War and opportunism


“To initiate a war of aggression”, affirmed the judges at the Nuremberg trial of prominent Nazi leaders, “is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

The US Supreme Court justice, Samuel L Jackson, America’s senior representative at the 1945 Nuremberg war crimes trials and the tribunal’s chief prosecutor, went further still when he stated: “We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances of policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy”

Certainly under the tenets of the Nuremberg trials, the chief political and military leaders of the US and UK are war criminals and deserve to be tried as such.

Substance of war

Marxist Leninists, however, in defining their attitude towards war go further and inquire into the substance of the war. If, for instance, the substance of the war is the overthrow of alien oppression, such a war on the part of the oppressed nation is a progressive and just war. If, however, the substance of the war is plunder, spoliation, division of the loot and re-division of colonies and spheres of influence, such a war is unjust and reactionary. How do we then define and disclose the substance of a war? To this, the most important question, Leninism answers thus: “War is the continuation of policy. Consequently, we must examine the policy pursued prior to the war, the policy that led to and brought about the war. If it was an imperialist policy, ie., one designed to safeguard the interests of finance capital and rob and oppress colonies and foreign countries, then the war stemming from that policy is imperialist. If it was a national-liberation policy, ie., one expressive of the mass movement against national oppression, then the war stemming from that policy is a war of national liberation” (Lenin, Collected Works Vol 23, p. 18).

In other words, the most important question in defining and disclosing the substance of a war is not who attacked whom first, but to look closely at the class character of the war, the historical and historico-economic conditions which gave rise to the war, the issues at stake in the war, the classes waging it and the political objectives pursued by the classes waging it.

If we judge the war presently being waged by the US and Britain against Iraq by the above Marxist-Leninist standard – the only historically correct measure – we cannot fail to conclude that it is an imperialist war for domination, conquest and occupation, a piratical, illegal, amoral and predatory war of spoliation, a war for robbery and plunder of the oil and gas resources of Iraq and of other countries stretching from the Middle East to central Asia, a war for the recolonisation of the Middle East by Anglo-American imperialism. This war is in a double sense “a war of slave-holders for the strengthening of the worst kind of slavery.” First, it is a war for the strengthening of colonial slavery by the conquest and occupation of oil-rich Iraq as a first step towards the subjugation of the entire Middle East. Secondly, it is a war which is for “the strengthening and prolongation of wage slavery … through the fanning of national prejudices and deepening the reaction” while the capitalists rake in fabulous profits – during and in the aftermath of the war (the words in the quotation are from Lenin, Collected Works Vol 21 p. 303).

War – a continuation of policy

“Every war”, said Lenin, “is inseparably connected with the political system which gave rise to it. The politics which a certain country, a certain class, pursued for a long period before the war, are inevitably pursued by that same class during the war; it merely changes its form of action” (ibid. p. 400).

No honest judge of the present war can simply take at face value the claims of the US and Britain to be acting in the interests of either the liberation of the Iraqi people from the three decades of the ‘worst tyranny’, or ridding Iraq of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (WMD) which allegedly constituted a danger to regional and global security. The only way to define the substance of this war is closely to examine the political system which brought it about, the politics pursued by the US and Britain and the ruling classes of these two countries for a long period prior to the outbreak of this war, for it is precisely the same politics, the same aims, that these two countries and their respective ruling classes are pursuing in the conduct and course of this war by other – more violent – means.

Policy prior to this war

On this, there cannot be the slightest doubt that for decades the US and Britain have pursued a policy of economic domination of the Middle East. In the aftermath of the Second World War, US imperialism emerged as the strongest imperialist power, while its rivals lay literally prostrate. Following the Suez crisis, it had managed to displace the former dominant powers, Britain and France, as the hegemonial power in the region. From then on British imperialism decided to play the role of a junior partner to US imperialism, a role which it still continues to play, for its financial and commercial interests, its overseas investments, the health and well being of its oil and armaments manufacturing industries, are closely tied to the interests of US imperialism. In their role as joint exploiters, US and British imperialism have made countless military interventions in the region to suppress the rising national liberation movements of the peoples of the Middle East. For decades, US and British imperialism have played the role of exploiters and robbers of the Arab people, as the counter-revolutionary gendarmes for the suppression of the Arab people’s struggle for national emancipation and social advance. It is exactly the same policy that these gangsters are now pursuing through the present war, which has brought so much death, destruction and devastation to the Iraqi people. Whoever justifies this war, such a person not only works for the perpetuation of imperialist oppression of other nations, but also for the strengthening of wage slavery in the centres of imperialism.

