What is the Anti-Draft Movement?
by Sy Landy and Walter Daum
International politics took a grave turn at the beginning of 1980. It is not only that the open imperialists and Cold Warriors are threatening to lead us into a reactionary and devastating war. The anti-draft protest “movement” that has developed in response presents a more subtle danger, because it is based upon politics that will pave the way to the same disaster.
The people who have joined the anti-draft protests are coming from two distinct positions. There are those who oppose the draft because they prefer the “all volunteer” army that the United States now has. By its own admission the bulk of the movement is student, middle-class and white; many of its adherents are products of the “me generation” who could not care less if somebody is sent to “fight for Exxon” as long as it is somebody else. These are the people who carry the banners reading, “There is nothing worth dying for” and “We are not trainable.” These are the people who aren’t concerned that oppressed black and Latin youth will be economically forced to join the “voluntary” army of imperialism.
But there are also sincere and dedicated people who are looking for a way to oppose war, imperialism and the entire oppressive system of capitalism. The working class can use their services. Many of these can be won to a genuine revolutionary and proletarian outlook if they are convinced of the communist position that the anti-draft force offers no answer to imperialism and war. That is the purpose of this pamphlet.
The leadership of the “movement” is likewise divided into two wings. The right wing consists of liberals and social-democrats who oppose the draft because they believe that the volunteer army is the best defender of imperialism at a time when the United States is not engaged in an all out war. The left wing is made up of pacifists and avowed socialists who want U.S. imperialism to have no army at all. The pacifist sub-division of this wing simply wants capitalism to disarm itself peacefully; the socialists, more scientifically denoted as social pacifists, conceive that an anti-draft campaign will stymie the imperialist army, prevent war – and in the bye and bye do away with capitalism as well. Both are fostering illusions that can only disarm the working class both politically and militarily. Tragically, if they have their way the consequences will be calculated in death tolls of workers and oppressed, here and abroad.
The liberal wing sets the tone and the predominant politics of the entire operation. This is not only because the liberals have the backing, financial and ideological, of a substantial wing of the bourgeoisie. They also have a clear class position in defense of capitalism, unlike the “leftists” whose socialist pretensions (when they even exist) are painfully feeble. As just one indication, why is it that the “Marxist-Leninist” organizations do not reprint or cite Lenin on conscription and militarism? Why have none of the “Trotskyists” breathed a word about what Trotsky had to say? This is certainly not their normal practice. The reason is (as anyone can verify by reading the excerpts from these two revolutionary giants reprinted here) that Lenin and Trotsky have nothing in common with an anti-draft “movement” because it is anti-working class. That too we intend to prove.
The Anti-Draft Pro-War Liberals
The dominant spirit of the anti-draft protest is that of liberal Senator Mark Hatfield (Rep. Ore.), one of the featured speakers at the March 22 National March Against the Draft in Washington. He told Congress that he opposes President Carter’s draft registration program because it “will waste millions of dollars, deeply divide the nation at a time when we require solidarity and strength, disrupt millions of lives, divert resources from the strengthening of the all volunteer army and likely create a new class of teenage felons” (New York Times, March 12).
The last reference is to the potentially large number of youthful draft resisters. But Hatfield’s fundamental concern is to strengthen the voluntary army - the bribed mercenary force now maintained by U.S. capitalism. We point out in our “Dialogue on Conscription” (reprinted in this pamphlet) that Jimmy Carter also favors a mercenary army and not a draft at this point. Hatfield’s difference with Carter is not over an eventual wartime draft but over registration. While it is true that registration will pave the way for a future draft, Carter’s current call has more direct purposes, one of which is to serve as a diversion. Carter has trumpeted the return of the Cold War as a response to events in Iran and Afghanistan. His saber rattling (of which registration is part) is designed to warn the U.S.’s imperialist rival, the USSR, and to show strength to its increasingly independent imperialist allies, France, Germany and Japan. It was also aimed at gaining popular support for dealing with revolutionary masses who have upended Iran and threatened to overturn every friendly reactionary regime that Washington counts on in the oil-rich Persian Gulf region.
The cutting edge of Carter’s program to hold down the anti-imperialist masses is a larger Rapid Deployment Force which would be able to send up to 100,000 Marines and paratroopers along with aircraft carriers and fighter planes to quell any outbreak. No more will U.S. imperialism be the “pitiful giant” unable to attack popular uprisings in Angola, Nicaragua and the Middle East! The plan demands money, technology and skilled manpower. It is based upon expansion of the present volunteer army and not upon the draft or registration.
The Congressional opposition to Carter’s registration comes from those who believe it to be unnecessary and financially wasteful. For example, the reactionary Senator Harrison Schmitt (Rep. N. Mex.) charged that Carter wasn’t prepared to spend enough for the volunteer army and that draft registration was a “smokescreen that diverts attention from the real problems of the military.” Hatfield does not differ with the reactionaries over strengthening the volunteer army. They are quarreling over just how much more money should go to it and what kinds of weapons it should have. The same is true of the other liberal imperialist politicians featured on March 22: Bella Abzug, Rep. Robert Kastenmeier (Rep.-Wis.), Rep. Theodore Weiss (Dem.-N.Y.) and Michael Harrington of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee. In addition, Senator Ted Kennedy and Governor Jerry Brown enroll under the same banner. They all want to beef up the mercenary army, the strike force of U.S. imperialism – and if war comes then they will all whole-heartedly and in unison support a draft as well.
The Pacifists and Social-Pacifists
The other wing of the anti-draft leadership hasn’t exactly knocked itself out in piling criticisms upon its openly pro-imperialist partners. Many of the pacifists and “socialists” have spent their time collecting the liberal “big names” to decorate speakers’ platforms and organizational stationery.
Sooner or later the very pressure of the struggle will force a differentiation. But this will not change the fact that the left anti-draft forces are providing a cover for the Administration’s volunteer rapid deployment army. For as long as the capitalist state exists it must have an army. It will never disarm itself – it can only be disarmed by an opposing force: a proletarian army. The state is fundamentally its armed power which will disappear only when it is overthrown by socialist revolution. When the pacifists and “socialists” oppose the draft they are necessarily fighting for the only other alternative short of revolution – the mercenary army. Their alliance with the liberal bourgeoisie is no accident. Mark Hatfield is not an unfortunate choice as the leading speaker but a true symbol of this “movement.”
The problem of the pacifists and social-pacifists doesn’t end with this. If they have their way the working class and not the capitalists will be disarmed. The international crisis of capitalism is already beginning to take its toll at home. The system will have to make the workers pay vastly more to increase productivity and profit rates. The capitalists hope to offset the workers’ anger against their bosses by raising an external threat. That is one of the purposes of Carter’s war preparations and Cold War rhetoric over Iran and Afghanistan.
But more will be necessary. The capitalists will have to try not only to restrain the workers’ demands and hold down their standard of living but also to crack their defensive organizations, the trade unions. The criminal cowardice of the labor bureaucrats who have failed to fight for anything will not save the unions from attack: it is only an invitation for further inroads by the bourgeoisie.
