Letter to the International Bolshevik Tendency on "military and political support"


International Bolshevik TendencyBox 332, Adelaide St. Station

Toronto, ON, M5C 1J0

March 13, 2003


Dear comrades

I write in response to your letter of January 18, 2003 commenting on our leaflet "Against Capitalist! War Against Capitalist Peace!"explaining your position of defending Iraq, and further discussing your distinction between military and political support. As you note, our leaflet was written and distributed by people from various political perspectives, including communist and anarchist, but who were bound by a perspective of "no war but the class war." As such, this letter constitutes a personal comment rather than the outlook of the group.

I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that the statement is now available on the Internet in a slightly different version along with a link to your letter. We hope that you will take the opportunity to add a link from your letter, so that your members and supporters will have the opportunity to read the entire leaflet, rather than just the excerpts to which you reply.

It should have been clear, that when we wrote "In effect the IBT militarily defends the Ba'athist regime while affording ‘no political support to Saddam Hussein' - but what the hell does that mean?", that the question was posed rhetorically. In fact, in the passage which follows, it is noted that "if war is politics by other means, then ‘military defense' is nothing more than political support by other means."Military defence or Critical support is a slippery formula, but it is still support. Iraq may well be a former colony (neo-colony if you wish), or even a weak capitalist power, but it is still a capitalist power.

The core of your position seems to be "we side with the oppressed against their oppressors regardless of their leadership." With such a view, what does it matter to national liberation movements or corrupt trade unions whether or not you support them politically? They are simply happy you are supporting them in their struggle, and that you advocate, in some cases, workers spilling their blood in order to do so.

In your letter, you raise a series of historical instances in which you argue it was necessary to ‘take sides." In reference to Spain, you insist that the correct position was to militarily bloc with the Spanish Republic against Franco while actively seeking to "build a revolutionary movement capable of overthrowing it." But defence of the bourgeois republic was directly counterposed to workers' revolution, and as with Italy and Germany, democracy opened the door to a more brutal form of bourgeois rule. In the case of military defence though, If Iraq is to be supported in fighting the US now, as in 1991, what attitude would you take towards desertions from the Iraqi army, as happened on a massive scale in 1991? Are these "oppressed soldiers" to be praised or condemned? Are they scabbing on defence of an oppressed power? Are they to be shot like partridges?

It seems we are in agreement that the impending war is due to capitalist competition. Chronic difficulties in the US economy, highlighted by trillions of dollars in debt, a stock market bubble about to burst, and a plunging dollar have made oil, payable in dollars, an irresistible prize. In your letter you note that the US is aiming to seize Iraq's oilfields in order to increase its "leverage over Japan, Germany and other imperialist powers." And yet, you feel the need to take sides. Rather than siding with one power against another, a better approach is that of Rosa Luxemburg, who wrote in 1916,

In the era of the unleashing of this imperialism, national wars are no longer possible. National interests serve only as the pretext for putting the labouring masses of the people under the domination of their mortal enemy, imperialism. The policy of the imperialist states and the imperialist war cannot give to a single oppressed nation its liberty and its independence. The small nations, the ruling class of which are the accomplices of their partners in the big states, constitute only the pawns on the imperial chessboard of the great powers, and are used by them, just like their own working masses, in wartime, as instruments to be sacrificed to capitalist interests after the war.

Theses on the tasks on International Social Democracy (1916).


Yesterday's national liberation movements, are today's exploiters of the working class and tomorrow's allies of the large imperialist powers. True, there are conflicts and rivalries within between capitalist powers, but unless the cycle is broken, capitalism continues. The larger point is whether an understanding of the world economy, and a revolutionary attitude to it, is determined by an analysis of the whole or merely by the sum of the parts.


Red & Black Notes


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