Thu Jul 25, 2024
July 25, 2024

To Demand Or Not To Demand Weapons From Imperialism?

                                                                                                     Whoever is waiting for a “pure revolution” will never see it. He will be rendering lip service to revolution, someone who cannot understand the real revolution.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            LENIN, 1916

When we analyse the situation of civil war in Syria, there is a quasi-consensus that the al-Assad dictatorship holds military superiority over the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the broad network of militias that struggle for the downfall of his tyranny.

While Syrian regime massacres civilian population and rebel position with systematic bombings with tanks, missiles and even with chemical weapons, raids that demolish entire cities, at the rebel front the most elementary goods are in scarce supply: weapon ammunitions, doctors and medicaments, anti-gas masks, etc. are needed.

This situation is dramatic and what is worst is that the immense majority of the rebel militias has no heavy armament at all for self defence and let alone to think seriously of a military victory over the army of the dictatorship.

As in any kind of war and especially when it is being fought in such conditions, armament is vital to win or to lose the war or, which boils down to the same thing, for the victory or defeat of Syrian Revolution.

Faced with this issue and within the framework of our programme for the entire revolution, the IWL-FI poses the need to develop a policy of broad international solidarity with the cause of Syrian people. Coming down to brass tacks this means a campaign of unconditional and all-embracing solidarity for the victory of the rebels.

That is why we sustain that an imperious task is to boost the broadest mobilisation to demand in our countries and from all the governments in the world, including imperialist countries, immediate shipment of heavy weapons, medicaments and all kinds of material aid for the rebel militias of the FSA and the Local Committees of Coordination with no conditions of any kind.

Our demand of weapons does not embrace brigades connected to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, whose sectarian and confessional-religious viewpoint has driven them to break-up  the military front against the dictatorship in several places where they began by attacking Kurdish militias and the FSA acting as a “fifth column” of the regime.

This policy and demand sent the already bitter controversies that the Syrian revolution spawns among the diverse sectors of the world left.

Evidently, the broad span of organisations of Stalinist approach, especially Castroite-Chavism, is totally against demanding weapons for the rebels. This standpoint of theirs, even if it is part of their counterrevolutionary policy in these processes, is consistent with the unconditional support that they bestow on the dictatorship by presenting al-Assad as an alleged “anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist, victim of “imperialist conspiracy.” Consistently with this characterisation they take their position within the military camp of al-Assad against Syrian people.

However, the curious thing is that there is a series of centrist organisations, including some who claim to be Trotskyists, such as the Trotskyist Fraction (FT) headed by the Argentine PTS who declare to be for “Revolutionary overthrow” of al-Assad bur, at the same time, they are against demanding weapons to the rebels so as to make it possible for them to defeat him in a civil war that is already underway.

In spite of their statement that this demand is not “an issue of principles for revolutionaries”[1], the FT-PTS say clearly that “we do not agree to this demand pose by the IWL-PSTU (…) so that governments of the world should be sending weapons and medicaments to Syrian rebels.[2]

It is now crystal clear that the concrete outcome of this policy is the same as that of the Castroite-Chavists: we must not send weapons to the rebels who are fighting against al-Assad.     

The problem is that the FT arrives at this conclusion vindicating theoretical legacy and the tradition of Trotskyism. Apart from being totally false, it spawns further confusion among some honest revolutionary militants and only helps to weaken and further inhibit unconditional international solidarity that Syrian revolution needs so urgently.

And that is why it is necessary to keep on discussing our standpoints.

Which one is our trench in Syria?

First of all, the FT position about weapon for Syrian rebels has a lot to do with a previous and deeper problem: their political assessment and their military emplacement in the civil war itself.

As we discussed in other articles, faced with the military confrontation in Syria – just the way they did for Libya before – this trend takes sides with a disastrous “neither-nor” (neither Assad nor rebels) due to the fact that the rebels have no revolutionary leadership and the “hegemony of the working class” is non-existent in the process.