Hegemonic designs of US imperialism

US imperialism seeks to gain total control over the Arab peoples’ oil and gas riches. Only such monopolist control enables its corporations to extract the maximum of profits. In addition to the robbery of the Arab people, only such monopolist control provides US imperialism with the wherewithal for the perpetuation of the economic dominance which it achieved following the Second World War – a dominance which is increasingly being challenged by its rival imperialist powers, especially those grouped in the EU under the leadership of Germany and France. By gaining total control over these resources US imperialism not only assures for itself the supply of these vital commodities but is also in a position to deny to its global rivals access to the same. By gaining such control, through a lock on global energy, in case of need by excluding its rivals from access to oil, US imperialism hopes to turn oil from merely a source of energy and fuel into an instrument of power, domination and hegemony. Besides its ability to project unrivalled military power, it also wants to perpetuate its economic dominance by gaining a monopoly over key resources – Gulf oil and gas being the principal among them.

Carter doctrine

US imperialism has been engaged for several decades in attempts to achieve the monopolisation of the mineral resources of the Middle East. In the wake of the oil price hikes of 1973, 1974 and 1979, when prices rose 15-fold over the decade, the US began to pay even greater attention to the Middle East than before. January 1980 witnessed the enunciation of the Carter doctrine, which stated: “An attempt by an outside power to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such assault will be repelled by any means necessary including military force.”

The Carter doctrine was backed up by the US creating the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF). The Reagan administration transformed the RDF into the central command, with responsibility for the Gulf and the entire region from East Africa to Afghanistan. It mobilised countries such as Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia into an anti-Soviet alliance and sold them huge amounts of sophisticated weaponry. It also established the Joint Task Force – Middle East to safeguard tankers carrying oil through the Gulf, in the process expanding US naval strength in the region from just 3 ships to an armada of aircraft carriers, cruisers and battleships numbering over 40.

US bases in and around the Gulf

In the period leading up to, and following, the first Gulf war in 1991, the US was successful in securing bases and naval facilities in nearly every country in the region. During the decade following the war, the US supplied $59 billion worth of armaments, equipment and materials for the construction of military projects to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE. Of these, Saudi Arabia alone accounted for $43 billion’s worth of such supplies. The unilateral and illegal no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq were enforced from bases in Turkey (Incirlik) and Saudi Arabia (near Riyadh) respectively. Qatar is now host to the largest US base, al-Udaid.

On the pretext of the ‘war on terrorism’, US-led forces in October 2001 invaded Afghanistan, killed 20,000 Afghans, overthrew its government and placed its puppet, Karzai, in the presidential palace in Kabul. The US made huge increases in its ‘defence’ budget, which jumped from $280 billion in 2000 to about $400 billion now, $60 billion of which is earmarked for financing US forces in and around the Gulf. It has further strengthened its presence in Diego Garcia and Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and created a string of bases in central Asia – an area which until recently constituted the eastern republics of the erstwhile Soviet Union now serves as the eastern link in a continuous chain of American bases extending from the Mediterranean and the Red Sea to the borders of Russia and China.

Importance of Iraq

With the present war against Iraq, the US is bound to want to establish military bases in Iraq, from which to attempt further to terrorise the peoples of the Middle East and to intimidate its rival imperialist powers. Iraq is very important to US strategy. With 112.5 billion barrels of proven reserves, it is the second largest repository of oil (after Saudi Arabia) and accounts for 11 per cent of the global reserves. In addition, Iraq had planned to dig 417 new wells. Once the entire Iraqi acreage is mapped, its oil reserves are expected to top 300 billion barrels, surpassing even Saudi Arabia’s 261.8 billion barrels. Before the first Gulf War, Iraq produced 3.5 million barrels of oil a day (b/d), which had shrunk to 2.5 million b/d before the present war. With the restoration of the oil industry, which like the rest of the Iraqi economy had been strangled through 12 years of inhumane UN sanctions, Iraq could easily be producing 3.5 million b/d within a year. And, according to experts, within 5 years her daily production could reach 10 million barrels.

