According to many imperialist-nation 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 sacrilege and “anti-American” (to which I say: good).
“Fighting and dying for [insert imperialist aggressor of choice] s 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 disabused of it. 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 These people seem to think that Lenin’s analysis is “outdated” and that class questions, such as in whose class interests the war is being waged, somehow no longer matter very much when it comes to, say, the imperialist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 imperialist program of covert operations, propaganda and economic sanctions by 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. These left-opportunist clowns want to “unite as one” behind their imperialist bourgeoisie and to put aside trifling class differences in order to help engage in regime-change-with-a-human-face.
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 is (particularly in the disposable “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 the moment. Given their relatively comfortable existence derived 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 vehicle for carrying out their delusional pet projects, if only “enough of us can get together” to “shame the government to do the right thing”. But we have seen the results of the imperialist assault on Iraq, Libya and Yemen, and these revisionist “Marxists” have no excuses left for their opportunism. 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”, or some such twaddle. This is historical idealism taken to its zenith – itself a 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, 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 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 another European power. But as Lenin pointed out, this is still imperialism! Lenin and the Soviet government were absolutely correct in ending Russia’s participation in the bloodbath and signing a peace treaty with Germany, which gave the newly established worker’s state breathing space rather than uselessly hemorrhaging itself. 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 and 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”.
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, 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 with: 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 to socialism” within the framework of bourgeois democracy and electoral politics), parliamentarism, an excessive focus on the forces of production rather than the relations of production, lack of clarity on the necessity of economic planning by the worker’s dictatorship, and lack of clarity on the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat.