On the YCL/CPC's Canadian Nationalism

'Nothing In Common With Marxism'

11 June 2010



As a former supporter of the Young Communist League (YCL), I read with interest your 1 June statement "No war with Korea! For a made-in-Canada foreign policy of peace!" It is quite true that the response from Seoul, Washington and Ottawa to the recent sinking of a South Korean naval vessel was ominous. The circumstances of this event remain somewhat murky, as Eric Margolis, a columnist for the Toronto Sun, observed in a 31 May article:

"North Korea denies guilt in the sinking, a position supported by Russian and Chinese military experts. South Korean and foreign experts concluded a North Korean torpedo caused the sinking, but the finding of the weapon with North Korean markings on it seemed a bit too convenient. Some suspect the South Korean corvette may have hit a floating mine."

The imperialists, whose ultimate goal remains the counterrevolutionary "reunification" of Korea under capitalism, are using the incident to ratchet up economic and military pressure on Pyongyang. We agree with you that this is "part and parcel of the cold war waged by US imperialism, [the] South Korean ruling class, and their allies against the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] since the armistice which 'ended' the Korean War in 1953."

While revolutionary socialists defend the North Korean deformed workers' state against capitalist restoration and military threats, it is obvious that the survival of the collectivized system that resulted from the expropriation of bourgeois property is endangered by the bizarre, nepotistic bureaucracy headed by Kim Jong Il. The only historically progressive solution is revolutionary reunification-a political revolution in the North to depose the Kim dynasty and establish direct workers' rule and a social revolution in the South to overturn capitalism.

Your suggestion that "Canadian youth and students should be quick to reject and denounce the war mongering stance taken by the Harper Conservative government" is fine as far as it goes, but the call for a "made-in-Canada foreign policy of peace" is overtly bourgeois nationalist. Your complaint about "Harper's slavish parroting of Washington's warmongering" implies that Canada's rulers are somehow less imperialist than their American senior partners. This impression is reinforced by the following proposal:

"What is needed is an independent and made-in-Canada foreign policy based on peace, disarmament, friendship, and sovereignty. It's time to run the war mongering Harper Tories out of office and to fight for a new future for youth which is not based on imperialist war and plunder."

This position derives from the Communist Party's denunciation of:

"U.S. domination of our economic, political and cultural life, made possible by the betrayal by the Canadian ruling class. Today the struggle for Canadian sovereignty and independence is a struggle for the future of Canada-an essential condition and step for the advance to socialism."

-Program of the Communist Party of Canada, February 2001

Marxists flatly reject such vulgar nationalism and assert that Canadian imperialism has all the "sovereignty and independence" it needs. Canada's rulers decided to sit out the Iraq War, opting instead to redouble their commitment to NATO's war in Afghanistan. As we noted in a leaflet distributed at the YCL's refoundation conference in March 2007, revolutionaries unconditionally oppose the presence of Canadian occupation forces in Haiti and Afghanistan. The Canadian ruling class undertakes such missions solely in pursuit of its own imperialist interests.

The idea that throwing "the war mongering Harper Tories out of office" could somehow transform Canadian imperialism into a "progressive" factor in global politics recalls Karl Kautsky's claim that imperialism was merely a policy option, rather than a necessary and inevitable product of developed capitalism. In Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916) Lenin ferociously denounced such notions:

"The essence of the matter is that Kautsky detaches the politics of imperialism from its economics, speaks of annexations as being a policy 'preferred' by finance capital, and opposes to it another bourgeois policy which, he alleges, is possible on this very same basis of finance capital.

. . .

"[Kautsky offers] a more subtle and more disguised (and therefore more dangerous) advocacy of conciliation with imperialism, because a 'fight' against the policy of the trusts and banks that does not affect the economic basis of the trusts and banks is mere bourgeois reformism and pacifism, the benevolent and innocent expression of pious wishes. Evasion of existing contradictions, forgetting the most important of them, instead of revealing their full depth-such is Kautsky's theory, which has nothing in common with Marxism."

The YCL's nationalist calls for a "made-in-Canada foreign policy" and its advocacy of a "peaceful" role for Canadian imperialism also have "nothing in common with Marxism."

Yours for socialist revolution,

Riley Boyd,

for the International Bolshevik Tendency

Appendix: IBT leaflet published March 2007

Re: Afghanistan--Lenin on Pacifism & Neo-Colonial War

Drive Out the Imperialists!

Canada's imperialist intervention in Haiti and Afghanistan poses a burning question for socialists today. The great Russian revolutionary, Vladimir Lenin, taught that Marxists are not pacifists and that it is always necessary to sharply distinguish between just and unjust wars. Lenin was very clear that whenever imperialist powers (e.g., Canada, U.S., Britain, France, etc.) invade and occupy a dependent capitalist country or semi-colony (like Iraq, Afghanistan or Haiti) Marxists must not only oppose their presence but actively solidarize with all acts of resistance to imperialist occupation:

"if tomorrow, Morocco were to declare war on France, or India on Britain, or Persia or China on Russia, and so on, these would be 'just', and 'defensive' wars, irrespective of who would be the first to attack; any socialist would wish the oppressed, dependent and unequal states victory over the oppressor, slave-holding and predatory 'Great' Powers.'

-Socialism and War, July-August 1915

In 1916 he reiterated:

"It would be sheer folly to repudiate 'defence of the fatherland' on the part of oppressed nations in their wars against the imperialist Great Powers...."

-The Military Programme of the Proletarian Revolution, September 1916

Lenin considered it:

"absurd not to recognise the legitimacy of wars of oppressed nations against their oppressors, wars that might break out today-rebellion of the Irish against England, for instance, rebellion of Morocco against France, or the Ukraine against Russia, etc...."

-"An Open Letter to Boris Souvarine," December 1916

In Afghanistan today Leninists are for the military defeat of the Canadian and other imperialist forces, despite the fact that opposition to them is led by the reactionary Taliban.

Lenin rejected any talk of opposition to war in general as long as the world capitalist system exists:

"Only after we have overthrown, finally vanquished and expropriated the bourgeoisie of the whole world, and not merely of one country, will wars become impossible....The social parsons and opportunists are always ready to build dreams of future peaceful socialism. But the very thing that distinguishes them from revolutionary Social-Democrats [i.e., communists] is that they refuse to think about and reflect on the fierce class struggle and class wars needed to achieve that beautiful future."

-The Military Programme of the Proletarian Revolution, September 1916

In an article written a month later Lenin boldly declared:

"An oppressed class which does not strive to learn to use arms, to acquire arms, only deserves to be treated like slaves. We cannot, unless we have become bourgeois pacifists or opportunists, forget that we are living in a class society from which there is no way out, nor can there be, save through the class struggle and overthrow of the power of the ruling class."

. . .

"Our slogan must be: arming of the proletariat to defeat, expropriate and disarm the bourgeoisie....Only after the proletariat has disarmed the bourgeoisie will it be able, without betraying its world-historic mission to consign all armaments to the scrap-heap."

-"The 'Disarmament' Slogan," October 1916, emphasis added

Posted: 7 July 2010