Determined to maintain their bloody domination of the Indo-Pacific, the US, British and Australian imperialists have signed AUKUS. The centrepiece of this imperialist treaty commits the US to equip its Australian junior partner, with the help of the British, with nuclear-powered submarines. AUKUS is aimed directly against China and the gains of the 1949 social revolution that expropriated the capitalists and landlords, liberated China from imperialist subjugation and established a planned economy. This revolution laid the basis for the tremendous social and economic advances China has made over the last 72 years. As communists, we oppose AUKUS for two fundamental reasons: 1) on the basis of revolutionary opposition to British imperialism and all its alliances, and 2) unconditional military defence of China against imperialism and internal capitalist counterrevolution.
China is not a capitalist or imperialist power. It is a deformed workers state ruled by a nationalist, anti-working-class Stalinist bureaucratic caste. The programme of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of building “socialism in one country” and “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism means opposing workers revolution internationally. As Trotskyists, we unconditionally defend the Chinese deformed workers state against the capitalist class enemy, internally and externally, but we do not give an iota of political support to the CCP bureaucracy. We fight for proletarian political revolution to oust the bureaucracy and install proletarian democracy under a regime of workers, peasants and soldiers councils committed to defending and extending the gains of the 1949 Revolution. Our programme regarding China today was well summarised by Trotsky on the defence of the former Soviet Union:
Just as with the former Soviet Union, workers have a side; it is the elementary duty of all those calling themselves revolutionary to defend China against imperialist aggression.
While it is necessary to oppose AUKUS, merely opposing it is cheap. Surely a Quaker would oppose AUKUS. Even has-been-aspirant-Thatcher Theresa May expressed her concerns about the “implications” of AUKUS and the dangers of war (Guardian, 16 September 2021). The response of the Labour left and the reformists has indeed been very critical of AUKUS, but they do not oppose it on a revolutionary basis. The British fake left in fact capitulates to imperialism: first, through begging the British bourgeoisie to spend less on nukes and more on bread and butter issues — in other words, pressuring British imperialism to act as a force for good through budget management; and second, siding with the imperialists by promoting capitalist counterrevolution and echoing the bourgeoisie’s anti-Communist propaganda about the “threat” of China. Let’s look at these positions more closely in order to expose their left verbiage.
British imperialism’s left advisors
The left and right wings of the Labour Party recently had a family spat about the foreign policy of British imperialism. Sir Keir Starmer welcomed AUKUS as a step towards making Britain and the world safer against the threats posed by China (LabourList, 16 September 2021). But Jeremy Corbyn politely disagreed with his leader, arguing instead that the labour movement needs to oppose AUKUS because the money can be spent on the NHS, climate change or eliminating poverty instead (see Labour Outlook, 23 September 2021). To answer the Starmerite right wing, the Labour lefts passed an emergency motion at the September Labour Party conference, with 70 per cent voting to oppose AUKUS and to “re-confirm the Labour Party’s support for enforcing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty”.
This is the programme of left Labour’s “little England” socialism and its foreign policy on full display: tinkering with the budget of the capitalist government, appealing to reduce defence expenditures and follow non-proliferation treaties in order to persuade British imperialism to stop arming and act as a “peaceful” force in the world. The fake-Trotskyist left echoes Corbyn, with Socialist Appeal whining: “How many homes, schools or hospitals could not be constructed with this kind of money?” (socialist.net, 7 October 2021).
Corbyn and the fake left push the illusion that armament and wars are merely a matter of right-wing policies and that British imperialism can be reformed through installing a peace-loving left-talker in Downing Street. This gives a left cover to the daily plunder carried out by British imperialism. Moreover, wars and militarism are inherent to the capitalist system. Only a series of socialist revolutions, crucially in the imperialist centres, can lay the basis for genuine and lasting peace. Imperialism is not about expenditures or policies; it is the highest stage of capitalism defined by the domination of monopolies and finance capital, by the centrality of the export of capital, and in which the division of the world among monopolies and a handful of capitalist powers has been completed.
The imperialists need their armies in order to defend their existing plunder against rival capitalist powers and to keep neocolonial possessions in line. AUKUS also shows that the imperialists constantly need to build up their military capacities against those countries that have overthrown capitalist rule. The birth of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was a stunning blow against all imperialist powers and its continued existence remains the main obstacle to the imperialist pillage of Asia. No matter the number of motions in favour of disarmament adopted by Labour Party conferences, the imperialists will never disarm out of moral persuasion! Only through workers taking power and erecting their own state can the bourgeoisie be disarmed.
The reformists call to cut the arms budget, which presupposes support to an arms budget of the British imperialists! We Leninists say: Not a penny, not a man for the bosses’ military! The enemy of British workers is the British bourgeoisie! Down with AUKUS, down with NATO! Defend China against the imperialist war drive!
Beating the drums of counterrevolution
The utter treachery of left Labourism comes to full light when we examine its record of going to bat for the ruling class when it counts. Of this, no better example exists than their support to capitalist counterrevolution in China.
