Spartacist Canada No. 174
Stirring Up the South China Sea
U.S. Imperialism Tightens Military Vise on China
For Revolutionary Internationalist Defense of China, Vietnam!
The following article is reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1005, 6 July, newspaper of the Spartacist League/U.S.
Concretizing a strategic military turn by U.S. imperialism, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced in Singapore in June that by 2020, 60 percent of U.S. warships, which are now evenly split between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, would be moved to the Asia-Pacific region. Panetta’s trip to Southeast Asia followed visits to the region by Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama, who declared the shift to the Pacific a “top priority.”
Despite occasional denials by administration spokesmen, the central target of the U.S. “pivot” toward the Pacific is China, the most powerful of the remaining countries where capitalist rule has been overthrown. The Pentagon itself makes this clear as it gradually discloses details of battle guidelines “designed to counter the military challenge from China” (Financial Times, 31 May). Known as the AirSea Battle fighting “concept”—an echo of the 1970s AirLand Battle doctrine adopted in the Cold War against the Soviet Union—the plan is meant to “cement US alliances and to counter ‘anti-access, area-denial’ weapons and capabilities,” such as a new generation of anti-ship missiles being developed by China. According to one Pentagon document noted in the article, a serious attack on China’s “anti-access, area-denial” defenses would mean “preparing for a large pre-emptive strike on military bases in mainland China.”
Washington has over the last two years made a concerted series of moves aimed at extending and strengthening pressures against China, from resuming aid to Indonesia’s Kopassus special forces and normalizing relations with Myanmar (Burma) to the stationing of Marines in Darwin, Australia, and joint maneuvers with U.S. client states. Reporting on a summit meeting between Japan and Pacific island countries that was also attended by a U.S. delegation, the Yomiuri Shimbun (29 May) wrote that the region “is now in the middle of a power struggle involving Japan, the United States and Australia on the one hand and China on the other.”
The tightening of the military vise on China has been combined with brazenly belligerent acts by the U.S. or its allies. In mid April, India successfully tested a long-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and giving India “complete coverage of targets in China” (New York Times, 19 April). The feat was widely applauded in the U.S. capitalist media, which spews endless lies and double-talk to condemn nuclear testing by regimes that Washington deems evil (North Korea, Iran). Just three days before the test, the U.S. and its Philippine client state began joint military exercises in the South China Sea while Chinese fishing and maritime patrol vessels were in a standoff with a Philippine warship in the Sea’s Scarborough Shoal.
In drawing down the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan (while stepping up drone bombardments and “targeted” killings in Pakistan and Yemen), the Obama administration set the stage for the “pivot” toward the Asia-Pacific. This marks a return to the strategy adopted by the U.S. rulers following the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet degenerated workers state in 1991-92. The fall of the Soviet Union removed what had been the imperialists’ supreme military target and the only real counterweight to their domination of the world, allowing the U.S. to pull back military forces in Europe and redeploy toward the western Pacific Rim.
While the September 11 terror attacks diverted U.S. attention to Afghanistan and other targets of the “war on terror,” that concocted “war” itself served to expand and strengthen the imperialists’ military arc around China, whose Stalinist leaders endorsed the “anti-terror” campaign. U.S. bases were established in Central Asia, while India and Mongolia were drawn into closer cooperation with Washington. Beginning in 2002, some 1,000 U.S. Marines and Special Forces have been dispatched to the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, the location of a protracted Muslim insurgency, where they rotate through to this day.
The Spartacist League, U.S. section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), stands foursquare for the military defense of the bureaucratically deformed workers states—China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba—against the imperialists and against internal counterrevolutionary forces. Just as workers must defend the trade unions against the attacks of the exploiters, despite a union leadership whose support to the capitalist order cripples labor struggle, so too must the social revolutions from China to Cuba be defended against the imperialists, who seek to revive the decaying capitalist profit system by turning those countries back into fields for the most brutal exploitation. We demand the removal of all American bases and troops from Asia as part of the struggle to mobilize the U.S. working class against its “own” capitalist rulers and their predatory military adventures, a struggle that must be consummated through the revolutionary overturn of the capitalist-imperialist world order.
