“Some comrades think that industrialization implies the development of any kind of industry. There are even some queer fellows who believe that Ivan the Terrible was an industrialist, because in his day he created certain embryonic industries. If we follow this line of argument, then Peter the Great should be styled the first industrialist. That, of course, is untrue. Not every kind of industrial development is industrialisation. The centre of industrialisation, the basis for it, is the development of heavy industry (fuel, metal, etc.), the development, in the last analysis, of the production of the means of production, the development of our own machine-building industry. Industrialisation has the task not only of increasing the share of manufacturing industry in our national economy as a whole; it has also the task, within this development, of ensuring economic independence for our country, surrounded as it is by capitalist states, of safeguarding it from being converted into an appendage of world capitalism. Encircled as it is by capitalism, the land of the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot remain economically independent if it does not itself produce instruments and means of production in its own country, if it remains stuck at a level of development where it has to keep its national economy tethered to the capitalistically developed countries, which produce and export instruments and means of production. To get stuck at that level would be to put, ourselves in subjection to world capital.
Take India. India, as everyone knows, is a colony. Has India an industry? It undoubtedly has. Is it developing? Yes, it is. But the kind of industry developing there is not one which produces instruments and means of production. India imports its instruments of production from Britain. Because of this (although, of course, not only because of this), India’s industry is completely subordinated to British industry. That is a specific method of imperialism—to develop industry in the colonies in such a way as to keep it tethered to the metropolitan country, to imperialism.
But it follows from this that the industrialisation of our country cannot consist merely in the development of any kind of industry, of light industry, say, although light industry and its development are absolutely essential for us. It follows from this that industrialisation is to be understood above all as the development of heavy industry in our country, and especially of our own machine-building industry, which is the principal nerve of industry in general. Without this, there can be no question of ensuring the economic independence of our country.”
– J.V. Stalin, “The Economic Situation of the Soviet Union and the Policy of the Party”
Category Archives: Colonialism
PFLP statement on the 50th anniversary of the June defeat: struggle to confront Zionism and imperialism
June 5 marks 50 years since the defeat of 1967, which had among its most prominent results, the completion of the occupation of the rest of Palestine, as well as the Syrian Golan Heights and the Egyptian Sinai. This occasion deepened the concept of defeat and its implication in Arab thought and practice and has sparked numerous efforts and political settlement projects under the pretext of resolving the Arab-Zionist conflict.
The defeat of June 5 came to confirm the nature and essence of the Zionist project and its aspirations for expansion, hegemony and occupation of a central area of the Arab region. This occupation included the Zionist project and its colonial and imperialist partners and allies, with shared goals, interests and ambitions in the Arab world, including the plundering of its resources, ensuring its fragmentation and continued underdevelopment. It also highlighted the weakness of the overall Arab situation, intensifying the contradictions of that situation. Despite all of these factors, it also opened the door to the intensification and escalation of the Palestinian resistance movement and popular defiance in the face of colonial aggression.
This intensification and escalation of Palestinian people’s resistance and the Arab response have shown, along with the Zionist project and its objectives of expansion, that the comprehensive and historical conflict with the Zionist enemy as a struggle for existence is not only between the Palestinian people and this enemy alone, but in essence is a conflict between the Arab nation as a whole and the Zionist project which aims at the dependence, subordination and fragmentation of this nation and the Arab homeland and the continued plundering of its resources and wealth, ensuring the security and stability of the Israeli occupation and its continued technological superiority and progress.
To the Palestinian and Arab masses…
Despite 50 years after the defeat, we continue to suffer its effects very clearly. In terms of the Zionist project, we see the continued occupation of Palestine and other Arab lands, despite numerous international resolutions that do not recognize the occupation and calling for withdrawal. In practice, colonization on the ground has increased continually since that time. The leaders of the Zionist project have continued the terror and ethnic cleansing that began before 1948 against the Palestinian people and its armies and aircraft have continued their attacks on the Arab countries. Their support for reactionary and extremist forces seeks to add new burdens and costs to the Arab situation, which suffers from division, weakness and fragmentation of the national and social fabric. This comes in accordance with the open and secret wars that are hurting all with the continued erosion and exhaustion of the Arab body with violence and pressure in political, economic and military forms to impose almost complete complacency before the imperialist project. In light of the ongoing U.S.-Zionist attacks, colonialism and occupation, we in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine emphasize:
First, rejection of the political and military outcomes of the defeat of June and all of the desperate attempts to lead the Arab-Zionist struggle to the gateway of so-called “peaceful settlement solutions” that depend on recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity and its existence, from Camp David through the Oslo Accords and Wadi Araba. We reject all attempts to normalize between Arab states and the Zionist enemy, part of an apparent attempt to erase the essential nature of the struggle. This is a confrontation between, on one side, the imperialist powers, the Zionist project and its tool “Israeli occupation,” and on the other, the entire Arab nation. This struggle is for the liberation of the entire land of Palestine and the return of its people who were displaced to the corners of the earth through systematic uprooting and ethnic cleansing, and for the liberation of the Arab people and control over their destiny, wealth and resources, on the road to the dismantling of the Zionist state, a state of occupation, aggression and permanent warfare against the Palestinian and Arab people.
Second, rejection of the so-called Arab-American-Islamic Summit in Riyadh and its results, which aim to distort the main contradiction in the region with the Zionist project and the Israeli state and shift the conflict to one with Iran through the formation of a so-called “Sunni”-Israeli-American alliance. This is an attempt to tailor Arab politics to the requirements of the imperialist and Zionist project and confirm the dominance of the Zionist state in the region. It also aims to target Arab and Palestinian resistance forces, which were described in this summit, in the words of US President Donald Trump as “terrorism.”
Third, confrontation of the results of this summit with the broadest official and popular Arab alliance, uniting all Arab progressive forces struggling for liberation and freedom from imperialism and Zionism in the region. This struggle requires activating the role of the Arab Progressive Front based on clear strategies and tactics and comprehensive planning.
Fourth, ending all Palestinian and Arab reliance on the path of so-called negotiations, which have proven through experience to be painful, damaging and a complete failure in achieving any Arab or Palestinian objectives. Any reliance on a positive role played by Trump confirms the continued cultivation of illusions and losing bets. This administration comes in continuation and intensification of the ongoing strategic policy of US administrations, designed to ensure the security, stability, progress and technical and military superiority of the Zionist occupation. Therefore, it will only strive to impose a political solution in conformity with a U.S./Israeli vision.
Our choice is that of the Palestinian people, resistance and struggle for national liberation and ending all forms of absurd negotiations with the Zionist enemy. This includes full commitment to the resolutions of the Palestinian Central Council and PLO Executive Committee, including the end of negotiations and security coordination with the occupation, on the road to a complete break with the Oslo agreement, its political and economic consequences and its disastrous impact on the Palestinian liberation struggle and our rights.
Fifth, prioritizing the Palestinian reconciliation file and undertaking hard work to end the division. This begins by ending all actions taken against the Gaza Strip and collective resolution of the issue of the administration committee and implementing reconciliation agreements. This also includes the rebuilding and restoration of Palestinian national institutions, particularly the Palestine Liberation Organization, on the basis of national and democratic foundations. It is not acceptable to deal with these institutions as a site of exclusivity, domination and monopoly, and instead it is critical to open the field widely for all forces, institutions and social strata to participate in the management of Palestinian national affairs.
Sixth, our salutes and appreciation to the brave prisoners and their struggle in the battle for freedom and dignity that they fought for 41 days of empty stomachs, confronting the occupation and its inhumane policies. We affirm our full and continued support for the prisoners’ struggle until freedom, liberation and the return of our people to their homes, lands and homeland.
Glory to the Palestinian People, the Arab nation and the brave resistance!
Glory to the martyrs and freedom for the prisoners!
Victory is inevitable
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
June 5, 2017
Hail May 1st, The International Workers’ Day !
May Day Statement of the Party of Labour Iran (Toufan)
May 1, the day of unity and solidarity of the working class all over the world, is upon us at a time when the Western imperialists headed by the U.S. imperialism, with the adoption of policy of invasion, of violation of the Charter of the United Nations and even without the consent of the United Nations Security Council, and against the will of overwhelming majority of the countries of the world, have created a new world order reminiscent of the old colonial times. The U.S. imperialism, the number one enemy of the mankind and the biggest state terrorism in the world, neither recognizes the right to self-determination nor accepts independence nor respect the territorial integrity of nations. The imperialists do not recognize any international agreement that opposes or restricts their interests. They occupy or violate the airspace of countries and act like criminal bandits and kill civilians, without being held accountable. The U.S. imperialists want to impose the decisions of their Congress, that is, their legal system, on all countries of the world. They have brought all foreign exchanges and payment services under their control in order to bully nations. Among others, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Syria, Libya, Palestine and Yemen are the victims of this inhuman policy. The renewed bombardment of Syria that is ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump is a serious warning signal for endangering the world peace and for the possible beginning of a bloody world war.
In Iran, the capitalist regime of the Islamic Republic continues to oppress the working class. The workers’ just demands for the formation of independent trade unions, for work, bread and freedom, for job security, against privatization, and against mass dismissals are met with arrest, imprisonment and torture. Though the social expert groups estimate the minimum living cost of a 3.5-member family to be near two million and 489 thousand Tuman per month (about $750) , the ” High Council of Labour” has set the minimum wage of 930 thousand Tuman ( $270)! This is a further step in the implementation of neoliberal policies, to meet the demands of the International Monetary Fund, to provide cheap labor and to increase the rate of capitalist profit. According to the statements made by the official press, more than 80% of Iranian workers now live under the poverty line.
The implementation of the bill of “Target Subsidiaries”, has worsened the living condition of the working class. Only the united struggle of the workers and labourers under the leadership of their working class party can emancipate the people from the yoke of capitalist slavery.
The Party of Labour of Iran is boycotting the Presidential elections in Iran. There is no legitimacy in the criminal regime of the Islamic Republic for which the Iranian officials are trying to display through elections.
We celebrate May 1st this year with the knowledge that the Great October Socialist Revolution took place 100 years ago, the first revolution which established the dictatorship of the proletariat and the real democracy for workers and toilers, and opened a new horizon to mankind. The revolution was realized under the red flag of Lenin. The Bolshevik Party under Lenin’s leadership, and later under the leadership of Stalin, had defended the achievements of the October Revolution.
For liberation from destructive bloody wars, for elimination of the nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, for the realization of genuine human rights, liberation from exploitation, poverty, unemployment and economic misery, there is no other path but the path of socialist revolution under the leadership of the working class.
Long live proletarian internationalism!
Down with the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran!
Long live socialism!
May 1, 2017
The Party of Labour of Iran (Toufan)
Compass: Journal of the Communist League
No. 87; August 1990
LIBERIA, on the west coast of Africa, has an area of 43,000 square miles (about the size of Iceland) and a population of 2.4 million. It was founded in 1847 by American philantrophic organisations as a colony for liberated black slaves from the United States.
Liberia’s two main exports are iron ore (which accounts for 70% of export earnings) and rubber — mainly from the vast US-owned ‘Firestone’ plantations. According to the late President of Liberia, William Tubman,
“. . most people were earning as little as pounds Sterling 38 a year”
(Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 18; p. 25,052).
Liberia’s capital, Monrovia (population 425,000) is named after James Mon~oe (1758-1831), the fifth President of the United States. Liberia’s unit of currency is the US dollar. Although Americano-Liberians comprise only 5% of the population, they have dominated Liberian politics since the foundation of the country in consequence of the country’s dependence on United States imperialism.
VIRTUALLY FROM ITS FOUNDATION TO THE PRESENT DAY, LIBERIA HAS BEEN A SEMI-COLONY OF UNITED STATES IMPERIALISM.
American interests in the country include:
“. . a ‘Voice of America’ transmitter. . . a telecommunications relay station . . ; an Omega satellite station; private investment amounting to some $350 million and extensive outstanding bank loans.”
(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 28; p. 31,283).
“Liberia was dependent on the USA for one-third of its budgetary needs.”
(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 32; p. 34,147).
“Access rights to Monrovia’s port and airport give to the US its only reliable gateway into West Africa and a staging area for supplies to anti-Soviet forces in Angola.”
(‘Time’, 6 August 1990; p. 27).
In 1971 William Tubman; who had been President since 1944 as leader of the ‘True Whig Party’ (which had ruled Liberia since 1870), died, and was succeeded by William Tolbert, previously Vice-President,
“. . a prosperous Liberian coffee and rice grower.”
(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 26; p. 30,405).
Unlike Tubman, however, Tolbert came to stand for
“closer links with the Soviet Union, a vision of cooperation with the states of the region and a tendency to believe in the rhetoric of the Organisation of African Unity.”
(‘Financial Times’, 1 August 1990; p. 4).
SUCH A FOREIGN POLICY WAS, OF COURSE, UNACCEPTABLE TO LIBERIA’S MASTERS IN WASHINGTON, WHO INSTRUCTED THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY TO MAKE ALL PLANS FOR TOLBERT’S REMOVAL.
The ‘People’s Redemption Council’ Coup
In April 1979 large-scale demonstrations broke out in Monrovia over a proposed increase in price of rice. According to official figures, 41 persons were killed and 548 injured when police fired on demonstrators. Damage was estimated at $40-49 million. Congress granted Tolbert emergency powers for a year and the university — described by Tolbert as:
” . . a breeding-ground for revolutionary and subversive ideas”
(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 25; p. 29,732).
— was closed down.
By this time Liberia’s foreign indebtedness
“. . was estimated at about $800-million.”
(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 28; p. 31,282).
In April 1980 it was judged that the time was opportune to put the CIA plans into motion. A military coup, carried out by a ‘People’s Redemption Council’, composed of junior army officers, seized the presidential mansion assassinated Tolbert and his Ministers, and proclaimed the coup leader Master-Sergeant Samuel Doe — President. Doe
“had recently received training from a United States military mission in Monrovia.”
(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 26; p. 30,405).
The new regime suspended the Constitution, proclaimed martial law and banned all political parties.
Liberia’s Increased Dependence
Following the coup United States ‘aid’ to Liberia was increased.
Between April, and December 1980 the US government sent four missions to Liberia (‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 28; p. 31,283).
“Since the overthrow of President William Tolbert in April 1980 total grants to Liberia were increased from $13.8 million in 1980 to $51,5 million in 1981.”
(Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 29; p. 32,296).
In April 1981 US forces took part in joint manoeuvres with the Liberian armed forces and the US destroyer ‘Thorn’ visited Monrovia. (‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 28; op. 31,283).
In May 1981 the Libyan ‘People’s Bureau’ in Liberia was ordered to close, and the Soviet Embassy in Monrovia was ordered to reduce its staff from 15 to 6. In July 1985 diplomatic relations were severed with the Soviet Union. (Keesings’ Contemportary Archives’, Volume 28; p. 31,283).
In August 1982 Doe paid a two week official visit to the USA during which he had a meeting with President Ronald Reagan. The US government agreed to provide training facilities for the Liberian armed forces, together with military aircraft and $15 million in military credits during 1983. (‘Keesing’s Contempotary Archives’, Volume 29; p. 32,296).
In September 1982 the International Monetary Fund approved grants to Liberia totalling $88 million. (‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume,29; p. 32,297).
In February 1983 Liberia signed an agreement with the USA worth $5 million for an improvement of Roberts International Airport in return for the granting of refuelling facilities for US military, aircraft. (‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 29; p. 32,296).
The Rigged Elections
As a result of
“pressure from Washington,”
(‘Financial Times’, 1 August 1 1990; p. 4),
” a Congress alarmed by Mr. Doe’s systematic abuses of human rights,”
(‘Financial Times’, 1 August 1990; p. 4),
In July 1984 political parties were allowed to reform, subject to registration by the government. The ban on political parties was lifted. By the time elections were held (in October 1985), four parties had been registered:
Doe’s own ‘National Democratic Party of Liberia’ (NAPL),
and three opposition parties —
the Liberia Unification Party,
the Liberian Action Party and,
the Unity Party.
“It was noted that those parties which had succeeded in obtaining legal status were considered to be right of centre.”
(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 32; p. 34,146).
In October 1985 elections were held, in which Doe was declared elected President, with 51% of the vote, while Doe’s NDPL was declared to have won 22 out of 26 seats in the Senate and 51 out of 64 seats in the House of Representatives… By early November all the opposition parties had denounced the elections for:
“intimidation and irregularities.”
(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 32; p.34,147).
while the US Congress had characterised them as
” . . fraudulent . ‘. marred by intimidation and ballot rigging”;
(‘Financial Times’, 1 August 1990; p. 4).
Only 9 representatives of foreign states (including that, of the USA) attended Doe’s inauguration.
‘Human Rights’ Breached
Although the US government – – and especially the US Congress — paid lip-service for political reasons to its concern for ‘human rights’,
” . . Washington had turned a blind eye to detention without trial, torture and summary execution.”
(‘Time’, 6 August 1990; p. 27).
and to the fact that
“. . more than $500 million in economic aid and military assistance Doe used to put down domestic opponents.”
(‘Time’, 6 August 1990; p. 27).
Before the election had been held, however, the Liberian government had committed the gravest ‘breach of human rights’ imaginable to Washington: it had defaulted on the repayment of its loans.
In June 1985 the International Monetary Fund ruled that Liberia was no longer eligible for IMF credits because of its failure to pay on time arrears of some $52.4 million.
In November 1985 Doe announced austerity measures, including 25% cut in the salaries of government servants:
“The measures were seen as a response to IMF demands for economic reforms.”
(‘Keesing’s Contemporary,Archives’, Volume 32; p. 349148).
Early in 1986, both Houses of the US Congress passed resolutions urging the Administration to suspend ‘aid’ to Liberia on the grounds that the 1985 elections had been rigged and that the Doe regime’s record on human rights was ‘poor’. The Administration, however, rejected Congress demands on the grounds that:
“. . President Doe had the power to govern.”
(Keesing’s Record of World Events’, Volume 33; p. 34,979).
In April 1986 US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Chester Crocker visited Liberia and had talks with both Doe and the opposition party leaders. The latter were arrested in May.
Although economic ‘aid’ to Liberia had been suspended under US law because of arrears of debt servicing payments, which by 31 March amounted to $660 thousand, after Crocker’s visit it was announced that the USA would give Liberia $42 million in economic ‘aid’ during 1986. The funds had reportedly been made available in exchange for ‘political concessions’ from the Liberian government. (‘Keesing’s Record of World Events’, Volume 33; p. 34,979).
In January 1987 US Secretary of State George Shultz visited Liberia,
“. . urging President Doe to undertake political and economic reforms.”
(‘Keesing’s Record of World Events’, Volume 33; p. 34,979).
Shultz praised Doe’s elections as
“. . quite open,”
(‘Time’, 6 August 1990; p. 27)
and as signifying Doe’s
“. . genuine progress towards democracy.”
(‘Time’, 6 August 1990; p. 27).
He did, however, express ‘serious concern’ about a secret arms purchase agreement signed between Liberia and Romania. President Doe had paid an official visit to Romania in October 1986. (‘Keesing’s Record of World Events’, Volume 33; p..,34,979).
However, the USA continued to finance Liberia during 1987 at a time when most of the country’s backers donors had suspended ‘aid’. The World Bank, for example, took such action in June 1987 because of the Liberian government’s arrears in repayments, resulting, it was alleged, from
“corruption and local mismanagement,”
(‘Financial Times’, ibid.; p. 4).
Nevertheless, US ‘aid’ to Liberia was cut to $36 million in 1987 and to $31 million, in 1988, and the Liberian government was warned that US ‘aid’ would cease unless payment of $7 million of arrears was received by May 1989. (‘Record of World Events’, Volume 35; p. 36,610).
In January 1988 a team of 17 US financial experts arrived in Liberia and wree given effective control of the Liberian government’s finances:
“The advisers . . . were empowered to countersign all financial documents issued by the government.”
(‘Record of World Events”, Volume 34; p. 35,885).
However, the American experts found themselves so frustrated by the Doe bureaucracy that their two-year contract was terminated after one year. By this time Liberia’s foreign debt totaled $1,700 million, with arrears on repayments amounting to $671 million. (Record of World Events’, Volume 35; p. 36, 610).
BY 1989, THEREFORE, THE DOE REGIME HAD CEASED TO BE ACCEPTABLE TO UNITED STATES IMPERIALISM, AND ITS INTELLIGENCE SERVICE SET IN MOTION FORCES DESIGNED TO CARRY THROUGH ANOTHER COUP WHICH WOULD REPLACE THIS REGIME WITH MORE ACCEPTABLE LOCAL PUPPETS.
A New Coup is Prepared
In May 1984 a former employee of the Liberian government named Charles Taylor was arrested in the United States and charged with misappropriation of $1 million of government funds. However, it was later announced that he had ‘escaped from custody’ and in December 1989 he appeared in the Ivory Coast in command of a small armed force which he led across the frontier into Liberia. (‘Review of World Events’, Volume 30; p, 32,898; Volume 36, p. 37,174).
By the spring of 1990 Taylor’s armed force was some 15,000 strong, had taken the name of the ‘National Patriotic Forces of Liberia’ (NPFL), had occupied most of the country and had advanced to the outskirts of Monrovia. (‘Le Monde’, 1 August 1990; p. 3; ‘Review of World Events’, Volume 36, p. 37,174; ‘The Independent on Sunday’, 5 August 1990; p. 14).
“An American offer to ferry Doe to safety was refused. His soldiers in the mansion are said to have told him that he could not leave without them.”
(‘Sunday Times’, 5 August 1990; p. 21).
The NPFL is very far from being a disciplined force:
“His men . . look as though they are at a weird fancy dress party. Instead of camouflage fatigues, they sport brightly coloured track suits. Some turn up for battle in crash helmets, others don dressing, gowns and women’s wigs . . . Looting has been rife on all sides.”
(‘Sunday Times’, 5 August 1990; p. 21).
The Split in the NPFL
In February 1990 one of Taylor’s officers, ‘Prince’ Johnson,
“…executed a number of NPLF commandos for alleged looting and desertion.”
(‘The Independent on Sunday’, 5 August 1990; p. 14).
This aroused Taylor’s wrath and a split occurred in the NPLF forces, Johnson breaking’away with a force some 500-1,000 strong. (‘Le Monde’, 1 August 1990; p. 3).
Johnson accused Taylor of being:
“a criminal and a rogue.”
(‘Financial Times’, 1 August 1990; p. 4).
and, embarrassed by Taylor’s
“. . refusal to commit himself to elections,”
(‘Time’, 6 August 1990; p. 27),
by July 1990 the US imperialists had come to regard Taylor as as unacceptable as Doe:
“Both Mr. Taylor and the man he is trying to overthrow, President Samuel Doe, are now seen (in Washington — Ed.) as dangerous and unacceptable leaders.”
(‘The Independent on Sunday’, 5 August 1990; p. 14).
and transferred their backing to Johnson:
“Mr. Johnson’s men (are) thought to have at least the tacit support of the US. . . . Diplomatic sources saw the offensive by Mr. Johnson as a US-inspired move.”
(‘The Independent on Sunday’, 5 August 1990; p. 14).
While Taylor’s forces were still camped on a ‘Firestone’ rubber plantation some 30 miles east of Monrovia, at the end of July Johnson’s forces
“suddenly appeared at the gates of Doe’s mansion, According to Tom Woweiyu, Taylor’s ‘Defence Minister’: ‘. . the US helped airlift ‘Prince’ Johnson and his fighters into central Monrovia.”
(‘The Independent on Sunday’, 5 August 1990; p. 14).
The three-sided civil war continues at the time of writing.
Meanwhile, on 29 August, at least 600 civilian refugees, including women and babies, were murdered by Doe government troops in St. Peter’s Lutheran church in Monrovia. (‘Financial Times’, 31 July 1990; p. 22).
by Espresso Stalinist
An odd phenomenon is haunting the halls of Maoism – a chauvinist set of ideas loosely forged from the writings of Chinese military officer and politician Lin Biao. These ideas, to the extent to which they form coherent ideology at all, can roughly be termed “Lin Biaoism.” To be perfectly clear, I am under no impression that “Lin Biaoism” is an entirely new ideology. Lin Biao’s works are not significant enough to constitute a new stage of revolutionary science. What does exist is a wing of Maoism, usually associated with the “third-worldist” variety, that upholds the works of Lin Biao in theory and practice. The ideology, such as it is, is not worth refuting. However, its underlying assumptions about proletarian internationalism, imperialism, revolutionary theory and practice are.
I fully expect upon publication these thoughts will have piles of ashes heaped upon them as “first worldism,” as “a total misrepresentation” of the ideas I criticize, and overall rejection of this piece as a reactionary and revisionist writing dedicated to attacking Lin Biao’s theories. But this is par for the course with “third-worldists” of all kinds, who much like anarchists dismiss all criticisms by claiming the author knows not what they criticize. In this essay, I am not concerned with what I allegedly do not know – I am only concerned with what we do know. In this case, what we know about the problems in Lin Biao’s theories.
Lin Biao (1907-1971) was a Chinese revisionist military officer and politician. Born in December 5th, 1907, he graduated from the famous Whampoa Military Academy, then under the command of Chiang Kai-shek. After graduation he joined the armed forces of the Kuomintang (KMT) or Nationalists. During the Northern Expedition he joined the Communist Party. Following the 1927 Shanghai massacre of thousands of workers, trade unionists and Communist Party members, which began the Chinese Civil War, Lin defected to the Red Army. He participated in the Long March and became known as one of the CPC’s most brilliant military commanders and an authority on guerrilla warfare. During the Japanese invasion of China, Lin commanded troops in the Battle of Pingxingguan, one of the few battlefield successes for the Chinese during the first period of the Second Sino-Japanese War. He was forced to retire from active service in 1937 after a serious battlefield injury complicated by tuberculosis and left for Moscow, where from 1937 to 1942 he acted as the representative of the CPC to the Executive Committee of the Communist International, or Comintern.
After the end of World War II and the Soviet liberation of Manchuria from the Japanese, fighting resumed between the Communists and Nationalists. Lin led victorious campaigns of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Manchuria and throughout Northern China against the KMT forces, including the famous Pingjin Campaign, which led to the liberation of Beijing in 1949. His forces then resumed attacks on the KMT in the southeast, which led to securing the major cities of Wuhan and Guangzhou. He was named one of the “Ten Marshals” after the Communist victory and the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Lin mostly abstained from participating politics in the 1950s. In 1962 Lin succeeded Peng Dehuai as commander of the PLA, starting a rectification program among officers and soldiers stressing political education, eventually culminating in the abolition of ranks in the PLA. Lin would rise to political prominence again during the Cultural Revolution.
Lin Biao was the most prominent supporter of the cult of personality around Mao, working to develop it within the PLA in particular. In 1964 it was he who compiled some of Mao’s writings into a handbook, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, also known as the Little Red Book, and ensured it was mass-produced and distributed, first within the PLA, and then throughout the entire People’s Republic.
In September 1965, Lin Biao’s most famous work, “Long Live the Victory of People’s War!” was published, which contains the vast majority of his political theories. It heavily promoted Mao Tse-tung’s theory of people’s war:
“Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of people’s war has been proved by the long practice of the Chinese revolution to be in accord with the objective laws of such wars and to be invincible. It has not only been valid for China, it is a great contribution to the revolutionary struggles of the oppressed nations and peoples throughout the world. [….] Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of people’s war is not only a product of the Chinese revolution, but has also the characteristics of our epoch.”
And even proclaimed it to be universal:
“It must be emphasized that Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of the establishment of rural revolutionary base areas and the encirclement of the cities from the countryside is of outstanding and universal practical importance for the present revolutionary struggles of all the oppressed nations and peoples, and particularly for the revolutionary struggles of the oppressed nations and peoples in Asia, Africa and Latin America against imperialism and its lackeys.”
It heavily supported the Maoist theory of the revolutionary movement spreading from the countryside to the cities:
“The countryside, and the countryside alone, can provide the broad areas in which the revolutionaries can manoeuvre freely. The countryside, and the countryside alone, can provide the revolutionary bases from which the revolutionaries can go forward to final victory.”
Lin Biao believed this even to the point of arguing against the modernization of the PLA in favor of people’s war. More significantly, in perhaps the most influential part of his pamphlet to modern-day “Lin Biaoists,” Lin Biao applies the Maoist concept of people’s war to the international situation:
“Taking the entire globe, if North America and Western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’. Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously. In a sense, the contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population.”
At the 11th Plenum of the 8th CC in August 1966, a meeting presided over by Mao and guarded by Lin’s troops, the famous big-character poster reading, “Bombard the Headquarters!” was unveiled, written by Mao himself. This was a declaration of war against the “right” elements Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping and other leaders of the party apparatus, and the practical launching of what would come to be called the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” During the Cultural Revolution, after initial control by the Red Guards proved too tenuous the PLA under Lin Biao’s command effectively took over the role of controlling the country previously held by the Communist Party. The GPCR had virtually destroyed the Communist Party and liquidated its organizations, but had greatly strengthened the political role of the army, which largely controlled the provincial Revolutionary Committees and many Ministries and economic enterprises.
The Ninth Congress of the Communist Party of China was held in 1969, during which former President Liu Shaoqi was removed from all posts and expelled from the party. During this Congress Lin built up the cult of Mao more than ever, declaring Mao’s though to be a “higher and completely new stage” of Marxism. He summed up the ideology of Maoism, then called “Mao Tse-tung Thought,” thusly:
“The Communist Party of China owes all its achievements to the wise leadership of Chairman Mao and these achievements constitute victories for Mao Tsetung Thought. For half a century now, in leading the great struggle of the people of all the nationalities of China for accomplishing the new-democratic revolution, in leading China’s great struggle for socialist revolution and socialist construction and in the great struggle of the contemporary international communist movement against imperialism, modern revisionism and the reactionaries of various countries, Chairman Mao has integrated the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of revolution, has inherited, defended and developed Marxism-Leninism in the political, military, economic, cultural, philosophical and other spheres, and has brought Marxism-Leninism to a higher and completely new stage. Mao Tsetung Thought is Marxism-Leninism of the era in which imperialism is heading for total collapse and socialism is advancing to world-wide victory. The entire history of our Party has borne out this truth: Departing from the leadership of Chairman Mao and Mao Tsetung Thought, our Party will suffer setbacks and defeats; following Chairman Mao closely and acting on Mao Tsetung Thought, our Party will advance and triumph. We must forever remember this lesson. Whoever opposes Chairman Mao, whoever opposes Mao Tsetung Thought, at any time or under any circumstances, will be condemned and punished by the whole Party and the whole country.”
During his report to the Ninth Congress, Lin went so far as to proclaim that according to Marxist theory, the main component of the state is the military:
“The People’s Liberation Army is the mighty pillar of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Chairman Mao has pointed out many times: From the Marxist point of view the main component of the state is the army.”
Lin Biao was built up as Mao’s successor to such an extent that during the Ninth Congress, one of the very few congresses held in Chinese history, the idea of Lin as successor in the event of Mao’s resignation or death was literally written into the Constitution of the CPC. It was passed on April 14th, 1969. It stated:
“Comrade Lin Piao has consistently held high the great red banner of Mao Tse-tung’s Thought and he has most loyally and resolutely carried out the defended Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s proletarian revolutionary line. Comrade Lin Piao is Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s closest comrade-in-arms and successor.”
This favored position would not last. A mere four years later, on August 1973, the Tenth Party Congress stated:
“The Congress indignantly denounced the Lin Piao anti-Party clique for its crimes. All the delegates firmly supported this resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China: Expel Lin Piao, the bourgeois careerist, conspirator, counter-revolutionary double-dealer, renegade and traitor from the Party once and for all.”
The events leading up to this posthumous denunciation are highly controversial. Lin Biao, along with several members of his family, died mysteriously in a plane crash over Mongolia in September 1971 in circumstances that are still heavily in dispute. It is generally accepted he was trying to flee to the Soviet Union. According to the official Chinese version of events, Lin Biao had attempted to initiate a pro-Soviet coup d’etat that would topple Mao Tse-tung and Zhou En-lai from power to establish a military dictatorship in China, and when he failed in this endeavor, he attempted to flee and sought refuge in the U.S.S.R. As the plane approached the Mongolian border, a gun fight broke out, causing it to crash. Whatever the case, Lin Biao and all on board died in the crash.
In his political diary, Albanian Marxist-Leninist leader Enver Hoxha characterized the Lin Biao affair as more frivolous than a James Bond thriller:
“The question arises: Why should Lin Piao murder Mao and why take his place, when he himself occupied precisely the main position after Mao, was his deputy appointed by the Constitution and by Mao himself? Lin Piao had great renown in China. The Cultural Revolution, ‘the work of Comrade Mao’, had built up his prestige. Then, what occurred for this ‘mutual political trust and the same ideological conviction’ between Mao and Lin Piao to suddenly disappear to the point that the latter organized an attempt on Mao’s life? And this act looks like an episode from ‘James Bond’”
(Hoxha, Reflections on China Vol. I, p. 465).
The rift between Mao and Lin needs to be expressed in solid political terms and not personal terms such as “lust for power” or “jealously” as bourgeois historians are so fond to do. Hard evidence on this matter seems to be scarce due to a lack of surviving evidence, but a few things are undeniable.
For example, Lin was on his way to the Soviet Union because of a split with Mao and his supporters over domestic and foreign policy. In September 1970, the grouping around Mao Tse-tung pressed for a Fourth Five-Year-Plan, which involved a massive program for mechanization of agriculture to be financed by reducing expenditure on the armed forces. This reduction was to be made possible by bringing about a détente with the United States. Lin Biao’s pro-Soviet faction opposed détente with the U.S. This was denounced by Mao and Zhou’s group as “ultra-leftism.” In December 1970, a movement began for a revival of the provincial Communist Party committees, which had been shattered by the Cultural Revolution. This was strongly opposed by Lin and the army leadership, since it would threaten the military’s ascendancy.
I see only two possibilities to this story, and both are somewhat related:
1) Lin Biao did plan and attempt to carry out a military coup against Mao because he wanted to “save” the country and the party from what he saw as a wrong course, or;
2) It was a conspiracy of the more pro-American elements of the CPC, including Mao and Zhou Enlai, to eliminate the most prominent opponent to their domestic and foreign policy.
In either case, clearly there was a huge rift with Mao’s policies, including regarding military control following the GPCR, and the controversial Chinese foreign policy of the late 1960s and 70s.
It is clear that the contradiction between Mao Tse-tung and Zhou Enlai’s group and Lin Biao’s group was a conflict between the wings of the CPC supporting reconciliation and alignment with U.S. imperialism and modernization of society, and supporting rapprochement with Soviet social-imperialism and the continuation of Lin’s “people’s war’ policies, respectively. In December 1970, Mao Tse-tung said American journalist Edgar Snow that he would like to meet President Nixon, and in July 1971, U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger made a secret visit to China. People’s Daily announced soon after that Zhou Enlai had extended an invitation to Nixon to visit China. This no doubt further inflamed conflicts, and it was obvious there were rifts in the Party from 1970-71.
Declassified transcripts of Mao’s conversations with Nixon record him making an unmistakable reference to the “Lin Biao Affair” in 1972:
“President Nixon: When the Chairman says he voted for me, he voted for the lesser of two evils.
Chairman Mao: I like rightists. People say you are rightists, that the Republican Party is to the right, that Prime Minister Heath is also to the right.
President Nixon: And General DeGaulle.
Chairman Mao: DeGaulle is a different question. They also say the Christian Democratic Party of West Germany is also to the right. I am comparatively happy when these people on the right come into power.
President Nixon: I think the important thing to note is that in America, at least at this time, those on the right can do what those on the left talk about.
Dr. Kissinger: There is another point, Mr. President. Those on the left are pro-Soviet and would not encourage a move towards the People’s Republic, and in fact criticize you on those grounds.
Chairman Mao: Exactly that. Some are opposing you. In our country also there is a reactionary group which is opposed to our contact with you. The result was they got on an airplane and fled abroad.
Prime Minister Chou: Maybe you know this.
Chairman Mao: Throughout the whole world, the U.S. intelligence reports are comparatively accurate. The next was Japan. As for the Soviet Union, they finally went to dig out the corpses, but they didn’t say anything about it.
Prime Minister Chou: In Outer Mongolia.”
Before long, China threw off its former policy of anti-imperialism, arguing for a strengthening of NATO, support for German reunification and West European integration, support for U.S.-Japanese Security Treaty, declining support for national liberation movements in South Asia, its support for reactionary “liberation” movements supported by imperialist powers (such as UNITA in Angola), and its support of the semi-colonies of imperialist powers, such as Iran, Pakistan, Zaire, fascist Chile and the Philippines.
So, now that I’ve finished this grand history lesson, how does this relate back to modern Maoism? More than you might think after reading, actually. Maoist supporters of the “new-democratic” theory of the Chinese Revolution, as well as the peasant-based theory of “people’s war” largely seek their justifications in Lin’s pamphlet. We have already examined Lin’s representation of the international situation in his 1965 pamphlet. Lin Biao, in an attempt to apply the Maoist concept of people’s war to the international struggle, pioneered an early version of Mao’s later “theory of three worlds” which perceives the world as being a global countryside surrounding a global city. His line as expressed in “Long Live The Victory of People’s War!” represents the absolutizing of the contradiction between imperialism and oppressed nations – and that, more than anything else, is what is key. Lin Biao’s ideas do not speak of the contradiction (at the time) between two opposing systems, socialism and capitalism, or of the contradiction between capital and labor in the capitalist countries, or of the contradiction between the imperialist powers. He misunderstands the entire foundation for the modern revolutionary movement, and raises his vision of the “global countryside” surrounding the “global city” out of dialectical context, treating it as the principal contradiction in the world.
Modern third-worldism is largely based on Lin Biaoism, though it has perhaps its earliest roots in the theories of Mirza Sultan-Galiyev. Sultan-Galiyev was a Tatar pan-Islamic nationalist opposed by Lenin and Stalin. He later began conspiratorial activity, including tried to ally with Trotsky but was rejected, and had ties to the anti-Soviet counterrevolutionary Bashmachi movement. Among other beliefs, Sultan-Galiyev thought that the Muslim peoples were “proletarian peoples” and thus national movements among them were socialist revolutions, that in places inhabited by Muslims, the Communist Party should “integrate” with Islam, which should be brought about by a special Muslim party, and that geographically large territorial units should be formed embracing as many Muslims as possible. He had dreams of creating a pan-Turanian Turkish-Tatar state stretching across Central Asia. He was eventually arrested for his conspiratorial activity and died in prison. Like Sultan-Galiyev, Lin Biao’s analysis is not class-based, and in fact Lin’s pamphlet contains theses very similar to that of “Sultan-Galiyevism”:
“If North American and western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’…the contemporary world revolution…presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples.”
Obviously, no Marxist can deny the contradiction between the imperialist powers and the colonial and semi-colonial countries, which is a major contradiction in the world we live in. Independence and national liberation struggles for independence and national sovereignty led against imperialism is a just struggle which deserves the support of Marxist-Leninists and the world proletariat. But that’s not all Lin Biao does. Here, while recognizing the existence of revolutionary situations and movement in countries in the “third world,” he treats the “third world” as an undifferentiated whole, exaggerating this situation into one in which the entire “third world” is ripe everywhere for revolution. What is also striking about his “countryside versus city” division of the world is his non-class view of the “third world,” its omission of the basic contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and its disregarding of classes and class struggle within those countries, and an utter lack of analysis of the class nature of the regimes which rule there. This way the contradiction between the oppressed peoples and the reactionary and pro-imperialist powers is absolutized.
But the modern preachers of Lin Biaoism go further than to label the “third world” as leader of the liberation movement or the main force in the struggle against imperialism – frequently they proclaim it the only revolutionary force in the world. But to speak about the “third world” as the main force against imperialism and as the main force of the revolution such as the followers of Lin Biaoism, of third-worldism and other theories do ignores (or in some cases intentionally glosses over) the objective fact that the majority of the countries of the “third world” are ruled by agents of imperialism and neo-colonialism. The international view of Lin Biaoism belittles the size and importance of the comprador bourgeoisie and other pro-imperialist forces of the “third world.” To speak of the “third world” as a undifferentiated whole without making any distinction between genuine anti-imperialist revolutionary forces and pro-imperialist, reactionary and fascist ruling classes is to abandon the class struggle and the teachings of Marxism-Leninism openly. It means nothing less than to preach opportunism which cause confusion and disorder among the revolutionary proletariat.
Further, Lin Biaoism says that these countries are the “main anti-imperialist force” in the world. It logically stands to reason that it is not the business of revolutionaries to topple this “main force.” By now, it becomes increasingly apparent that Lin Biaoism is not a scientific approach to Marxism and is in opposition to proletarian internationalism. Lin Biao’s theories deny the role of the vanguard party in both the “third world” and the “first world” nations. Lin Biao’s concepts obscure the character of class struggle, creates illusions and misleads the people. Lin Biaoism is claimed by its followers to be the strategy for revolution today, and yet this strategy has no place for the proletariat or the Marxist-Leninist party. It claims to be a valuable contribution towards a proper analysis of the forces of the world, and yet classes are not mentioned.
Lin Biao’s theoretical understanding is eerily similar to that put forward by Karl Kautsky at the beginning of the century. Kautsky, on the eve of the First World War, postulated that in the field of international relations, a new age was approaching “in which the competition among states will be disabled by their cartel relationship.” He argued “there is nothing further to prevent […] finally replacing imperialism by a holy alliance of the imperialists.” This state of affairs is what he referred to as “Ultra Imperialism.” Kautsky falsely predicted the onset of a new phase of the elimination of contradictions between imperialist and capitalist states. This gave way to reformism, since it remained purely focused on combating “hegemonism” and sees imperialism as a policy, which could be adopted or rescinded at the whim of the ruling class, instead of the latest stage in the development of capitalism. Lenin in contrast, viewed imperialism as the highest and last stage of capitalism – monopoly capitalism that needs the domination of other countries and war. Lenin strongly criticized this theory of Kautsky’s, pointing out his denial of the connection between the rule of monopolies and imperialism, as well as his attempts to portray the rule of finance capital as somehow “lessening” the contradictions inherent in the world economy, when in reality it increases and aggravates them. Lenin summed up thusly:
“The question is: what means other than war could there be under capitalism to overcome the disparity between the development of productive forces and the accumulation of capital on the one side, and the division of colonies and spheres of influence for finance capital on the other?”
(V.I. Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism).
Uneven development among nations means that capitalists internationally frequently have radically different interests and not all of these interests can be met by full integration of their economic activity within the global marketplace. Any alliance, any “unity” within the capitalist camp is subject to how it benefits the profits of the individual capitalists within such an alliance. Unlike workers, who are able to reap benefits from the struggles of workers all over the world, a capitalist isn’t necessarily benefited by the success of other capitalists. As capitalists are forced to compete for what they perceive to be a limited number of material and market resources, the bonds which have formerly bound them begin to deteriorate.
Lin Biaoist formulations of the world proclaim no actual, concrete program for anti-imperialist struggle, or even for support of national liberation movements of oppressed peoples. What they do, quite in the style of the idealists of the past, is to cloak the question of revolution in bombastic-sounding phrases. Lin Biaoism implicitly capitulates to imperialism by including the reactionaries and comprador bourgeoisie in the same ranks as the people and the revolutionaries of the “third world.” This can only lead to obscuring the radical contradictions characteristic of the monopoly stage of capitalism. Interestingly, Lin Biao portrays imperialism as the main enemy of the world’s people, and yet the same set of theories were used by Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping to ally themselves with imperialism. This is not just a lesson for those in the “first,” “second” or “third” worlds, but the entire world. While some of the supporters of the theory may disagree with specific tactics in the examples I have cited, the overall logic is inescapable.
Of course, there are a never-ending stream of national-chauvinist Marxists who stand ready and willing to assure us that this position of Lin’s conforms more closely to reality than, say, those of Trotsky, who in this case acts as a stand-in for anyone opposed to Lin Biao’s theories, or J. Sakai’s, or Sultan-Galiyev’s, or whoever they happen to be cheering on. These chauvinists are usually quick to conjure demons from oblivion at the sign of the slightest opposition to their theories, such as “Trotskyism” or “Eurocentric” Marxism. Sometimes they are even brave enough to challenge traditional Marxism, which they characterize as ‘Eurocentric” or “mechanical.” As we all know, Marxism consists of choosing between envisioning a dramatic repetition of the events of the Chinese Revolution on a global scale with isolated urban areas in a sea of peasant revolution, or being accused of Euro-chauvinism ourselves. The endless need of revisionists to figure out which demonstrably incorrect line is “closer” to reality never ceases to amaze me, and the debate between Trotskyism, a stand-in for supposedly “Eurocentric” traditional Marxism and Lin Biaoism and its proclamation that the the entire so-called “third world” or “global south” is ready and ripe for revolution is no exception to that.
Today there is much talk about the “first,” “second” or “third” world, a world of “colonized” countries versus “colonizer” countries, of the “global south versus the global north,” etc. All of these terms, of course, conceal the real class nature of these countries. But this is not all, oh no dear reader, not quite all indeed! For recently, these ideas have further paved the way for its modern adherents to apply class labels to entire nations, saying that the “first world” represents a global bourgeoisie and making such claims as the first world populations not representing the true proletariat. Some go even further, and take Lin Biaoist views to outright denying the first world proletariat’s revolutionary potential, dismissing it as inherently reactionary as a class. At first glance, nothing would appear stranger than a group of so-called Marxists in the first world decrying the revolutionary potential of its people. But in fact, it’s no secret that this odd trend of Maoism has emerged as one of the most outwardly vocal, if not particularly politically effective, voices on the American left in recent years.