The use of scabs and police against strikes is accelerating. Nearly every strike is deemed a threat against the “national interest.” The bribed mercenary army especially, with its added weaponry and higher paid personnel, will serve for anti-working class work not only abroad but at home as well. Unlike a mass, drafted army which is closely linked to its working-class roots, a mercenary army gains strength as the economy worsens. Jobs in the volunteer army will become prized, and soldiers, not excluding those from oppressed layers, will act as mercenaries have always acted - as tools of their paymasters.
As communists we stand opposed to all bourgeois armies, mercenary or drafted. Nevertheless, in the excerpt reprinted in this pamphlet, Lenin explains why communists prefer a mass drafted army to a voluntary one so long as capitalism exists. An armed proletariat is always a danger to capitalism and is the basis for the socialist revolution.
The advocacy of the mercenary army by the liberal anti-drafters constitutes a greater danger to the working class than the same position by the reactionaries. Workers can be more easily disoriented by the supposedly pro-labor liberals into accepting the volunteer army. But even more dangerous is the pacifist wing (especially its “socialist” component which talks in working-class and Marxist terms). Pacifism can lull workers into thinking that the evils of capitalism can be eliminated without a revolutionary struggle, without the working class having to learn the arts of war and acquiring the weapons to defend itself against the bourgeoisie’s inevitable attacks through scabs, cops and hired thugs – among whom the mercenary army is counted.
There has never been a capitalist state without an armed farce, but there have been working classes without arms when they needed them. In Nazi Germany, Hitler crushed the workers with both the official volunteer army and his own auxiliary force – the kind of organized band of hoodlums that capitalism always churns up in times of severe crisis to suppress the working class. Moreover, the defeat of the disarmed working class paved the way for World War II: the capitalists learned the lesson of the Russian Revolution that followed World War I and undertook the Second World War only after the workers movement had been crushed in several important countries - Italy, Germany, Spain and finally Stalin’s Russia. Pacifism, including its social-pacifist wing in the shape of the German Social-Democracy, undermined the martial spirit and capacity of the working class and thereby paved the way not for peace, but a new round of imperialist war.
At least some of the “socialists” within the left-pacifist wing have a further argument. Yes we want to arm the working class and prepare it for the revolutionary struggle, but the time when that can be done is not at hand. Meanwhile the anti-draft struggle presents an opportunity to weaken the power of the imperialists even if the mass of people in the movement do not intend to do this. It is an objectively anti-imperialist movement.
The trouble with this argument is that it is simply not true. As we have learned from the massive experience of the past summed up by Lenin and Trotsky, an effective mercenary army is far better for the capitalists than a draft (except of course in times of actual war). In focusing its attention on the question of the draft - which is not even an immediate issue since it is favored by no section of the ruling class today, not even Carter – the “movement” is deliberately diverting attention from the actual war preparations that are going on: the build-up of nuclear and high-technology weapons and the toughening of the mercenary forces. Worse, by strengthening the political base of liberal imperialists of the Hatfield-Kennedy stripe, it is actually contributing to the bourgeois campaign for a stronger mercenary army. If the “movement” were to adopt the slogan “No Draft! Build the All-Volunteer Army!” it would be giving a far more honest description of what it “objectively” stands for. But then the socialist pretensions of the “left” wing would be somewhat undermined.
Today the left is united as never before. Every centrist organization in the country is marching under the “anti-draft” banner. No organization other than the LRP is using the issue of the draft to propagandize for the arming and military training of the proletariat. Some are defending the USSR, some are defending the interests of China (and will shortly be arguing for a draft to defend the interests of its ally, the U.S. bourgeoisie), and others confine themselves to democratic and militant reform struggles at home. But all have proved their fear of the armed working class more than the armed bourgeoisie by enlisting in the “No Draft” army - an auxiliary force of the bourgeoisie. To honest revolutionaries who mistakenly find themselves building the anti-draft “movement,” we have one thing to say: “this is not the answer.”
With the rise of war fever, however, actions against imperialism are vitally important. Bolsheviks must work in united actions with anybody and everybody willing to fight against the deeds of imperialism. We march with anyone to prevent imperialist attacks on Iran. We march with anyone to stop government attacks on U.S. workers. We do not demand political agreement from those we march with. But Bolsheviks cannot join in a “movement” that stands for a pro-imperialist, anti-working class policy.
“No Draft” is no answer to the preparations for war by the bourgeoisie; “No Draft”, in fact, is a slogan that paves the way to the same disaster. The working-class revolutionary party at the head of the masses is the only movement capable of ending imperialism -the highest stage of capitalism and the source of war.
The LRP advances action slogans such as:
“No Draft” is No Answer!
Stop U.S. War Moves: No U.S. Troops to the Persian Gulf!
Defend the Iranian Revolution!
No U.S. Aid to Afghan Reactionaries!
Defend the Afghan Revolution from Russian Imperialism!
The LRP raises propaganda slogans such as:
Socialist Revolution is the Only Answer to War! Arm the Workers!
Build the Revolutionary Party!
Reconstruct the Fourth International!
(0riginally published in Socialist Action in January 1980)
Suddenly the mushroom clouds of World War III seem to loom on the horizon. Explosions detonated in Iran echo around the world. Thousands of Russian troops march into Afghanistan. President Carter labels Premier Brezhnev a liar and cuts back on trade with the USSR: The press is rife with speculation over whether the Cold War has returned as a central policy for both Washington and Moscow.
There is no question that the day of detente is drawing to a close. “Peaceful coexistence” was a product of imperialist prosperity. As long as there was enough grease in the world economy, the friction between the two massively armed powers did not have to spark into active conflict; they could regulate their rivalry while continuing to forcibly exploit the entire world. But the end of the post-World War II prosperity bubble and the reassertion of the mortal crisis of capitalism have meant that those days are gone forever.
The crisis has stimulated mass upsurges throughout the world. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, rebellions ripped through France, Italy, the American black ghettoes, as well as Poland, China, Czechoslovakia and the Caribbean. Today a new wave is erupting, inspired by the U.S. defeat in Vietnam and the liberation struggles of the Portuguese colonies in Africa. In 1979 alone, the working classes of Iran and Nicaragua shattered brutal regimes armed to the teeth for decades by the U.S., and eruptions in El Salvador, South Korea, Grenada and Zimbabwe have shaken the imperialist citadels.
The upheavals have given rise to extremely contradictory reaction in Washington and Moscow. Both capitals seek to maintain some semblance of agreement, for they are afraid that the growing rift will open a channel for revolutionary pressure to escape. Both the Western and Stalinist forms of capitalism have a vested interest in maintaining their profitable economic interchanges, and more generally, to solidify the world network of imperialism.
On the other hand, both sides are forced to try to weld their own blocs together by mobilizing against each other. While they have a common interest in preserving the system as a whole, they are rivals as well and are therefore forced to take the path toward Cold War and world conflagration.
Not only the U.S., but also the USSR was upset by the Iranian revolution. Both powers saw the seizure of the American embassy in Teheran as a threat to the delicate mechanism of inter-imperialist diplomacy. Despite their dislike of Khomeini, both powers understand that they must avoid toppling the Islamic Republic because there is no other force that can prevent the Iranian workers from moving towards a socialist revolution.
Hence both the U.S. and the USSR refused to support the Kurds and the Azerbaijanis in their struggles for national rights. The USSR’s Afghan puppet Karmal pleaded his love and friendship for the Ayatollah and extolled Islam. Russia in fact defended its invasion as a necessity for ending former Afghan President Amin’s overzealous attacks on the Islamic rebels. As well, the Russians touched on a very real concern of the Iranian masses (whom Khomeini delicately balances upon) when they blamed the problems of Afghanistan on U.S. imperialism and the CIA. Their line has had some success, for as of this writing Khomeini has not raised the expected outcry against the attack on Afghanistan.
Not to be outdone, Washington is now drowning its Iranian adversary in crocodile tears of concern. Carter’s adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski states, “I should think every sober-headed Iranian, even the most anti-American ones, ought to ask themselves what do the events in Kabul portend for Teheran.” He argued that the Ayatollah should surrender the hostages and that Iran’s security would be guaranteed by “stable relationships with those who are prepared to be Iran’s friends.” Carter offered additional bail when he called for support for god-fearing Islam against “a powerful atheistic government.” (He somehow neglected to point out that another “atheistic government,” China’s, was a close ally of the “god-fearing” U.S. in Afghanistan.) Both sides seek to stabilize the danger zones but they are forced by the logic of their rivalry to do so at each other’s expense.
Both Superpowers Declining
The increased tension offers other opportunities for the crisis-torn superpowers. The emerging cold war situation differs from the 1950’s in that then both the U.S. and the USSR appeared to be strong, relatively prosperous and undisputed leaders of their respective blocs. Today both sides are falling apart. The collapse of the post-war boom has meant the reduction of American power and the strengthening of rival imperialism within the bloc, notably those of Japan and West Germany.
The USSR has already lost China, which has gravitated toward the West. Russia, with its stagnating economy (some reports indicate a negative industrial growth rate for 1979, vitiating all idiot-leftist claims for its “post-capitalist” economic relations), is no longer able to keep tight control over East Europe, where several “satellites” are becoming more dependent upon Western banks and industries. And the USSR can no longer rely on the automatic support of the strong Communist Parties of Western Europe.
The Russian invasion of Afghanistan got only tepid support from East Europe and was openly opposed by the Italian and Spanish CP’s. The U.S. bourgeoisie, for its part, has been unable to prevent West Europe and Japan from doing business with Iran during the crisis (since they far more than the U.S. depend on imported oil), and it is very worried that Carter’s embargo of technology against the USSR will be honored only in words by France, Germany and Japan.
The contradictions do not stop there. The new Cold War will allow both sides, it is hoped, to mobilize their own increasingly restive working classes. Capitalism of either variety can only “solve” its crises by massive attacks upon the already threatened living standards of the working class. Inspiration in the name of the “national interest” is a favorite capitalist method for getting the workers to sacrifice.
Working Class Undefeated
During the outbreak of tough talking over the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, both sides proclaimed their willingness to tighten their belts (read: tighten the workers’ belts) because of the outrage committed by the opponent bloc. As a Kremlin spokesman told the New York Times, “If we have to go without potatoes and bananas to preserve the security of our country, we are prepared to do that.”
But unfortunately for the capitalists, the inviting prospect of a Cold War cover for squeezing the workers is also fraught with contradiction. Unlike in the first period of Cold War, the international working class has not suffered major defeat. The workers’ outrage at the declining standard of living will not so easily be directed into a new war drive. The memory of devastation engendered by World War II still lives with the Russian masses and always acts as a brake upon their rulers. The bitter disgust over the Vietnamese adventure still haunts the American political scene and inhibits Washington’s war drive. The Cold Warriors must attempt to mobilize the workers of the major contenders not only against each other but also against the workers and oppressed of the neo-colonial countries who are upsetting the world now. Struggle against imperialism abroad can eventually inspire struggles against imperialist capitalism at home. The Indochina War and the linked African and Portuguese revolutions are the latest evidence. The Cold War as an imperialist strategy is a dangerous proposition indeed.
For all of Carter’s squawking belligerence, he has taken only pitifully weak steps to deal with the embassy seizure. Iranian residents and diplomats were harassed, the oil flow was diverted, and funds were seized, but these actions were more for show than substance. There is still a great danger of future military intervention, but so far Carter (and now his United Nations agent Waldheim) have suffered one humiliation after another. And despite Carter’s stage-managed shattering of Carter’s “illusions” about Russia, the real steps he has taken were minor. As a CBS correspondent put it, Washington’s approach was one of “deciding which Soviet wrist to slap.” For the moment, American imperialism speaks big but carries a soft stick.
Russia Props Up World Imperialism
As the Cold War tensions mount, the Russians will again plead for “peaceful coexistence” and a return to detente more loudly than will the West. Underneath its military power, the Russian economy is far weaker than the West’s and is dependent upon it for technology, finances, grain and markets. Since the victory of Stalin’s state capitalist counterrevolution over the Soviet workers’ state, Russia has consistently attempted to act as a prop for imperialism as a whole. For when the Russians are forced to provoke their Western rivals, their own sustenance is undermined.
Yes the Cold War is returning, but the great powers are forced to restrain its inevitable development. Even the notoriously anti-Russian Brzezinski pointed out, according to the London Financial Times, that “it would be a mistake to become ‘so mesmerized’ by... Afghanistan, that the whole concept of detente be declared prematurely dead.”
But it would be a disastrous mistake for the working class to depend upon the capitalists’ good will and self-interest to prevent another world war. The Cold War of 1980 is just the beginning. The logic of the capitalist system in decline forces ever more strained competition and rivalry. The other imperialist powers will also have to assert their interest, and the great power alignment that we see today may shift tomorrow. The fundamental force underneath all the capitalist contradictions that prevents the imperialists from going to war today or in the future to redivide the spoils of the world is the working class. The fact that it is undefeated and is going on the march again is the real deterrent. Above all it is the threat of mass explosion in the Middle East coupled with popular hostility to war at home that has so far prevented Carter from sending troops to Iran. The anti-imperialist victories of 1979 were giant steps forward but it is the proletarian socialist revolution that can end war for all time by destroying its source – world capitalism.
Cold War and Class War
(Originally published in Socialist Action in February 1980)
The new “Carter Doctrine” spelled out by the chieftain of world imperialism in his January 23 state of the union speech has been widely interpreted as a crystallization of the Cold War rhetoric that has been coming out of the Administration since the beginning of the new year. But it is not directed solely against his Russian imperialist rivals. As we pointed out in the January Socialist Action, both the U.S. and the USSR are not only striving for world influence at each other’s expense but are also using the revived Cold War to try above all to win the obedience of their respective working classes.