Our military defense of the workers states against the class enemy is unconditional—that is, it is not dependent on the policies pursued by the ruling Stalinist regimes or by the particular circumstances of the conflict. At the same time, as Trotskyists the ICL maintains our opposition to those regimes, which undermine the workers states by politically suppressing the working class and seeking to accommodate the imperialists, who will stop at nothing to secure their rule and profits.
China’s Military Advances
The Pentagon’s accelerated shift toward East and Southeast Asia is driven in large part by the major leaps China has made in its defense capability over the past period, a welcome development that occurred mostly as U.S. forces were bogged down in the Afghanistan and Iraq quagmires. In building up military forces in the coastal region facing Taiwan and enhancing its nuclear capability, China has won a greater degree of protection against imperialist brinkmanship.
In 1996, the U.S. sent two aircraft carrier groups to waters off Taiwan in response to Chinese military exercises coinciding with Taiwan’s presidential election campaign. This provocation by the Clinton administration, the largest U.S. naval deployment in the Pacific since the Vietnam War, brought to mind the imperialists’ “gunboat diplomacy” in the 19th century as they carved up and lorded it over China. It also spurred Beijing to ramp up defense spending, which it continued to do throughout its economic boom of the last decade.
China now possesses or is rapidly developing land-based ballistic and cruise missiles, jets with anti-ship missiles, conventionally and nuclear-powered submarines, long-range radars and surveillance satellites and space weapons. U.S. analysts describe this array as a potential “game changer” that “could force the U.S. Navy to pull its carriers and other surface combatants far back from China’s coasts” (Aaron L. Friedberg, A Contest for Supremacy: China, America and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia ). The American imperialists are determined to counter this development as part of their effort to remain the world’s overwhelmingly dominant military force.
Our defense of the workers states includes support to their development of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Having first successfully tested a nuclear bomb in 1964, China initially possessed liquid-fueled ballistic missiles that were vulnerable to destruction by first-strike launches. But in recent years it has developed solid-fueled ICBMs, capable of striking the U.S. mainland. Some of these are not in fixed silos but are mobile, making them all but impossible to take out. China will reportedly soon deploy submarine-launched missiles that could also reach the U.S. The People’s Republic has thus achieved a crucial deterrent to attack by U.S. imperialism, the only state power to have used atomic weapons, incinerating 200,000 civilians in Japan in 1945. While President Harry Truman and other U.S. officials considered using this weapon of mass destruction against the Chinese in the failed attempt to “roll back Communism” during the Korean War, they were constrained by the possession of the bomb by the USSR. By the 1970s the Soviet Union had reached rough nuclear parity with the U.S., which China is nowhere near attaining.
Stalinist Accommodation to Imperialism
While impressive and necessary, China’s military and economic advances cannot ultimately guarantee the survival of the workers state in a world dominated by imperialist powers bent on its destruction. The overthrow of capitalist rule by the 1949 Revolution liberated the workers and peasants from imperialist subjugation and the tyranny of the Chinese bourgeoisie. The collectivization of the economy set the stage for a tremendous leap in the masses’ conditions over their previous miserable existence and created a significant industrial base (at first with substantial Soviet aid), a necessary foundation for the military defense of the revolution.
However, unlike the proletarian October Revolution of 1917 in Russia, which created a workers state based on workers, peasants and soldiers soviets (councils), the 1949 Revolution was the result of a peasant-based guerrilla war led by Mao Zedong’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP), ushering in a workers state that was bureaucratically deformed from its inception. The CCP’s political framework is the profoundly anti-Marxist dogma of “socialism in one country,” proclaimed by J.V. Stalin in late 1924 as the watchword of the bureaucracy that usurped political power from the Soviet proletariat. Overturning the internationalist program and principles that guided the Bolsheviks under V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, the Stalinist bureaucracy renounced the fight for world socialist revolution, pursuing instead the utopian quest for peaceful coexistence with imperialism.