Whether they claim there are no significant exploited groups in the first world, or that internally colonized peoples are the only real proletariat, or some other variation thereof, modern third-worldism attempts to peddle the same Lin Biaoist theories, despite what differences they may have. Some confuse class as income, while others do not. Some claim that class is one’s personal ideology, i.e. reactionary workers are bourgeois or labor aristocrat, while others do not. Some, like author J. Sakai, claim that every person of European descent in the United States is a net exploiter from the American colonies onwards, and that the U.S. has no proletariat of its own but exists parasitically on colonial peoples, oppressed nations and national minorities, whom he labels the “true proletariat.” Therefore, the entire white working class is reactionary rather than revolutionary and this has always been the case, and therefore working class solidarity between whites, blacks, Hispanics, Natives, Asians and other peoples is impossible. He recognizes white privilege in the form of Euro-American workers being a privileged labor aristocracy which possesses a petty-bourgeois reformist ideology rather than a revolutionary proletarian one. Sakai’s solution is to call for a kind of Bundist separatism, with each racial group creating its own independent organization.
Before I continue, it must be made clear that the labor aristocracy, that is, the stratum of highly-paid and privileged workers bribed by the imperialist bourgeoisie by means of superprofits extracted from colonies and neo-colonies, certainly exists. This has been recognized by all the Marxist classics ever since the strata of the labor aristocracy emerged in Britain in the mid-19th century. This tendency was recognized by Marx and Engels, and they traced this opportunism within the working class movement directly back to British imperialism:
“[T]he English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that the ultimate aim of this most bourgeois of all nations would appear to be the possession, alongside the bourgeoisie, of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat. In the case of a nation which exploits the entire world this is, of course, justified to some extent”
(F. Engels, “Engels to Marx in London,” 7 October 1858).
These views remained consistent over the course of several decades, as seen in this letter from Engels to Kautsky dated twenty-four years later:
“You ask me what the English workers think about colonial policy. Well, exactly the same as they think about politics in general: the same as what the bourgeois think. There is no workers’ party here, there are only Conservatives and Liberal-Radicals, and the workers gaily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the world market and the colonies”
(F. Engels, “Engels to Karl Kautsky in Vienna,” 12 September 1882).
V.I. Lenin also identified the source of bribery for the labor aristocracy as the commercial and industrial monopoly of the imperialist countries and their export of capital to the colonial countries:
“Before the war [World War I – E.S.], it was calculated that the three richest countries—Britain, France and Germany—got between eight and ten thousand million francs a year from the export of capital alone, apart from other sources.
It goes without saying that, out of this tidy sum, at least five hundred millions can be spent as a sop to the labour leaders and the labour aristocracy, i.e., on all sorts of bribes. The whole thing boils down to nothing but bribery. It is done in a thousand different ways: by increasing cultural facilities in the largest centres, by creating educational institutions, and by providing co-operative, trade union and parliamentary leaders with thousands of cushy jobs. This is done wherever present-day civilised capitalist relations exist. It is these thousands of millions in super-profits that form the economic basis of opportunism in the working-class movement. In America, Britain and France we see a far greater persistence of the opportunist leaders, of the upper crust of the working class, the labour aristocracy; they offer stronger resistance to the Communist movement. That is why we must be prepared to find it harder for the European and American workers’ parties to get rid of this disease than was the case in our country. We know that enormous successes have been achieved in the treatment of this disease since the Third International was formed, but we have not yet finished the job; the purging of the workers’ parties, the revolutionary parties of the proletariat all over the world, of bourgeois influences, of the opportunists in their ranks, is very far from complete.”
(V.I. Lenin, “The Second Congress of the Communist International”)
“They [Social-Democrats] are just as much traitors to socialism… They represent that top section of workers who have been bribed by the bourgeoisie… for in all the civilised, advanced countries the bourgeoisie rob—either by colonial oppression or by financially extracting ‘gain’ from formally independent weak countries—they rob a population many times larger than that of ‘their own’ country. This is the economic factor that enables the imperialist bourgeoisie to obtain superprofits, part of which is used to bribe the top section of the proletariat and convert it into a reformist, opportunist petty bourgeoisie that fears revolution.”
(V.I. Lenin., “Letter to the Workers of Europe and America,” Pravda; No. 16, January 24, 1919)
Exploitation of the world by imperialist countries and their monopoly position on the global market, as well as their colonial possessions, allowed sections of their proletariat to become bourgeois, and allowed a section of their proletariat to allow themselves to be bribed by the bourgeoisie. Unlike modern third-worldists however, who dismiss the whole of the population of imperialist countries as unexploited and bourgeois, while recognizing the social and economic basis for opportunism and revisionism in the more developed countries, Lenin spoke of the labor aristocracy as a minority of the workers, and that it was the task of the revolutionaries to expose them:
“Neither we nor anyone else can calculate precisely what portion of the proletariat is following and will follow the social-chauvinists and opportunists. This will be revealed only by the struggle, it will be definitely decided only by the socialist revolution. But we know for certain that the ‘defenders of the fatherland’ in the imperialist war represent only a minority. And it is therefore our duty, if we wish to remain socialists to go down lower and deeper, to the real masses; this is the whole meaning and the whole purport of the struggle against opportunism. By exposing the fact that the opportunists and social-chauvinists are in reality betraying and selling the interests of the masses, that they are defending the temporary privileges of a minority of the workers, that they are the vehicles of bourgeois ideas and influences, that they are really allies and agents of the bourgeoisie, we teach the masses to appreciate their true political interests, to fight for socialism and for the revolution…”
(V.I. Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”).
“The only Marxist line in the world labour movement is to explain to the masses the inevitability and necessity of breaking with opportunism, to educate them for revolution by waging a relentless struggle against opportunism […]”
(V.I. Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”).
Enver Hoxha analyzed the origins and class nature of the labor aristocracy, and noted its role in the advent of revisionism and reformism in the Communist Parties as well, particularly in Europe:
“The development of the economy in the West after the war [World War II – E.S.] also exerted a great influence on the spread of opportunist and revisionist ideas in the communist parties. True, Western Europe was devastated by the war but its recovery was carried out relatively quickly. The American capital which poured into Europe through the ‘Marshall Plan’ made it possible to reconstruct the factories, plants, transport and agriculture so that their production extended rapidly. This development opened up many jobs and for a long period, not only absorbed all the free labour force but even created a certain shortage of labour.
This situation, which brought the bourgeoisie great superprofits, allowed it to loosen its purse-strings a little and soften the labour conflicts to some degree. In the social field, in such matters as social insurance, health, education, labour legislation etc., it took some measures for which the working class had fought hard. The obvious improvement of the standard of living of the working people in comparison with that of the time of the war and even before the war, the rapid growth of production, which came as a result of the reconstruction of industry and agriculture and the beginning of the technical and scientific revolution, and the full employment of the work force, opened the way to the flowering amongst the unformed opportunist element of views about the development of capitalism without class conflicts, about its ability to avoid crises, the elimination of the phenomenon of unemployment etc. That major teaching of Marxism-Leninism, that the periods of peaceful development of capitalism becomes a source for the spread of opportunism, was confirmed once again. The new stratum of the worker aristocracy, which increased considerably during this period, began to exert an ever more negative influence in the ranks of the parties and their leaderships by introducing reformist and opportunist views and ideas.
Under pressure of these circumstances, the programs of these communist parties were reduced more and more to democratic and reformist minimum programs, while the idea of the revolution and socialism became ever more remote. The major strategy of the revolutionary transformation of society gave way to the minor strategy about current problems of the day which was absolutized and became the general political and ideological line.”
(Enver Hoxha. Eurocommunism is Anti-Communism. Tirana: 8 Nëntori Publishing House. 1980. pp. 82-83.)
So as we can see, the correct Marxist-Leninist analysis of the labor aristocracy was upheld by all the classics. However, none of this says that a proletariat ceases to exist in those countries. In contrast, modern “third-worldism,” sometimes called “Maoism Third-Worldism” and sometimes not, is the belief that first world workers are non-revolutionary and have the status of a global labor aristocracy lacking a proletarian revolutionary consciousness or revolutionary potential at all, since supposedly imperial capital has tamed them with flashy electronics and consumer products, thus bribing them into passivity. Thus, according to this mode of thought, first world leftists must place their hopes for a revolution on the peoples of the third world. This set of ideas was a common theme in the Maoist-inspired student movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Others since then, particularly since the 1980s, have taken this further and claimed that first world workers actually aren’t exploited at all, and are paid more than the value of their labor, thus making them part of the bourgeoisie complicit in exploiting the third world. In this version of the formulation, the first world is outright reactionary altogether. The only debate between the two types is whether there are any significantly exploited groups in the first world at all, such as prisoners, lumpenproletarians, blacks, Chicanos, etc., or if these people also share in the exploitation of the third world along with their white counterparts.
One of the most common characteristics of modern third-worldism is the tendency to blame the “first world” masses for not rising against capital, and to uphold this as evidence that they posses no revolutionary potential at all. This is especially curious as third-worldists exist almost exclusively within the “first world” themselves, and then mostly in the United States. To explain how they arrived at their revolutionary consciousness, such as it is, they are obliged to make metaphors to individuals like John Brown, and claim that the real reason socialism is not victorious in “first world” countries is that the people there recognize their material interests in following the imperialist bourgeoisie. Some even negate class as an economic classification by saying having a reactionary ideology also makes them labor aristocrats. Of course, if one blames “first world” workers for following and identifying with the dominant ideology of the bourgeoisie, the logical conclusion is to use that same standard for the large amounts of reactionary ideology in the “third world,” too, which tellingly, none of them dare to do. As Marx famously wrote:
“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it”
(Karl Marx, “The German Ideology”).
What third-worldists fail to realize is that part and parcel of the material conditions in the U.S. is being subjected to the most powerful, most all pervasive, most advanced apparatus of ideological hegemony the world has ever known. In essence they are asking why socialist ideas are not more widely accepted in the country with the most powerful, advanced, developed and pervasive capitalist media. Most chauvinist of all their justification in relying on the “third world” workers to make the revolution there is that in contrast to the workers in developed countries, who apparently enjoy too many benefits in their minds, the “third world” workers are truly the only one who “have nothing to lose but their chains.” Words cannot describe how incredibly ignorant, and more than that patronizing it is for someone living in the “first world” to point their finger at the entire working class of various nations and declare that they have “nothing to lose” and thus should rise up and potentially face maiming, torture and death so that the third-worldist can sit in his comfortable air-conditioned domicile and post photos expressing “solidarity” on social media. It is strictly up to the parties, organizations and workers themselves in those countries to determine if the time and conditions are ripe for a revolution. Until then, it is arrogant, and dare I say racist, to declare that the entire working population of vast nations have “nothing to lose.” If these renegades actually visited a developing country, they might find that everywhere they went they could find people who would strongly disagree they have “nothing to lose.”
The absolutizing of the phrase which famously ends the Manifesto, namely that the workers “have nothing to lose but their chains,” is just one more example of a recent trend of making political stances out of simple slogans, and increased sloganeering to disguise political dishonesty or even reaction. It’s obvious to any ready that the original phrase was meant by Marx and Engels as a rallying call, instead of an excuse to only classify those people who “have nothing to lose” as revolutionaries or workers. Everyone on the planet, even those living in the most miserable conditions, have “something to lose,” if only their lives and their families.
It is accurate to say that the roots of modern third-worldism are based in Maoism itself, in the peasant-based theories of Mao and especially Lin Biao. The three worlds theory, or the “theory of the three-part world” developed by Mao Tse-tung in 1974 was based entirely on China’s strategic interests. It was part of Chinese foreign policy in the 1970s as I have mentioned, and part of it was claiming U.S. imperialism was weak, citing for example its defeat in Vietnam, whereas Soviet social-imperialism was a rising and more dangerous imperialist power and a growing threat to humanity, akin to Nazi Germany. This position was supported dogmatically under Hua Guofeng but quietly dropped in the 1980s after the rise of Deng Xiaoping to the leadership of China when Sino-Soviet ties improved. But, as reactionary and mistaken as Mao’s three worlds theory might have been, and opportunist and anti-communist as was the Chinese foreign policy during that era, one cannot say Mao Tse-tung was a third-worldist in the modern sense by any stretch of the imagination. As perverse as the “theory of the three worlds” might be, present-day third-worldists are a perversion even of that shaky theoretical basis.
Modern “third-worldism” – which is an ideological variety of Lin Biaoism – existing outside of the internet has always been negligible. While some early third-worldist movements did exist as activists, none of them have been particularly large and were soon reduced almost exclusively to an internet presence. This has been the case since then. It can therefore be (rightly) inferred that third-worldists almost never have first-hand experience of life and material conditions or conditions of struggle in “third world” countries. It’s always struck me as curious that third-worldism has little to no following in the “third world” itself.
Indeed, the most commonly heard statement comrades from the “third world” made to American Marxist-Leninists is that our struggle here, in the very heart of imperialism, will be decisive. Mao Tse-tung himself made many such statements, such as this one from 1970:
“While massacring the people in other countries, U.S. imperialism is slaughtering the white and black people in its own country. Nixon’s fascist atrocities have kindled the raging flames of the revolutionary mass movement in the United States. The Chinese people firmly support the revolutionary struggle of the American people. I am convinced that the American people who are fighting valiantly will ultimately win victory and that the fascist rule in the United States will inevitably be defeated”
(Mao Tse-tung, “People of the World, Unit and Defeat the U.S. Aggressors and All Their Running Dogs”).
As far back as 1949, Mao spoke of the class struggles within the United States between the people and the ruling class:
“To start a war, the U.S. reactionaries must first attack the American people. They are already attacking the American people – oppressing the workers and democratic circles in the United States politically and economically and preparing to impose fascism there. The people of the United States should stand up and resist the attacks of the U.S. reactionaries. I believe they will”
(Mao Tse-tung, “Talk with American Correspondent Anna Louise Strong”).
As well, in a telegram to William Z. Foster in 1945, Mao wrote regarding the defeat of of Earl Browder’s revisionist and liquidationist line:
“Beyond all doubt the victory of the U.S. working class and its vanguard, the Communist Party of the United States, over Browder’s revisionist-capitulationist line will contribute signally to the great cause in which the Chinese and American peoples are engaged the cause of carrying on the war against Japan and of building a peaceful and democratic world after the war”
(Mao Tse-tung, “Telegram to Comrade William Z. Foster”).
In 1963, Mao also issued a statement supporting working class solidarity in the United States against systematic racism:
“I call upon the workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals, enlightened elements of the bourgeoisie, and other enlightened personages of all colours in the world, white, black, yellow, brown, etc., to unite to oppose the racial discrimination practiced by U.S. imperialism and to support the American Negroes in their struggle against racial discrimination. In the final analysis, a national struggle is a question of class struggle. In the United States, it is only the reactionary ruling clique among the whites which is oppressing the Negro people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals, and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people. At present, it is the handful of imperialists, headed by the United States, and their supporters, the reactionaries in different countries, who are carrying out oppression, aggression and intimidation against the overwhelming majority of the nations and peoples of the world. They are the minority, and we are the majority. At most they make up less than ten percent of the 3,000 million people of the world”
(Mao Tse-tung, “Statement Supporting the Afro-Americans in their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism”).
And again in 1968:
“Racial discrimination in the United States is a product of the colonialist and imperialist system. The contradiction between the Black masses in the United States and the U.S. ruling circles is a class contradiction. Only by overthrowing the reactionary rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class and destroying the colonialist and imperialist system can the Black people in the United States win complete emancipation. The Black masses and the masses of white working people in the United States have common interests and common objectives to struggle for. Therefore, the Afro-American struggle is winning sympathy and support from increasing numbers of white working people and progressives in the United States. The struggle of the Black people in the United States is bound to merge with the American workers’ movement, and this will eventually end the criminal rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class”
(Mao Tse-tung, “A New Storm Against Imperialism”).
As I’ve already shown, Lin Biao’s line, which is much more closely followed by modern third-worldists, saw the primary contradiction in the world as between the global city and global countryside, or the exploited poor countries versus the wealthy imperialist countries, imagining people’s war on a global scale. Some even go as far to say that the waging of people’s war is the true test if a movement is truly communist or not. Third-worldists today uphold the theories of Lin Biao and largely reject the Chinese policies during this period, accusing the Chinese leadership, and even Mao Tse-tung himself, of “first-worldism” for supporting the class struggles of the workers in the “first world.” Of course, revolutionaries in the “third world” saying the working class in the “first world” also wage a decisive struggle are not limited to Mao himself.
Cuban poet and revolutionary José Martí once spoke a phrase which was popularized by Ernesto “Che” Guevara: “I envy you. You North Americans are very lucky. You are fighting the most important fight of all – you live in the heart of the beast.”
During the anti-colonial wars in Vietnam against the French, Ho Chi Minh spoke of the French working class as an ally against the French imperialists:
“If the French imperialists think that they can suppress the Vietnamese revolution by means of terror, they are grossly mistaken. For one thing, the Vietnamese revolution is not isolated but enjoys the assistance of the world proletariat in general and that of the French working class in particular.”
(Ho Chi Minh, “Appeal made on the Occasion of the Founding of the Indochinese Communist Party”).
Ho Chi Minh further said he considered the French and Vietnamese proletariat as two forces which ought to unite together in a common struggle against the French ruling class:
“The mutual ignorance of the two proletariats [French and Vietnamese] gives rise to prejudices. The French workers look upon the native as an inferior and negligible human being, incapable of understanding and still less of taking action. The natives regard all the French as wicked exploiters. Imperialism and capitalism do not fail to take advantage of this mutual suspicion and this artificial racial hierarchy to frustrate propaganda and divide forces which ought to unite”
(Ho Chi Minh, “Some Considerations of the Colonial Question”).
He even spoke of the line, notably from the Second International, that people in developed countries and people in colonial and semi-colonial countries should not unite, supporting the line of Lenin and Stalin in calling it reactionary:
“I will explain myself more clearly. In his speech on Lenin and the national question Comrade Stalin said that the reformists and leaders of the Second International dared not align the white people of the colonies with their coloured counterparts. Lenin also refused to recognize this division and pushed aside the obstacle separating the civilized slaves of imperialism from the uncivilized slaves.
According to Lenin, the victory of the revolution in Western Europe depended on its close contact with the liberation movement against imperialism in enslaved colonies and with the national question, both of which form a part of the common problem of the proletarian revolution and dictatorship.
Later, Comrade Stalin spoke of the viewpoint which held that the European proletarians can achieve success without a direct alliance with the liberation movement in the colonies. And he considered this a counter-revolutionary viewpoint”
(Ho Chi Minh, “Report on the National and Colonial Questions at the Fifth Congress of the Communist International”).
In 1926, J.V. Stalin wrote the following in regards to the workers of Western Europe in supporting the Bolshevik revolution:
“Without the support of the workers of the West we could scarcely have held out against the enemies surrounding us. If this support should later develop into a victorious revolution in the West, well and good. Then the victory of socialism in our country will be final”
(J.V. Stalin, “The Possibility of Building Socialism in our Country”).
Modern third-worldists, whether they base themselves on Lin Biao, Franz Fanon, Sultan-Galiyev, J. Sakai or any number of other theoreticians, claim there is a divergence between “European” socialism and oppressed nations, the countries of the “third world.” These ideas are responsible for the strengthening of the notions of “African socialism,” “Arab socialism” and various other incarnations which claim that Marxism and Leninism are only for Europeans, only for white people. It must be asked: what then, separates the Lin Biaoists from bourgeois nationalists? Indeed, what separates them at all from anti-communists? As we can see, to disparage “first world” workers as an overall counterrevolutionary class and proclaim that “third world” workers are the only ones with truly nothing to lose, and to reject solidarity between them is anti-Marxist, liquidates proletarian internationalism and ignores any idea of revolutionary connectivity between the “third” and “first” worlds. The American left has had to put up with constant subversion of revisionist, counterrevolutionary and bourgeois politics which derail the worker’s movement, and that includes those embracing the Lin Biaoist or third-worldist line.
Lin Biao, like Mao Tse-tung during his “three worlds” period, like Karl Kautsky during his opportunist period, and like the sorry assortment of modern Lin Biaoists, rely on empty and bombastic phrase-mongering, petty-bourgeois pipe dreams represented as the highest r-r-revolutionary Utopianism coupled with a lack of analysis of the real functioning and foundations of the modern economic system.
For some of these pseudo-Marxists, they do not qualify either as Lin Biaoists or third-worldists because of some various trivial minutiae, such as not outwardly calling themselves such labels, such complexity does their ideology have, you see, that it defies categorization except that which is convenient for its defenders. I do not seek to say that all the differing theories I use as examples of this tendency are precisely the same; what I’d like to point out is the common failing between Lin Biaoism, the theories of Sultan-Galiyev, Kautsky’s “ultra-imperialism,” Mao’s “theory of the three worlds,” and modern third-worldists.
What these theories demonstrate is that there are problems when one is too quick to apply phenomenon which can be empirically understood at the national level to phenomena occurring internationally. Many theorists have made such non-class-based arguments in which the old notions of class struggle and imperialism are replaced by more “global” perspectives which perceive the main contradictions within capitalism taking place globally. Inevitably, these ideas later lead those theorists and their adherents to anti-Marxist, anti-scientific conclusions which would render their theories less useful for a concrete understanding of capitalism on the world stage. There are problems which arise in trying to mechanically and haphazardly apply these contradictions in a global way.
The triumph and realization of the proletarian revolution is the main aim of our historical epoch. It must and will necessarily permeate all countries without exception, among them the ones in both the “third” and “first” worlds, regardless of their level of development, and regardless at which stages the revolution will be accomplished. Disregarding this universal law and theorizing about whole nations being labor aristocrats, forgetting the fight against the comprador bourgeoisie, evaluating “third world” countries in a chauvinist way and opposing proletarian internationalism can only mean being neither for national liberation or for proletarian revolution. The proletarian revolution must and will triumph in Africa, Asia, the Americas and in Europe, too. Whoever forgets or distorts this perspective and doesn’t actively fight towards this aim, but instead preaches that the revolution has shifted and that the proletariat of certain countries has to either acknowledge itself as inherently reactionary, or ally itself with its “third world” bourgeoisie, is someone who takes a revisionist and reactionary stance.
While Lin Biao deserves credit for his distinguished career as a military officer in the Chinese Civil War, his theories are not a suitable replacement for the Leninist understanding of imperialism and revolution. Given the profound theoretical problems in Lin Biao’s conceptions of a “global countryside” and “global city,” and the evolution of his supporter’s chauvinist theories, I argue based on the evidence I have presented that the Leninist model is still the best framework for understanding the machinations of the capitalist and imperialist system internationally, even in this moment where ephemeral fashionable words like “third world” and “global south” are on everyone’s lips.
In conclusion, perhaps Lenin said it best:
“The flight of some people from the underground could have been the result of their fatigue and dispiritedness. Such individuals may only be pitied; they should be helped because their dispiritedness will pass and there will again appear an urge to get away from philistinism, away from the liberals and the liberal-labour policy, to the working-class underground. But when the fatigued and dispirited use journalism as their platform and announce that their flight is not a manifestation of fatigue, or weakness, or intellectual woolliness, but that it is to their credit, and then put the blame on the ‘ineffective,’ ‘worthless,’ ‘moribund,’ etc., underground, these runaways then become disgusting renegades, apostates. These runaways then become the worst of advisers for the working-class movement and therefore its dangerous enemies”
(V.I. Lenin, “How Vera Zasulich Demolishes Liquidationism”).
A few days ago I posted an article I wrote back in ’91 when the college’s black student org. invited Leonard Jeffries to come to speak. In it I ran through, though very briefly (for space), some of the fallacies of Afrocentrism. Here is a little more about them, in no special order.
- Afrocentrism seriously distorts Egyptian history. Egyptians were not “black” (Negroid) on the whole, though a few dynasties of rulers were. But Egyptians were also not racists, it seems, and people of different colors intermarried. We could do well to follow their lead in this!There is no evidence that Nefertiti or Cleopatra were ‘black’, for example. Nefertiti was not “white” (i.e. European) either (Cleopatra was either 3/4 Greek or, perhaps, entirely so, not Egyptian at all).
- Greeks did not “steal” their culture from Egypt. In the ancient Mediterranean world, cultural influences moved around a lot.
- The Egyptian rulers and their acolytes (like all the “-hoteps”, Imhotep, Ptahhotep, et al.) were an oppressive and expoitative aristocracy. Cheikh Anta Diop, whom Afrocentrists admire but, it seems, seldom read, has a very interesting review of Jacques Pirenne’s History of Ancient Egypt in one of his books. Diop comments favorably about Pirenne’s description of revolutions against the Egyptian rulers by lower-class Egyptians — something one would expect in an exploitative society. But the Afrocentrists who so admire Diop never mention this aspect of Ancient Egypt! In short, what they admire is the aristocratic, exploitative aspect of it.
- “African culture” is not a unity: there are many, many cultures in Africa. Ancient Egyptians are not the ancestors, either culturally or genetically, of the peoples of West Africa or of the American black population.
- The whole “ice man-sun man” thesis of Francis Welsing is racist crap, without a shred of evidence to support it. Welsing seldom publishes her ‘research’; same with Jeffries. I know: I’ve tried to get it; with lots of effort, I’ve gotten a very little bit. The infamous “Melanin” Conferences at which these ideas are promoted are virtually secret, their ‘proceedings’, if any, not available to anyone.
- The premises of Afrocentrism are false and racist against blacks, among others.
- it is false and racist that anyone has any business taking “pride” in the “achievements” of one’s distant ancestors, since intelligence, creativity, etc., are not inherited, and furthermore no one can take any credit for anything they have not achieved themselves. This is the case even if modern blacks were the descendants of ancient Egyptians, which they are not. Besides, if one takes credit for the “achievements” of one’s distant ancestors, why not also assume the blame for the atrocities committed by the same ancestors?
- it is false and racist to say that “blackness”, “melanin” (or “whiteness”, etc.) confers intelligence, or any characteristics at all. If it were true, all blacks with any degree of white ancestry would be “sub-human” just as the “ice person” thesis claims whites are; most American blacks, if not all, therefore.
Where does Afrocentrism come from? Historically, it’s a reaction to the tremendous upsurge of racism spurred by 18th and 19th century European imperialism. I think Bernal [Black Athena, Volume I] is right when he points out that after 1800 study of Egypt — and also of the Semitic mid-east— was systematically denigrated for racist reasons. Some scholars reacted against this marginalization of Egypt and the Mid-East, including some black scholars (but not only them). This is the ancestry of Afrocentrism, sketched by Bernal rather convincingly. What is not convincing about Bernal (Volumes 1 and 2) is his derivation of Greek civilization from Egyptian colonists. However, even if it were true, it would not mean what the Afrocentrists say it means.
Today, Afrocentrism is a racist, highly conservative, nationalist pseudo-science (by the latter term I mean: based upon phony scholarship and premises). It victimizes black students almost exclusively, since it is they who have this nonsense foisted off upon them as truth.
The fact that it is tolerated and even promoted at various universities, including the one I teach at, is a tribute to higher education’s racism against black students. This kind of worthless, reactionary crap would never be tolerated if it were being purveyed to white students!
Afrocentrism is another form of authoritarianism. It tells black students: Believe “your leaders” because they are black! Since there’s no evidence worthy of the name for these theses, “believe your black leaders” is all that’s left.
Who are these misleaders, phony scholars? I do not see any division into “responsible” and “irresponsible.” Asante and Karenga write the same kind of nonsense as Jeffries and Welsing. If you want to read some real authoritarian crap from somebody with a Jesus complex (i.e. he believes he’s the chosen of God), read Asante’s Afrocentricity, in which he claims the belief structure was “granted” him as a “vision”, like Paul on the road to Damascus. He even reprints it!
Afrocentrism, being racist against blacks, is useful to the racist US ruling class, and I think that’s why it’s tolerated. It serves to inculcate racist, anti-white views among black students, and to keep them obedient to whatever the highly conservative ‘authorities’ tell them.
The same kind of nationalism flourished in the ’60s, where it served to keep blacks from uniting with anti-racist whites to fight racism. That’s the function of Afrocentrism today, and very valuable it is to the tactic of “divide and conquer”, by which white and black workers and students are kept divided from one another.
However, Afrocentrism is nowhere near as influential as overt anti-black racism of the Murray/Herrnstein Bell Curve kind, or of the D’Amato/Christy Whitman/Joe Bruno kind. Anti-black racism is sharply on the increase, under the guise of “attacking Affirmative Action”, attacks on welfare, and so on.
Racism is on the increase because the ruling class always uses racism to divide the working class against one another, the better to fleece it — to lower the standard of living and increase profits. Afrocentrism helps them, and so continues to flourish, as do the right-wing fascists, militias, etc., all of which are also racist to the core.
Racism is the key issue here. If there were a mass anti-racist movement involving many whites, as there was in the ’60s, the “cultural nationalists” like the Afrocentrists, like the Farrakhans, would be an insignificant force as they were then. As it is, with racism against blacks rising rapidly, and no multi-racial, anti-racist movement, it is the nationalists who appear, to some, to be at least ‘doing something’ about racism, something to assert the equality and dignity of black people. They are not doing this; but the appearance that they are is what attracts many black students and others.
You want to weaken Afrocentrism? FIGHT ANTI-BLACK RACISM!
Grover Furr, English Department
Revolutionary Communist Party of Volta (PCRV): Statement on the Popular Insurrection in Upper Volta, known as Burkina Faso
Revolutionary Communist Party of Volta (PCRV)
November 1, 2014
Upper Volta, called Burkina Faso, is experiencing a revolutionary situation which led to a popular insurrection on Thursday, October 30, and ousted the autocrat Blaise Compaoré on Friday, October 31, 2014, despite his sordid maneuvers to maintain himself at the head of the neocolonial State at all costs.
Our people in their various constituencies and the popular youth have won an important victory with a spirit of determination and political maturity in thwarting the various conspiracies and in facing with heroic courage the barbaric repression that led to dozens of dead and wounded. This historic popular movement, which quickly spread like wildfire across the country in the wake of recent major demonstrations organized by the reactionary bourgeois opposition as well as by the Coalition Against the High Cost of Living on Tuesday, October 28 and Wednesday, October 29, fully confirms that when the people rise up neither repression nor terror can prevent them from winning.
This popular insurrection is taking place in the context of the continuation of the eruption onto the political scene of the popular strata with their pressing demands, who in the past allowed themselves to be oppressed and exploited without protest. They have learned to take charge of their own destiny through powerful struggles to get out of their misery and the deep distress that has struck them for decades, particularly under the government of the Fourth Republic of Blaise Compaoré due to neocolonial exploitation.
Indeed, since the hunger riots of 2008, not a day has gone by in which the poor peasants, workers and salaried employees, the poorest strata in the towns consisting of workers, apprentices, small traders, artisans, and especially the youth thrown into the informal sector, have not revolted and sometimes carried out insurrections for the right to a decent life, justice and freedom and a real change in favor of the people.
This is the practical and concrete expression of the deepening of the revolutionary crisis that has shaken our country since the assassination of journalist Norbert Zongo and his three companions in misfortune on December 13, 1998. This revolutionary crisis that has been developing in stages since then reached an unmatched scale today with this unprecedented popular movement in our country. This resulted in massive mobilizations through the various marches and meetings of the reactionary bourgeois opposition as well as of the Coalition Against the High Cost of Living (CCVC) and of the trade unions in June and July of 2013 and throughout 2014. The depth of the crisis is such that it led to the breakup of the ruling party, the CDP (Convention for Democracy and Progress) and to a reconfiguration of the national political scene. The stakes are either a fundamental change in favor of the people or a reform of the neocolonial system and the neocolonial rule, mainly French, in our country. Several memorable facts also reflect the failure of the mafia regime of the autocrat Blaise Compaoré and focused the anger and struggles of the masses:
* the lack of function and total discredit, striking the institutions of the Republic (government, parliament, justice), which have been reduced to a plaything in the hands of Captain Blaise Compaoré and his mafia clan in power who use and abuse them at their will;
* the pronounced inclination for the monarchisation of power with a strengthened collusion between the business community, traditional leaders and religious authorities;
* a gradual erosion of liberties under the pretext of the fight against organized crime with enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions fraught with the danger of gangland murders or disguised political assassinations;
* the persistence of impunity for bloody crimes brought to light by the democratic and revolutionary movement;
* a socio-economic situation plagued by corruption and impunity for economic crimes;
* the persistent problem of high prices with an increased impoverishment of the broad popular sectors;
* a clear revival of the vitality of the social front and an increasingly marked determination of the masses to fight for bread and freedom, as shown by the multiple actions and struggles organized and led by the party.
The popular insurrection of October 30 is fully justified in view of the overall maturation of the revolutionary crisis in Burkina Faso. But very quickly the working class and the people are realizing that their hard-won achievements are being threatened and reversed by the putchist clans of the neocolonial army, which have carried out a reactionary military coup d’état. Their ultimate goal is to stifle the revolutionary process taking place and to save the bankrupt neocolonial system. The reactionary bourgeois opposition, while advocating change, is carrying on negotiations with the military high command for a “transitional government” that would allow them to maintain their opportunity of obtaining neocolonial power.
The imperialist powers (France, United States and European Union) are busy trying to impose a solution that would preserve their economic and geostrategic interests in Burkina Faso and in the sub-region of West Africa. They are taking account of the role played by their former pawn Blaise Compaoré who allowed their military presence in the country to become a strategic platform of aggression and exploitation of the peoples of the sub-region.
But the popular movement remains vigilant and is showing its willingness to fight in order not to “be robbed of their victory.” The Revolutionary Democratic Movement, led by the party, in this complex situation is opposed to the military coup and calls on the masses to continue the struggle to deepen the revolutionary process.
The PCRV calls on the working class, the people and the youth to strengthen their organizations of struggle, especially the CCVC, and to organize together with them for the revolutionary overthrow of the neocolonial regime and to put in place a Provisional Revolutionary Government and a Constituent Assembly in order to build a modern democratic Republic.
The PCRV calls for international solidarity in the face of repression against the democratic and revolutionary movement and the interference of the imperialist powers in our country.
Bread and Freedom for the People
Long Live Proletarian Internationalism
November 1, 2014
“Legalizing” the Formation of the State of Israel by the United Nations Partition & the USSR Recognition – 1947
This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #30, “Marx, Lenin and Stalin on Zionism.”
At the early stages of the Comintern, the views of Lenin were still unchallenged by the later revisionist opposition, who would finally succeed in hi-jacking the Comintern, only by 1928.
Even when Stalin took over the leadership of the CPSU(B), until 1925 his views were not easily ignored. Matters within the Comintern, were however dominated by the succeeding revisionist factions – first of Zinoviev, and then those of Bukharin, and then by that of Dimitrov-Kuussinen-Manuilsky.
At the early stages then, policies were in general correctly Marxist-Leninist. For instance, article (11f), was passed at the Second Congress of Comintern (still attended by Lenin), that condemned the attempts of foreign imperialism to establish the divisive “Jewish” state of Israel; in Arab Palestine.
“(11 f) It is essential constantly to expose and to explain to the widest masses of the working people everywhere, and particularly in the backward countries, the deception practiced by the imperialist Powers with the help of the privileged classes in the oppressed countries in creating ostensibly politically independent States which are in reality completely dependent on them economically, financially, and militarily. A glaring example of the deception practiced on the working classes of an oppressed nation by the combined efforts of Entente imperialism and the bourgeoisie of that same nations is offered by the Zionists’ venture (And by Zionism as a whole, which under the pretense of creating a Jewish state in Palestine in fact surrenders the Arab working people of Palestine, where the Jewish workers form only a small minority to exploitation by England). In present international circumstances there is no salvation for dependent and weak nations except as an alliance of Soviet republics.”
Theses 2nd Comintern Congress: AThe National & Colonial Question A; Ed J.Degras; Vol 1; p.144.
It must be asked then, why Andrey A. Gromyko, the UN representative of the USSR, and the Soviet ambassador to the USA, voted at the United Nations, to recognise the formation of the state of Israel in 1947? While the European Communist Parties were being ideologically re-educated by the Cominform, in the weakened state of the USSR it turned out that Andrei Gromyko was appointed to the United Nations. Gromyko’s later overt revisionism was clear. But at that time, he was not revealed as a revisionist.
The Palestine Communist Party had been agitating very publicly that there should be no division of the territory of Palestine between Jewish immigrants and the local indigenous Palestinians Arab population. However at the very first session of the UN in San Francisco, Gromyko voted for the division of Palestine and the establishment of the state of Israel. This policy went against the long history of Marxist-Leninists, who had argued that Jews should be assimilated in the country they lived, and should join the class struggle there.
The result was a temporary victory for the revisionist faction inside the leading echelons of the CPSU(B), led by Khrushchev.
As Walter Laquer, one of the most well known historians of the Zionist movement puts it, Gromyko was very much in the vanguard of the push for an independent Israel. Even propelling the hesitant President Truman and the USA into his wake:
“President Truman and his advisers were firmly resolved not to give any lead to the United Nations but to wait for the emergence of a consensus. Much to the surprise of the Zionists the Soviet attitude was much more positive. This first became evident when the Jewish Agency asked to be permitted (as a matter of simple justice’) to appear at the UN on behalf of the Jewish people since the Arabs were already represented there. They had the immediate support of the Soviet delegation, and on May 15 Gromyko spoke not without sympathy about the aspirations towards Palestine of a considerable part of the Jewish people, of the calamities and sufferings they had undergone throughout the last war, (which defy description’) and the grave conditions in which the masses of the Jewish population found themselves after the war. He mentioned partition as one of several possible solutions. This unexpected support continued throughout 1947 and led later that year to the Soviet decision to vote for partition. Traditionally the Soviet attitude to Zionism had been extremely hostile, and since Moscow reverted to is earlier position not long after the state of Israel came into being once can only conclude that the short-lived rapprochement came exactly at the right moment for the Zionists. Without it they would not have stood a chance… On 15 may 1947 the General Assembly approved the establishment of a committee of eleven to investigate the Palestine question to make proposals for a settlement…The UNSCOP committee (United Nations Special Committee on Palestine) majority came out in favour of partition.. And were published on 31 August 1947. Both the majority and the minority reports were drafted by the same man – Dr Ralphe Bunche…. a hesitating President Truman gave his assent to the partition scheme on 9 October 1947… The vote was taken on 29 November and the motion carried by 33 to 13…. The state of Israel came into being at a meeting of the National Council at 4 pm on Friday 14 May 1948.. The first country to recognise the new state was the USA.. Within the next few days the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala Uruguay and other countries followed.”
Laquer W; AA History of Zionism”; New York; 1976; p. 578; 582; 586.
It is clear that Gromyko was also fighting a propaganda war for an independent state of Israel based in Palestine, inside the USSR. Clearly even members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (see below) such as Solomon (or Shlomo) Mikhoels were influenced by this, as related by Teller:
“In a small and select group the conversation turned to Gromyko’s speech on the Palestine question. Actor-director Shlomo Mikhoels alluded to a passage in one of the Yiddish classics by Mendel Mocher Sefarim in which a Jew ask a Russian peasant to point him the way to the Land of Israel. “Gromyko”, said Mikhoels in exaltation, “is that good Gentile who shows us the way to the Land of Israel.”
Teller, Judd T: “The Kremlin, The Jews and the Middle East”; p.106; New York; 1957;
What seems to have happened is apparent from recent detailed memorandums that reveal that the USSR first did take a principled Marxist-Leninist line which was then subverted.
In order to be clear, we show this process below, citing both the primary and the secondary source.
The tremendous refugee problem after the war, obviously consisted of a huge Jewish population. The USSR government was already aware of proposals that this should be remedied by the formation of a state inside Germany:
“20 February 1945, the Third European Division of the USSR People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs (NKID) sent a memorandum (from the Jewish Committee – dated 11.11.1944 – ed) to Deputy People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs V. G. Dekanozov. It informed him that the Soviet Embassy in Italy had forwarded two letters to the NKJD, one addressed to I. V. Stalin, the other to V. M. Molotov, from the Rome-based Jewish Committee of the International Union of Emigrants and Refugees. Enclosed with the letters was a proposal for creating an independent Jewish state on German territory and a map of Germany where the prospective state was delineated.”
Strizhov I;:” The Soviet Position on the Establishment of the State of Israel”; Op Cit; p.303
As will be discussed later, proposals were also made by the progressive Soviet Jews for the resolution of the problem in the Crimean republic of the USSR. However by now, the Zionists had already made Palestine their goal.
Initially the objective reality of a larger settler population – whether illegally arrived or not – inside Palestine was to be confronted by the remaining Marxist-Leninists within the CPSU(B), by the correct insistence that the mandate of Britain over Palestine should be lifted; and possibly replaced by a Mandate responsible to the entire UN.
It was rightly pointed out, by the CPSU(B) Marxist-Leninists, that the British had “failed” to peacefully resolve the situation.
This was articulated on 27 July 1945 in a memo signed by M.M.Litvinov in his post as, Chairman of the “Committee on Preparing Peace Treaties and the Postwar Order.” Although Litvinov was at best a vacillating Marxist-Leninist, and at worst a concious enemy of the USSR state [as several sources can attest to] – nonetheless the key memo itself had been set up by the diplomats within the USSR People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs (NKID), who:
“Sent a memorandum entitled ‘The Palestine Question'” to Stalin, Molotov and the Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs. Its conclusion read:
1. No matter how hard the British may try to prove that their present policy in Palestine conforms to the Balfour Declaration, it is obvious that they have failed to live up to the mandate entrusted to them. This was admitted in the.. statements by high-ranking British statesmen. This is sufficient justification for taking the Palestine mandate away from the British.
2.The Palestine question cannot be duly settled without impinging upon the wishes and rights of Jews or Arabs, or perhaps both. The British government is in equal measure subject to the influence of the Arab states and world Jewry. Hence its difficulties in choosing the correct means to settle the Palestine problem.
3. The US government is subject to the same influences. While British Palestine policy is necessarily affected mainly by orientation towards Arab interests, the American government is subject in the first place to the influence of the powerful US Jewry. It should be recalled that at the latest presidential elections both the Democratic and the Republican parties felt compelled to issue declarations on their attitude to Palestine, demanding unrestricted immigration of Jews and unrestricted rights for Jews to their own land. At the same time, the US government would hardly choose to quarrel with the Arabs, in view of the fact that the oil pipeline from Saudi Arabia in which they have a stake will run through hundreds of kilometres of Arab territory. That would put the US government in as difficult a position regarding Palestine as the British government.
4. The USSR, free from either Arab or Jewish influence, would be in a better position to tackle the Palestine issue. This at least entitles it to request a temporary trusteeship over Palestine until a more radical solution is found.
5. The British attach to Palestine, which guards the approaches to the Suez Canal and has an outlet for Iraqi oil on its territory, too much importance for us to expect them to consent even to a temporary transfer of Palestine to the hands of another state, particularly, the USSR.
6. In the event that the Soviet request is rejected the following solution suggests itself: transfer of Palestine to the collective trusteeship of three states – the USSR, USA and Britain. These three powers will be able to take the requisite decisions collectively, paying less tribute to the opinion of the Arab or the Jewish population than either the American or British government acting on its own would feel obliged to do.
7.The provisions of collective trusteeship shall be bound neither by the Balfour Declaration nor by any promises Britain has earlier given as the mandatary power, so that the new collective administration could tackle the Palestine problem in all fairness, in accordance with the interests of the entire population and the new imperatives of political realities and general security.”
Strizhov I;:” The Soviet Position on the Establishment of the State of Israel”; Op Cit; p.304-305; Citing 5.Arkhiv vneshnei politiki MID SSSR (AVP),fond (f.) . 07,opis’ (op.) 12a, papka (pk.) 42, delo (d.) 6, pp. 36-8
This generally correct line, given the new circumstances, continued to hold until May 1946.
By then the British and the USA imperialists had continued the general policy of divide and rule. They had established the Anglo-American Committee, which had alienated both Jews and Arabs:
“In December 1945 an Anglo-American Committee was set up to investigate the situation in Palestine. It was entrusted with a wide range of tasks connected with the Palestine problem as a whole. The Committee’s report was made public in April 1946 and was met with an outburst of violent recriminations throughout the Arab states and with bitter disappointment on the part of the Jews.”
Strizhov I;:” The Soviet Position on the Establishment of the State of Israel”; Op Cit; p.305
The previous line of the USSR was brought up to date, in order to acknowledge that the Anglo-American Committee had attempted to continue the British imperialist mandate “jointly.”
In the circumstances, the correct Marxist-Leninist line was taken – to use the UN to “reveal the aspirations” of the imperialists to “prevent the interference of other countries” in settling the issue.
It was correctly stated (and consistent with previous Marxist-Leninist views) that anti-racism and anti-Semitism was a reflection of larger forces and could not be dealt with simply by creating a state – that anyway could not “house” every one subject to racism.
Moreover it correctly noted that in the current situation unless the issue was brought up, the British and USA would succeed in enforcing their will – “our silence on the Palestine issue.”
