The left needs to take back the anti-war label. But to do this, the left needs to actually understand the words that they use on a regular basis.
There is a current trend in online discourse of focusing entirely upon labels like “anti-imperialist” and “anti-war” while ignoring the fact that capitalism is the basis for imperialism, and to be anti-war in the modern world requires one to be anti-capitalist.
Too often, many will claim the “anti-war” label when what they really mean is anti-establishment. They would happily wage war for their own benefit, and they are by no means anti-capitalist or anti-imperialist. The upcoming “Rage Against The War Machine” rally sponsored by the Libertarian Party and the Movement for a People’s Party features guests such as Tulsi Gabbard and Jackson Hinkle, two individuals who are not only not anti-capitalist, but explicitly are anti-communist.
Gabbard is an active head of the US Army psy-ops group at Ft. Bragg and is a member of a strange “religious sect,” while Hinkle is a YouTube streamer with connections to the LaRouche cult and Trump sycophants like Roger Stone. Gabbard—who receives a large portion of her campaign contributions from the military industrial complex—has been a long supporter of the war in Syria, and Hinkle often panders to reactionaries and military interventionists, for example, posting that he would shoot the Chinese balloon out of the sky.
This sort of behavior is nothing new from LaRouche cult members. The LaRouche cult, and their front org “The Schiller Institute,” have a long history of claiming anti-imperialism while supporting anti-communist forces. During the cold war, LaRouche was an outspoken supporter of the Ukrainian Nationalists in their fight against the USSR. Lyndon LaRouche himself even called Soviets “heathens,” saying they lacked individual human thought.
But it isn’t just cult members posting anti-communist rants on Twitter. One of the lead organizers for the rally is the current chair of the Libertarian Party, Angela McArdle. While she claims the event is anti-war, and against war in both Ukraine and China, as recently as 2021 she was posting to Twitter calling people “scumbag” and telling them to “go back to China.” Another example is fringe right-winger Jack Posobiec, who has recently begun to promote the rally. His disdain for China is very well-known, and he often posts “jokes” about killing communists. He just recently posted “funk the CCP and shoot down their Made in China balloon with a Made in the USA F-22.” While the rally claims to be anti-imperialist and anti-war, it seems, at least according to the organizers and biggest sponsors, to be neither.
Imperialism is defined by Lenin in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, as the export of the capitalist system by a super monopoly. It isn’t simply “when big countries do things,” it’s when the monopoly—currently the United States and its western vassal states and organizations (like NATO)—flexes its control over the world. We see this with international banking, trade regulations, sanctions, etc.
For example, in late February of 2022, with a quick snap of its fingers, the imperialist hegemony forced Germany to cut all ties with Russian gas and halt the Nord Stream 2 project, setting off a European energy crisis at the beginning of a long cold winter. This was just another move in the push to force Russia’s hand in Ukraine, which was ultimately successful: after this move and others (such as the Zelenskyy regime stating that it would escalate the shelling of the Donbass region), Russia began their special operation just days later.
So wouldn’t it be anti-imperialist to support Russia in the conflict in Ukraine? Many are coming to this conclusion. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The entire conflict, which goes back to the sabotage of the Soviet Union in 1991, benefits the imperialist hegemony by way of inflating weapons sales and prolonging dependance on expensive gas imported from the west. To support either “side” of this conflict is to support the conflict itself, which is an invention of NATO and western imperialism.
As Lenin put it in his short essay, “Who Stands to Gain?,” to cheer on either side of the conflict in Ukraine is to cheer on the party which stands to gain: the party of imperialism. Choosing either Ukraine or Russia is only reifying the conflict and lending it legitimacy in the eyes of workers.
The only way to be anti-war regarding the Ukraine conflict is to be anti-NATO, anti-imperialist, and anti-capitalist.
The correct stance is to call for an end to fighting in the region and for immediate peace talks. These talks must include NATO and US forces leaving Ukraine, new elections to expel the western puppet regime of Zelenskyy and his Banderite nationalists, and autonomy for the Donbass regions.
The left needs to move away from the idea that you must “choose sides” in an imperialist’s proxy war, or that there is such a thing as “good wars” waged by capitalist powers. The left needs to stop falling for those who claim they are “anti-war” and “anti-imperialist” but not anti-capitalist.
All wars started by the ruling class use working people as pawns in battles to maintain and uphold imperialism. But this doesn’t mean the left should be entirely pacifist. Workers should always be prepared to fight the only just war: a class war to bring about an end to capitalism and its exploitation of workers.
“We don’t want to fight even for a single day. But if circumstances force us to fight, we can fight to the finish.”Mao Zedong