This fits in neatly with the expected rise in demand for oil from 76 million b/d at present to 123 million b/d by 2025. Today two-thirds of the Gulf oil goes to the western industrialised countries. By the year 2015, however, three-quarters of it is expected to go to Asia, principally China, whose dependence on Gulf oil could cause it to develop closer military and political ties with countries such as Iran and Iraq – a prospect hardly to the liking of the US and which the latter is determined to prevent. Today US oil imports account for 54% of its total consumption of 22 million b/d, and by 2025 imports of oil are expected to rise to 65-70% of its consumption. As the US is the most motorised country in the world, with 800 vehicles for every 1000 of its population, and with decreasing efficiency in light vehicle fuel consumption, it is estimated that the volume of motor fuel consumption by the year 2020 will be “… almost as great as the total volume of oil products consumed in 2000″ (Financial Times, 13 January 2003).

By gaining control of Iraqi oil, the US would be able to break the power of Saudi Arabia, which currently produces 8 million b/d and accounts of 11.8% of global daily production. In addition, Saudi Arabia has spare capacity of the order of 3 million b/d. At the same time, control of Iraqi oil would enable the US severely to weaken, if not destroy, the power of OPEC (the Organisation of Oil Exporting Countries), which today accounts for 38% of global oil production, but whose share is expected to rise to just above 50% by 2025. To cap it all, in the 1970’s most of the Middle Eastern countries nationalised their oil industries – a process which the US is very keen to see reversed through the privatisation of the Iraqi oil industry, with the US oil giants sharing this bonanza and the US supervising the abrogation of the oil contracts signed by the Saddam regime with Russia, France and China. It is an extremely risky strategy, fraught with great danger, and has ‘fiasco’ written all over it. But that the US has been bent upon pursuing this dangerous strategy over a long period of time, of this there cannot be the slightest doubt.

Only a study of the above policy, pursued over decades by the powers waging war against Iraq – a policy of which the present war is a continuation – can reveal the substance of this war. In the light of the foregoing, it is abundantly clear that Anglo-American imperialism’s war against Iraq is not merely an unprovoked war of aggression, it is at the same time an imperialist, predatory, unjust and reactionary war for the colonisation and subjugation of its proud people. It has nothing to do with their liberation, but everything to do with their forcible occupation.

Whether we judge it according to the law relating to the Nuremberg tribunal or from the standard of substance, the present war against Iraq is a criminal war, and the leading political and military figures – Bush, Blair, Powell, Straw, Rumsfeld, Hoon, Franks et al – deserve to be treated, and prosecuted, as war criminals.

Opportunist defence of Labour imperialism

As far as Britain is concerned, the war is being waged by the Labour government. We have stated on innumerable occasions that the Labour Party is, always has been and always will be, an imperialist party, representing the interests of British imperialism and the privileged sections of the working class, the labour aristocracy. The present Labour government has, during the last 6 years, dropped more bombs on oppressed peoples in imperialist wars than did the previous Conservative government during its 19 years in office. It is a measure of the degeneration of this party that not a single prominent member of this party has had the courage to resign from it. Their jobs, their careers, mean everything to them – their alleged socialist principles mean absolutely nothing.

Yet the Troto-revisionist fraternity, which passes for the left in Britain, continues to work overtime for the preservation of the Labour Party and the health of its ‘left-wing’, the Benns, Corbyns and Galloways – the very scoundrels who, by their ‘left’ rhetoric, dupe the working class into supporting the imperialist Labour Party.

It was the endeavour of the British government to get a second UN Resolution so as to provide ‘legitimacy’ for the war it was bent upon waging. In the period prior to the start of the war, as the anti-war movement developed exponentially in preparation for the 15 February demonstration, the largest ever seen in Britain, the left wing of the Labour Party, as well as the Lib Dems, opportunistically jumped on the anti-war bandwagon, but with the hope that a second UN resolution would be passed. Such a resolution, while helping them ease their consciences, would at the same time allow them to support the imperialist slaughter in Iraq. It was the bounden duty of the anti-war movement to expose such people. Instead of that, the Stop the War Coalition (STWC) betrayed the interests of the British proletariat and the oppressed people by appending its signatures to the following letter to Tony Blair in December 2002 on the occasion of the UN Human Rights Day: “We call upon you as prime minister to give a clear undertaking not to engage in military action against Iraq without the explicit authority of the United Nations, and without the explicit decision of the House of Commons to do so.”

Signatories to this letter included Jeremy Corbyn and Alice Mahon, both ‘left’-wing Labour MP’s, Carol Naughton, Chairperson of CND, and Lindsey German, a prominent member of the Trotskyite SWP and convenor of the STWC. No one with even a pretence to socialist principles could have signed this letter, for it implied that the signatories would not oppose the then impending imperialist war as long as this war had been anointed with the holy water of a UN resolution and the blessing of a House of Commons resolution. Instead of enlightening the anti-war movement about the imperialist nature of the UN and British democracy alike, the leadership of the STWC, capitulating to the interests of the Labour Party and its concern for the careers of its ‘left’-wing Labour MP’s, made much of the rebellion by 140 Labour MP’s who, on 18 March, voted for an amendment to the resolution in support of the government’s war policy. This simply stated that parliament “believes that the case for war against Iraq has not yet been established, especially given the absence of specific UN authorisation, but in the event hostilities do commence, pledges its total support for the British forces engaged in the Middle East, expresses its admiration for their courage, skill and devotion to duty, and hopes that their tasks will be swiftly concluded with minimal casualties on all sides.”

The ‘rebels’, who voted for this chauvinist and imperialist amendment, included Alice Mahon, George Galloway and Jeremy Corbyn – the very scoundrels who need to be exposed for what they really are – socialists in words and imperialists in deeds. Instead what we get is opportunists outside of the ranks of the Labour Party protecting counter-revolutionary social democracy, in particular the ‘left’-wing of this stinking corpse. It is precisely the likes of Benn, Corbyn and Galloway who spread the dangerous illusion that the Labour Party can be rescued from the clutches of the likes of Blair to serve as an instrument for the emancipation of the proletariat. It is precisely they who bring some ‘socialist’ kudos to this out-and-out imperialist party, just as the ‘left’ of the Labour Party always has done. The main function of this ‘left’ is to serve as a cover for Labour’s hideously naked imperialism.

Letter to Blair in support of Galloway

Following recent allegations in the Daily Telegraph that George Galloway was on the payroll of Saddam Hussein’s regime, the Labour Party leadership has been making noises about expelling Galloway from the Party. We are not interested in the Telegraph’s allegations, which in all probability are nothing but scurrilous fabrications. Galloway is suing the Telegraph and we hope he wins. What does concern us, however, is his politics and the reaction of the STWC to these developments. The STWC has circulated a letter, purportedly written by members of the Labour Party, and addressed to “Rt Hon Tony Blair” – no less – demanding “that the whip is not removed from … Galloway ..”, for this will render him “…powerless in the House of Commons and my views will no longer be voiced”. What kind of a socialist, what kind of truly anti-imperialist, anti-war movement circulates suchlike anti-proletarian missives? If George Galloway and his like are truly socialists, as they never tire of asserting, what in heaven’s name are they doing in this bloodthirsty imperialist party which is forever attacking the working class at home and the oppressed people abroad? Since they have not the courage of their self-professed convictions, since they are unable to give up their lucrative careers and cope with the resultant financial consequences, it is not the job of the anti-war movement to act as an air raid shelter for these cowardly opportunists. Besides, if the Labour Party is prepared to tear itself apart through expulsions and witch-hunts, this should be welcomed, for the weakening and destruction of social democracy, this most deadly enemy of the working class, is part and parcel of developing a truly proletarian, truly anti-imperialist movement. It is most unlikely that the Labour Party will expel the likes of Galloway, for it needs them as much as they need it. If it actually does expel them, then we must confess that the Labour leadership is far more stupid than we think it is.

Be that as it may, why should the removal of the whip from Galloway, etc., “render them powerless in the House of Commons”, as the letter circulated by STWC asserts? Would it not be truer to say that only the removal of the whip would render them powerful enough to represent the views, and more importantly the interests, of the working class at home and the oppressed people abroad, freed as they would be from the suffocating embrace of the imperialist Labour Party? – that is, of course, if they were genuinely inclined towards and desirous of expressing such views.