The correct approach however was to allow the Arabs to raise the question at the UN. This was put in an up-dated memo to Dekanozov, Molotov’s Deputy:
“A memorandum entitled ‘The Palestine Question’, based on the results of the Litvinov Committee, was compiled by the Middle East Department of the USSR Foreign Ministry and on 15 May 1946 was sent to Dekanozov. It read: ‘Attempts by Britain and the US jointly to continue the British mandate outside the framework of the UN reveal their aspiration to prevent the interference of other countries in the settlement of the Palestine question until Palestine is fully under the control of the US and Britain. Our silence on the Palestine issue might be interpreted by the US, Britain, Arabs and Jews as the Soviet Union’s partial approval of the proposals put forth by the committee. Bearing this in mind and in view of the fact that official and unofficial representatives of both Arab states and Jewish organizations are running to the Soviet Union in order to have the Palestine problem settled it would be expedient to set forth the Soviet point of view on the Palestine problem in two or three articles to be published in the press. Later our diplomatic representatives may refer to these articles in private conversations if they are approached by Arab or Jewish representatives in connection with the Palestine question.”
Strizhov I;; Op Cit; p.305 citing: AVP, f. 06, op. 08, pk. 42, d. 694, pp. 2-4
After this preamble, the most likely Marxist-Leninist position advisable, was crystallised as being to reject the Anglo-American Committee’s position as “incompetent” and to insist upon abrogation of the British mandate in Palestine:
“Presumably, our position on the Palestine question should be as follows:
1.The Anglo-American committee set up to study the Palestine question without the participation of the UN was not competent to discuss. ..and tackle the Palestine problem without the participation of the parties directly concerned.
2.The Jewish question in Europe cannot be solved through Jewish immigration to Palestine, inasmuch as only complete eradication of racism and the democratization of European countries can create normal conditions for the existence of the Jewish masses.
3.The British mandate in Palestine should be abrogated since it is impeding a radical solution of the Palestine question and jeopardizing security in the Middle East. All foreign troops should be withdrawn from Palestine.
4. Palestine should be placed under the trusteeship of the UN which within a certain period of time will lay the groundwork for a sovereign and democratic Palestine. We must not submit the Palestine question for consideration by the UN. It should be raised by the Arab UN members themselves. We should only voice our opinion and uphold it. It would be expedient to postpone the publication of articles on the Palestine question until the session of the Council of Foreign Ministers has completed its deliberations.”
Strizhov I; Op Cit; p.305 citing: AVP, f. 06, op. 08, pk. 42, d. 694, pp. 2-4
The best elements of the Jewish immigrants into the Palestine lands, were the left wing Poalei-Tsion (led by L. Levite and M. Erem) and the Hashomer-Hatsair Workers Party (led by Y.Barzilai), had participated in the Palestine-USSR Friendship League. They were already in contact with the Soviet Ambassador to Poland V.Z. Lebedev.
As he wrote to Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister A.Ia Vyshinskii, the Hasomer-Hatsair were in agreement with the principle of a federation of an Arab-Jewish state with two national chambers. This differed from the Poalei-Tsion. (Strizhov I; Op Cit; p.306).
The US Under-Secretary of State Sumner Welles now showed the USA policy response, which was to accept the challenge of ensuring an imperialist led take-over of the United Nations.
Accordingly the British were persuaded to agree publicly to their failure:
“In mid-February 1947 the British government officially admitted that since it was unable to find a solution to the Palestine problem, it was going to ask the United Nations to recommend one.”
Strizhov Op Cit; p.307; citing Sumner Welles, We Need Not Fail (Boston:1948), p.41.
Even as late as 5 March 1947, the Middle East Department of The USSR Foreign Ministry were pursuing a correct Marxist-Leninist line.
They sent Vyshinskii a memo entitled “The Palestine Problem” (October 1946-February 1947), which based itself upon the previously cited points 2 and 3 of the May memo.
But more public stands were shortly to be needed by the Soviet hidden revisionist representatives to the UN. By 6 March the UN Soviet delegate Boris Shtein had noted that although until then, the UN had “refrained from formulating its stand on the Palestine question,” the fact that the discussion was now tabled would force a public stand by the USSR.
This was an ideal opportunity for the Soviets take the principled Marxist-Leninist line: to demand the withdrawal of British troops, the full independence for Palestine, and a full democratic statute.
But since Arab-Jewish “contradictions” would still exist, the resolution could only be exercised via a United Nations “collective trusteeship” – specifically thereby rejecting a British “trusteeship” only.
At least this would ensure the possibility of real Soviet brakes upon the Zionist settlers and their wars against the Arabs for land.
This line was indeed put, or outlined, in the following internal memo to Vyshinsky:
“Up until now the USSR has refrained from formulating its stand on the Palestine question. However, the upcoming discussion of the issue by the UN impels us to formulate our position. First of all, the USSR must come out resolutely for the abrogation of Britain’s Palestine mandate. Britain has not coped with its responsibilities as the mandatary power. Throughout the duration of the mandate… Britain has not succeeded in establishing order in the country and preventing almost un-intermittent bloodshed. Substituting British trusteeship for the mandate is also out of the question. The change of signboard will not change anything. What could be considered is collective trusteeship over Palestine by the UN as an organization or by several nations (in effect, permanent Security Council members). However, this possibility is excluded by the fact that the population of the country, both Arabs and Jews, are mature enough for independence. Neither Arabs nor Jews would agree to any trusteeship whatsoever and want complete independence. The Soviet Union cannot but support the demand for full independence for Palestine.. The withdrawal of British troops from the country should be the first and obligatory precondition for the independence of Palestine. Still, granting independence to Palestine would not take the edge off Arab-Jewish contradictions in the country. The Soviet Union cannot see any way of settling them other than by democratic means. Thus, alongside independence, Palestine should obtain a democratic statute ensuring full and genuine equality (civil, political and national) for the population of Palestine as a whole. The statute is to be worked out by the UN Organization, which is subsequently to become a guarantor of its implementation. The fact that Britain has relegated the Palestine question to the United Nations for discussion, enables the USSR for the first time not only to voice its views on the issue but also to take an active part in Palestine’s fate.”
Strizhov I; Op Cit; Citing p.308; AVP, f. 07, op. 12, pk. 42, d. 6, pp. 140-1.
In Gromyko’s speech of 17 May 1947, made to the UN, he correctly pointed out, in accordance with the general USSR line, that:
“The mandate administration established in Palestine in 1922 has not proved itself.”
Strizhov I; OP Cit; p.308.
He even went on to note, that no single West European state had protected the “elementary rights” of the Jewish people, and that “vast numbers” were homeless and without subsistence. Again this was consistent with the line evolved previously.
But then he radically departed from the previously agreed line – of setting up a democratic Palestine with “full and genuine equality for all the population of Palestine as a whole.”
Instead Gromyko proposed a Partition of Palestine, seemingly as a fall-back position, if a democratic Palestine was not agreeable.
In reality this unacceptable and revisionist line was designed to open the door on an imperialist settlement of the Palestine question:
“Gromyko pointed out that neither past history’ nor the conditions now obtaining in Palestine’ justified a one-sided settlement of the Palestine question’ that ignored the legitimate rights’ of both the Arab and Jewish populations. The Soviet delegation had come to the conclusion that the legitimate interests of both the Jewish and the Arab peoples of Palestine could be safeguarded only if an integral Arab Jewish democratic state’ were established. If this variant proved unattainable’ due to the deterioration of Arab-Jewish relations, then it would be necessary to consider the second variant, which had gained currency in Palestine: the partition of Palestine into two independent sovereign states – one Jewish and one Arab.”
Strizhov I;:Op Cit; p.309; 1zvestiia, 16 May 1947.
It is not surprising, that some Zionist observers were surprised by this line from someone claiming to be the representative of the USSR, as the line was quite in “contradiction to the explicitly anti-Zionist attitude”:
“Gromyko’s speech, an Israeli diplomat commented many years later, ‘was in complete contradiction to the explicitly anti-Zionist attitude which both communist ideologists and practical politicians had expressed repeatedly and consistently over several decades.. therefore came as a great surprise.”
Strizhov I;:Op Cit; p.309; Avigdor Dagan, Moscow and Jerusalem” (London, 1970), pp. 19-20.
On the 15 May 1947, UNSCOP (United Nations Special Committee On Palestine) was established and it reported to the General Assembly on 13 October 1947. Speaking in support of partition, the Soviet representative Tsarapkin:
“Pointed out that the Jews’ desire to create their own state was understandable, and it would be unjust to deny the Jewish people the right to realize these aspirations. The creation of a Jewish State has become a ripe and urgent issue’.Having supported in principle the recommendations submitted by a majority in the special committee’ for the partition of Palestine, he declared: If this session of the General Assembly decides to establish a Jewish and an Arab state, it would be a big stride forward in the settlement of the Palestine question as a whole.”
Strizhov I;:” ASoviet Position”; Op Cit; p. 309-310; Pravda, 16th October 1947.
The final proposals were put to the General Assembly after having been agreed to by the ad hoc committee including the Soviet Ukrainian and Belorussian delegates:
“On 25 November 1947 the ad hoc committee adopted the proposal for the partition of Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish. The Soviet, Ukrainian and Belorussian delegates all voted for the proposal. The Partition Plan was considered and put to the vote at the General Assembly plenary sessions held between 26-29 November 1947. The session’s proceedings were marked by heated debate.”
Strizhov I; “Soviet Position”; Ibid; p. 310.
When on 26 November 1947, Gromyko addressed the plenary session, he defended Partition on the grounds that it met the demands of the Jewish people, and he insisted that the Soviet delegation had been insistent and quite un-ambiguous upon this matter:
“The resolution of the question of Palestine on the basis of its partition into two independent states will have great historic significance inasmuch as it meets the legitimate demands of the Jewish people…In the opinion of the Soviet delegation, the plan for the settlement in Palestine submitted by the committee and stipulating that the Security Council is to be entrusted with its practical implementation, fully coincides with the interests of maintaining and strengthening international peace and the promotion of inter-state cooperation. Therefore the Soviet delegation supports the recommendation for the partition of Palestine. Unlike some other delegations, the Soviet delegation has from the very outset taken a clear-cut and unambiguous stand upon this question and is consistently upholding it. It will not engage in manoeuvring or manipulations with votes as is regrettably the case at the Assembly, in particular in connection with the debates on the Palestine issue.”
Strizhov I; Ibid; p. 310; vnethnaiapohuha Soretskogo Sniuza (Moscow, 1948), pp. 244-2, 244-5.
On 29 November 1947 the General Assembly adopted Resolution 181(11) on the partition of Palestine into two states. This decision, endorsed the establishment of the State of Israel.
Resolution 181(11) established in January 1948, a special UN commission to “supervise” preparations for the creation of the Arab and the Jewish states.
While this objectively supported the long term imperialist plans for the Middle East, a certain myopia on the part of the imperialists prevented their seeing immediately that they should be pleased.
Initially therefore, it encountered opposition from the British who obstructed its’ work. On the floor of the UN, the US supported the British and argued that it was not possible to perform the task of partition peacefully. But the USA in turn was heatedly opposed by Gromyko who insisted that there should be no such problem:
“The work of the commission generated acrimonious debate and differences in the UN Security Council which was to ensure the implementation of the resolution. At the Security Council meeting on 19 March 1948 the United States representative Warren Austin submitted a proposal for convening the 2nd Special Session of the General Assembly ‘to establish UN trustee-ship over Palestine’, claiming that ‘it is allegedly impossible to carry out the Palestine partition program.. .by peaceful means’. In reply, Soviet representative Gromyko declared that the US stand had nothing in common with the General Assembly resolution and that the Soviet Union could not agree with that position.”
Strizhov I; “Soviet Position”; Ibid; p.310; Pravda, 21 March 1948.
Because of the impasse, it was sponsored that the UN establish a trusteeship plan. This had been the original Soviet intention as shown by the above memos put to the Foreign Ministry.
Now however, Gromyko expressly argued against these plans, and in effect, Gromyko ensured that partition would occur with very likely, a quick Israeli take-over of the whole of Palestine:
“On 30 March 1948 when two US resolutions providing for an immediate truce between the Arabs and the Jews and the convocation of a special General Assembly session to reconsider the earlier decision on partition were submitted to the Security Council, Gromyko criticized the US trusteeship plan, characterizing the partition of Palestine as a just solution and insisting that US allegations about the impossibility of effecting the partition by peaceful means were groundless. He said the Palestine Commission should continue its work in order to carry out the partition ‘so long as the General Assembly decisions remained in force’. “
Strizhov I; “Soviet Position”; Ibid; p.310-311; Pravda, 1 April 1948.
Now that in effect the damage had been done, the Soviet delegation promptly abstained from the decision to convene a special General Assembly. But at the General Assembly hearing on 20 April 1948, Gromyko again severely attacked the USA and Britain for refusing to accept partition:
“They are out to torpedo the partition decision and impose on the United Nations their decision on Palestine’s future, prompted by the self-seeking interests of the US ruling circles..have put forward new.. proposals to establish trusteeship over Palestine.”
Strizhov I; “Soviet Position”; Ibid; p. 311; Izvestiia, 23 April 1948.
The rejection of the previously “acceptable” UN trusteeship line, was now masked in high flown language as expressed by Tsarapkin:
“On 3 May 1948 Tsarapkin, addressing the 1st Committee, rejected the US attempts to impose a trusteeship regime on the peoples of Palestine’. He said: The high level of cultural, social, political and economic development of the Jewish people is indisputable. Such a people should not be put under trusteeship. Such a people has every right to a sovereign state of its own. Any attempts to impose trusteeship on such a people will only discredit the main idea and essence of trusteeship. And are the Palestinian Arabs less deserving of independent existence in their own state than Arabs living outside Palestine? Certainly not. Both the Jewish and the Arab people in Palestine have undoubtedly reached such a stage of political, economic and social development that placing them under trusteeship of any kind is out of the question.”
Strizhov I; “Soviet Position”; Ibid; p. 311; Izvestiia, 6 May 1948.
What was therefore the USA and British motives in now delaying?
It is true that the certain perceptive USA diplomats probably correctly and honestly, viewed the Partition as “un-workable.” Loy Henderson’s memorandum of September 22 was entitled “Certain Considerations Against Advocacy by the USA of the Majority Plan” and argued against Partition as follows:
“In summary, Henderson’s main points were that support of the majority plan would undermine US relations withe the Arab and Moslem worlds; that the USA would be expected to make a major contribution to the implementation of the Plan; that any plan for partitioning Palestine was unworkable; that adoption of the plan would not dispose of the Palestine problem; and finally that the proposals in the plan Awere not based on any principle of an international character…. but in definite contravention of… the Charter of the UN as well as the principles on which American Concepts of government are based.”
Wilson E.M. “Decision On Palestine-How the US Came to Recognise Israel”; Stanford;1979; p.117
But the real reason of the higher politicians of the USA, was to enable the maximum possible land grabbing by the Zionists.
While the filibustering at the UN was going on, the Jewish settlers were feverishly grabbing land and terrorising the Palestinians. This reality was referred to, but in a veiled manner by Gromyko who in effect – again simply justified the on-going practical “partition” as a “reality”:
“At the 1st Committee Session on 4 May 1948, Gromyko called on the General Assembly to admit that partition was in fact being implemented. This, he said, was clear from a statement made by a representative of the UN Secretariat, from reports of the Jewish Agency and publications in the US and elsewhere. ‘While the General Assembly is engaged in discussions, the Jewish state will become a reality despite the efforts of some UN members to create all kinds of obstacles’, he asserted.”
Finally the discussions were ended by the practical establishment of the state of Israel.
It was claimed by Pravda that the USA had “suffered a fiasco”:
“On 14 May 1948 the Special Session of the UN General Assembly ended, for on that day the establishment of the State of Israel was proclaimed in Tel Aviv. Pravda commented: ADevelopments at the Special Session of the General Assembly showed that the US, on whose initiative it had been convened, suffered a fiasco. The initial plans of the US were frustrated. The US delegation did not even dare to put its proposal for establishing a trusteeship regime over the whole of Palestine to the vote. The General Assembly also rejected the British proposal for a provisional regime for Palestine. This proposal, amounting to trusteeship but presented in a disguised form, was criticized by the delegation of the USSR and some other countries. In the course of the debate on the Palestine issue, the USSR pursued a consistent policy, upholding the decision on the partition of Palestine and exposing all scheming with respect to Palestine.”
After the fait accompli, when “On 16 May 1948 Moshe Shertok (later Sharett), Foreign Minister of the Provisional Government of Israel, sent a cable to Molotov”, asking for official recognition it was granted:
“In a telegram to Shertok of 17 May 1948 Molotov replied:
‘This is to inform you that the Government of the USSR has decided to extend official recognition to the State of Israel and its Provisional Government. The Soviet Government believes that the creation by the Jewish people of its sovereign state will serve the cause of strengthening peace and security in Palestine and the Middle East and expresses confidence that friendly relations between the USSR and the State of Israel will develop successfully.”
Strizhov I;:” ‘Soviet Position”; Ibid; p. 313; Pravda, 18 May 1948.
Soon after, within a month later, on 26 June 1948, the appointments were announced of P.I. Ershov, as “USSR Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in the State of Israel”; and of Mrs. Golda Meyerson “Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the State of Israel in the USSR”. (Strizhov I;:” ASoviet Position”; Ibid; p. 313). On 7 September 1948 Golda Meyerson, was received by Molotov in Moscow:
“After presenting her credentials, she said that her government had instructed her to take the first opportunity to express to Molotov the gratitude of the people and Government of the State of Israel for the help rendered by the Soviet Union in the United Nations….. The Soviet Government, Molotov replied, regarded this as its duty, all the more so in that it was fully in keeping with Soviet USSR policy vis-a-vis other peoples’… Molotov pointed out that the State of Israel was off to a good start and that there was a basis for the creation of a viable state.”
Strizhov I; “Soviet Position”; Ibid; p.314; AVP, f. 06, op. 10, pk. 46, d. 623, p.1.
As only one of the outstanding issues (leaving aside the whole matter of the Arab peoples’ response to this “legalised theft” of their lands) was that of continued Jewish immigration, and from where this would come? Would there be immigration from the USSR?
It was asserted by the diplomatic heads of the USSR that this would be from the “capitalist countries” if at all, and not from the Soviet countries. This was the previous Marxist-Leninist line of the Soviet Foreign Ministry until it was subverted by Gromyko:
“On 15 September 1948, while on a protocol visit to I. N. Bakulirt, head of the Middle East Department of the USSR Foreign Ministry, Meyerson declared:
‘The State of Israel will become viable when its population increases several-fold”.
Bakulin, like Deputy Foreign Ministers V. A. Zorin and F. T. Guseev to whom Meyerson also paid her respects on 15 and 17 September, respectively, made it clear that this immigration would have to come solely from the capitalist countries and that Israel could not even cope with all the repressed and persecuted Jews from these countries.”
Strizhov I; “Soviet Position”; Ibid; p.314;AVP, f 06, op. 10, pk. 46, d. 624, p.1.
There are as far as we know, no documents that show an approval of Gromyko’s step in the partition of Palestine – a step that allowed the formation of a singular state of Israel – by Stalin or the other minority Marxist-Leninists of the Central Committee.
This apparent volte-face by the USSR leaders of the international communist movement, totally alienated the Palestinian communists who were left very weakened. It has certainly assisted the alienation of the best of the Arab militants from the Marxist-Leninist movement. In Gromyko’s own English version of his memoirs, there is no discussion of this episode. (Gromyko “Memoirs”; New York; 1989. )
Nor is there any discussion of this episode in the official “History of Soviet Foreign Policy” edited by Gromyko himself, with another revisionist B.N. Ponomarev. (Gromyko A.A. & Ponomorev B.N. Ed:”Soviet Foreign Policy; 1945-1980″; Vol II; Moscow; 1980). Nonetheless, Gromyko does point out that a key member of the Soviet delegation to the UN was another arch-revisionist – Dmitri Manuilsky:
“At San Francisco and later at the first four sessions of the General Assembly and a number of other international meetings up to 19563 the Soviet Ukrainian delegation was invariably headed by Dmitri Zakharyevich Manuilsky, for whom I had the deepest regard.”
Gromyko “Memoirs” Ibid; p. 128.
The argument is today raised that: “Stalin sabotaged the Palestinian struggle”.
Various explanations to supposedly “explain Stalin’s support of the formation of Israel” are offered by non Marxist-Leninist sources.
We examine these below.
Standard Non Marxist-Leninist Explanations For “Stalin’s Support of Israel”;
1. “Stalin wanted to alienate the Arab Nations from the British”
Sudoplatov, amongst others, suggests it was deliberate ploy to undermine British rule:
“Clearly the intention was to strengthen the Soviet stand in the Middle East and to undermine the British influence among Arab states who objected to the Jewish state, by showing their inability to stop the Jews.”
Sudoplatov; op cit; p.292-293.
It is also alleged by Sudoplatov that Stalin said to Vetrov, who was Molotovs’ assistant & later an Ambassador to Denmark:
“Let’s agree to the establishment of Israel. This will be a pain in the ass for the Arab states & will make them turn their backs on the British. In the long run it will totally undermine British influence in Egypt, Syria, Turkey and Iraq”.
Albert Axell, “Stalin’s War Throughout the Eyes of His Commanders”; New York; 1997; p.296.
This tortuous explanation, in an alleged quotation from Stalin (rather like the older school of historians who state that in 1066 on a certain date and hour, William had a vision after eating grapes and said that he dreamed of his dynasty etc…) is buttressed by a “conversation with a confidential source”, who yet… remains nameless.
2. “Stalin wanted to justify pre-emptively an attack upon Soviet Jewry”:
He “wanted to neutralize the rumors about his changed course on the nationality policy… He felt that he had a psychological and political alibi for future events (arrests exiles, propaganda campaigns).” Vaksberg; Op Cit; p.184
We reject these “explanations” as self-evidently superficial, and again rather strained. But then what does explain these events?
A MARXIST-LENINIST ARGUMENT TO UNDERSTAND WHAT HAPPENED
We argue instead, that the only logical answer is two-fold:
(1) Firstly, the USSR, was not under Stalin’s full un-impeded control. Even following the victory of the Great People’s Anti-Fascist War, revisionist influence within the CPSU and in the leading echelons of the so called People’s Democracies undermined Marxist-Leninist policies; Stalin and the Marxist-Leninists, were in a minority in the Central Committee of the CPSU(B).
(2) Secondly, that post Second World War, Stalin and the USSR were in a position of a temporary objective weakness with respect to the foreign imperialism of the USA. Although epitomised by the “Atomic Gap”, closing that gap still left the USSR in an objectively weaker position than the USA.
PREMISE 1: Stalin And Marxists-Leninists Were In A Minority
Many lines of evidence make clear that revisionists had gone underground in order to continue subverting the Soviet Union, and outnumbered the honest Marxist-Leninists. Even astute observers of the USSR like President Harry S. Truman of the USA, who was a deadly foe of Communism, observed that:
“Stalin was a prisoner of the Politburo’.”
Resis A: ’Stalin, the Politburo & Onset of the Cold War. 1945-1946″, no.701, Carl Beck papers, Pittsburgh 1988; p.9. Citing D.Yergin: the Shattered Peace.”; Boston; 1977.; pp 101-104.
Previous issues of Alliance have discussed the general analysis underpinning this premise. In order to erect a facade behind which the revisionists could operate, a cult of Stalin was built. As time goes by, more evidence supporting this view emerges. We cite a participant in the Second World War:
“Konoplyanko, ex-KGB officer:
“I would put the blame for Stalin’s cult not so much on Stalin himself, but mostly on his environment – the cult was launched from the top not from the bottom.. His toadies and bootlickers competed in currying favour with him by praising him to the skies.”
A.Axell Ibid; p.179-180
It is true that the victory of the USSR in the Second World War gave the Marxist-Leninists strength. This victory was gained, in spite of the enormous sabotage performed from within the party and the army, both penetrated by traitors to the Soviet Union. This is confirmed by interviews with several of Stalin’s generals. For instance with General Shavrov:
“Author: General what puzzles me is why would Stalin undercut himself, I mean weaken the army with the pre-war purges? (Von Rauch says that of 6,000 of Stalin’s highest ranking officers who were arrested on charge of treason, 1500 were executed.”
Shavrov: “The T-34 tank was delivered to the army in 1939.. The weak points (were identified).. In two months time after the tanks was sent back to the factory, the whole research team on the T-34 was arrested.. Who gave the order? We don’t think it was Stalin. Nobody knows for certain who was responsible. Was it treason? Of course Hitler was interested in this.. I know another case.. The Lake Khasan Battle against the Japanese army in 1938. When the Japanese struck were about 200 miles away… That night and for a few more days, our regimental commanders, divisional commandeers, and senior commanders were arrested. At the very moment of the Japanese attack!.. Who did it? This question is still un-answered.”
A.Axell Ibid; p.20.
General Sergeyev has a similar view of the degree of sabotage:
“In 1990, General Igor Sergeyev, who was Deputy Commander-in-chief of Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces disclosed that 35,000 commanders’ were expelled from the Party and arrested in 1937-8. Between 1932 and 1939, the army’s numerical strength actually decreased. He said that experienced soldiers were replaced with hastily trained men’”.
A.Axell Ibid; p. 34
Similar is the testimony of the Czech President Eduard Benes:
“The Czech President Eduard Benes in his post war memoirs said that he learned in 1937 of the existence of the anti-Stalin clique in the Red Army which had close contacts with the Nazi officers.. Czech officials are said to have been shocked to learn that their country’s’s military secrets hitherto known only to the Russians through their mutual aid alliance, were also know to the German high Command. The secrets they claimed were given to Berlin by Marshall Mikhail Tukhachevsky. Some corroboration came from G.E.R. Gedye, the Prague correspondent of the New York Times, who cabled on 18 June that Atwo of the highest officials in Prague” say that the they have ‘definite knowledge that secret connection between the German General Staff and certain high Russian generals have existed since Rapallo.”
A.Axell Ibid; p.35
Stalin’s general response to this sabotage, within the Marxist-Leninist movement, both internally and externally of the USSR, was to weld together a small group of solidly Marxist-Leninist elements around him; to continue to pursue a correct line both outside and within the USSR.
Externally, the approach led to the creation of the Cominform, to pursue the task of ensuring Marxist-Leninist leadership in the Peoples’ Democracies. This occurred after a certain consolidation had taken place.
Internally within the USSR, this policy led to among other things, the creation of a Foreign Policy bureau to deal with the post Second World War manipulations of imperialism. Stalin took the Politburo function of foreign relations into his own hands, and he placed key tasks in the safekeeping of a few chosen comrades, a “sextet” of proven Marxist-Leninists upon whom Stalin could place trust:
“In the conduct of his postwar foreign policies Stalin had no use for the ordinary type of foreign ministry.. he reserved all important decisions to himself.. For a number of years the Politburo was practically eliminated; to Akeep some members away from participation in the decision,” a Asextet” was appointed to deal with international as well as a number of other issues. Among the members of the small committee, in addition to Stalin were Vyacheslev Molotov, Lavrenti Beria, Georgi Malenkov, and until his death in 1948, Andrei Zhdanov.”
Dallin D.J. “Soviet Foreign Policy After Stalin”; Philadelphia 1961; p.3.
Stalin attempted to place strategically important branches of the foreign department directly under his own control:
“No less important than the sextets’ and septets’ was the large Foreign Department of the CC of the CPSU, the existence of which was not publicly acknowledged.. It was divided into sections by countries. The ties between these sections and the corresponding offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were often very close. While the official Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not always headed by a member of the supreme Politburo-Presidium (For example neither Maxim Litvinov or Andrei Vyshinsky was a member of the Politburo), the foreign department of the CC was the organ of the “general” or “first” secretary.. This left the ultimate power.. In the hand of the party’s leader.”
Dallin D.J. “Soviet Foreign Policy After Stalin”; Philadelphia 1961; p.3.
Even then the revisionists were too numerous to be kept entirely out of influential positions. For example, Nikolai Voznosensky – who was a revisionist already under suspicion but only later unmasked by Stalin, was added to the small “sextet” group. It is extremely doubtful that this was “on Stalin’s suggestion” as suggested by Dallin. As detailed elsewhere, Stalin had already realised the nature of Voznosensky’s revisionism. (See For instance Issues Number 12 and 14 of Alliance.)
But in fact it was only later, in 1949 in fact to effect Voznosensky’s arrest and execution. But wherever possible, Stalin ensured that the more steadfast and resolute Marxist-Leninists took the leading and responsible roles. Zhdanov was in the highest and most trusted category:
“In the early 1940’s the Foreign department of the CC was headed by Georgi Malenkov. Malenkov was succeeded by Andrei Zhdanov, whose role was enhanced when the leadership of the dissolved Comintern was incorporated into one of the departments of the CC.”… In 1944-45 under Zhdanov’s direction the Foreign Section of the CC carried out the remarkable operation of dispatching to the respective countries the leaders of the future governments of the satellites selected among emigres in the Soviet Union. The foreign Ministry acquired growing importance in the postwar era as the channel for relations with the communist parties of the satellites.”
Resis; Ibid; p. 4.
Again attempting to ensure Marxist-Leninist control, Stalin removed Ivan Maisky and Maxim Litvinov from diplomatic functions in London and Washington. But since all posts could not possibly be filled without recourse to skills that the revisionists undoubtedly still retained, they were given a post in heading two commissions – respectively the commission for state reparations and the commission for postwar peace treaties. (Vladislav Zubok & Pleshakov, Constantine “Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War-From Stalin to Khrushchev”; Cambridge Mass; 1996; p.28).
The two key ambassador posts in the USA and England were filled initially by Molotov. Litvinov in particular was suspected of secret contacts with the Western ruling classes. This was confirmed when he met with the CBS correspondent Richard C. Hottelet, and warned him to alert the West that “they had to beware of Soviet ambitions for territory,” saying:
“The outmoded concept of security in terms of territory – the more you’ve got the safer you are”.. No Western concessions would satisfy the Soviet leadership.”
Zubok & Pleshakov, Ibid p.37-38.
“If the West acceded to Soviet demands.. It would lead to the West being faced, after a more or less short time, with the next series of demands.”
D.Holloway; Op Cit; p.167
It was fully intended by Litvinov, that President Truman would be informed of this conversation, and “in secret” he was so informed. However Soviet Security was also aware of what had transpired. Within a month Litvinov was relieved of his position. One year later Litvinov told Alexander Werth a Western journalist in Moscow:
“That Russia could have cashed in on the goodwill that it had accumulated during the war, but that Stalin & Molotov did not believe that goodwill provided a lasting basis for policy; they had therefore grabbed all they could while the going was good.”
D.Holloway; Op Cit; p.167
In Summary, even though the Bolshevik party, was penetrated by revisionists, Stalin tried to ensure a personal control of the Ministry of Foreign affairs. However, given the paucity of Marxist-Leninists in the leading echelons of the CPSU, revisionists like Gromyko and Manuilsky, and Vosnoskensky were able to slip into key positions like that at the UN.
PREMISE 2: The Objectively Weak Post-war Soviet Union
How can it be legitimately argued that the Soviet state was objectively weak – even if only temporarily – over 1945-1948? After all the Soviet Union had just in effect, been the decisive factor in liberating the world from German and Japanese fascism. The heroic self-sacrifice of the USSR and its peoples in the war had gained many admirers in the working classes of the world. However, the Soviet people had been through an enormously costly war, moreover one on its own land, and a new frightening technology of the atomic bomb had been used.
(i) Human and Material Losses of the USSR in the Second World War
Neither the USA nor even the British had suffered the degree of destruction of either the industry, or the human resources that the USSR had. Professor John Erikson estimated in 1994, that the German invasion had led to 49 million solider and civilian deaths in Russia, far more than the previous conservative estimate of 20-25 million. In addition there was a drastic decline in Russian’ birth rate. (Cited by Axell A, Ibid; p. 177). The material damage was huge also :
“In July 1944 the Emergency State Commission headed by Niklai Svernik put a preliminary figure of damage at 375 billion rubles, not including damages to a large portion of Ukraine, Byelorussia, the Baltic countries, and the Finnish Karelia. The Maisky Commission (Ivan Maisky was head of the Reparations Commission of the Soviet Union-ed) assessed the overall damage Amust be no less than 700-800 billion rubles… surpassing the national wealth of Germany or England..”
Zubok & Pleshakov; Ibid; p.31.
Stalin pointed out to US Senator Claude Pepper on September 15th 1945, that (Cited Resis p. 3 Ibid. From:FRUS 1945, Vol V 881-893; dated Sep 15th 1945):
“Our people are tired, they couldn’t be induced to make war on anybody anymore.”
It is apparent that a certain degree of war weariness was bound to affect decision making. This affected the manner in which re-building the Soviet Union was approached.
(ii) The Post-Hiroshima Reality
As early as March 1942, the highest echelons of Soviet government were aware of the activities in the West towards the bomb. The secret British Maud Report of July 1941 had concluded that:
“It will be possible to make an effective uranium bomb which, containing some 25 il of active material, would be equivalent as regards destructive effect to 1,800 tons of T.N.T.; and would also release a large quantity of radioactive substances which would make places near to where the bomb exploded dangerous to human life for a long period.”
D.Holloway:”Stalin and the Bomb”; New Haven, 1994; p.79
Details of this were obtained by Anatolii Gorskii (codename Vadim) the NKVD London resident, and John Cairncross and Klaus Fuchs and transmitted to Beria. (D.Holloway:”Stalin and the Bomb”; New Haven, 1994; p82). Beria sent a memorandum to Stalin and the State Defence Committee urging evaluation of this information. (D.Holloway:”Stalin and the Bomb”; New Haven, 1994; p.84). Although a USSR nuclear programme was undertaken soon, the reality was that the decision itself was taken during the siege of Stalingrad. Consequently initial progress was understandably slow.
The scientific advances made under the Manhattan Project in the USA were also well known to the USSR. As the war proceeded, the imminent defeat of the Germans raised the question of joint Allied intervention against Japan. At Yalta, the meeting took place between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, at which plans for the post war period were drawn up. In the section entitled “Agreement Regarding Japan”, it was made clear that after Germany’s surrender (“in two or three months time”), the USSR would enter into war against Japan on condition that the USSR regained its rights in the border zones with Japan, and was granted the Kurile Islands. In full these conditions were that:
“1. The status quo in Outer Mongolia (the Mongolian People’s Republic) shall be preserved.
2. The former rights of Russia violated by the treacherous attack of Japan in 1904 shall be restored, viz:
a) The southern part of Sakhalin as well as the islands adjacent to it shall be returned to the Soviet Union;
(b) The commercial port of Dairen shall be internationalized, the pre-eminent interests of the Soviet Union in this port being safeguarded, and the lease of Port Arthur as a naval base of the U.S.S.R. restored;
(c) The Chinese-Eastern Railroad and the South Manchurian Railroad, which provide an outlet to Dairen, shall be jointly operated by the establishment of a joint Soviet-Chinese company, it being understood that the pre-eminent interests of the Soviet Union shall be safeguarded and that China shall retain sovereignty in Manchuria;
3. The Kurile Islands shall be handed over to the Soviet Union.”
(February 11, 1945. “A Decade of American Foreign Policy : Basic Documents, 1941-49; Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Washington, DC: 1950. WWW: World War II Page WW II Conferences Page; Avalon Home Page: William C. Fray & Lisa A. Spar.).
It was explicitly noted that reference to Outer Mongolia would require the “concurrence of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek.” But this was to be pursued by the USA President Roosevelt, and these claims of the USSR were to Abe unquestionably fulfilled after Japan has been defeated.” But then, by the next meeting of the Allied leaders, at the Potsdam Conference of July 1945, the USA had successfully exploded a test device at Alamogordo on July 16th. In the interim Roosevelt had died.
Marshall Zhukov relates how Stalin and Molotov discussed the seemingly “casual” probing statement of the new USA President- Harry Truman, to Stalin that the USA had a “new weapon of unusual destructive force”:
“They’re raising the price,” said Molotov.
Stalin gave a laugh, “Let them. We’ll have to.. speed up our work.”
Holloway D; Ibid; p. 117.
Obviously both Stalin and Molotov understood the implications of Truman’s remark.
The USA exploded the first nuclear devices used in warfare – at Hiroshima on August 6th 1945 and Nagasaki on August 9th 1945. At this stage, the USSR programme was still incomplete.
So the USA possession of the atomic bomb was a potent threat, as both the American and the Soviet state leaders understood. As Yuli Khariton, a scientist who became one of the Soviet creators of the bomb said (Zubok & Pleshakov; Ibid; p.43):
“The Soviet Government interpreted Hiroshima as atomic blackmail against USSR, as a threat to unleash a new even more terrible and devastating war.”
This assessment accords with that of the British Ambassador to the USSR, Sir Archibald Clark Kerr who wrote to then Foreign Secretary Eden:
“The victory over Germany had made the Soviet leaders confident that national security was at last within their reach.
“Then plumb came the Atomic bomb.. At a blow the balance which had seemed set and steady was rudely shaken. Russia was baulked by the West when everything seemed to be within her grasp. The three hundred divisions were shorn of much of their value.”
Cited in D.Holloway:”Stalin and the Bomb”; New Haven, 1994; p.154.
This atomic possession, grounded a new threatening approach of the USA. This was manifested when Truman demanded the “right” of safe entry to any world port they “needed for security”. This threat, was specified in Truman’s Navy Day Address when he announced the so called 12 Principles of operating for the USA state:
“On Navy Day October 27 1945, President Harry S.Truman set forth his views … Although the US was demobilizing rapidly.. It would still retain the largest Navy. in the world, and one of the largest air forces. It would retain the atomic bomb .. The US needed this vast peacetime force not for territorial aggrandizement, because: Outside the right to establish necessary bases for our own protection, we look for nothing which belongs to any other power.’ A large military force was also needed to uphold the peace & the twelve fundamentals of US foreign policy.. Emphatically he said: “We shall refuse to recognise any government imposed upon any nation by the force of any foreign power.”
Resis Ibid, p. 4.
The Hiroshima bombing called into question the diplomatic gains won first at Yalta and Potsdam by the USSR. The Japanese had been on the verge of surrendering, and had posed by the time of Hiroshima no significant military threat. Moreover the entry of the Soviets into the Far Eastern theater of war, had been previously agreed at Yalta, between the Allies.
But if the USSR entered the theater, the USA was worried that concessions would have to be made to it. Hiroshima was therefore both a pre-emptive strike against the USSR presence in the Japanese-Pacific arena, and a threat for the future post-war realpolitik’.
Nonetheless the Soviets entered the Far Eastern war there as they had promised, and as they had been asked to by the USA previously. From August 9th at 00.10 am the Red Army attacked the Japanese in Manchuria. Thus the USA had not fully achieved their goal of preventing the USSR entry into the Far eastern war.
(See Holloway; Ibid p. 128.).
As Resis comments, the Navy Day speech of Truman (see above) was an assertive speech that
“Plainly coupled implicit threat with explicit friendliness”.
(Resis Ibid, p. 5).
For the Soviet Government, Molotov replied 10 days later in a speech to commemorate the 28th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. He stated that the imperialists were “exploiting the atomic bomb in international affairs”, and predicted the USSR would have atomic energy also.(Resis Ibid, p. 6).
He pointed out the continuing attempt to isolate the USSR in a renewed anti-Soviet bloc. Kaganovich warned in a speech in Tashkent, that:
“Our country still finds itself in capitalistic encirclement.”
Cited Resis Ibid, From Pravda, p. 10, Feb 8, 1946.
Molotov warned of the need to return to the task of “overtaking and surpassing the economically most developed countries of Europe and the USA,” in per-capita industrial production in the near future. This required a strategic decision regarding heavy or light industry. There was a division in the ranks of even the Marxist-Leninists on this question. Malenkov and Voroshilov explicitly pumped for heavy industry. Voroshilov in a speech in 1946, arguing that anyone who called for a priority to light industry was a latter-day “servitor of fascism”. (Resis Ibid, p. 11). Yet Zhdanov, only the previous day on Feb 6th had called for light industry priority. He said:
“Because the people who over the course of many years of war bore sacrifices and privations, legitimately demanded that material and every-day living conditions should speedily improve. All this is no trifle. The task of improving every-day living conditions and material well-being of the masses, improving the production of consumers’ goods, is a cause which must be defended, fought for, and invested with the same Bolshevist enthusiasm with which we moved in solving war tasks. The people will only thank us for this.”
Resis Ibid, p. 11
Clearly this difference of viewpoint, reflected a genuine debate about the merits of the case, in which legitimate differences were being though over.
Later Stalin pointed out in a key speech in February 9th 1946, preceding the elections to the USSR Supreme Soviet, that although there had been an alliance of “freedom loving states”, including the USSR, UK, USA, the process of uneven capitalist developments had continued unabated. Inevitably there would be another war, although this would be some time off – some 15-20 years. This could allow “special attention” to be “focused to expand the production of consumer goods.” (Resis Ibid, p. 16, Pravda February 10th, 1946).
Stalin also predicted that the next world war would be a war started between the imperialists in order to re-divide the world.
That the rulers of the USA were indeed in a bellicose and belligerent mood, is shown by the manner in which Stalin’s speech was interpreted. The USA Charge d’affaires, George Kennan in Moscow was requested to analyze Stalin’s speech. Kennan wrote the infamous “long telegram”, in which he insisted that the USSR was preparing to go to war for expansion. But this interpretation did not fit with either the speech of Stalin, or the message being sent out consistently by the Soviets, as noted by later independent historians such as Albert Resis.
Other interpreters of Moscow included the British Charge d’affaires in Moscow, Frank Roberts. He cabled to both London and Washington, that Moscow really did want peace at this juncture. (Resis Ibid, p. 19. ). And Stalin’s actions fully corroborated this.
Resis points out the “conciliatory deeds” of Stalin made in order to convey peaceful intent:
“In September 1945, despite Soviet claims on Bear Island and Spitzbergen, Moscow had announced the withdrawal of the Soviet Command from Norway without any quid pro quo and before the Western Allies withdrew their troops. This action was followed on April 6th 1946, when Moscow announced the withdrawal of the Soviet Command from the Danish Island of Bornholm, leaving no Soviet troops in Scandinavia. On the same day Moscow stated that it would complete evacuation of Soviet troops from China by the end of April. Moscow also announced (or was compelled to announce) that it would complete evacuation of all troops from Iran within one-month and a half. On May 22, 1946, Moscow announced that Soviet troops had been completely withdrawn from Manchuria, and on May 24 that the evacuation of Soviet troops from Iran had been completed. At the Paris Peace Conference the Soviet Union abandoned its request for a trusteeship over Tripolitania in favour of its passing to Italian trusteeship under United nations control.”
Resis A; Ibid; p. 25.
The Breaking of the Atomic Monopoly
However all signals from the USSR assuring the imperialists of the USSR peaceful intentions were in vain. The USSR was again being isolated. Therefore, on August 20th, ten days after the bombing of Nagasaki, the State Defence Committee correctly decreed that a special committee would:
“direct all work on the utilization of the intra-atomic energy of uranium.”
Holloway D; Ibid; p. 129.
As previously noted, the Special Committee on the Atomic Bomb was headed by Lavrenti Beria. It was set up by a special decree with extraordinary powers, and reported directly to Stalin himself. This special body was only dissolved by the Khrushchev revisionist controlled Politburo meeting after Stalin’s death, in fact the same one that arrested Beria. Yet it was this same Special Committee, that had succeeded in developing the bomb for the USSR and closing the USA military superiority:
“Focusing all the country’s forces on the solution of this complex problem called above all for the establishment of a new state management body endowed with appropriate power. Such a body, which was entrusted with practically unlimited authority, was the Special Committee, headed by L. P. Beria (a member of State Defense Committee and Vice Chairman of the USSR Council of People’s Commissars) and was founded by the USSR State Defense Committee’s Resolution No. GOKO-9887 of 20 August 1945. The Committee was founded under the State Defense Committee, but after the State Defense Committee was abolished in September 1945, the Special Committee functioned as a body of USSR Council of People’s Commissars (and after March 1946 as a body of the USSR Council of Ministers). In reality, the Special Committee was an independent state control body directly subordinate to Soviet leader J.V.Stalin. It functioned for almost eight years until it was abolished in accordance with a CC CPSU Presidium Resolution of 26 June 1953 at the same tumultuous meeting at which Beria was arrested. Thus, the Special Committee’s activities covered a most important, formative period of the Soviet atomic project, that is, the establishment and growth of the USSR atomic-energy industry, the development and testing of the first Soviet atomic bomb (in 1949) and early improved atomic bomb designs, and the development and virtual completion of the first Soviet hydrogen bomb (RDS-6), which was first tested in August 1953.”
Cold War International History Project; WWW: “Research Notes: the Russian Nuclear Project..the A-bomb Effort, 1946” by G. A. Goncharov, N. I. Komov, A. S. Stepanov http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/CWIHP/BULLETINS/b8-9a38.htm
But again it was not possible to exclude fully the evident and known revisionists, such as Nikolia Vosnosensky, still the head of Gosplan, let alone political waverers like Malenkov. (Holloway D; Ibid; p. 134). Gosplan had apparently already expressed disapproval of the Plan, at an earlier stage of the Soviet plans. (Holloway, reference 78 note to p.86) . The industrial managers on the committee were Vannikov, Zaveniagin and Pervukhin. Two scientists on the committee were Khurchatov and Peter Kaptisa. In addition the NKVD representative was General V.A.Mekhnev. Beria reported to Stalin weekly on the progress. The mandate of the Committee of necessity had to be broad, and encompassed special dispensations for all matters related to the production of uranium:
“Considering and resolving all the most basic issues which arose in the course of the early Soviet atomic project, the Special Committee was empowered to supervise all work on the use of atomic energy of uranium:- the development of scientific research in this sphere;- the broad use of geological surveys and the establishment of a resource base for the USSR to obtain uranium…;- the organization of industry to process uranium and to produce special equipment and materials connected with the use of atomic energy; and the construction of atomic energy facilities, and the development and production of an atomic bomb”
Cold War International History Project Op Cit; Goncharov et al; Web site http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/CWIHP/BULLETINS/b8-9a38.htm
The USSR atomic bomb followed the design of the USA bombs, and they were termed the RDS systems. By August 1949, RDS-1 was successfully exploded:
“RDS-1 meant the analog of the first U.S. plutonium-239 implosion type atomic bomb tested on 16 July 1945 in New Mexico (and of the U.S. atomic bomb exploded over Nagasaki on 9 August 1945). This bomb was successfully tested in the USSR on 29 August 1949. RDS-2 signified the analog of the uranium-235 gun type bomb exploded over Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. This bomb passed a design verification in the USSR, but was not tested. Later the abbreviation RDS-2 was used to denote the improved plutonium-239 implosion type atomic bomb tested in 1951. During the period through 1954 the USSR verified and tested three more types of improved atomic bombs: RDS-3, RDS-4, and RDS-5.”
The speed of the USSR catch-up of the technological gap, surprised the USA imperialists. The speed was no doubt, owed in part to successful Soviet espionage. However, even authors hostile to Marxism-Leninism recognise the achievements of Soviet science, and industry which had to overcome the appalling devastation of Nazi invasion:
“The short duration and arrangement of the parallel works became possible thanks to… intelligence materials about the designs of the U.S. atomic bombs Fat Man and Little Boy, prototypes of RDS-1 and RDS-2, Soviet atomic bombs, which the leaders of the USSR atomic project decided in 1946 should be copied as closely as possible from the American designs. It should be emphasized that the availability of the intelligence materials could not substitute for independent experimental, theoretical, and design verification of the Soviet atomic bombs which were being prepared for testing. Owing to the extraordinary responsibility of the leaders of and participants in the Soviet atomic project, RDS-1 was tested only after thorough confirmation of the available information and a full cycle of experimental, theoretical, and design studies whose level corresponded to the maximum capabilities of that time.”
Since on December 25th 1946 the first Soviet nuclear reactor started a controlled chain reaction, the imminent likelihood of a tangible USSR atomic weapon had become clear. This began to tilt the balance of power back into the hands of the USSR.
It was at this juncture that the Szalarsa Poremba, First Cominform meeting was held in September 1947.
This exposed the French and Italian parties for revisionist tendencies, and laid the planks for exposing Titoite revisionism (See Alliance 18). Previous leaders of the ECCI such as Dimitrov, were deliberately excluded by Stalin. There is only one rational explanation – that Stalin had become convinced of their inability and sabotage, during the life of the previous Third International:
“As early as June 1946, Stalin had spoken with Dimitrov and Tito about the need of establishing an Information Bureau.. Rather than simply reviving the Comintern, on which Stalin heaped a torrent of insults and abuse which caused Dimitrov to become alternately pale and flushed with repressed anger”
Eugenio Reale :”Founding of the Cominform”, In M. M.Drachkovitch & Branko Lazitch (Eds): “The Comintern..”; Stanford (USA); 1966; p. 257-60.
The Continuing USSR Weakness Following the Acquisition of the Bomb
As we saw, the temporary military and political weakness of the USSR in being able to counter the atomic intimidation of the USA, had partially ended with the successful completion in August 1949, of the USSR atomic bomb. But even then the sharpest imperialist observers of the USSR noted military weaknesses. On just the atomic front the USA had already stockpiled over a hundred atomic bombs by the time the USSR was successful in building and exploding one. In fact, the Western imperialists remained confident that the German Nazi invasion had left the USSR significantly weakened. As the USA ambassador to the USSR, Admiral Alan G. Kirk, commented at a meeting of U.S. ambassadors at Rome, March 22-24, 1950:
“There were certain weaknesses in the Soviet Union which should be considered. The two basic shortages in terms of raw materials were those of rubber and petroleum. It was generally believed that there were no more large unexploited oil reserves available to the Russians. The other important weakness was that of the transportation system which in all respects, rail, highway, and water, was not highly developed in a modern sense.”
FRUS 1950-, Volume III, p. 823.
This was certainly not an isolated view, despite the public shrill fear-mongering of the USSR, that the Western Imperialists actively fanned. Colonel Robert B. Landry, Air Aide to President Truman in 1948, reported the weakness of the Russian mobilisation capability when directed at the West:
“I was told at the G-2 [intelligence] briefing that the Russians have dismantled hundreds of miles of railroads in Germany and sent the rails and ties back to Russia. There remains, at present time, so I was told, only a single track railroad running Eastward out of the Berlin area and upon which the Russians must largely depend for their logistical support. This same railroad line changes from a standard gauge, going Eastward, to a Russian wide gauge in Poland, which further complicates the problem of moving supplies and equipment forward.”
Cited Frank Kofsky: “The War Scare of 1948”, London; 1993, 1995. pp. 293-94.
As a recent commentator has pointed out, the highest levels of the US officialdom knew very clearly how affected the USSR had been by the war:
“In a memorandum to Secretary of State Dean Acheson dated April 5, 1950, Willard L. Thorp, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, offered his view of the Soviet Union’s economic condition vis-a-vis the United States’s. Thorp wrote this memorandum in response to a draft of NSC-68, the “State-Defense Staff Study,” which high-level State Department officials like Thorp received on March 30, 1950. They were instructed to provide written comments on it prior to the delivery of the final version of NSC-68 to President Truman set for April 7, 1950. Thorp’s comments concerned the overall economic conditions of the two countries and the amount each country devoted to military spending in relation to its total expenditures.
Disagreeing with the draft’s thesis that Athe USSR is steadily reducing the discrepancy between its overall economic strength and that of the United States,” Thorp stated:
“I do not feel that this position is demonstrated, but rather the reverse.. that the gap is actually widening in our favour.”
He pointed out that the United States’s economy increased twofold over the Soviet Union’s economy in 1949. Steel production in the U.S. outpaced steel production in the Soviet Union by two million tons, and stockpiling of goods and production of oil far exceeded Soviet amounts. Furthermore,
“if one compares the total economic capacity [of the two countries],” Thorp writes, “the gap is so tremendous that a slight and slow narrowing [on the part of the Soviets] would have little meaning.” As for Soviet military investment, Thorp opines: “I suspect a larger portion of Soviet investment went into housing.”
FRUS: 1950, Volume I, pp. 218-20. Cited In an Internet exchange dated October 1997, Upon a Controversy between Lloyd Gardner & John Gaddis; See MA Thesis of Curt Cardwell.
That Stalin tried hard to remain at peace with the Western imperialists was even accepted by A High Priest of The Cold War Warrior Western Academics, John Lewis Gaddis:
“What is often forgotten about Stalin is that he wanted, in his way, to remain ‘friends’ with the Americans and the British: his objective was to ensure the security of his regime and the state he governed, not to bring about the long-awaited international proletarian revolution; he hoped to do this by means short of war, and preferably with Western cooperation.”
John Lewis Gaddis: “Intelligence, Espionage and Cold War Origins”, DH, Spring 1989, 209.
Other academic Cold War historians, already cited above, have agreed with Gaddis’ view, such as V. Mastny; and Zubok and Pleshakov.
It is now necessary to detail the changing roles and leadership of the Soviet Security apparatus, in order to then correctly interpret the events of the so called Zionist Plot and the Doctors Plot. This forms the next section of this article.
This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”
Originally written 1992
Since the end of World War II (WW II), the contradiction between the working classes and the developing capitalist class of the Middle Eastern nations was linked to a second contradiction – that between the different imperialists and the indigenous developing capitalists. On top of these, there were contradictions between the imperialists themselves, reflecting the decline of British imperialism, and the rise of USA imperialism. After World War II explicit deals took place between the British and US, regarding future developments in the Middle East:
“In response to Winston Churchill’s questions about America’s interests in Iranian oil, Franklin Roosevelt wrote in March 1943 that:
‘I am having the oil studied by the Department of State and my oil experts, but please do accept my assurances that I am not making sheeps’ eyes at your oil fields in Iraq or Iran.’
‘Thank you very much for your assurances about no sheeps’ eyes at our oil fields in Iran and Iraq. Let me reciprocate by giving you the fullest assurances that we have not thought of trying to horn in upon your interests or property in Saudi Arabia.'”
James A. Bill “The Eagle and the Lion-The Tragedy of Iranian-American Relations”; New York , 1988. p.29
Unfortunately, with a small working class, the national bourgeoisies largely had no opposition to its leadership over a struggling peasantry. But the national bourgeoisie was also weak, because as the power of imperialism grew, the objective role for the national bourgeoisie was steadily getting smaller. Furthermore the previous history of Oriental Despotism of the Ottomans, had ensured a very weak development of the industrial forces necessary for nation development. Finally the many divisions between factions in the area were skilfully exploited by the imperialists to effectively divide and rule.
ANTI-COLONIAL STRUGGLES IN COLONIAL COUNTRIES
Imperialism used local indigenous rulers and leading individuals as their surrogates. These indigenous agents were usually buyers and traders whose livelihood depended upon the Imperialists. Often landed feudal gentry were also allied to imperialism. They were termed COMPRADOR BOURGEOISIE.
Inevitably some indigenous capitalists wished to displace imperialism, so that they can then retain all the colony’s profits for itself. They were termed NATIONAL BOURGEOISIE. Because they were usually very weak, they tried to enlist the masses ie. working classes and peasantry. The weak and nascent national bourgeoisie of the Middle East struggled at first, in the main against British and French; then in the main against USA imperialism.
The line of Communists in the National Liberation movement dervies from the positions of Lenin at the Second Congress of the Comintern in 1921. Lenin thought that in the first stage of the revolution, the bourgeois democrats had a useful role to play:
“All the Communist parties must assist the bourgeois democratic liberation movement in these (ie colonial type countries-ed).. The Communist International (CI) must enter into a temporary alliance with bourgeois democracy in colonial and backward countries.”
V.I.Lenin: Preliminary Draft of Theses on National and Colonial Questions, 2nd Congress CI in “Selected Works”, Volume 10, London, 1946; p. 236-7.
But Lenin and Stalin pointed out, that these national bourgeoisie, flinch from the final steps, as the unleashing of mass movements arouses socialist movements. Therefore, class coalitions of national bourgeoisie with working class organizations can only be temporary. They are also prone to sabotage by the national bourgeoisie. The working class organisations must remain independent, even in a United Front. It is imperative to find and ally only with and for long as, the sections of the bourgeoisie are genuinely in struggle with imperialism:
“I would like to particularly emphasise the question of the bourgeois democratic movements in backward countries. It was this question that gave rise to some disagreement. We argued about whether it would be correct, in principle and in theory, to declare that the CI and the CP’s should support the bourgeois-democratic movement in backward countries. As a result of this discussion we unanimously decided to speak of the nationalist-revolutionary movements instead of the ‘bourgeois-democratic’ movement. There is not the slightest doubt that every nationalist movement can only be a bourgeois-democratic movement.. But it was agreed that if we speak about the bourgeois-democratic movement all distinction between reformist and revolutionary movements will be obliterated; whereas in recent times this distinction has been fully and clearly revealed in the backward and colonial countries, of the imperialist bourgeois is trying with all its might to implant the reformist movement also among the oppressed nations.. In the Commission this was proved irrefutably, and we came to the conclusion that the only correct thing to do was to take this distinction into consideration and nearly everywhere to substitute the term “nationalist-revolutionary” for the term “bourgeois-democratic”. The meaning of this change is that we communists should, and will, support bourgeois liberation movements only when these movement do not hinder us in training and organising the peasants and the broad masses of the exploited in a revolutionary spirit.. The above mentioned distinction has now been drawn in all the theses, and I think that, thanks to this, our point of view has been formulated much more precisely.”
Lenin. Report Of Commission on the National and Colonial Questions, Ibid, p 241.
This Leninist line was further developed by Stalin, who in 1925, distinguished “at least three categories of colonial and dependent countries”:
“Firstly countries like Morocco who have little or no proletariat, and are industrially quite undeveloped. Secondly countries like China and Egypt which are under-developed industries and have a relatively small proletariat. Thirdly countries like India.. capitalistically more or less developed and have a more or less numerous national proletariat. Clearly all these countries cannot possibly be put on a par with one another.”
J.V.Stalin; “Works” Volume 7: “Political Tasks of the University of the People’s of the East. Speech Delivered at a meeting of Students of the Communist University of the Toilers of the East”, May 18th, 1925. pp. 148.
In each country the conditions were different and had to be concretely studied before deciding the exact tactic:
“In countries like Egypt and China, where the national bourgeoisie has already split up into a revolutionary party and a compromising party, but where the compromising section of the bourgeoises is not yet able to join up with imperialism, the Communists can no longer set themselves the aim of forming a united national front against imperialism. In such countries the Communists must pass from the policy of a united national front to the policy of a revolutionary bloc of the workers and the petty bourgeoisie. In such countries that bloc can assume the form of a single party, a workers and peasants’ party, provided, however, that this distinctive party actually represents a bloc of two forces – the Communist Party and the party of the revolutionary petty bourgeois. The tasks of this bloc are to expose the half-heartedness and inconsistency of the national bourgeoisie and to wage a determined struggle against imperialism. Such a dual party is necessary and expedient provided it does not bind the Communist Party hand and foot, provided it does not restrict the freedom of the Communist Party to conduct agitation and propaganda work, provided it does not hinder the rallying of the proletarians around and provided it facilitates the actual leadership of the revolutionary movement by the Communist party. Such a dual party is unnecessary and inexpedient if to does not conform to all these conditions for it can only lead to the Communist elements becoming dissolved in the ranks of the bourgeoisie to the Communist Party losing the proletarian army.”
J.V.Stalin Works Vol 7; “Tasks of University of People’s of East”, Ibid; pp. 149-150
If a large working class presence was felt, this strengthened the revolutionary prospects. When this happened, the most uncertain and vacillating elements of the bourgeoisie tended to desert the revolution, and form a bloc with imperialism:
“The situation is somewhat different in countries like India. The fundamental and new feature of the conditions of life in countries like India is not only that the national bourgeoisie has split up into a revolutionary part and a compromising part, but primarily that the compromising section of the bourgeoisie has already managed, in the main, to strike a deal with imperialism, Fearing revolution more than it fears imperialism, and concerned with more about its money bags than about the interests of its own country, this section of the bourgeoisie is going over entirely to the camp of the irreconcilable enemies of the revolution, it is forming a bloc with imperialism against the workers and peasants of its own country.”
J.V.Stalin Works Vol 7; “Tasks of University of People’s of East”, Ibid; pp. 150.
Such blocs between vacillating “national bourgeoise” and imperialisms, should be smashed:
“The victory of the revolution cannot be achieved unless this bloc is smashed, but in order to smash this bloc, fire must be concentrated on the compromising national bourgeoisie, its treachery exposed, the toiling masses freed from its influence, and the conditions necessary for the hegemony of the proletariat systematically prepared. In other words, in colonies like India it is a matter of preparing the proletariat for the role of leader of the liberation movement, step by step dislodging the bourgeoisie and its mouthpieces from this honourable post. The task is to create an anti-imperialist bloc and to ensure the hegemony of the proletariat in this bloc. This bloc can assume although it need not always necessarily do so, the form of a single Workers and Peasants Party, formally bound by a single platform. In such centuries the independence of the Communist Party must be, the chief slogan of the advanced communist elements, for the hegemony of the proletariat can be prepared and brought about by the Communist party. But the communist party can and must enter into an open bloc with the revolutionary part of the bourgeoisie in order, after isolating the compromising national bourgeoisie, to lead the vast masses of the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie in the struggle against imperialism.”
J.V.Stalin Works Vol 7; “Tasks of University of People’s of East”, Ibid; pp. 150-151.
But despite these warnings, organisations took part in un-principled coalitions, and led the working classes into massacres. The failure of the working class to organise along correct lines ensured that the many anti-imperialist struggles in the Middle East, never achieved the socialist – or even to the national democratic revolution.
After World War II imperialism was even stronger, and even more rapacious. This was as its markets were threatened by the Socialist USSR leading some European countries towards socialist development. Responding to imperialisms’ demands, the weak national bourgeoisie of the Middle East attempted to overcome their weaknesses by several tactics that would avoid harnessing the revolutionary masses. All these tactics would prove unsuccessful. These are detailed below; and culminated in a movement of cartelisation for oil selling – Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
THE WEAK NATIONAL BOURGEOISIE OF THE MIDDLE EAST TO SEEK TACTICS TO FIGHT IMPERIALISM
Tactic Number One: Wahda and Nasserism, Pan-Arabism; A Political Combination of Weak National Bourgeoisie
Given the bourgeois fear of rousing the working class movement too far, only a vacillating movement against imperialism was possible. Ultimately the national bourgeoisie always capitulated in the face of social revolution. This allowed the imperialist powers to retard the development of the states concerned. Coupled with this was the power of monopoly interests, of the imperialist companies. So that even in favourable situations, where these states led by national bourgeoisie could nationalise the major resource in the area (oil) the imperialist consortiums were able to dictate their demands.
Despite these failures, the nascent bourgeoisie of the area continued to harbour resentment against imperialism. To compensate for their unwillingness to fully enrol the working classes, they attempted to unite across “national” borders. This entailed a mystical PAN-ARABISM which preceded NASSERISM. For example the formation of the BA’TH PARTY in Syria took place in 1947, led by Michel ‘Aflaq, Salh al-Din Bitar and also Wahib al-Ghanim.
BA’TH means “re-birth” and took the notion as central, to mean the renaissance of the Arab movement. But it was Gamel Abdul Nasser who most effectively utilised this idea of pan-Arabism. Starting in the context of a nationalist movement in Egypt alone, Nasser struck a renewed hope for liberation from imperialism throughout large sections of the Middle East, using instead of Ba’th – the notion of Wahda, to mean ultimately the same.
The Nasserite movement aimed at WAHDA (Arabic for union). It was to be a renewal of Arabic “culture,” under a twentieth century guise of nationalism.
As a strategy of the national bourgeoisie in the Middle East, it aimed to contain the mass movement, it emphasised notions of an Arab peoples, denying any class content.
Revisionism in the parties of the area had effectively deprived the working class of capable leadership. Nasserism was only able to consolidate itself because the Egyptian Workers Party, the Communist Party, was itself under the influence of the now Soviet-revisionist leaders.
Wahda called for unity of several different struggling national bourgeoisie against imperialism. It hoped to be able to avoid the social revolution, by using nationalistic demagogic slogans. Effectively a class coalition was to be created, of all the national bourgeoisies, and the working classes of the different countries, led by the national bourgeoisie.
That way it was to be hoped apparently, that the singly weak national bourgeoisie, together, would be strong enough to fight imperialism, and yet still be able to contain the social revolution.
But ultimately Pan-Arabism failed, as there was a single dominant national bourgeoisie, which itself tried to create “comprador” relations with the other weaker national bourgeoisie. This dominant national bourgeoisie was Egyptian and it was led by Nasser. It was successful for a time, as evidenced by the short lived creation of the UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC– consisting of Egypt and Syria. However the dominant Egyptian bourgeoisie, could not suppress the Syrian national bourgeoisie of the coalition. The experiment thus failed.
Tactic Number Two: Playing on Contradictions Between Imperialists
The imperialists had long squabbled amongst themselves as to how to divide up the Middle East. French and British supremacy in the Middle East was surreptiously attacked by USA imperialism. After the death of Stalin the hegemony of revisionism in the USSR was rapidly completed. With the overthrow of socialism in the Soviet Union, the relations between the Soviet Union and dependent nations became imperialist. This was exemplified by the relations within the Warsaw Pact nations. In the semi-colonial and colonial nations, the USSR attempted to act as a brake on Western imperialism. This resulted in a struggle between US and Soviet social imperialism for control of these areas, including the Middle East.
In this context, the various timorous struggling national bourgeoisie would frequently switch “temporary masters.” Being interested in control of “their own” profit, the national bourgeoisie were viewed as unreliable by the imperial super-powers. But they were used as pawns by the super powers to control the area. This allowed the national bourgeoisie some limited bargaining power. Ultimately, his strategy also failed to effect the national revolution.
American policy recognised the strength of the anti-colonial movements. Their plan was to disrupt the movement by using the compradors. To further blunt the movement they used the veneer of neutrality offered by the UNITED NATIONS. John Foster Dulles, US Secretary of State, said just prior to the Suez War :
“The USA cannot be expected to identify itself 100% either with the Colonial powers or the powers uniquely concerned with the problem of getting independence as rapidly and as fully as possible.. any areas encroaching in some form or another on the problem of so called colonialism find the US playing a somewhat independent role (Ed – of UK and France). The shift from colonialism to independence will be going on for another 50 years, and I believe that the task of the United Nations is to try to see that this process moves forward in a constructive, evolutionary way, and does not come to a halt or go forward through violent revolutionary processes which would be destructive of much good.”
Cited Carlton. “Antony Eden”. London 1981. p.426
After the SUEZ WAR, the USA and the USSR all contended in the area. Each super power developed its’ primary sphere of influence. But since neither power was able to totally control the area, they were for long periods content for an armed stalemate.
The major states in the area that were spheres of influence for the Soviet Union were Iraq, Syria, Egypt (until Nasser’s death), Yemen and Libya.
These countries often adopted a mask of “socialism”.
The main countries that supported the USA were Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and under Sadat – Egypt.
Examples of a national bourgeoisie that attempted the game of playing one imperialist off against another include Egypt under Nasser, Iraq under Hussein and Syria under Assad.
Due to the serious demise of the fortunes of the Soviet imperialists in the late 1980’s, the USA was able to exert a far more dominant role than previously, and for the first time saw an opportunity to be unopposed. It tested the waters for an exertion of its’ direct military presence in the Arab world by bombing Libya.
EGYPT, AND THE “FREE OFFICERS MOVEMENT”
The case of Egypt illustrates how a balancing act, was able to win a short term gain, for the nationalist bourgeoisie. But ultimately the short term gains could not be maintained. In Egypt the nationalist faction was represented by the Free Officer Movement, to which Nasser belonged. This movement, was supported initially by the USA, as a weapon to be used against the British superpower.
“The Free Officer movement originated within the regular army; its leaders were then preparing to oust the appointed military chiefs, seize all the command posts and present their program for national renovation to the entire army. They also tried to make sure that should they be successful, the US ambassador would not be hostile and would exert pressure on the British ambassador.”
Mahmoud Hussein . “Class Conflict in Egypt 1945-1970”. London , 1977. p.85-6 .
“The US hoped to capitalize on the situation to become the new protector of Egypt and force it to accept a military alliance which would officially recognize the need for national sovereignty.”
M.Hussein , Ibid. p.96.
“According to Miles Copeland, an American CIA official posted in the Middle East in the 1950’s – the CIA knew as early as March 1952 that a ‘secret military society’ was plotting a coup. ‘ Before the coup the CIA’s Cairo station, headed by Kermit Roosevelt, had three meetings with some of the officers of the group. ” the large area of agreement reached by Roosevelt and this (Egyptian ) officer, speaking for Nasser himself, is noteworthy,” writes Copeland.”
Dilip Hiro “Inside the Middle East” London. 1982. p. 297.
The aims of the Free Officer movement were to modernise and develop, and to get rid of the British military occupation of Egypt. Of course, even the first goal was unacceptable to either the British, or to those who immediately took their place, the USA imperialists. But for their own short term goals – to get rid of the British – the USA did help the Free Officers, by forcing the British to evacuate their 70,000 strong troops. However, in partial appeasement of the British, Eisenhower ensured a clause in the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement that entitled Britain to reoccupy the Suez zone with “Egypt’s agreement” in the case of an attack on Egypt by any outside power.” (Hiro Ibid p.298.)
Nasser tried to exploit the tensions between the British and the Americans, and at the same time get maximal financial aid. Nasser from then on used both the US and UK imperialists for financing. But to retain his independence and to get the “best deal”, Nasser then also asked for financing from the revisionist USSR. Even the provision of USSR made arms via Czechoslovakia, did not however deter the West:
“Not wishing to alienate the charismatic leader of Egypt, a most strategic country in the region, Washington and London continued discussions with Cairo on financing the Aswan Dam- with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (known as the World Bank) offering credits for $ 200 million and America and Britain together another $70 million in hard currencies- matching $900 million to be provided by Egypt in local services and goods. An agreement was signed in February.”
Hiro Ibid p.298.
However, the Western imperialists certainly feared that Egypt was becoming drawn into the USSR sphere of influence. This was a more urgent fear for the weaker British, than it was for the USA. So the British exerted a considerable pressure on the USA, to tangibly support an anti-Russian policy. This pressure came from Antony Eden, then the Conservative Prime Minister of Britain. Winston Aldrich, the US ambassador to London said:
“Eden.. asked me to see him on a matter of the greatest importance and urgency. Eden told me that the emergency has arisen in connection with the Egyptian proposal, namely that the Russians had offered to finance the dam. Eden feared that this would give the Egyptians a dangerous foothold in an area vital to the interests of Great Britain. He asked me to take up at once with Washington the question of whether the US would underwrite the obligations which Great Britain would assume in making such a guarantee (of financing the dam).”
Cited David Carlton “Antony Eden” London 1981 p.391.
Eisenhower was more shrewd, and being the more dominant of the imperialists, was in less need of hasty action. His diary showed that he had already recognised that this was a doomed policy. He had concluded that Egypt was moving away from the likely control of the USA, and that the Saudis should be firmly lassoed into the USA sphere:
“We have reached the point where it looks as if Egypt, under Nasser is going to make no move.. the Arabs (ie Egypt – Ed) absorbing major consignments of arms from the Soviets are daily growing more arrogant and disregarding the interests of Western Europe and the US.. It would appear that our efforts should be directed towards separating the Saudi Arabians from the Egyptians and concentrating, for the moment..in making the former see that their best interests lie with us, and not with the Egyptians and with the Russians..”
D. Eisenhower , Diary , Cited by David Carlton Ibid p. 404.
Of course each of the imperialists were fully aware that they were being “two-timed.”
Nasser was forced to keep trying to find yet another “imperialist” or social-imperialist dancer, to help him fend off the last ardent suitor.
Nasser finally overstepped the lines, by recognising the People’s Republic of China in May. By the 20 th July, both the USA and the British rescinded their offers of financial aid. This prompted Nasser to attempt a retaliation, by nationalising the Suez Canal (Hiro Ibid. p.64). Naturally this provoked a loud uproar from the French owners (Universal Suez Maritime Canal Company), and at the same time, the British and Israelis.
These powers had already been planning an attack upon Gaza aiming at taking the Suez Canal. But for their own interests, these moves were not supported by the USA, who according to Eden himself were verbally offering him merely:
“Moral support and sympathy”, and “did not want to know the details of the Anglo-French plans.”
Cited Carlton , Ibid . p. 412.
However, attempting to assert Britain’s “rights” or self-interest, Eden deliberately misled the USA about Britain’s aggressive intentions. Eisenhower had expressly warned Eden against war, writing to Eden that:
“The use of military force against Egypt under present circumstances might have consequences even more serious than causing the Arabs to support Nasser. It might cause a serious misunderstanding between our two countries.. the most significant public opinion is that..the United Nations was formed to prevent this very thing.. I assure you that we are not blind to the fact that eventually there may be no escape for the use of force.”
Carlton Ibid. p.419-20.
But in spite of this warning from the USA, the war was launched. But the revisionist USSR, correctly strongly condemned the war of aggression launched by Britain, France and Israel. In order to finally seize the Middle East away from British imperialism, the USA at the United Nations, also strongly condemned the invasion and called for a cease fire. Behind closed doors, the USA prompted a currency speculation against sterling, by the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank selling, and also refused to give either IMF or direct USA financial aid, to the United Kingdom. Further, and finally, the USSR threatened to enter the war:
“We are fully determined to use force to crush the aggressors and to restore peace in the Middle East.”
V.Trukhanovsky. ” Antony Eden ” Moscow, 1974; p.332.
These moves combined to ensure the withdrawal of the 3 nation intervention. This fiasco for British and French imperialism, signalled their final retreat from the Middle East, as imperialist forces independent of the USA. America then was able to fill what Eisenhower described as a “vacuum” in the Middle East.
Eisenhower’s Doctrine promised to aid any Middle Eastern state seeking protection against:
“Overt armed aggression from any nation controlled by international communism.”
Cited Hiro p.299
This blocked any moves to a regional Wahda, or Unity attempts. Yet, it was sufficiently elastic to interpretation to be acceptable, whilst still detering Egypt in particular. The Eisenhower Doctrine:
“Was applied 3 times: to solve the internal crisis of Jordan in April 1957, to pressure the nationalists – leftist regime of Syria.. and to provide troops to Lebanon in July 1958..In the case of Jordan and Lebanon, the American move was made to check the rise of the Nasserite forces there.”
Hiro, Ibid p. 299.
Therefore, despite the early hopes of the Nasser forces in Egypt, they were checked. Egypt now became compradors for the USSR. The USA imperialists, who having just expelled the USA and France, did not have the necessary energy at that moment to expel Russia also. The economic relations between Egypt and Russia, were thereafter classic imperialist relations, raw goods given by Egypt, cotton – in return for finished goods, for military and economic aid. This dictated a colonial type relationship with the USSR (Hussein. Ibid. p.286).
But to counter the threat of “excess” USSR influence, the USA unleashed war. The USA moved vigorously, through their client states in the area, wishing also to check those various national bourgeoisie. As part of this policy, the USA heavily endorsed the Israelis, as their lynch pin in the area. The revisionist USSR, sought to maximise its own “area of influence”, and acted as a countervail in the cases of Syria and Egypt. But Israel was heavily armed by the USA and Britain.
In response, Egypt and Syria, signed a joint defence treaty fearing Israeli attack.
They were quite right to fear this.
When King Hussein of Jordan joined the Egyptian-Syrian Defence Pact on 30 May, Dean Rusk then American Secretary of State clearly signalled war:
“I don’t think it’s our business to restrain anybody.”
(Cited Hiro p.301).
The USA knew what was to be the likely outcome of such a war.
As President Johnson put it to an aide:
“Israel is going to hit them (the Arabs)..” Whilst (he was ) publicly responding positively to a Soviet appeal the next day for restraint.”
Cited by Hiro p.300.
The Israelis following the USA plan, launched a pre-emptive strike on the eve of a peace mission by the Egyptian Vice-President Zakaria Mohieddin. Nasser’s forces were effectively crushed.
This sealed the future role as to who would be the key agent of the USA in the area – Israel.
TACTIC NUMBER THREE: ECONOMIC COMBINATION. OPEC- A WEAK BOURGEOISIE ATTEMPTS TO FIGHT BACK
The creation of OPEC in 1960 was another attempt by the weak indecisive national bourgeois to find a “Third Way”. One that did not rely on the active involvement of the masses, nor one of total capitulation to the imperialists. OPEC attempted to bargain, or to horse trade; by forming a combination, or a cartel.
This was designed to deal with the cartel of the major Oil companies- the Seven Sisters. These had simply to refuse to buy oil from any producer country that challenged the price offered. The price “posted” was agreed to by the Seven Sisters. Even nationalisation could not help if the producer country could not market the oil. This tactic was used viciously against Iran.
The oil producing nations varied in the intensity with which they fought the Seven Sisters and the imperialist nations. In 1960 one of the weakest was Iran, ruled by the Shah Pahvlavi whose compliance to the USA was assured following CIA intervention in 1951. This had been necessary to prevent the nationalist Muhammed Mussadiq effecting nationalisation of Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AICO) later the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Musaddiq believed that:
“The Iranian must administer his own house.”
Cited J.A.Bill ” The Eagle and the Lion”; Ibid; New York 1988 p.56.
But in fact, Mussadiq clearly was not a fully committed nationalist. The mass movement was compelling him to go further than he perhaps would have otherwise. As John Foster Dulles said in February 1953:
“Musaddiq could not afford to reach any agreement with the British lest it cost him his political life.”
J.A.Bill, Ibid p. 78
When he became Prime Minister of the Majlis (the Iranian Parliament) in April 1951, he inherited a Bill that nationalised AICO. Refusing to rescind it, he was held to ransom by AICO which refused to allow Iran to sell its oil on the international market:
“This boycott was effective. Iran’s oil export income dropped from more than $400 million in 1950 to less than $2 million in the 2 year period from July 1951 to August 1953..Musaddiq faced a deteriorating economic and political situation in 1953..and was forced to rely on the radical left and the communist ( revisionist -ed) Tudeh party.. On May 28th Musaddiq wrote to President Eisenhower requesting economic aid..the answer was negative.”
J.A.Bill Ibid; p.66-7.
The British then persuaded the USA to participate in a putsch, termed Operation Boot by the British and Ajax by the US. The Chief British operative, Major C.M.Woodhouse was conscious of difficulties in getting the US to take part:
“Not wishing to be accused of trying to use the Americans to pull British chestnuts out of the fire, I decided to emphasis the Communist threat to Iran rather than to need to recover control of the oil industry. I argued that even if a settlement of the oil dispute could be negotiated with Musaddiq, which was doubtful, he was still incapable of resisting a coup by the Tudeh party, if it were backed by Soviet support. Therefore he must be removed.”
J.A.Bill, Cited, Ibid. p.86
Fully involved in the putsch was General Norman Schwarzkopf, former US adviser to the Iranian Gendarmerie (J.A.Bill. Ibid, p.90). He was the father of the US General – “Storming Norman” – in the 1991 USA Gulf War of aggression (See Alliance 2).
The coup resulted in the Shah of Iran being bought back to Iran. He understood who had placed him on the Peacock Throne, and remained indebted to US imperialism. Musaddiq was treated with relative leniency – he was not killed, but after 3 years in jail, was allowed to return to his home village Ahmadabad under house arrest (J.A.Bill Ibid p.101).
This episode influenced tactics in the Middle East for some years. The national bourgeoisie had been warned that nationalisation was not adequate to ensure marketing of the oil from the producer nations without the cooperation of the Seven Sisters. An alternative strategy was needed.
The CARTEL STRATEGY was first proposed by the national bourgeoisie of VENEZUELA, after the successful military led coup of 1948. This coup was precipitated 12 days following an act which imposed 50-50 split of the profits from oil, between Venezuela and the oil companies. After the coup, the new dictatorship, naturally, favoured the interests of the US imperialists, and it now dispensed new major oil concessions to the Oil companies.
Despite this failure, the 50-50 rule became a standard, in any dealings with oil-exporting nations. For instance Aramco (Arabian American Oil Company ) used this formula in Saudi Arabia in 1950 (J.A.Bill, op cit, p. 61). However even this partial retreat, still left considerable super-profits for the Seven Sisters.
The national bourgeoisie of Venezuela recognised, that a key factor in their defeat during prolonged negotiations with the companies, had been the erosion of Venezuela’s selling power by Middle East countries that could produce oil. Oil companies, when they were faced with demands for a fairer distribution of profit, simply expanded production from the Middle East. The leader of the “horse trading” strategy, Perez Alfonzo had:
“Only envisaged an ‘extent ‘ an ‘arrangement’ between a few producing countries to establish, links of solidarity between them, reduce the oil companies capacity for manoeuvring and prevent them from playing one country off against another.”
Statement in Petroleum Weekly, New York May 1 1959 p.19. Cited by Pierre Terzian; “OPEC : the inside story.” London 1985.
The national bourgeoisie of Venezuela returned to power in 1959 and again took up the cause of combination. Now they had significant support in the Middle East, from the Director of the Permanent Oil Bureau, Mohammed Salman of Iraq. The Permanent Oil Bureau had been set up by the Arab League in 1953. A secret agreement known as the Maadi Pact was concluded at the first Oil Arab Congress in Cairo on 16th April 1959. The reaction to the open Congress session, was frankly sceptical by the oil business:
“Venezuelan delegates arrived with high hopes of lining up Middle East producing states in a front to limit production and prevent further decline in prices, but were finally resigned to the fact that Arabs were more interested in other problems now and that all Venezuelans were supposed to do was to observe.”
Platts Oilgram News, New York; Cited by P.Terzian, Ibid, p.25.
However the secret Maadi Agreement between the UAR, Iraq, Venezuela, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia included the following:
“Agreement was reached … on:
1. Improvement of the oil producing countries participation on a reasonable and equitable basis. The consensus of opinion was that said government should tend to at least a 60-40 formula to be on a par with the recent Venezuelan attitude..and with other countries ..the price structure should be..maintained..any change in prices should be discussed with precedent in time and be approved by all parties concerned.
2. Convenience of arriving at an integration of the oil industry..to ensure stable markets to the producer countries avoiding transfers of gains from one phase of the operations to another, affecting the oil revenue of the governments.
4. Establishment of National Oil Companies that would operate side by side with the existing private companies.”
P.Teerzian. Ibid , p.27-8.
The most energetic of the group, Perez Alfonso, also arranged that the USSR would support the OPEC move. This was important because the Oil companies were constantly citing:
“The USSR’s tariff policy as a pretext to justify their own decision to cut prices.”
P.Terzian, Ibid, p.34.
After initial disbelief, the major oil companies, led by Shell, tested the OPEC resistance, by announcing cuts in the posted prices of oil that they were prepared to pay. The vigorous resistance they met, along with announcements of a meeting of producer nations at Baghdad in September, 1960, induced them to withdraw their price cuts. The Financial Times concluded:
“In effect Shell is.. paying a premium to the Governments of the producing states. What the countries particularly objected to was the fact that they were not consulted.”
Cited, Terzian. Ibid. p.53.
However efforts to involve the Middle East nations in effective combative combination were doomed to failure. This was evident, since combination had to involve both:
Countries that were ruled by comprador bourgeoisie ( eg Saudi Arabia and Iran );
as well as the countries that were ruled by national bourgeoisie (eg Iraq).
The Baghdad Meeting in September 10th 1960 started off very tensely. The Venezuelan nationalists were in the midst of fending off a coup at home. Even more dramatic was the fact that the Iraqi nationalists President Kassem was also besieged by a coup. He arrived for an honourary dinner wearing two revolvers in his belt! But tension rose even further, as it was clear that Iran was going to block any agreements, that would go further than the agreement already reached at Maadi. The Iranian representative Fuad Ruhani said he had been given:
“Very precise instructions from my Government.”
Terzani , Ibid. p.41.
Suddenly on 14th September the Shah sent new instructions to the Iranian team. This agreed to the creation of a permanent organisation. Moreover, the Shah even had a name for it – The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC ).
But this about face indicated a new tack on the part of the Oil Companies.
They now accepted the inevitability of the cartel, but they emasculated it from within.
OPEC was therefore hijacked.
As Perez Alfonso found when he met the directors of the Seven Sisters :
“My impression is that the main companies recognise that the Baghdad Agreement was necessary, or at least inevitable.”
Theoretically the OPEC countries were in a very strong position controlling 82 % of world crude exports. But The Times could accurately see the situation :
“The strength of these producing countries is not as great as might appear.. (There are) two reasons.. the surplus of supply over demand in the world oil market and the divergent interests of the 5 countries concerned, some of who wanted to increase production whilst other sought a reduction.”
The Times 15 September, 1960. Cited by Terzian p.44.
- Of course, in addition the oil imperialist companies and their nations had the marketing and distribution monopoly.
- Also they began to exploit other sources of oil.
- The comprador states were key to the strategy of the oil companies.
- Saudi Arabia was and is a reactionary state with strong elements of Muslim feudalism.
- It is a key state representing USA interests in the Middle East.
- As the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural resources commented:
“The US, by virtue of its commercial oil interests ‘ long standing monopoly over the disposition of Saudi crude, now reinforced by the 1974 conclusion of a “special relationship” embracing economic and military agreements, is very widely regarded amongst its allies and by Arab and Iranians as having secured preferential and near- exclusive access to Saudi oil. Given the extraordinary importance of Saudi oil production to the world generally, the US relationship is considered key to supply security.”
US Senate : ” Access to oil – the USA relationships with Saudi Arabia and Iran.” Washington DC US Government Printing office , Publication No. 95-70. 1977 (p.xi). Cited by Petter Nore and Terisa Turner in : Oil and the class struggle “. London 1980
At critical times the Saudis have refused to allow the OPEC to raise prices in accordance with the demands of the more nationalistic of the OPEC countries such as Iraq and Libya. Saudi Crown Prince Fadh has pretentiously revealed his unwillingness to be an effective member of the cartel:
“My country which possesses the largest oil reserves in the world will not be the cause of a weakening in the capacity of humanity to live in stability and prosperity. In view of this lofty aim, commercial considerations cease to exist and consequently the methods which are used to increase or lower prices will likewise disappear.”
Frankfurter Rundschau. 1 April 1975. Cited by Mohssen Massarrat. The Energy Crisis p.67. in ” Oil and the class struggle” Ed. P.Nore and T.Turner. London, 1981
It is not surprising that:
“Saudi foreign policy consists largely of support for Washington in the Middle East.”
Sunday Times, 5th August 1990. p.12.
Nor is it surprising that given the membership of nations like Saudi Arabia in OPEC, that OPEC would not reflect the interests of the oil producing national bourgeoisie.
As Henry Kissinger commented:
“OPEC was not perceived as a serious cartel.”
Jack Anderson and James Boyd. ” Fiasco. The real story behind the disastrous worldwide energy crisis- Richard Nixon’s “Oilgate”;1983; Toronto; p.163.
In fact as, the manufactured oil crisis of the 1970’s shows, OPEC was transformed into an agency that performed objectively in the interests of the USA imperialists.
THE PSEUDO OIL “CRISIS” OF THE 1970’s
It is widely believed that it was the pressure of the OPEC countries that led to a dramatic price rise and so called ” oil crisis ‘in the 1970’s. Certainly determined nationalist countries like Libya and Algeria increased the pressure inside OPEC for a price rise.
Though the oil exporting countries had their interest in a price rise, their effectiveness as a cartel has already been shown to be limited, due to the inclusion of “weak” member state such a Saudi Arabia. In reality, the manipulation of oil prices has followed the various requirements of the Seven Sisters, the minor oil companies and the USA monopoly capitalists.
“For the oil companies an increase in the general price of oil was also of great importance, not least because they had seen their distributional share steadily diminish over time..as a result of higher level of taxation by the oil-exporting countries..which was difficult to pass on to the consumer in a situation characterised by a global excess supply.”
Petter Nore and Terisa Turner, Editors;.”Oil and the class struggle”; London 1980, p.72.
The problems of the Major Seven Sisters, were compounded by the competition they now faced:
“Due to a three fold challenge.. the rise of the independents following the US import quota system in 1958; the emergence of important state oil companies in Europe like Italy’s E.N.I. which tried to outbid the concessions offered by the majors; and the increase in Soviet oil exports to the West.. resulting in a drop in the profit per barrel for the Majors. The reduction was only partly overcome by a sharp increase in total production. Profit rates for US direct foreign investment in the petroleum industry dropped from a 30 % return in 1955 to 14.7 % in 1963 and an all time low of 11.1 % in 1969.”
Nore; p.72 Ibid.
Added to this was the high cost of extraction from areas such as Alaska and the North Sea. This posed a problem for the major Oil companies. The oil crisis was “manufactured”, to raise the available oil profits, up to a point where it would become economically viable to begin extraction from the oil shales of the USA. This entailed the profit interests of both the major oil companies and their smaller rivals who were not in the cartel known as the Seven Sisters.
At this time despite the apparent oil shortage, the oil companies had stocked up supplies, in many tankers that lay outside New Jersey in the midst of the so called shortage as prices were driven up by the companies.
This tactic was portrayed as the work of the OPEC cartel.
But the general line was clearly supported by the oil companies :
“Though the oil companies created the appearances of fighting OPEC tooth and nail..they recognised that their best hopes of future profitability..depended upon successful cooperation..thus OPEC/oil companies cooperation became a fact of life..with the positive encouragement of the USA.”
P.R.Odell. “Oil and World power” London , 1980. p. 215.
But the USA Government representing the combined monopoly capital had its’ own reasons for seeing a price rise:
“From 1970 onwards the US clearly pressed for an increase in the general price of crude oil.”
Nore, Ibid, p.73.
THE USA INTERESTS IN THE RAISING THE PRICE OF OIL REVOLVED AROUND THREE MAIN ISSUES
Firstly, both the leading sections of American capital had major profit interests tied up in raising the price of oil. The big Northern Yankee financiers were involved with the oil Major Seven Sisters companies. The Cowboys who represented newer capital reliant on oil and arms, formed the smaller independent oil companies.
Secondly, the USA wanted to ensure a renewed attempt at peace – on their terms of an acceptable status quo to them – in the Middle East:
“The USA.. sought to provide stability..as basis for a renewed effort to find a political solution to the Middle East conflict, and argued that higher revenues and a greater degree of economic certainty for the Arab oil-producing nations would, make it easier for them, to accept a compromise in the their dispute with Israel.”
Odell , Ibid , p. 215.
But Thirdly this manoeuvre was also aimed at the competitors of American imperialism as recognised by the Economist:
“The Economist 7th July, 1973; under the title ” The Phoney oil crisis “voiced the suspicion that the US had capitulated only to readily to the OPEC demands for an increase in oil prices because such an increase would slow down the Japanese economy. Japanese exports were out-competing American demands at the time and its economy was more vulnerable to rises in the price of oil than any other nation.”
Cited by Petter Nore p.86; ” Oil and the Class struggle .” London, 1980.
As Odell points out:
“The USA was fed up with a situation in which the rest of the industrialised world had access to cheap energy. It deliberately initiated a foreign policy which aimed at getting oil – producing nations’ revenues moving strongly up by talking incessantly to the producers about their low oil prices and by showing them the favourable impact of much higher prices. It was of course assured..that these cost increases, plus further increases designed to ensure higher profit levels for the companies, were passed on to the European and Japanese energy consumers, so eliminating their energy cost advantage over their competitors in the USA..the actual timing..coincided with unusual circumstances..namely a strong demand for most oil products in most markets in a period of general economic advance, a shortage of oil refinery capacity in Europe and Japan and a temporary scarcity of tankers.”
