or potentially under attack and thus justified and even obliged to defend itself by counterattacking without formally becoming the aggressor. With nostalgia they evoke the period of «detente», that era of eternal peace so tragically interrupted by the rekindling of «warlike instincts» (in the East or West, according to one's ideological leaning) which should be restored in spite of whoever disturbed it. They would do better to ask themselves - but obviously they are by nature incapable of this - whether the precarious equilibrium of the immediate post-war period, whose rupture was inevitable, was not pregnant with the progressive unleashing of economic, commercial, financial, diplomatic and military antagonisms which would intensify until they reached the point of a general explosion.

For capitalism tends to tear down all «curtains» whether they are made of lace or iron. Its normal condition of existence is the domination of the unobstructed and unfettered exchange of commodities and capitals including that particular commodity, Stalin's most precious capital, human beings. After all, is this not what is called peaceful coexistence? But it is precisely this normal condition which necessarily makes each capitalist, each capitalist «empire» into an aggressor, an objective centre of expansion, a god of war who wages commercial, financial, diplomatic and military war. It is precisely this normal condition which obliges each capital to «defend» its «vital interest» and consequently - even if it did not always tend to enlarge its possessions - to attack and to «aggress» against its neighbours.

A list of the acts of reciprocal intervention and aggression between America and Russia since 1945 is of no use if one is able to see through the only really solid curtain of capitalist society, the smoke screen of propaganda which justifies and glorifies the imperialist order. Let no one be fooled by those who claim that only the violation of a state's borders by an armoured division, a squadron of bombers, or a flotilla of battleships constitutes an act of war, whereas flooding an economically weaker area with commodities does not. These simple minds cannot recognise interference in another state's affairs unless in the form of a brutal dictate of the general leading his army. They pretend not to see it in the polite and civilised dictate of the financier leading his team of experts, whose power to dispense or withhold humanitarian «aid», to starve those who escaped the bombing, and thus to break the adversary, the competitor, the hesitant or the neutral country, is as effective as the threat of military occupation.

We did not need computer technology to expose the lie which attributes responsibility for the massacres in the two past imperialist wars, and in the one which is gently smouldering, to whoever first takes the initiative to violate a border. Furthermore, it is no coincidence that it is always the weakest, the most pressured, the most «aggressed against» imperialism which opens the hostilities. The other, «innocent» by definition, can pick and choose from a variety of other methods to achieve its ends, allowing the violence to remain hidden and silent behind the mask of «detente» and «peace», without being obliged to resort to open and strident force.

For many decades, America has enjoyed an uncontested supremacy on the planet thanks to the crushing force of its productive capacity, the force of its capitals which have reproduced themselves and accumulated at a dizzying pace, the force of its mountains of commodities and know-how. Is this war? Certainly! Aggression? Obviously! Interference? Of course! Has America practised defence of its «sacred values», that is, its perspectives for expansion? Undoubtedly! Is not the first and fundamental principle of the small businessman and capitalist - the more so of the big capitalist - mors tua, vita mea or in good English, «Perish, so that I may live»?

Russia, whose economy is lagging far behind, strives to catch up with the USA and to resist the pressure exerted on its productive apparatus by the capitals, commodities and technology of the West. It can do this solely by bringing into play the only power it possesses which is truly capable of competing with its American counterpart, its military strength. In fact, in this domain its economic handicap is in part offset by its proximity to the future battlefields and regions which already form the stakes of the diplomatic struggle. In other respects, the Chinese «defection» confronts the USSR with the growing threat of a war on two fronts, and the energy crisis preoccupies it as much as it does the USA. For all these reasons Moscow «accepted the invitation» of the «progressive forces» of Afghanistan, and took advantage of a favourable position, at least in the short term, in order to commit the umpteenth «violation of national sovereignty» and to endanger «world peace» for the umpteenth time. Aggression? Obviously! Justified by concerns of self-defence? Of course, just as was the American financial and material support to the Cuban tyrant Batista, to the butcher Pinochet, to the Shah of Iran and so many others.

There is no bourgeois aggressor which is not able to pass itself off as the victim; there is no bourgeois victim of aggression which is not in fact an aggressor. There is no bourgeois war which is not fought in the name of peace, and peace may actually result for a short while; there is no bourgeois peace which does not inexorably prepare another war. In the present situation, the giants are face to face in a region which is vital for all imperialisms, because in addition to being the source and the shipping lane for oil, it also forms the bridge between two great continental areas, rich in essential raw materials and targets for enormous investments and exploitation. This fact would suffice to show that it is material factors which determine a planet-wide competition where all have their «rights» to affirm and defend, against one another, a competition which bears down on the backs of the proletariat and the oppressed and exploited masses. Of course, each imperialism drapes its sordid interests in the banner of Right, Morality, Civilisation or Religion, of all the Values which glut the coffers of bourgeois chancelleries.

