Reply to a not very intelligent polemic of Alan Woods’ IMT on the slogan of “Arms for the Ukraine”
By Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 11 November 2022, www.thecommunists.net
Alan Woods’ IMT – a self-proclaimed “Trotskyist” organisation with a London-based leadership – has published another article justifying its refusal to defend the Ukraine against Putin’s invasion.  The most remarkable thing about this article is not the content but its formal occasion. It is a 3,200-words long polemic against an article … published in April this year, i.e. seven months ago! That article was written by John Reimann, a 75-years old socialist in Oakland (California, U.S.) and an individual activist in various campaigns (incl. solidarity with the Ukrainian resistance). 
To our knowledge, comrade Reimann never wrote or said a single word about the IMT. So, one wonders why Alan Woods’ group feels obligated to write a wordy polemic against an article published seven months ago by an individual activist? The reason is pretty clear: Reimann is just a dummy for the real target of the IMT.
As we did report, the IMT currently faces internal turmoil in its Russian section because of its treacherous position on Putin’s invasion against the Ukraine. A number of members have left this organisation in protest against its refusal to consistently oppose Russian imperialism. The RCIT has dealt with the IMT’s policy on the Ukraine War in several documents and our comrades in Russia have also published interviews with ex-IMT comrades.  Hence, the new IMT polemic is a badly disguised attempt to counter its internal and external critiques.
In itself, the article does not contain any new arguments. Once more, the IMT confirms its assessment that the U.S. is the “the most reactionary force on Earth” (this silly phrase has a near-programmatic meaning for Alan Woods which is why the author repeats it twice). Sure, the Kremlin’s policy is bad. But in the IMT’s fantasy world of semi-Putinism, only the U.S. and its allies are real imperialist powers. Russia has only, the article emphasises once more, “imperialist ambitions”. This is utter nonsense and ignores the fact that Russia is an imperialist power in its own right. 
Consequently, the IMT is incapable of recognizing the rivalry between the Great Powers (U.S., China, Western Europe, Russia and Japan) as a key characteristic of the current historic period. 
The IMT wrongly claims that the Ukraine does not fight a national war of defence but merely a proxy war on behalf of NATO. In reality, as we demonstrated in several article, they even consider Russia as a “lesser evil”.  Consequently, the Russian IMT section supports and collaborates with Zyuganov’s KPRF – an undisguised Great Russian social-chauvinist party which has supported Putin’s war since the very beginning. 
“Trotsky” a la IMT
It is not necessary to repeat here our analysis of the Ukraine War or our critique of the IMT.  At this place, we will limit ourselves to refute a blatant distortion of a Trotsky quote which constitutes the core of the whole IMT article at hand. The IMT author criticises Reimann for his interpretation of Trotsky’s anti-imperialist position elaborated in his article “Learn to Think”. Let us first reproduce the quote in question.
“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-leftist 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 favour 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.” 
The IMT author claims, after reproducing this Trotsky quote, that Reimann would ignore the “class aspect” in the whole issue. “It is very telling that Reimann omits the class aspect of Trotsky’s argument. If we were talking about a working-class revolution in Ukraine, which overthrew the oligarchs, installed a workers’ government, and then came under attack from Russian imperialism, it might be that the western imperialists would weigh the advantage of supporting the Ukrainian workers’ regime to strike blows against Russia, though we suspect they would be far more reluctant. Our position in this case would be very different.”
Surely, if the Ukraine would be socialist, if Russia would be imperialist, the IMT swears that in such a case it would side with the Ukraine and that it would not sabotage Western military aid. “Unfortunately”, (in fact, fortunately, as it relieves the IMT from redeeming its promise!) this is not the case so Alan Woods’ group can continue to call for the blockage of aid for the Ukraine.
The real Trotsky
In fact, it is the IMT which completely misinterprets Trotsky’s argument. The quote in question refers to an attack of an imperialist power against a capitalist non-imperialist country. In this quote, Trotsky takes the example of a rebellion in Algeria – at that time a colony of French imperialism – which would receive weapons from fascist-imperialist Italy. As it is well-known, Trotsky and the Fourth International did side with the oppressed peoples not only in theoretical scenarios but also in the real class struggle. Furthermore, they took the same position in wars between an imperialist power and a semi-colony, i.e. a formally independent capitalist state which has a dominated position in world economy and politics.
For example, the Marxists supported the struggle of the China and Ethiopia in the 1930s and 1940s. “Only, where the struggle is imperialistic only on one side, and a war of liberation of non-imperialist nations or of a socialist country against existing or threatening imperialist oppression on the other, as well as in civil wars between the classes or between democracy and fascism—the international proletariat cannot and should not apply the same tactic to both sides. Recognising the progressive character of this war of liberation it must fight decisively against the main enemy, reactionary imperialism (or else against the reactionary camp, in the case of a civil war), that is, fight for the victory of the socially (or politically) oppressed or about-to-be oppressed: USSR, colonial and semi-colonial countries like Abyssinia or China, or Republican Spain, etc.” 