The main justification used by all the British pseudo-Trotskyists to join in the anti-China imperialist chorus is the lie that China is a capitalist and imperialist power due to the “market reforms” initiated by Deng Xiaoping some 40 years ago. While decades of substantial foreign capitalist investment in China, encouraged by the CCP bureaucracy, have led to the emergence of an indigenous capitalist class, these capitalists do not hold state power. The strategic core of the Chinese economy — heavy industry, mining, communications and banking — remains state-owned and under the control of the CCP. The imperialist military drive against China, of which AUKUS is the latest escalation, is aimed at smashing collectivised property forms and re-establishing capitalist class rule. Against such threats, our programme is to mobilise the international working class to defend China, as we defend all the remaining deformed workers states — North Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba.
The analytical scaffolding that transforms China into a capitalist state in the heads of the British “socialists” is nothing but theoretical justification for their programme of support to counterrevolution. On the barricades, they stand with the imperialists, wailing about China “flexing its military muscles in the South China Sea” (socialist.net, 7 October 2021). They present AUKUS as the result of heightened “inter-imperialist rivalry” between China and the AUKUS states (Socialist Worker, 21 September 2021) to decide, in the words of the Socialist Party, “who and which imperialist powers will establish Indo-Pacific hegemony and become the dominant power of the 21st century” (23 September 2021).
These pretenders to socialism put an equals sign between the robbers of the world and the Chinese deformed workers state, a genuine gain for the Chinese and international proletariat. In the conflict between world imperialism and the Chinese workers state, there are and can be no neutrals. If the capitalist state attacks a union, any socialist who refuses to defend that union under the pretext that its leadership is wretched is a class traitor. Despite the rule of the Stalinist CCP, the same applies to China today.
While the imperialists are conducting constant military provocations right on China’s doorstep, these “socialists” think that China increasing its armament production is bad news! Such a position is thoroughly counterrevolutionary and in reality aids the imperialists who want to see China disarmed. Genuine socialists support the need for China and all other deformed workers states to equip themselves with the best weaponry available, including nuclear weapons.
Another clear example of the British fake left embracing the counterrevolutionary aims of the imperialists is their cheering of the anti-Communist Hong Kong protests in 2019. These protests were backed by the imperialists and their propaganda machines and openly called on the British to seize this capitalist enclave back from China. The whole Labour Party — including its left talkers like Corbyn, John McDonnell and Zarah Sultana — supported these protests. The fake Trotskyists were at their post, actively encouraging the counterrevolutionary rampage and capitulating to the interests of the British imperialists, who wistfully long for the “good old days” of Empire, the Opium Wars and their colonial rule over Hong Kong.
We Trotskyists of the International Communist League opposed the Hong Kong protests as attempts at instigating domestic counterrevolution. We took a side with the military forces of the PRC, including the People’s Liberation Army and the Hong Kong police, against the protests. At the same time, we oppose the Stalinist bureaucracy’s “one country, two systems” pact with the Hong Kong bourgeoisie and its imperialist masters and call to expropriate the Hong Kong tycoons. It is the CCP policy of maintaining Hong Kong as a capitalist enclave which has nurtured these pro-imperialist counterrevolutionary forces. This underlines once more that defending the gains of the 1949 Revolution requires ousting the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracy though proletarian political revolution (see “Hong Kong: No to counterrevolutionary rampage!” Workers Hammer no 246, Spring 2020).
The position of the fake left on China is the continuity of their support to counterrevolution in the former Soviet Union. The Militant tendency (whose heirs are Socialist Appeal and the Socialist Party) stood on Boris Yeltsin’s barricades of counterrevolution in Moscow. The Socialist Workers Party issued jubilations: “Communism has collapsed…it is a fact that should have every socialist rejoicing” (Socialist Worker, 31 August 1991). The capitalist counterrevolution which destroyed the Soviet Union in 1991-92 was a world-historic defeat for the international proletariat. We, the ICL, were at our post: from Berlin to Moscow, we fought tooth and nail against capitalist counterrevolution. We fought to mobilise the working class in defence of the gains of the great 1917 October Revolution and to oust the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracies which were selling out the workers states.
Marking the 30 years since the destruction of the USSR, the Socialist Party (11 August 2021) and Socialist Appeal (17 December 2021), among others, have published articles lamenting how horrible this was while consciously concealing that they were there, on the ground, supporting capitalist restoration. Today they are ready to do the same with China.
In Britain, the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union was the coronation of a decade of rule by Margaret Thatcher. For the British bourgeoisie, crushing the labour movement and destroying the Soviet Union were two inseparable elements of its anti-working-class crusade, paving the way for decades of grinding attacks on every aspect of life for workers and the oppressed. Today, the British working class faces a similar situation: the bourgeoisie’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has meant brutal attacks against the labour movement, which go hand in hand with increasing the imperialist drive against China as shown with AUKUS. Now, as before, the struggles of the workers movement at home cannot be separated from defence of the deformed workers states internationally. As Trotsky wrote, reaffirming the need to defend the USSR: