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Imperialist war and attack on democratic rights

The escalation of the war between the United States and NATO against Russia and the massive attack on democratic rights – exemplified by the decision of the United States Supreme Court abolishing the right to abortion – are the two sides of the same process.

In his seminal work of 1916 Imperialism and the Split in Socialism, Vladimir Lenin defined imperialism as “reaction all along the line”. In war as in domestic politics, “finance capital aspires to domination, not to freedom”. Lenin wrote: “The difference between the democratic-republican bourgeoisie and the reactionary-monarchist imperialist bourgeoisie is erased precisely because they both rot alive.

Lenin’s words aptly characterize the present crisis of the world capitalist system.

At this weekend’s G7 summit, the leaders of the main imperialist powers gathered in the Bavarian Alps to plan the next stage of the war. Behind the backs of the people, without public debate or formal declaration, the conflict turned into a de facto war against Russia in Ukraine.

The extent of NATO’s commitment was revealed in a New York Times article published on Saturday titled “Commando Network Coordinates Arms Flow to Ukraine, Officials Say”. The article explains that the United States and NATO have organized “a stealthy network of commandos and spies” who “rush to provide weapons, intelligence and training”.

The article cites US and European officials who confirmed that NATO powers have deployed advisers to Ukraine to train Ukrainian soldiers, while the US military is directly training soldiers at bases in Germany. It is the product of a years-long plan, dating back to the 2014 Ukrainian elections and the Maidan coup, to turn Ukraine into a staging ground for war against Russia. The Time The article states: “From 2015 to the beginning of this year, US Special Forces and National Guard instructors trained more than 27,000 Ukrainian soldiers at the Yavoriv Combat Training Center in western Ukraine. Ukraine, near the city of Lviv, Pentagon officials said.

Both in their choice of planning location and in their war aims, the leaders of the world’s self-proclaimed “democracies” emulated Hitler, the last capitalist politician who attempted to colonize Russia by military means. The very castle where the G7 leaders met in the Bavarian town of Schloss Elmau had been a Nazi military summer camp during World War II.

A statement released by the G7 group after the meeting at Schloss Elmau said it was ready to continue the war “as long as it takes”. This means that there is no limit to the number of lives governments are willing to sacrifice to achieve their geostrategic goals.

The first item on the agenda of the G7 summit – on the cost of living and the food crisis – clearly shows that the ruling class is aware that war opens the way to a colossal confrontation with the working class.

Under these conditions, the ruling class of each imperialist power considers the most basic democratic rights as obstacles to the pursuit of its war aims. Even as war propagandists in the mainstream media justify war on the grounds that Putin is a “fascist”, the logic of the development of war in imperialist countries necessitates a “full-line reaction”.

The decision of six unelected Supreme Court justices to deny hundreds of millions of Americans the right to abortion must be seen in this context.

In rendering its decision, the court announced that it was launching an attack on all fundamental democratic rights. While Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas explicitly referenced contraceptives and same-sex marriage as his next targets, he made it clear that all cases involving substantive due process must now be reconsidered. This includes fundamental rights related to search and seizure, freedom of speech and assembly, labor regulations and other civil rights.

The Democratic Party and the Biden administration have facilitated the Supreme Court’s attack on democratic rights with consistent efforts to appeal and appease the far right. When Biden talks about his “republican friends,” he appeals to bipartisan unity in pursuing imperialist war aims against Russia. This bipartisanship only legitimizes the far right and bolsters the increasingly fascist Republican Party, which tried to keep Biden out of office less than two years ago.

The escalation of war and the prohibition of abortion are inextricably linked and underline the fundamental truth that democracy is incompatible with imperialism. In his 1948 book American political traditionhistorian Richard Hofstadter refers to publisher Frank Cobb’s recollection of a discussion with then-President Woodrow Wilson on the eve of Wilson’s 1917 decision to enter World War I.

According to Cobb, Wilson “said that when a war broke out, it was just a war and there weren’t two things about it. It took illiberalism within to strengthen the men at the front. We could not fight Germany and maintain the ideals of government which all thinking men shared. Cobb quoted Wilson as saying, “To fight you must be brutal and ruthless, and the spirit of ruthless brutality will enter the very fiber of our national life, infecting congress, the courts, the policeman on the spot…”

This is the case in all imperialist centers, where three decades of incessant imperialist war have suffocated democracy and fed the forces of extreme political reaction. In Britain, Boris Johnson is perhaps the most hated prime minister in history for his blatant corruption and negligent submission to London banks. The Johnson government is trying to deport asylum seekers from countries devastated by imperialist war to Rwanda in a move that even the European Court of Human Rights has ruled patently illegal.

In France, where Emmanuel Macron is reviled as the “president of the rich”, the fascist far right won more votes than in any previous presidential election. An unelected administrative court has just banned Muslim women from wearing swimsuits that conform to their religious beliefs in a blatant act of cruel discrimination against the country’s large immigrant population.

The war will be waged on the basis of a massive assault on the economic and social rights of the working class in every country. Government after government, billions of dollars are poured into arming Ukraine without ever asking the public. Calls are mounting to balance budgets to pave the way for new military spending. To pay for the war, health and welfare programs will be gutted, even as the pandemic spreads and governments adopt fiscal policies aimed at raising unemployment and lowering wages.

The war has exacerbated a cost of living crisis that is forcing billions of workers to face unprecedented levels of economic hardship. Imperialist governments are sacrificing the lives of millions of people in Asia and Africa who face varying degrees of starvation in an attempt to weaken the Russian government’s ties to the global economy. In Europe and North America, the cost of food, gas, energy, rent and basic services are skyrocketing because of the war, while corporate union bureaucracies suppress wages.

The conditions are emerging for a revolutionary explosion all over the world. Protests against the rising cost of living are being suppressed with deadly brutality in countries like Peru, Sri Lanka, Ecuador and elsewhere.

In Europe, strikes are increasing in the transport industries, notably among British railway workers, dockworkers in Germany and Greece, airport workers in France, Denmark and the Netherlands, as well as pilots and on board across the continent with Easy Jet, Ryanair, British Airways and SAS. A series of powerful strikes have taken place in heavy industry in the United States, where tens of thousands of dockworkers and railway workers are threatening to strike.

The ruling class responded by banning strikes and accusing workers of undermining the war effort. In Britain, Tories denounce striking railway workers as “Putin’s agents”, while US courts have banned railway workers from striking on national security grounds. This is the modern version of Hitler’s “stab in the back” narrative, which blamed German workers and the 1918 revolution for the defeat of German imperialism in World War I. In Spain, the “democratic” PSOE and Podemos government banned airport workers from joining a Europe-wide strike for similar reasons.

The International Committee of the Fourth International and its national sections, the Socialist Equality Parties, call for the development of a powerful movement of the international working class against imperialist war. The fight against war must be linked to the defense of democratic rights, rooted in the growing struggles of workers around the world and based on a socialist program in opposition to the capitalist profit system.