Odell p. 215-216.
GERMAN INDUSTRY HAD ALREADY CAUSED PROBLEMS FOR THE MAJOR COMPANIES BY FLIRTING WITH THE RUSSIANS. USA GOVERNMENT PRESSURE HAD BEEN REQUIRED TO PREVENT FURTHER EROSION OF THE EUROPEAN MARKETS:
“In 1969 only the intervention of the Federal West German Government under severe pressure from the USA, thwarted an agreement between the Soviet Union and the Bavarian state government. Had this agreement gone through, the Soviet Union would have been in a very strong position to put in branch pipelines to the other countries..of Western Europe.. Soviet oil exports to Western Europe.. steadily increased form only 3 million ton in 1955 to over 40 million ton in 1969.. Under 1978 conditions the amount of oil in Western Europe is supply rather than demand constrained.”
Odell, Ibid; p.58-60.
In this context, in 1991, it was of significant aid to the USA imperialists that the USSR was then, unable to exploit its’ oil reserves, owing to the enormous dislocation in the state:
“Production from Siberian oil fields is dropping so rapidly that the Soviet Union, the world’s largest petroleum producer may begin to import expensive world price crude within 2 years Kremlin officials say..”We are talking catastrophic failure here ” one Western diplomatic observer said.. oil exports have been the Soviet Unions’ primary source of hard currency income, and the only bright spot..in trade,..the troubles appear to be related to a decaying infrastructure, including an inefficient distribution system vulnerable to sabotage. Production from the giant Tyumen oil filed of Western Siberia, which supplies about half of the country’s oil for export has dropped 10% since 1988, Pravda said ..former allies in Central and Eastern Europe are being hit the hardest with cuts of 30-50 %. The cuts, coupled with the significantly higher prices Moscow began charging Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia on January 1st are hobbling economic reforms in these countries.”
Jeff Sallot; In “Globe and Mail”; Toronto; Business Report; Feb 12th 1991.
The USA Senate recognised the oil demand in Europe and Japan as a vital issue for the general policy to be followed by the USA in the Middle East:
“One can argue that while the oil benefit is nowhere near so great to the US as it is to the European and Japanese importers, for which it is vital, the US relationship with Iran and Saudi Arabia serves the collective security interests of its allies in helping assure a continuous and adequate flow of oil.. But.. will the US government come to affect the destination of these 7 million barrels per day, exercising its influence through the Americans oil companies? Or will the companies be able to continue to supply, unhampered by considerations other than the meeting of their contractual commitments?”
US Senate Cited by P.Noore and T. Turner, Ibid p. 9.
THIS OIL SAGA WILL BE BROUGHT UP TO DATE SHORTLY
This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”
December 2002; based on an article of 1996
Introduction – Pan-Arabism in the Middle East
(i) Syria – The place, peoples and religion
(ii) Early History of Syria to the Ottoman Empire
(iii) The End of the Ottoman Empire and the French Colonial Yoke
(iv) The Post-Independence Economy
(v) What Were The Class Forces of Syria?
(vi) The Ba’th Party and the Ba’th Arab Socialist Party
(vii) The Egyptian Modification of Ba’th Ideology – Nasserism
(viii) The Syrian Communist Party
(ix) The Syrian CP, the Ba’th and the United Arab Republic
(x) The Syrian CP and the Khruschevite Revisionists
Introduction – Pan-Arabism in the Middle East
As Comrade Bland pointed out in his analysis of Sultan-Galiyev, the dubious attractions of “Muslim Nationalism,” were a pit-fall for communists in Muslim dominated countries. Bakdash – from his initial revolutionary phase to his later revisionist phases, was closely involved with the question of the relationship between bourgeois nationalism in the Middle East, and communism.
The English historian Patrick Seale writes:
“The prophet of Syrian (In fact “greater Syrian” ) nationalism was Antun Sa’ada… His bitterest opponent was the Communist leader Khalid Bakdash, an eloquent Kurd who had steered the chequered fortunes of the Syrian party since 1930.”
Seale, Patrick, “Asad. The Struggle For the Middle East”; London; 1988; p.26.
However, Marxist-Leninists examining Bakdash’s views, would have to concede that he was the engineer of the revisionist disembowelment of the most advanced Arab communist party.
Sa’da was the founder of the Syrian National Party, and represented the regional Syrian based bourgeoisie who wanted an undivided Greater Syria, rather than the more ambitious Pan-Arabists.
“Pan-Arabism” swept the Middle East, partly in response to the rising Zionist tide. As early as June 1913, the First Arab Congress was held in Paris (Walter Laquer “A History of Zionism”; New York; 1972; p.224). Later at the Pan Arab Congress of Jerusalem December, 1931, held simultaneously with the General Islamic Congress, an ‘Arab Covenant‘ was proclaimed. Hourani uses this as a “standard definition of the aims of the nationalists”:
“(i) The Arab lands are a complete and indivisible whole, and the divisions of whatever nature to which they have been subjected are not approved or recognized by the Arab nation.
(ii) All efforts in every Arab country are to be directed towards the single goal of their complete independence, in their entirety and unified ; and every idea which aims at limitation to work for local and regional politics must be fought against.
(iii) Since colonization is, in all its forms and manifestations, wholly incompatible with the dignity and highest aims of the Arab nation, the Arab nation rejects it and will combat it with all its forces.”
Hourani A.K. “Syria and Lebanon. A Political Essay”; London 1968; p. 114.
The main tenets of this proclamation were to live on, in the form of the Ba’th Party, and in Nasserism and the Wahd movement. An increasingly urgent problem played a role in side-tracking the main goal of Arab liberation. This was the Zionist presence in Palestine. In September, 1937, the Pan-Arab Congress of Bludan in Syria, organized by the Syrian Committee for the Defence of Palestine, which passed:
“a number of resolutions in regard to the solution of the Palestinian problem and stated that the adoption of the policy embodied in these resolutions would be regarded as a condition of friendly relations between the Arab peoples and the British Empire”
Hourani Ibid; p.114-5.
However the establishment of the state of Israel continued a destruction of bourgeois nationalist dreams. It became increasingly likely that only lesser goals would be achieved. This article examines the narrowing focus of Arab nationalism, as it played out in Syria.
Following the enforced departure of France as an overt occupying imperialist presence in 1946, the French adopted a pattern of disguised neo-colonial relations. France took over Syria at a time when the British dominance over the Middle East was adequate to push France into a subordinate imperialist position, while Britain waited to see how it would fight off the USA interests in the area.
(i) Syria – The place, peoples and religion
The ancient idea of a ‘bilad al-Sham’ – The “Lands of Damascus”, was built on the premise that there was a distinct Syrian entity. The so-called “Natural Syria” was vast – extending from Taurus mountains in the North, to the Western Mediterranean shores, the Eastern Euphrates, and the Arabian Southern deserts. As such, it was frequently divided up during the centuries.
Later, Syria was known under the French Mandate rule, as both Syria and Lebanon being part of one administrative area (with Latakia and Jebel Druze) from 1925 to 1936. Syria as a term, refers to the Syrian Republic formed in 1936, from Syria, Jebel Druze and Laakia (also known as the State of the Alawis).
Syria ranks fourth in population in the 15 countries usually considered to be a part of the “Middle East” extending between Libya and Afghanistan (excluding these two countries); eighth in gross domestic product, fourth in size of military force, and sixth in rate of growth of GDP. (Ramet, Pedro “The Soviet-Syrian Relationship Since 1955- A Troubled Alliance”; Boulder USA; 1990; p. 6).
The population is largely of the Muslim religious faith, and Arab speakers formed 85% of the population in 1946. Although a Christian Maronite minority (taking its name from a 5th Century Syrian hermit) was always significant in number, as were other minorities. The population by the time of the French Mandate 1920-1946 was made up of:
Sunnis (60% of the total population); ‘Alawis 11.5%; Druze 3.0 %; Ismaílis 1.5%; Christians 9.9%; Non-Arabs (Kurds 8.5%; Armenians 4.2%; plus small numbers of Circassians and Jews etc; (See Malik Mufti: “Sovereign Creations- Pan-Arabism & Political Order in Syria & Iraq”; Cornell; 1966; p.45).
When Mohammed died (632 BC), as the head – supposedly appointed by God – of both temporal and religious parts of the Muslim world, a crisis of leadership was precipitated. This engulfed all the expansionist desert Arabs who had embraced Islam. They solved it be appointing a temporal and religious head of the Muslim world, as a “deputy” – the Caliph, or Khalif:
“Islam as an expansionist ideology began during the lifetime of Mohamed, who made several unimportant expeditions outside the desert of the Arabian peninsula, The real expansion and invasions were to come after the death of Mohammed from the caliphs, or his “representatives”, the heads of or leaders of Moslem communities.”
“Hoxha Enver, “The Glorious past of Peoples Cannot be Ignored”; Written 1983; In “Reflections On the Middle East”; Tirana 1984; Toronto N.D.; p. 469.
“The death of Mohammed … (led to).. a constitutional crisis… The crisis was met by the resolute action of three men: Abu Bakr, Úmar, and Abu Ubaida who by a kind of coup d’état imposed Abu Bakr on the community as the sole successor of the prophet… with the title of Khalifa or “Deputy,” and his election marks the inauguration of the great historic institution of the Caliphate”
Lewis Bernard, “The Arabs in History”; New York 1966; p. 50-1.
Sunni are adherents of the sunnah (practice) of Mohammed alone whose sayings (hadith) form the Holy Words. They are the largest grouping of Muslims, and are themselves divided into sects. The most important of these is the Wahhabi sect largely based in Central Arabia, and headed by the Ibn-Saud dynasty of what is now Saudi Arabia. The Wahabis are named after a jurist of the area of Najd, called Ábd al-Wahhab (1703-1791). During the period of Ottoman expansion, he founded a sect that:
“Was based on a rigid anti-mystical Puritanism. In the name of a pure primitive Islam of the first entry he denounced all subsequent accretions of belief and ritual as superstitious innovation,” alien to pure Islam. … The conversion to the Wahhabi doctrine of the Najdi emir Muhammed ibn Su-ud gave the sect a military and political focus.. spreading by conquest over most of central Arabia wresting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina from the Sharifs who ruled them in the Ottoman name… (till-Ed) 1918, when an invading Turco-Egyptian army sent by Muhammad Ali the pasha of Egypt broke the power of the Wahhabi Empire and confined them to its native Najd”
Lewis Bernard, “The Arabs in History”; New York 1966; p. 161.
The ‘Alawis [meaning followers of ‘Ali] are members of the Shi’i (Or Shi’ia) Muslim sect; as indeed are the Druzes (originating from Egypt) and the Isma’ilis. The Shi’ia trace their roots to the 8th century, when ‘Ali the Prophet Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law – was – as the claim goes – robbed of his inheritance by the first three Caliphs. The Shi’ites also claim that ‘Ali was granted a divine essence, making them ‘infidels’ to the Sunni Muslim orthodoxy. The materialist reality underlying the Shiía sect was a factional grouping based on the claims of Ali to the Caliphate.
In present day Syria, the Alawi are concentrated in the mountainous areas. Previously, they tended to be dominated by the Sunni or the Christian-Maronites.
The various divisions of sects played a role in preventing a united ‘national’ identity. Colonising powers used the minorities in a divide and rule strategy. The Sunnis were closely linked to the Turkish rulers of the Ottoman Empire, and oppressed the ‘Alawis and the other minorities. The French reversed the preferences:
“In Turkish times the Sunni Muslim had been the privileged community, growing rich on ‘Alawi labour….(who) could be expected to be ground down by the Sunni or Christian merchant, money-lender or landowner….But….in the early 1920’s the French gave the ‘Alawi privileges….”
Seale P: “Asad – The Struggle for the Middle East”; Ibid; p.17.
“France tried to pit all of Syria’s minority communities against the Sunni Arabs, who constituted the core of its traditional political elites;”
Malik Mufti; “Sovereign Creations- Pan-Arabism & Political Order in Syria & Iraq”; Cornell; 1966; p. 45.
(ii) Early History of Syria – To the Ottoman Empire
Being at the intersection of the Mediterranean and India and the Far East – Syria was always subject to international influences and trade. Its peoples were initially Arabs from the South, who brought with them Semitic influence – but they then intermingled with invaders from central Asia and Anatolia (Hourani A.H.: “Syria & Lebanon- A Political Essay”; London 1968; pp.11-13).
Historic Syria was dominated first by the Semitic tribes such as the Phoenicians. Later waves of invaders included the Egyptians, Assyrians, the Hittites, Persians, under Alexander the Great – the Greeks and later by the First Century BC – the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire introduced Christianity. But Christianity gave way to Islam in Syria, during the course of the Persian-Roman wars in the 3rd Century AD.
Although the Byzantine Empire tried to hold onto Syrian territories, by 633 the Arabs from the Egyptian peninsula took it by war. A Moslem Government was established. It became a central part of the Moslem empire, under the Umayyad Caliphate of Mu’awiya in 661. Till the 8th century, the Caliphate territories extended from Spain to Morocco to Central Asia. As the Abbassi Dynasty took control of Syria, its fortunes waned under the pressure of repeated wars with the Byzantine Empire.
Ultimately this allowed the Mameluke Sultans of Egypt – led initially by Baibars to dominate Syria. By 1516, Syria was ruled as a single unit by Egypt, from the seat of Damascus. This was the first modern time that this had occurred since the rule of the Umayyad caliphs 1200 years earlier. However the Ottoman Turks easily displaced the waning Egyptian Mamelukes in 1516, and the Osmani Sultans became the Caliphs.
Upon the end of Egyptian rule, bilad al-Sham (Syria) reverted to the Ottoman Empire, and became sub-divided into provinces. These were not ‘national divisions’; or even ‘natural division’ but administrative divisions facilitating rule over the provinces. As the Ottoman Empire was challenged by Ibrahim Pasha (son of Muhammed Ali a vassal to the Ottoman Sultan) of Egypt, a modernisation began in Syria. A central government was formed with a measure of modern progress such as education. But Ibrahim Pasha then attempted to invade Constantinople in 1839, and the Great Powers intervened. They ‘propped up the Sick Man of Europe’ – the Sultanate of Constantinople.
The Ottoman Empire was an Oriental Despotic form of state; broadly speaking it was the equivalent of feudalism in the West. Its characteristic was the almost complete absence of private property in land. As Marx characterised it:
“Bernier rightly considered the basis of all phenomena in the East – he refers to Turkey, Persia, and Hindustan – to be the absence of private property in land. This is the real key to the Oriental heaven”
Letter Marx to Engels; 2 June 1853; In Collected Works; Volume 39; Moscow; 1983; p.334 (See Appendix 1 to this article).
“The absence of landed property is indeed the key to the whole of the East. Therein lies its political and religious history. But how to explain the fact that oriental never reached the stage of landed property not even the feudal kind? This is I think largely due to the climate, combined with the nature of the lands more especially the great stretches of desert extending from the Sahara right across Arabia, Persia, India and Tartary to the highest of the Asiatic uplands. Here artificial irrigation is the first prerequisite for agriculture, and this is the responsibility either of the communes, the provinces or the central government. In the East, the government has always consisted of 3 departments only; Finance (pillage at home); War (pillage at home and abroad); and travaux (i.e. works –Ed) publics, provisions for reproduction”;
Letter Engels to Marx; 6 June 1853; In Collected Works; Volume 39; Moscow; 1983; p.339.
(iii) The End of the Ottoman Empire and French Colonial Yoke
By the end of the 19th Century, the break-up of the Ottoman Empire was eagerly expected by the imperialists. After several secret organizations had struggled for years, in 1908, some young reformers led by a small bourgeoisie forced a parliamentary system. In 1913 the Committee of Union and Progress, led by the army officer Enver Pasha, took power in the seat of the Ottoman Empire at Constantinople, finally un-seating the Sultanate.
The Sultanate of the Ottoman Empire, a dictatorship based on Oriental Despotism was forced into a democratic reform. At the opening phases of the First World War, Enver Pasha led Turkey into an alliance with Germany. This was sealed in the secret Treaty of Berlin July 28. By its provisions, the Ottoman Empire would observe strict neutrality and Germany would defend Ottoman territory in case of external threats.
Within a few months, Turkey’s secret dealings with Germany had been revealed. Following incidents where German cruisers evaded British ships to obtain safe berths in Turkish waters, Britain declared war on Turkey. As the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill initiated war actions against Turkey on November 1 1914 War was formally declared by Britain only on November 5th. Churchill noted that with the Ottoman Empire as an enemy, its territories were free to being divided up much easier.
As the war progressed, the Allied forces blundered into the defeat at Gallipoli. This invasion between 25 April 1915, to 17 November 1915, left half a million dead. British command had led an Allied force with a large Australian contingent, was defeated by the Turkish forces commanded by Mustapha Kemal – later to be known as Attaturk.
Naturally at the end of the First World War, the victorious super powers led then by the Allied powers, in particular Britain and France – took the opportunity to divide up the Ottoman territories. In 1914:
“At the end of a fevered expansionist movement that was rooted in the 1880’s, France had built the second largest colonial empire in the world, an empire of more than 10 million square kilometers, with nearly 50 million inhabitants.”
Thobie J, Meynier G, Coquery-Vidrovitch C, Ageron C-R: “Histoire de La France Coloniale 1914-1990”; 1990; p.7.
France had up to then, no significant colony in the Middle East. This did not deter its pretensions in the area, based on the rather tenuous, and distant history of the Crusades:
“During the Crusades, French knights won kingdoms and built castles in Syria….In 1914…there were still Frenchmen who regarded Syria as properly part of France. France maintained close contacts with one of the Christian communities along the Mount Lebanon coast of Syria, and French shipping, silk, and other interests eyed commercial possibilities….The moment that the Ottoman Empire entered the war, French officials in the Middle East therefore formulated plans to annex Turkey’s Syrian provinces. Frances’ Minster in Cairo and Consul General in Beirut immediately joined in urging their government to invade the Lebanese coast”
Fromkin, David: “A Peace to End All Peace. The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East”; New York; 1989; p. 94.
Meanwhile, in Britain manoeuvring had also begun. The De Bunsen Committee was appointed by Prime Minister Asquith to advise on polices post-war in the Middle East; the proceedings were dominated by Sir Mark Sykes a Tory MP. It reported five autonomous provinces should be created in the decentralised Ottoman Empire: Syria, Palestine, Armenia, Anatolia and Jazirah-Iraq.
During the war, Lord Kitchener Minister of War in the British Cabinet, proposed a pact to the Sherif of Mecca – Hussein. Kitchener’s plan was to make the Sherif Caliph, thereby displacing both religious and temporal power away from Constantinople to Mecca – Arabia proper. This would appeal to the majority of the Ottoman Empire who were Arabs, yet ruled by the 40% of Turkish speakers – by the Ottoman Empire. In return Hussein was to assist with the overthrow of Turkish rule:
“Kitchener’s telegram … sent by Grey at the Foreign Office, told the British Agency (in Cairo-Ed) that Storr should reply to Abdullah Hussein that (son of Sherif Hussein of Mecca-Ed):
” If the Arab nation should assist England in this war that has been forced upon us by Turkey, England will guarantee that no internal intervention take place in Arabia, and will give the Arabs every assistance again foreign aggression”…. In other words if the Arabian leaders freed their peninsula from the Sultan and declared their independence, Britain would help to protect them against any invasion from abroad.”
Fromkin Ibid; p. 102-3.
This promisory note was to lead to serious future conflicts. Apart from anything else, British calculations that the Mecca Sharif Hussein dynasty (the Hashemites) would be given the allegiance of all Arabs was mistaken. It ignored the ambition of the Wahabi sect led by the Sunni Abdul-Aziz Ibn Saud, based in Central Arabia.
Nonetheless, the illusions of Britain’s backing took hold of Sharif Hussein somewhat. An illustration of this was in the demands he made, in what came to be known as the Damascus Protocol. This demanded an independent Arab kingdom under his rule. This was presented by Hussein to the British command at Cairo in summer 1915. The British High Commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon – was pressurised by Kitchener to write accepting the demands of Hussein (See Fromkin Ibid; p. 178). This led to the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence. In these McMahon used duplicitous wording, to the effect that Hussein should understand a British commitment towards Palestine. The British imperialist had understood that they would have to:
“pay a price… to obtain France’s consent to the making of promises to Hussein”
Fromkin Ibid; p. 182.
Accordingly McMahon forced Hussein to relinquish claim to Syria, Lebanon, Basra and Baghdad, leaving only Arabia. This would mean negotiation with other contenders such as Ibn Suad (See Fromkin; Ibid; p.183). Hussein explicitly rejected this “offer” – stating that:
“Any concession designed to give France or any other Power possession of a single square foot of territory in those parts is quite out of the question”
Fromkin, Ibid; p. 185.
In reality he had little other choice, as the Ottoman Empire Young Turks were about to depose him. The British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey gave the signal:
“Not to worry about the offers being made by Cairo as “the whole thing was a castle in the air which would never materialise”
Cited Fromkin Ibid; p. 185.
Hussein then insisted that there could be no Arab uprising against the Ottomans without an Allied landing on the Syrian coast. This spurred an imperialist presence in the Middle East.
This frames the talks between imperialist France and Britain. France, represented by the son of an African French colonist – Francois Georges Picot and Britain – represented by Tory M.P. Sir Mark Sykes. These two simply secretly divided Syria up, under the secret provisions of theSykes-Picot Agreement of February 1916. Partition kept the Allies united. Palestine was to be “placed under an international regime”- to be determined after “consultation” with all parties involved – including (sic) other interested allies such as Russia and Italy!
Such negotiations between “Allies” were un-trustworthy. In the meantime a secret French-Russian pact between the French Prime Minister Aristide Briand, and the Russian foreign ministry, it was “decided” that the post-war administration of Palestine was to be French controlled.
Hussein tried for as long as possible to temporise, but when the Ottoman Young Turks discovered his plots, they mobilised. To circumvent this, Hussein “declared” war, leading to the pathetic Arab Uprising in June 1916. It did not ignite any reaction, and the Arab tribes largely ignored the call. Simmering continued. However, in 1920, the Battle
Thus ensued the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The United Nations “awarded” the French the Mandate over Syrian and Lebanon. France ‘took’ the North , which became the republics of Syria and Lebanon. Meanwhile in the South, Britain seized Palestine and Transjordan. This, occurred despite the fact that the population itself, had made clear its own desire for independence:
“The inhabitants of the whole region made it clear that they wanted natural Syria to be independent and undivided: In July 1919 an elected body calling itself the Syrian National Congress repudiated the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration and demanded sovereignty status for a united Syria-Palestine.”
Seale; Ibid; p. 15.
In the interim, an Arab administration led by Amir Faysal established itself in Damascus. The contradictions between the European waning imperialisms of France and Britain were set against the rising imperialism of the USA. Even the USA led King-Crane Commission visited the area and confirmed the popular view. But the USA was as yet unable to effectively challenge the hegemony of the USA in the area. Thus in 1920, the European powers were given Mandates over the new states carved out of the former Ottoman provinces. Although Faysal fought against this both politically and then in armed struggle, the troops of French General Geraud entered Damascus in 1920. At the Battle of Maisaloun, they decisively defeated Faisal.
The French dismissed Faysal and set up a classic colonial state. Their Mandate, made the French Government the ‘intermediate’ between its High Commissioner and the League of Nations. On the principle of divide and rule, they quickly proceeded to create new states, and to foster the remaining divisions between people of the former bilad al-Sham.
They created out of Syria a newly detached State of Greater Lebanon; by detaching Tyre, Sidon, Beirut and Tripoli, the Baqa’ Valley and the Sh’i region of North Palestine. These were attached to Mount Lebanon – the fief of Maronite compradors of France.
Then in 1921, France yielded to Turkey, large parts of Aleppo, and Alexandretta-Antioch.
A further administrative manoeuvre divided Syria into four parts: These were the mini-states of Damascus, Aleppo, and the “independent” Alawi mountains and the Druze mountains.
Finally the Northern part of Syria was colonized and further division fostered by encouraging settling by Christians and Kurds. Of course the purpose of all this sub-division of Syria was to ‘ensure’ French hegemony:
“The French fully understood that Syrian nationalist sentiment would be opposed to their rule. This in effect meant the that the Sunnis were their principal antagonists and they thus proceeded to capitalise on the .. Christians, their oldest friends, by creating a new state that stripped Tyre, Sidon, Tripoli, the Baaka valley & Beirut itself from Syria and added them to the Ottoman sanjak (administrative district) of Mount Lebanon the very backbone of Maronite Christianity. Syria was cut off from its finest ports and Damascus … was weakened at the expense of Beirut and the new Christian dominated regime”:
Fisk R; “Pity the Nation – The Abduction of Lebanon”; London 1990; p. 62.
Political parties were only allowed a legal existence in January 1925. At that time, the Peoples Party launched armed struggle. This party had been the first that the French had legalised ( Ismael T & Ismael J: The Communist Movement in Syria & Lebanon, Gainsville; 1998 p. 12). Within 2 years it was crushed. But, the French remained aware of the depth of feeling, and allowed a national assembly to convene in 1928. But it was soon dissolved, in 1930, by the French. Large popular protests erupted by 1936. This compelled the French Government, under the leadership of the Popular Front Government to enter negotiations with the Syrian nationalists. The Franco-Syrian Treaty of September 1936, called for a Syrian [neo-colonial] ‘independence’ in return for French privilege in trading and military status. The National Bloc was elected to power, but the Second World War supervened. The French suspended the 1930 Constitution by the imposition of martial law (Dilip Hiro: “Inside The Middle East”, London; 1982; p. 42).
“was not a unitary party so much as a working alliance of individuals and groups. It including leading members of important land-owning families… like Hashim al-Atasi, the President… individuals…”
Hourani A.H. “Syria and Lebanon. A Political Essay”; 1968; Beirut; p.191.
In 1943, the British pushed Vichy France, to hold elections in Syria. The National bloc was again elected. Syria declared war on Germany in February 1945, thereby winning a seat at the Founding Conference of the United Nations. France was clearly a faltering imperialist nation. Britain, at that time was still struggling hard to keep the upper hand, against a new insurgent USA imperialism. However, it still had could browbeat the French out of Syria. Britain had foreseen that unless the Syrians were allowed a nominal ‘independence’, the whole Middle East was threatened from the perspective of imperialism.
It was only in April 1946, that the French left Syria as an occupying colonial military power. As the History of Colonial France puts it:
“The Syrian Affair had ushered in decolonisation at the worst possible time for France. It was under the very powerful menace of the British, and suffering from the injuries inflicted by the Arab League, these forced it to abandon its mandate without contradiction.”
Thobie J, Meynier G, Coquery-Vidrovitch C, Ageron C-R: “Histoire de La France Coloniale 1914-1990”; 1990; p.360 (Tr Kumar H).
The Syrian Parliament of the 1943 elections, was deposed by a military coup led by Husni al-Za’im in March 1949. This was assisted by the debacle of the first Arab-Israali war of 1948 and the defeat of the Syrian army. It was only in 1954, that his successor (Colonel Adib al-Shisakli) was overthrown by a further military coup.
This was precipitated by the United Front meeting at Homs in July 1953, where the National Party, the People’s Party, the Arab-Socialist party, the Ba’th party and the Communist party signed a National Pact to overthrow the Shishakli dictatorship.
At this time, parliamentary democracy was restored. The ensuing poll in September 1954 was the first in the Middle East with full women’s suffrage, and was generally free.
Syria by the time of the French withdrawal in 1946 had been whittled down to 185,190 square kilometers from 300,000 square kilometers in Ottoman times. (See Seale; Ibid; pp14-16). Open colonialism was to be replaced by a neo-colonialism.
(iv) The Post-Independence Economy
The class character of Syria after the war, was that of a neo-colony dominated by French and British interests, with major feudal remnants. The economy was largely based on peasant based, raw material production, with oppression from the landowners.
The French had developed a comprador base. Since industry was weak in the area, both from previous Oriental Despotism, and the depredations of Ottoman oppression followed by European imperialism, the representatives of the national bourgeoisie were initially weak.
The French had created a large comprador class by fostering various sections of the ‘Alawis (eg. The Kinj Brothers; the Abbas family); and in Mount Lebanon from 1860 onwards the Maronite Christians; and other landowners throughout the former bilad al-Sham.
Previously, a collective type of farming , known as ‘musha’ had enabled the peasantry to each gain a subsistence living. The plots were periodically re-distributed in order that each family would have turns on the better plots. But following the previous example by the Ottomans from the 1858 Ottoman Land Code, the French drew up a land register. This meant that local notables and tribal shayks were enabled to seize property by legal title.
Under this pillage, comprador owned latifundia were built up. Monied merchants and moneylenders in the cities also became Latifundists. In the process the peasantry was of course expropriated and impoverished to the status of being share-croppers. This meant that they obtained between 25-75% of the crop they worked, depending upon how much they provided in money for seed, and water.
Since as Seale puts it, Syria was a “predominantly agricultural country”, the solution of the misery of the peasant was a major goal for the country’s development. This required a national democratic revolution. The extent of the poor development of industry, and the misery of the people can be seen from the following statistics:
“Syria was a predominantly agricultural country, its backbone being two million peasants out of a then population of about 3.5 million, inhabiting some 5,500 villages built mostly of mud and mostly lacking piped water sewerage electricity tarred roads or any other amenity of modern life… The population was ravaged by disease… In 1951-3, 36% of registered deaths occurred among children under five. National income per head was a mere 440 Syrian lire (US$157), although socials disparities were such that most Syrians earned even less. Outside the two main cities of Damascus and Aleppo electricity was rare, serving fewer than three-quarters of a million people in the whole country. There were only some 13,000 motor vehicles a single port Latakia, and three small railways all Ottoman built and of different gauge.”
Seale; Ibid; p. 44.
By the Second World War and immediately after, a small industrialist class, and its corollary a working class had arisen in cotton and rayon cloth, soap, cement, glass, and matches; and some industrial penetration into the countryside latifundia had also occurred. (Seale Ibid; p. 46).
The French had created several divisions in the area, or had deliberately stoked up older, historic division – these were at the minimum the following:
Divisions of land into arbitrary areas with peasant expropriations; and
Divisions of territory between potentially hostile ‘religious’ divisions (Sunni versus Shi’i Muslim sects – of the latter being Druzes, ‘Alawis, and Isma’ilis).
But, the class divisions overlay – but sometimes depended upon the above divisions.
(v) What Were The Class Forces of Syria?
These can be characterized with respect to their relations to the ownership of the means of production; and to their relations to the democratic revolution and a subsequent second socialist stage:
1. Those Forces Interested in the Social Revolution
i) The predominant class was the peasant class, the majority of whom were actually share- croppers;
Initially they were led by the Arab Socialist Party (ASP) of Akram al-Hawrani, formed in 1950.
ii) A small working class based mainly in Damascus and Aleppo;
These were initially led and represented by the Communist Party Syria and Lebanon (founded October 1924, admitted Comintern 1928), who ultimately, also gained the leadership of the peasantry. After Syrian territory was divided into Syria and Lebanon, the two parties formed separate organisations in 1930, leaving in Syria the Syrian Communist Party (SCP).
2. The Class Forces Implacably opposed to any phase of National or Social Revolution:
i) The feudal-type latifundia land owners; who were comprador bourgeoisie;
these were led and represented by the French imperialists;
and then later by the so-called pro-“Pan-Syrian” nationalists; Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP – or Parti Populaire Syrien) established by Antun Sa’ada. The Pan-Syrians only wished that the territory of Syria and Lebanon not be divided, and allowed a diversion to offer against the Pan-Arabists. They had established a management hold over the tobacco growers of the mountains, and had a monopoly with the French ‘regie de tabacs’. They were known to be pro-West and anti-communist (See Seale Ibid; p. 49-50).
3. Forces interested in “national democratic” revolution – but wished to abort the second stage, the socialist revolution.
The petit bourgeoisie, and the peasantry, and at a later stage the small but potentially important national industrialist capitalist class, was represented by the Ba’th Party at first and then by the Arab Socialist Ba’th Party (ASBP).
The industrialists were as always frightened of the arousal of the workers and peasantry. They were at best then ‘vacillating’ allies of the national democratic revolution.
(vi) The Ba’ath Party and the Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party
Welding Arab nationalism into a movement that could make strides against imperialism in reality needs Marxism-Leninism. But nationalists who shied away from revolution, tried to find a different solution. They tried to ignite Arab pride. This involved a mystical Pan-Arabism.
The formation of the Ba’th Party (or Baath) in Syria took place in 1947, led by Michel ‘Aflaq, Salh al-Din Bitar and Wahib al-Ghanim. The concept originated in Syrian intellectuals who upon return to Syria from the Sorbonne in Paris, were dismayed to find themselves treated as ‘colonials’:
“The party was…founded…by two rival schoolmasters, the ‘Alawi from Antioch, Zaki al-Arsuzi, and the Damascene Christian, Michel ‘Aflaq…Zaki al-Arsuzi was a Syrian intellectual from a modest background who in the late 1920s, won a place at the Sorbonne from which he emerged four years later with a philosophy degree and a boundless enthusiasm for French poetry, painting and civilization … Arsuzi … gathered a circle of young followers to whom he explained that the ‘renaissance’ of the Arabs – that is what the word ‘ba’th’ means – was in their grasp.. (but-ed) he came to suffer from delusions” …. In Hama Akram al-Hawrani led a youth movement and …. a lawyer, jalal at-Sayyid, started a boys’ club with a strong nationalist flavour which was to be the first Ba’th party branch in eastern Syria. But of all these youth groups, the most significant for the future was that of Michel ‘Aflaq and Salah al-Din Bitar who, like Arsuzi graduates of the Sorbonne, on their return home to Damascus in 1934 became teachers ….By 1940 ‘Aflaq and Bitar had set up their own study circle … At the start they called their group the Movement of Arab Revival (barakat al-ibya’al-arabi)”
Seale P; Ibid; p. 27 -28
These intellectuals repudiated Marxism, and were explicitly anti-communist. Although the Ba’th movement built on prior sentiments of Syrian nationalism, these had been close to a religious interpretation dominated by the Sunni sect. This alienated other parts of the Muslim Arabs, who consequently did not join in with the national movement:
“In the past, the Arab nationalist movement had always been interwoven with a kind of Sunni Islamism. And the Sunni Arabs, who usually played first fiddle in this movement, assigned in their Arabism such an important and central role to (Sunni) Islam that heterodox Muslims, let alone Christians, were allotted a secondary place: ‘timid subordinates’ tolerate by (Sunni Arab) ‘superiors.’ In fact, many Sunni Arab nationalists tended to regard members of the Arabic speaking religious minorities as ‘imperfect Arabs’ because they were heterodox Muslims or not Muslims at all. Equally, the religious minorities tended to suspect Arab nationalism as a disguise for unrestrained Sunni ascendancy, similar to the situation that pertained during the Ottoman Empire, the only difference being that Arab rather than Turkish Sunnis now held power.”
Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; p. 17.
The Ba’th ideology was supposed to be secular and it based itself on all Arabs irrespective of sect of Islam, or even of Islam itself. Ba’th means “re-birth” and took the notion as central, to mean the renaissance of the Arab movement, also holding out a promise of “socialism” to “all Arabs“:
“Ba’th ideology had a quite different basis. The Ba’th wanted a united secular Arab society with a socialist system, i.e. a society in which all Arabs would be equal, irrespective of their religion. This did not imply that Islam was of secondary importance to Ba’thist Arabism. In the Ba’thist view Islam constituted an essential and inseparable part of Arab national culture. Other than the Sunni variants of Arabism, however, the Ba’th considered Islam to be not so much an Arab national religion as an important Arab national cultural heritage, to which all Arabs, whether Muslim or Christian, were equal heirs apparent. In the opinion of Michel ‘Aflaq, the Ba’th Party’s ideologist, Christian Arabs therefore need feel in no way hindered from being Arab nationalists:
“When their nationalism awakens in them completely and they regain their original nature, the Christian Arabs will realise that Islam is their national culture with which they should satiate themselves, in order that they may understand and love it and covet it as the most precious thing in their Arabism.’
Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; p. 17.
However, they slipped frequently into defense of the religious aspects – of Islam, stressing the social and progressive aspects, as preached by its religious leaders. To get the full flavour of mystic philosophy of Ba’th philosophy, a portion of their words are in Appendix Two , which contains a short extract from a 1955 speech by a leader Elyas Farah.
An appeal to the entire Arab peoples should have instantly appealed to the nascent bourgeoisie. But its more immediate appeal was to the petit-bourgeois intellectuals, and only to a limited extent to the peasant masses. Intellectuals who were already breaking away from tribal and narrowing holds, saw its potential:
“It was thus only natural that the Ba’th ideology appealed strongly to Arabic-speaking religious minority members, who may have hoped that the Ba’th would help them to free themselves of their minority status and the narrow social frame of their sectarian, regional and tribal ties.’
Finally, the minority members must have been attracted by the idea that the traditional Sunni-urban domination of Syrian political life might be broken by the establishment of a secular socialist political system as envisaged by the Ba’th, in which there would be no political and socio-economic discrimination against non-Sunnis or, more particularly, against members of heterodox Islamic communities.
After the take-over of Hafiz al-Asad in 1970, membership of the struggle for party apparatus was opened to all Syrians, including non-Arabs such as (Arabised) Kurds, Circassians and Armenians.” The number of non-Arabs in an Arab nationalist party like the Ba’th was bound to remain small, however. “
Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; p. 17-8.
The Pan-Arabic vision, was illustrated by the Constitution of the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party, which officially states:
“The Arab nation constitutes a cultural unity. Any differences existing among its sons are accidental and unimportant. They will disappear with the awakening of the Arab consciousness … The national bond will be the only bond existing in the Arab state. It ensures harmony among the citizens by melting them in the crucible of a single nation, and combats all other forms of factional solidarity such as religious, sectarian, tribal, racial and regional factionalism.”
Bashir al-Da’uq ed; Nidal al-Ba’th; Volume 1; Beirut 1970; pp172-6; Cited by:
Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; ; p. 15.
Michel Aflaq and Zaki Arsouzi, in 1943, at first formed the Arab Ba’th Party, in secret out of two small groups. But the legal establishment of the party: had to wait till the French military left in 1946 (Dilip Hiro; ” Inside The Middle East”; London 1982; p. 130).
From its formal beginning in 1947, the Ba’th Party intended to cover all countries where Arabs were predominant. It was not restricted to Syria. Its’ programme called for land reform and nationalisation of major parts of the economy, and a constitutional democracy:
“At its first pan-Arab congress in Damascus in April 1947, delegates from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Morocco adopted a constitution and a programme. The party’s basic principles were described as: the unity and freedom of the Arab nation within its homeland; and a belief in the ‘special mission of the Arab nation’, the mission being to end colonialism and promote humanitarianism. To accomplish it the party had to be ‘nationalist, populist, socialist and revolutionary’. While the party rejected the concept of class conflict, it favoured land reform; public ownership of natural resources, transport, and large-scale industry and financial institutions; trade unions of workers and peasants; the cooption of workers into management, and acceptance of ‘non-exploitative private ownership and inheritance’.” It stood for a representative and constitutional form of government, and for freedom of speech and association, within the bounds of Arab nationalism.”
Dilip Hiro; ” Inside The Middle East”; London 1982; p. 130.
The main social base for the Ba’th was not initially the larger sections of the bourgeoisie. They were not yet convinced that the Ba’th would serve their interests. Later, these were to follow the lead of President Nasser of Egypt:
“In Syria the party drew its initial support either from the urban Sunni (Muslim) and Orthodox (Christian) petty bourgeoisie, or the rural notables, particularly those in the Alawi and Druze areas of Latakia.
‘The party’s social base remained the petit bourgeoisie of the cities, and in the countryside middle landlords with local social prestige,’ notes Tabitha Petran. ‘However, the Baath did not develop much in the cities. Most of the Sunni petit bourgeoisie, even in Damascus, was influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood and later also by President Nasser. But the Ba’th won a following among students and military cadets: future intellectuals and army officers.”
Dilip Hiro; ” Inside The Middle East”; London 1982; p. 130.
A related party was the Arab Socialist Party. This party had a mass peasant base, which was to become vital to the Ba’th:
“The other party to draw support from the military cadets was the Arab Socialist Party, founded in January 1950 by Akram Hourani, a lawyer from Hama. .. At his suggestion the Syrian government had instituted the egalitarian policy of disregarding the social background of the applicants to the only military academy at Horns. Since a military career was the only way a son of a poor or middle peasant could raise his social status, the Horns academy attracted many applicants from this section of society. Given the ASP’s commitment to ending feudalism and distributing government land to the landless, and its leadership of peasant agitations, it was not surprising that it enjoyed considerable following among young cadets and officers.”
Hiro; Ibid; p. 131.
Soon the ASP and the Ba’th Party came together, forming the Arab Socialist Ba’th party (ASBP) in 1953. Its’ leaders, who later forced into exile, were Michel ‘Aflaq, Salh al-Din Bitar, and Akram al-Hawrani.
As discussed they represented the “middle ground” elements consisted of representatives of the petit bourgeoisie who having become educated, were cognizant of the need for progressive modern change. But most of these elements (white-collar urban workers school-teachers, government employees, large sections of the army and the air force etc;) were not of communist mentality. The Ba’th Socialist Party now restated the Ba’th’s founding aims:
“Drawn together by their opposition to the dictatorial regime of Colonel Adib Shishkali, the leaders of the Baath and the ASP decided in September 1953 to form the Arab Baath Socialist Party: this was formally done six months later. The new party re-stressed the Baath’s central slogan: ‘Freedom, unity, socialism’.”
Hiro, Ibid p.131.
What did “socialism” mean for the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party? It was a very vague and imprecise ideology:
“Socialism, which comes last in the Baath trinity, is less a set of socio-economic principles than a rather vague means of national moral improvement. . . . All they [Ba’thist leaders] said was that socialism was a means of abolishing poverty, ignorance, and disease, and achieving progress towards an advanced industrial society capable of dealing on equal terms with other nations.”
Hiro Ibid; p.131.
The ASP’s peasant base gave the new party a mass following:
“The infusion of the ASP’s predominantly peasant following into the new party gave it the militant mass base that the old urban-based party had lacked. Winning sixteen parliamentary seats in Hama, the ASP’s stronghold, in the general election of September, strengthened the hands of the leftists in the party, and softened its anti-Communist stance, associated with the founders of the pre-merger Arab Ba’th Party.”
Hiro Ibid; p.131.
(vii) The Egyptian Modification of Ba’th Ideology – Nasserism
Nasserism was a specific form of Pan-Arabism, led by Gamel Abdul Nasser. Starting in the context of a nationalist movement in Egypt alone, Nasser struck a renewed hope for liberation from imperialism throughout large sections of the Middle East, using instead of Ba’th – the notion of Wahda, to mean ultimately the same. Wahda (Arabic for union) was to be a renewal of Arabic “culture,” under a twentieth century guise of nationalism.
As a strategy of the national bourgeoisie in the Middle East, both these ideologies aimed to contain the mass movement, emphasising the notions of an Arab peoples, denying any class content.
Revisionism in the parties of the entire Middle East had deprived the working class of capable leadership. Nasserism was only able to consolidate itself because the Egyptian Workers Party, the Communist Party, was itself under the influence of the now Soviet-revisionist leaders.
Wahda called for unity of several different struggling national bourgeoisies against imperialism. It hoped to be able to avoid the social revolution, by using nationalistic demagogic slogans. Effectively a class coalition was to be created, of all the national bourgeoisies, and the working classes of the different countries, led by the national bourgeoisie.
That way it was to be hoped, that the singly weak national bourgeoisie together would be strong enough to fight imperialism, and yet still be able to contain the social revolution.
Ultimately Pan-Arabism failed, as there was a single dominant national bourgeoisie, which itself tried to create “comprador” relations with the other weaker national bourgeoisie. This dominant national bourgeoisie was Egyptian and it was led by Nasser. It was successful for a time, as evidenced by the short lived creation of the UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC– consisting of Egypt and Syria. However the dominant Egyptian bourgeoisie, could not suppress the Syrian national bourgeoisie of the coalition. The experiment thus failed.
(viii) The Syrian Communist Party
The party was founded by Yusuf Ibrahim Yazbak, who used the paper al-Sahafi al-T’eh (The Wandering Journalist) to form a base; and Fouad al-Shamli, who after expulsion from Egypt, formed a base for the Lebanese Communist party. The two groups united to form the first Arab communist party:
“After two meetings were held in October 1924 at al-Hadath (a suburb of Beirut), a communist party in Syria and Lebanon was formed on 24 October 1924 by five Arabs (four workers and one intellectual): Yazbak, al-Shamali, Farid Toma, Ilyas Qashami, and Butros Hishimah. They selected Yazbak as secretary general and called the party the Lebanese People’s Party (LPP) as a public front for the communist party. The Supreme Committee of Syndi-cates constituted the main membership of the communist party and its front organization, the Lebanese People’s Party. This was the first organized and constituted communist party in the Arab world.”
Tareq Ismael and Jacqueline Ismael: “The Communist Movement in Syria And Lebanon”; Gainsville Florida, 1998; p. 8.
They contacted the Comintern in 1924, who sent them Joseph Berger of the Palestine Communist Party (PCP). This was only established in 1923, but it was a member of the Communist International (Degras J: Volume 2; p. 95). Berger was assigned the responsibility of “setting up the Lebanese CP”. But problems rapidly surfaced as he insisted on a PCP hegemony:
“Almost since the very beginning there were signs of major disagreement between the representative of the Palestinian Communist Party, Joseph Berger, and the Lebanese communists in connection with the rejection by those present of the Palestinian guardianship of the Lebanese party. It was obvious that the Palestinian Communist Party wanted the Lebanese party to be a branch, whereas the Lebanese insisted on maintaining their independence. This occurred in spite of the coordination that was going on between members of the party and their counterparts in Palestine during the party’s first decade. The Communist Party of Palestine, which was then almost exclusively Jewish, was at that time the most ideologically mature, organizationally coherent, and genuine communist outpost in the Middle East. Its leaders believed the party to be “the only communist front in the Arab Orient” and considered it their duty “to pay attention to every question … in relation to the revolution … to look into matters relating to Syria, Egypt, and Islamic Congresses in Cairo, Mecca, and elsewhere.”” However, their aspirations were soon curtailed by the Secretariat for Oriental Affairs of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, which in December 1926 “censured” the Palestinian communists for their “ambitious demand to monopolize work in contiguous countries” and considered it to be a malady, harmful for the further expansion of communist influence in the region.”
Ismael and Ismael; Ibid; p. 8.
This attitude of the Palestine CP persisted, as seen in the 1929 Comintern discussion on the revolution in Arabistan. This forms Appendix 3 (See: Comintern on Arabistan).
The party put forward a short term programme including labour demands, and
“promotion of Lebanese industry agriculture and trade” and nationalisation; and control of religious endowments by public agencies”
(Ismaels Ibid; p. 10-11).
In 1925, an Armenian organisation (Spartacus League) initiated contacts, and they fused on May Day to form the Communist Party of Syria and Lebanon (CPSL). The first Central Committee also included a representative of the Palestine CP – Jacob Tepper (Heikal M; “The Sphinx and the Commissar”; New York; 1978; p. 41).
In 1926 however, the Oriental Secretariat Executive Committee of the Communist International, placed the party under the supervision of the Palestine CP, countermanding the prior Lebanese decision (Ismael and Ismael; Ibid; p.14). At the 6th Congress of the Communist International in September 1928, the CPSL took part.
During the French mandate, the Syrian CP (SCP) legally functioned, though suffered harassment such as the banning of its paper – al-Insaniya (Mankind – or Humanity).
At the time of partition of Greater Syria, the CPSL strongly objected. In 1930, it emerged from secrecy to become public (Ismaels Ibid; p.17). Its first full programme was published in 1931.
The programme called for the national liberation of Syria and Lebanon and a democratic revolution to include land reform and abolition of feudalism.
Khalid Bakdash joined the party in 1930, recruited by al-Shamali. Promoted to the Central Committee in mid-1931, he was sponsored by Artin Madoyan. Within six months he had ensured al_Shamali’s expulsion – on:
“unsubstantiated and specious allegations that he had connections with the Security”
Ismaels Ibid; p.20.
Six months later, Bakdash became the party Secretary-general in early 1932, and went on to translate the Communist Manifesto in 1933 into Arabic. He was given further training in Moscow, and there, was made the permanent representative of Arab communist parties in 1934. Although the Comintern rejected the formation of a federation of Arab communist parties, on the grounds of security, the CPCL was accorded in effect the guardianship of the region.
The CPSL supported the French Popular Front government and hoped this would led to the independence of Syria. During this time, the first legal organ of the Syrian CP was allowed – Sawt-al-Sha’b (People’s voice). However the SCP remained small, in the range of 200 members, rising to 2000 by 1939. In the mid-1930’s an internal purge was undertaken of those calling for collaboration with Arab Nationalists (Ramet, Pedro: “The Soviet Syrian Relationship Since 1955 – A Troubled Alliance”; Boulder; 1990; p.65.).
On the declaration of war on the USSR, the CPSL came to the aid of the Allied efforts against fascism. But during the war, significant steps towards downplaying the revolution were taken. In the elections of August 1943, the CPSL declared:
“We assure the national capitalist , the national factory owner, that we do no look with envy or malice on his national enterprise. On the contrary, we desire his progress and vigorous growth. All that we ask is the improvement of the conditions of the national worker. We assure the owner of land that we do not and shall not demand the confiscation of his property.. All that we ask is kindness towards the peasant and the alleviation of his misery”
Ismaels Ibid; p. 32.
While it is correct to fight for a national democratic revolution – such promises violate the meaning of a principled united front. Similarly, Bakdash was prepared to accept the leadership of the National Bloc. Bakdash went so far as to state that the CPSL was ‘a party of national liberation’:
“above all, and before ever consideration, a party of national liberation, a party of freedom and independence.”
Ismaels Ibid; p. 33.
And he traced the attraction to the USSR to a nationalist perspective:
“We approach this [issue of relation with the USSR] as patriots and as Arabs… not because the Soviet Union has a particular social system”
Ismaels Ibid; p. 33.
It can be concluded that already as early as 1945, Bakdash was a revisionist.
In 1943, Bakdash reversed the whole prior policy of the CPSL and assisted the goals of the French colonists and future neo-colonists by splitting the party into separate organisations for Syria and for Lebanon. This decision took place at the national Congress of 1943 held in Beirut. Its grounds were contradictory – arguing that firstly the “national movement in Lebanon was less developed than in Syria,” and that “democracy is more deeply rooted in Lebanon than in Syrian. where the feudal landlords still continue to rule” (Ismaels Ibid; p.35).
The relations with the French CP were one of close liaison – if not instruction. Since, in the post Independence year of 1947 – the new Syrian government again banned the CP – the two sections of Lebanon and Syria amalgamated again, until 1958.
Since its inception the Syrian CP had been anti-Zionist. However with the revisionist inspired support of the diplomatic corps of the USSR, the USSR vote at the United Nations for the creation of Israel, led the Syrian CP to reverse itself. (The revisionist manoeuvres underlying this are described in Alliance 30).
As a result of this the party rapidly lost public support (Ismaels Ibid; p.39). Bakdash refused to tolerate criticism of this within the party, which was purged. At the Central Committee meeting of 1951, he reasserted control. At this juncture, Bakdash re-discovered the injunction of Stalin to maintain a “complete freedom to carry out its political and organisational activity” within a United Front” (Ismaels Ibid; p.43). He also correctly reasserted that the strategic aim at that time, was the democratic national liberation. As a result of these steps, party support ws re-built.
In the 1954 general election, in Damascus Khalid Bakdash became the first Communist deputy to be elected, his margin was 11,000 votes. This indicated a popular respect for the Communist Party. (Mohamed Heikal “The Sphinx and the Commissar”; New York; 1978; p. 48).
This suggests that the Syrian CP was following correct strategy and tactics at this stage. Indeed Bakdash declared in 1955, in parliament, an unequivocally Marxist-Leninist viewpoint:
“We, the communists, always announced, and repeat today, that the center of our policy is to find meeting points, not disagreements, with all true nationalists…. Our program in this national democratic lib-eration stage that our country is now experiencing is crystal clear: to strengthen the foundations of independence and sovereignty … ; to participate in strengthening world peace; and to challenge imperialist conspiracies;… to spread democracy and strengthen it; to liberate our economy and work to improve it; to reform our agriculture; to raise the standard of living of workers, peasants and all toilers. After the achievement of national democratic liberation, we open the door to a higher stage of socialism … scientific socialism admits that the road of each nation toward socialism must be consistent with the character-istics of each nation and with its historic evolution, economic conditions and the other national specificities of the society … this is our program, and these are our grand aims. Show me where these conflict with the interests of Syria.”
(Ismaels Ibid; p.47).
At the same elections, the Arab Ba’th Party also won several seats. They were cooperating with the Syrian CP in the control of the streets (Hiro Ibid; p. 131).
The correct policy, was indeed to move from the first stage towards the second stage of the National democratic liberation struggle – for socialism. Yet one year after, after the USSR 1956 20th Party Congress, Bakdash again steered the party towards a more total emphasis on purely national goals rather than a conscious movement to the second stage.
(ix) The Syrian CP (SCP), the Ba’th and the United Arab Republic
By 1957, the Syrian party was one of the strongest in the Middle East. At the same time, the alliance with the Ba’ath party, was stronger than it had ever been. The coalition between the SCP and the Ba’ath, proceeded to expel American diplomats, sign arms agreements with Moscow, and appoint a member of the Syrian CP (General Afif el-Bizri) as Chief of staff – all in August 1957 (Mohammed Heikal; “The Sphinx and the Commissar – The Rise and Fall of Soviet Influence in the Middle East”; New York; 1978; p.76-78).
This precipitated anti-Syrian moves by the USA imperialists – who arranged that an Iraqi and Turkish troop amassment took place on the borders with Syria. In September 1957, Kermit Roosevelt of the CIA was sent to Egypt to warn Nasser not to proceed with an arms agreement with the USSR. Nasser pre-empted the USA by a public announcement of the impending arms. This transformed the Middle East from a pure “Western” preserve into a free-for-all.
When the Suez incident led to the subsequent humiliation of the British and French, the USA was using the episode as a further breach through which their imperialism would dominate. (This is discussed in more detail at: Three Tactics of the Nationalists in the Middle East).
This led to further USA attempts to destabilise Syria. A coup they sponsored had already failed in August (Hiro Ibid p.132). Under pressure a polarisation took place, and it appeared that the Syrian CP was likely to gain further control of the leading positions in the coalition government with the Ba’thists. The Ba’thist leaders called for Nasser’s aid in fighting off the communists.
A situation analogous to the Shanghai massacre of the peasants and workers during the 1928 Chinese Revolution – was in the making. (See Notes on “Stalin & the 1928 Chinese Revolution” at Stalin & China). Stalin had repeatedly urged the CCP, through 1926 and early 1927 to break the bloc with the right KMT and move to a militant revolutionary struggle. The CCP did not heed this.
“The victory of the revolution cannot be achieved unless this bloc is smashed, but in order to smash this bloc, fire must be concentrated on the compromising national bourgeoisie, its treachery exposed, the toiling masses freed from its influence, and the conditions necessary of the hegemony of the proletariat systematically prepared. … the independence of the Communist Party must be, the chief slogan of the advanced communist elements, of the hegemony of the proletariat can be prepared and brought about by the Communist party. But the communist party can and must enter into an open bloc with the revolutionary part of the bourgeoisie in order, after isolating the compromising national bourgeoisie, to lead the vast masses of the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie in the struggle against imperialism.”
J.V.Stalin “Stalin’s Letters to Molotov”; Edited Lars T.Lih; Oleg V. Naumov; and Oleg V. Khlevniuk; Yale 1995; p.318-9.” at: Stalin & China
The situation of the Syrian Ba’th and the Syrian CP was very much the same. The Ba’th were preparing to renege. The Syrian CP was refusing to take the struggle forward, using the guise of preserving the united front. The Ba’th flew emissaries to Egypt offering Nasser an immediate military and political union of Syrian and Egypt. It was well understood that Nasser had brutally suppressed Egyptian communists. The Syrian army was strongly in support of this offer of the Ba’th leadership.
As the Syrian CP refused to go beyond their “national front,” they were dragged further backwards. Rather than oppose Nasser – the “hero” of Suez – they abandoned their prior insistence on a loose federal formula with Egypt. They now outdid the Ba’th, and insisted on a “total union” with Egypt (Ismaels; Ibid; p. 50). Belatedly they again changed tack, but it was now too late.
Nasser had seized the opportunity to accept the disastrous (For Syrian workers and peasants, and national bourgeoisie) formation of the United Arab Republic (UAR) in February 1958. This was the formal amalgamation of Syria and Egypt, and represented an expansionist phase of Egyptian national capital under Nasser. After the UAR was formed, the Arab Socialist Ba’th party was completely dissolved by its leaders on Nasser’s insistence. (Seale Ibid; p. 60). The Syrian CP refused to dissolve. Nasser was never a whole-hearted supporter of the USSR, as evidenced by his treatment of Egyptian communists.
The Egyptian suppression of both Ba’thists and communists proceeded apace. Syria’s rule was transferred to Nassers’ aide, Marshall ‘Amer (Seale Ibid; p. 59).
But when the Iraqi monarchist regime was toppled by the USSR supported military coup of General Abdul Karim Qasssem, the UAR relations became tense with Iraq. Iraq was now a client state of the USSR. Matters became worse for Syrian communists, whose Syrian CP supported Qassem. Qassem refused Nasser’s offer to join in the UAR.
But by 1961, the suppression of native Syrian capital had been so blatant, that the Syrian nationalists allied to the army, launched a coup that separated the states of Egypt and Syria once mere. Strongly supported by Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and Syrian businessmen. Another wing of discontents were led by Hafiz al-Asad in a “Military Committee”. Because the Ba’th leading politicians had first asked for the Union with Egypt, and then reneged on it – they were discredited. The Military Committee members were jailed. This situation allowed the former comprador notables to take control of the state, led by Dr Ma’ruf al-Dawalibi, then Dr Bashir al-‘Azmah, and finally, Khalid al-‘Azm (Seale Ibid p. 72).
The Military Committee now united with the Ba’thists under Michel ‘Aflaq. In the coup of March 1963, the Military Committee took power in a complex coalition with both the Ba’thists and elements of ex-Nasserites. Asad was very much in the background at this stage. When the Nasserites were prompted by Egypt, they tried to seize power. In a pitched battle on 18 July 1963, the Ba’thist loyalists of the army won. In the ensuing years, Asad took control of the Ba’th Party. By 1966 the leading lights of the Ba’th were dealt with – Amin al-Fafiz was arrested; and Michel Aflaq & Salah al-Bitar were expelled (Seale Ibid p.102).
Bakdash had been previously expelled from Syria. When he was now allowed back to Syria in 1966, it was only under severe conditions:
“Khalid Bakdash the veteran leader of the Syrian Communist Party was allowed home after eight years of exile, while for the first time in Syrian History a Communist – Samih ‘Atiyya entered the government as Minister of Communications… Bakdash came home on stringent terms forbidden to hold meetings or make speeches.. “
Seale; Ibid; p. 108-109.
In fact, Bakdash had only been allowed back as a quid pro quo – the Khruschevites had demanded his return in lieu of payment for the construction of the Euphrates dam – only able to be constructed with the Khruschevite “aid.” The other two conditions included the Cabinet post named above to Atiyya – and the permission to publish a CP paper in Damascus. (Ramet Pedro: Ibid; p. 38).
The Syrian state was now fast becoming a client state of neo-USSR imperialism.
There were two primary vehicles for the USSR- the Syrian CP – but now increasingly important – and over-taking the SCP was the Ba’th.
(x) The Syrian CP and the Khruschevite Revisionists
Over the very same period, counter-revolutionary events were taking place inside the USSR. Khrushchev was eliminating the Marxist-Leninists from any state positions. Shepilov, Molotov, Kaganovich, were all removed from any control in the party of the USSR by July 1957.
The positions of the Syrian Communist Party (SCP), were unlikely to recieve revolutionary clarification from the Khruschevites. In particular, a correct approach to the question of United Front in alliance with bourgeois democracy was jeopardised. We have detailed the switches and turns engineered by the revisionists following Stalin’s death, on this question (See Alliance 25: Khruschev Revisionism On The Colonial Question). Bakdash was to launch open polemics with the Khruschevite forces.
As Egypt was an important new semi-colony of the revisionist USSR, the Middle East merited special attention. R.A.Ulianovsky who specialised in national liberation struggles, was an aide to the revisionist Boris Ponomarev, himself an aide to Mikhail Suslov chief party ideologist. Ulianovsky was assigned a special role in the Middle East. Nasser and Ulianovsky came to an understanding over what would supposedly constitute the Arab Socialist Union.
The debate first opened in its new form at the 23rd Congress of the CPSU, in Moscow between 29 March and April 8 1966. Already Khrushchev had denounced Stalin at the 20th Party Congress (February 1956). The issue erupted as to how Communists interacted with bourgeois nationalists in the Middle East.
Bakdash took yet another turn, and now took a correct Marxist-Leninist line, against the Russian revisionists led by Ulianovsky. We believe that it is likely that Bakdash was now becoming concerned that the USSR revisionists were favouring the Ba’th Party as their “vehicle of choice”. He therefore tacked back towards a more correct Marxist-Leninist viewpoint on the question.
Bakdash opened the subsequent printed debate in the Cominform monthly “Problems of Peace and Socialism”, called the “National Liberation Movement and the Communists” (December 1965). Here:
1) Bakdash asserted the independence in united fronts of the Communist parties: In his article he denied that:
“Even though the Soviet Union and other socialist countries pursued a policy of alliance with some of the newly free countries in Asia and Africa, this does not mean that the communist parties and the democratic forces generally must under all circumstances support their governments and renounce the fight for democratic freedoms.”
(Heikal Ibid; pp 157-161).
2) Bakdash asserted that the communists should hold the hegemony in the united front on behalf of the working class:
In fact Bakdash insisted that:
“No other social group, no class and no individual leader could take over the historic mission of the working class. Though he admitted that situations might arise in which another social group of individual leader was ‘carried to the fore on the tide of struggle against fascism, imperialism, feudalism and in some cases, also against the big bourgeoisie.'”
3) Bakdash asserted that bourgeois nationalists should be critically supported:
Bakdash stated that:
“They should be supported, ‘But we must be on our guard against attempts to justify such alliances by spurious theories repudiating the role of the working class.’ Bakdash insisted the proletariat must be the leaders of socialist transformation and the ‘future depends on the struggle between the classes and the outcome of this struggle.'”
4) Bakdash rejected any “populist” variants on Scientific socialism, such as “Arabic socialism”:
“He cast doubts on the argument that those who have come to Marxism partially, can be induced to accept it completely at some future stage- ‘there are those who say that the supporters of the so-called ‘Arab’; ‘African’; or ‘Islamic’ socialism will ultimately discover that the only real socialism is scientific socialism… Experience shows that this is not the case.”
5) Bakdash asserted that socialism required a centralized mass Communist party; that took power; and was not the same as the enactment of simple reforms:
He argued that reforms undertaken in state were NOT the same as establishing socialism, and that the latter is dependent upon the working class being the leaders of the revolution and of the government:
“He rejected the idea that the superstructure in a country always reflected the base: ‘On the contrary internal and domestic factors can cause sudden changes in the superstructure capable of influencing the base’; Referring to land reforms in countries like Algeria and The U.A.R., and Syria, he said that the machinery of state alone, with army and police, was not sufficient to deal with the problems involved:
‘What is needed is an influential authoritative revolutionary mass party enjoying the confidence of the people’… ‘At the same time there are no grounds for saying that the given country has taken the socialist way. To take this view would be tantamount to saying that the leading role in establishing socialism no longer belongs to the working class but has passed over to the nationalist groupings and the small bourgeoisie.'”
6) Finally he rejected the Egyptian variant of Liquidationism.
He openly criticized the Egyptian communist party for dissolving itself, in April 1965. This had been on the advice of the Khruschevites.
“Its members were advised to join the Arab Socialist Union – as individuals.”
(see Heikal Ibid; p. 140-1)
In return the USSR Revisionists, in their turn now chastised Bakdash.
As Heikal says, the official answer to Bakdash came in an article by R.A.Ulianovsky entitled: “Some problems of the Non-Capitalist Development of liberated Countries” – which appeared in the Soviet monthly magazine “Kommunist” for January 1966. Here Ulianovsky repudiated on behalf of Khruschevite revisionism – all these points. (Heikal Ibid; pp.158-161). There, Ulianovsky wrote:
“Life demands the creation of a left-wing bloc in wihhc the more conscious and better equipped Marxist-Leninist elements would play the role of friend and helper of the national democrats….If the Marxist-Leninists undertake this mission in a left-wing bloc they will help the progressives to avoid making mistakes and will thus exert a beneficial influence at critical moments of development”;
Cited heikal; Ibid; pp. 158-159.
Unfortunately, even now, to the best of our knowledge, Bakdash did not yet openly and fully repudiate Khruschevite revisionism.
Later on during the post 1967 Egyptian/Arab war with Israel, after the collusion of the Russians revisionists, with the USA and the state of Israel, in the estruction of the Arab forces, (See Heikal, Ibid; pp 178-183) various attempts were made to enforce a so called “negotiated settlement.”
During this period, Bakdash was asked to comment upon the two rival plans being floated for this “negotiated settlement”. One emanated from Gromyko and the Russian revisionists; one came from the USA imperialists. His comment was revealing:
“After reading the Russian version…He was shown the American proposals. He could not help noticing the similarities, and admitted that there was no Arab Communist who could defend the Gromyko Plan – and no Arab nationalists who could defend it either. Bakdash’s explanation of what had happened was… That the Russians wanted to demonstrate to the Americans that it was the Arabs who were being negative… Bakdash confessed that he was disappointed at the other communist parties over Palestine. ‘We have to admit it,’ he said, ‘That there is a lot of Jewish influence in European Communist parties, and that if it had not been for Soviet influence the resolution on the Middle East at the Moscow Conference would have been weaker. Over Zionism the Rumanians showed themselves more royalist than the king- the Israeli communists were prepared to recognize the rights of the Palestinian people, but the Rumanians refused.'”
Heikal Ibid; p. 195-196.
By 1971 when the Russians formally left Egypt, Khaled Bakdash was again in Moscow, now able to argue that the policy of an un-principled support – to the point of jettisoning the independence of the Communist party – had been proven again to be wrong. But the revisionists had by now created huge damage already in the Middle East (Heikal; Ibid; p. 253).
The later career of Bakdash was however a renewed slide into revisionism.
We believe that Bakdash tried to fight the Soviet revisionist distortions of the revolutionary line in colonial and semi-colonial countries, but ultimately, due to the disintegration of the world communist movement led by revisionism, Bakdash was unable to overcome the world propagation of the new revisionist line, pushed by Moscow. As Heikal puts it:
“There was a considerable contrast between the views of Khaled Bakdash and Ulianovsky – Khaled Bakdash wanted each local party to be an individual entity….whereas Ulianovsky was trying to keep them inside the national organizations.”
(Heikal; Ibid; p.160).
There can be no solution to the problems of Syria’s people until the formation of a new Marxist-Leninist party there.
The “solutions” of Pan-Arabism have been shown to be false.
This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the Alliance issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”
THE EVENTS WHICH ARE TAKING PLACE IN THE MOSLEM COUNTRIES MUST BE SEEN IN THE LIGHT OF DIALECTICAL AND HISTORICAL MATERIALISM
The international situation is very tense at present. In many regions of the world and mainly in the large zone of the oil-producing countries, especially those of Asia, the struggle between the two imperialist superpowers, the United States of America and the Soviet Union, not excluding imperialist China and the other capitalist powers, over the division and re-division of markets and spheres of influence, as they try to elbow one another out, has reached new, major proportions just as our Party correctly predicted long ago. Their pressures and plots are accompanied with diplomatic efforts and a propaganda clamour about “agreements and compromises” allegedly to preserve the peace and the balance of power. In fact, as recent events have shown, we see that agreements and compromises are still the basic principle of their policy towards each other regardless of their very acute rivalry. One day,however, the rivalry between them may reach such a point that they can no longer overcome it and settle matters except through military confrontation. The consequences of such a confrontation will descend upon the peoples, just as has occurred in previous imperialist wars.
The most recent result of this rivalry is the military aggression of the Soviet social-imperialists against Afghanistan, the occupation of that country through armed force by one of the imperialist superpowers. The fact is that what is now being done openly by the Soviets through their armed forces against the sovereignty of the Afghan people had long been prepared by the Soviet social-imperialist chauvinist politicians and military leaders and their Afghan agents. In order to arrive at the present situation, both the former and the latter exploited the overthrow, first of King Mohammed Zahir Shah in 1973 and, later, of Prince Daoud in 1978. They also exploited for their evil aims the desire of the Afghan people for social liberation from the oppression they suffered under the absolute monarchy and its foreign friends, first of all, the Soviets, who financed the monarchy and kept it in power. So, irrespective of the “alliance” which they had with the king of Afghanistan, the Soviet social-imperialists worked and acted for his overthrow. In order to disguise their imperialist aims, at first they brought their men, allegedly with more progressive sentiments, to power. Later, these, too, were changed one after the other, through actions in which blood was shed, by means of putsches and tanks, and Noor Mohammed Taraki and Hafizullah Amin were sent to the slaughter.
Nevertheless, no foreign occupier, however powerful and heavily armed, can keep the people, against whom aggression has been committed, subdued for ever. In every country which is invaded the people, apart from anti-national and anti-popular cliques of agents, receive the foreign aggressors with hatred and resistance, sporadic at first and later with more organized revolts which gradually turn into popular uprisings and liberation wars. We are seeing the proof of this in Afghanistan, where the people have risen and are fighting fiercely in the cities, villages and mountains against the Soviet army of occupation. This war of the Afghan people enjoys the support and sympathy of freedom-loving peoples and revolutionary forces throughout the world. Our people, too, support it with all their might. The war of the Afghan people against the Soviet social-imperialists is a just war, and therefore it will triumph.
The current war of the Afghan people against the Soviet military aggression and the anti-feudal, anti-imperialist, anti-American uprising of the Iranian people must make us reflect somewhat more profoundly, from the political, theoretical and ideological aspects, about another major problem which, in the existing situation of complicated developments in the world, is becoming ever more prominent: the popular uprisings of “Islamic inspiration,” as the bourgeoisie and the revisionists like to describe these movements, simply because the Moslem peoples of the Arab and other countries have placed themselves in the vanguard of the liberation movement. This is a fact, an objective reality. There are insurrectionary movements in those countries. If we were to examine and judge these movements and uprisings of Moslem peoples in an over-simplified and very superficial way as movements simply of an Islamic character, without probing deeply into the true reasons which impel the broad masses of the peoples to advance, we could fall in the positions of the revisionists and imperialists, whose assessments of these movements are denigrating and conceal ambitions to enslave the peoples.
We Marxist-Leninists always understand clearly that religion is opium for the people. In no instance do we alter our view on this and we must not fall into the errors of “religious socialism,” etc. The Moslem religion is no different in this regard. Nevertheless, we see that at present the broad masses of the Moslem peoples in the Arab and other countries have risen or are rising in struggle against imperialism and neo-colonialism for their national and social liberation. These peoples, who were deliberately left in ignorance in the past and remain backward in their world outlook to this day, are now becoming aware of the great oppression and savage exploitation which were imposed on them by the old colonizers and which the new colonizers and the internal feudal-bourgeois capitalist cliques continue to impose on them. They are coming to understand the political-economic reasons for their oppression and, irrespective that they are Moslems and have been left in backwardness, they are displaying great vitality and making an important contribution to the anti-imperialist bourgeois-democratic revolution which opens the way to the proletarian revolution. Those who have adopted and exploited the Moslem religion to exert social oppression over these peoples and to exploit them in the most ferocious ways are the anti-popular oppressive regimes and the reactionary clergy. They have protected and continue to protect their blood-thirsty power through the weapons and support which they have received from abroad, that is, from the imperialist powers, the neo-colonialist robbers, as well as through inciting and developing religious fanaticism. Thus, the development of events is more and more confirming the Marxist-Leninist thesis that the internal enemies collaborate closely with the external enemies to suppress their own peoples and that they use religion as a weapon to oppress the peoples and keep them in darkness.
The events taking place before our eyes show that the Moslem Arab peoples are fighters. Their anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal struggles and uprisings are accompanied with and result in armed clashes. These struggles and uprisings have their source in the savage oppression which is imposed on these peoples and in their freedom-loving and progressive sentiments. If you are not progressive and freedom-loving you cannot rise in struggle for freedom and national independence against the twofold internal and external oppression.
Another social cause and powerful impulse to anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal uprisings is the grave economic situation of these peoples, the burden of hunger and suffering under which they live. Hence, we cannot fail to take into account their political awakening and. to some extent, also their social awakening.
Looking at the whole struggle of the peoples of Moslem belief, we notice that there are marked differences in its level of development: there are periods when it mounts, but also periods of decline or stagnation, the latter caused by various factors and especially, by the pseudo-progressive bourgeoisie which places itself at the head of these peoples.
In Morocco, for example, there has been some movement, but the anti-feudal and anti-imperialist movement of the people of that country is not at the same height as that of other countries. On the contrary, the monarchy and feudalism dominate the Moroccan people, through violence and liberal pseudo-reforms, as well as by exploiting their religious sentiments.
In Algeria the people waged the national liberation war against the French colonialists and, although it was not led by a Marxist-Leninist party but by the national bourgeoisie, the war for national liberation ended with the withdrawal of the foreign occupiers, but it was carried no further…
In Tunisia the people seem to be asleep and very apathetic, are showing little sign of awakening, but they are not all that backward. Recently there was talk about a trade-union movement there and the general secretary of the trade-unions was arrested, but nothing more happened.
In 1952 there was a revolt in Egypt, too. The monarchy was overthrown without bloodshed. King Farouk was expelled from Egypt by a group of officers. Those who removed him from the throne accompanied him to Alexandria, gave him money, put him on board a ship and helped him to get away and save his neck. In other words, they told the monarch he had better leave of his own accord and save his skin, because he could no longer stay in the country, he no longer had any basis there. Thus, the group of officers, headed by Nasser, Naguib and Sadat, carried out what you might call a bloodless military coup against an utterly degenerate monarchy and seized power. What was this group of Egyptian officers that carried out the putsch and what did they represent? These officers were of the bourgeoisie, its representatives, they were anti-British, but amongst them there were also pro-Hitlerites. As I have mentioned, Anwar el-Sadat himself declares he collaborated with the “Desert wolf,” the Nazi field-marshal Rommel.
This event, that is, the removal of Farouk from the throne, was exaggerated to the point of being called a “revolution.” However, the Egyptian people, the working masses of that country, gained nothing from this whole affair. Virtually no reform to the benefit of the people was carried out. The so-called agrarian reform ended up in favour of the feudals and wealthy landowners. Under the disguise of the unity of Arab peoples the newcomers to power tried to bring about the “unification” of Egypt with Syria. However, every effort in this direction was in vain because in Syria, too, at this time the capitalist bourgeoisie in the leadership of the state had simply changed their horses and their patron. The imperialist Soviet Union had replaced France. It sabotaged this baseless «unification» and established itself firmly in that country.
As is known, in 1969 there was a revolt in Libya, too; the dynasty of King Idris was overthrown and a group of young officers, headed by Qaddafi who poses as anti-imperialist, came to power. We can describe this revolt, this movement, as progressive at first, but later it lost its impact and at the moment it has fallen into stagnation. Qaddafi who came to power and claims to be the head of Islam, exploited the Moslem religion to present Libya as a “progressive” country and even called it “socialist,” but in reality the great oil wealth of the country is being exploited for very dubious adventurous and sinister aims. Of course, for purposes of demagogy and because the income from the sale of oil is truly colossal, some changes have been made in the life of the people in the cities, while the poverty-stricken nomads of the desert remain a grave social problem. As we know, Qaddafi was a disciple of Nasser’s in politics, ideology and religious belief, as well as in his aims.
A somewhat more advanced and more revolutionary uprising against the monarchy took place in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, in 1958. It ended with the killing of King Faisal and his prime minister, Nuri Said. The “communists” took power there together with General Kassem, a representative of the liberal officers. Only five years later, however, in 1963, there was a coup d’état and Kassem was executed. He was replaced by another officer, Colonel Aref. In 1968 General Al-Bakr came to the head of the state and the “Baath” Party, a party of the reactionary feudal and compradore bourgeoisie, returned to power.
The events which are occurring in Iran and Afghanistan are a positive example for the peoples of neighbouring states, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the Emirates of the Persian Gulf, Syria, Egypt and many others, but they also constitute a great danger to the ruling cliques of some countries in this region. Hence, the whole Arab world is in ferment, in evolution.
The echo of this anti-feudal, anti-imperialist uprising of the Iranian people which is shaking the economic foundations of imperialism and its ambitions for world hegemony extends as far as Indonesia, but there the movement is weaker than in the countries of Central Asia, the Near and Middle East or even North Africa, where the Islamic religion is more compact and the assets are greater. In those regions, for instance in Iran, there is a progressive awakening of the masses, which for the moment is led generally by religious elements who know how to exploit the sentiments of these peoples for freedom and against oppressive imperialism, the monarchist leaders and rapacious feudal cliques of robbers and murderers, etc., etc. Therefore, we must make a Marxist-Leninist analysis of this situation. We cannot accept the tales that the bourgeois revisionist propaganda, American imperialism and world capitalism are spreading that Ayatollah Khomeini or this one or that in Iran are people who do not understand politics or are just as backward as Imam Ali, Imam Hassan and Imam Hussein were. This is not true. On the contrary, the facts show that people like Khomeini know how to make proper use of the existing movement of these peoples, which, in essence and in fact, is a progressive bourgeois-democratic and anti-imperialist movement.
Employing various ways and means, the different imperialists and social-imperialists are trying to present themselves as supporters of these movements and win them over for their own aims. At present, however, these movements are in their disfavour, are against them. So true is this that the Soviet social-imperialists were obliged to send their tank regiments and tens of thousands of Soviet soldiers into Afghanistan, in other words, to commit an open fascist aggression against an independent country, in order to place and keep in power their local puppets who were incapable of retaining power without the aid of the bayonets and tanks of the Soviet army, the armed forces of the Soviet Union.
Obviously, this event, this Soviet armed occupation of Afghanistan, was bound to have repercussions and cause concern in international public opinion, to arouse great anger and indignation among the freedom-loving peoples and progressive forces and, from the strategic standpoint, to provoke the anger of their rivals for hegemony, especially of the United States of America. In fact we see that these days the American president, Carter, seems to want to make a move, apparently to create difficulties for the Soviet Union and to strengthen his own positions which are growing steadily weaker, wants to take measures to prevent a possible Soviet invasion of Pakistan, or rather, to stop the Soviet social-imperialists from exploiting the anti-imperialist revolutionary sentiments of the Moslem people of Pakistan for their own ends.
The Pakistani people nurture sympathy for the anti-imperialist movement of their Iranian neighbours, and what is occurring in Iran could occur there, too. Precisely to forestall this eventuality, the United States of America, through President Carter, has proposed to the Pakistani government to dispatch 50,000 soldiers to Pakistan and to increase the supplies of arms, allegedly to cope with the Soviet danger. The United States of America sent its Secretary of Defence to China to concretize and activate the Sino-American alliance. During this visit both sides expressed their concern over the extension of the Soviet social-imperialist expansion in this region and, in connection with this, their determination to defend their own and each other’s imperialist interests. The United States of America promised China the most sophisticated modern armaments.
Is there really a Soviet threat to Pakistan? Yes, there is. However, in Pakistan the anger against Zia-ul-Haq, accompanied by sympathy for Khomeini, might erupt even without the intervention of the Soviets. In order to escape the Soviet pressure and the uprising of the Pakistani people, Zia-ul-Haq himself might link up with the Soviets and thus enable them to justify their intervention in Pakistan. That is why the United States of America is revising its military agreements with Pakistan.
For his part, Carter is trying to preserve the balance, because an intervention of the Soviet Union in Pakistan constitutes a threat to American imperialism in that region of the world. Carter must have influence in Pakistan, also, because that country has a “defence treaty” with the United States of America. Apart from this, in the new situation which has been created in these times in Central Asia, Carter also sees other dangers, such as the return to power of Indira Gandhi who is pursuing her pro-Soviet policy. If the Soviets are able to strengthen their position in India, which is in conflict with Pakistan, the latter country might be more vulnerable from the Soviet side, in other words, the penetration of Soviet influence there would be made easier and would increase. That is why the American imperialists want to forestall the eventuality of a military intervention or the build-up of the Soviet influence in Pakistan. On the other hand, the United States of America is very concerned about the possibility of Soviet pressure on Iran under the pretext of aid against the threats made to that country by American imperialism.
It is clear that the peoples of this region are Moslems and when we say this we have in mind the fact that the majority of them are believers, but their belief is relative and does not predominate over politics. There are also progressive people there who believe in and respect the Koran and religion more as a custom and tradition. When we speak about the overwhelming majority, we have in mind that part of the people to whom the Moslem religion has been presented as a liberal progressive religion which serves the interests of the people and to whom everything preached in its name “is for the good of the people,” because “to wash, to pray and to fast is for the benefit of the health, the physical strengthening and spiritual satisfaction of man,” etc., etc. In other words, people are told that the rites of this religion are “useful” not only for this life but also for the “next life,” after death. This is preached openly. However, the poverty and oppression, schooling and a certain political development have shaken the foundations of this belief.
In general, from all these events and developments, we see that the imperialists and the social-imperialists are in difficulties in these regions of the world. It is understandable that their puppets, likewise, are in difficulties. Both for the former and for the latter it is the progressive, anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal revolutionary movement of the popular masses of the Moslem Arab peoples, whether Shia or Sunni, that is the cause of these great difficulties. The whole situation in this region is positive, good, and indicates a revolutionary situation and a major movement of these peoples. At the same time, though, we see efforts made by the enemies of these peoples to restrain this movement or to alter its direction and intensity.
Hence, we must regard these situations, these movements and uprisings of these peoples as revolutionary social movements, irrespective that at first sight they have a religious character or that believers or non-believers take part in them, because they are fighting against foreign imperialism and neo-colonialism or the local monarchies and oppressive feudalism. History gives us many positive examples in this direction when broad revolutionary movements of the popular masses have had a religious character outwardly. Among them we can list the Babist movements in Iran 1848-1851; the Wahabi movement in India which preceded the great popular uprising against the British colonizers in the years 1857-1859; the peasant movements at the time of the Reformation in the 16th century which swept most of the countries of Europe and especially Germany. The Reformation itself, although dressed in a religious cloak, represented a broad socio-political movement against the feudal system and the Catholic Church which defended that system.
When the vital interests, the freedom and independence of a people are violated, they rise in struggle against any aggressor, even though that aggressor may be of the same religion. This is what occurred, for example, in North Yemen in 1962 when Nasser sent the Egyptian army allegedly to aid that country. Later he was compelled to remove the troops he had sent to Yemen, because a stern conflict began between the people of that country and the Egyptian army, irrespective that both sides professed the one religion.
In South Yemen, with a population of Moslem believers, there was a popular revolutionary movement against British imperialism which owned the port of Aden. Britain would never have left the port of Aden voluntarily, because it constitutes a very important strategic key to the Indian Ocean and the entrance to the Red Sea, but it was the anti-imperialist struggle of the people of Yemen that compelled it to clear out, because remaining there became impossible. After this, in 1970 a “popular democratic” regime which gradually came under the influence of the Soviet social-imperialists, was formed in South Yemen. The revolutionary movement against Soviet social-imperialism is bound to flare up there, if not today certainly in the near future.
Throughout the Principality of Oman there is an anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist revolutionary movement which is also opposed to the ruling Sultan. A similar situation will develop in Ethiopia, Somalia, the countries of the Persian Gulf, etc.
The peoples of the countries of this region are all religious, believe in the Koran and Mohammed, and link the question of the struggle against imperialist oppression with their religion. This is a reality. Obviously, however, we cannot come to the conclusion that it is religion which is causing these revolts and this revolutionary awakening. By no means. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact that these peoples believe in the Moslem religion and, at the same time, are fighting heroically for their national and social liberation against imperialism of every hue.
Before Liberation there were people who professed the Moslem religion in Albania, but there was no fanaticism. In the Arab or Moslem countries of Central Asia, too, the classical fanaticism of the past cannot exist, especially today. Such fanaticism can exist neither among the Moslems nor among the Catholics, the Calvinists and other schisms of Christianity. We must not forget the epoch in which we are living. We cannot fail to bear in mind the great development of science today, the growth and strengthening of the revolutionary proletariat and the spread of the ideas of Marxism-Leninism. Today the reactionary religious leaders, lackeys of the feudal order and oppressive monarchies linked with them, who want to keep the people in ignorance and bondage and to combat their liberation movements, incite fanaticism in its classical sense in those countries.
In regard to Khomeini, he is a religious leader, a dedicated believer and an idealist philosopher. He may even be a fanatic, but we see that, at the same time, he is in accord and united with the revolutionary spirit of the Iranian people. Khomeini has taken the side of the opponents of the monarchy. The imperialist bourgeoisie, the supporters of the Pahlavi monarchy and other reactionary forces in the world say that he wants to become a monarch himself. Let them say this, but the fact is that the anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal liberation movement in Iran is in the ascendancy and Khomeini still maintains a good stand in regard to this movement.
What is occurring in Iran might occur also in Pakistan or in the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, it may spark off a revolutionary situation in some other neighbouring country and even in the Soviet Union itself, because social-imperialism and revisionism carry national oppression everywhere and, as a consequence, arouse the national liberation sentiments of the peoples. Socialism and the Marxist-Leninist theory alone provide a just solution to the national question. Today the national rights of nations and peoples have been violated and trampled underfoot in the Soviet Union and wherever American imperialism and international capitalism rule. There is great oppression there, logically, therefore, there will certainly be movement.
We must examine and analyse the present events in Iran as they take place and draw conclusions from them on the basis of the teachings of our Marxist-Leninist theory. In the vanguard of the active forces in the uprising against imperialism and the monarchy in that country, are the religious zealots, the student youth, the workers and intellectuals. So, neither the proletariat nor a genuine Marxist-Leninist party is in the leadership of the movement. On this question we must also bear in mind the fact that we do not really know the strength and the basis of the different political currents in that movement. We know from experience that in our country, too, the working class was not developed, nevertheless, since the objective and subjective factors existed in the conditions of the occupation and the National Liberation War, the Party led the people to victory by basing itself on Marxism-Leninism, which means it put the working class and its vanguard, in other words itself, in the leadership. This is not the case in Iran. In that country there is a Marxist-Leninist party, the Workers and Peasants’ Communist Party of Iran, a young party which, has just been formed, but it is still small, untempered, not linked with the working class and the masses, etc., while the revisionist “Tudeh” Party has existed legally and illegally, is now legal again, but is a tool of the Soviet Union. Hiding behind Marxist-Leninist slogans, this party is sabotaging the anti-imperialist revolutionary struggle of the Iranian people and trying to bring Iran into the sphere of influence and under the thraldom of the Soviet Union. That is why the Moslem people of Iran, who have risen in revolution, are not acquainted with Marxism-Leninism either as a theory or a revolutionary practice. The students who are studying at Iran’s Moslem universities with great traditions and of the Shia Moslem sect, are both believers and non-believers in religion. In regard to the secular progressive elements there are those who believe in and are fighting for a liberal bourgeois-democratic state, those who believe in a “progressive” capitalist but anti-communist society, and those who still think that the Soviet Union is a socialist country which represents and applies Leninism. This is one of the reasons that genuine Marxism-Leninism has still not won acceptance in Iran, therefore the people there are fighting for liberation from the yoke of American imperialism and from Soviet influence, but under the banner of Islam. This means that the Shia Moslem clergy are in the leadership, in the vanguard of the uprising, but we have no illusions and know that they are for a bourgeois capitalist regime with religious predominance, hence, a theocratic regime. As to what course the movement against American imperialism and the barbarous compradore monarchy of the Pahlavis will take in the future, this depends mainly on the seething internal forces.
What general definition can be made of these forces?
In the present world situation and at the existing stage of the movement of the peoples for their national and social liberation, the popular revolution in Iran represents a new stage. Regardless of what others do or say, we must document this stage more carefully and make a critical Marxist-Leninist analysis of it.
Iran is a country very rich in oil, hence, has a working class comprised of oil workers and other industrial workers, but also has artisans. Of Iran’s 33 million inhabitants about 17 million are in the countryside and work the land. They are poverty-stricken, oppressed and exploited to the limit by the mullahs, the religious institutions, the big-landed bourgeoisie in the service of the Pahlavis, by the wealthy mercantile and money-lending bourgeoisie linked with the monarchy. Of the total population of Iran 99 per cent are of the Moslem religion and the majority of the Shia sect.
The Pahlavi regime was one of the most barbarous, the most bloodthirsty, the most exploiting, the most corrupt of the modern world. It employed bloodshed and terror to suppress any progressive movement, any even mildly liberal demonstration, any protest or strike of workers or students, and any attempt to develop a small-scale, auxiliary subsistance economy. The savage dictatorship of the Pahlavis was based on the big feudal landowners, the wealthy property-owners that the regime created, the reactionary army and the officer caste which ran it, and on SAVAK , the secret police, which the Shah himself described as “a state within a state.” The Pahlavis ruled by means of terror, robbed the people, enriched themselves in scandalous ways, were the personification of moral and political degeneration, were partners with and sold out to British and American and other imperialisms. The Pahlavis had become the most heavily armed gendarmes of the Persian Gulf under the orders of the CIA.
Iran was oppressed, but the people were seething with revolt, although wholesale executions were carried out every day. The ayatollahs who were discontented with the regime began to move. In 1951, Mossadeq, a representative of the bourgeoisie, supported by the mullahs opposed to the Shah, and by the “Tudeh” Party, seized power. In 1953 the Shah was driven out, but his overthrow and departure were not final, because the CIA organized a putsch, overthrew Mossadeq, brought the Shah back to Iran and restored him to the throne. Thus, Iran became the property of the Americans and the Shah and its oil became their powerful weapon.
It is characteristic of the revolt of the Iranian people that, despite the great terror, it was not quelled, but continued spasmodically, in different forms and in different intensities. This revolutionary process steadily built up in quality and overcame the stage of fear of suppression
Despite the great terror, in 1977 the opposition to the Shah began to be displayed more forcibly, became more open and active. If we follow these trends opposed to the Shah and his regime separately we shall see that they are to some extent autonomous, but have a common strategy. Thus, we see the opposition of Mossadeq’s supporters, the resistance of the religious forces, the actions and demonstrations of the students, the stands of intellectuals, officials, writers, poets and artists against the regime expressed at rallies, in the universities and in other public places, etc., and together with all these currents we also see the self-defence and resistance of the working class and the whole oppressed and exploited people. SAVAK attacked mercilessly, but the suppression and executions only added to the anger of the masses. This resistance turned into a permanent activity.
In the same period we see the re-awakening of the political opposition of Mossadeq’s supporters in the National Front. One of the elements of this current was Shapour Bakhtiar, who became prime minister on the eve of the overthrow of Shah Pahlavi. This was the last shot of the Shah and the American imperialists against the Iranian anti-imperialist revolution and Khomeini.
In the course of the development of this political opposition, the “Movement for the Liberation of Iran,” the “Iran Party,” and the “Socialist League of the National Movement of Iran,” broke away. The “Movement for the Liberation of Iran,” which was headed by Bazargan, who became prime minister after the departure of the Shah, was closer to Khomeini and the other imams.
We must always bear in mind that neither this political opposition, nor the religious opposition to the Pahlavis was united. Some of those who comprised this opposition were against the so-called agrarian reform, against the right of women to vote, etc. This section, which comprised conservative clergy, was steadily losing its influence amongst the masses, who were moving closer to that part of the clergy who openly fought the dictatorship of the Shah on the basis of the Shia principles of the Moslem religion. One of these was Ayatollah Khomeini, who was imprisoned, tortured, imprisoned again, and sent into exile and his son murdered. This enhanced the influence of the imam among the people, in the “Bazaar” (the main market centre of Tehran), hence, amongst the merchants, and also amongst the workers. In the rising tide of agitation and the great demonstrations against the Shah, the masses demanded the return of the Imam to the homeland. The death of his son and of a political personality, Ali Shariat, in mysterious circumstances led to the emergence of the religious elements in the forefront of the clashes and the whole people united with them, especially in Tabriz on February 18-19, 1977, as well as in Tehran, Qum and other Iranian cities. Al l this testifies to the fighting spirit of the people of Iran. As a result the Pahlavi monarchy was quite incapable of resisting the repeated waves of the onslaught of the insurgent people.
Hence, in this climate of progressive insurgency against feudalism, the monarchy and imperialism, the Marxist-Leninists must analyse the various political trends, the orientations of these trends, the alliances and contradictions between them inside Iran and with the capitalist-revisionist world outside that country.
At present we see an active and militant unity of the uprising against American imperialism and the Shah and, to some extent, also against Soviet social-imperialism, and, at the same time, we also see increased vigilance and opposition towards all other capitalist states, though not so open and active as against the Americans. This situation will certainly undergo evolution. We see that the universities in Iran have become centres of fiery manifestations with both political and religious tendencies, and likewise see that the religious opposition and the political opposition are uniting. Thus, despite the contradictions which exist between them, it seems that the supporters of Mossadeq and those of Khomeini are moving closer together. In Tabriz, which has an important working class, apart from the oil workers, we can say that this unity has been brought about. Similar things are taking place at Abadan and the other regions where there are oil-fields and refineries.
The Iranian Marxist-Leninists must, in particular, submit the strength and orientations of the working class to a Marxist-Leninist analysis and then their party must base its activity on this analysis, go among the working class, educate it and clarify it politically and ideologically, while tempering itself together with the working class in this revolutionary class struggle which, far from being ended, has only begun and will certainly assume diverse aspects. The revolutionary activity of the working class and the Marxist-Leninist ideology alone must become the factor deciding the correct directions which this anti-imperialist revolution must take. Certainly, in the present situation in Iran much can and must be gained from the revolutionary force of the Iranian working class, by the progressive elements, and especially by the students and the poor and middle peasantry.
The Marxist-Leninists will be committing a mistake if they do not understand the situation created and do not utilize it in the right way, if they come out as anti-religious fighters and thus damage their anti-imperialist and anti-feudal unity with the followers of Ayatollah Khomeini and the followers of Mossadeq’s, Bazargan’s or others’ anti-imperialist bourgeois-democratic parties and movements.
Although anti-religious in their principles, the Iranian Marxist-Leninists must not for the moment wage a struggle against the religious beliefs of the people who have risen in revolt against oppression and are waging a just struggle politically, but are still unformed ideologically and will have to go through a great school in which they will learn. The Marxist-Leninists must teach the people to assess the events that are taking place in the light of dialectical and historical materialism. However, our world outlook cannot be assimilated easily in isolation from the revolutionary drive of the masses or from the anti-imperialist trends that are trying to remain in the leadership and to manoeuvre to prevent the bourgeois-democratic reforms of the revolution. The Iranian Marxist-Leninists and working class must play a major role in those revolutionary movements, having a clear understanding of the moments they are going through; they must not let the revolution die down. The working class and its true Marxist-Leninist vanguard should have no illusions about the “deep-going” bourgeois-democratic measures and reforms which the Shia clergy or the anti-Shah elements of the old and new national bourgeoisie might carry out. Certainly, if the working class, the poor peasantry and the progressive students, whether believers or non-believers, allow the impetus of the revolution to ebb away, which means that they do not proceed with determination and maturity towards alliances and activities conducive to successive political and socio-economic reforms, then the revolution will stop halfway, the masses will be disillusioned and the exploitation of them will continue in other forms by pseudo-democratic people linked in new alliances with the different imperialists.
These special new revolutionary situations which are developing among the peoples of Islamic religious beliefs must be studied, conclusions must be drawn from them and new forms of struggle, action and alliances must be found. These revolutionary situations are much more advanced than those in Europe and Asia and, to some degree, even Latin America, where the revolutionary movements have assumed a petrified form, linked with and led by reformist and counter-revolutionary social-democracy and modern revisionism.
For instance, we do not see such revolts of a marked revolutionary political spirit occur in Europe where there is a big and powerful proletariat. For what reasons? For all those reasons which are known and have to do with the grave counter-revolutionary influence and sabotage of social-democracy and modern revisionism. The question is not that there is no exploitation on our continent, and therefore there are no movements. No, here, too, there is exploitation and there are movements, but they are of another nature. They are not “very deep-going, Marxist-Leninist revolutionary movements” which are waiting “for the situation to ripen,” etc., as the social-democrats, revisionists and other lackeys of the capitalist bourgeoisie describe them. No, the capitalist bourgeoisie itself and its lackeys do not permit such situations to ripen, do not permit such occurrences as are going on at present in the Arab-Moslem countries, where the revolutionary masses rise in struggle and create difficult situations for imperialism, feudalism and the cosmopolitan capitalist bourgeoisie.
Some claim that the Arab peoples and the peoples of the other Moslem countries are moving, because they are “poor!” Indeed, they are poor. But those who say this must admit that they themselves have become bourgeois and that is why they do not rise against oppression and exploitation, while the truth is that capitalism barbarously oppresses and exploits the peoples everywhere, without exception.
It is claimed, also, that in the countries of Islamic religion, the “masses are backward,” therefore, they are easily set in motion. This means that those who support this reasoning have degenerated and are not for revolution, because at a time when capitalism is in decay, honest people must be revolutionary and rise in struggle against capitalism, aiming the weapons they posses against it. Here, in Europe, however, we do not see such a thing. On the contrary, we see the “theory” of adaptation to the existing situation being preached.
Political debates are organized all over the capitalist countries. It has become fashionable for the social-democrats, the Christian-democrats, the revisionists and all sorts of other people in these countries to talk about “revolution” and allegedly revolutionary actions, and each of them tries in his own way to confuse and mislead the working masses with these slogans. The “leftists” scream for “revolutionary measures,” but immediately set the limits, “explaining” that “revolutionary measures must not be undertaken everywhere and in all fields,” but that only “certain changes must be made,” that is, a few crumbs must be thrown to the masses, who are demanding radical revolutionary changes, in order to deceive them and to hinder and sabotage the revolutionary drive of the masses.
We must analyse these situations and phenomena in theoretical articles or in other forms and with other means of our propaganda on the Marxist-Leninist course, with the aim of explaining the essence of the revolt and uprisings of peoples against imperialism, neo-colonialism and local rulers, of explaining the question of the survival of old religious traditions, etc. This does not rule out our support for liberation movements, because such movements occurred even before the time of Marx, as mentioned above. To wait until religion is first eliminated and carry out the revolution only after this, is not in favour of the revolution or the peoples.
In the situation today, the people who have risen in revolt and believe in religion are no longer at the stage of consciousness of Spartacus, who rose against the Roman Empire, against the slave-owners, but they are seething with revolt against the barbarous oppression and exploitation and policy of imperialism and social-imperialism. The slaves’ revolt led by Spartacus, as Marx and Engels explain, was progressive, as were the beginnings of Christianity.
In these very important situations we see that the other peoples of Africa have risen, too, but not with the force and revolutionary drive of the Arab peoples, the Iranians, etc. This is another problem which must be examined in order to find the reasons why they, too, do not rise and why they are not inspired to the same level as the peoples that I mentioned. It is true that the African peoples are oppressed, too, indeed, much more oppressed than the Arab peoples, the Iranians and others. Likewise, Marxism has still not spread to the proper extent in Africa, and then there is also the influence of religion, although not on the same scale as in the Moslem countries. Work must be done in Africa to disseminate the Marxist-Leninist theory more extensively and deeply. That is even more virgin terrain, with oppressed peoples, amongst whom the sense of religion is still in an infantile stage. There are peoples in Africa who still believe in the heavenly powers of the sun, the moon, magic, etc., they have pagan beliefs which have not crystallized into an ideology and a concrete theology such as the Moslem religion, let alone the Christian or Buddhist religions and their sects. Although there is savage oppression and exploitation in Africa, the movement in this region of the world is developing more slowly. This is because the level of social development in Africa is lower.
If we take these questions and examine them in unity, we shall see that at the present stage of development, Islam as a whole is playing an active role in the anti-imperialist liberation struggles of the Moslem peoples, while in the European countries and some other countries where the Catholic religion operates, preaching the submissive Christian philosophy of “turn the other cheek,” its leaders take a reactionary stand and try to hinder the movement, therevolt, the uprising of the masses for national and social liberation. Of course, in those countries the oppressive power of the bourgeoisie and capitalism, social-democracy and modern revisionism is greater, but the Catholic religion, too, serves to suppress the revolutionary spirit of the masses in order to keep the situation in stagnation.
From the stand-point of economic development the Moslem peoples have been held back; as a consequence of colonialist occupation and colonialist and neo-colonialist exploitation in past decades the Moslem religion in those countries was suppressed by the Catholic or Protestant religions which were represented by the foreign invaders, a thing which has not passed without consequences and without resistance, and herein we might find a political and ideological-religious reason for the anti-imperialist revolution of the Moslem peoples.
The question presents itself that we should look at the present stage of development of the Moslem religion as compared with past centuries. The development of human society has exerted an influence that has made the Moslem religious belief less and less functional. That is, it has been infiltrated by a certain liberalism which is apparent in the fact that, while the Moslem believer truly believes in the Islamic religion, today he is no longer like the believer of the Middle Ages or the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
Today the veiled women in the Moslem countries have those same feelings which our veiled women had before Liberation, as for example in Kavaja [town in central Albania – E.S.] although, of course, not completely those of women as progressive as ours were. Nevertheless, the feelings of revolt exist deep in their hearts, and are expressed to the extent that public opinion permits. Today the Iranian women are involved in the broad movement of the Iranian people against the Shah and imperialism.
Hence, we see that religious oppression exists in the countries with Moslem populations, too, but the religion itself has undergone a certain evolution, especially in its outward manifestations. Let me make this quite clear, religion has not disappeared in those countries, but a time has come in which the spirit of revolt, on the one hand, and the liberalization of the religion, on the other, are impelling people who believe in the Islamic dogmas to rise against those who call themselves religious and want to exercise the former norms of the religion in order to suppress the peoples and keep them in poverty. Their struggle against imperialists, whom they continue to call infidels, that is, their enemies, enemies of their religion, is linked precisely with this. These peoples understand that the foreign occupiers are people of Catholic or Protestant beliefs who want to oppress both countries and religions. The westerners call this religious antagonism, which also contains the class antagonism against foreign occupiers, simply a religious struggle, or apply other incorrect denigrating epithets to it. This is how they are treating the liberation struggles of the Moslem peoples of Arab and non-Arab countries in Asia and Africa today and even the liberation struggle of the Irish people, most of whom are Catholics, against the British occupiers who are Protestants. At the same time, we see incorrect manifestations also among the Moslem peoples who have risen in revolt. They, too, say: “The Giaours, unscrupulous people who are against our religion, are oppressing us,” etc. In this way they link the question of national liberation with the religious question, that is, they see the social and economic oppression which is imposed on them by imperialism as religious oppression. In the future the other Moslem peoples will certainly reach that stage of development which the people of Algeria, Syria and some other countries have reached on these matters.
These struggles lead not only to increased sympathy for the peoples who rise in revolt, but also to unity with them, because they are all Moslems. If a people rise against imperialism and the reactionary chiefs ruling their country, who use religion as a means of oppression, this uprising destroys the sense of religion even among those who believe in it at the moment. When a people rise in insurrection against oppression, then the revolutionary sentiment is extended and deepened and people reach the stage which makes them think somewhat more clearly about the question of religion. Until yesterday the poor peasant in Iran said only “inshallah!” and comforted himself with this, but now he understands that nothing can be gained through “inshallah!” In the past all these peoples said, “Thus it has been decreed,” but now the masses of believers have risen united and come out in the streets, arms in hand, to demand their rights and freedom. And certainly, when they demand to take the land, the peasants in those countries will undoubtedly have to do battle for the great possessions of the religious institutions, that is, with the clergy. That is why the sinister forces of reaction are making such a great fuss about the fanatical aspect, about the question of putting the women back under the veil, etc., etc., because they are trying to discredit the Iranian revolution, because imperialism and world capitalism have a colossal support in religion. This is how matters stand with the Vatican, too, with the policy of that great centre of the most reactionary world obscurantism, with the mentality and outlook of Catholics. But the revolution disperses the religious fog. This will certainly occur with the Arab peoples, with the other Moslem peoples, who are rising in insurrection, and with the peoples of other faiths, that is, there will be progress towards the disappearance, the elimination of religious beliefs and the religious leadership. This is a major problem.
Here we are talking about whole peoples who are rising in revolt in the Moslem countries, whether Arab or otherwise. There are no such movements in Europe. On this continent social-democratic reformist parties and forces operate. The number of Marxist-Leninist parties here is still small, while there are big revisionist parties, which operate contrary to people’s interests and sentiments, have lost credibility among the masses, and support capitalism, imperialism and social-imperialism. The Moslem peoples of the Arab and non-Arab countries trust neither the American imperialists nor the Soviet social-imperialists, because they represent great powers which are struggling to oppress and plunder the Moslem peoples; also, as Moslems they put no trust in the religious beliefs of those powers.
As a result, the uprising which is developing in Iran and Afghanistan is bound to have consequences throughout the Moslem world. Hence, if the Marxist-Leninist groups, our comrades in these and other countries of this region properly understand the problems emerging from the events in Iran, Afghanistan and other Moslem countries, then all the possibilities exist for them to do much work. However, they must work cautiously there. In those countries religion cannot be eliminated with directives, extremist slogans or erroneous analyses. In order to find the truth we must analyse the activity of those forces in the actual circumstances, because many things, true and false, are being said about them, as is occurring with Ayatollah Khomeini, too. True, he is religious, but regardless of this, analysis must be made of his anti-imperialist attitudes and actions, which, willy-nilly, bring grist to the mill of the revolution.
This whole development of events is very interesting. Here the question of religion is entangled with political issues, in the sympathy and solidarity between peoples. What I mean is that if the leadership of a certain country were to rise against the revolt of the Iranian people, then it would lose its political positions within the country and the people would rise in opposition, accuse the government of links with the United States of America, with the “giaours,” because they are against Islam. This is because these peoples see Islam as progressive, while the United States represents that force which oppresses them, not only from the social aspect but also from the spiritual aspect. That is why we see that none of these countries is coming out openly to condemn the events in Iran.
Another obstacle which reaction is using to sabotage the revolution of the Iranian people is that of inciting feuds and raising the question of national minorities. Reaction is inciting the national sentiments in Azerbaijan, inciting the Kurds, etc., etc., in order to weaken this great anti-imperialist and “pro-Moslem” uprising of the Iranian people. The incitement of national sentiments has been and is a weapon in the hands of imperialism and social-imperialism and all reaction to sabotage the anti-imperialist and national liberation wars. Therefore, the thesis of our Party that the question of settling the problems of national minorities is not a major problem at present, is correct. Now the Kurds, the Tadjiks, the Azerbaijanis and others ought to rise in struggle against imperialism and its lackeys and, if possible, rise according to the teachings and inspiration of Marxism-Leninism. The Kurds, the Tadjiks and the Azerbaijanis who live in the Soviet Union and are oppressed and enslaved today, must rise, first of all, against Russian social-imperialism.
In broad outline this is how the situation in these regions presents itself and these are some of the problems which emerge. The events will certainly develop further. Our task is to analyse these situations and events which are taking place in the Moslem world, using the Marxist-Leninist theory as the basis, and to define our stands so that they assist a correct understanding of these events, and thus, make our contribution to the successful development of the people’s revolutionary movement.
Enver Hoxha, “Reflections on the Middle East,” Tirana; 1984; pp. 355-392
The following entry is from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.
World War I (1914–18)
an imperialist war between two coalitions of capitalist powers for a redivision of the already divided world (a repartition of colonies, spheres of influence, and spheres for the investment of capital) and for the enslavement of other peoples. At first, the war involved eight European states: Germany and Austria-Hungary against Great Britain, France, Russia, Belgium, Serbia, and Montenegro. Later, most of the countries in the world entered the war (see Table 1). A total of four states fought on the side of the Austro-German bloc; 34 states, including four British dominions and the colony of India, all of which signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, took part on the side of the Entente. On both sides, the war was aggressive and unjust. Only in Belgium, Serbia, and Montenegro did it include elements of a war of national liberation.
Although imperialists from all the principal belligerent powers were involved in unleashing the war, the party chiefly to blame was the German bourgeoisie, who began World War I at the “moment it thought most favorable for war, making useof its latest improvements in military matériel and forestalling the rearmament already planned and decided upon by Russia and France” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 26, p. 16).
The immediate cause of World War I was the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, by Serbian nationalists on June 15 (28), 1914, in Sarajevo, Bosnia. German imperialists decided to take advantage of this favorable moment to unleash the war. Under German pressure, Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to Serbia on July 10 (23). Although the Serbian government agreed to meet almost all of the demands in the ultimatum, Austria-Hungary broke diplomatic relations with Serbia on July 12 (25) and declared war on Serbia on July 15 (28). Belgrade, the Serbian capital, was shelled. On July 16 (29), Russia began mobilization in the military districts bordering on Austria-Hungary and on July 17 (30) proclaimed a general mobilization. On July 18 (31), Germany demanded that Russia halt its mobilization and, receiving no reply, declared war on Russia on July 19 (Aug. 1). Germany declared war on France and Belgium on July 21 (Aug. 3). On July 22 (Aug. 4), Great Britain declared war on Germany. The British dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa) and Britain’s largest colony, India, entered the war on the same day. On Aug. 10 (23), Japan declared war on Germany. Italy formally remained a member of the Triple Alliance but declared its neutrality on July 20 (Aug. 2), 1914.
Causes of the war. At the turn of the 20th century capitalism was transformed into imperialism. The world had been almost completely divided up among the largest powers. The uneven-ness of the economic and political development of various countries became more marked. The states that had been late in embarking on the path of capitalist development (the USA, Germany, and Japan) advanced rapidly, competing successfully on the world market with the older capitalist countries (Great Britain and France) and persistently pressing for a repartition of the colonies. The most acute conflicts arose between Germany and Great Britain, whose interests clashed in many parts of the globe, especially in Africa, East Asia, and the Middle East, focal points of German imperialism’s trade and colonial expansion. The construction of the Baghdad Railroad aroused grave alarm in British ruling circles. The railroad would provide Germany with a direct route through the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor to the Persian Gulf and guarantee Germany an important position in the Middle East, thus threatening British land and sea communications with India.
France, rooted in the desire of German capitalists to secure permanent possession of Alsace and Lorraine, which had been taken from France as a result of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, and in the determination of the French to regain these provinces. French and German interests also clashed on the colonial issue. French attempts to seize Morocco met with determined resistance from Germany, which also claimed this territory.
Contradictions between Russia and Germany began to increase in the late 19th century. The expansion of German imperialism in the Middle East and its attempts to establish control over Turkey infringed on Russian economic, political, and strategic interests. Germany used its customs policy to limit the importation of grain from Russia, imposing high duties while simultaneously making sure that German industrial goods could freely penetrate the Russian market.
In the Balkans, there were profound contradictions between Russia and Austria-Hungary, caused primarily by the expansion of the Hapsburg monarchy, with Germany’s support, into the neighboring South Slav lands (Bosnia, Hercegovina, and Serbia). Austria-Hungary intended to establish its superiority in the Balkans. Russia, which supported the struggle of the Balkan peoples for freedom and national independence, considered the Balkans its own sphere of influence. The tsarist regime and the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie wanted to take over the Bosporus and Dardanelles to strengthen their position in the Balkans.
There were many disputed issues between Great Britain and France, Great Britain and Russia, Austria-Hungary and Italy, and Turkey and Italy, but they were secondary to the principal contradictions, which existed between Germany and its rivals— Great Britain, France, and Russia. The aggravation and deepening of these contradictions impelled the imperialists toward a repartition of the world, but “under capitalism, the repartitioning of ‘world domination’ could only take place at the price of a world war” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 34, p. 370).
The class struggle and the national liberation movement grew stronger during the second decade of the 20th century. The Revolution of 1905–07 in Russia had an enormous influence on the upsurge in the struggle of the toiling people for their social and national liberation. There was considerable growth in the working-class movement in Germany, France, and Great Britain. The class struggle reached its highest level in Russia, where a new revolutionary upsurge began in 1910 and an acute political crisis ripened. National liberation movements grew broader in Ireland and Alsace (the Zabern affair, 1913), and the struggle of the enslaved peoples of Austria-Hungary became more extensive. The imperialists sought to use war to suppress the developing liberation movement of the working class and oppressed peoples in their own countries and to arrest the world revolutionary process.
For many years the imperialists prepared for a world war as a means of resolving foreign and domestic contradictions. The initial step was the formation of a system of military-political blocs, beginning with the Austro-German Agreement of 1879, under which the signatories promised to render assistance to each other in case of war with Russia. Seeking support in its struggle with France for possession of Tunisia, Italy joined Austria-Hungary and Germany in 1882. Thus, the Triple Alliance of 1882, or the alliance of the Central Powers, took shape in central Europe. Initially directed against Russia and France, it later included Great Britain among its main rivals.
To counterbalance the Triple Alliance, another coalition of European powers began to develop. The Franco-Russian Alliance of 1891–93 provided for joint actions by the two countries in case of aggression by Germany or by Italy and Austria-Hungary supported by Germany. The growth of German economic power in the early 20th century forced Great Britain to gradually renounce its traditional policy of splendid isolation and seek rapprochement with France and Russia. The Anglo-French agreement of 1904 settled various colonial disputes between Great Britain and France, and the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907 reinforced the understanding between Russia and Great Britain regarding their policies in Tibet,Afghanistan, and Iran. These documents created the Triple Entente (or agreement), a bloc opposed to the Triple Alliance and made up of Great Britain, France, and Russia. In 1912, Anglo-French and Franco-Russian naval conventions were signed, and in 1913 negotiations were opened for an Anglo-Russian naval convention.
The formation of military-political groupings in Europe, as well as the arms race, further aggravated imperialist contradictions and increased international tensions. A relatively tranquil period of world history was followed by an epoch that was“much more violent, spasmodic, disastrous, and conflicting” (ibid., vol. 27, p. 94). The worsening of imperialist contradictions was evident in the Moroccan crises of 1905–06 and 1911, the Bosnian crisis of 1908–09, the Italo-Turkish War of 1911–12, and the Balkan Wars of 1912–13. In December 1913, Germany provoked a major international conflict by sending a military mission under the command of General O. Liman von Sanders to Turkey to reorganize and train the Turkish Army.
In preparation for a world war the ruling circles of the imperialist states established powerful war industries, based on large state plants: armaments, explosives, and ammunition plants, as well as shipyards. Private enterprises were drawn into the production of military goods: Krupp in Germany, Skoda in Austria-Hungary, Schneider-Creusot and St. Chamond in France, Vickers and Armstrong-Whitworth in Great Britain, and the Putilov Works and other plants in Russia.
The imperialists of the two hostile coalitions put a great deal of effort into building up their armed forces. The achievements of science and technology were placed in the service of war. More sophisticated armaments were developed, including rapid-fire magazine rifles and machine guns, which greatly increased the firepower of the infantry. In the artillery the number of rifled guns of the latest design increased sharply. Of great strategic importance was the development of the railroads, which made it possible to significantly speed up the concentration and deployment of large masses of troops in the theaters of operations and to provide an uninterrupted supply of personnel replacements and matériel to the armies in the field. Motor vehicle transport began to play an increasingly important role, and military aviation began to develop. The use of new means of communication in military affairs, including the telegraph, the telephone, and the radio,facilitated the organization of troop control. The size of armies and trained reserves grew rapidly. (See Table 2 for the composition of the ground forces of the principal warring powers.)
Germany and Great Britain were engaged in a stiff competition in naval armaments. The dreadnought, a new type of ship, was first built in 1905. By 1914 the German Navy was firmly established as the world’s second most powerful navy(after the British). Other countries endeavored to strengthen their navies, but it was not financially and economically possible for them to carry out the shipbuilding programs they had adopted. (See Table 3 for the composition of the naval forces of the principal warring powers.) The costly arms race demanded enormous financial means and placed a heavy burden on the toiling people.
There was extensive ideological preparation for war. The imperialists attempted to instill in the people the idea that armed conflicts are inevitable, and they tried their hardest to inculcate militarism in the people and incite chauvinism among them. To achieve these aims, all means of propaganda were used—the press, literature, the arts, and the church. Taking advantage of the patriotic feelings of the people, the bourgeoisie in every country justified the arms race and camouflaged aggressive objectives with false arguments on the need to defend the native land against foreign enemies.
The international working class (more than 150 million persons) was a real force capable of significantly restraining the imperialist governments. At the international level, the working-class movement was headed by the Second International,which united 41 Social Democratic parties from 27 countries, with 3.4 million members. However, the opportunist leaders of the European Social Democratic parties did nothing to implement the antiwar decisions of the prewar congresses of the Second International. When the war began, the leaders of the Social Democratic parties of the Western countries came to the support of their governments and voted for military credits in parliament. The socialist leaders of Great Britain (A. Henderson), France (J. Guesde, M. Sembat, and A. Thomas), and Belgium (E. Vandervelde) joined the bourgeois military governments. Ideologically and politically, the Second International collapsed and ceased to exist, breaking up into social chauvinist parties.
Only the left wing of the Second International, with the Bolshevik Party led by Lenin in the vanguard, continued to fight consistently against militarism, chauvinism, and war. The basic principles defining the attitude of revolutionary Marxists toward war were set forth by Lenin in the Manifesto of the Central Committee of the RSDLP, “War and Russian Social Democracy.” Firmly opposed to the war, the Bolsheviks explained its imperialist character to the popular masses. The Bolshevik faction of the Fourth State Duma refused to support the tsarist government and vote for war credits. The Bolshevik Party called on the toiling people of all countries to work for the defeat of their governments in the war, the transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war, and the revolutionary overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie and the landlords. A revolutionary, antiwar stance was adopted by the Bulgarian Workers’ Social Democratic Party (Narrow Socialists), headed by D. Blagoev, G. Dimitrov, and V. Kolarov, and by the Serbian and Rumanian Social Democratic parties. Active opposition to the imperialist war was also shown by a small group of left-wing Social Democrats in Germany, led by K. Liebknecht, R. Luxemburg, C. Zetkin, and F. Mehring; by a few socialists in France, led by J. Jaurès; and by some socialists in other countries.
War plans and strategic deployment. Long before the war began, the general staffs had worked out war plans. All strategic calculations were oriented toward a short, fast-moving war. The German strategic plan provided for rapid, decisive actions against France and Russia. It assumed that France would be crushed in six to eight weeks, after which all German forces would descend on Russia and bring the war to a victorious conclusion. The bulk of German troops (four-fifths) were deployed on the western border of Germany and were designated for the invasion of France. It was their mission to deliver the main attack with the right wing through Belgium and Luxembourg, turning the left flank of the French Army west of Paris and, throwing it back toward the German border, forcing it to surrender. A covering force (one army) was stationed in East Prussia to oppose Russia. The German military command figured that it would be able to crush France and transfer troops to the east before the Russian Army went over to the offensive. The main forces of the German Navy (the High Seas Fleet) were to be stationed at bases in the North Sea. Their mission was to weaken the British Navy with actions using light forces and submarines and then destroy the main British naval forces in a decisive battle. A few cruisers were detailed for operations in the British sea-lanes. In the Baltic Sea the German Navy’s mission was to prevent vigorous actions by the Russian Navy.
The Austro-Hungarian command planned military operations on two fronts: against Russia in Galicia and against Serbia and Montenegro in the Balkans. They did not exclude the possibility of forming a front against Italy, an unreliable member of the Triple Alliance that might go over to the Entente. Consequently, the Austro-Hungarian command drew up three variations of a war plan and divided their ground forces into three operational echelons (groups): group A (nine corps), which was designated for actions against Russia; the “minimum Balkan” group (three corps), which was directed against Serbia and Montenegro; and group B (four corps), the reserve of the supreme command, which could be used either to reinforce the other groups or to form a new front if Italy became an enemy.
The general staffs of Austria-Hungary and Germany maintained close contact with each other and coordinated their strategic plans. The Austro-Hungarian plan for the war against Russia provided for delivering the main attack from Galicia between the Vistula and Bug rivers and moving northeast to meet German forces, which were supposed to develop an offensive at the same time moving southeast from East Prussia toward Siedlce, with the objectives of surrounding and destroying the grouping of Russian troops in Poland. The mission of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, which was stationed in the Adriatic Sea, was to defend the coast.
The Russian General Staff worked out two variations of the war plan, both of which were offensive. Under Variation A, the main forces of the Russian Army would be deployed against Austria-Hungary. Variation G was directed against Germany, should it deliver the main attack on the Eastern Front. Variation A, which was actually carried out, planned converging attacks in Galicia and East Prussia, with the aim of destroying the enemy groupings. This phase of the plan would be followed by a general offensive into Germany and Austria-Hungary. Two detached armies were assigned to cover Petrograd and southern Russia. In addition, the Army of the Caucasus was formed in case Turkey entered the war on the side of the Central Powers. It was the mission of the Baltic Fleet to defend the sea approaches to Petrograd and prevent the German fleet from breaking through into the Gulf of Finland. The Black Sea Fleet did not have a ratified plan ofaction.
The French plan for the war against Germany (Plan XVII) envisioned going over to the offensive with the forces of the right wing of the armies in Lorraine and with the forces of the left wing against Metz. At first, the possibility of an invasion byGerman forces through Belgium was not taken into account, because Belgian neutrality had been guaranteed by the great powers, including Germany. However, a variation of Plan XVII ratified on Aug. 2, 1914, specified that in case of an offensive by German troops through Belgium, combat operations were to be developed on the left wing up to the line of the Meuse (Maas) River from Namur to Givet. The French plan reflected the lack of confidence of the French command,confronted with a struggle against a more powerful Germany. In fact, the plan made the actions of the French Army dependent on the actions of the German forces. The mission of the French fleet in the Mediterranean Sea was to ensure themovement of colonial troops from North Africa to France by blockading the Austro-Hungarian fleet in the Adriatic Sea. Part of the French fleet was assigned to defend the approaches to the English Channel.
Expecting that military operations on land would be waged by the armies of its allies, Russia and France, Great Britain did not draw up plans for operations by ground forces. It promised only to send an expeditionary corps to the continentto help the French. The navy was assigned active missions: to set up a long-range blockade of Germany on the North Sea, to ensure the security of sea-lanes, and to destroy the German fleet in a decisive battle.
The great powers carried out the strategic deployment of their armed forces in conformity with these plans. Germany moved seven armies (the First through Seventh, consisting of 86 infantry and ten cavalry divisions, with a total of about 1.6million men and about 5,000 guns) to the border with Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, along a 380-km front from Krefeld to Mulhouse. The main grouping of these forces (five armies) was located north of Metz on a 160-km front. The defense of the northern coast of Germany was assigned to the Northern Army (one reserve corps and four Landwehr brigades). The commander in chief was Kaiser Wilhelm II, and the chief of staff was General H. von Moltke the younger(from Sept. 14, 1914, E. Falkenhayn, and from Aug. 29, 1916, until the end of the war, Field Marshal General P. von Hindenburg).
The French armies (the First through Fifth, consisting of 76 infantry and ten cavalry divisions, with a total of about 1.73 million men and more than 4,000 guns), which were under the command of General J. J. C. Joffre, were deployed on a front of approximately 345 km from Belfort to Hirson. (From December 1916, General R. Nivelle was commander in chief of the French armies, and from May 17, 1917, until the end of the war, General H. Pétain. On May 14, 1918, Marshal F. Foch became supreme commander of Allied forces.) The Belgian Army under the command of King Albert I (six infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of 117,000 men and 312 guns) occupied a line east of Brussels. The British Expeditionary Force under the command of Field Marshal J. French (four infantry divisions and 1.5 cavalry divisions, with a total of 87,000 men and 328 guns) was concentrated in the Maubeuge region next to the left flank of the grouping of French armies. (From December 1915 until the end of the war, the British Expeditionary Force was under the command of General D. Haig.) The main grouping of Allied forces was northwest of Verdun.
Against Russia, Germany placed the Eighth Army (14.5 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of more than 200,000 men and 1,044 guns), under the command of General M. von Prittwitz und Gaffron, in East Prussia andGeneral R. von Woyrsch’s Landwehr corps in Silesia (two Landwehr divisions and 72 guns). Austria-Hungary had three armies (the First, Third, and Fourth) on a front from Czernowitz (now Chernovtsy) to Sandomierz. H. Kövess vonKövessháza’s army group (from August 23, the Second Army) was on the right flank, and Kummer’s army group was in the Kraków region (35.5 infantry divisions and 11 cavalry divisions, with about 850,000 men and 1,848 guns). Thesupreme commander in chief was Archduke Frederick. (Emperor Charles I became supreme commander in chief in November 1916.) The Austro-Hungarian chief of staff was Field Marshal General F. Conrad von Hötzendorf (from Feb. 28,1917, General Arz von Straussenburg).
Russia had six armies on its Western border (52 infantry divisions and 21 cavalry divisions, with a total of more than 1 million men and 3,203 guns). Two fronts were formed: the Northwestern Front (First and Second armies) and theSouthwestern Front (Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth armies). The Sixth Army was to defend the Baltic coast and cover Petrograd; the Seventh Army was to defend the northwest coast of the Black Sea and the boundary with Rumania. The divisions of the second strategic echelon and the Siberian divisions arrived at the front later, at the end of August and during September. On July 20 (August 2), Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich was appointed supreme commander in chief.(For a list of his successors, see SUPREME COMMANDER IN CHIEF.) The chiefs of staff of the supreme commander in chief were General N. N. Ianushkevich (July 19 [Aug. 1], 1914, to Aug. 18 , 1915) and General M. V. Alekseev (Aug. 18 ,1915, to Nov. 10 , 1916; Feb. 17 [Mar. 2] to Mar. 11 , 1917; and Aug. 30 [Sept. 12] to Sept. 9 , 1917). At the end of 1916 and during 1917 the duties of chief of staff were temporarily carried out by Generals V. I. Romeiko-Gurko,V. N. Klembovskii, A. I. Denikin, A. S. Lukomskii, and N. N. Dukhonin. From Nov. 20 (Dec. 3), 1917, to Feb. 21, 1918, the chief of staff was M. D. Bonch-Bruevich, whose successors were S I. Kuleshin and M. M. Zagiu.
In the Balkans, Austria-Hungary set two armies against Serbia: the Fifth and Sixth armies, under the command of General O. Potiorek (13 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of 140,000 men and 546 guns). Serbiadeployed four armies under the command of Voevoda R. Putnik (the First, Second, Third, and Fourth armies, consisting of 11 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of 250,000 men and 550 guns). Montenegro had six infantrydivisions (35,000 men and 60 guns).
The strategic deployment of the armed forces of both sides was basically completed by August 4–6 (17–19). Military operations took place in Europe, Asia, and Africa, on all the oceans, and on many seas. The principal operations tookplace in five theaters of ground operations: Western Europe (from 1914), Eastern Europe (from 1914), Italy (from 1915), the Balkans (from 1914), and the Middle East (from 1914). In addition, military operations were carried out in East Asia (Tsingtao, 1914), on the Pacific islands (Oceania), and in the German colonies in Africa, including German East Africa (until the end of the war), German Southwest Africa (until 1915), Togo (1914), and the Cameroons (until 1916).Throughout the war the chief theaters of ground operations were the Western European (French) and the Eastern European (Russian). Particularly important theaters of naval operations were the North, Mediterranean, Baltic, and Black seas and the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.
Campaign of 1914. In the Western European theater, military operations began with the invasion by German troops of Luxembourg (August 2) and Belgium (August 4), the latter having rejected a German ultimatum regarding the passage of German troops through its territory. Relying on the fortified areas of Liège and Namur, the Belgian Army offered the enemy stubborn resistance on the Meuse River line. Abandoning Liège after bitter fighting (August 16), the Belgian Army retreated toward Antwerp. Dispatching about two corps (80,000 men and 300 guns) against the Belgian Army, the German command directed the main grouping of its armies to the southwest, toward the Franco-Belgian border. The French armies of the left flank (the Third, Fourth, and Fifth armies) and the British Army were moved forward to meet the German forces. The Battle of the Frontiers took place on Aug. 21–25, 1914.
In view of the danger of the enemy turning the left flank of the Allied forces, the French command withdrew its armies deeper into the country to gain time to regroup its forces and prepare a counteroffensive. From August 7 to 14 the Frencharmies of the right flank (the First and Second armies) conducted an offensive in Alsace and Lorraine. But with the invasion by German forces of France through Belgium, the French offensive was brought to a halt, and both armies were drawn back to their initial positions. The main grouping of German armies continued its offensive along a southwest axis of advance toward Paris and, winning a series of local victories over the Entente armies at Le Cateau (August 26),Nesle and Proyart (August 28–29), and St. Quentin and Guise (August 29–30), reached the Marne River between Paris and Verdun by September 5. The French command completed the regrouping of its forces and, having formed two newarmies (the Sixth and the Ninth) from reserves, created a superiority of forces in this axis. In the battle of the Marne (Sept. 5–12, 1914), the German troops were defeated and forced to withdraw to the Aisne and Oise rivers, where they dug in and stopped the allied counteroffensive by September 16.
From September 16 to October 15, three operations by maneuver known as the Race to the Sea developed out of the attempts of each side to seize the “free space” west of the Oise and extending to the Pas-de-Calais, by enveloping the enemy’s open flanks on the north. The forces of both sides reached the coast west of Ostend. The Belgian Army, which had been forced to withdraw from Antwerp on October 8, occupied a sector on the left flank of the Allied armies. The battle in Flanders on the Yser and Ypres river (October 15 to November 20) did not change the overall situation. Attempts by the Germans to break through the Allied defense and take the ports on the Pas-de-Calais were unsuccessful.Having suffered considerable losses, both sides stopped active combat actions and dug in on the established lines. A static front was established from the Swiss border to the North Sea. In December 1914 it was 720 km long, with 650 km assigned to the French Army, 50 km to the British, and 20 km to the Belgians.
Military operations in the Eastern European theater began on August 4–7 (17–20), with the invasion of East Prussia by the inadequately prepared troops of the Russian Northwestern Front (commanded by General la. G. Zhilinskii; chief ofstaff, General V. A. Oranovskii). During the East Prussian Operation of 1914 the First Russian Army (General P. K. Rennenkampf, commander), advancing from the east, smashed units of the German I Corps near Stallüponen on August 4(17) and inflicted a defeat on the main forces of the German Eighth Army on August 7 (20) in the battle of Gumbinnen-Goldap. On August 7 (20) the Russian Second Army (commanded by General A. V. Samsonov) invaded East Prussia, delivering an attack on the flank and rear of the German Eighth Army. The commander of the Eighth Army decided to begin a withdrawal of forces from East Prussia beyond the Vistula, but the German supreme command, dissatisfied with this decision, ordered a change in command on August 10 (23), appointing General P. von Hindenburg commander and General E. Ludendorff chief of staff.
The offensive by Russian troops in East Prussia forced the German command to take two corps and one cavalry division from the Western Front and send them to the Eastern Front on August 13 (26). This was one of the causes of the defeat of German forces in the battle of the Marne. Taking advantage of the lack of cooperation between the First and Second armies and the mistakes of the Russian command, the enemy was able to inflict a heavy defeat on the Russian Second Army and then on the First Army and drive them out of East Prussia.
In the battle of Galicia (1914), which took place at the same time as the East Prussian Operation, the troops of the Russian Southwestern Front (commander in chief, General N. I. Ivanov; chief of staff, General M. V. Alekseev) inflicted amajor defeat on the Austro-Hungarian forces. They took L’vov on August 21 (September 3), laid seige to the Przemyśl fortress on September 8 (21), and, pursuing the enemy, reached the Wisłoka River and the foothills of the Carpathians by September 13 (26). A danger arose that Russian forces would invade the German province of Silesia. The German supreme command hurriedly transferred major forces from East Prussia to the region of Częstochowa and Kraków and formed a new army (the Ninth). The objective was to deliver a counter strike against Ivangorod (Dęblin) in the flank and rear of the troops of the Southwestern Front and thus to thwart the attack on Silesia that the Russian forces were preparing. Owing to a timely regrouping of forces carried out by Russian General Headquarters, in the Warsaw-Ivangorod Operation of 1914 the Russian armies stopped the advance of the German Ninth Army and the Austro-Hungarian First Army on Ivangorod by September 26 (October 9) and then repulsed the German attack on Warsaw. On October 5 (18), Russian forces went over to the counteroffensive and threw the enemy back to the initial line.
The Russian armies resumed preparations for an invasion of Germany. The German command moved the Ninth Army from the Częstochowa region to the north, having decided to deliver a blow at the right flank and rear of the Russian offensive grouping. In the Łódź Operation of 1914, which began on October 29 (November 11), the enemy succeeded in thwarting the Russian plan, but an attempt to surround the Russian Second and Fifth armies in the Łódź region failed, and German troops were forced to withdraw, suffering heavy losses. At the same time, Russian troops of the Southwestern Front inflicted a defeat on Austro-Hungarian forces in the Częstochowa-Kraków Operation and reached the approaches to Kraków and Częstochowa. Having exhausted their capabilities, both sides went over to the defensive. The Russian armies, which had experienced a critical shortage of ammunition, dug in on the line of the Bzura, Rawka, and Nida rivers.
In the Balkan theater of operations, Austro-Hungarian forces invaded Serbia on August 12. Defeated in a meeting engagement that began on August 16 in the region of Cer Mountain, by August 24 the Austro-Hungarian forces had been thrown back to their initial position beyond the Drina and Sava rivers. On September 7 they renewed the offensive. A shortage of artillery and ammunition forced the Serbs to withdraw on November 7 to the east of the Kolubara River, but after receiving supplies from Russia and France, they went over to the counteroffensive on December 3. By mid-December they had liberated their country from enemy forces. The two sides took up defensive positions on the river boundary lines.
At the end of 1914 hostilities began in the Middle Eastern theater of operations. On July 21 (August 3), Turkey declared its neutrality, waiting and preparing for a convenient moment to come out on the side of the Central Powers. Encouraging Turkey’s aggressive aspirations in the Caucasus, Germany sent the battle cruiser Göben and the light cruiser Breslau to the Black Sea at the war’s beginning (August 10), to support the Turkish Navy. On October 16 (29),Turkish and German ships unexpectedly shelled Odessa, Sevastopol’, Feodosia, and Novorossiisk. On October 20 (November 2), Russia declared war on Turkey, followed by Great Britain (November 5) and France (November 6). Turkey declared a “holy war” against the Entente powers on November 12.
Turkish ground forces consisted of about 800,000 men. The Turkish First, Second, and Fifth armies were deployed in the Straits region; the Third Army, in Turkish Armenia; the Fourth Army, in Syria and Palestine; and the Sixth Army, in Mesopotamia. Sultan Mehmed V was nominally the supreme commander in chief, but in fact the duties of this position were carried out by Enver Pasha, the minister of war. The chief of staff was a German general, W. Bronsart von Schellendorf. Russia moved its Army of the Caucasus to the Turkish border (commander in chief, General I. I. Vorontsov-Dashkov; deputy commander in chief, General A. Z. Myshlaevskii; 170,000 men and 350 guns). In the second half of October (early November) clashes took place in the Erzurum axis. On October 25 (November 7) the Russians seized fortified positions near Köprüköy (50 km north of Erzurum). However, under pressure from the superior forces of the enemy, the Russians withdrew to their initial positions by November 26 (December 9). The Turkish Third Army went over to the offensive on December 9 (22), but during the Sankamuş Operation of 1914–15 it was routed. On November 10 a British expeditionary corps landed at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, forming the Mesopotamian Front. On November 22 the British took Basra, which had been abandoned by the Turks. The British captured al-Qurnah on December 9 and established a firm position in southern Mesopotamia.
