[Marxism] Re: Trotsky on Ethiopia ... and France on Iraq

Brian Shannon Brian_Shannon at verizon.net
Fri May 6 08:38:47 MDT 2005

 >>>“Far too little attention is paid to the Italo-Ethiopian conflict by  
our sections, especially by the French section. This question is highly  
important, first for its own sake and second from the standpoint of the  
turn by the Comintern. Of course we are for the defeat of Italy and the  
victory of Ethiopia, and therefore we must do everything possible to  
hinder by all available means support to Italian imperialism by the  
other imperialist powers, and at the same time facilitate the delivery  
of armaments, etc., to Ethiopia as best we can. However, we want to  
stress that this fight is directed not against fascism, but against  
imperialism. When war is involved, for us it is not a question of who  
is ‘better’, the Negus or Mussolini; but rather, it is a question of  
the relationship of classes and the fight of an underdeveloped nation  
for independence against imperialism. The Italian comrades might give  
us a short historical summary indicating how Crispi’s defeat had a  
positive effect on the further development of Italy.” [The  
Italo-Ethiopian Conflict in Writings of Leon Trotsky (1935-36)

 >>>I do not know why Johannes is quoting Trotsky.  I am not judging  
him.  But, that quote reminds me that more than 26 years ago Iranian  
Maoists and Stalinists used similar type of quotation from Stalin to  
support criminal and reactionary Khomeini and his hooligan and fascist  
gangs. At the same time, Iranian Trotskists, probably using Trotsky,  
agitated that “Iranian Revolutionary Guard” should strengthen itself  
with heavy military equipments to confront US imperialism.  They meant  
the same Islamic guard who was busy slaughtering progressives and  
communists, sometimes 300 to 400 of them a night. What a defeatist  

Trotsky is critical of the French section for not paying more attention  
to Italy’s attack on Ethiopia. It could be that the French section was  
not paying enough attention to the way French imperialism was  
supporting Italian imperialism.[*] Revolutionists should do everything  
possible to undermine any faith in their own (French) government.

He also points out that it is important not to do this in a way that  
implies that “democratic” imperialism would be better. Democratic  
imperialism would be supported by the social democrats and to some  
extent by centrist formations.

Trotsky is not talking about what Ethiopian socialists should do, but  
about what “first world” revolutionists should do. They should build a  
movement to hinder imperialism no matter who is in the leadership of  
the struggle in the colonial nation.

Developing tactics and alliances by revolutionary socialists in  
colonial countries is exceptionally difficult. In any case, one of the  
principles that Lenin developed also concerned the fact that unless you  
supported the right to national independence without reservation, you  
were in danger of putting your organization at risk. In other words,  
demagogues of the “national bourgeoisie” would use look for any excuse  
to attack you and ideologically and physically--including, as we have  
seen, extermination.

[*] France played an extremely slimy role in the whole run-up to the  
Iraq war. Despite verbal opposition to the war, at a critical time, it  
worked out a deal with the U.S. and the U.K. whereby the U.N. passed  
resolution 1441, which could be read to trigger an invasion of Iraq.

U.S. pundits or the right and the center, of course, only look at the  
surface. French revolutionists, I trust, looked at the following  
relatively frank discussion between two former ambassadors to the  
United Nations, Holbrooke for Pres. Clinton and Kirkpatrick for Pres.  
Reagan, who despite their nominal opposition as liberal Democrat and  
conservative Republican participated in this love-feast over how to  
diplomatically position the U.S. for the war on Iraq:


RICHARD HOLBROOKE: I think we're not really talking about the United  
Nations as an organization, we never really were. And blaming the U.N.,  
as some administration officials have done for this situation, is quite  
inaccurate. It's like blaming Madison Square Garden for the poor  
performance of the New York Knicks have put on in the basketball  
season. The U.N. is just the building on the East River, Margaret. What  
we're really talking about is not all 190 nations, it's not even the 15  
nations of the Security Council, it is three nations, you mentioned  
them, France, China and Russia.

The Chinese are not going to be a final objector, they won't use their  
veto so it comes down to France and Russia. Tony Blair went to Moscow  
over the weekend to talk to Putin. The final decisions in this aren't  
going to be made in New York, they're going to be made in the capitals.  
And the Russians appear to be hanging tough only to protect their own  
economic interests. I don't think they really care about the substance  
of the issue.

The French are holding tough for a technical point, they want two  
resolutions instead of one. The first resolution would authorize a new  
tough notice any time, anywhere air tight inspection regime. And as I  
understand it from my contacts with European and American diplomats in  
New York, the French would then agree to a second resolution if the  
Iraqis violated the first one -- as they undoubtedly will, by the way.  
[This discussion was based on the hope that Iraq would not allow  
inspectors back in. When Iraq did, it merely delayed the issue, but did  
not fundamentally change it.]

Then we get to the U.S. position. You have no doubt seen and reported  
that the United States government does not want a two-stage resolution.  
Now, any good diplomat can work this out. You can write a first  
resolution with automaticity in it, a triggering mechanism, very tough  
language, so my prediction, and this is based simply on intuition,  
nothing I know from the inside, my prediction is that within a week or  
so, Secretary Powell and John Negroponte, the ambassador to New York,  
both excellent diplomats will produce an acceptable resolution that the  
French and the Russians sign into, and then we'll be on the way.

MARGARET WARNER: Ambassador Kirkpatrick do you read it in a similar  

JEANE KIRKPATRICK: Absolutely, I think there's no question about it.  
There's no question that the council is somewhat divided, that there  
are three countries, you know, who are our principle problems if you  
will, stumbling blocks -- we could call them that. I fully expect that  
these differences will be ultimately resolved. And I don't know exactly  
how they'll be resolved, but I think we've been working on it for quite  
some time.

MARGARET WARNER: Give also little insight into the French in  
particular, because they really have been the lead objector here.

JEANE KIRKPATRICK: A couple things to say. You know the definition of  
university professors -- or "people who think otherwise," you know the  
French are sort of "people who think otherwise." They all like to have  
their own position, which is never quite the same, or rarely quite the  
same as anybody else's position, least of all the United States  
position. And I think there's a significant element just of this  
thinking otherwise, the French position.
. . .
And the second thing is that the French want to have some kind of  
demonstration, as Jeane said, that they don't just run along behind the  
U.S. But I want to underscore something that Jeane and I have both said  
and it needs to be stressed. This is a technical diplomatist argument.  
This is easily solvable if Colin Powell and his French counterparts can  
reach a private understanding that if it's not all in one resolution,  
that there is automaticity, that is the consequences of violation of a  
new resolution are an automatic move within 48 hours to give  
authorization to use force against Iraq.

Now, that is a decision that will not be made at the U.N.; that will be  
made by President Bush. Right now the Bush administration has said very  
clearly they want a single resolution. The French have said they want  
two. President Bush's comments yesterday suggested he was trying to  
work with the French. I know he's been in touch with President Chirac  
directly. If President Putin comes around and supports it, it's hard  
for me to see how the French can be the lone holdout against such a  
clear menace to world peace as Saddam Hussein.

from Brian Shannon

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