It is these same material interests which, during the last year, have forced the USSR and its satellites to accelerate their evolution. On one hand, they have had to lower the curtain on the comedy of «socialism achieved within national boundaries» and even on «popular democracy» presented as its prelude. It is significant that in the space of a few months, the «communist» parties of the entire world had to first praise, then damn two Afghan governments, and that today (after similar embarrassments over Budapest and Warsaw, Prague and Bucharest, Peking and Hanoi) they do not know what to say about the third. On the other hand, Russia no longer limits itself to intervening in the European popular democracies in order to «help its brother parties», or merely advancing its pawns in Asia and Africa. In the Third World countries to which not long ago it pretended to give a «disinterested» aid, it has begun to undertake aggressions of the purest colonial kind under the guise of... philanthropic and humanitarian goals. Two myths collapse with a crash. But their ruins pave the way to a new world butchery.

In the course of the last thirty years, we have applauded the thrashings inflicted on the arrogant American superpower by the peoples and especially the toiling masses who have risen in arms in order to repel it, without allowing ourselves to be duped by the illusory nationalist or deceitful religious ideologies which have served as a banner for them. Today, we hope that the tanks of arrogant Russia will be stopped in their tracks on the steppes and dashed to pieces in the mountain ravines of Afghanistan, just as we hope that the «rapid intervention force» of 150,000 men that Carter can mobilise will be imprisoned on its own bases. We will hardly conceal our joy at any demonstration of impotence on the part of the enormous imperialist power.

But as much as these defeats may weaken our enemy, they are not enough to break him. Only the reawakening of the proletarian class struggle in the imperialist centres of the East and the West can accomplish this. The return of the class struggle to the stage of history - a single general strike in Moscow or in Detroit, San Francisco and Chicago - threatening both the economic basis of the army and the discipline of proletarians in uniform, will have an infinitely more devastating effect on the rapacious imperialist war machines than a sandstorm in Iran or the revolt of the Afghan rebels.

This proletarian response to the blows dealt to imperialism by the oppressed peoples has yet to materialise. The proletarians of Moscow, Warsaw and Berlin have been crushed by the combined onslaught of the bourgeoisie and the Stalinist counterrevolution. They are completely disarmed politically by the «socialist» mask of their bourgeois states. In the West - in the Ruhr, in Paris, London and even more so in the United States - the proletarians have been further corrupted by the crumbs from the orgy of super profits that their imperialist masters draw from the oppression and exploitation of the whole world. But the shocks and crises of world capitalism combined with the collapse of the myth of false socialisms impel the proletariat of the imperialist bastions once again to take the road of class struggle. At the very moment when the armaments race is accelerating, when the crisis is accumulating gigantic quantities of explosive materials over the whole planet, the task of preparing the only force capable of victoriously confronting the enormous concentration of means of production and destruction wielded by world capitalism becomes urgent. It is urgent that we prepare the international working class, the only class which holds the future of mankind in its hands, for the decisive struggle.

It is in connection with this preparation that the stupid and repugnant comedy of the «victim» and the «aggressor» must be denounced. The search for the «guilty party», the «aggressor», the «instigator of war» serves as justification for both sides of bourgeois propaganda, each of which is as deleterious as the other: it serves both warmongering propaganda and pacifist propaganda.

In fact, each of the imperialisms proclaims itself «the victim of aggression» by the other, justifiably, as we have seen. It uses this as an argument to summon its proletariat to class collaboration in national defenso, today against the economic, financial and diplomatic attack on the Holy Fatherland, and against the military assault which will threaten it tomorrow. But this simple «defensive will» in reality implies all forms of warmongering. Petty-bourgeois Pacifism, as exemplified by certain small bourgeois States. (small, but nonetheless imperialist!), dreams of saving or restoring détente, peaceful coexistence and Peace in general. It spends its time hunting for whoever troubles this blissful state of affairs, and claims that it is able to prevent war by denouncing the aggressor before Universal Conscience. In fact, when its efforts have failed and war breaks out, it has no difficulty finding the vile party who is responsible for it (the other side!...) and just like the others, it too summons the proletariat to participate in the war against Evil.

For the past half-century, thanks to the general defeat of the proletariat and the rejuvenation of capital by the second imperialist butchery, the era of wars and revolutions has passed through a dormant phase.

Today it is once again entering an eruptive phase. World capitalist society is on its way to a new general explosion of the contradictions and antagonisms that it reproduces on an increasing scale. Far from trembling with fear before this explosion, far from dreaming of Peace, a deceitful and debilitating mirage, the proletariat must prepare itself to confront it victoriously.

To the imperialist war, the proletariat can only oppose its class war. To the preparations for the imperialist war, it must immediately counterpoise its own revolutionary preparation. Beginning today, it must shout out the old cry of class war: «The enemy is in our own country!» From now on, it must prepare itself politically and materially for revolutionary defeatism, and if it does not succeed in preventing the outbreak of a new imperialist war, it must prepare itself to transform it into a civil war for the overthrow of bourgeois rule and the imposition of its own dictatorship.




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  1. See «Communist Program», no. 5, June 1979. [back]

Source: «Communist Programm», no. 6, September 1980, p.1-6

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