Carter’s militaristic blustering about using armed force to defend “American interests” in the Persian Gulf was far out of proportion to the actual danger posed by Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan. It turned out to be more threat than action, like his previous anti-Russian moves. These included the embargo on grain sales (which apparently hurts American farmers more than Soviet consumers), the ban on technology exports (which Western Europe will not follow), the shelving of the so called SALT II “disarmament” treaty, and other blockbusters like the curtailment of diplomatic exchanges and the Olympic boycott.
One reason that Carter has accelerated his rhetoric and advanced the Cold War is to set himself up for reelection. This may mean a temporary relaxation after November, but the escalation may also have added fuel to a flame which is not so easily damped. The U.S. ruling class does not plan to go to war with Russia now, but it does want to be ready for a future imperialist war (which may end up being against other imperialist rivals like Germany or Japan, not necessarily the Russians). The intensifying capitalist crisis contains a built-in drive towards war even though the bourgeoisie may now prefer to avoid it. Its preparations include softening up the workers so that they will be willing to sacrifice their living standards and even lives.
Carter’s latest military budget, trumpeted as the answer to Russian militarism, is hardly the fire-breathing monster that his rhetoric makes it appear. First, it must be noted that the military build-up began some time ago as Carter attempted to buy right-wing support for SALT II. Secondly, the budget allows for an increase of 12 percent at a time when inflation is running at 13 percent (the government claims that defense costs are rising less, however). The increase comes nowhere near achieving the military hegemony that the U.S. rulers enjoyed at the time of Cold War I. According to Carter’s statistics, the 1981 “defense” budget will amount to 5.2 percent of the gross national product, a tiny increase over the current 5.1 percent but a sharp decline from the 9 percent of the Vietnam War years and even from the 7 percent of the early 1960’s.
The reasons for Carter’s budgetary conservatism are both political and economic. The U.S. defeat in Indochina coupled with the powerful anti-war mood in the nation a decade ago prevented military expansion at the same rate the U.S. had reached previously. The late 1960’s also signaled the end of the post-World War II economic boom in the imperialist countries, and liberal spending policies could not be continued without causing an inflationary explosion even greater than what we have had. Neither condition has changed in 1980, so Carter’s stepped-up military program has to be a very small step indeed.
Carter Demands Sacrifice
But it is only the first step. The militaristic tone of Carter’s doctrine is deliberate even if there is so far little to back it up. The condition of political “malaise” and economic crisis is dangerous for the imperialists: any spark in the class struggle could touch off fireworks by the American working class. So the workers’ anger against the deepening economic crisis (13 percent inflation, 7 percent unemployment - both understated by government statistics) has to be turned away from the ruling class towards an external enemy.
Carter’s militarism thus contains an economic attack against the working class. His state of the union address said so directly. Echoing the “declining standard of living” promise that Federal Reserve Chairman Volcker made in October, Carter now warned, “For every good that you wish to preserve, you will have to sacrifice your comfort and your ease. There is nothing for nothing any longer.” It will not be easy to convince working people that they have been paying “nothing” for what little comfort and ease they have, but Carter hopes he has found the way: good old-fashioned saber rattling.
The Iranian revolution was the first scapegoat; the oil corporations took advantage of the oil shortage to raise prices and industry profits. Then came Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan and the expanded military budget. Both serve nicely as scapegoats for the falling standard of living that is really due to the collapse of capitalist prosperity.
U.S. Woos Iranian Government
Carter’s military posturing has another purpose: to combat the anti-war and even anti-imperialist sentiments that the American people learned from Vietnam. The Pentagon is unhappy that it could not intervene in Angola in 1976, nor in Iran and Nicaragua in 1979 to save the Shah and Somoza. Now perhaps Carter can persuade us that we have an interest in imperialist adventurism.
The imperialists are desperate for him to succeed. After the retreat from Vietnam, Nixon and Kissinger established the “doctrine” that the U.S. would avoid stepping into local trouble spots but would instead leave them to sub-imperialist policemen - like South Africa and Iran. But South Africa failed to stem the revolutionary tide in the former Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique, and Iran itself underwent a mass revolution that freed it from the Pentagon’s grip. U.S. imperialism is not very pleased that it now has to do its own dirty work.
Of course, since Afghanistan, Carter has made a big point about having “no irreconcilable differences” with Iran (despite the hostages), and Iran’s newly elected President Bani-Sadr may be willing to resume economic and especially military relations with Washington. But the power of the Iranian workers and peasants is too great to allow any Iranian government to play the role the Shah once did. Similarly, most of the Arab rulers fear explosions from their populations if they admit too close an alliance with the hated U.S. government.
Imperialism Weakened by Crisis
Will Carter succeed in strengthening the hand of American imperialism through his new doctrine of militarism? The bourgeoisie itself seems to be very doubtful. The roller coaster ride of gold prices is one indication: speculators and other capitalists are unconvinced that a stable monetary system and world economy are possible in the foreseeable future. And Business Week magazine pointed out that the increased military budget may be hard to translate into actual weapons because “the underlying industrial base has been allowed to deteriorate since the Vietnam War.” The crisis of capitalism will not be alleviated by mere words, no matter how firmly spoken.
The real question is the response of the U.S. working class. If workers continue to allow their living standards to be eroded, if they are swept up into the whirlpool of jingoist hysteria, if they are willing to “sacrifice” for the benefit of the Peanut King and his fellow exploiters, then Carter and his class will have their way. The working class will be made to suffer a defeat that it has not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930’s, and capitalism will be able to restore its profitability on the backs of the workers and re-divide the spoils through the means of a new World War.
But this is not going to happen: the working class has not yet begun to fight. One betrayal after another by the cowardly trade union bureaucracy has meant a steady retreat but the class is undefeated and very powerful. Any time a major section of the class decides to hold its ground, the possibility of a classwide defense through a general strike will become visible. The coal miners’ strike of 1978 inspired many solidarity actions by workers and farmers; unfortunately, the bureaucrats then were able to team up with Carter to snatch a stalemate from the jaws of victory. Such a setback need not occur again.
Carter has come back from his 20 percent popularity over the summer to ride the high horse of an America besieged by enemies abroad. Soon, however, he will be forced to cope with the miserable economic conditions at home. Then the working class will see clearly once again what American capitalism stands for: exploitation, racism and repression, at home and abroad. The Carter Doctrine will then appear as nothing more than a successor to the Nixon Doctrine, another in a series of hopeless measures to stop the fall of world imperialism.
by Sy Landy
(Originally published in Socialist Action in February 1980)
Jimmy Carter’s new “doctrine” of increased militarism must be opposed by the proletariat. Much of the sentiment against this program is directed against his specific proposal to reactivate the Selective Service System and to register young people for the draft.
