National Sections of the L5I:

Strategy and tactics in the semi-colonies

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In the semi-colonial countries of the Third World, millions of people are denied elementary freedoms. In countries across Africa, Asia, South America and the former USSR, national independence is reduced to a sham – the real economic decisions are taken by global financial institutions and corporations. If these countries stray from the path of the ‘free’ market, they are bullied, bombed and blasted by the US and its imperialist allies. Peasants are denied land and markets for their products. Everywhere basic democratic rights are denied – to vote, to speak freely, to organise. After decades of neoliberal free market economics, the majority of the nations on this planet are held down in cruel underdevelopment.

The national capitalist classes of the semi-colonial countries cannot and will not lead a determined movement to free their nations from global imperialist control. They are too weak and too corrupt to do it; they are themselves connected to imperialism with a thousand economic and personal ties. In the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the capitalists led mighty revolutions to free nations like England, France and America for capitalist economic development. In the twenty-first century, the semi-colonial bourgeoisie is too weak to lead its own national revolution. It falls to another class to lead it, one with no stake in maintaining imperialist domination: the working class and its allies in the poor peasantry. The tragic history of failed revolutions in the semi-colonies over the last 100 years only confirm this central tenet of Leon Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution.

By refusing to expropriate the companies, banks and land of the “national” as well as the imperialist bourgeoisie, by refusing to satisfy the demands of the poor and landless peasantry, the leaders of the revolutions in Nicaragua, Zimbabwe and the Philippines in the 1970s and 1980s ensured the continued prostration of these countries before the economic and military might of imperialism. Even in Burma, Egypt, Iraq and Libya, where military regimes nationalised the economy and created state owned infrastructures in the 1950s and 1960s, they failed to break the economic chains binding the country to imperialism. Stagnation born of autarky, a mounting foreign debt, the re-emergence of a national bourgeoisie outside the state sector: all marked the road back to subordination and super-exploitation.

Only where capitalism was completely uprooted (China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam) did revolutions challenge the grip of the imperialist world economy over their countries. But without the democracy of workers’ and poor peasants’ councils, and with leaders opposed to the worldwide spread of revolution, they were doomed to follow the path back to capitalism and subordination to imperialism.

The expropriation of the major industries, banks and finance houses, the imposition of a strict state monopoly of foreign trade, sustained efforts to spread the revolution internationally: these must be the first steps of every victorious revolution in a semi-colonial country.

A century of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle has proved a thousand times over that only the proletariat, mobilised in workers’ councils and a workers’ militia, can carry these tasks through in a consistently progressive manner. In the process, the working class must rally millions of peasants and semi-proletarians around the fight for national independence, agrarian revolution and the fullest democratic freedoms for the masses.

In the face of military aggression by the USA or other imperialist powers, the national capitalist class of a semi-colonial country is sometimes compelled to resist, as in Iraq in 2003. In countries denied even a vestige of independence, like Palestine or Chechnya, bourgeois forces can take the leadership of the movement for national liberation. In both these circumstances, the task of the working class is not to stand aside from the struggle; but to participate in it with the utmost energy. Temporary agreements for common action and struggle may be made with bourgeois nationalist and even Islamist forces. Indeed the working class must actively call for a united front of all forces – workers, peasants, petit-bourgeois and even bourgeois nationalists – for struggle against imperialism.

But the working class never ceases its struggle against capitalists and landlords. The working class must never simply dissolve itself into a bourgeois movement or subordinate itself to a bourgeois or petit-bourgeois leadership. The working class must always and everywhere strive to constitute itself as an independent force, with its own organisation and a programme expressing its own social interests. By calling for and building an anti-imperialist united front whilst always preserving its class independence, the working class should fight to bring itself to the head of the national struggle. It will constantly demand of its untrustworthy bourgeois ‘allies’ that they go further than their narrow class interests dictate, that they break all ties with imperialist capital, that they end all restrictions on workers’ organisations, that they arm the masses and that they mobilise the people themselves for the struggle.

The working class party will promote its own class methods of mass struggle as the most successful means of driving out the imperialists – but will not stop there. Rejecting with contempt all offers to govern in coalition with the bourgeoisie, the workers’ party will proceed to organise workers’ and peasants’ councils and militia and to pursue a forcible transfer of power into the hands of the workers and peasants. For revolutionary communists therefore, the anti-imperialist united front is never a strategy in and of itself. It is a tactic: a staging post on the road not only to the defeat of imperialism but to the overthrow of the national bourgeoisie itself. In short, only the working class can make the national democratic revolution permanent, by completing the revolutionary reconstruction of the nation under its own leadership.