A Manifesto that is Neither Internationalist nor against War
Gearóid Ó Loingsigh
6 April 2022
Currently the USEC bureau of the FI is circulating a document entitled Internationalist Manifesto Against the War. Gilbert Achcar is credited as being the person behind the manifesto and that he may well be, but it is in reality a kite flying exercise by the USEC to see how far they can go down the road of social chauvinism.
The manifesto starts off by trying to correct a number of glaring errors they had made in the past by acknowledging that the “main culprit for this dangerous evolution is US imperialism, which took advantage of the fall of the Soviet Union in order to consolidate its global military network, expand its presence in various parts of the world and launch invasion wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
However, it soon becomes clear that they are paying lip service to the idea and this is mere window dressing. The short manifesto conflates the Ukrainian state with a nebulous “resistance” that is never defined. Some of their demands are straightforward and uncomplicated.
They call for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine and support for the Russian anti-war movement as well as an open door policy for refuges fleeing any and all wars. These are uncomplicated demands that everyone can support. However, it also then goes on to call for the right of the “resistance” to obtain arms, but the “resistance” is the capitalist Ukrainian state and its forces include the Azov Battallion. The Ukrainian state is currently receiving substantial weaponry from NATO, so this call is nothing more than an endorsement of current NATO policy.
The manifesto has one other demand which on the surface seems ok, that Russia should be forced to pay reparations for what it has inflicted on Ukraine. It ignores that in the past only victorious powers have been able to impose such demands on the vanquished and whilst the most recent example might be Germany, reparations have actually been extracted from nations such as Haití and others that rebelled against slavery and colonialism. So. the question arises as to who enforces this and more importantly, exactly who receives the reparations. Is it the capitalist government in Kiev? Or is some other type of payment envisaged. It is important to note that Achcar and others have not been to the fore in any movement to demand reparations from the U:S. for Iraq and even less still for Libya an armed operation he supported in practice, despite his protestations to the contrary. No one is asking the Saudis for reparations for the destruction of Yemen and meanwhile Gaza is bombed willy-nilly and Achcar does not demand reparations. He has also been silent on any demand for Israeli and U.S. reparations for the destruction of his own native Lebanon in the 1980s. So, whilst the idea of invaders being forced to make reparations is not an unworthy demand, it is suspicious as to why it only applied to this particular conflict. Meanwhile Vietnam awaits Achcar’s dollars.
Perhaps the most problematic demand of the manifesto is the following.
No to any increases in military expenditure—we pledge to launch, as soon as this war ends, a new campaign for global disarmament, the dissolution of all imperialist military alliances and an alternative architecture of international security based on the rule of law.At first glance it would pass the test of any liberal. Yet a number of questions arise. Why no to any increase in military expenditure and not call for a drastic reduction? The answer is they would clash with their new allies in the Embassies who have no intention of reducing their current military budget and smile at the innocence of those who postpone discussion of military budgets to some far-off future.
Likewise, they pledge, once the war is over and not before for a campaign for global disarmament. They have forgotten the old slogan of striking while the iron is hot. Any demand to post disarmament to some uncertain date in a peaceful future rather than deal with it now in the midst of a war, smacks of a reformism and chauvinism that would make Kautsky blush.
The also call for the dissolution of all imperialist military alliances, but how many are there? There is of course the EU’s version of NATO light, the WEA and of course there is NATO, there are no other imperialist military alliances and yet they cannot bring themselves to name them. It would seem that NATO is the love that dare not speak its name.
And lastly they call for an alternative architecture of international security based on the rule of law. What does this mean? Whose law? Who decides? We have an international order based on the rule of law, it is whatever the U.S. says. So, whilst there are calls for Putin to tried for war crimes not only are there no matching calls to try Bush and Blair, Obama and Clinton, but the U.S. refuses to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in judging its military, something it has in common with Putin’s Russia.
All in all, the Manifesto is not an internationalist document as it makes no calls on the working class and its organisations, none at all. Working class activity is reduced to support for a bourgeois war. Nor is it anti-war as it is not opposed to the war and makes no calls on the working class to oppose but rather to support it, so those Greek workers blocking NATO convoys do not match the call it makes. It is a thoroughly reactionary document. Achcar currently trains British military personnel, though it seems they have taught him more than he did them. He has learned how to spin supporting the forces of reaction, whilst masquerading as a “Marxist Intellectual”.