Most organizations on the radical left, including some self-styled Trotskyists, have already adopted the slogan “No to the Draft.” This position throws onto the scrap heap the entire history of Bolshevism and Trotskyism on questions of military policy. It is also a disastrous answer for the working class in response to the war preparations being made by the bourgeoisie.
Militarism Attacks Working Class
Carter’s announcement that he is “drawing the line” at the Persian Gulf, stepping up arms spending and laying the groundwork for a mass army of draftees is part of the imperialists’ revived Cold War program. As we explain in the lead article in this issue, this program is an attack on the working class as well as the U.S.’s imperialist rivals. First Iran and now Russia have been made into excuses for slashing workers’ standard of living through escalated energy costs, military waste and wage restraints.
In order to overcome its crisis American capitalism must force workers to accept far greater cuts than in the past. The Administration therefore wants to confront every family with the possibility of conscripting its youth, so that the “external threat” is brought home and working people are persuaded to sacrifice. The question is not simply economic. As workers inevitably begin to fight back against the effects of the crisis, the army will have to be made strong enough to be used for strikebreaking and “riot control” at home as well as military adventures abroad.
The student anti-draft protesters are ignoring the fact that the only alternative to a drafted army is a bribed mercenary army - or else they believe that the ruling class will accept having no army at all. Such an idea is pure fiction until the bourgeoisie is overthrown by the proletarian revolution. When the working class is not yet prepared to do this, Marxists prefer that the bourgeois army be made up of conscripts rather than “volunteers.” A drafted army will retain closer ties to the working class and will be a less reliable tool of the imperialists against the working people of this and other countries. Large sections of the U.S. Army were out of control by the end of World War II. And in the Vietnam War, the army was increasingly wracked by anti-war struggles, “fragging” of officers and even rebellions. That is why the government turned to the present mercenary force.
There is a deeper reason why Bolsheviks have always preferred a drafted army. The working class has to prepare for its own self-defense in the face of worsening economic conditions. In the present period the fearful labor bureaucracy has kept militant struggles isolated and limited. Those which have broken out on a large scale, like the great coal miners’ strike two years ago, were threatened with intervention by government troops. Working-class self-defense must include military training and arms.
Bolsheviks have always stood for the military training of the entire working class. Our need to advocate this position is even greater now since the overwhelming majority of workers do not yet realize the danger they face. We are for military training today for women as well as men, paid for by the government at union wages. It is a step towards a workers militia and the struggle for workers’ power in society.
The Marxist attitude towards militarism is exemplified by a statement by Lenin in opposition to the social-pacifism of the Kautskyites during World War I. “The women of an oppressed and really revolutionary class,” he wrote, “will say to their sons:
‘You will soon be grown up. You will be given a gun. Take it and learn the military art properly. The proletarians need this knowledge not to shoot your brothers, the workers of other countries, as is being done in the present war, and as the traitors to socialism are telling you to do. They need it to fight the bourgeoisie of their own Country, to put an end to exploitation, poverty and war, and no by pious wishes, but by defeating and disarming the bourgeoisie.’
This tradition has nothing in common with the “Stop the Draft” campaign that has begun to emerge on campuses in response to Carter. Such a campaign promotes a pacifist spirit, not a martial one, by suggesting that war can be avoided without doing away with capitalist rule. It also reflects middle-class demands for class privileges: “let the lower orders do the fighting and dying.” By sidestepping the anti-working-class character of Carter’s doctrine by denying the centrality of military training for the working class and by isolating the draft proposal as the main target of criticism, the “No Draft” campaign defines itself as a specifically middle-class movement.
Why not build a protest movement around the draft question? After all isn’t this the issue that most directly affects people’s lives? This is the attitude taken by the pseudo-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party, for example, which claims that restoring the draft “is a deadly threat to working-class youth, especially Blacks and Latinos.” It is just these youth, however, who are presently forced into the “voluntary” army as the employer of last resort. For working-class youth with little future, the military is not solely the “deadly threat” that it is for middle-class students among whom the anti-draft campaign is being built.
The “No Draft” campaign can also contribute to certain pro-imperialist sentiments. It is easily supported by students who have no objection to U.S. intervention in the Persian Gulf as long as they are free to stay away. It also makes sense for those elements of the bourgeoisie that favor an elite mercenary army equipped with technologically advanced conventional weapons and more catastrophic nuclear devices as a substitute for manpower.
What the anti-draft campaign cannot do is confront the new Cold War and put a stop to U.S. war preparations. For Carter has not limited his horizons to “surgical” strikes at weak countries like Iran that can be handled by a small force. He is now posing Russia as the enemy, not Iran. Dealing with Russia requires a mass army, and that means a draft.
For A Working-Class Movement
As the capitalist crisis intensifies and the imperialists are impelled into clash after clash, the question of what kind of army is needed will become moot for the working class as well as the bourgeoisie. Workers are far more realistic than middle-class radicals. They know that U.S. capitalism at the brink of mass war means a mass army. In World War II, public support for a draft was won even before Pearl Harbor because the vast majority of workers saw no alterative amid the rising war tensions.
Today there are many workers who know as we do that the U.S. bears the lion’s share of responsibility for the threatening war. But they nevertheless will see their own defense linked to the defense of imperialism - unless that link is severed. Revolutionaries are concerned with the survival of the working class and must not posture like impractical Utopians. The real question is not voluntary versus mass army but whose mass army.
As long as the workers do not have the power to establish their own army, we advocate specific proposals for the working-class movement to fight for in the bourgeois army. These measures show the way to a workers army and enable soldiers to participate in the revolutionary struggle for a workers’ state. For example, we demand that officers should be chosen by the soldiers themselves so that workers in arms are not turned into cannon fodder by racist, incompetent and anti-working class officers. We demand no class privileges for bourgeois youth: no student deferments, no special officers’ academies, no ROTC. We fight for full political and union rights for the drafted soldiers and an end to special military law.
The only genuine anti-war campaign is the struggle to overthrow capitalism. Narrow campaigns may hinder one or another imperialist maneuver, but even this will be less possible as the Cold War escalates. It is imperialism itself that must be dealt with, and this task demands the building of the revolutionary party of the proletariat. Building a party of workers requires a campaign against the entire capitalist drive toward war, not the draft, and for universal military training.
This campaign must instill a martial fighting spirit in the working class so that workers are prepared to defend themselves against Carter’s attacks. It must be led by communist-Trotskyists in the army and out and must demonstrate that capitalism is the source of imperialist conflicts, that arms expansion is inherent in capitalism and that imperialist war will not be stopped without the socialist revolution. Young workers and students dedicated to fighting against war must build such a movement rather than the middle class anti-draft movement that is now under way.
In the 1960’s the working class allowed the petty bourgeois radicals to lead the movement against the Vietnam War. Both the Indochinese and American peoples today are seeing the destruction of the gains made by a heroic struggle that failed to aim for the heart of imperialism. It must not happen again.
by Sy Landy
(Originally published in Socialist Action in March 1980)
In the previous issue of Socialist Action we published an editorial entitled “‘No Draft’ Is No Answer to War Moves.” It outlined the classic Bolshevik position on conscription, stressing the absolute need for arming the working class and countering the pacifist anti-draft campaign with the call for a revolutionary working-class movement. It has now become clear that our position on this question differs sharply from every other group on the left in the United States, since they all in one way or another support the “No Draft” slogan. Naturally our position has attracted many questions, which we take up here in dialogue form.
Question: Why do communists oppose building an anti-draft movement?
Answer: The draft, if it comes about, will be simply a policy decision made by the ruling capitalist class as part of drive towards imperialist war. No nation in the twentieth century can wage a serious war with a volunteer army. But the drive towards war is inherent in the capitalist system. For war to be averted, capitalism must be overthrown. What is needed is a revolutionary proletarian party to lead a mass movement against capitalism. No one will stop war by trying to stop the draft; those who try won’t even succeed in stopping the draft.
Q: Building a Revolutionary party doesn’t seem practical now. The revolution isn’t going to happen tomorrow, is it?
A: No. However it will never happen if “socialists” take it as their chief task to stress the impracticality of revolution and use this as an excuse to raise really impractical ideas about capitalism. Overthrowing the bourgeoisie will take time and is not easy, but it is the only practical answer to war and oppression under capitalism. The notion that the U.S. ruling class can be persuaded to give up its army faced with a growing world struggle against imperialism is not only impractical but also absurd.
Q: But opposing the draft doesn’t mean calling for a disarmed capitalist state.
A: That is exactly what most of the “peace movement” is calling for. They are moralists, some of whom think of themselves as Marxists - but that just makes them what Lenin called social-pacifists. If the proletarian army and the socialist revolution aren’t about to happen, then what can “No Draft” mean? Capitalism with no army is the illusion the social-pacifists present but it is not the reality. In Lenin’s words, “‘Disarmament’ means simply running away from unpleasant reality, not fighting it.” The “unpleasant reality” they are hiding from is that in opposing the draft they are in fact favoring the bribed mercenary army that exists now.
Q: Is that so had? After all, the volunteer army is largely made up of young Blacks and Latinos who are not so easy for the capitalists to control.
A: This is precisely the attitude of the middle-class anti-draft types who reject a draft because they don’t want to be part of the army; it amounts to a racist view. They are willing to accept a mercenary army composed of otherwise unemployed oppressed youth and let them do the fighting and dying. They salve their conscience with the patronizing thought that blacks cannot be used to put down the oppressed at home or abroad. But with increasing economic hardship there will be mercenaries and scabs galore of every color, driven by desperation into brutal acts against their own brothers and sisters.
Q: Then you support Carter’s draft?
A: Absolutely not. We support no bourgeois army, only a proletarian militia. We would never vote or approve a penny for any bourgeois army. However, when faced with the practical choice between a drafted army and a mercenary one we prefer capitalism to have the former. Lenin explained this as follows:
The bourgeoisie makes it its business to promote trusts, drive women and children into the factories, subject them to corruption and suffering, condemn them to extreme poverty. We do not ‘demand’ such development, we do not ‘support’ it. We fight it. But how do we fight? We explain that trusts and the employment of women in industry are progressive. We do not want a return to the handicraft system, pre-monopoly capitalism, domestic drudgery for women. Forward through the trusts, etc., and beyond them to socialism!
With the necessary changes that argument is applicable also to the present militarization of the population. Today the imperialist bourgeoisie militarizes the youth as well as the adults; tomorrow, it may begin militarizing the women. Our attitude should be: All the better! Full speed ahead! For the faster we move, the nearer shall we be to the armed uprising against capitalism. (The Military Program of the Proletarian Revolution, 1916.)
Lenin opposed the imperialist war and objected to the bourgeoisie’s utilization of a mass army. Nevertheless, he knew that a mass army, like monopoly, was inevitable under dying capitalism and was a double-edged sword. The decisive question was which class would control the mass army. Lenin and Trotsky were enthusiastic about the prospect of an armed proletariat and so are we. The Bolshevik attitude, both for Lenin during the First World War and for Trotsky on the eve of the second, was always: “Conscription, yes; but under proletarian, not capitalist control.” We raised some ideas in our Jan. issue on how to fight for workers’ control in a future drafted army.
As long as workers do not have the power to establish their own army, we advocate specific proposals for the working-class movement to fight for in the bourgeois army. These measures show the way to a workers’ army and enable soldiers to participate in the revolutionary struggle for a workers’ state. For example, we demand that officers should be chosen by the soldiers themselves so that workers in arms are not turned into cannon fodder by racist incompetent and anti-working class officers. We demand no class privileges for bourgeois youth: no student deferments, no special officers’ academies, no ROTC. We fight for full political and union rights for the drafted soldiers and an end to special military law.
If the workers fight for such demands in the imperialist army, the bourgeois army and state are done for. That is the lesson of the Bolshevik Revolution.
Q: Still, if you aren’t for the anti-draft movement you must be on the same side of the question as Carter.
A: Carter, as a matter of fact, is not now calling for a draft. He called for military registration in his bellicose State of the Union speech, but he also said that “our volunteer forces are adequate for our defense needs” and “I hope that it will not become necessary to re-impose the draft.” On February 15 he told a White House meeting of college student leaders that his registration plan “will make the draft more avoidable.”
Q: But isn’t registration just a necessary step before a draft?
A: No, peacetime registration is not a military necessity. The Pentagon’s requirements for mobilization in case of war demand 650,000 draftees in arms within six months. Without prior registration this could be done in 124 days according to a Selective Service report. With registration it would take 117 days. The Pentagon prefers a plan for registering and classifying youth, which would be much more expensive but would permit full mobilization within 56 days. The report as well as an Administration review recommended against registration because of its cost and the lack of military necessity.
Q: Why then is Carter calling for peacetime registration?
A: It is a political question, not purely a military one. He wants a policy that is more intimidating – both to his imperialist competitors in Moscow and to the American working class. If every young man and woman is compelled to register, if nearly every family in the country is affected and not just the relative few whose youth are drafted, then the working class will feel greater pressure to accept both the capitalists’ war preparations and a worsening standard of living. That is why Carter changed his policy and timed the change to follow the Russian attack on Afghanistan. He said as much at his news conference on February 13: “We are not advocating the draft. We are advocating registration for a draft. I might point out, too, that this will marshal an additional discussion and commitment among the American people, and a realization that peace is threatened…”
Q: Even though registration might not be militarily necessary, it still looks like a step towards bringing back conscription.
A: Yes it is, in the sense that it is designed to escalate the war fever and prepare public opinion for additional imperialist acts. But the ruling class isn’t crazy. It does not want a drafted army until it is at the point of war and can ride on a wave of patriotism. Only then can a mass army of working-class youth be kept under firm control, and even that situation will eventually become risky. The generals know what happened with the army in Vietnam, rebellions and the killing of officers. That’s why they turned to volunteers. Incidentally, the middle-class New Left draft resisters supported this move.
