The drive to war against Russia
Why are the US and Britain so set on a war with Russia, and what can we as workers do to prevent such a cataclysm?
It cannot have failed to attract the notice of our readers that we are witnessing an increasing drive to war against both Russia and China by our own and other imperialist ruling classes. The first question we have to ask is: why?
For the purposes of this article, we will focus our remarks on Russia, but many of them apply equally to China, against which the imperialists – the US and Japanese imperialists in particular – are also making fevered war preparations.
If one looks at the world situation – the crisis of imperialism and the desperation of the billionaire rulers of the capitalist world to save their failing system – this question of why the imperialists are so desperate to bring Russia down becomes easier to answer.
A century ago now, Lenin pointed out that imperialism strives for domination. It strives for control over resources, control over markets and control over opportunities for profit-taking. It strives to extract maximum profit – no matter what the human or environmental cost – and each imperialist power strives to keep profits, markets and resources away from both its imperialist rivals and from the great mass of non-imperialist countries (see Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, 1916).
At a time of deep economic crisis, when markets are saturated and profitable opportunities are becoming ever fewer, this drive becomes desperate and cutthroat. If capitalists cannot make profits, they go under. If they cannot make maximum profits, they lose the war of competition to more efficient or ruthless rivals and go under. If they cannot control the flow of resources – and not least of energy resources, without which no modern economy can function – they go under.
In such a situation, any area of economic activity that is not already producing maximum profit for imperialism becomes a target – as does anything that stands in the way of that goal. Whether it’s cuts to benefits (a social tax that reduces profits), the privatisation of health and education services (service provisions that are not creating profits) or war against independent countries like Syria and Libya (countries that have refused to allow full imperialist control of their resources and markets), the driver is the same: the imperialists’ desperate quest to invest profitably all the capital that is sloshing around the globe.
Looked at with this understanding, it becomes clear that, just by existing as a large, independent state, Russia is one of the biggest obstacles to imperialist hegemony in the world – and to US imperialist hegemony in particular.
China, of course, is another of these impediments.
Russia’s role in the world today
Russia covers a large and diverse territory. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it remains the world’s largest country by land size. It has huge mineral resources, powerful industrial and agricultural spheres, advanced scientific capability and a strong intelligentsia. Moreover, its nuclear military capability is second only to that of the United States. It is therefore able to a large extent to resist imperialist pressure to fall in line and to protect its territory and its people from the most aggressive forms of imperialist plunder and control.
The presently dominant group within the Russian ruling class has, to a considerable extent, turned its back on the immediate post-Soviet era, when gangster capitalists looted the wealth and resources of the once-proud USSR and turned many of them over to British, German and US imperialists for a song. The Russian national bourgeoisie has taken back the control of the most important levers of the country’s economy and is determined to retain control in its national interest. It quite clearly does not wish to become merely a facilitator for imperialist plunder and super-exploitation.
As a strong military power, Russia is also able to offer military, as well as (to a certain extent) economic, support to less powerful allies that are seeking to break or remain free of the imperialist stranglehold. Syria is a perfect example of this.
On 30 September 2015, Russia launched an air campaign in support of the Syrian government and people’s fight against the west-backed invasion of jihadi death squads that had then been terrorising the country for four and a half years.
This timely intervention proved that Russia’s existence as an independent force not only curtails the imperialist bloodsuckers’ ability to expand their tentacles into all the places they might otherwise reach, but even poses a threat to present avenues of super-exploitation.
After all, if Syria can resist the mighty US imperialism with Russian help, who is to say that other hard-pressed states might not follow suit?
Just a week after Russia launched its campaign in Syria, the chairman of the parliamentary defence committee in neighbouring Iraq, where the government is supposed to be a stooge regime facilitating US plunder of the region, declared the country’s interest in gaining Russian assistance against the Islamic State murder battalions that have been running rampant there ever since the US and its allies started funding them.
“We are seeking to see Russia having a bigger role in Iraq … Yes, definitely a bigger role than the Americans,” said Hakim al-Zamili. This was reinforced by a statement from Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi, who told France 24 that his government would welcome Russian war planes in Iraq (see ‘We are seeking bigger role for Russia than Americans’ – Iraq defence committee chairman, RT, 7 October 2015).
Clearly such an invitation would be extremely difficult for Iraq to make at present, given the continued US military presence in the country (presently consisting of 12 US bases housing a massive arsenal along with 4,500 official troops and unknown numbers of mercenaries). Nevertheless, calls officially to delegitimise the US occupation force in order to eject its troops and invite the Russians in have been gathering pace in the country (see Tyler Durden, ‘Iraq seeks to cancel security agreement with US, will invite Russia to fight IS’, Zero Hedge, 9 December 2015).
Unsurprisingly, the US, in return, is using the excuse of the ‘fight against IS’ to boost the numbers of ‘military advisors’ in Iraq, and the Pentagon declared back in October that it was officially ‘in combat’ there (see Pentagon: ‘We’re in combat’ in Iraq by Jeremy Diamond, CNN, 30 October 2015).
Still, whether or not the Iraqis can find a quick way out of their present dilemma, the fact remains that just a single week of Russia’s real, fraternal and highly effective assistance to Syria provided a stark contrast to the devastation wreaked by more than a decade of allegedly ‘humanitarian’ war and ‘friendly’ occupation by the US and its genocidal partners in crime in Iraq.
To add to imperialism’s nightmare, a joint information centre was quickly established by Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria to help coordinate efforts against IS and other terror groups. After decades of stirring up fratricidal tensions between Iran and Iraq in an effort to fan the flames of sectarianism and keep the people of the Middle East divided, US imperialism’s wars have ultimately led to a situation where Iraq, the country it has supposedly subjugated, is not only showing worrying signs of a renewed independence but is developing ever-closer relations with neighbouring Iran, the country whose independence the imperialists most desperately want to destroy (see Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria setting up ‘joint information centre’ to coordinate anti-IS operations, RT, 26 September 2015).
Indeed, the whole point of the war against Syria, besides the desire to be rid of an independent, secular, anti-imperialist government, is that independent Syria’s destruction is the first vital step in destroying independent, anti-imperialist Iran – and Iran is the key lynchpin of anti-imperialism in the vitally-important oil-rich Middle East (see ‘Which Path To Persia? Options for a new American strategy toward Iran’, Brookings Institute analysis paper, 20 June 2009).
Moreover, in recognition of the danger that is posed by imperialist hegemony to its own people, Russia has become part of the drive to create a multipolar world. It is a key part of the movement of non-imperialist countries to band together to defend themselves and develop their economies as they see fit – outside of the standard neo-colonial arrangement of IMF loans backed up by Nato guns.
The Brics grouping of large, populous, non-imperialist states comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa is a prime example of this type of anti-imperialist independence and solidarity. Like the proverbial playground bullies, the imperialists are both angered and terrified by the success of such good examples.
Russia’s attitude to imperialist war
The Russian ruling class understands that the imperialists view Russia’s strength and independence with hostility. During the years of national development in the post-Yeltsin era, Russia’s leaders have done everything possible to stay out of direct conflict with the USA.
The idea that Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin has been in any way aggressive or has courted conflict (as is so often asserted by western media pundits) is laughable. If anything, it has bent over backwards in its efforts to avoid conflict.
The US therefore grew accustomed to thinking that, with the disappearance of the Soviet Union, it and its Nato allies could act with complete impunity on the world stage. Gorbachev’s crumbling USSR abandoned its former ally and shamefully acquiesced in the first war against Iraq. Putin’s emerging nationalist Russia refused to support the resolution that paved the way for the second war against Iraq but did nothing actually to impede its inception. However, the last time that Russia turned a blind eye to a supposedly ‘humanitarian’ resolution cloaking the drive to a new imperialist war was in relation to Libya in 2011.
Whether or not the Russians understood what they were doing when they allowed the lie to pass that the Libyan government was a ruthless dictatorship engaged in killing its own people and that there was a popular uprising in Benghazi that needed protection from the forces of Colonel Gaddafi is a moot point. Russia, like China, took what appeared to be the path of least resistance and failed to veto the UN Security Council resolution that approved the imposition of a ‘no-fly zone’ for the ‘protection of Libyan civilians’.
This was immediately interpreted by the imperialists as a carte blanche for a Nato blitzkrieg that wiped out 40 years of independent, secular, people-centred development in Libya and led directly to today’s tragic situation.
The destruction of Libya didn’t only lead to the brutal murder of the anti-imperialist leader Muammar Gaddafi. It didn’t only destroy the country’s water and electricity infrastructure, roads, housing, healthcare provision and education system. It didn’t only lead to the destruction of the means of life for six and a half million Libyans.
It didn’t only lead to the massacres of tens of thousands of black Libyans in racist pogroms unleashed by West-backed death squads. It didn’t only lead to the slaughter of unknown thousands of civilians and resistance fighters and the poisoning of the air, ground and water with chemical and uranium-tipped weapons in centres of resistance like Sirte.
It didn’t only lead to the overnight appropriation of an entire people’s wealth by imperialist banksters and oil profiteers. It didn’t only lead to the destruction of the most prosperous country in Africa. It didn’t only lead to a flood of desperate refugees, prepared to exchange all their worldly goods for a chance to escape their war-torn and devastated homeland.
It also led to the further economic and military destabilisation of the entire region, cutting short plans for wider African economic development, cooperation and independence. It also removed vital Libyan support from many progressive governments around the world. And it also unleashed a tsunami of heavily-armed mercenaries, ready and willing to do imperialism’s bidding across Africa and the Middle East – and even in Europe.
This is what the brutal destruction of an anti-imperialist country means, no matter where it is in the world. This unjust, aggressive, illegal war wasn’t only a succession of heinous war crimes against Libyans; it was also a disaster for the peoples of the entire world.
The imperialists may not have achieved their aim of stabilising Libya under a proxy government in order efficiently to control the country’s resources and extract maximum superprofits, but it did achieve its aim of forced regime change; of ridding itself of a government that had stood for anti-imperialist independence for more than four decades.
Russia and China, for all their diplomatic talk about ‘partnership’, and for all their desire not to antagonise the imperialists and invite the devastation of an aggressive imperialist war onto the heads of their own peoples, are actually the principal cornerstones of today’s axis of anti-imperialist resistance. The spread of imperialist-backed terrorism around the globe affects them both directly (as in the case of Chechnya and Xinjiang) and indirectly (by undermining many of their key allies such as Syria, Iran, etc).
Libya serves as a powerful warning as to the dangers of appeasement. Imperialism in crisis is like a rabid dog; you cannot reason with it, and you cannot expect it to be satisfied with anything less than total hegemony. For its own long-term survival, Russia has had to draw a line in the sand and say ‘no further’.
In this context, where it is a question of defending the world’s people from the kind of brutal all-out wars that have devastated Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Iraq, progressive people should be truly thankful that both China and Russia have been working hard to raise their level of military preparedness and to catch up with and even overtake the US in terms of their technological capabilities.
Imperialism ultimately respects only one thing: force of arms. As even tiny socialist Korea, with a very small stock of nuclear weapons, has clearly demonstrated over the last 20 years, the best deterrent against an all-out war between Russia and the US is if Russia can convince the imperialists that the price would simply be too high.
The demonisation of Russia
It is in the light of all this that must be understood the increasingly rabid tone of US and British media, academia and politicians in relation to Russia. The obstacle that Russia presents to free imperialist plunder of significant parts of the globe is the sole motivator of the bucketfuls of bile that are poured over President Putin and his colleagues on a daily basis in the pages of the democracy-loving free press of Murdoch and Co, as well as spewing from the mouths of BBC pundits and government spokespeople.
The hypocrisy of presstitutes and politicians who defend the most ruthless and bloodthirsty rulers humanity has ever seen is staggering to those who know the truth, but nevertheless understandable – it is, after all, their job to try to convince workers to support (or at least not actively to oppose) British imperialism and its aggressive wars.
What is entirely unforgivable is that so many prominent leaders of what passes for the British left, whether they be the reformists of ‘left’ Labour or allegedly ‘revolutionary’ Trotskyites – all of whom claim to speak for and in the interests of the working class – are busy echoing the same lies about Russia as the directly-employed servants of British capital.
The position of the oh-so r-r-revolutionary Trotskyites is particularly noteworthy, and sets the tone for all the rest of the criticism of Russia ‘from the left’ in which the working-class movement is drowning.
While they were happy in 1991 to applaud the collapse of the world’s first, most extensive and most successful socialist state and of the people’s democracies of eastern Europe as a ‘great step forward’ and to greet with glee the seizure of the country’s wealth by a handful of mafiosi (the liberators of the people, no less!), they characterise the nationalist anti-imperialist bourgeoisie of today’s Russia as ‘gangster capitalists’ and describe any attempt by Russia to come to the defence of its allies and neighbours as ‘imperialism’.
In each case, while posing as friends of the Russian people and pretending to be great progressives, they objectively manage to come down firmly on the side of British imperialism.
A typical example of apparently ‘left’ form masking essentially imperialist content can be seen in an article published by the inappropriately-named Socialist Party in August 2014:
” We cannot and should not support, even critically, Putin’s Russian regime and its alleged approach that it was fighting a ‘fascist’ government in Kiev. It was pursuing a policy primarily determined by the interests of the Russian state and those it represents, the oligarchic gangster capitalists .
” Initially, there were big elements of independent movements of the working class in the creation of their own militias and independent councils but this was obscured by the presence of Svoboda, the Right Sector and fascists in Ukraine …
“We support self-determination for Crimea but ‘foreign liberation’ can ultimately undermine this. Only a democratic constituent assembly, convened by a united movement or a democratically-controlled referendum can guarantee this in Crimea and South-Eastern Ukraine.
“Neither do we support the Kiev regime but seek an independent working-class axis, and critical support of the socialist forces, even though they might be weak ” (‘Capitalist crisis continues’, The Socialist, 6 August 2014, our emphasis).
As usual, this typical Trotskyite position combines pious wishes for a ‘pure’ (and purely imaginary) ‘working-class, democratic’ force with a virulent hatred for the actual, living forces that are really expressing the will of the people of the Donbass by fighting the imperialist-backed coup regime and its fascistic paramilitary henchmen.
This expression of the British ruling class’s endemic antipathy towards Russia explains the hostility of much of the ‘left’ to the anti-fascist resistance in the Ukraine, some of whom have gone so far as to describe the resistance as ‘red-brown fascists’ in their attempts to undermine sympathy for their cause amongst British workers (see Gerry Gable, ‘Warning to anti-fascists invited to meeting at SOAS’, Searchlight, 1 June 2014).
It also explains why so many of these self-styled ‘revolutionaries’ joined the imperialist outcry against the Crimean people’s firm decision to secede from a state that had been taken over by fascists and return to being part of Russia (as Crimea historically was).
Alex Callinicos, theoretical guru (don’t laugh) of the SWP, drew typically inverted conclusions in his analysis of the Crimean referendum, describing the west-backed ‘euromaidan’ movement against Viktor Yanukovych’s ever-so-slightly Russian-leaning government as a “genuinely popular” one. He dismissed the role of the fascist forces in Ukraine as merely unfortunate and characterised the perfectly correct description of an IMF-backed fascist coup as “Moscow propaganda“.
Most importantly, he said, the conflict in Ukraine is an expression of “inter-imperialist rivalry between Russia and the West“. In case we should still be inclined to view our own imperialists as the principal aggressors, Callinicos went on to assert (without a shred of supporting evidence) that ” Ukraine matters much more to Russia than it does to the United States or the EU” (Alex Callinicos, ‘Putin raises the stakes in imperialist Crimea crisis’ , Socialist Worker, 3 March 2014).
A classic example of the same kind of disinformation ‘from the left’ was written by Owen Jones in January this year and published in the Guardian, from where it was immediately disseminated across Facebook, the twittersphere and a host of other social media networks.
Jones’s career-enhancing attack on Russia took the now standard form of a virulent personal attack on President Vladimir Putin, asserting in its ‘bold’ (or should that be ‘sycophantic’?) headline: “Putin is a human rights abusing oligarch. The British left must speak out.” (26 January 2016)
The many spurious assertions in this article have been ably rebutted on the Off Guardian website in an article well worth reading in full. We reproduce a few salient highlights below.
Refuting the claim that President Putin is an oligarch, the author pointed out: ” Mr Jones doesn’t know what ‘oligarch’ means. (Hint, it doesn’t mean ‘nasty man’, Owen.) The definition is very simple, and none of it applies to Putin, who is not a business magnate and has never worked in anything but government.
“‘An oligarchy is ‘a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people might be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, corporate, religious or military control. Such states are often controlled by a few prominent families who typically pass their influence from one generation to the next …’ (Oligarchy definition taken from Wikipedia)
“Russia is actually a democracy, though you’d be forgiven for not realising this if you only ever read the Guardian, and Putin is an elected head of state – and a popular one at that. Not an autocrat. Not an oligarch. You can’t force a lie to become true simply through repetition.
“Interestingly enough, according to researchers at Princeton (that well-known den of pro-Kremlin spies), the USA actually is an oligarchy ” (see Zachary Davies Boren, ‘The US is an oligarchy, study concludes’, The Telegraph, 16 April 2014).
Refuting assertions about President Putin’s ‘right-wing’ agenda, the article points out: ” Economically speaking, Putin would actually be considered rather left-wing in Britain or the US. When was the last time a British government renationalised an industry? Russia has a far more socialist economy than we do.
“Is he right-wing racially? No. There’s no racial discrimination in Russian government. Russia has dozens of ethnic minorities, all protected under law, unlike – and I’m just pulling a random example out of the air here – ethnic Russians in Ukraine …
“Putin is ‘in bed’ with rapacious oligarchs? The Russian government, under Putin, does business with all sorts of oligarchs. Like Berezovsky, who moved to London after Putin was elected. Or Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was stripped of his assets and arrested for fraud. Or Sergei Pugachev, who is currently on the run after being prosecuted for embezzling.
“When Putin stripped the oil-based oligarchs’ control of Russia’s energy reserves, who was he in bed with then? When he renationalised those industries and poured the money into rebuilding Russian infrastructure … at which oligarch’s behest was that?
“We live in a country where Google, Vodafone, Amazon et al regularly dodge billions of pounds’ worth of taxes, with no repercussions; can we really afford to start throwing stones about government corruption? Is there any chance at all that Cameron would permit the arrest of a British bankster?”
Regarding Jones’s hysterical repetition of the ruling class’s latest anti-Russia propaganda attacks, the author points out: “Yes, with the recent (farcical) Litvinenko ruling, Russia-bashing is back in vogue. Well done Owen, it seems your moral outrage has peaked at the time most likely to get you thousands of shares on Facebook. Lucky you.
“There’s a common thread in all of [Jones’s] accusations – there’s no evidence to back up any of them. In the case of Litvinenko, the court actually ignored evidence he was poisoned before 1 November in order to make its narrative fit together, and as for the BBC’s ludicrous Panorama episode, well, let’s just say it’s getting its own article.
“Jones’ portrayal of the second Chechen war as ‘Putin’s war’, and his later use of the phrase ‘Putin’s savage war in Chechnya’, are both quite interesting. Firstly, it suggests an ignorance of military history on Owen’s part …
“In response to an invasion by Islamic insurgents, Russia sent in the army – I’m not sure if Owen considers this savage, or not – and pushed the invaders back into the neighbouring republic, Chechnya. The constant, low-level insurgency in Chechnya then spilled over into all-out war.
“The Russian and Chechen authorities on the one side, and Chechen rebels, Islamic International Brigade (IIB) and mujahideen on the other. Yes, that mujahideen. The ‘Islamic extremists are fine as long as they are killing Russians’ model, so successfully set up in Afghanistan in 1979 and deployed in Syria last year was used in Chechnya too.
“Is war bad? Obviously. Did the people of Chechnya suffer? Immeasurably. But to lay that at the Kremlin’s door, as if Chechnya were a vanity project of the Russian leadership, is so terribly dishonest that you wonder how Jones can sleep at night.
“To then compare Chechnya and Crimea, as Jones does … is to step sideways into madness. Putting aside the pathetic parroting of the ‘annexation’ meme, I’m curious to know how much outrage defending your country from islamic insurgents should merit, and – indeed – what course of action Owen would recommend in place of ‘savage’ self-defence.
“I suppose the western press is just of the opinion that, if an army turn up at your border, you don’t ask who they are or why they are blowing up your buildings, and you certainly don’t shoot back, you just let them in and apologise for the mess.”
Jones concluded his noxious article by calling on British workers to express solidarity with Russia’s “embattled democrats and leftists”, but, as the Off Guardian article correctly pointed out, the truth is that “Russia’s ‘democrats’ are in charge. They were democratically elected, they are very popular.
“I know western definitions of democracy are shifting at the moment, but there’s nothing intrinsically more fair about being ruled by a government nobody voted for; it doesn’t mean the system works.
“And Russia’s ‘leftists’? The communist party is the second biggest presence in the Duma. They are the majority of Putin’s opposition – a role usually attributed to political no-names likes Nemstov or Navalny in a British press that increasingly has little to no interest in physical realities” (Kit, ‘Owen Jones: tough on meanness, tough on the causes of meanness’, 28 January 2016).
Anti-imperialists have to learn how to ignore the prevailing bourgeois mythology and instead follow the Marxist method, which was popularised by Chairman Mao as ‘seeking truth from facts’. This means making efforts to understand the world as it really is, and not as we might wish it to be; examining every phenomenon in its context and as it changes, and not as something static or isolated.
Following this strategy, we find that the facts of the matter paint a very different picture. The truth is that Ukraine, in common with many of the other former Soviet states, has gone through more than one change in direction since the collapse of socialism. Outside imperialist powers have several times facilitated a changing of the guard in the country, when any government looked like it might be becoming too independent.
The ‘Orange revolution’ was one such example of a somewhat less pro-imperialist, slightly more Russia-oriented government being forcibly deposed and replaced with a regime that could be better relied upon to facilitate US and EU looting of the country’s extensive riches. This was naturally described in the British media as a ‘peaceful’, ‘democratic’ and ‘popular’ movement to replace a government that was a ‘vassal of Russia’ with one that wanted to bring ‘democracy’ and ‘western values’, and which (quite coincidentally, of course) wished to join the eurozone.
Similarly, last year’s coup was carried out when Ukraine’s elected President Yanukovych backed off from signing a deal with the EU that would have meant the decimation of Ukrainian industry and would have cost the Ukrainian people $16-20bn a year for the following eight years as a condition of loans being granted to the cash-strapped Ukrainian government.
Enraged at this last-minute change of heart, the imperialists of the US and the EU decided to get their way by force, once more dressing up a violent and anti-popular coup as a peaceful and popular movement for democracy. Those Ukrainians who have stood in the way of the success of this scheme have been branded as terrorists and attacked with all the forces the new regime could muster.
In their attempts to crush all resistance, the coup leaders have bolstered Ukraine’s standing army with western armaments and training, and have supplemented their wavering conscript forces with large numbers of ideologically-driven fascistic militia, who are the direct inheritors of the Nazi collaborators of the second world war.
These blackshirts are essentially Nato’s bully boys – the enforcers of IMF austerity on the people of the Ukraine, who are seeing wages, pensions and public services decimated and their once-proud country brought to its knees.
All this has also to be placed in the wider context of the imperialist campaign to destroy Russia as an independent state. Not only do the imperialists want free access to Ukraine’s vast agricultural sector, its industrial resources, scientific and intellectual capability and its considerable mineral wealth; not only do they want to be able to freely exploit the workers of Ukraine with minimal expense for such trifles as social welfare, workers’ rights, pensions and environmental protections, but the US in particular wishes to turn the country into yet another base for Nato weapons and for surrounding Russia.
At the time of the collapse of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation, US President George Bush Sr gave firm assurances to the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev regarding the peaceful intentions of Nato towards the former Soviet states, essentially promising that Nato would never try to expand into or even further towards their territories. The intervening 20 years have shown us just how much these promises were worth – and, of course, it is now everywhere denied that any such assurances were ever given (see Joshua R Itzkowitz Shifrinson, ‘Put it in writing: How the West broke its promise to Moscow’ Foreign Affairs, 29 October 2014).
Two decades after the collapse of socialism in Europe, Nato bases and missiles now surround Russia in an aggressive ring that has nothing to do with defence and everything to do with US plans for the domination of Eurasia and the destruction of Russia’s independence (see illustrations in ‘The US and Nato have been trying to encircle Russia militarily since 1991’, The Fourth Media, 14 May 2014).
The anti-war movement in Britain
How should all this inform the workers’ movement against imperialist war and for socialism in Britain?
Well, for a start, an anti-war movement that ignores all these facts and merely echoes in a disconnected way the imperialist media’s lies about Russia being ‘aggressive’ and ‘imperialist’ is worse than useless – it is an impediment to the cause of human progress and an obstacle in the path of peace.
When they repeat the lies about ‘Russian imperialism’, supposed anti-war leaders – whether they mean to or not – turn themselves into tools of British imperialism in the working-class movement. They strengthen the imperialist case for war by helping to create an atmosphere where the lies put out by the Sun, the Guardian and the BBC are much more readily accepted as fact. This in turn undermines any call for opposition to the British war machine and transforms the struggle for a just peace into mere liberal pacifist hand-wringing.
In effect, all the justifications given by the imperialists for their criminal, aggressive, imperialist wars are being endorsed by these traitors to the working class, and all that is ‘objected’ to (and in the politest possible way) is the method of bringing about what is presented as being a wholly desirable aim: deposing Saddam, or Ahmadinejad, or Gaddafi, or Assad, or Putin, or whoever else happens to head a government that is prepared to stand up for its people.
This was taken to its logical extreme in the case of Libya, when the imperialist drive to war was reinforced by ‘Stop the War’ calling for a picket outside the Libyan embassy to protest against the ‘crimes of Gaddafi’. For pointing out the disgusting treachery of this action by Stop the War’s leaders, the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist} was summarily (and unconstitutionally) expelled from the coalition.
This is how we end up with a meaningless slogan like ‘Don’t bomb Syria’ (which is handily applicable to Russian fraternal support for the Syrian people as well as to British imperialist aggression against them). This slogan is not backed up by a thorough exposure of imperialism’s lies and an explanation of why a blow against anti-imperialist Syria is a blow against workers everywhere, but is instead undermined by endless diatribes against the ‘evil dictator Assad’ and the need to support a ‘democratic opposition’.
And this line is, of course, perfectly acceptable to British imperialism, since a ‘democratic opposition’ is precisely what it claims to be supporting through its armed intervention in Syria!
The only ‘anti-war’ action that we are asked to undertake by Stop the War is to write an email to our MP, or possibly (if we’re really feeling energetic) to turn up to a parliamentary lobby or to a stroll around our local town centre on a Saturday afternoon.
This is not anti-war work, it is conscience-salving. It is allowing the ruling class to continue with its crimes unopposed while giving a few of the more conscientious among us the illusion that we have ‘tried’ to avert the impending crime and that we therefore need feel no guilt for the blood that is being shed.
Any attempt to sharpen the movement so it can do real damage to the British imperialist war machine would drive away the ‘support’ Stop the War receives from ‘left’ Labour MPs and trade-union bureaucrats, who would immediately disaffiliate their unions. What an indictment of the British left that it succumbs to the blackmail of these defenders of imperialist interests!
Only this explains why the real power of workers, as the people who actually have to do the fighting, produce the weapons, transport the materiel and transmit the war propaganda – whether it be in Ukraine, Syria, Palestine or elsewhere – is not just overlooked by our anti-war movement, but actively suppressed.
The prospect of a militant working class getting off its knees to deliver a real blow against its own rulers’ interests, and some real solidarity to its brothers and sisters who are being massacred abroad, by organising a mass movement of non-cooperation with the imperialist war effort chills our oh-so-respectable anti-war leaders to the bone. No leader of such a movement would be given airtime on Radio 4 or column inches in the back pages of the Guardian or the Independent.
It is our firm view that British workers need and deserve better. What is needed is an anti-war movement that is prepared strongly and unashamedly to counter the imperialists’ war propaganda and to tell workers the truth.
The truth about Syria today, for example, is that Russia’s timely and fraternal assistance to the Syrian people is helping them to beat imperialism’s violent regime-change plans for the third time in five years.
The original attempt at an allegedly ‘peaceful’ (though secretly armed) phony ‘Arab spring’ was defeated as soon as it surfaced in Daraa (see Tim Anderson, ‘Syria: how the violence began in Daraa’ , Op Ed News, 13 May 2013).
The US-created ‘Free Syria Army’ (a pretended ‘secular opposition force’ which was conjured into existence after the failure of the ‘colour revolution’ scheme of 2011) had also been defeated and its last positions were in the process of being routed, when, as if by magic, the latest version of US imperialism’s ‘useful mujahideen’ surfaced in the form of Islamic State in Iraq and surged across the border with the help of financial, logistical, medical, armament and propaganda assistance from the US’s regional proxies – Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Qatar (see ‘Isis: imperialism gets tangled up in its own traps’, Proletarian, August 2014).
Today, the imperialists are caught between a rock and a hard place. In their quest to counter the independent, anti-imperialist axis of resistance in the Middle East, they have nurtured reactionary stooge regimes such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey and the various gulf feudal autocracies.
But pressure from the forces of anti-imperialist resistance is causing these stooge regimes to become increasingly unstable and rabid. And the very desperation of imperialism’s henchmen is diminishing their reliability as dependable allies, for the brutal measures needed to maintain their power are weakening their stability and thereby undermining the strength of their imperialist masters.
This can been see in the crazed actions of Turkey in shooting across the Syrian border at Russian and Syrian forces and calling on Nato to back it up.
It can also be seen in the crazed actions of Saudi Arabia in executing a leader of peaceful opposition forces as a ‘terrorist’, cutting off diplomatic relations with Iran and sending troops to Turkey while calling for a ground invasion of Syria (see Syria: imperialism on the back foot, Lalkar, March 2016).
So far, the US has refused to take the bait, but it may well yet decide that an all-out war against Russia in Syria is its last chance of success in toppling the popular government of President Bashar al-Assad – a government that has proved unexpectedly resilient up until this point.
In this context of the drive towards an all-out war between the neo-nazi Nato imperialists and Russia, an anti-war movement is needed that is prepared to robustly defend the enemies of imperialism to the hilt and to organise acts of real solidarity that make it impossible for the British war and war-propaganda machines to function effectively.
In this way, not only will it be possible to help stop Britain waging illegal and aggressive wars abroad, but it will also help the British working class to learn to use its power and to organise itself for the revolutionary class war at home.
Moreover, if Britain and the US do indeed start a war against Russia, it is our view that true anti-imperialists and socialists will support the defence of anti-imperialist Russia and work for the defeat of their own ruling class in that war. They will make it clear to British workers, suffering under the dual burdens of austerity and war, that the destruction of independent Russia will put back the movement to defeat imperialism by decades, while the defeat of British and US imperialism in such a war can only advance the cause of socialism.
In the meantime, let us do everything in our power to wake up the British people to the threat that hangs over their heads. It is far preferable to avert the next war by overthrowing the ruling class and establishing a socialist state in Britain than to be forced to learn the lesson of the need for a socialist revolution through the devastating school of a third world war.