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On the Defeatist stand in case of a war between Greece and Turkey

The attitude of Marxist Leninists towards a given war should never be limited to passive cliche slogans denouncing wars, or out crying for the defense of fatherland, but an active stand based on its particular time and in connection with the general situation.

“The philistine” says Lenin “  does not realise that war is "the continuation of policy", and consequently limits himself to the formula that "the enemy has attacked us", "the enemy has invaded my country", without stopping to think what issues are at stake in the war, which classes are waging it, and with what political objects….For the philistine the important thing is where the armies stand, who is winning at the moment. For the Marxist the important thing is what issues are at stake in this war, during which first one, then the other army may be on top.” (1)

In some -progressive, anti-imperialist – wars the defense of fatherland slogan and attitude on that basis is the correct one, whereas  in case of the wars between imperialists “The defense of the fatherland” slogan is all too often unconscious philistine justification of war and reveals inability to analyse the meaning and implications of a particular war and see it in historical perspective.” (1)

The socio-economic conditions responsible for the emergence of wars, their political aims and the historical role they play in the life of society are extremely manifold. “Wars,” Lenin said, “are a supremely varied, diverse, complex thing. One cannot approach them with a general pattern"—there must be a concrete analysis of every war. Every military conflict, evolved by the contradictions existing in definite historical conditions, has its specific features and differs from all others. At the same time the fact that every military conflict has its own specific features does not mean that all of them should not be given a social evaluation in accordance with the class character and political aims of the belligerents. (2)

“Depending on the historical circumstances, the relationship of classes, etc., the attitude to war must be different at different times. It is absurd once and for all to renounce participation in war in principle.” That’s why “for a Marxist clarifying the nature of the war is a necessary preliminary for deciding the question of his attitude to it. But for such a clarification it is essential, first and foremost, to establish the objective conditions and concrete circumstances of the war in question. It is necessary to consider the war in the historical environment in which it is taking place, only then can one determine one’s attitude to it. Otherwise, the resulting interpretation will be not materialist but eclectic.” (3)

For the most part (In Turkey) parties and movements, disregarding the Marxist theory of uneven development, and its’ concrete proof in this given particular, still see Turkey as a semi-feudal, semi-colony country. In fact, since 1990s, the monopoly capital in Turkey concentrated heavily in the export to the newly emerged markets after the collapse of Soviet Union. It reached a stage in its development of capitalism in where yielded everything that capitalism can yield. Capitalism attained in Turkey its highest form which the mainly no longer exporting commodities, but capital. Meaning that the export did not remain to be  the production but followed by the export of capital – not only to the Balkans, Central Asia but including Africa. Last 20 years Turkey has become an imperialist country to a degree that forced herself into being one of the powers of the region in search of a lion share in the plunder.  

A country that had an overseas asset value of $53 Billion in 2000, tripled in 10 years to $ 186 Billion at 2010, and increased to $230 Billion in 2014.  Accumulation of surplus capital by its nature requires the export of capital and a competition in world market, which in return makes it take up an aggressive policy.

“Imperialism” says Lenin, “is a specific historical stage of capitalism. Its specific character is threefold: imperialism is monopoly capitalism; parasitic, or decaying capitalism; moribund capitalism. The supplanting of free competition by monopoly is the fundamental economic feature, the quintessence of imperialism… Advancing this definition of imperialism brings us into complete contradiction to K. Kautsky, who refuses to regard imperialism as a “phase of capitalism” and defines it as a policy “preferred” by finance capital, a tendency of “industrial” countries to annex “agrarian” countries. Kautsky’s definition is thoroughly false from the theoretical standpoint. What distinguishes imperialism is the rule not of industrial capital, but of finance capital, the striving to annex not agrarian countries, particularly, but every kind of country. Kautsky divorces imperialist politics from imperialist economics, he divorces monopoly in politics from monopoly in economics in order to pave the way for his vulgar bourgeois reformism, such as “disarmament”, “ultra-imperialism” and similar nonsense. The whole purpose and significance of this theoretical falsity is to obscure the most profound contradictions of imperialism and thus justify the theory of “unity” with the apologists of imperialism, the outright social-chauvinists and opportunists.” (4)

This development in return “leads, on the one hand, to an internationalization of the economic life and, on the other, to the leveling of economic differences,-and to an infinitely greater degree, the same process of economic development intensifies the tendency to "nationalize" capitalist interests, to form narrow "national" groups armed to the teeth and ready to hurl themselves at one another any moment.” (5) So the aggressive foreign policy reflects itself domestically. State power becomes the domain of financial oligarchy; the latter manages production which is tied up by the banks into one knot. This process of the organisation of production has proceeded from below; it has fortified itself within the framework of modern states, which have become an exact expression of the interests of finance capital. Every one of the capitalistically advanced "national economies" has turned into some kind of a "national" trust…... A mighty state military power is the last trump in the struggle of the powers. The fighting force in the world market thus depends upon the power and consolidation of the "nation," upon its financial and military resources.” (5)

Thus, due to the uneven development in Turkey presented itself 1990s onward, Turkey has become fascist internally and aggressive imperialist externally with - in addition to a standing army of over 350,000 - a mercenary army armed to the teeth that made up of religious fanatics fighting in Syria and Libya and standing who knows where.

 The events in eastern Mediterranean is not isolated from the plundering expansionist, aggressive imperialist aims of Turkey – neither is isolated from the similar aims of US-British, French, German imperialists.

“It is impossible to participate in the imperialist war without “participating” in the capitalist business of subjugating the people with loans from the capitalist gentlemen. In order to really oppose the imperialist war, we must sever all ties that fetter people and bind them to capital… either serve capital, pile up imperialist loans or break with the capitalists, break with imperialism, and become real revolutionaries on war issues as well. “(6)

To become real revolutionaries, Marxist Leninists first have to analyse, establish and clarify the nature of any given war, and determine his attitude to war and the slogan for the agitation. Marxists-Leninists adopt a concrete attitude to every war, depending on the class aims pursued by the belligerents. They do not content with vague, cliché slogans, but take an active stand.

“The political content of war determines the historical role it plays in the life of society. Depending on their political content wars can have a progressive or reactionary influence on the development of society. It is this division that makes Lenin’s principle of the political content of war so valuable in theoretical and practical respects. The political content of wars and their division into just and unjust ones are organically interlinked… The characteristic is not arbitrary, it reflects the objective role each war plays in the concrete historical conditions. Just wars are distinguished from unjust ones by the progressive or reactionary, liberating or aggressive aims of the belligerents. Any war that is waged by a people for the sake of freedom and social progress, for liberation from exploitation and national oppression or in defense of its state sovereignty, against an aggressive attack, is a just war. Any war unleashed by the imperialists with the aim of seizing foreign territories, enslaving and plundering other peoples, is an unjust war.(7)

Lenin said that “there are just and unjust wars, progressive and reactionary wars, wars waged by advanced classes and wars waged by backward classes, wars waged for the purpose of perpetuating class oppression and wars waged for the purpose of eliminating oppression..." (8)

There is imperialist war – direct wars between imperialist powers and there is anti-imperialist war -progressive war against imperialists. Wrong use of term inevitably results in wrong assessment and determination of attitude such has been the case of war in Syria, which is a defensive war against imperialist aggression, a clear anti-imperialist war defined by Marxism Leninism. “Defense of the fatherland is a lie in an imperialist war,” says Lenin, “but not in a democratic and revolutionary war.” (8)

In case of an aggression on the part of Turkey against Greece would make the war anti-imperialist and “defense of father land” is applicable as far as Greece is concerned. Although it is possible yet unlikely, Lenin’s evaluation of “little” imperialist war is still relevant today and the imperialist aggression of Turkey which is not limited to its scale, may grow into a world war due to her geographical strategic importance for competing great imperialist powers. Any escalation and intensification of aggressive military actions with the participation of competing great powers would inevitably lead to an extension of military conflicts and aggravate the danger of a world war. Thus, in all possible scenarios -except in the case of the overthrow of the fascist dictatorship in Turkey and replacing it with a revolutionary provisional government before or during the war– the stand of Marxist Leninists of Turkey - as the aggressive imperialist – will have to be a “defeatist” one., the one that calls for turning the war into a civil war for a revolutionary provisional government.  

One possible, and most likely argument would be the nonexistence of the objective and subjective conditions for such civil war. As history has proven, granting that the Marxist Leninists take the correct stand early on and carry out the necessary agitation and form the necessary organizations, wars mature the objective and subjective conditions in a very short time.” Like every crisis in the life of individuals or in the history of nations,” says Lenin,” war oppresses and breaks some, steels and enlightens others.” (9) Any changes in the balance of forces in the country in favour of socialism and democracy will greatly decrease the possibilities of interfering to a foreign country by force. Little imperialist wars do not emerge in a “pure” form, but several types often intertwine, develop, and one type may change into another. Reactionary wars can become civil wars in the belligerent countries, and changing the character of war, can become a progressive war against imperialist aggression. With the civil war and establishment of a revolutionary government, a belligerent country becoming a target of imperialist great powers, may become a country in defense, waging an anti-imperialist war. However, Marxist Leninists do not proceed from the “possibilities” but from the existing situation and concrete conditions and prepare themselves as such with the historically proven possibilities in mind.

“The only correct proletarian slogan” Lenin says, “is to transform the present imperialist war into a civil war. That is the only kind of tactics that will be truly revolutionary working-class tactics, corresponding to the conditions of the new historical epoch.”(12) “The slogan of civil war for socialism indicates the quickest way out of the imperialist war and links our struggle against the war with our struggle against opportunism. It is the only slogan that correctly takes into account both war-time peculiarities and the general character of our activities as distinct from opportunism with its pacifism” (9)

What would be the slogan of Marxist Leninists of Turkey?

Answer to this question, undoubtedly, will be dependent on the assessment of given war as to “reactionary-imperialist-unjust war” or “progressive - defensive-just war”. With the possible exception of Greece – as long as she does not become a proxy for the EU- the war with all the ML definition, would be a reactionary war as far as the belligerent countries.

“During a reactionary war” says Lenin, “a revolutionary class cannot but desire the defeat of its government.”

Considering the imperialistic nature of fascist dictatorship of Turkey, their policy cannot be but a reactionary one. And the importance and urgency of the destruction of their power for the interests of the working people and their struggle in particular and at least in the region in general, the slogan cannot be anything other than a defeatist one. “The opponents of the defeat slogan` says Lenin, “are simply afraid of themselves when they refuse to recognise the very obvious fact of the inseparable link between revolutionary agitation against the government and helping bring about its defeat.” (10) For Marxist Leninists, “Once the war is on, it is impossible to escape it. One must go and do one’s duty as a socialist. In a war, people think and ponder probably even more than “at home”. One must go out and organise the proletariat there for the final aim.” (3)  

For an imperialist war and for the Marxists Leninists of the imperialist country, this slogan is “disputed only by conscious partisans or helpless satellites of the social-chauvinists… To desire defeat, Trotsky writes, is “an uncalled-for and absolutely unjustifiable concession to the political methodology of social-patriotism, which would replace the revolutionary struggle against the war and the conditions causing it, with an orientation—highly arbitrary in the present conditions—towards the lesser evil” ... This is an instance of high-flown phraseology with which Trotsky always justifies opportunism. A “revolutionary struggle against the war” is merely an empty and meaning less exclamation, something at which the heroes of the Second International excel, unless it means revolutionary action against one’s own government even in wartime. One has only to do some thinking in order to understand this. Wartime revolutionary action against one’s own government indubitably means, not only desiring its defeat, but really facilitating such a defeat. The phrase-bandying Trotsky has completely lost his bearings on a simple issue. It seems to him that to desire   Russia’s defeat means desiring the victory of Germany… Anyone who would in all earnest refute the “slogan” of defeat for one’s own government in the imperialist war should prove one of three things: (1) that the war   is not reactionary, or (2) that a revolution stemming from that war is impossible, or (3) that co-ordination and mutual aid are possible between revolutionary movements in all the   belligerent countries.” (10)

Lenin in the same article says; “to repudiate the defeat slogan means allowing one’s revolutionary ardor to degenerate into an empty phrase, or sheer hypocrisy”, and takes up the proposed “neither victory nor defeat” slogan as a substitute. This slogan, he says, “is nothing but a paraphrase of the “defense of the fatherland” slogan. It means shifting the issue to the level of a war between governments, and not to the level of the struggle of the oppressed classes against their governments! It means justifying the chauvinism of all the imperialist nations, whose bourgeoisie are always ready to say—and do say to the people—that they are “only” fighting “against defeat”. The Organising Committee, together with Trotsky, stand on fully the same ground as David when they defend the “neither-victory nor-defeat” slogan.