Q: Hasn’t the Pentagon changed its mind now? Doesn’t it really want a bigger army of draftees?
A: According to a “Defense” Department report published a year ago, the volunteer army provides “a full-strength active force of a quality equal to or superior to that achieved under the draft.” This is not referring to wartime, of course, when they need a mass army. Complaints from the brass about the inadequacies of the voluntary army usually amount to pleas for higher pay and greater benefits to keep up morale. Now that the ruling class is intensifying its war preparations to back up imperialism around the globe, yes, some generals are demanding wartime manning levels. But that is not Pentagon policy yet.
Q: If the draft is not on the order of the day then you don’t have exactly the same position that Lenin and Trotsky did: “Conscription, yes, but under workers control.”
A: That’s right. The basic strategy is the same but the tactical situation is different. War today is not inevitable as it was when Lenin and Trotsky argued for their policy. The proletariat has not suffered major defeats such as permitted the imperialists to embark on World War II. It is not shackled by fake-revolutionary mass parties like the Social Democrats before World War I and the Communist Parties during World War II, which succeeded in holding the workers in line. The SP’s and CP’s are still big in Europe but they do not command that kind of loyalty or discipline any more. That is why Carter hopes to use Cold War saber rattling to heat up the class war against the workers and defeat them. Then the next world war can be waged without fear of social revolution.
Since the situation is different we do not raise workers’ control over conscription as an agitational demand but only as our policy for the future. We do propagandize for arming the workers in preparation for their inevitable violent conflicts with the state. We attack all forms of pacifism and every justification for the mercenary army, which will soon be used to attack workers both here and abroad. We are particularly hostile to the draft resistance campaigns through which the middle class finds a way to escape the draft and place the burden on the workers.
Q: Why are you so hostile to those you call social-pacifists? They are opposed, after all, to Carter and the whole imperialist camp.
A: We do seek to win over militants from the anti-draft movement to the side of the working class, but this can only be done through an implacable attack on their misleaders. The social-pacifists will never succeed in their goal of disarming capitalism, but they may succeed in keeping the proletariat disarmed. That will ensure the continued existence of capitalism and the next world war. Social-pacifism is the mirror image of social-patriotism. The social-patriots say that capitalism is progressive enough to fight for. The social-pacifists say that capitalism is progressive enough to relinquish its armed power peacefully.
We have learned from Lenin that “struggle against imperialism that is not closely linked with the struggle against opportunism is either an empty phrase or a fraud.” In the same article we cited above, he identified the “two main shades” of opportunism, which were “first, the avowed, cynical, and therefore less dangerous social-imperialism” of the patriots like the labor bureaucrats of today; and second “the masked opportunists, the centrist Kautskyites, who are “much more dangerous to the labor movement because they hide their advocacy of alliance with the former under a cloak of plausible, pseudo-’Marxist’ catchwords and pacifist slogans.”
The modem social-pacifists wear a “Leninist” cloak, much more fashionable now than the threadbare one of Kautskyism. Today these groups are small, weak and divided; they cannot yet play the treasonous role that the Stalinist CP’s and reformist SP’s once did. But they are still dangerous. Their pacifism, their disarming of the workers is done in Leninist guise in order to prevent the reconstruction of a genuine Leninist vanguard party. Such a party is the only hope of the proletariat if it is to survive the death agony of capitalism.
(Excerpt from The Military Program of the Proletarian Revolution by V. I. Lenin, written in 1916. The complete document can be found in Volume 23 of his Collected Works.)
Theoretically, it would be absolutely wrong to forget that every war is but the continuation of policy by other means. The present imperialist war is the continuation of the imperialist policies of two groups of Great Powers, and these policies were engendered and fostered by the sum total of the relationships of the imperialist era. But this very era must also necessarily engender and foster policies of struggle against national oppression and of proletarian struggle against the bourgeoisie and, consequently, also the possibility and inevitability; first, of revolutionary national rebellions and wars; second, of proletarian wars and rebellions against the bourgeoisie; and, third, of a combination of both kinds of revolutionary war, etc.
To this must be added the following general consideration.
An oppressed class which does not strive to learn to use arms, to acquire arms, only deserves to be treated like slaves. We cannot, unless we have become bourgeois pacifists or opportunists, forget that we are living in a class society from which there is no way out, nor can there be, save through the class struggle. In every class society, whether based on slavery, serfdom, or, as at present, wage-labor, the oppressor class is always armed. Not only the modern standing army, but even the modern militia – and even in the most democratic bourgeois republics, Switzerland, for instance – represent the bourgeoisie armed against the proletariat. That is such an elementary truth that it is hardly necessary to dwell upon it. Suffice it to point to the use of troops against strikers in all capitalist countries.
A bourgeoisie armed against the proletariat is one of the biggest fundamental and cardinal facts of modern capitalist society. And in face of this fact, revolutionary Social-Democrats are urged to “demand” “disarmament”! That is tantamount of complete abandonment of the class-struggle point of view, to renunciation of all thought of revolution. Our slogan must be: arming of the proletariat to defeat, expropriate and disarm the bourgeoisie. These are the only tactics possible for a revolutionary class, tactics that follow logically from, and are dictated by, the whole objective development of capitalist militarism. Only after the proletariat has disarmed the bourgeoisie will it be able, without betraying its world-historic mission, to consign all armaments to the scrap-heap. And the proletariat will undoubtedly do this, but only when this condition has been fulfilled, certainly not before.
If the present war rouses among the reactionary Christian socialists, among the whimpering petty bourgeoisie, only horror and fright, only aversion to all use of arms, to bloodshed, death, etc., then we must say: Capitalist society is and has always been horror without end. If this most reactionary of all wars is now preparing for that society an end to horror, we have no reason to fall into despair. But the disarmament “demand”, or more correctly, the dream of disarmament, is, objectively, nothing but an expression of despair at a time when, as everyone can see, the bourgeoisie itself is paving the way for the only legitimate and revolutionary war – civil war against the imperialist bourgeoisie.
A lifeless theory, some might say, but we would remind them of two world-historical facts: the role of the trusts and the employment of women in industry, on the one hand, and the Paris Commune of 1871 and the December 1905 uprising in Russia, on the other.
The bourgeoisie makes it its business to promote trusts, drive women and children into the factories, subject them to corruption and suffering, condemn them to extreme poverty. We do not “demand” such development, we do not “support” it. We fight it. But how do we fight? We explain that trusts and the employment of women in industry are progressive. We do not want a return to the handicraft system, pre-monopoly capitalism, domestic drudgery for women. Forward through the trusts, etc., and beyond them to socialism!
