International statement – In Defense of Syria, China and North Korea

US Imperialism Strikes Again

In Defense of Syria, China and North Korea! Only an international socialist revolution can guarantee peace!

Originally published in Portuguese on April 23, 2017.

On April 6, Trump ordered a missile attack against a Syrian military base. It was the first American attack against a Syrian government target, since until now the United States had been bombing only targets of the fundamentalist group Islamic State. Trump’s decision came after statements by the US intelligence service, quickly reproduced by major media outlets around the world, that Assad’s government was responsible for a chemical attack that killed about 80 people in the Idlib province – which the Syrian government denies, blaming the armed opposition instead. While it is impossible to know at the moment which statement is true, the imperialists are experts in making excuses to justify attacks and military actions against other countries – as in the case of Iraq’s nonexistent “weapons of mass destruction”.

Trump’s arguments are pure cynicism. He says the reason for the attacks was the killing of civilians (especially of children) due to the chemical attack. Trump, however, does not mention (as nor does the US bourgeois media) the hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties of US bombings in Syria and elsewhere, the deaths by drones, and the financing and arming which the government (since the Obama administration) has given to the armed opposition to the Syrian government, which has also committed countless atrocities – including against children. Above all, Trump would have to explain how his “compassion” for the Syrian people may be true in face of his decision (vetoed by some US Federal Courts) to completely ban Syrian refugees in the country. Apparently, Trump does not care that much about the death and suffering of innocents.

The US government’s goals behind this attack are manifold. The possibility of an invasion into Syria further warms the country’s military industry, the largest in the world; Trump also has the possibility of silencing internal dissent, as the main representatives of the Democratic Party will enthusiastically support any attack against Syria or Russia (as the defeated candidate Hillary Clinton has already made clear); the new president also seeks to dissociate himself from the image of Putin (Assad’s important ally), whom he praised several times during the presidential race. And all these factors add to the main reason for the American presence in the Middle East: to ensure its economic and military supremacy, seeking reliable allies and undermining regional powers, especially Russia and China.

It is not yet possible to know whether the attack against Syria was merely a “publicity” act or whether Trump is altering the US strategy for the country – until now, it has been much more focused on destroying the Islamic State than on overthrowing Assad (since it lacks powerful and reliable local allies that can substitute the present regime). His recent statements on the subject, as well as those of US diplomats, have been mixed. But one way or another, this case shows the danger of US imperialist machinations, which has dangerously increased the tensions between different powers. Since the 1980s, with Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” daring actions against the then USSR, the world did not hold its breath in such a way.

In these first months of his administration, Trump has demonstrated that his foreign policy will follow the line of not accepting the gradual American decadence in the international balance of forces. This puts an end to his “isolationist” speech made during the electoral race, in which he demagogically criticized American involvement in wars and provocations in order to win Clinton’s voters. Although in terms of US diplomacy, Trump has been keeping a milder tone towards Russia and China (the main US competitors in the international arena) and, even though it has maintained diplomatic channels closer to the rulers of those two countries, the interests of US’s great imperialist capitals are incompatible with a harmonious coexistence with these regional powers. Due to this, there is no doubt that, like Obama, Trump will continue the wars as well and the offensive stance against these two countries in particular.

The maintenance of this international offensive, the aim of which is to guarantee the superiority of US imperialism, can be seen in the fact that, in the very first moments of his administration, Trump announced the inauguration of a joint military project with South Korea, THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) – a system for launching missiles, supposedly for intercepting attacks from North Korea. In addition to the THAAD, Trump has also announced joint military training with the South Korea military and, in recent weeks, there has been an escalation of hostilities against North Korea, not only through aggressive statements, but also the deployment of a powerful fleet, headed by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier, to the seas of the Korean peninsula.

Everything indicates that the moves regarding the Korean peninsula aren’t aimed only at North Korea, as experts have argued that the THAAD is capable of “far more” than mere interception of attacks. Therefore, even the bureaucrats of the Chinese Communist Party, who have made numerous capitulations to US diplomacy in the recent years, recognized the potential threat to their country and, in reprisal, closed all operations of the main South Korean company based in China, the LOTTE supermarket chain. Their worriedness is more than justified. Already in the first days in office, Trump signaled a tax increase on Chinese products; his Secretary of State, and former ExxonMobil CEO, Rex Tillerson, said he was in favor of an aggressive military policy against China over the disputed islands in the South China Sea; and the reactionary Steve Bannon, Trump’s Chief Strategist and right-hand man, said it was likely that, within a few years, the US would go to war with that country.

Faced with this tense scenario, the revolutionary socialists must take a position against all the offensives of US imperialism, its allies and client states against the sovereignty of other nations. All its “humanitarian” arguments are profoundly demagogic – such offensives are only in the interest of safeguarding the economic and political interests of the US ruling class at the cost of exploiting oppressed peoples and the international working class. It is imperative to organize the workers of the imperialist centers to carry on street protests, strikes, pickets and occupations against the action of “their” bourgeois armies to prevent the death of innocents (such as the 200,000 Iraqi civilians killed by the US occupation of that country) and to prevent the subjugation of oppressed peoples and the strengthening of the ruling class “at home” – which, if victorious, would feel more comfortable to attack “its” proletariat. The same must be done in the capitalist periphery, regardless of whether or not a particular country participates in the military offensives. These actions, however, should not contain a “pacifist” trend. Revolutionary socialists, while struggling to prevent imperialist wars, must also be in favor of the legitimate right of defense of the oppressed countries and take the military side of the local sectors that resist the invaders, even if it includes the native bourgeoisie. Without these positions, any internationalism will only be words in the wind.

In the complex civil war that has been devastating Syria for nearly 6 years now, we have consistently pronounced ourselves against any US offensive: the funding of certain groups within the Free Syrian Army, the bombing against the Islamic Stateand the threats of attacks against the Syrian government. Syria is a nation oppressed by imperialism. Although we have no sympathy and give no political support to the tyrant Assad, in confrontations with groups of armed combatants trained by the US within the opposition (their “ground troops”), we take the military side of the Syrian government, since the defeat and the expulsion of the imperialists from the Middle East is a top priority. In the event of a direct US war against Syria, we also have a side: against the imperialists and their allies. This does not mean any support to the Syrian government’s atrocities and disrespect for human rights. We want the Syrian workers to overthrow Assad and establish their own power. At the same time, in face of a confrontation between a subjugated country and an oppressor power, those who defend socialism cannot be neutral.

Just as we do not see Assad as an “anti-imperialist” – let alone an ally of the Syrian working class – we also do not see the reactionary Putin and Russian military actions in Syria as “anti-imperialist” or “progressive.” Although these actions are certainly linked to an attempt by Russia to strengthen itself in response to the growing US imperialist siege to that country, we must not forget that they are also a defense of the interests of the oligarchic bourgeoisie that arose from the capitalist restoration in the former USSR, which has in the Assad regime an important client of its military industry, and which has direct investments in the country, such as the billion-dollar construction of a segment of the Arab Pipeline by a Gazprom subsidiary.

In what regards China and North Korea, unlike many supposed Trotskyists, we believe that they remain deformed workers’ states, and we are equally for their military defense against any and all threats and attacks from the United States, which wants to turn them into colonies again. This does not mean that we give any political support to the governments of such countries. The revolutionary victory of peasant armies in China and North Korea after World War II led to the expropriation of the capitalist class, but it also led to power a privileged bureaucracy that deprived workers of direct political power, blocking the consolidation of a proletarian democracy and profoundly deforming the economies and political system of these countries. There is no room to describe here all the betrayals and disasters caused by the bureaucracies that rule them. However, the expropriation of the bourgeois class is an achievement that must be defended, and revolutionary socialists cannot remain neutral in the confrontation of these countries with the “greatest enemy of the peoples” – imperialism. At the same time, we do not  abandon our program in any way, which points to the need for a proletarian political revolution against such bureaucratic regimes, the struggle for political freedoms for the working class and its socialist parties, for the fall of the bureaucrats’ privileges and for the full reorganization of the economy under the control of democratic workers’ organs of power (soviets).

The international political atmosphere is one of most acute instability. There is no possibility of a revolutionary position that does not incorporate the defense of the oppressed nations and of the remaining deformed workers states. But beyond this political task, there is only one way to a guaranteed peace: the disarmament of the imperialist and world bourgeoisie through the socialist revolution. It is the predatory interests of the capitalists, fueled with racial, national and religious hatred that cause all the major wars in the world. Workers have an objective interest in the collaboration of all peoples for the development of productive forces, culture and science, in the benefit of the vast majority. A democratically planned world economy would make it possible to end wars, hunger, mass unemployment and the insecurity of millions of human beings in a relatively short period of time. But for this to be possible, there is no peaceful way: it is necessary to tear apart the states that serve the capitalists, who want above all to defend their powers and privileges. It is in this class struggle that the workers must engage politically to build an organization capable of preparing, as soon as possible, the transition to a socialist society. As the revolutionary Marxists pointed out at the beginning of the Second World War:

“The capitalist world has no way out, unless a prolonged death agony is so considered. It is necessary to prepare for long years, if not decades, of war, uprisings, brief interludes of truce, new wars, and new uprisings. A young revolutionary party must base itself on this perspective. History will provide it with enough opportunities and possibilities to test itself, to accumulate experience, and to mature. The swifter the ranks of the vanguard are fused the more the epoch of bloody convulsions will be shortened, the less destruction will our planet suffer. But the great historical problem will not be solved in any case until a revolutionary party stands at the head of the proletariat The question of tempos and time intervals is of enormous importance; but it alters neither the general historical perspective nor the direction of our policy. The conclusion is a simple one: it is necessary to carry on the work of educating and organizing the proletarian vanguard with tenfold energy. Precisely in this lies the task of the Fourth International.”

Manifesto of the Fourth International on Imperialist War and the Imperialist War, May 1940.


Syrian Civil War, the Islamic State and the battle of Kobanî. Defend Syria against imperialism! For a position of class independence in the civil war!, January 2016.

The Death of Kim Jong-Il and the Future of North Korea, February 2012.

Capitalism in a Deformed Workers’ State. China: Towards the Brink, International Bolshevik Tendency, 2004 (Historical Document).