Covering one-sixth of the earth’s surface and possessing abundant mineral wealth, the Soviet Union advanced eons over the old, deeply backward and impoverished society ruled by the tsars, growing into an industrial and military powerhouse second only to the U.S. Yet it could not on its own surpass the economic level of the advanced capitalist countries, much less achieve socialism—a society of material abundance premised on the collectivization and qualitative development of the advanced productive forces that are today centered in the imperialist countries.
In The Revolution Betrayed (1936), his classic analysis of the degeneration of the Soviet Union under Stalin, Trotsky noted both the advantages of a planned, collectivized economy in mobilizing industry for military defense and the limitations that sprang from the isolation of the workers state. He wrote:
“The economic successes of the Soviet Union make it possible for her to fortify herself, advance, arm herself and, when necessary, retreat and wait, in a word, hold out. But, by its very nature, the question, Who shall prevail—not only as a military, but still more as an economic question—confronts the Soviet Union on a world scale. Military intervention is a danger. The intervention of cheap commodities in the baggage trains of capitalist armies would be incomparably more dangerous.”
Trotsky’s political conclusion was the need for unconditional military defense of the Soviet Union and for proletarian political revolution to oust the privileged, parasitic bureaucracy and restore workers democracy and proletarian internationalism. He starkly posed the alternatives: “Will the bureaucrat devour the workers’ state, or will the working class clean up the bureaucrat?” This question is posed with no less urgency today for China and the other remaining deformed workers states.
Even at its peak, the Soviet Union’s total output was no more than a third of that of the U.S. Finally, after decades of imperialist pressure and bureaucratic misrule, the Soviet workers state succumbed to capitalist counterrevolution in 1991-92. This was a historic defeat for the working people of the world, giving renewed life to the decaying capitalist system and leaving U.S. imperialism as the world’s unchallenged military behemoth. China today remains far below the economic level attained by the former Soviet Union, weighed down in particular by its huge rural hinterland.
Pursuing their own variant of “socialism in one country,” the Beijing Stalinists believe that they can avoid the fate of their Moscow counterparts in part by pursuing greater integration into the world economy, steadily developing economically and militarily, while maintaining an iron political grip over the combative working class. Throughout the last five years of world capitalist economic crisis, China has experienced massive economic growth, due primarily to the state-owned banks and industry. But in the long run, the current regime’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics” will be no more able to overcome the historic legacy of China’s backwardness and resolve the problem of scarcity than Mao Zedong’s “egalitarian” autarky.
The CCP’s strategy is premised on illusions in peaceful relations with the imperialists and in the stability of the capitalist world market—a fantasy belied by the very workings of that market, not least the current deep recession. Beijing believes that its enormous cache of U.S. treasury bonds constrains American belligerence. But by acting as the main U.S. creditor, the Chinese government contributes directly to Washington’s astronomical military spending, which surpasses that of the next 14 largest-spending countries combined. The primary focus of that military machine is now squarely set on China.
Along with military encirclement and the promotion of internal counterrevolutionary forces, the imperialists are stepping up economic pressure, from the anti-China protectionism pushed by Democratic and Republican politicians and the trade-union officialdom to trade pacts with U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific region. While Beijing seeks to offset hostilities with its neighbors through greater economic ties, the U.S. is pursuing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement with Australia, Vietnam and six other countries, on the heels of the recently sealed U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement. The restoration of full U.S. diplomatic relations with Myanmar is also a wedge against China, which has hydroelectric and pipeline projects in that country.
What’s at Stake in the South China Sea?