NCP’s defence of the Labour Party

So as not to lag behind their Trotskyite cousins, the revisionists of the New Communist Party (NCP) in their party organ, the New Worker, approvingly reproduce a “scathing attack” by Roy Hattersley, a former Labour minister, on Labour members who were quitting the party “just when Tony Blair’s warmongering policies and subservience to President Bush have severely weakened New Labour’s grip on the party leadership [sic]” (New Worker, 28 March 2003).

In his regular column in the Guardian, Hattersley, being the faithful social democrat that he is, and being alarmed at the “carnage of membership card destruction” caused by the war in Iraq, says that those leaving the party “should be ashamed of themselves”, characterising their resignations as “acts of unparalleled stupidity”, for by leaving they were simply accelerating “the process to which they object”. He adds: “… the people who are leaving are those we most need to put socialism back on the political agenda”. He went on to say that the task of rescuing the Labour Party from the “invading army” of Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ is “far from hopeless” and, therefore, those who have left must rejoin.

The same piece in the New Worker goes on to quote Mr Tony Woodley, the present deputy General Secretary of the T&GWU, who is contesting for the position of general secretary to succeed Bill Morris on the latter’s impending retirement. Woodley too says that the Labour Party has been ‘hijacked’ and that “If elected I will call for a summit of affiliated unions to discuss how to get Labour back representing working class people.”

That Messrs Hattersley and Woodley, two lifelong social democrats, should utter the above words is perfectly understandable. What is not understandable is that the NCP, which swears by Marxism-Leninism and the dictatorship of the proletariat, should follow in the wake of Labour Party bigwigs. At a time when a section of the membership, mostly ordinary members and not a single prominent leader, is leaving the Labour Party in disgust, to tell this section that they ought to be “ashamed of themselves”, to tell them that they should rejoin the Labour Party, is to display the same sort of sense of occasion as that displayed by Tolstoy’s fool who wished mourners at a funeral procession many happy returns of the day. Far from being ashamed, those leaving the Labour Party have solid reason to be proud of their conduct. We for our part have every reason to be proud of, and applaud, their actions. The NCP’s approval of Hattersley and Woodley’s groundless statements tells us as much about the NCP’s phony Marxism as about Hatterley and Woodley’s equally phony socialism.

In comparison with this gentry, even some properly solid bourgeois, who have funded Labour with lavish donations in the past, have indicated that they might withhold their donations in the future because of Labour’s warmongering. Robert Devereux, who has given Labour £100,000, has said that his conscience would be “troubled” donating to a party that waged a war which was “morally wrong”. He said that war against Iraq would be “the most horrendous thing the world could do”, adding that “It’s inconsistent and hypocritical. There are many other countries, including Israel, who are in flagrant breach of UN resolutions. We have no proposals … to invade them.” (Quoted in the Financial Times of 22 January 2003).

Another Labour donor, Lord Haskins, has said that he would find it “very difficult” to defend war on Iraq. When one compares the attitude of these capitalists, from whom one has no right to expect anything, with that of the trade union bosses, including some alleged ‘left’-wingers, who have decided to give the Labour Party a whopping £40 million over the next 5 years, one gets an idea of the utter rottenness, the extreme putrefaction, of the representatives of the labour aristocracy. These are the people who are forever spreading false hope that the Labour Party can be turned into an instrument for socialism. In spreading these illusions, this gentry is merely defending the interests of British imperialism, by attempting to retain the hegemony of social democracy over the British proletariat. In spreading these illusions, this gentry is merely defending the interests of British imperialism, without defending which they can neither defend their own cushy careers nor those of the privileged section of the working class, whose representatives they have always been.

In the light of the foregoing, it is clear that it is impossible to build a genuinely proletarian movement without exposing the Labour Party and its opportunist defenders for they are “the real agents of the bourgeoisie in the labour movement, the labour lieutenants of the capitalist class, the real carriers of reformism and social chauvinism” (Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism).

Those who are in earnest about the struggle for socialism have a duty to explain to the masses “the inevitability and necessity of breaking with opportunism, to educate them for revolution by a merciless struggle against opportunism and to unmask the hideousness of National-Liberal-Labour politics and not to cover them up” (Lenin, Imperialism and the Split in Socialism).

This is not a task which can be left either to the ‘left’ opportunists in the Labour Party, nor to their opportunist supporters outside – the Trotskyists and revisionists. It is a task which can be accomplished by Marxist-Leninists alone. Let them rise to this challenge.