Germany was unsuccessful in combat operations in Africa, the Far East, and the Pacific Ocean, losing most of its colonies during a single military campaign. In 1914, Japan seized the Caroline, Mariana, and Marshall islands in the Pacific Ocean as well as Tsingtao, a German naval base in China. The Australians seized the German part of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and New Zealand captured the Samoan Islands. Anglo-French forces occupied the German colonies in Africa: Togo in August 1914, the Cameroons in January 1916, Southwest Africa by July 1915, and East Africa by late 1917. (Until the end of the war, German forces continued to conduct partisan actions in the Portuguese colony of Mozambique and the British colony of Southern Rhodesia.)
Naval operations were of a limited character in 1914. On August 28 there was a battle between light forces of the British and German fleets in the North Sea near the island of Helgoland. On November 5 (18) a Russian squadron waged a battle against the German ships Göben and Breslau near Cape Sarych in the Black Sea (50 km southeast of Sevastopol’). Damaged, the German ships retreated. The German command attempted to step up the actions of its fleet in British sea-lanes in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. In the battle of Coronel (Nov. 1, 1914), Admiral M. von Spee’s German squadron (five cruisers) defeated Rear Admiral C. Cradock’s British squadron, but on December 8, Admiral von Spee’s squadron was destroyed by Admiral F. Sturdee’s British squadron near the Falkland Islands. By the beginning of November, three additional German cruisers operating in the Atlantic and Pacific had been sunk.
The campaign of 1914 did not produce decisive results for either side. In France both sides went over to a static defense. Elements of trench warfare also emerged in the Eastern European theater of operations. Military operations demonstrated that the general staffs had been mistaken in their prewar predictions that the war would be short. Stockpiles of armaments and ammunition were used up during the very first operations. At the same time, it became clear that the war would be long and that emergency measures must be taken to mobilize industry and to develop the production of arms and ammunition.
Campaign of 1915. The Anglo-French command decided to go over to a strategic defensive in the Western European theater of operations, in order to gain time to stockpile matériel and train reserves. In the campaign of 1915 the main burden of armed struggle was shifted onto Russia. At the demand of the Allies the Russian command planned simultaneous offensives against Germany (in East Prussia) and Austria-Hungary (in the Carpathians). The prospect of a protracted war did not please the German high command, which knew that Germany and its allies could not withstand a lengthy struggle with the Entente powers, who possessed superiority in manpower reserves and material resources.Therefore, the German plan for the campaign of 1915 was an offensive plan that counted on rapidly achieving victory. Lacking sufficient forces to conduct offensives simultaneously in the East and the West, the German command decided to concentrate its main efforts on the Eastern Front, with the objectives of crushing Russia and forcing it to leave the war. A defensive posture was planned for the Western Front.
Russia had 104 divisions against the 74 divisions of the Central Powers (36 German and 38 Austro-Hungarian divisions). Attempting to forestall the offensive prepared by the Russians, between January 25 (February 7) and February 13 (26) the German command undertook the Augustów Operation of 1915 in East Prussia. However, they did not attain their objective of surrounding the Tenth Army of the Russian Northwestern Front. In February and March Russian command used the forces of the Tenth, Twelfth, and First armies to carry out the Przasnysz Operation, during which the enemy was thrown back to the borders of East Prussia. On the southern wing of the Eastern Front, the command of the Russian Southwestern Front carried out the Carpathian Operation of 1915. Beseiged by Russian troops, the 120,000-strong Przemyśl garrison surrendered on March 9 (22). Heavy but indecisive fighting continued in the Carpathians until April 20.Experiencing a critical shortage of weapons and ammunition, the Russian forces brought a halt to their active operations in April 1915.
By the summer of 1915 the German command had formed the Eleventh Army with troops transferred from the Western Front to Galicia. The German Eleventh Army and the Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army, under the overall command of the German general A. von Mackensen, went over to the offensive on April 19 (May 2). With an enormous superiority in forces and means (especially in artillery), the enemy broke through the defense of the Russian Third Army near Görlitz. The Görlitz breakthrough of 1915 led to a deep withdrawal of the forces of the Southwestern Front, which left Galicia in May and June.
At the same time, German troops were advancing in the Baltic region. On April 24 (May 7) they took Libau (Liepāja) and reached Shavli (Ŝiauliai) and Kovno (Kaunas). In July the German command attempted to break through the defense of the Russian First Army with an attack of the newly formed Twelfth Army in the Przasnysz region. The Twelfth Army, in cooperation with the Austro-Hungarian Fourth and German Eleventh armies, which were advancing from Galicia toward the northeast, was to surround the main groupings of the Russian forces, which were in Poland. The German plan was unsuccessful, but the Russian troops were forced to withdraw from Poland.
In the Vil’na Operation of August 1915 the Germans attempted to surround the Russian Tenth Army in the Vil’na (Vilnius) region. On August 27 (September 9) the enemy managed to break through the Russian defense and gain the rear of the Tenth Army. However, the Russian command stopped the enemy breakthrough. In October 1915 the front stabilized on the line of Riga, the Zapadnaia Dvina River, Dvinsk, Smorgon’, Baranovichi, Dubno, and the Strypa River. The German command had failed in its plan to force Russia to leave the war in 1915.
At the beginning of 1915 there were 75 French, 11 British, and six Belgian divisions opposing 82 German divisions in the Western European theater of operations. The number of British divisions increased to 31 in September and 37 in December. Planning no major operations, both sides conducted only local battles in this theater of military operations during the campaign of 1915. On April 22 at Ypres the German command became the first to use chemical weapons(chlorine gas) on the Western Front: 15,000 persons were poisoned. The German troops advanced 6 km. In May and June the Allies launched an offensive in Artois. Carried out with insufficient forces, it did not influence the course of combat operations on the Russian Front.
On July 7 the Interallied War Council was formed in Chantilly, to coordinate the strategic efforts of the Entente powers. To assist Russia, the council decided to undertake an offensive on the Western Front, with the objective of drawing considerable German forces away from the Eastern Front. However, offensive operations were carried out only from September 25 to October 6 in Champagne and Artois. At this time active military operations had in fact ceased on the Russian Front. Moreover, the Allied forces were unable to break through the strong enemy defense.
In the Middle Eastern theater of operations Russian forces conducted the most active military operations. In the Alashgerd Operation they cleared the enemy from the area around Lakes Van and Urmia. The increasing activity of German and Turkish agents in Iran forced the Russian command to send troops into the northern part of that country. General N. N. Baratov’s Caucasus Expeditionary Corps (about 8,000 men and 20 guns) was transferred from Tiflis to Baku and transported over the Caspian Sea to the Iranian port of Enzeli (Bandar-e Pahlavi), where it landed on October 17 (30). In November the corps occupied the city of Qazvin, and on December 3 (16) it took the city of Hamadan. Attempts by Germany and Turkey to strengthen their influence in Iran and draw it into the war against Russia were thwarted. The Caucasian Front (commander in chief, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich), which united all the Russian forces operating in the Middle Eastern theater, was formed in October 1915.
On the Mesopotamian Front, British troops under the command of General C. Townshend moved slowly toward Baghdad in September 1915, but on November 22 they were attacked and routed by the Turks, 35 km from the city, and on December 7 they were beseiged in Kut al-Amarah. The Russian command offered to organize coordinated actions between the British forces and the forces of the Caucasian Front, but the British command refused the offer, because it did not want Russian forces to enter the oil-rich Mosul region. At the end of 1915 the British corps in Mesopotamia was replenished and converted into an expeditionary army. On the Syrian Front the Turkish Fourth Army attempted to take the Suez Canal, by attacking Egypt from Palestine, but the Turks were driven back by two Anglo-Indian divisions. The Turks took up a defensive position in the al-Arish region.
In 1915 the Entente succeeded in drawing Italy into the war on its side. The vacillation of the Italian government was ended by the promises of the Entente powers to give greater satisfaction to Italy’s territorial claims than had been offered by Germany. On Apr. 26, 1915, the Treaty of London was signed. On May 23, 1915, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary, but it did not declare war against Germany until Aug. 28, 1916. The Italian Army (commander in chief, King Victor Emmanuel III; chief of staff, General L. Cadorna) had 35 divisions, with a total of about 870,000 men and 1,700 guns. On May 24, Italian forces began military operations on two axes: against Trent and simultaneously toward the Isonzo River with the mission of reaching Trieste. The Italians failed on both axes. By June 1915 military operations in the Italian theater had already assumed a static character. Four attacks by Italian forces on the Isonzo River ended in collapse.
In the Balkan theater of operations the position of the Allies became more complicated in October 1915, when Bulgaria entered the war on the side of the Central Powers (the Bulgarian-German Treaty of 1915 and the Bulgarian-Turkish Treaty of 1915). On September 8 (21), Bulgaria proclaimed a mobilization of its army (12 divisions, about 500,000 men). In late September (early October), 14 German and Austro-Hungarian divisions and six Bulgarian divisions under the overall command of Field Marshal General von Mackensen were deployed against Serbia. The Serbs had 12 divisions. To assist Serbia, Great Britain and France, under an agreement with Greece, began on September 22 (October 5) to land an expeditionary corps at Salonika (Thessaloniki) and move it toward the border between Greece and Serbia. On September 24 (October 7) the Austro-German and Bulgarian forces launched a converging offensive against Serbia from the north, west, and east. For two months the Serbian Army courageously repulsed the onslaught of the superior forces of the enemy, but it was compelled to withdraw through the mountains to Albania. Approximately 140,000 men were transported by the Entente fleet from Durrës (Durazzo) to the Greek island of Corfu (Kerkira). The Anglo-French expeditionary corps retreated to the Salonika region, where the Salonika Front was formed in late 1915. The occupation of Serbia secured for the Central Powers the opportunity to establish direct rail communication with Turkey, making it possible to provide Turkey with military assistance.
During 1915 the German Navy continued its attempts to weaken the fleets of its enemies and to undermine the supply of Great Britain by sea. On January 24 a battle took place between British and German squadrons at Dogger Bank (North Sea). Neither side attained success. On Feb. 18, 1915, Germany declared that it was initiating “unrestricted submarine warfare.” The sinking of the passenger steamers Lusitania (May 7) and Arabic (August 19) evoked protests from the USA and other neutral countries, forcing the German government to limit its submarine warfare to actions against warships.
In February 1915 the Anglo-French command began to carry out a naval operation, the Gallipoli Expedition (the Dardanelles Operation of 1915), attempting to use naval forces to cross the Dardanelles, break through to Constantinople, and put Turkey out of the war. The breakthrough failed. In April 1915 a major landing party was set down on the Gallipoli Peninsula, but Turkish forces offered stiff resistance. In December 1915 and January 1916 the Allied command was forced to evacuate the landing forces, which were transferred to the Salonika Front. During the preparation for and execution of the Gallipoli Expedition, there was a bitter diplomatic struggle among the Allies. The expedition was undertaken under the pretext of assisting Russia. In March-April 1915, Great Britain and France had reached an agreement with Russia, under which Constantinople and the Straits would be handed over to Russia after the war, on the condition that the latter did not interfere in the partitioning of Asiatic Turkey. In reality, the Allies intended to capture the Straits and deny Russia access to them. Anglo-French talks on the partitioning of Asiatic Turkey concluded with the signing of the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. In August the German Navy undertook the Moonsund Operation of 1915, which was a failure. The Russian Black Sea Fleet continued to operate in Turkish sea-lanes. On April 21 (May 2), during the Gallipoli Expedition, it shelled the fortifications on the Bosporus.
The campaign of 1915 did not fulfill the hopes of either of the hostile coalitions, but its outcome was more favorable for the Entente. The German command, again failing to solve the problem of crushing its enemies one by one, faced the necessity of continuing a long war on two fronts. The chief burden of the struggle in 1915 was borne by Russia, giving France and Great Britain time to mobilize their economies to meet war needs. Russia also began to mobilize its industry. In 1915 the Russian Front grew more important: in the summer, 107 Austro-German divisions, or 54 percent of all the forces of the Central Powers, were stationed there, as compared to 52 divisions (33 percent) at the beginning of the war.
The war placed a heavy burden on the toiling people. Gradually freeing themselves of the chauvinistic attitudes that had been widespread at the beginning of the war, the popular masses became more and more resolutely opposed to the imperialist slaughter. Antiwar demonstrations took place in 1915, and the strike movement in the warring countries began to grow. This process developed with particular speed and violence in Russia, where conditions were greatly exacerbated by military defeats, and a revolutionary situation developed in the autumn of 1915. At the fronts, there were cases of fraternization among soldiers from hostile armies. The propaganda of the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, and the left groups of European socialists and Social Democratic parties helped arouse the masses to revolutionary activity. In Germany the International Group was formed in the spring of 1915 under the leadership of K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg. (From 1916 the group was known as the Spartacus League.) The Zimmerwald Conference (Sept. 5–8, 1915), an international socialist conference of great importance for the consolidation of revolutionary antiwar forces, adopted a manifesto that signified “a step toward an ideological and practical break with opportunism and social chauvinism” (Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 27, p. 38).
Campaign of 1916. By the beginning of 1916 the Central Powers, having expended enormous efforts in the first two campaigns, had considerably depleted their resources but had been unable to force France or Russia to leave the war. The Entente raised the number of its divisions to 365, as against the 286 divisions of the German bloc.
The 1916 operations by the armies of the Central Powers were based on General von Falkenhayn’s plan, according to which the main efforts were again to be directed against France. The main attack was to be delivered in the Verdun region, which was of great operational importance. A breakthrough on this axis would threaten the entire northern wing of the Allied armies. The German plan called for active operations at the same time in the Italian theater, using the forces of the Austro-Hungarian armies. In the Eastern European theater of operations, the Germans decided to limit operations to a strategic defensive. The fundamentals of the Entente’s plan for the 1916 campaign were adopted at a conference in Chantilly (France) on Dec. 6–9, 1915. Offensives were planned for the Eastern European, Western European, and Italian theaters of operations. The Russian Army was to be the first to launch offensive operations, followed by the Anglo-French and Italian forces. The Allies’ strategic plan was the first attempt to coordinate troop operations on different fronts.
The Entente plan did not provide for going over to a general offensive until the summer of 1916. This ensured that the German command would keep the strategic initiative, a factor which it decided to use to its advantage. The Germans had 105 divisions on a front 680 km long in the Western European theater of operations. They were opposed by 139 Allied divisions (95 French, 38 British, and six Belgian divisions). On February 21 the German command began the Verdun Operation of 1916, without an overall superiority in forces. Bitter combat, during which both sides suffered heavy losses, continued until December. The Germans expended enormous efforts but were unable to break through the defense.
In the Italian theater of operations the command of the Italian Army launched its fifth unsuccessful offensive on the Isonzo River in March 1916. On May 15, Austro-Hungarian forces (18 divisions and 2,000 guns) delivered a counter blow in the Trentino region. The Italian First Army (16 divisions and 623 guns), unable to hold back the enemy onslaught, began to withdraw to the south. Italy requested emergency assistance from its allies.
Operations in the Eastern European theater, where 128 Russian divisions were deployed against 87 Austro-German divisions along a front 1,200 km long, were particularly important in the campaign of 1916. The Naroch (Narocz) Operation,which was carried out on March 5–17 (18–30), forced the Germans temporarily to weaken their attacks on Verdun. The Russian offensive on the Southwestern Front (commander in chief, General A. A. Brusilov), which began on May 22 (June 4), was of great importance. The Russians broke through the defense of the Austro-German forces to a depth of 80–120 km. The enemy suffered heavy losses (more than 1 million killed and wounded and more than 400,000 taken prisoner). The command of the Central Powers were forced to move 11 German divisions from France and six Austro-Hungarian divisions from Italy to the Russian Front.
The Russian offensive saved the Italian Army from destruction, eased the situation of the French at Verdun, and hastened Rumania’s entry into the war on the side of the Entente. Rumania declared war on Austria-Hungary on August 14(27), on Germany on August 15 (28), on Turkey on August 17 (30), and on Bulgaria on August 19 (September 1). The Rumanian armed forces consisted of four armies (23 infantry and two cavalry divisions; 250,000 men). The Russian 47th Army Corps was moved across the Danube to the Dobruja region to assist the Rumanian forces. With Russian support, Rumanian forces launched an offensive in Transylvania on August 20 (September 2) and later in the Dobruja region, but they did not attain success. The Austro-German command concentrated General von Falkenhayn’s army group in Transylvania (the German Ninth Army and the Austro-Hungarian First Army, with a total of 26 infantry and seven cavalry divisions) and Field Marshal General von Mackensen’s German Danube Army in Bulgaria (nine infantry and two cavalry divisions). On September 13 (26) both groups, under the overall command of General von Falkenhayn, went over to the offensive at the same time. The Rumanian Army was routed.
On November 22 (December 6), German forces entered Bucharest, which the Rumanians abandoned without a fight. The Russian command moved in 35 infantry and 13 cavalry divisions to assist Rumania. Russia had to form a new Rumanian front. By the end of 1916, its forces had stopped the advance of the Austro-German armies on the line between Focşani and the mouth of the Danube. The formation of the Rumanian Front increased the total length of the front line by 500 km and diverted about a fourth of Russia’s armed forces, thereby worsening the strategic position of the Russian Army.
After lengthy preparation, Anglo-French forces opened a major offensive on the Somme River on July 1, but it developed very slowly. Tanks were used for the first time on September 15 by the British. The Allies continued the offensive until mid-November, but despite enormous losses, they advanced only 5–15 km and failed to break through the German static front.
In the Middle Eastern theater of operations the forces of the Russian Caucasian Front successfully carried out the Erzurum Operation of 1916, the Trabzon Operation of 1916, and the Erzincan and Oğnut operations, taking the cities ofErzurum, Trabzon, and Erzincan. General N. N. Baratov’s I Caucasus Cavalry Corps launched an offensive on the Mosul and Baghdad axes, with the objective of assisting the British, who were beseiged at Kut al-Amarah. In February the corps took Kermanshah, and in May it reached the Turkish-Iranian border. With the surrender of the garrison at Kut al-Amarah on Apr. 28, 1916, the Russian corps brought a halt to its advance and took up a defensive position east of Kermanshah.
In naval operations, the British fleet continued its long-range blockade of Germany. German submarines were active on the sea-lanes. The system of minefields was improved. The battle of Jutland (1916) was the war’s only major naval battle between the main forces of the British Navy (Admiral J. Jellicoe) and the German Navy (Admiral R. Scheer). The battle involved 250 surface ships, including 58 capital ships (battleships and battle cruisers). As a result of its superiority in forces, the British fleet was victorious, even though it suffered greater losses than the German fleet. The defeat shattered the German command’s belief that it was possible to break through the British blockade. The Russian Black Sea Fleet continued its actions on enemy sea-lanes, blockading the Bosporus from August 1916.
The campaign of 1916 did not result in the achievement of the objectives set at the beginning by either coalition, but the superiority of the Entente over the Central Powers became evident. The strategic initiative passed fully to the Entente, and Germany was forced to go over to the defensive on all fronts.
The bloody battles of 1916, which involved enormous human sacrifices and great expenditures of matériel, were depleting the resources of the belligerent powers. The situation of the working people continued to worsen, but the revolutionary movement also continued to grow stronger in 1916. The Kienthal Conference of internationalists (Apr. 24–30, 1916) played an important role in increasing solidarity among revolutionary forces. The revolutionary movement developed with particular speed and turbulence in Russia, where the war had finally revealed to the popular masses the complete decadence of tsarism. A powerful wave of strikes swept over the country, led by the Bolsheviks under the slogans of struggle against the war and the autocracy. The Middle Asian Uprising, a national liberation movement, took place from July to October 1916. In the autumn a revolutionary situation took shape in Russia. The inability of tsarism to win the war aroused discontent among the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie, who began to prepare a palace revolution. The revolutionary movement grew stronger in other countries. The Irish Rebellion, or Easter Rising (Apr. 24–30, 1916), was harshly suppressed by British troops. On May 1, K. Liebknecht led a massive antiwar demonstration in Berlin. The growing revolutionary crisis forced the imperialists to direct their efforts toward quickly ending the war. In 1916, Germany and tsarist Russia attempted to open separate peace negotiations.
Campaign of 1917. As the campaign of 1917 was prepared and carried out, the revolutionary movement grew considerably stronger in every country. Protest against the war with its enormous losses, against the sharp decline in the standard of living, and against the increasing exploitation of the working people became stronger among the popular masses at the front and in the rear. The revolutionary events in Russia had a tremendous effect on the subsequent course of the war.
By the beginning of the campaign of 1917, the Entente had 425 divisions (21 million men), and the Central Powers, 331 divisions (10 million men). In April 1917 the USA entered the war on the side of the Entente. The fundamental principles of the plan for the campaign of 1917 were adopted by the Allies at the third conference in Chantilly on Nov. 15–16, 1916, and were made more specific in February 1917 at a conference in Petrograd. The plan provided for limited operations on all fronts early in the year, to hold the strategic initiative. In the summer the Allies were to go over to a general offensive in the Western European and Eastern European theaters of operations, with the objective of finally crushing Germany and Austria-Hungary. The German command rejected offensive operations on land and decided to focus its attention on waging “unrestricted submarine warfare,” believing that it could disrupt the British economy in six months and force Great Britain out of the war. On Feb. 1, 1917, Germany declared “unrestricted submarine warfare” on Great Britain for the second time. Between February and April 1917, German submarines destroyed more than 1,000 merchant ships of the Allied and neutral countries (a total of 1,752,000 tons). By mid-1917, Great Britain, which had lost merchant ships amounting to approximately 3 million tons, found itself in a difficult situation. It could only make up for 15 percent of the losses, and this was not enough to sustain the export and import traffic essential to the country. By the end of 1917, however, after the organization of a reinforced defense of the sea-lanes and the development of various means of antisubmarine defense, the Entente managed to reduce its merchant ship losses. “Unrestricted submarine warfare” did not fulfill the hopes of the German command. Meanwhile, the continuing British blockade was starving Germany.
In executing the general plan for the campaign, the Russian command carried out the Mitau Operation on Dec. 23–29, 1916 (Jan. 5–11, 1917), with the objective of diverting part of the enemy forces from the Western European theater of operations. On February 27 (March 12) a bourgeois democratic revolution took place in Russia (the February Bourgeois Democratic Revolution of 1917). Under the leadership of the Bolsheviks, the proletariat, demanding peace, bread, and freedom, led the majority of the army, which was made up of workers and peasants, in the overthrow of the autocracy. However, the bourgeois Provisional Government came to power. Expressing the interests of Russian imperialism, it continued the war. Deceiving the masses of soldiers with false promises of peace, it opened an offensive operation with the troops of the Southwestern Front. The operation ended in failure (the June Operation of 1917).
By the summer of 1917 the combat capability of the Rumanian Army had been restored with Russian assistance, and in the battle of Mărăşeşti (July-August) Russian and Rumanian forces repulsed the German forces, which were attempting to break through to the Ukraine. On August 19–24 (September 1–6), during the Riga defensive operation, Russian troops surrendered Riga. The revolutionary sailors of the Baltic Fleet heroically defended the Moonsund Archipelago in the Moonsund Operation of Sept. 29 (Oct. 12)-Oct. 6 (19), 1917. These were the last operations on the Russian Front.
The Great October Socialist Revolution took place on Oct. 25 (Nov. 7), 1917. The proletariat, in alliance with the poorest peasants and under the leadership of the Communist Party, overthrew the power of the bourgeoisie and the landlords and opened the era of socialism. Carrying out the will of the people, the Soviet government addressed a proposal to all the warring powers, calling for the conclusion of a just democratic peace without annexations and reparations (the decree on peace). When the Entente powers and the USA refused to accept the proposal, the Soviet government was forced to conclude an armistice with the German coalition on December 2(15) and begin peace negotiations without the participation of Russia’s former allies. On November 26 (December 9), Rumania concluded the Focşani armistice with Germany and Austria-Hungary.
In the Italian theater of operations there were 57 Italian divisions opposing 27 Austro-Hungarian divisions in April 1917. Despite the numerical superiority of the Italian forces, the Italian command was unable to attain success. Three more offensives against the Isonzo River failed. On October 24, Austro-Hungarian troops went over to the offensive in the Caporetto region, broke through the Italians’ defense, and inflicted a major defeat on them. Without the assistance of 11 British and French divisions transferred to the Italian theater of operations, it would not have been possible to stop the advance of the Austro-Hungarian forces at the Piave River in late November. In the Middle Eastern theater of operations British troops advanced successfully in Mesopotamia and Syria. They took Baghdad on March 11 and Be’er Sheva’ (Beersheba), Gaza, Jaffa, and Jerusalem in late 1917.
The Entente plan of operations in France, which was developed by General Nivelle, called for delivering the main attack on the Aisne River between Reims and Soissons, in order to break through the enemy defense and surround the German forces in the Noyon salient. Learning of the French plan, by March 17 the German command withdrew its forces 30 km to a previously prepared line known as the Siegfried Line. Subsequently, the French command decided to begin the offensive on a broad front, committing to action major forces and means: six French and three British armies (90 infantry and ten cavalry divisions), more than 11,000 guns and mortars, 200 tanks, and about 1,000 airplanes.
The Allied offensive began on April 9 in the Arras region, on April 12 near St. Quentin, and on April 16 in the Reims region and continued until April 20–28 and May 5 on some axes. The April offensive (the “Nivelle slaughter”) ended incomplete failure. Although about 200,000 men had been lost, the Allied forces had not been able to break through the front. Mutinies broke out in the French Army, but they were cruelly suppressed. A Russian brigade that had been in France since 1916 took part in the offensive on the Aisne River. In the second half of 1917, Anglo-French forces carried out a number of local operations: Messines (June 7-August 30), Ypres (July 31-November 6), Verdun (August 20–27),and Malmaison (October 23–26). At Cambrai (November 20-December 6) massed tanks were used for the first time.
The campaign of 1917 did not produce the results anticipated by either side. The revolution in Russia and the lack of coordinated action by the Allies thwarted the Entente’s strategic plan, which had been intended to crush the Austro-Hungarian bloc. Germany succeeded in repulsing the enemy attacks, but its hope of attaining victory by means of “unrestricted submarine warfare” proved vain, and the troops of the coalition of Central Powers were forced to go over to the defensive.
Campaign of 1918. By early 1918 the military and political situation had changed fundamentally. After the October Revolution Soviet Russia quit the war. Under the influence of the Russian Revolution, a revolutionary crisis was ripening in the other warring powers. The Entente countries (excluding Russia) had 274 divisions at the beginning of 1918—that is, forces approximately equal to those of the German bloc, which had 275 divisions (not counting 86 divisions in the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Baltic region and nine divisions in the Caucasus). The military and economic situation of the Entente was stronger than that of the German bloc. However, the Allied command believed that even more powerful human and material resources would have to be prepared, with the assistance of the USA, in order to finally crush Germany.
Strategic defensives were planned for all theaters of military operations in the campaign of 1918. The decisive offensive against Germany was postponed until 1919. Their resources running out, the Central Powers were eager to end the war as quickly as possible. Having concluded the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Soviet Russia on Mar. 3, 1918, the German command decided in March to go over to the offensive on the Western Front to crush the Entente armies. At the same time, German and Austro-Hungarian forces, in violation of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, began occupying the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Baltic region. Rumania was drawn into the anti-Soviet intervention after May 7, when it signed the Bucharest Peace Treaty of 1918, the terms of which were dictated by the Central Powers.
On March 21 the German command began a major offensive operation on the Western Front (the March Offensive in Picardy). Their intention was to cut off the British forces from the French forces by means of an attack on Amiens, then crush them and reach the sea. The Germans made sure that they would have superiority in forces and means (62 divisions, 6,824 guns, and about 1,000 airplanes against 32 divisions, about 3,000 guns, and about 500 airplanes for the British). The German forces broke through the Allied defense to a depth of 60 km. The Allied command eliminated the breakthrough by bringing reserves into the battle. The German forces suffered heavy losses (about 230,000 men) but did not achieve their assigned objective. Going over to the offensive again on April 9 in Flanders on the Lys River, the German forces advanced 18 km, but by April 14 the Allies stopped them.
On May 27 the German armies delivered an attack north of Reims (the battle of the Chemin des Dames). They managed to cross the Aisne River and penetrate the Allied defense to a depth of about 60 km, reaching the Marne in the Château-Thierry region by May 30. Having arrived within 70 km of Paris, the German forces were unable to overcome French resistance, and on June 4 they went over to the defensive. The attempt of German troops from June 9 to 13 to advance between Montdidier and Noyon was equally unsuccessful.
On July 15 the German command made a final attempt to defeat the Allied armies by opening a major offensive on the Marne. The battle of the Marne of 1918 (the second battle of the Marne) did not fulfill the Germans’ hopes. After crossing the Marne, they were unable to advance more than 6 km. On July 18, Allied forces delivered a counterattack; by August 4 they had driven the enemy back to the Aisne and the Vesle. In four months of offensive operations the German command had completely exhausted its reserves but had been unable to crush the Entente armies.
The Allies took firm control of the strategic initiative. On August 8–13 the Anglo-French armies inflicted a major defeat on the German forces in the Amiens Operation of 1918, making them withdraw to the line from which their March offensive had begun. Ludendorff referred to August 8 as “the black day of the German Army.” On September 12–15 the American First Army, commanded by General J. Pershing, won a victory over German forces at St. Mihiel (the St. Mihiel Operation). On September 26, Allied forces (202 divisions against 187 weakened German divisions) began a general offensive along the entire 420-km front from Verdun to the sea and broke through the German defense.
In the other theaters of military operations the campaign of 1918 ended with the defeat of Germany’s allies. The Entente had 56 divisions, including 50 Italian divisions, in the Italian theater of operations, as well as more than 7,040 guns and more than 670 airplanes. Austria-Hungary had 60 divisions, 7,500 guns, and 580 airplanes. On June 15 the Austro-Hungarian forces, going over to the offensive south of Trent, broke through the enemy defense and advanced 3–4 km, but on June 20–26 they were thrown back to the starting line by counterattack by Allied forces. On October 24 the Italian Army went over to the offensive against the Piave River, but it made only an insignificant advance. On October 28 units of the Austro-Hungarian Fifth and Sixth armies, refusing to fight, began to abandon their positions. They were soon joined by troops of other armies, and a disorderly retreat of all the Austro-Hungarian forces began on November 2. On November 3,Austria-Hungary signed an armistice with the Entente at Villa Giusti (near Padua).
In the Balkan theater of operations, the Allied forces consisted of 29 infantry divisions (eight French, four British, six Serbian, one Italian, and ten Greek divisions and one French cavalry group, a total of about 670,000 men; and 2,070 guns).Facing them along a 350-km front from the Aegean to the Adriatic were the forces of the Central Powers—the German Eleventh Army; the Bulgarian First, Second, and Fourth armies; an Austro-Hungarian corps (a total of about 400,000 men); and 1,138 guns. On September 15 the Allies began an offensive; by September 29 they had advanced to a depth of 150 km along a front of 250 km. Surrounded, the German Eleventh Army surrendered on September 30. The Bulgarian armies were smashed. On September 29, Bulgaria signed an armistice with the Entente in Salonika.
The British army of General E. H. Allenby and the Arab army commanded by Emir Faisal and the British intelligence officer Colonel T. E. Lawrence (a total of 105,000 men and 546 guns) were operating on the Syrian Front, where Turkey had three armies—the Fourth, the Seventh, and the Eighth (a total of 34,000 men and about 330 guns). The Allied offensive began on September 19. Breaking through the enemy defense and pushing forward cavalry units to the enemy rear, Allied troops forced the Turkish Eighth and Seventh armies to surrender; the Turkish Fourth Army retreated. Between September 28 and October 27 the Allies captured Akko (Acre), Damascus, Tripoli, and Aleppo. A French landing party went ashore at Beirut on October 7.
On the Mesopotamian Front the British expeditionary army of General W. Marshall (five divisions) went on the offensive against the Turkish Sixth Army (four divisions). The British captured Kirkuk on October 24 and Mosul on October 31.The Entente powers and Turkey signed the Moudhros Armistice on Oct. 30, 1918, aboard the British battleship Agamemnon in Moudhros Bay (the island of Limnos).
In early October, Germany’s position became hopeless. On October 5 the German government asked the US government for an armistice. The Allies demanded the withdrawal of German forces from all occupied territory in the west. The military defeats and economic exhaustion of Germany had accelerated the development of a revolutionary crisis. The victory and progress of the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia strongly influenced the growth of the revolutionary movement of the German people. On Oct. 30, 1918, an uprising broke out among the sailors in Wilhelmshaven. The Kiel Mutiny of sailors in the German fleet took place on Nov. 3, 1918; on November 6 the uprising spread to Hamburg, Lübeck, and other cities. On November 9 the revolutionary German workers and soldiers overthrew the monarchy. Fearing further development of the revolution in Germany, the Entente hurried to conclude the Armistice of Compiègne with Germany on Nov. 11, 1918. Germany, admitting that it had been defeated, obligated itself to remove its forces immediately from all occupied territories and turn over to the Allies a large quantity of armaments and military equipment.
Results of the war. World War I ended in the defeat of Germany and its allies. After the conclusion of the Armistice of Compiègne the victorious powers began developing plans for a postwar “settlement.” Treaties with the defeated countries were prepared at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919–20. A number of separate treaties were signed: the Peace Treaty of Versailles with Germany (June 28, 1919), the Treaty of St.-Germain with Austria (Sept. 10, 1919), the Treaty of Neuilly with Bulgaria (Nov. 27, 1919), the Treaty of Trianon with Hungary (June 4, 1920), and the Treaty of Sèvres with Turkey (Aug. 10, 1920). The Paris Peace Conference also adopted a resolution regarding the establishment of the League of Nations and approved its Covenant, which became part of the peace treaties. Germany and its former allies were deprived of considerable territories and compelled to pay heavy reparations and greatly reduce their armed forces.
The postwar peace “settlement” in the interests of the victorious imperialist powers was completed by the Washington Conference on Naval Limitations (1921–22). The treaties with Germany and its former allies and the agreements signed at the Washington Conference constituted the Versailles-Washington system of peace. The result of compromises and deals, it failed to eliminate the contradictions among the imperialist powers and in fact considerably exacerbated them. Lenin wrote: “Today, after this ‘peaceful’ period, we see a monstrous intensification of oppression, the reversion to a colonial and military oppression that is far worse than before” (ibid., 5th ed., vol. 41, p. 217). The imperialist powers began to struggle for a repartition of the world, preparing for another world war.
In its scope and consequences World War I was unprecedented in the history of the human race. It lasted four years, three months, and ten days (from Aug. 1, 1914, to Nov. 11, 1918), engulfing 38 countries with a combined population of more than 1.5 billion. The Entente countries mobilized about 45 million men, and the coalition of the Central Powers, 25 million —a total of 70 million men. The most able-bodied men on both sides were removed from material production and sent to exterminate each other, fighting for the interests of the imperialists. By the end of the war, the ground forces exceeded their peacetime counterparts by a factor of 8.5 in Russia, five in France, nine in Germany, and eight in Austria-Hungary. As much as 50 and even 59.4 percent (in France) of the able-bodied male population was mobilized. The Central Powers mobilized almost twice the percentage of the total population as the Entente (19.1 percent, as compared to 10.3 percent). About 16 million men—more than one-third of all those mobilized by the Entente and its allies— were mobilized for the Russian armed forces. In June 1917, 288 (55.3 percent) of the Entente’s 521 divisions were Russian. In Germany, 13.25 million men were mobilized, or more than half of all the soldiers mobilized by the Central Powers. In June 1918, 236 (63.4 percent) of the Central Powers’ 361 divisions were German. The large size of the armies resulted in the formation of vast fronts up to 3,000–4,000 km long.
The war demanded the mobilization of all material resources, demonstrating the decisive role of the economy in an armed struggle. World War I was characterized by the massive use of many types of matériel. “It is the first time in history that the most powerful achievements of technology have been applied on such a scale, so destructively and with such energy, for the annihilation of millions of human lives” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 36, p. 396). Industry in the warring countries supplied the fronts with millions of rifles, more than 1 million light and heavy machine guns, more than 150,000 artillery pieces, 47.7 billion cartridges, more than 1 billion shells, 9,200 tanks, and about 182,000 airplanes (see Table 4). During the war the number of heavy artillery pieces increased by a factor of eight, the number of machine guns by a factor of 20, and the number of airplanes by a factor of 24. The war created a demand for large quantities of various materials, such as lumber and cement. About 4 million tons of barbed wire were used. Armies of millions of men demanded an uninterrupted supply of food, clothing, and forage. For example, from 1914 to 1917 the Russian Army consumed (in round figures) 9.64 million tons of flour, 1.4 million tons of cereal, 8.74 million tons of meat, 510,000 tons of fats, 11.27 million tons of forage oats and barley, and 19.6 million tons of hay, with a total value of 2,473,700,000 rubles (at 1913 prices). The front was supplied with 5 million sheepskin coats and pea jackets, 38.4 million sweaters and padded vests, more than 75 million pairs of underwear, 86.1 million pairs of high boots and shoes, 6.6 million pairs of felt boots, and other clothing.
Military enterprises alone could not produce such enormous quantities of armaments and other supplies. Industry was mobilized by means of a large-scale conversion of consumer-goods plants and factories to the production of war goods. In Russia in 1917, 76 percent of the workers were engaged in meeting war needs; in France, 57 percent; in Great Britain, 46 percent; in Italy, 64 percent; in the USA, 31.6 percent; and in Germany, 58 percent. In most of the warring countries, however, industry was unable to supply the needs of the armies for armaments and equipment. Russia, for example, was forced to order armaments, ammunition, clothing, industrial equipment, steam locomotives, coal, and certain other types of strategic raw materials from the USA, Great Britain, France, Sweden, Japan, and other countries. During the war, however, these countries provided the Russian Army with only a small proportion of its total requirements for armaments and ammunition: 30 percent of the rifles, less than 1 percent of the rifle cartridges, 23 percent of the guns of different calibers, and 20 percent of the shells for these guns.
In all the major countries special state bodies were established to manage the war economies: in Germany the Department of War Raw Materials, in Great Britain the Ministry of Munitions, and in Russia the Special Conferences (for state defense, fuel, shipping, and food). These state bodies planned war production; distributed orders, equipment, and raw and processed materials; rationed food and consumer goods; and exercised control over foreign trade. The capitalists formed their own representative organizations to assist the state bodies: in Germany the Central War Industries Council and war industries committees for each sector, in Great Britain the supervisory committees, and in Russia the war industries committees and the Zemstvo and Municipal unions. As a result, an interlocking relationship developed between the state administrative apparatus and the monopolies. “The imperialist war has immensely accelerated and intensified the process of transformation of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 33, p. 3). Although the state bodies managing the war economy had strong assistance from the representative organizations of the capitalists, the very nature of the capitalist economy prevented them from achieving complete success.
The war made intensive demands on all types of transportation. Up to half of all railroad rolling stock was loaded with military shipments. Most motor vehicles were used for military needs. A large number of the merchant vessels of the warring and neutral countries were engaged in shipping cargoes for war industries and armies. During the war 6,700 vessels (excluding sailing ships) were sunk (total displacement, about 15 million tons, or 28 percent of the prewar world tonnage).
The increase in military production, which was achieved primarily at the expense of nonmilitary sectors, placed excessive strains on the national economies, resulting in the disruption of the proportion between different sectors of production and, ultimately, in economic disorder. In Russia, for example, two-thirds of all industrial output went for war needs and only one-third for consumer needs, giving rise to a scarcity of goods, as well as to high prices and speculation. As early as 1915 there were shortages of many types of industrial raw materials and fuel, and by 1916 there was a severe raw materials and fuel crisis in Russia. As a result of the war, the production of many types of industrial output declined in other countries. There was a significant decline in the smelting of pig iron, steel, and nonferrous metals; the extraction of coal and petroleum; and output from all branches of light industry. The war damaged society’s productive forces and undermined the economic life of the people of the world.
In agriculture the effects of the war were especially grave. Mobilization deprived the countryside of its most productive workers and draft animals. Sown areas were cut back, yields dropped, and the number of livestock decreased and their productivity declined. Severe shortages of food developed in the cities of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia, which later experienced famine. The shortages spread to the army, resulting in cuts in food rations.
World War I demanded colossal financial expenditures, many times greater than the expenditures in all previous wars. There is no scientifically substantiated estimate of the total cost of World War I, but the one most commonly cited in the literature was calculated by the American economist E. Bogart, who set the total cost of the war at $359.9 billion in gold (699.4 billion rubles), including $208.3 billion (405 billion rubles) of direct (budgeted) expenditures and $151.6 billion (294.4 billion rubles) of indirect expenditures. Direct war expenditures included the cost of maintaining the army (40 percent) and the cost of the material and technological means for waging war (60 percent). The national income provided the economic base for covering war expenditures. Additional sources of financing the war were increases in existing (direct and indirect) taxes and the institution of new taxes, the sale of domestic and foreign bonds, and the issuing of paper money. The full weight of the financial burden of the war fell on the toiling classes of the population.
World War I was an important stage in the history of the art of war and in the building of armed forces. There were major changes in the organization and relationships of the various combat arms. The great length of the fronts and the deployment on them of vast armies of millions of soldiers led to the creation of new organizational units: fronts and army groups. The firepower of the infantry increased, but its proportionate role decreased somewhat as the result of the development of other combat arms: engineers, signal troops, and especially, the artillery. The number of artillery pieces rose sharply, technology improved, and new types of artillery were developed (antiaircraft, infantry support, and antitank artillery). The range of fire, destructive force of fire, and mobility of the artillery increased. The density of artillery reached 100 or more guns per kilometer of front. Infantry attacks were accompanied by rolling barrages.
Tanks, a powerful striking and mobile force, were used for the first time. Tank forces developed rapidly. By the war’s end there were 8,000 tanks in the Entente armies. In aviation, which also developed rapidly, several different branches emerged: fighter, reconnaissance, bombardment, and ground attack aviation. By the end of the war the belligerent powers had more than 10,000 combat aircraft. Antiaircraft defense developed in the air war. Chemical warfare troops appeared. The significance of the cavalry among the combat arms declined, and by the war’s end the number of cavalry troops had dropped sharply.
The war revealed the growing dependence of the art of war on economics and politics. The scale of operations, the extent of the front of attack, and the depth and rate of advance increased. With the establishment of continuous fronts,combat operations became static. The frontal blow, the success of which determined the outcome of an operation, became very important. During World War I the problem of the tactical breakthrough of a front was solved, but the problem of developing a breakthrough into an operational success remained unsolved. New means of fighting complicated the tactics of the combat arms. At the beginning of the war the infantry conducted offensives in skirmish lines and later, in waves of lines and combat teams (squads). Combined arms combat was based on cooperation between old and new combat arms—the infantry, the artillery, tanks, and aviation. Control of troops became more complex. The role of logistics and supplies increased significantly. Rail and motor-vehicle transport became very important.
The types and classes of naval ships were refined, and there was an increase in the proportion of light forces (cruisers, destroyers, patrol vessels and patrol boats, and submarines). Shipboard artillery, mines, torpedoes, and naval aviation were used extensively. The chief forms of military operations at sea were the blockade; cruiser, submarine, and mine warfare; landings and raids; and engagements and battles between line forces and light forces. The experience of World War I greatly influenced the development of military thinking and the organization and combat training of all combat arms (forces) until World War II (1939–45).
The war brought unprecedented deprivation and human suffering and widespread hunger and devastation. It brought mankind “to the brink of a precipice, to the brink of the destruction of civilization, of brutalization” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 31, p.182). Valuables worth 58 billion rubles were destroyed during the war. Entire regions, especially in northern France, were turned into wastelands.
Casualties amounted to 9.5 million killed and dead of wounds and 20 million wounded, of whom 3.5 million were permanently crippled. The heaviest losses (66.6 percent of the total) were suffered by Germany, Russia, France, and Austria-Hungary. The USA sustained only 1.2 percent of the total losses. Many civilians were killed by the various means of combat. (There are no overall figures for combat-related civilian casualties.) Hunger and other privations caused by the war led to a rise in the mortality rate and a drop in the birthrate. The population loss from these factors was more than 20 million in the 12 belligerent states alone, including 5 million in Russia, 4.4 million in Austria-Hungary, and 4.2 million in Germany. Unemployment, inflation, tax increases, and rising prices worsened the poverty and extreme deprivation of the large majority of the population of the capitalist countries.
Only the capitalists gained any advantages from the war. By the beginning of 1918, the war profits of the German monopolies totaled at least 10 billion gold marks. The capital of the German finance magnate Stinnes increased by a factor of ten, and the net profits of the “cannon king” Krupp, by a factor of almost six. Monopolies in France, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan made large profits, but the American monopolies made the most on the war—between 1914 and 1918, $3 billion in profits. “The American multimillionaires … profited more than all the rest. They have converted all, even the richest, countries into their tributaries. … And every dollar is stained with blood—from that ocean of blood that has been shed by the 10 million killed and 20 million maimed” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 37, p. 50). The profits of the monopolies continued to grow after the war.
The ruling classes placed the entire burden of the economic consequences of the war on the toiling people. World War I led to an aggravation of the class struggle and accelerated the ripening of the objective prerequisites for the Great October Socialist Revolution, which opened a new epoch in world history—the epoch of the transition from capitalism to socialism. The example of Russia’s toiling people, who threw off the oppression of the capitalists and landlords, showed other peoples the way to liberati