In a paper announcing the U.S. turn toward the Asia-Pacific, Hillary Clinton declared the imperialists’ commitment to “ensuring transparency in the military activities of the region’s key players” (read: China), countering North Korea’s supposed nuclear “proliferation efforts” and “defending freedom of navigation in the South China Sea” (“America’s Pacific Century,” Foreign Policy, November 2011). Clinton detailed the steps taken by the U.S. to reinforce its alliances in the region, including with the Philippines, where U.S. warships will increase their “visits” in the next period. In response to U.S. machinations, General Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) general staff, bluntly warned: “The South China issue is not America’s business.”
The U.S. officially denies any intention of going to war over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, saying that all parties should abide by international law. The U.S., it should be noted, has never bothered to sign the international treaty governing maritime disputes, figuring that its overwhelming military might and regional alliances override any such formalities.
The South China Sea is a strategically important waterway through which half of the world’s merchant tonnage passes, including some 80 percent of both China’s and Japan’s crude oil imports. Either wholly or in part, ownership of the South China Sea’s shoals and reefs is contested by the Chinese and Vietnamese workers states and by capitalist Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan. China currently controls the Paracels, which are close to its southeast coastline, and a good part of the more distant Spratlys. The South China Sea has always provided rich fishing grounds, accounting today for some 10 percent of the world’s annual catch. Its waters are also believed to cover enormous untapped oil and natural gas reserves. China’s estimate of the amount of oil equals 80 percent of Saudi Arabia’s proven reserves.
The South China Sea connects with the Indian Ocean through the Strait of Malacca, a narrow channel between Indonesia and Malaysia that is a potential chokepoint for China’s oil and iron ore imports. Hinting at American intentions to dominate this vital passageway in her Foreign Policy piece, Hillary Clinton lauded the expansion of the U.S. alliance with Australia “from a Pacific partnership to an Indo-Pacific one.”
In any military conflict between China or Vietnam and the U.S., the Philippines or any other capitalist country, it is the duty of workers internationally to stand for the defense of the workers states. Vehemently opposed to this position is the bulk of the U.S. left—from the International Socialist Organization to various Maoist remnants and the ultra-Stalinist Progressive Labor Party—which declares that China is a capitalist or even imperialist country or is irreversibly on that road. These groups are either silent on U.S. machinations in the South China Sea or, in the case of the quirky Socialist Workers Party of Jack Barnes, echo bourgeois propagandists in describing the conflict as one between “rival powers” that are being rocked by “the deepening worldwide crisis of capitalism” (Militant, 30 April).
For its part, the Workers World Party (WWP) protests growing U.S. belligerence, correctly noting that “Washington and Wall Street will be satisfied with nothing less than the complete recolonization of China” (“U.S. Remains Hostile to China,” Workers World, 31 May). But its defense of China is from the standpoint of support to a section of the Stalinist bureaucracy (represented in the WWP’s eyes by ousted Chongqing party leader Bo Xilai) that is supposedly committed to defending state property against those aiming for greater concessions to international capital. That stance led the WWP to hail the bloody suppression of the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising, an incipient political revolution.
What Trotsky observed in The Revolution Betrayed in regard to Stalin’s regime is certainly no less true for the CCP today: The privileged, parasitic bureaucracy “has ceased to offer any subjective guarantee whatever of the socialist direction of its policy. It continues to preserve state property only to the extent that it fears the proletariat.” For the Chinese bureaucracy, there is indeed much to fear from the working class in both private and state-owned enterprises, as seen in repeated waves of strikes and large-scale protests in defense of their livelihoods, not to speak of turmoil among peasants angered by official corruption.
Opposition to imperialist maneuvering in East and Southeast Asia is fundamental to any revolutionary perspective. Nationalist wrangling over ownership of the South China Sea’s uninhabited rocks and islets is another matter entirely. As revolutionary Marxists, we take no side in these territorial disputes and condemn in particular the criminal squabbling over fishing and exploration rights that have pitted the Stalinist regimes in Beijing and Hanoi against each other. The squabbling led to outright military clashes in 1988 and 2011 as well as smaller police actions, such as in the Gulf of Tonkin in 2005, when the PLA Navy shot and killed nine Vietnamese fishermen. Under the rule of workers and peasants councils, China and Vietnam would cooperate in developing the area’s natural resources and in mutual defense against imperialism.