From such a fundamental differentiation between reactionary and progressive wars follows that Marxists advocate very different tactics. We are against the escalation of reactionary wars and therefore, socialists oppose the delivery of armaments in such wars. But things are very different in liberation wars! In such cases, socialists support the delivery of armaments! Trotsky stated, on the occasion of the Italo-Ethiopian war in 1935: „Of course, we are for the defeat of Italy and the victory of Ethiopia, and therefore we must do everything possible to hinder by all available means support to Italian imperialism by the other imperialist powers, and at the same time facilitate the delivery of armaments, etc., to Ethiopia as best we can.“ 
Another example is the scenario of a war between “democratic”-imperialist Britain and a “fascist” Brazil, which Trotsky outlined in an interview in 1938. “I will take the most simple and obvious example. In Brazil there now reigns a semi-fascist regime that every revolutionary can only view with hatred. Let us assume, however, that on the morrow England enters into a military conflict with Brazil. I ask you on whose side of the conflict will the working class be? I will answer for myself personally—in this case I will be on the side of “fascist” Brazil against “democratic” Great Britain. Why? Because in the conflict between them it will not be a question of democracy or fascism. If England should be victorious, she will put another fascist in Rio de Janeiro and will place double chains on Brazil. If Brazil on the contrary should be victorious, it will give a mighty impulse to national and democratic consciousness of the country and will lead to the overthrow of the Vargas dictatorship. The defeat of England will at the same time deliver a blow to British imperialism and will give an impulse to the revolutionary movement of the British proletariat. Truly, one must have an empty head to reduce world antagonisms and military conflicts to the struggle between fascism and democracy. Under all masks one must know how to distinguish exploiters, slaveowners, and robbers!“ 
As we pointed out in several works, these (semi-)colonial countries did receive substantial support from imperialist powers which were in rivalry with the aggressor (e.g. the imperialist League of Nation against Italy in 1935, the U.S. and Britain against Japan in 1937-45). However, in contrast to the IMT today, Marxists at that time did not use such support as pretext for dropping their support for these semi-colonial countries. 
Silence on crucial issues
The IMT wisely ignores this fundamental position of Trotsky and the Fourth International as this would destroy their whole argument. This allows them to claim that Trotsky’s scenario about Italy’s aid for the Algerian uprising does not apply to the case of the Ukraine. “There is an important difference here. What is happening in Ukraine is not a revolutionary uprising by an oppressed colony or a case of self-defence by a proletarian regime.“
Formally, this is true. The Ukraine today is neither a “colony” nor a “workers state”. However, it is a capitalist semi-colony! As we did show above, the Trotskyist policy of revolutionary defensism against imperialist aggression applies not only to colonies and workers states but equally to semi-colonies.
In order to cover its trick, the IMT simply ignores the question of the class character of the Ukraine. They could hardly claim that it is an imperialist state. That would be too silly. But they can also not admit that it is a semi-colony. Hence, the only solution is … silence.
The IMT tries to present its betrayal of the Ukrainian people by claiming that they would be in staunch anti-imperialist opposition against the Western Great Powers. Nothing could be further from the truth! Just remember how Ted Grant and Alan Woods refused to defend Argentina against Britain during the Malvinas War in 1982?  Or their refusal to defend Iran or Hamas against Israel. 
In contrast to such social-chauvinist capitulators, the RCIT and all authentic socialists have always defended oppressed people – like Argentina, Iraq or Afghanistan – against the Western imperialists!  But in contrast to the IMT, we apply the program of revolutionary defeatism not only against the U.S. but against all imperialist powers – the U.S., China, Russia, Western Europe and Japan. Where an oppressed people is waging a legitimate war of defence (like in the Ukraine, Syria and Palestine today or Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya in the past), we stand for revolutionary defensism, i.e. we side with their military struggle without lending any political support to their (bourgeois) leadership or to an imperialist power with which this leadership might be allied. 
Misusing the slogan “The Main Enemy Is At Home”
Finally, we should also point to another distortion of the IMT: their claim that Karl Liebknecht’s well-known slogan “The Main Enemy Is At Home” would mean that Marxists must not support a (semi-)colonial country which receives support by their “own” ruling class.
As we did demonstrate somewhere else, Lenin and Trotsky always refuted such reactionary nonsense. Applying the IMT’s method in the past would have meant, among others, that the American and British section of the Fourth International could not have supported the Ethiopian or Chinese people in the 1930s and 1940s because “their” imperialism supported their liberation struggles in one way or another. As a matter of fact, the program of consistent anti-imperialism means that Marxists oppose all Great Powers – their own as well as any other – and that they never lend political support for such an imperialist state even if it delivers material aid to a legitimate struggle. 
