Taking sides in wars

Hugh Rodwell m-14970 at mailbox.swipnet.se
Wed May 15 14:57:37 MDT 1996

>> Jorn:
>> A comradely hint, Paul: If you really wnat to know, try to start
>> with giving your own opinion. :-)
>> It makes it easier to reply.
>Well... I have many opinions, but I lack information.  I want to
>avoid wishful thinking, that is, assuming events to have transpired the way
>I would like them to have, and I want to avoid moralism, that is, merely
>denouncing actions without understanding them.
>I'll denounce Pakistan's war on Bangladesh, the US's war on Iraq, China's
>war on Vietnam.  I'm ambivalent about Vietnam's overthrow  of the
>Khmer Rouge. I would like to understand more about these events, though I
>doubt my position would change.
>Choosing among rival imperialists is tricky.  I'd like to find some
>general principle for making such choices, but it may not exist.  I
>am uncomfortable that my personal positions coincide with those of
>the Soviet Union against the positions possibly held by Mao.  Or
>rather I was during the 80's.  Now such questions seem to be more of
>historical interest than matters of practical politics.

1. Ask 'cui bono?' (for whose benefit?). If an exploiting class,
bureaucracy or nation will benefit from a war, this is a clear start for
taking sides against them.

2. If both sides are led by exploiters, but one side represents an
oppressed class or people, this side should be supported. Examples: US vs
Iraq, Great Britain vs Argentina (Malvinas). Other examples are the Soviet
Union vs Afghanistan and China vs Tibet.

3. If both sides are imperialists, there is no need to choose between them.
In fact, it's wrong to choose between them. Imperialist war must be
rejected and workers on both sides should fight for the defeat of their own
imperialisms -- turn their guns on their own exploiters. The most extreme
case of this was WWII. It was no non-class war between 'democracy' and
'dictatorship' but a war between imperialisms at the expense of their
working classes. The class axis of the war turned on the defence of the
Soviet workers' state against German, British and American imperialism, in
spite of the counter-revolutionary Stalinist regime and its policies of
accommodation with first German, then Anglo-American imperialism, and its
monstrous propaganda baptizing the conflict 'The Great Patriotic War'.
Trotsky's writings in 1940, the last year of his life, an important
selection of which is published in In Defence of Marxism, deal with this
question and the related one of the character of the Soviet Union.

4. If both sides claim to be fighting for national or ethnic liberation, as
in the wars in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia, or conflicts in the former
Soviet Union such as Nagorno-Karabakh, there is need for close study of the
historical roots of the conflict -- someone's bound to be benefiting at
someone else's expense, or hoping to do so, if there is insistence on the
purely national or ethnic character of the conflict.

5. The war in Bosnia is classical in its implications for Marxists.
Following the principle of support for national liberation on the grounds
that only a federation freely entered into is of any use in the development
of socialism, the International Workers League and the Workers
International backed Bosnian independence.

In concrete solidarity they threw their weight behind the Workers Aid to
Bosnia convoy campaigns to give as much support as they could to the strong
working class and mixed ethnic tradition of the town of Tuzla and its

They exposed the lying manoeuvres of the British, French, German and
American imperialists and their UN tools.

They rejected the oppressive Greater Serbian claims of the Stalinist
chauvinists in Belgrade and their tools in Pale. They rejected the equally
oppressive chauvinist brutality and vandalism of the reactionary
petty-bourgeois nationalists of the Tudjman regime in Zagreb and their
tools in the south and west of Bosnia.

6. The follow-up to the line of support for national and ethnic
independence must be political insistence on the necessity for socialist
measures to get rid of capitalism and set up voluntary international
federations of workers' states if national and ethnic development is to be
achieved in any real sense.

7. In issues of national and ethnic conflict, especially the really
inflamed ones, it is the first duty of serious Marxists and socialists on
the oppressor side to expose and oppose the crimes of their own nation and
people. For instance, it was a Serbian comrade of the Workers International
who took the initiative that led to Workers Aid to Bosnia.

Such conflicts are raging in Ireland, where British socialists must fight
for the unity of Ireland and the withdrawal of the British presence; in
Turkey, where Turkish socialists have a similar duty in relation to the
Kurdish struggle; in Palestine, where Israeli socialists are put to the
test, etc. In Europe, the States, Australia and other imperialist
countries, the questions of immigration policy and racism are on the agenda
in similar fashion.

Paul, these questions are not of merely historical interest. In our epoch,
>from 1914 on -- an epoch Lenin characterized as an epoch of wars,
revolutions and the transition to socialism -- the same basic forces are at
work. The concrete conflicts that develop all illustrate related aspects of
these fundamental forces. We can learn from them as practical illustrations
of what a given set policies can lead to with a given relationship of class

These comments are the bare bones of a position, but they cover what I see
as the most important principles.



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