That is why they criticise us saying, “We do not agree with the demand posed by IWL-PSTU when they say that today’s policy for Syria is “total support for the rebels”[3]

They support their position against a “total support for the rebels” with the fact that “the working class does not yet exist as an independent political subject” struggling for a revolutionary overthrow of Assad that will spawn a state in transition to socialism heading for a Federation of Socialist republics of the Middle East”.[4]

As the struggle of the masses is headed by bourgeois leaderships and imperialism is active – the way they have always been – with a policy to defeat the revolution, according to this trend, every process is “co-opted” or “subordinate” to these counterrevolutionary leaderships.

In the case of Libya, for example, when the NATO air raids began, they declared that, as from that moment on, all the Libyan combatants were “co-opted” and had turned into “land troops”[5] of imperialism.

Now, they are saying the same for Syria, “As we could see in Libya and even in Egypt, the struggle of the masses is being deliberately used by bourgeois and petty-bourgeois rebel leaders and by imperialism to prevent the revolutionary overthrow of the regime and of the fundamental institutions of the bourgeois State. In Syria history is repeated”[6]

Stemming out of this analysis of the process, when we say that the IWL-FI “supports the armed struggle of Syrian people unconditionally regardless of who may be leading it politically”[7], they accuse us having “abandoned any revolutionary perspective”[8]

First of all, let usblank a false controversy.

We agree that in the Syrian conflict there is no “working class as independent political subject” fighting for a revolutionary socialist programme heading for a “Federation of Socialist Republics of the Middle East”.

Moreover, we all know that the immense majority of the rebel militias are commanded by bourgeois leaderships, such as Syrian National Council (CNS) or the headquarters of the FSA who are thoroughly pro-imperialist to boot. Neither can it be denied that the working class as a social subject not only is not the leader but also acts in the resistance against the dictatorship in diluted form.

Knowing this, it is an elementary question that we, the revolutionaries must fight with all our strength to boost proletarian hegemony and to provide the Syrian process with socialist, revolutionary political leadership.

So this has never been our topic of discussion.     

The discussion is: considering the current inexistence of “working class as an independent political subject” and of a leadership willing to fight for a “Federation of Socialist Republics of the Middle East” and as long as all this does not exist, what should the military position of the revolutionaries be in the armed confrontation of rebels (who have a leadership consisting of SNC and the headquarters of the FSA) and al-Assad? To give full support to the cause of the Syrian Revolution and fight arm in arm with the rebels in spite of their bourgeois and pro-imperialist leader; do we or do we not?

Our position is clear: we are in the rebel trenches (with all their contradictions) against Assad and we fight against the bourgeois leaderships and imperialism as from this military position.

The FT standpoint and policy are the opposite. As reality does not adjust itself to their condition (there is revolutionary leadership and no proletarian hegemony) they do not support the military camp of the rebels and find no room for them in the military band of the rebels. That is to say, they do not fight against the dictatorship in the concrete form in which the combat takes place in real life.

And that is so because in the midst of an armed conflict, to refuse “total support” to the military victory of the rebels brings the unavoidable and concrete consequence: support the military victory of al-Assad.

That is why Marxism has always taught that we must not do what the FT does: judge the objective character of the processes by their leaderships. In the same way as we cannot nix the just cause of a workers’ strike with their bureaucratic leadership, we cannot confuse the just cause for which Syrian people are fighting for with their treacherous leaderships.

Military camps and class independence

The FT attacks us saying that in Syria we are acting according to the “logic of two camps and only finding room in the progressive”[9]. This alleged “semi-campist logic”[10], they argue, is all wrong for it lead to “adaptation” to bourgeois leaderships while the task is to “strengthen a ‘third’ workers´ camp.[11]

In order to understand this discussion, it is necessary to separate and understand two concepts that the FT has mixed up. We are talking about the concept of military camp and class independence.

Revolutionaries never support the bourgeoisie or imperialism politically; we never support any capitalist government, no even in their measures that seem to be “progressive”. For Marxists, bourgeoisie is counterrevolutionary as a whole. This is tantamount to saying that there are no “progressive bourgeois camps,” which what the Mensheviks, Stalin and Mao defended. That is why in every concrete confrontation of class struggles we will maintain our revolutionary programme and complete political independence from the bourgeoisie and imperialism.

However, at certain times, class struggle reaches its pinnacle and is expressed through physical clashes, war. It may be inter-imperialist wars, colonialist wars, of national liberation or civil wars.

In these extreme cases, military camps are formed that refer exclusively to the bands that clash physically in a determined armed conflict.  The existence of these military camps and their specific composition, in the vast majority of the cases, is independent from the will of revolutionaries.

In these cases, contradictory situations occur. For example: it is quite common that in determined armed confrontations, especially when the combat is against a dictatorship or imperialism, bourgeoisie splits and sectors of the exploiting class participate in the armed struggle together with the working class and people in general and sometimes they even go as far as leading politically and militarily this military camp.

For example, in 1917, during the Russian Revolution, the military camp against the Kornilov coup was politically and militarily conducted by the bourgeois Kerensky administration. The armed struggle against Japanese invasion on China, initiated in 1937, was commanded by Chiang Kai-shek, bourgeois and murderer of communists. Another case took place in 1982, in Argentina, the military camp of Argentina against British imperialism during the Falkland war was under the political and military command of the bloodthirsty Argentine dictatorship.

If we want to have a revolutionary standpoint and policy in these cases, it is necessary to follow Lenin who, vindicating von Clausewitz’s premise used to say that “war is the continuation of policies by other means” and, from this point of view, in any armed confrontation, the first thing is always “analyse the nature of the war” based on the study of “the policy that precedes war.

As from this premise, revolutionaries always ought to ask that question: is there a “progressive” military camp from the point of view of progress of revolution?

It may happen that there is no “progressive” military camp and in such case revolutionaries must adopt the policy of revolutionary defeatism, that is to say, fight for the defeat of all the band in the confrontation, This was, for example, the policy of Lenin and Trotsky in the confrontation between the imperialist powers in the I World War.

But if there is a “progressive” military camp, preserving our total political independence and exposing the bourgeois leaderships, revolutionaries are compelled to participate in it and support their military victory in an unconditional manner. To put it in other words, in these cases, Marxists will always maintain their political independence and their revolutionary programme inside the “progressive” military camp.

What do those lessons of Marxism have to do in Syria? If war is “the continuation of policy by other means” and from the beginning of the unrests in Syria we stood side by side with the Syrian people and all for defeating al-Assad, when this confrontation made a leap and it all resulted in armed struggle, we placed ourselves in the military camp together with Syrian people. And this is so because in Syria there are two, not three military camps. The “third camp of independent workers” that FT can only be strengthened as a produce of fighting in the military camp of the rebels.

This has always been the criterion of Lenin and Trotsky. When Kornilov attempted a counterrevolutionary coup, our masters, without interrupting the struggle and constantly exposing the bourgeois government had no qualms whatsoever about participating in the military camp of Kerensky. “We rest our guns on Kerensky’s shoulder; we shall settle up our account later on.” This was the motto of the Bolsheviks.

Something similar happened in the Falkland for Morenism had no doubts as for taking up the position in the military camp, in spite of the fact that it was military dictatorship who led the war. It was as from this emplacement that we exposed the Argentine genocidal dictatorship. As we shall see right away, this was exactly the same position that Trotsky had for the Spanish revolution and the Spanish Civil War.

The essential task is to be “the best soldiers” against Assad

The Spanish Revolution was expressed in a civil war (1936-1939) when two military camps confronted each other: the republican and the fascist,

Both military camps were commanded by bourgeois sectors and supported by different imperialisms.

The fascist band was commanded by general Franco who had the support of the Nazi-fascist imperialism of Germany and of Italy; the republican band, in which the working class and poor people participated through their militias and organisations, was commanded by the bourgeois government of Popular Front which was, in turn, supported by the “democratic” imperialisms of France and England and also by Stalin.

Faced with the confrontation of military camps with their bourgeois leaderships, was there a “progressive” military camp for Trotsky? The answer is: yes, categorically there was: the military camp of the republicans against the fascists.

And why was it “progressive” in spite of its treacherous republican leadership? Because Franco’s victory would mean a historic defeat of the proletariat and the Spanish Revolution and a victory for the counterrevolution; unfortunately the later occurred.

He defined it like this, “to refuse support for the Republican armies is something that only the coward and traitor agents of fascism can do. It is elementary duty of every revolutionary to fight against Franco, Mussolini and Hitler”[12]

When he was asked what the “attitude of Spanish revolutionary party” ought to be in the civil war, Trotsky gave a clear example of how the two concepts of political support and military camp ought to be differentiated:

I would say, “No political alliance with the bourgeoisie”, as the first condition, the second, “You must be the best soldiers against the fascists”. Third; “You must say to the soldiers, to the other soldiers and the peasants: ´we must transform our country into a people’s country.Then, when we win the masses, we’ll throw the bourgeoisie out of office, and then we will be in power and we will make the social revolution”.[13]

Taking those criteria of Trotsky’s for Spanish civil war, it is fundamental for us to wonder: Is there a progressive military camp in Syria, one where revolutionaries have the “elementary duty” of fighting as “the best soldiers”?

We assert that there is and it is the military camp of the rebels struggling against the dictatorship of al-Assad.

In our opinion, Trotsky’s teachings are perfectly suitable to the civil war in Syria. That is why, according to IWL-FI, those who regard themselves as revolutionaries must, first of all, become the “best soldiers” against al-Assad.

Only as from this emplacement in the armed conflict, as Trotsky did in Spain, we shall be able to offer our socialist, revolutionary programme and compete for political leadership of this military camp against servile to imperialism bourgeois leaders, building the necessary proletarian and revolutionary leadership that Syrian people need if they are to win the war and so make headway towards not only toppling the dictatorship but also to the seizure of power and the construction of socialism in Syria and in the entire region.

The FT, who cannot tell the difference between military camps and political camps and mixes up the objective process with its leaders, is doing the contrary to what Trotsky advised for the Spanish revolution.

Anybody who applies the logic of this trend and then compares it with that of Trotsky, will not escape fro, this question, “but were the “republican armies” not led by a bourgeois government (the Popular Front)?

So lo and behold, the FT has a serious problem to uphold their position for Syria and Libya on Trotskyist tradition.

We are asking them, did Trotsky act according to the “semi-campist logic” when he took his post in the military republican camp? Did he or did he not? When Trotsky gave his

“Support for Republican armies”, did he or did he not capitulate completely to the bourgeois, petty bourgeois and Stalinist leaders of that camp when he became “the best soldier of the bourgeoisie (land troops of the Spanish Popular Front? Did he or did he not?

If the FT is consistent with their own logic, they will have to say “yes, he did”; or else say that the republican leadership in Spain was a revolutionary leadership.

They will tell us, “Spain is different from Syria because “strong organisations of the working class existed.”[14] This is true. There are many differences between the Spanish revolution and the current Syrian revolution. But there were two fundamental concurrences: both revolutions were expressed in civil wars and neither was led by a revolutionary party and in neither the working class acted as an “independent political subject”.

Stemming out of this deep theoretical, the entire policy of theirs is sterile and not only for the military problems but also in relation to the very construction of a revolutionary leadership.

In response to the “neither-nor” of the FT, the old man Trotsky would use the same terms he used in his debates with various ultra-left sectors who – facing the Spanish civil war – saw nothing but a confrontation “between bourgeois camps”[15] and posed the policy of “revolutionary defeatism”.

Just imagine a revolutionary in between the two camps of the civil war waving his flag that says “neither victory nor defeat”, Such slogan is valid for Pontius Pilatus but not for a revolutionary. (…) In the struggle against Franco, we begin as the best soldiers and, at the same time, in the interest of victory over fascism, we agitate social revolution and prepare the downfall of the defeatist Negrin administration. Only an attitude like that can make us move closer to the masses.[16]

A calumny in the discussion  

The discussion with FT on this issue must necessarily thwart a slander. So they say that the problem of the weapons is not “simply military,”[17] but also “an issue of (…) fighting for a policy of class independence (…) in relation to the most overtly pro-imperialist sectors, such as the Syrian National Transitional Council but also the leadership of the Free Syria Army”[18], something that, in their opinion the IWL-FI does not do because their “policy for Syria erases any class delimitation for they restrict themselves to a-critical adaptation the opposing sector where bourgeoisie is hegemonic.”[19]

This accusation is absolutely false. We have always exposed the inconsistent and treacherous role of these leaderships, due to precisely their capitalist class character. Anybody who reads our statements can verify this easily.

But let us quote two examples in order to show once more the calumnious method, opposite to that of Trotskyists that FT develops. The first one is in relation to NCS and FSA.

It is a question of life or death that, in the heat of the struggle against the Assad regime, it should be Syrian people, it should be the working class that gets self-organised and be self-determined at the time of defining the destination of the struggle. Such leaders as the ones that are there now, the NCS as well as the FSA, even if for the time being they may be in the same military camp as the toiling masses, against Assad, because of their class character will sooner or later betray the real popular aspirations and not only the economic ones (…) the only solution for astrategic victory is to build a revolutionary and internationalist leadership that will take the charge of the process.”[20]

About the Libyan NTC we asserted “The NTC pretends to disassemble the revolution through channelling the yearning for a change promising elections and a constituent assembly controlled from up above. Popular militias cannot trust NTC not even for a minute. This would be tantamount to putting an end to the revolution (…)” [21] We could produce tens of quotations like that.

We wonder: where is the “a-critical adaptation to an opposition sector where bourgeoisie is hegemonic”? Where is the lack of class independence and revolutionary strategy? In the mendacious statements made by the FT.

Since the IWL-FI does draw the difference of the betraying leaders of the rebel military camp in Libya as well as in Syria and exposes their role while simultaneously we make efforts to build a revolutionary leadership the truthful criticism that the FT is still that we demand “weapons for the rebels”, This is the real discussion.

And this should not surprise anybody. This is the logical derivation from their refusal to be “the best soldiers” against the dictatorship, a posture that, as we have seen in the case of Spain, Trotsky saw as fitting only “cowards” and “traitors”.

Not demanding weapons for the rebels means facilitating the defeat of the revolution

The FT justifies this position saying, “It is not all about asking for weapons for bourgeois leaders. (…)”[22]

Following the same line, in the Libyan case they say that “it was no enough to arm the militias for the problem is their social composition, the character of the organisation and of its leadership are decisive”.  And they insist saying, “The decisive political issue was concentrated (…) on the lack of an independent pole with mass influence that might exert influence on therebellion.”[23]

Let us ask you, “As long as a revolutionary party and a “revolutionary proletarian pole” do not exist, must we not respond to the problem of weapons? Shall we let the revolution be annihilated and drowned in blood? Must the Syrian people resign such a basic democratic right as to request weapons to defend themselves only because they have not yet been able to build this revolutionary leadership?

Once more, appealing to history lessons from the Spanish Revolution, the FT should respond, was not the left of the Spanish state and in the whole world unanimous about demanding weapons and material aid for the Republic when workers and the toiling masses faced Franco’s troops? And was the demand for weapons addressed especially to England and France? And was not the leadership of the Republican camp bourgeois and betraying? And were England and France not imperialist countries? Was their refusal to send these weapons as evidence of their infamous refusal to aid the revolution that ended with military triumph of Franco?

Another argument is that the demand of weapons for the rebels should be regarded as something “Utopian sowing illusions in imperialism” for most of the powers “did no have that policy” and are boosting “a negotiated solution”. [24]

Well then, since do we, the revolutionaries, abstain from posing a just demand to some government because “this measure is not the policy of this government?”