Defense of China against imperialism must include opposing U.S. military aid to Taiwan, which is ruled by the bourgeois class that fled the 1949 Revolution. On May 18, Congress approved the sale of 66 F-16 fighters to Taiwan. Just hours later, the Defense Department released its annual report to Congress on China, which noted that “the PLA continued to build the capabilities” to deter Taiwan from declaring independence, to deny effective U.S. intervention in a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and to defeat Taiwanese forces in the event of military conflict. Ever since 1950, when at the outbreak of the Korean War the U.S. sent the Seventh Fleet to the waters separating Taiwan from the Chinese mainland, Washington has seen the island as its “unsinkable aircraft carrier,” i.e., a dagger aimed at the Chinese mainland.
Japanese imperialism also has committed its forces to backing up capitalist Taiwan in a military conflict with China. After the U.S. and Japan issued a February 2005 statement declaring Taiwan to be a “mutual security concern,” the U.S. and Japanese sections of the ICL wrote in a joint statement: “Taiwan has been since ancient times a part of China, and we Trotskyists will stand with China in the event of any military conflict with imperialism over Taiwan” (WV No. 844, 18 March 2005). Opposing the CCP’s “one country, two systems” policy of reunification with Taiwan while maintaining capitalist property there, we call for the revolutionary reunification of China through political revolution against the Stalinist regime on the mainland, socialist revolution in Taiwan to overthrow the bourgeoisie, and the expropriation of the Hong Kong capitalists.
China as well as North Korea are directly threatened by the ramped-up U.S.-Japan military alliance. Japan, for example, has been key to establishing a U.S. theater missile defense system targeting the two workers states. The SL/U.S. and the Spartacist Group Japan call to smash the counterrevolutionary U.S.-Japan alliance through workers revolution on both sides of the Pacific.
Anti-China Frenzy in Philippines
The hottest recent dispute in the South China Sea began in April when the Philippines sent a (U.S.-supplied) frigate to board Chinese fishing vessels, on which “illegally harvested” corals were said to be found. China then dispatched two Maritime Surveillance craft to the area. Previously planned U.S.-Philippine military exercises, including some 4,500 U.S. Marines, took place in late April—at the very height of the standoff—near the Palawan islands, which are located close to Scarborough Shoal. Both China and the Philippines began to pull back their ships and boats with the onset of the typhoon season.
The Benigno Aquino government in Manila has tried to stir up a nationalist anti-China crusade over the Scarborough Shoal—called Panatag in the Philippines and Huangyan in China—and play the incident to bargain for more aid from its Washington patron. The Philippines has called on Vietnam and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to put aside their disputes over the South China Sea in favor of unity against China. Under Aquino’s predecessor, Gloria Arroyo, the Philippines dropped out of an agreement for a joint development project with China and Vietnam after news of the deal touched off a nationalist anti-Chinese outcry.
Last November, Hillary Clinton pledged that the U.S. would bolster the Philippines’ naval capacity on the basis of the Mutual Defense Treaty enacted in 1951, two years after the overthrow of capitalist rule in China. Japan, which sent three warships to the Philippines on a “goodwill visit” in May, has agreed to train and equip the Philippine coast guard, while South Korea will assist in modernizing the military. In April, the Obama administration approved the tripling of military sales to the Philippines compared to last year. This is a clear danger to the workers, peasants and Moro Muslims, who have suffered brutal repression at the hands of the Philippine armed forces.
In a June visit to the White House, Aquino made a direct pitch for a greater U.S. military presence in the former American colony to counteract China’s “intentions,” winning a pledge that the U.S. will help build a special facility and train personnel to monitor maritime movements in the South China Sea. In addition to more joint maneuvers, Manila has given the go-ahead for the U.S. to once again use the giant Clark and Subic Bay air force and naval bases, which were closed down in the early 1990s.
Various “socialist” organizations have given aid to the anti-China drive by whipping up nationalist hysteria over the Scarborough Shoal. Low turnouts for protests in Manila showed that the masses were not buying Aquino’s attempt to divert attention from their unbearable social and economic misery into a crusade against China. But this was not for lack of effort by the social-democratic AKBAYAN. Numbering among its leaders Aquino’s chief political adviser and other government officials, AKBAYAN organized a May 11 march on the Chinese consulate as part of a “global day of action against China’s bullying in the West Philippine Sea.” Last year Walden Bello, an academic darling of the reformist left internationally, joined another AKBAYAN lawmaker in proposing that the disputed maritime territory be renamed the “West Philippine Sea,” the name that government spokesmen are now using.
As for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), its April 21 statement demanded that the U.S. stop its “interventionism in the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific” while simultaneously demanding that “capitalist” China “stand down” and pull back its patrol ships, asserting Philippine “national sovereignty and territorial integrity” in the disputed areas. Behind the Maoist CPP’s militant posturing is a class-collaborationist program that ties the fortunes of the deeply impoverished workers and peasants to a non-existent “progressive” wing of the national bourgeoisie. Thus what drives the CPP’s rural guerrilla warfare is the hope that peace negotiations will result in a bourgeois coalition government that would supposedly expand democracy and carry out land reform and industrialization.
Under any form of capitalist rule, the Philippines will remain a deeply impoverished society under the thumb of the imperialists and in the oppressive grip of the Catholic church. The Filipino working class must be broken from nationalist class collaboration and won to the Trotskyist perspective of permanent revolution: the seizure of power by the proletariat at the head of all the urban and rural poor and the extension of socialist revolution internationally, crucially including the imperialist heartlands.
Chinese, Vietnamese Stalinist Backstabbing
Of particular danger to the world proletariat is U.S. imperialism’s attempt to seize on disputes in the South China Sea in order to secure Vietnam as an ally against China. The U.S. suffered a resounding defeat at the hands of the Vietnamese workers and peasants, capped by the frantic helicopter flight of American agents and their local puppets out of Saigon in April 1975. With the military defeat of the U.S. and its murderous capitalist henchmen in South Vietnam, the country was reunified as a bureaucratically deformed workers state, a victory for the workers of the world.
Twenty years later, the U.S. normalized relations with Vietnam. And as Hanoi pursued its own program of “market reforms,” the U.S. began to develop military ties with Vietnam, marked by repeated visits of American warships. The Vietnamese regime has recently stated its intention to make Cam Ranh Bay—a deepwater anchorage astride the South China Sea maritime routes and a major base of operations for the U.S. during the Vietnam War—available to the U.S. and other foreign navies.
Two years ago, Vietnam used its chairmanship of the ASEAN consortium, which does not include China, to put the South China Sea on the organization’s agenda, leading to Hillary Clinton’s declaration at the July 2010 ASEAN Regional Forum that freedom of navigation in the area was a U.S. “national interest.” Later that year, a Vietnamese diplomat told the International Crisis Group, an imperialist advisory body, that the Chinese did not take Vietnam seriously before Clinton’s statement, but “they listen to us now.”
In late June the Vietnamese government declared sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Paracel and Spratly islands, leading to a countermove by China to raise the administrative status it gives the islands. With Vietnam conducting air patrols over the Spratlys, China has just begun “combat ready” patrols in the area. Beijing’s insistence that China rightfully possesses the islands and almost the entire South China Sea is based on claims dating back to at least the 15th century. In the Atlantic (June 2012), U.S. military analyst Robert Kaplan reports that a Vietnamese official answered such claims by stating that when China occupied Vietnam six centuries ago, it didn’t occupy the Paracels and Spratlys. “If these island groups belonged to China,” the official asked, “why didn’t the Ming emperors include them in their maps?”
The grotesque, retrograde nationalism by both Stalinist regimes can only undermine the defense of the social gains of the revolutions that overthrew capitalist rule. Indeed, when the Vietnamese government spurred weekly anti-China protests last summer in Hanoi, anti-Communist Vietnamese émigrés in Seattle, Paris and other cities joined the campaign by staging their own demonstrations. Hanoi put a stop to the protests in August, fearing that they were preventing attempts to negotiate with Beijing.
Vietnamese nationalist antipathy toward China, a central feature of popular consciousness based on centuries of oppression at the hands of dynastic Chinese rulers, has been massively reinforced by the CCP Stalinists’ repeated backstabbing of the Vietnamese workers and peasants, a product of the anti-Soviet alliance struck by Mao with the U.S. In the late 1950s and ’60s, antagonism between the Moscow and Beijing Stalinist regimes—marked, for example, by the Kremlin’s refusal to back China in its 1959 border war with India—developed into a full-blown split. Mao was soon proclaiming “Soviet social imperialism” to be an even greater danger than U.S. imperialism, neatly dovetailing with the American rulers’ strategic goal of destroying the Soviet degenerated workers state. The Sino-Soviet border became one of the most heavily militarized in the world.
While much of the New Left was enthusing over Mao’s calamitous “Cultural Revolution,” the Spartacist League presciently warned that the CCP bureaucracy’s anti-Soviet line meant that “the danger of an imperialist alliance with China against the Russians cannot be dismissed” (“Chinese Menshevism,” Spartacist No. 15-16, April-May 1970). The article concluded:
“Trotskyism…is now the only tendency which stands for communist unity against imperialism. The cliques running the Soviet Union and China, each committed to the basic Stalinist policy of ‘Socialism in One Country’ (one’s own country), must be thrown out by political revolution, and their counter-revolutionary policies replaced by a firm commitment to revolutionary proletarian internationalism.”
The alliance was sealed with Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to China, where he met with Mao as U.S. bombs were raining down on the heroic Vietnamese. In 1979, just four years after the victory of the Vietnamese Revolution, China invaded Vietnam, suffering a stinging defeat at the hands of its battle-tested fighters. China’s scurrilous attack, in which it acted as a cat’s paw for the defeated U.S. imperialists, came in the wake of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s visit to the U.S., part of his pursuit of foreign capitalist investment in China. His regime went on to give material support to the reactionary mujahedin cutthroats fighting against Soviet Army forces in Afghanistan, one of the many ways that the CCP from Mao’s time on contributed to the downfall of the Soviet workers state. Stalinist treachery has now come full-circle with Vietnam’s rapprochement with U.S. imperialism, today as before the main enemy of the working people of the planet.
Reforge the Fourth International!
The ICL, which fought to the end in defense of the Soviet Union against capitalist counterrevolution, uniquely upholds the Trotskyist program in defending the remaining deformed workers states as part of our fight for new October Revolutions. As Trotsky made clear in “The USSR in War” (September 1939), for the Fourth International, which was founded a year earlier, the question of overthrowing the Soviet bureaucracy is “subordinate to the question of preserving state property in the means of production in the USSR,” and preserving that state property “is subordinate for us to the question of the world proletarian revolution.”
The destruction of the Soviet Union threw back proletarian consciousness, although unevenly, around the world, resulting in a historically low level of identification with communism as the program for the liberation of humanity from want, oppression and war. Yet the very workings of the capitalist system sow the seeds of class and social struggle, glimpses of which are seen today in workers struggles in Greece and elsewhere against the austerity dictates of the bankers and their governments.
What must be done is the forging of proletarian vanguard parties as sections of a reforged Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution. As the ICL’s U.S. section, the Spartacist League’s task is to build a revolutionary workers party in the belly of the imperialist beast. When the workers seize the industrial wealth that is now being squeezed out of the working class for the profits of the bosses, we will begin to build a planned socialist economy on a world scale. Then some historical crimes can be made right and some debts finally paid—like tens of billions of dollars to the Vietnamese and others whose countries have been maimed by American tanks and bombs—and the military machinery used by the imperialists to defend their profits through blood and terror will be destroyed once and for all.