Leaflet produced by Wildcat in 1988 concerning the First Gulf War (that is, Iran versus Iraq). It compares the position of the Socialist Workers Party in the UK with that of Hezbollah. Not unreasonable, given that the SWP supported the Iranian regime at the time!
SWP – The Party of God
When it comes down to it there is little difference between the position of the SWP on the Gulf War and that of Hezbollah. Both call for the working class to rally to the support of the Iranian regime and fight imperialism.
The working class has taken a different position, one of class struggle against the war. In Iran there have been strikes, demonstrations and riots against the war. In Iraq the struggle is much more fierce, the army is mutinous and the workers are defending themselves from the austerity measures which the war has forced upon them. Conditions are certainly right for revolutionaries in Iran to call on workers to follow the example of their class brothers and sisters in Iraq.
So what advice has the "revolutionary party" got to give to the Iranian workers? "We have no choice but to support the Khomeini regime", "There will be instances when it is wrong to strike", "Socialists should not call for the disruption of military supplies to the front… they should not support actions which could lead to the collapse of the military effort".
If the working class in Iran was to follow the line of the Socialist Workers Party, it would be abandoning not only one of its most powerful weapons (the strike) but it would also be giving up its political independence from capital and the state. Any support for the defence of the nation cannot help but damage the interests of the working class. Re-enforcement of the notions of patriotism (even when cloaked in anti-imperialism) is a clear step away from internationalism, and another obstacle to fraternisation between conscripts.
Yet it is the Socialists who are proposing this.
The Socialist Tradition – from Kautsky to Cliff
The SWP claim to belong to the Leninist tradition of the Third International, a section of those who broke away from social democracy over its support for the butchery of the international working class in the 1914–18 war. In reality however their ideas are much closer to those of Karl Kautsky in their use of leftist language to justify a capitalist war.
Since the end of the First World War, those who follow the ideology of Lenin have found it necessary to support every capitalist war in the name of workers' internationalism.
From Trotsky lining up with Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill (the perpetrators of the murder of 3 million Indians and countless other atrocities in the colonies, the butchers of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki…) in the name of protecting democracy from fascist barbarism; through Korea, Vietnam, the Israeli/Arab war; to the SWP who are now making their excuses for supporting wholesale mass murder in the Gulf, by whimpering that because "Imperialism is not neutral in the Gulf conflict nor can socialists be neutral. We must be prepared to back Iran against the West."
For us as communists, there is no question of neutrality – we back the proletariat against the bourgeoisie every time. It matters not how leftists from Kautsky to Cliff dress up their support for bourgeois states in revolutionary language, objectively they are the enemies of the working class, just as much as the states they support.
Lenin's Revolutionary Defeatism and the Defeat of Revolutionaries
The ideas that dominate the “thinking” of the SWP on this issue stem from Lenin's theory of imperialism and his position on revolutionary defeatism.
The theory of imperialism maintains that the world is split into big imperialist powers (like America), and small oppressed nations (like Iran). The workers must line up alongside the oppressed nations against "today's main enemy" imperialism. To this we reply that we care not if America is the “big bully” attacking “poor little Iran”, the workers have no country. We have no interest in propping up the reactionary regime in Iran, of worker's corpses on the battlefield. We have no interest in tying the workers of Iran to the Islamic war machine, or of raising the prestige of Islamic fundamentalism throughout the Middle East.
Luckily most workers are not stupid enough to take any notice of this senile strategy. Otherwise all a small state with domestic problems would have to do, would be to ask the Americans to send in a few marines “against them”. And the workers, urged on by the socialists, would forget all about the class struggle and rush to the defence of the state!
The slogan of "revolutionary defeatism" is another of Lenin's misunderstandings. He said that revolutionaries cannot help wishing for the defeat of “their own” country in a reactionary war. Apart from the ambiguity in this (it could easily be taken by counter-revolutionaries, such as the RCP, to mean supporting the opposing country), it is not true. Revolutionaries in France in 1940, particularly Jewish ones, could quite easily NOT "help wishing" for a Nazi victory.
The main enemy is not at home. Our rulers threaten to make us die fighting for their interests, but the other side will kill us as well. We don't care which side is overthrown by revolution first, and, unlike the Bolsheviks, we do not believe in making peace with Capitalist butchers, but in spreading civil war into their armies.
The main enemy is international capital which, like the workers, has no country. Supporting any of its factions can only lead revolutionaries to defeat.
Against War… and Peace
While obviously we are against the capitalist war, we are also against “capitalist peace”. The west wants peace in the Gulf, a “Pax Americana” of unchallenged western hegemony, misery and exploitation. A reopening of free trade, a working class peacefully putting up with its exploitation, and a large piece of the profits.
For the working class this offers nothing. The bosses' choice of peace or war does not contain the answer we want.
In Iran and Iraq, unlike Britain, the class struggle has moved into a higher stage than a purely economic one. Therefore when we intervene in worker's struggles now, we should not just make the point that the only way to win is to extend the struggle, it must also be with an explicitly internationalist message. The working class has no interests in common with the bourgeoisie anywhere in the world. Whilst supporting all acts of rebellion we should never forget that only a full-scale revolution which aims to internationalise itself will suffice. We must be prepared to throw out the mistakes of past revolutionaries and fearlessly criticise our own failings.
"The nationality of the worker is neither French, English or German, it is work, free slavery… to haggle over ones self.
The workers' government is neither French, English or German, it is Capital.
The home and atmosphere is neither French, English or German, it is the atmosphere of the factory.
"The ground that belongs to them is neither French, English or German… it is six feet under the ground."
Karl Marx, 1845
It is hard to believe that the gurus of the SWP are so stupid that 143 years on, they still haven't realised that this is applicable to other countries, not just France, England and Germany.
Wildcat, July 1988