That is precisely it. The demand of weapons addressed to imperialist countries is politically useful to expose these powers as enemies of the revolution, precisely in order to fight against all those illusions of those who believe the “democratic” discourse of imperialism.

But let us suppose that due to a combination of contradictions imperialist policy may be that of arming the rebels, should we summon Syrian combatants to reject these weapons while they are being massacred? Should we summon the working class of the USA, France or UK to sabotage possible shipments of weapon for Syrian rebels?

Every policy has concrete consequences. In this case not to demand or refuse to accept weapons fro Syrian rebels is actually equivalent to endorsing the massacre of Syrian people by the tyrant al-Assad.

A policy against what Trotsky did in the Spanish civil war

In need of help, FT quotes Trotsky when he said that in Spain, “Arms and military “geniuses” were not lacking in Madrid and Barcelona; what was lacking was a revolutionary party![25]

It is true that what was most wanted in Spain was a revolutionary party, but his did not stop Trotsky – while he was busy building it – for having a clear policy to obtain the weapon that the Spanish revolutionaries needed.

It is for this reason that a text by Trotsky with the provoking title “Learn to think; A friendly suggestion for certain ultra-leftists” can prove extremely enlightening. In this article dated in 1938 Trotsky explains his position on whether to accept or not to accept weapons from imperialism.

Let us assume that rebellion breaks out tomorrow in the French colony of Algeria under the banner of national independence and that the Italian government, motivated by its own imperialist interests, prepares to send weapons to the rebels. What should the attitude of the Italian workers be in this case? I have purposely taken an example of rebellion against a democratic imperialism with intervention on the side of the rebels from a fascist imperialism. Should the Italian workers prevent the shipping of arms to the Algerians? Let any ultra-leftists dare answer this question in the affirmative. Every revolutionist, together with the Italian workers and the rebellious Algerians, would spurn such an answer with indignation. Even if a general maritime strike broke out in fascist Italy at the same time, even in this case the strikers should make an exception in favor of those ships carrying aid to the colonial slaves in revolt; otherwise they would be no more than wretched trade unionists – not proletarian revolutionists.

At the same time, the French maritime workers, even though not faced with any strike whatsoever, would be compelled to exert every effort to block the shipment of ammunition intended for use against the rebels. Only such a policy on the part of the Italian and French workers constitutes the policy of revolutionary internationalism.

Does this not signify, however, that the Italian workers moderate their struggle in this case against the fascist regime? Not in the slightest. Fascism renders “aid” to the Algerians only in order to weaken its enemy, France, and to lay its rapacious hand on her colonies. The revolutionary Italian workers do not forget this for a single moment. They call upon the Algerians not to trust their treacherous “ally” and at the same time continue their own irreconcilable struggle against fascism, “the main enemy in their own country”. Only in this way can they gain the confidence of the rebels, help the rebellion and strengthen their own revolutionary position.[26]

Trotsky acted in accordance to the same criteria during the Spanish civil war. First of all, he exposed the “Pact on Non-Intervention” boosted by the French Popular Front administration headed by the social-democrat Leon Blum and stoutly supported by the UK. As a treason favourable to the victory of fascism in Spain.

This “perfidious non-intervention”[27] as Trotsky called it, among other measures, was based on promoting an “Arms embargo” for both belligerent parties.[28] This embargo, as the Trotskyists and all the republican left exposed, was a gigantic farce that favoured the fascist Franco who kept on receiving weapons and soldiers from German and Italian imperialisms.

In a text titled “Against defeatism in Spain”, he insists once more on the issue of revolutionaries and the weapons within the framework of the existence of a “progressive” military camp.