“On closer examination, this slogan will be found to mean a “class truce”, the renunciation of the class struggle by the oppressed classes in all belligerent countries, since the class struggle is impossible without dealing blows at one’s “own” bourgeoisie, one’s “own” government, whereas dealing a   blow at one’s own government in wartime is high treason, means contributing to the defeat of one’s own country. Those who accept the “neither victory-nor-defeat” slogan can only be hypocritically in favour of the class struggle, of “disrupting the class truce”; in practice, such people are renouncing an independent proletarian policy because they subordinate the proletariat of all belligerent countries to the absolutely bourgeois task of safeguarding the imperialist governments against defeat. The only policy of actual, not verbal disruption of the “class truce”, of acceptance of the class struggle, is for the proletariat to take advantage of the difficulties experienced by its government and its bourgeoisie in order to overthrow them. This, however, cannot be achieved or striven for, without desiring the defeat of one’s own government and without contributing to that defeat.”

“Whoever is in favour of the slogan of “neither victory nor defeat” Lenin says, “is consciously or unconsciously a chauvinist; at best he is a conciliatory petty bourgeois but in any case, he is an enemy to proletarian policy, a partisan of the existing ·governments, of the present-day ruling classes. Those who stand for the “neither-victory-nor-defeat” slogan are in fact on the side of the bourgeoisie and the opportunists, for they do not believe in the possibility of international revolutionary action by the working class against their own governments, and do not wish to help develop such action, which, though undoubtedly difficult, is the only task worthy of a proletarian, the only socialist task.” (10)

The attitude of Marxist Leninists towards a possible war between Greece and Turkey should not be limited to passive cliché slogans denouncing wars, or chauvinistic out cry for the defense of fatherland but a revolutionary one. Marxist Leninists of a belligerent imperialist country “during a reactionary war cannot but desire the defeat of its government.” Due to the fact that the fascist dictatorship of Turkey has the imperialist character and their policy cannot be but a reactionary one. Dual, intertwined task of the  revolutionaries  to overthrow the Fascist dictatorship and  the destruction of their state power in line with  the interests of the working people and their struggle in particular,  and in the region in general, the slogan and the stand cannot be “neither victory nor defeat”,  “defense of fatherland” but the defeatist one, “the defeat of own government”. “The principal and fundamental task of socialists in the struggle for stable and democratic peace must be to explain to the masses the need for revolutionary mass struggle, to spread the idea of it systematically, and to set up the necessary organisations, to expose the hypocrisy and falsehood both of the bourgeois pacifist and of the socialist of the Second International on the “peace programme.” Such talk is doubly hypocritical on the part of “socialists” who follow the bourgeoisie in denying the possibility of transforming the present imperialist war into a civil war for socialism, and who oppose any revolutionary work in that direction.” (11)

Erdogan A

September 11, 2020


(1) Lenin, A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism

(2) Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 35, p. 273. Quoted from ML on War and Army

(3) Lenin, Lecture on the proletariat and war.

(4) Lenin, Imperialism and the Split in Socialism

(5) Bukharin, Imperialism and World Economy

(6) Lenin, Close to the Truth

(7) Fyodorov and others, Marxism-Leninism on War and Army

(8) Lenin, First All-Russia Congress on Adult Education

(9) Lenin, Reply to P. Kievsky (Y. Pyatakov)

(10) Lenin, The Defeat of One’s Own Government in the Imperialist War

(11) Lenin, The Second International Socialist Conference at Kienthal

(12) Lenin, On the Slogan to Transform the Imperialist War into a Civil War

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