According to many imperialist country patriots, the “highest honor” one can have is to fight and die for “my country”. You’ll find find this sentiment being expressed on TV, in church, in presidential statements, in movies, during speeches, on the radio, in homes and shopping malls, and many places of congregation. It is a sentiment believed by many conservatives and liberals alike, including those who oppose particular US imperialist wars and interventions. In the United States, it has attained the status of something like a state religion, and deviation from it is considered sacrilegious and “anti-American” (communists should recognize, by the way, these are both good things).
“Fighting and dying for [insert imperialist aggressor of choice] is the highest honor” is really, when you think about, incitement to violence against the Third World. It is a statement to the effect of, “I’m going to keep honoring someone’s direct involvement and participation in imperialist aggression, regardless of whether or not I agree with this aggression.” It is a statement that one will keep on honoring, and therefore facilitating, participation in imperialist war.
In truth, the sentiment is puerile trash, and Americans in particular need to be thoroughly disabused of it – for the highest honor that one can have is not to fight and die for one’s “own country” (i.e. imperialist bourgeoisie) but to fight and die for the masses oppressed by imperialism. There are many gradations beneath this highest universal honor that themselves far outshine the imperialist-chauvinists’ favorite “honor”. One of them was expounded by Lenin: to BETRAY one’s “own country” in its imperialist endeavors, and to work to bring about the DEFEAT of one’s “own country”.
This is as relevant now as ever, because even many “leftists” support imperialist war when done “for the right reasons”. These people seem to think that the Marxist-Leninist analysis of the class character of the state is “outdated” and that class questions, such as in whose class interests an imperialist war is being waged, somehow no longer matter very much when it comes to, say, the imperialist assault on Syria. These people implore “their” imperialist government to “do the right thing” and are in favor of “shaming our representatives” to “stop Assad” – i.e. to intensify the ongoing imperialist program of covert operations, sponsorship of terrorism, propaganda and economic sanctions by also topping it with open war. In so doing, they turn themselves into clowns and puppets for imperialism’s decades-long assault (really, genocide) against the people of the Middle East in the name of a narrow and stunted moralism that is divorced from a concrete analysis of class interest and regional struggle against imperialism, and that is replete with national chauvinism and white supremacist assumptions. These left-opportunist clowns want to “unite as one” behind “their” imperialist bourgeoisie and to put aside such trifling matters as class interest in order to help engage in something that will make them feel like they’re “doing the right thing”. If imperialist “regime change” can don a human face, then these left-opportunists are all for it, and are happy to couch everything against the backdrop of their imperialist privileges.
The rank opportunism of this crowd might appear to be an irritating but trivial sideshow if not for how grotesque and utterly steeped in imperial culture it really is (particularly in the consumerist “feel good” character of their self-righteous pronouncements). Many of these types are also petty-bourgeois intellectuals with comfortable jobs and salaries, who talk about socialist politics but reserve most of their ire against whatever government (or “regime”) just happens, ever so coincidentally, to be on imperialism’s hit-list at a given time. They are aghast at the prospect of revolution in their own countries, perhaps sensing – correctly – that their own platforms for pontificating on the moral “responsibilities” of imperialist states would be swiftly taken away from them by the dictatorship of the proletariat. Given their relatively comfortable existence derived largely from the spoils of imperialism, coupled with their soggy revisionism, it is quite natural that they will come to see the imperialist state as a potential vessel for carrying out their delusional pet projects, if only “enough of us can get together” to “shame the government to do the right thing” (i.e. to intensify what it is already doing against the people of the targeted country). But we have seen the results of the imperialist assaults on Iraq, Libya and Yemen, and these revisionist “Marxists” have no excuses left for their opportunism and the mass murder of workers that they helped unleash. Nevertheless, they still want to keep believing in fantasies about Syria’s “democratic opposition” and that imperialism will somehow stop being imperialism if “we can make our voices heard to help the people of Syria”, as though imperialism worked that way. This is historical idealism taken to its zenith – itself another sign of the petty-bourgeois origins of First World revisionism and “intellectual Marxism”, which lounges casually in its imperialist privilege, denies the need for revolution in the imperialist countries, comes to see the masses as something to hide from except when mobilized in the interests of imperialist war, and surely and unmistakably turns itself into the handmaiden of imperialism, national chauvinism and capitalist plunder.
Lenin warned the proletariat about the danger of going along with the left-opportunists and social-imperialists of his day, when he exposed and fought against the revisionist usurpers of socialist movements during the period of the First World War. In that infamous slaughter, many socialist parties in Europe declared fealty to “their” imperialist country and justified it on the basis that to oppose it would be in effect to support the imperialism of an opposing European power. But as Lenin pointed out, this is still imperialism! Lenin and the Soviet government were absolutely correct in immediately terminating Russia’s participation in this worthless bloodbath and signing a peace treaty with Germany, which gave the newly established worker’s state breathing space rather than uselessly hemorrhaging itself for the sake of “honor” or other twaddle. Current social-imperialists, revisionists and “Marxist” intellectuals, on the other hand, are at least a little more averse compared to their predecessors when it comes to expending the lives of “our boys”, but they are not above calling on NATO air power to enforce “safe zones”, and backing terrorist proxies to get the job done, hemorrhaging countless Syrians in the process and tearing apart the fabric of that society for the sake of “doing something about the brutal dictator Assad”. Once the dust settles and millions of lives are destroyed, ruined or traumatized, these intellectuals learn nothing and dutifully move onto the next imperialist bloodbath for which they behave as errand boys.
A handy rule of thumb is this: if you ever hear a socialist talking about “our military” or gushing about the “highest honor” of serving in an imperialist war, this person is a fake socialist and a vacuous chatterbox, capable only of leading the working class down the dead end of imperialist chauvinist politics and the meat grinder of imperialist slaughter, however garbed in a “socialist” veneer it might be. Challenge them on the question of WHY the war they defend or vacillate on is being waged; chances are, they’ll become glassy eyed and travel along the path of least resistance in the bourgeois political landscape they have grown comfortable navigating: jingoism and national pride in their imperialist terrorist state.
“I must argue, not from the point of view of ‘my’ country (for that is the argument of a wretched, stupid, petty-bourgeois nationalist who does not realize that he is only a plaything in the hands of the imperialist bourgeoisie), but from the point of view of my share in the preparation, in the propaganda, and in the acceleration of the world proletarian revolution. That is what internationalism means, and that is the duty of the internationalist, of the revolutionary worker, of the genuine Socialist.” V. I. Lenin
*the sense in which I am using the term “revisionism” does not refer to historical revisionism but to the trend within Marxism that deviates from and “revises” many of the key tenets of revolutionary Marxism, replacing them with liberal-democratic fads such as doing away with the need for revolution (in place of a “gradual transformation towards socialism” within the framework of bourgeois democracy and electoral politics), parliamentarism, a focus on developing the forces of production at the expense of transforming the relations of production, equating “socialism” with simple state ownership of control of certain enterprises, lack of clarity on the question of small privately owned businesses, lack of clarity on the necessity of economic planning by the dictatorship of the proletariat, and indeed a lack of clarity on the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat itself.