Let us take an example: Two ships with weapons and ammunitions sail from France or from the USA; one of them goes for Franco and the other for Negrin. What attitude should the workers take? Should they sabotage both ships or only the one that goes for Franco? We are not neutral. We would not let the ship with ammunitions for Franco pass. No illusions here; we know that nine out of every ten of these bullets will go against the fascists but at least one will go against a comrade of ours. But from every ten of the shipment going for Francoeach one will be used against our comrades. Do notmisunderstand me; if a workers’ insurrection burst out in Spain, we would try and send the weapon and the ammunitions to the masses of insurgent workers. But while we were not strong enough for that, we would choose the lesser evil.[29]

In another text, during a debate with Craipeau, a French comrade, Trotsky says:

Workers’ meetings for months vibrated with the cry, “Aeroplanes for Spain!” Imagine for a moment that Blum had decided to send some. Imagine that at this particular moment a strike of longshoremen or of sailors was in process. What would Craipeau have done? Would he have opposed the cry of “Aeroplanes for Spain”? Would he have counselled the workers on strike to make an exception for this cargo of aeroplanes? But the Soviet Union really did send aeroplanes (at quite a high price and on the condition of support for the capitalist regime; I know that very well). Should the Bolshevik-Leninists have called upon the Soviet workers to sabotage these shipments? Yes or no?[30]

Obviously, that in the face ofan armed conflict, Trotsky would accept the aeroplanes from the imperialist Blum, and it is also obvious that he did not stay put making comments on the “rebellious workers” were not strong enough to take positions for military victory against fascism or to let weapons for Negrin pass as a lesser evil from the military point of view.

Of course, this never meant political support for the republican government; so much so that Trotsky was against war credits that Negrin requested from the Cortes.

FT quotes a phrase by Trotsky that says:

As a revolutionary party, do we mobilise volunteers for Negrin today? This would mean sending them into the paws of the GPU. Shall we raise money for Negrin administration? Absurd! We shall raise money for our own comrades in Spain and if we do send comrades, it will be clandestine action and for our own movement. What about our attitude for committees like de American Committee for democracy in Spain, considering meetings, trade union actions, etc.? We shall defend the idea that trade unions ought to raise money not for the government, but for Spanish trade unions, for proletarian organisations.[31]

Someone who reads this quotation out of context might arrive at the conclusion that Trotsky agreed to sending and receiving material aid only to certain militias or “proletarian trade unions independent from the Negrin administration. But this is not so; Trotsky himself in the following paragraph that FT has failed to quote:

If someone objects that Spanish trade unions are linked to the government and that consequently it would be inadmissible to send them money, we shall respond with an only example: during the 1926 strike of British miners we sent money to the miners’ trade unions, whose leaders had close relations with the government of the UK. Strike committees may be reformist, may be treacherous, may have relations with the bosses. But we cannot forget that – as long as miners cannot change them – we shall send them money, running the risk that they will betray the workers.[32]

Hence we can conclude:

1)     Trotsky was for the military victory of the Republicans against fascism. This means that he fought for the victory of the republican military camp as a whole, in spite of the fact that it was commanded by faithless bourgeois, petty-bourgeois and Stalinists. That is why he was all for letting the ship that was coming from France and the USA with munitions for Negrin pass and he declared his readiness to “help Caballero with all the material means against fascism”[33], knowing that they were bourgeois governments.

2)     Now again, “as a revolutionary party” means that he was referring to our own campaign, specifically Trotskyist, he would not send volunteers or money for the Negrin administration  but for Spanish trade unions, even if these trade unions were “reformists” and had “relations with the bosses and had connections with the government”

3)      This proves two points in the discussion with FT. The first one is that when Trotsky had to decide to demand or accept money he was not guided by the criterion used by FT that “It is not all about asking for weapon for a bourgeois leadership.” The second is that the old revolutionary did not sit there and wait for a revolutionary leadership to appear, not even for an “independent proletarian pole”, to send material aid the way that FT demands it to be done before any material aid is sent to Syria.

Just as well as Trotsky did, IWL-FI demands and would accept weapons “aeroplanes” from France and the USA or from whatever government for the rebel camp in general, even if most of these weapons would find their way to the hands of bourgeois leaders of that camp and in our particular campaign, we send the help raised to the most progressive and independent sectors of Syrian resistance.

All this goes to prove that the differences that FT poses against the IWL-FI.

These lessons are very important to act in current revolutions. From this point of view, in our opinion, the verdict that Trotsky passed to the phraseologists “defeatists” in the Spanish civil war:

Those ultra-leftists who refuse to think as Marxist do – and this is what it is all about – will be surprised by the war. Their policy in times of war will be a fatal consummation of their policy in times of peace. The first blast of artillery will send them either to political inexistence or to the camp of social-patriotism, exactly the way it did to Spanish anarchists, those absolute “deniers” of the state, who for this very reason became bourgeois ministers when war broke out. In order to be able to practise correct policy we must learn how to think correctly in times of peace.[34]     

In the same way, the entire ultra-left reasoning of the FT in civil wars in Syria and Libya found them at the first blast of artillery objectively opposing these revolutions.


[1]ISHIBASHI, Simone. Abaixo a intervenção imperialista na Síria. Available at: (all highlights are ours)

[2]ISHIBASHI, Simone. A crise síria e a necessidade de uma política revolucionária – Available at:



[5]CINATI, Claudia. La OTAN busca asegurarse el control de Libia. Available at:

[6] ISHIBASHI, Simone. A crise síria e a necessidade de uma política revolucionária.



[9]MOLINA, Eduardo and ISHIBASHI, Simone. A un año y medio de la “primavera árabe”. Available at:



[12]Trotsky, Leon. Por la victoria de la Revolución española. Available at (translation and highlights ours)

[13]TROTSKY, Leon. The case of Leon Trotsky(eight session). Available at ours).

[14]ISHIBASHI, Simone. A crise síria e a necessidade de uma política revolucionária.

[15]The FT presented the struggle in Libya as a confrontation between “bourgeois camps” or simply “between a decaying dictatorship and a rebellious block manipulated by imperialist co-optation. See the above quoted A un año y medio de la “primavera árabe”,  

[16]TROTSKY, León. Contra el “derrotismo” en España. Available at (translation and highlights ours).

[17]ISHIBASHI, Simone.  Abaixo a intervenção imperialista na Síria.



[20]LEON, Ronald. Comenzó la guerra civil en Siria. Available at

[21]LEON, Ronald. ¿Dónde está la revolución y dónde la contrarrevolución en Libia? Available at

[22]ISAHIBASHI, Simone, A crise síria e a necessidade de uma política revolucionária 

[23]MOLINA, Eduardo and ISHIBASHI, Simone. A un año y medio de la “primavera árabe” (Highlights ours).

[24]ISAHIBASHI, Simone, A crise síria e a necessidade de uma política revolucionária 

[25]TROTSKY, Leon. The lessons of Spain: The last warning at

[26]TROTSKY, Leon. Learn to think. A friendly suggestion for certain ultra-leftists. Available at ours).

[27]Discussing with Craipeau, French leader of the Movement for the Fourth International, Trotsky wrote, “If Blum, instead of declaring the perfidious “non-intervention” – always obeying the orders of finance capital – had supported Caballero and Negrin with their capitalist democracy, would Craipeau have renounced his irreducible opposition to the “People’s Front” government? Or would he have renounced the duty to distinguish between the two camps fighting in Spain and of adapting his policy to this distinction?, In “Once again: The Soviet Union and its defence”, available at

[28]In August 1936, 27 European states signed the “Agreement of Non-Intervention in Spain” by which they decided to “abstain rigorously from all interference, direct or indirect, in the internal affairs of that country” and prohibited “export … re-export and transit to Spain, Spanish possessions or Spanish zone of Morocco, of all kinds of weapons, munitions and war material”.

[29]Trotsky, Leon. Contra el “derrotismo” en España. Available at and highlights ours).(highlights ours)

[30]Trotsky, León. Once again: The USSR and its defense. Available at

[31]TROTSKY, Leon. Contra el “derrotismo” en España


[33]TROTSKY, León. The case of Leon Trotsky (Eighth Session). (our highlights)

[34]TROTSKY, León. Learn to think. (our highlights)

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