We shall briefly also add that the IMT’s pseudo-“orthodox” emphasis on the principle “The Main Enemy Is At Home” is particularly grotesque since Alan Woods’ himself has repeatedly renounced Lenin’s policy of revolutionary defeatism! 
In conclusion, the IMT article is a badly disguised attempt to counter its internal and external critiques by using comrade Reimann as a dummy. The means of this strike against their opponents are a) a shameless distortion of Trotsky and b) casting a veil of silence over crucial issues like the class character of Russia and the Ukraine.
Naturally, the IMT leadership is free to do as it likes. But, please, spare the dummy … and Trotsky!
 Joe Attard: Arms to Ukraine? To those abusing Trotsky’s words, we say: “Learn to think!” IMT, 10 November 2022, https://www.marxist.com/arms-to-ukraine-to-those-abusing-trotsky-s-words-we-say-learn-to-think.htm. All quotes are from article if not indicated otherwise.
 Oakland Socialist (John Reimann): Once More: Should socialists support or oppose NATO arms to Ukraine? 13 April 2022, https://anticapitalistresistance.org/once-more-should-socialists-support-or-oppose-nato-arms-to-ukraine/
 See on this e.g. RCIT: Ukraine War: Former Russian Members of Alan Woods‘ IMT Speak Out. The IMT’s adaptation to pro-Russian social-imperialism provokes opposition and abandonment in their ranks, 29 October 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/ukraine-war-former-russian-members-of-alan-woods-imt-speak-out/
 The RCIT has published numerous documents about capitalism in Russia and its rise to an imperialist power. The most important ones are several pamphlets by Michael Pröbsting: The Peculiar Features of Russian Imperialism. A Study of Russia’s Monopolies, Capital Export and Super-Exploitation in the Light of Marxist Theory, 10 August 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/the-peculiar-features-of-russian-imperialism/; by the same author: Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism and the Rise of Russia as a Great Power. On the Understanding and Misunderstanding of Today’s Inter-Imperialist Rivalry in the Light of Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism. Another Reply to Our Critics Who Deny Russia’s Imperialist Character, August 2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialism-theory-and-russia/; Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. The formation of Russian Monopoly Capital and its Empire – A Reply to our Critics, 18 March 2014 (this pamphlet contains a document written in 2001 in which we established for the first time our characterisation of Russia as imperialist), http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialist-russia/; see also these essays by the same author: Russia: An Imperialist Power or a “Non-Hegemonic Empire in Gestation”? A reply to the Argentinean economist Claudio Katz, in: New Politics, 11 August 2022, at https://newpol.org/russia-an-imperialist-power-or-a-non-hegemonic-empire-in-gestation-a-reply-to-the-argentinean-economist-claudio-katz-an-essay-with-8-tables/; Russian Imperialism and Its Monopolies, in: New Politics Vol. XVIII No. 4, Whole Number 72, Winter 2022, https://newpol.org/issue_post/russian-imperialism-and-its-monopolies/; Once Again on Russian Imperialism (Reply to Critics). A rebuttal of a theory which claims that Russia is not an imperialist state but would be rather “comparable to Brazil and Iran”, 30 March 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/once-again-on-russian-imperialism-reply-to-critics/. See various other RCIT documents on this issue at a special sub-page on the RCIT’s website: https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/china-russia-as-imperialist-powers/.
 See on this e.g. the book by Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, Vienna 2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/anti-imperialism-in-the-age-of-great-power-rivalry/.
 For a critique of the IMT’s policy during the Ukraine War see e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Nothing Learned and Nothing Forgotten. The theory and practice of Alan Woods’ IMT demonstrates its continuing adaptation to pro-Russian social-imperialism, 15 October 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/imt-russian-imperialism-ukraine-war/; by the same author: Do the Ukrainian People in the Occupied Territories Really Want Annexation by Russia? Alan Woods’ IMT continues its opportunist adaption to pro-Russian social-imperialism in face of Putin’s mobilisation, 22 September 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/imt-in-face-of-putin-s-mobilisation/; Zyuganov’s Servants. IMT leaders in Russia join list of Zyuganov’s KPRF – Putin’s pro-war “communists” – for upcoming municipal elections, 25 August 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/zyuganov-s-servants-imt-russia/; Ukraine War: Mr. Woods Warns Authentic Socialists. “There is absolutely no room in our ranks for weak elements who bend under pressure in wartime.”, 2 August 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/ukraine-war-mr-woods-warns-authentic-socialists/; Russia and the Theory of “Lesser-Evil” Imperialism, On some Stalinists and “Trotskyists” who formally recognize Russia’s class character but reject the political consequences, 28 July 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/russia-and-the-theory-of-lesser-evil-imperialism/; The IMT and the Ukraine War: A Shameful Betrayal. Alan Woods and the IMT fail to defend the Ukrainian people against the Russian invasion and effectively refuse to recognize Russia’s imperialist character, 2 March 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/the-imt-and-the-ukraine-war-a-shameful-betrayal/; Ukraine War: Stalino-“Trotskyist” Chamber of Horrors. On a recently held “anti-war” conference organised by some “Trotskyists” as well as Russian Stalinist parties, 29 June 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/stalino-trotskyist-chamber-of-horrors/; Ukraine War: The Outcome of the Stalino-“Trotskyist” Conference. On the official conference declaration in support of Russian imperialism and on some “Trotskyists” participants (IMT, OKDE Spartakos), 13 July 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/ukraine-war-outcome-of-stalino-trotskyist-conference/
 The RCIT has published a number of polemics against the KPRF’s social-chauvinist policy in the Ukraine War; see e.g. the pamphlets by Michael Pröbsting: Putin’s Poodles (Apologies to All Dogs). The pro-Russian Stalinist parties and their arguments in the current NATO-Russia Conflict, 9 February 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/nato-russia-conflict-stalinism-as-putin-s-poodles/; by the same author: Russia: Zyuganov Calls for “General Mobilisation” to defeat the Ukraine. The “communist” KPRF leader joins the long-standing demand of the hard-core sector of the Great Russian chauvinist camp a la Igor Strelkov, 13 September 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/russia-zyuganov-calls-for-general-mobilisation-to-defeat-the-ukraine/; “Socialism” a la Putin and Zyuganov. On a telling dialogue between the Stalinist party leader and the Russian President, 13 July 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/socialism-a-la-putin/.
 We refer readers to a special page on our website where more than 120 RCIT documents on the Ukraine War and the current NATO-Russia conflict are compiled: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/compilation-of-documents-on-nato-russia-conflict/. In particular we refer to the RCIT Manifesto: Ukraine War: A Turning Point of World Historic Significance. Socialists must combine the revolutionary defense of the Ukraine against Putin’s invasion with the internationalist struggle against Russian as well as NATO and EU imperialism, 1 March 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/manifesto-ukraine-war-a-turning-point-of-world-historic-significance/
 Leon Trotsky: Learn to Think: A Friendly Suggestion to Certain Ultra-Leftists (1938), in: Trotsky Writings 1937-38, Pathfinder Press, New York 1970, p. 331
 Rudolf Klement: Principles and Tactics in War, The New International, May 1938, Theoretical Journal of the Socialist Workers Party (US-Section of the Fourth International), https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/klement-war/
 Leon Trotsky: The Italo-Ethiopian Conflict (1935), in: Writings of Leon Trotsky (1935-36), Pathfinder Press, New York 1970, p. 41
 Leon Trotsky: Anti-Imperialist Struggle is Key to Liberation. An Interview with Mateo Fossa (1938); in: Writings of Leon Trotsky 1938-39, p. 34
 See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: The Ukraine War and the Second Sino-Japanese War: A Historical Analogy. The dual tactic of Marxists in the Ukraine War today draws on the approach of their predecessors in the war between China and Japan in 1937-41, 10 March 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/ukraine-war-second-sino-japanese-war-a-historical-analogy/
 See on this chapter 13 in the book by Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South. Continuity and Changes in the Super-Exploitation of the Semi-Colonial World by Monopoly Capital. Consequences for the Marxist Theory of Imperialism, RCIT Books, Vienna 2013, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/great-robbery-of-the-south/.
 See on this e.g. the critique of our comrades in Occupied Palestine who broke with the IMT: The ISL’s Break with the IMT, August 2009, https://the-isleague.com/isl-imt-split/. See also Yossi Schwartz: The Zionist Wars, RCIT Book, 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/the-zionist-wars/, Yossi Schwartz: Israel's War of 1948 and the Degeneration of the Fourth International, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/israel-s-war-of-1948/.
 Michael Pröbsting: The Struggle of Revolutionaries in Imperialist Heartlands against Wars of their “Own” Ruling Class. Examples from the history of the RCIT and its predecessor organisation in the last four decades, 2 September 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/the-struggle-of-revolutionaries-in-imperialist-heartlands-against-wars-of-their-own-ruling-class/
 For an extensive elaboration of the Marxist program of revolutionary defeatism and defensism see two books by Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, Vienna 2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/anti-imperialism-in-the-age-of-great-power-rivalry/
 See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: A Marxist Slogan and its Caricature. On the social-imperialist distortion of the slogan “The Main Enemy Is At Home” in the context of the Ukraine War and the Taiwan Strait Crisis, 17 August 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/the-marxist-slogan-the-main-enemy-is-at-home-and-its-social-imperialist-distortion/
 See on this chapter XXVIII in the above-mentioned book Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry.