The rebellion of the productive forces of the world economy against the confines of the nation-state system poses the threat of a third imperialist world war, presenting mankind with the alternative of socialism or barbarism. Twice in this century, in 1914-18 and again in 1939-45, imperialism plunged mankind into military catastrophes in which the lives of tens of millions of human beings were destroyed. And during the last four decades of “peace,” the domination of the globe by imperialism has been responsible for countless “small wars,” in which millions more have perished. Now, with the existence of nuclear weapons, another imperialist war for the redivision of the world market would signify the death of human civilization. A vast portion of the world’s resources are squandered in the production of the means of destruction. International expenditures on armaments have risen from $300 billion in 1972 to over $1 trillion.
Either the working class will resolve this contradiction between the world economy and the nation-state in a progressive fashion by overthrowing the bourgeoisie and reorganizing the productive forces of the entire planet on the basis of social ownership, or capitalism will seek its own resolution through the destruction of the productive forces and the annihilation of humanity. Trotsky’s explanation of the fundamental cause of World War I remains valid as an explanation of the source of any future imperialist war: “All talk of the present bloody clash being a work of national defense is either hypocrisy or blindness. On the contrary, the real, objective significance of the War is the breakdown of the present national economic centers, and the substitution of a world economy in its stead. But the way the governments propose to solve this problem of imperialism is not through the intelligent, organized, cooperation of all of humanity’s producers, but through their exploitation of the world’s economic system by the capitalist class of the victorious country; which country is by this War to be transformed from a Great Power into a World Power” (War and the International).
Despite the loss of its economic hegemony, the United States remains, militarily, the most powerful imperialist country, and reserves to itself the role of global policeman. But the conditions which prevailed in 1945 at the beginning of the so-called American Century have been drastically transformed. The loss of the economic preponderance which once made its word “law” among the major capitalist nations compels the United States to place ever-greater reliance on the brute force of its military strength. Another prophecy of Trotsky is about to be vindicated: “The world is divided? It must be re-divided. For Germany it was a question of ‘organizing Europe.’ The United States must ‘organize’ the world. History is bringing humanity face to face with the volcanic eruption of American imperialism” (War and the Fourth International ).
The American drive to war is directed against its imperialist rivals; against the revolutionary uprisings of the oppressed semi-colonial masses of Latin America and the world; and against the Soviet Union, whose creation in 1917 removed one-sixth of the earth’s surface from direct imperialist exploitation.
War, as Clausewitz stated, is a continuation of politics by other means. Thus, our attitude toward war is determined by the class character of the state powers waging it. In any war conducted by American imperialism, regardless of who fires the “first shot,” the position of the Workers League is one of revolutionary defeatism. Sections of the International Committee working in imperialist countries would adopt the same attitude toward the war machines of the ruling classes of “their” country. A new war between Japan, Germany and the United States would be a fight between different national gangs of imperialist Mafia for world domination. Basing itself on the independent interests of the proletariat, the International Committee would indefatigably expose the nature of such a war and oppose a policy of “national defense” as a deception of the working class. Revolutionary workers must fight to mobilize their class against the war. If war breaks out despite these efforts, the class-conscious vanguard must work for the defeat of their own bourgeoisie, and utilize the intensified political contradictions of wartime to overthrow the warmongers.
The domination of imperialism places immense obstacles in the path of the economic and cultural development of the backward countries. The tearing down of state boundaries and the unification of the toiling masses in powerful federations of Africa, Asia and Latin America are the indispensable preconditions for genuine progress. But this gigantic historical task can be realized only through the mobilization of the masses under the leadership of the proletariat. In the meantime, the capitalist cliques in the backward countries do everything in their power to sabotage the antiimperialist struggle and to keep the masses in a state of bewildering disunity. One of their principal instruments is chauvinism—which is a poisonous byproduct of the frustration of the legitimate anti-imperialist nationalism of the oppressed peoples. Fratricidal wars between two oppressed countries, like the bloody conflict between Iraq and Iran, are the distorted expressions of the historic striving for political and economic unity. Moreover, this war, like those fought in the past between India and Pakistan, serve the need of the bourgeoisie to tie the masses to the state machine. In such wars, it is the duty of the working class to resolutely oppose the policies of their own bourgeoisie.
Inasmuch as we regard the Soviet Union as a workers’ state, albeit one that has degenerated, the International Committee calls upon the working class to defend the USSR, should it be attacked by the United States or any other imperialist power. At issue in such a war, regardless of the immediate circumstances leading to its outbreak, would be the survival of the workers’ state created by the 1917 October Revolution and the nationalized property relations which are its enduring social conquest. We take the same attitude toward China, Vietnam, and the countries of Eastern Europe, which the Trotskyist movement characterizes as deformed workers’ states. However, the defense of the USSR or China against imperialist attack does not signify any political support for its Stalinist leadership, nor does it imply that the International Committee would support whatever military actions that these degenerated or deformed workers’ states might take. For example, the International Committee opposed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which was an arrogant and reactionary attack on a small nation.
An attack by the United States or any other imperialist country on a historically oppressed country, i.e., those of Central and South America, the Caribbean, and all the other semicolonial countries, would call forth the same irreconcilable opposition of the International Committee and the Workers League. In such a war, we would consider the victory of the oppressed nation to be in the interests of the international proletariat. In regard to the struggles of oppressed nations, it must be emphasized that the Marxist approach to war means irreconcilable hostility to pacifism, which expresses the social outlook of the middle class, condemning equally the violence of the capitalist oppressor and the violent resistance of the working class and the national liberation movements. The International Committee does not oppose all wars. It opposes imperialist wars—wars waged by the imperialist bourgeoisie—but we support the right of nations oppressed by imperialism to wage wars of national liberation, and we unconditionally defend the Soviet Union and the deformed workers’ states against imperialist attack.
The most reactionary form of pacifist swindling of the working class is the Stalinist campaign in favor of nuclear disarmament and “peaceful coexistence.” Peace cannot be accomplished through nuclear weapons treaties between imperialism and the Soviet bureaucracy, but only through the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, the cause of war on the entire planet. As Lenin insisted, the only form of disarmament which the working class can support is the disarming of the bourgeoisie by the armed revolutionary proletariat.
The ICFI is implacably hostile to multiclass “antiwar” popular fronts, which seek to subordinate the working class politically to “peace-loving” wings of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie. Our fight against war is based at all times on the historical and political logic of the class struggle, whose first rule is that the unconditional independence of the proletariat is the essential prerequisite for a consistent anti-imperialist policy.
The struggle against imperialist war requires the mobilization of the proletarian masses. The actions of isolated individuals—from refusal to register for the draft to carrying out acts of sabotage—do not advance the consciousness of the working class and must therefore be opposed. It is necessary to carry out systematic propaganda within the working class, especially among the proletarian youth, on the nature of imperialism. A campaign must be organized against all secret diplomacy as well as all overt and covert military agreements.
The sections of the International Committee must counterpose to the chauvinism of the bourgeois class the principles of proletarian internationalism. The International Committee must popularize the slogan of the United Socialist States of the Americas, Europe and the World. It must campaign against anti-immigrant prejudice and racism in order to unify all sections of the working class in the common struggle against world imperialism.
It remains necessary only to repeat the words of Trotsky: “It is indisputable at any rate that in our epoch only that organization that bases itself on international principles and enters the ranks of the world party of the proletariat can root itself in the national soil. The struggle against war means now the struggle for the Fourth International” (War and the Fourth International).