With the necessary changes that arguments is applicable also to the present militarization of the population. Today the imperialist bourgeoisie militarizes the youth as well as the adults; tomorrow, it may begin militarizing the women. Our attitude should be: All the better! Full speed ahead! For the faster we move, the nearer shall we be to the armed uprising against capitalism. How can Social-Democrats give way to fear of the militarization of the youth, etc., if they have not forgotten the example of the Paris Commune? This is not a “lifeless theory” or a dream. It is a fact. And it would be a sorry state of affairs indeed if, all the economic and political facts notwithstanding, Social-Democrats began to doubt that the imperialist era and imperialist wars must inevitably bring about a repetition of such facts.
A certain bourgeois observer of the Paris Commune, writing to an English newspaper in May 1871, said: “If the French nation consisted entirely of women, what a terrible nation it would be!” Woman and teenage children fought in the Paris Commune side by side with the men. It will be no different in the coming battles for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. Proletarian women will not look on passively as poorly armed or unarmed workers are shot down by the well-armed forces of the bourgeoisie. They will take to arms, as they did in 1871, and from the cowed nations of today – or more correctly, from the present-day labor movement, disorganized more by the opportunists than by the governments – there will undoubtedly arise, sooner or later, but with absolute certainty, an international league of the “terrible nations” of the revolutionary proletariat.
The whole of social life is now being militarized. Imperialism is a fierce struggle of the Great Powers for the division and redivision of the world. It is therefore bound to lead to further militarization in all countries, even in neutral and small ones. How will proletarian women oppose this? Only by cursing all war and everything military, only be demanding disarmament? The women of an oppressed and really revolutionary class will never accept that shameful role. They will say to their sons: “You will soon be grown up. You will be given a gun. Take it and learn the military art properly. The proletarians need this knowledge not to shoot your brothers, the workers of other countries, as is being done in the present war, and as the traitors to socialism are telling you to do. They need it to fight the bourgeoisie of their own country, to put an end to exploitation, poverty and war, and not by pious wishes, but by defeating and disarming the bourgeoisie.”
If we are to shun such propaganda, precisely such propaganda, in connection with the present war, then we had better stop using fine words about international revolutionary Social-Democracy, the socialist revolution and war against war.
The disarmament advocates object to the “armed nation” clause in the programme also because it more easily leads, they allege, to concessions to opportunism. The cardinal point, namely, the relation of disarmament to the class struggle and to the social revolution, we have examined above. We shall now examine the relation between the disarmament demand and opportunism. One of the chief reasons why it is unacceptable is precisely that, together with the illusions it creates, it inevitably weakens and devitalizes our struggle against opportunism.
Undoubtedly, this struggle is the main, immediate question now confusing the International. Struggle against imperialism that is not closely linked with the struggle against opportunism is either an empty phrase or a fraud. One of the main defects of Zimmerwald and Kienthal – on the main reasons why these embryos of the Third International may possibly end in a fiasco – is that the question of fighting opportunism was not even raised openly, let alone solved in the sense of proclaiming the need to break with the opportunists. Opportunism has triumphed – temporarily – in the European labor movement. Its two main shades are apparent in all the big countries: first, the avowed, cynical, and therefore less dangerous social-imperialism of Messrs. Plekhanov, Scheidemann, Legien, Albert Thomas and Sembat, Vandervelde, Hyndman, Henderson, et al,; second, the concealed, Kautskyite opportunism: Kautsky-Haase and the social-Democratic Labor Group in Germany; Longuet, Pressemane, Mayeras, et al., in France; Ramsay MacDonald and the other leaders of the Independent Labor Party in England; Martov, Chkheidze, et al., in Russia; Treves and the other so-called Left reformists in Italy.
Avowed opportunism is openly and directly opposed to revolution and to incipient revolutionary movements and outbursts. It is in direct alliance with the governments, varied as the forms of this alliance may be – from accepting ministerial posts to participation in the war industries committees (in Russia). The masked opportunists, the Kautskyites, are much more harmful and dangerous to the labor movement, because they hide their advocacy of alliance with the former under a cloak of plausible, pseudo-“Marxist” catchwords and pacifist slogans. The fight against both these forms of prevailing opportunism must be conducted in all fields of proletarian politics: parliament, the trade unions, strikes, the armed forces, etc. The main distinguishing feature of both these forms of prevailing opportunism is the concrete question of the connection between the present war and revolution, and the other concrete questions of revolution, and the other concrete questions of revolution, are hushed up, concealed, or treated with an eye to police prohibitions. And this despite the fact that before the war the connection between this impending war and the proletarian revolution was emphasized innumerable times, both unofficially and officially in the Basle Manifesto. The main defect of the disarmament demand is its evasion of all the concrete questions of revolution. Or do the advocates of disarmament stand for an altogether new kind of revolution, unarmed revolution?
To proceed. We are by no means opposed to the fight for reforms. And we do not wish to ignore the sad possibility – if the worst comes to the worst – of mankind going through a second imperialist war, if revolution does not come out of the present war, in spite of our efforts. We favor a programme of reforms directed also against the opportunists. They would be only too glad if we left the struggle for reforms entirely to them and sought escape from sad reality in a nebulous “disarmament” fantasy. “Disarmament” means simply running away from unpleasant reality, not fighting it.
In such a programme, we would say something like this: “To accept the defense of the fatherland slogan in the 1914–16 imperialist war is to corrupt the labor movement with the aid of a bourgeois lie.” Such a concrete reply to a concrete question would be more correct theoretically, much more useful to the proletariat and more unbearable to the opportunists, than the disarmament demand and repudiation of “all and any” defense of the fatherland. And we would add: “The bourgeoisie of all the imperialist Great Powers – England, France, Germany, Austria, Russia, Japan, the United States – has become so reactionary and so intent on world domination, that any war waged by the bourgeoisie of those countries is bound to be reactionary. The proletariat must not only oppose all such wars, but must also wish for the defeat of its ‘own’ government in such wars and utilise its defeat for revolutionary insurrection, if an insurrection to prevent the war proves unsuccessful.”
On the question of a militia, we should say: We are not in favor of a bourgeois militia; we are in favor only of a proletarian militia. Therefore, “not a penny, not a man”, not only for a standing army, but even for a bourgeois militia, even in countries like the United States, or Switzerland, Norway, etc. The more so that in the freest republican countries (e.g., Switzerland) we see that the militia is being increasingly Prussianized, particularly in 1907 and 1911, and prostituted by being used against strikers. We can demand popular election of officers, abolition of all military law, equal rights for foreign and native-born workers (a point particularly important for those imperialist states which, like Switzerland, are more and more blatantly exploiting larger numbers of foreign workers, while denying them all rights). Further, we can demand the right of every hundred, say, inhabitants of a given country to form voluntary military-training associations, with free election of instructors paid by the state, etc. Only under these conditions could the proletariat acquire military training for itself and not for its slaveowners; and the need for such training is imperatively dictated by the interests of the proletariat. The Russian revolution showed that every success of the revolutionary movement, even a partial success like the seizure of a certain city, a certain factory town, or winning over a certain section of the army, inevitably compels the victorious proletariat to carry out just such a programme.