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'Imperialism Can Offer No Real Peace'

By Mary-Alice Waters, The Militant, Vol.59, no.26, 3 July 1995

HAVANA, Cuba - Following are excerpts from the opening of the presentation by Mary-Alice Waters at the Seventh Conference of North American and Cuban Philosophers and Social Scientists held at Havana University, June 13-16, 1995. The talk was one of several papers presented during the sessions of the commission on Democracy, Politics, and Social Justice. She will be making the same presentation at the Second International Scientific Workshop on the International Dimension of the Life and Work of Che in Matanzas University, June 19-22. Waters is editor of New International, a magazine of Marxist politics and theory. This excerpt is reprinted by permission of New International.

Twenty-one years have elapsed since the end of the last world conflagration, and various publications in every language are celebrating this event, symbolized by the defeat of Japan. A climate of optimism is apparent in many sectors of the different camps into which the world is divided. Yet, it is appropriate to ask whether this peace is real.

These were the words with which Ernesto Che Guevara opened his 1966 Message to the Tricontinental, Create two, three - many Vietnams: That is the watchword.

Almost 30 years have elapsed and the same anniversary approaches once again. Che's words remind us how well he understood the world in which, at the side of Fidel and others, he helped lead the working people of Cuba to establish the first free territory of the Americas and open a new chapter in the history of the modern working-class movement.

Rereading, in 1995, the Message to the Tricontinental helps focus our attention on the fact that the world relationship of class forces - with ups and downs, advances and setbacks - has shifted in favor of the oppressed and exploited over the last 30 years.

Today the imperialist victors of World War II, in an increasingly quarrelsome mood, are preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the defeat of Japan. They are arguing among themselves over what name they can give their moment of self-congratulation that won't exacerbate growing conflicts with the sometimes-rival, sometimes-ally - always both - capitalist class in Japan.

As spokespeople for the U.S. rulers, from President Clinton on down, outdo each other offering justifications for one of the most heinous crimes in the history of humanity, the people of Japan are preparing to commemorate the more than 300,000 victims incinerated immediately or killed more slowly by the atomic bombs Made in the USA that in early August 1945 were dropped on the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The post-World War II economic and social order that was announced by those wanton and gratuitous deeds is still with us.

Meanwhile, the people of Korea and other Asian lands are exploding in angry demonstrations at Tokyo's arrogant denial of the full truth about its brutal history of imperialist rule throughout the 20th century.

And in the United States radical-minded workers and young people are preparing their own commemoration of the concentration camps in which tens of thousands of U.S. citizens of Japanese origin, stripped of their property and rights, were held prisoner by the Roosevelt administration throughout the war.

The climate of optimism Che pointed to in 1966 is no more. Today's climate is rather one of foreboding among the imperialist masters, marked by lengthening periods of gloom; heightened anxiety among the middle classes of all countries who count on the propertied rulers for protection and stability; social polarization marked by aggressive probes by rightist and incipient fascist currents; and, most important of all, signs of rising resistance and defensive struggles among those from whose labor capital tries to extract the surplus value necessary to reverse its long-term crisis.

Those who dominated the other two sectors of the different camps into which the world is divided - to whom Che referred almost 30 years ago, and who then shared the climate of optimism - also find the weather sharply changed. The bureaucratic castes that dominated much of what was termed the socialist camp today find themselves in disarray as they run after a declining capitalist system.

And the bourgeoisies of the Third World are discovering the awful truth that the miracle of emerging market eco nomies doesn't culminate in the miracle of emerged industrially advanced capitalist countries, but instead the reality of explosive instability and continued domination by imperial capital. Both these formerly optimistic ruling elites face working classes increasingly impatient with the long wait for the promised coming of capitalist prosperity for all.

No, the dawn of the 21st century brings with it not a new international order but growing capitalist disarray. Che was right: the peace was not real.-