The current conflict in Syria has again exposed the worst features of imperialism and many have feared the consequences of a full scale global war over the conflict. Syria has clearly demonstrated that the principal contradiction in the world is between the imperialist countries and the oppressed countries. At the same time the contradictions between the imperialists will sharpen until this contradiction becomes the principal one in the world and open armed conflict breaks out between them. However some Communists and Trotskyists, including CPGB (ML), CPB, RCG, NCP, SEP, Socialist Fight and the Sparticist League1 are now taking the side of one imperialism against the other when the Leninist line is to oppose all imperialisms whether they be the stronger or weaker power. It is important to gain clarity on this issue when talking to workers who oppose imperialist wars and want to show solidarity with oppressed people.
The youth organisation of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), Red Youth recently published an article entitled ‘Why do Marxist-Leninists support non-socialist governments?’. They are indeed correct to address such an issue but they have a serious error in their analysis. The article states that ‘Many opponents of Marxiam-Leninism….lampoon ML’s for our support of non-socialist governments’. They specifically mention Syria, Iran and Zimbabwe. They also say that confusion on the question can lead to promising youngsters being taken in by Trotskyism and anarchism. The argument which is then presented in this article is has a major flaw; that is that they assume that all regimes in the Third World are national bourgeois regimes and that none are comprador bourgeois, that is local agents of imperialism.2 They fail to distinguish between the two. It therefore concludes exactly what it claims not to do, which is a knee jerk support for any regime opposed to US imperialism.
One of the regimes which are mentioned in the article that is Syria, is not independent of the imperialist system. The regime is currently the client of Russian imperialism and has indeed wavered not so long ago to the US as well, torturing prisoners on behalf of the CIA3, supporting the US-British invasion of Iraq in the Gulf War of 1990 and in the Lebanese civil war Assad Senior’s Syrian Army waged war against the Palestinian refugees4. The argument which the CPGB (ML) uses, (and this applies to the other organisations with this line), is that Russia is not an imperialist country5. This in itself would have to be left to a further polemic. However to be brief Russia exhibits the main features of imperialism established by Lenin. That is: monopolies playing a decisive role in economic life, merging of banking and industrial capital, the export of capital, territorial division with other powers. Russia exhibits all these features of monopoly capitalism.6
The CPGB (ML), CPB, NCP, SEP and Socialist Fight have given unconditional support to the Baathist regime and Russia throughout the conflict. US and Russian imperialists were both terrified by the prospect of the people rising up in the Arab world. Revolutionary communists in countries such as Syria and Iran have been wiped out long ago, imprisoned and murdered by these regimes. The CPGB (ML) and CPB argue that Assad’s ‘coalition’ which rules Syria includes communists. These are of course the revisionists who followed Khrushchev’s policy of subordinating themselves to the comprador bourgeoisie and abandoning any struggle for leadership of the popular classes. Maoists and other progressives who upheld the revolutionary aspirations of the people were destroyed. There was no New Democratic revolution as there had been in China and Vietnam. The real winners of these regimes being in power are the imperialists. These regimes did not lead to national independence but to dependency on one imperialist or the other.
Assad had introduced neoliberalism to Syria and attempted to increase his grip on power. The people of the Arab world rose up against the comprador regimes which exploited and oppressed them including in Syria in 2011. Since then Assad’s regime has survived thanks to the Russian imperialists and any progressive opposition has been crushed in the chaos unleashed when the US and British imperialists also got involved supporting various opposition groups when it suited them, including islamic fundamentalists. The Syrian Civil War is an interimperialist conflict and revolutionaries should have sympathy and solidarity with the people and not with the agents of this or that imperialist who claim to be ‘legitimate’ rulers of the country.
It is absolutelty necessary to oppose the bombing of Syria by Britain and other NATO countries but also to oppose Russian air strikes. They use the same ‘war on terror’ rhetoric claiming to bomb ISIS. There can be more than one contradiction at work. When the Syrian uprising began the principal contradiction was between the Baathist regime and the Syrian masses. Now the prinicpal contradiction is between the Syrian masses and the imperialists. Any attack on Syria by any imperialist is an attack on the people whatever it is dressed up as. These leftists are happy to peddle the ‘war on terror’ when it is Russia adopting it as an excuse to attack Syria, the sole purpose of which is to save the fascist regime of Assad. Progressives and communists in Britain cannot even give any real support to anyone abroad given our weakness. The best service we can render the oppresed countries is to struggle for the defeat and overthrow of our ruling class in our imperialist country, to build opposition to them at home.
There is a theoretical basis for this opportunism by these groups. They view the world in black and white from a subjectivist position. They do not acknowledge the universal and the particular when analysing events, if they have even made any real analysis. They view the world only from a mechanical materialist prespective and not from a dialectical one, failing as they do to recognise the internal contradictions of each country. These internal contradictions are nurtured in relation to the external. Therefore the situation of each country must be viewed in its uniqueness. These leftists instead view the recent events in Ukraine, Syria, and Venezuala as exactly the same. This is mistaken.
The crisis in the Ukraine saw the far right assume power in a politial vacuum backed by the US and other NATO powers, this after decades of cultivation by the West of nationalist and far right parties in Ukraine in and outside the country. In the Donbass the Russian speaking population, including armed communist groups, rose up against the fascist-inspired regime. In Syria the situation was different. The fascist Baath party had been in power for forty years and was implementing neoliberalism and increasing repression. The uprising that followed quickly led to a repressive response by the state. The regime has been propped up by the Russian imperialists since then. In this case the Russians are aiding the fascist regime as their agents just as the US and the West aids fascists as their agents in the Ukraine. In the case of Venezuala a populist progressive government is being hampered by pro US elements and economic sabotage by the US. These events are not all identical with identical causes although they have the same condition of development, that is the imperialist system.
The internal contradictions of these countries are the causes of the development of these phenomena. The imperialist system provides the conditions for their development. It is not all some conspiracy by a small group who control the world; it is the system itself. The oppression of the Third World by the imperialists created the conditions for the sharpening of the contradictions in the oppressed countries and such phenomena as the ‘Arab Spring’.
It is Eurocentric and indeed colonial-minded arrogance to claim that the people in the oppressed countries cannot decide through their own agency to throw off reactionary rulers and that they are controlled by a US conspiracy. It lends credence to the claim by imperialist politicians that the advanced countries know what is best for the oppressed. Mao stressed that ultimately the imperialists are ‘Paper Tigers’ and are not so all powerful as they appear. For example, NATO is receiving a good hammering from the resistance of the people of Afghanistan even though their weaponry is far less technologically sophisticated. Most of the left in Britain are very coy in support for the Afghani resistance. This is a genuine national liberation struggle against the British imperialists.
The support for the oppressed countries’ political independence is necessary in order for the internal contradictions to become more obvious to the masses once the direct rule of the imperialists is overthrown in order to facilitate further struggle for New Democracy as the Chinese revolutionaty Jiang Qing summarised:
‘Poor and backward countries can cast off the control of imperialism and colonialism to achieve independence. However, they cannot spare themselves from the polarization and division brought upon them by the inequitable distribution of wealth in society. This division provides the material for lighting the fire of the proletarian revolution. The development of the national economy is a prerequisite to the establishment of proletarian troops and can ignite this flammable material. It is impossible to attain the final victory of the socialist revolution by departing from national independence and development of the national economy.’
If regimes in oppressed countriesare agents of one imperialist or another and are hampering the development of the proletariat’s struggle and that of the other popular classes then its overthrow by the masses (as in the case of Syria) it should be welcomed. Stalin explained the Leninist criteria for support for national struggles:
‘support must be given to such national movements as tend to weaken, to overthrow imperialism, and not to strengthen and preserve it.’7
The contradictions between the major imperialist powers of the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany are continually sharpening. Currently the main danger of world war appears to be between the US and Russia and their respective allies. The US is the most aggressive currently as it’s domination is now contracting and it is desperate to maintain its dominance, but Russia, China in particular will make gains at the expense of the US. If a war was to break out then the duty of communists is to oppose all imperialists and call for the world war to become a civil war between the people and the ruling class. In Britain we would have to fight for the defeat of our own imperialist in order to facilitate favourable conditions for revolution in Britain. As Mao said, ‘either revolution will prevent war or war will lead to revolution’. But only if we consciously strive for that.
The CPGB (ML) and Socialist Fight already parrot the Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik News Service claiming they are impartial. This is impossible because a capitalist news service will always be predicated from a class position and that is the one of the capitalist class. However useful some of the information may be to us in the west which our own news services would not provide for us. They are still predominantly a mouthpiece for the ruling class which includes for some very reactionary and fascistic elements. Instead of using scientific analysis the CPGB (ML) has tailed RT to the extent that it hailed Trump’s victory in the US election as ‘Trump’s victory is another blow at the imperialist system and the so-called liberal order. As such, it should be greeted with enthusiasm by the revolutionary proletariat and progressive humanity everywhere.’8 Now they don’t know if they are coming or going. It is now obvious that the US state under Trump is threatening the DPRK and Iran with military action. The CPGB(ML) are left with egg on their faces. These leftists are the useful idiots of the Russian ruling class just as the liberal leftists such as the AWL are the useful idiots of the British ruling class.
The pro Russian left has a position almost similar to the old Kautskyite position of viewing only one ‘supra-imperialist’ at work. There is always more than one imperialist power and it enters into relations with other imperialist states all of which have to expand markets, resources and territories under its influence. It is a world system and its inherent contradictions mean that various blocks of imperialists will struggle for re-division of the world and influence client states to shift and change alliegiances between imperialist gangs. Russia is currently attempting to extend its influence in former soviet states and neighbouring countires such as Syria and Iran. This will be at the expense of the US-NATO block and cannot be avoided. They will be in contradiction with each other until war breaks out for a new redivision of the planet.
The current principal contradiction is the imperialists’ oppression of the developing countries as is demonstrated most clearly in Syria. The job of communists and progressive forces is to oppose our own imperialism and struggle for its overthrow. This is the task of the workers in Britain. We do not need to rely or support an equally reactionary imperialist ruling class to do this. To support one imperialist in a war is also an example of Second International Kautskyism. The only time when such an eventuality would arise was if a socialist country was in danger from one imperialist and had to ally with the opposing imperialist to defend itself. This is what the Soviet Union did in the Second World War, allying itself with British and US imperialism when it was fighting German imperialism. There is no socialist bloc left anymore and perhaps the various leftist groups who claim to support this or that state may believe they gain some importance from associating with a great power to compensate for their lack of influence in Britain. The Leninist position in world war in the current world situation is to oppose all imperialists and support the defeat for our own imperialist ruling class as opposed to the Revisionist and Trotskyist groups who are cheerleaders for Russian imperialism.
1 Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
Communist Party of Britain
Revolutionary Communist Group
New Communist Party
Socialist Equality Party
4 Anti imperialist blog from a Palestianian https://palestinianreflections.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/the-anti-imperialism-of-fools/
5 An example of the Socialist Fight line is typical https://socialistfight.com/2014/06/12/russia-and-china-are-not-imperialist-states-lcfi-statement-short-version/
6 Lenin, Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism
7 J.V. Stalin, Foundations of Leninism, Chapter VI, The National Question
‘This does not mean of course, that the proletariat must support every national movement, everywhere and always, in every individual concrete case. It means that support must be given to such national movements as tend to weaken, to overthrow imperialism, and not to strengthen and preserve it.’
8 Trump’s victory: another blow at imperialism http://www.cpgb-ml.org/index.php?secName=proletarian&subName=display&art=1247