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New International, July–August 1950



Political Committee, Independent Socialist League

Whose War Is It?


From New International, Vol. XVI No. 4, July–August 1950, pp. 195–197.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The war in Korea is a warning signal to all the peoples of the world who long for nothing more than an assurance of peace.

In every part of the world, the imperialist powers that triumphed in the Second World War laid the powder barrels for the explosion of the Third World War. Now one of these powder barrels has exploded. If the war in Korea does not immediately touch off the Third World War, it is only because neither of the two rival imperialist blocs is as yet prepared for it.

But now that shooting has started in Korea, the conquest of this small country is precisely one of the steps needed in the preparations for the world war, and the conflict in that country does and can do nothing but bring the world closer to the outbreak of the global war.

The responsibility for the war in Korea does not fall upon the shoulders of the Korean people. It is not their war. They and their land have been made the pawns in a bigger war, its innocent and helpless victims.

It is not our war, either, the war of the people of this or any other country. The responsibility for it falls entirely upon the shoulders of the two big powers in whose interests it is being fought. It is these two powers, the United States and Russia, with their allies and satellites as accomplices, which committed the great crime against the Korean people at the Yalta and subsequent conferences.

The black history of imperialism contains no episode that surpasses the partition of Korea in the cynicism with which the interests and opinion of a people were ignored by their foreign traducers. A knife was drawn through the living body of Korea at the 38th parallel. Neither of the two powers that thus divided the spoils even pretended that this division was needed by the Korean people or corresponded to any interest they might conceivably have.

The line arbitrarily cutting the country in two parts, each capable of living without the other, was drawn with the shameless proclamation that the mutilation of this country was required by the interests of two other countries. It is only a logical development that today the war in Korea is not in the interests of its people, its national sovereignty and democratic aspirations, but is required only by the conflict of interests between the powers that cut it in two.

The country once divided, both the United States and Russia installed puppet regimes over the people, in the South and the North respectively. Struggle between them for supremacy was as inevitable as the division of the country was unendurable. But the war that broke out and is now raging is not a war of or for the Korean people or for its national unification and freedom. It is nothing but a continuation, in the open military field, of the struggle for supremacy in Korea particularly and Asia generally between American and Stalinist imperialism.

The so-called Northern government is not a government of the Korean people and in no way represents its interests. It is a totalitarian quisling regime installed by and completely in the service of the Moscow empire. The victory of its arms would mean nothing but the extension of the slave power of Stalinism over the whole territory of Korea, and therefore a disastrous blow to the people of Korea and the cause of democracy and socialism everywhere else.

If the government of Southern Korea were an independent one enjoying the support of the people, then, even if it were a conservative regime, its resistance to the Northern invasion would be a defense of the sovereignty of Korea from an imperialist assault by Russia. Every politically educated person knows that the Northern regime moved upon the South not simply after consulting its Russian masters but only after instructions from them.

However, it required only a few days of fighting to show how the people of South Korea regard the Rhee government. Neither the Southern army, specifically, nor the people in general have given any support to the Rhee government.

This is now involuntarily acknowledged by Rhee’s patron, the United States, in the decision it has found itself obliged to adopt in taking over virtually all of the responsibility for combating the militarized tools of Russia. It is now perfectly clear that behind the disguise of a war for Korean independence, which both sides hypocritically proclaim, stands the reality of a war between two foreign imperialist powers over a pawn on the bloody chessboard of the coming Third World War.

The Truman administration, unitedly supported by both capitalist parties, has now committed this country fully to an undeclared war, without even bothering to comply with the constitutional requirement for official authorization by Congress. By this undeclared war, docilely endorsed by the United Nations, which was established ostensibly but futilely to assure a durable peace, capitalist imperialism again emphasizes its inability to offer an effective democratic political alternative to Stalinist totalitarianism, and accordingly, its ability to deal with Stalinism, in every decisive test, only by purely police and military means.

Any victory gained in Korea on such a basis can only have reactionary consequences.

Far from ensuring the independence of Korea, it will guarantee its utter dependence upon, if not permanent occupation by, American imperialism.

Far from ensuring world peace, it will only bring closer the date of the Third World War, of the decisive conflict for world dominion between the capitalist and Stalinist blocs in which the peoples of this globe will be at least as much threatened by utter devastation as by imperialist conquest.

Far from encouraging the peoples to resist the ravages of totalitarian rule by their own democratic strength, it will stimulate the chauvinistic madmen who are already urging that a preventive war be launched against Russia by inundating it quickly with atom bombs.

The Independent Socialist League, therefore, protests against the ravishing of Korea by the two imperialist rivals. We urge the labor movement of this country, which has remained disgracefully silent in face of the Korean events, to proclaim its complete independence from the imperialist policy of the American government, as it has already rightly proclaimed its complete hostility to the policy of the Stalinist regime, and to renounce all responsibility for the course of either camp in the Korean war.

The program of social legislation which the labor movement has made the center of its political fight will necessarily be undercut as the war situation develops, along with democratic and civil liberties, as long as labor subordinates its own interests to U.S. foreign policy. The “fair deal" which labor has dreamed of establishing under capitalism cannot even be fought for successfully while labor has no policy independent of the existing “Fair Deal” of the Truman administration, which has steered the country into the present conflict.

Unless the powerful labor movement adopts an independent policy of its own, based upon militant opposition to all imperialism and an aggressive championing of a genuinely democratic policy all over the world, peace will remain the precarious interlude that it. is today, and the Third World War, with all its horrors and barbarism, will prove to be inevitable.

If it does adopt and pursue such a policy, it can become the rallying center of all the peace-loving peoples of the world and a powerful guarantee of that peace which we must have in order to solve the problems that face us all.

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Last updated on 18 October 2018