Several times during the last three years the threat of a third world war seemed to loom large. Impressionist commentators did not hesitate to draw this conclusion. In fact a panic wave arose. The powerful and promising anti-war movement, which is growing today in the imperialist countries, was also at least partially affected. The number of publications about a third world war already begun, underway, or on the point of erupting, multiplied.footnote1

Actual events were not unimportant in creating this panic wave. In June 1982 we saw: the re-opening of the Iran-Iraq war, the Malvinas war, the preparations for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and the growing foreign intervention in the civil war in El Salvador. Then there have been the more or less forgotten ‘little’ wars: Chad, Eritrea, Namibia, the Western Sahara, the civil war in Yemen, the still smouldering civil war in Angola and Mozambique, and even this list is not exhaustive . . . To conclude from this that the flames of a world conflagration were mounting was only one step which some have taken without considering what this unjustified conclusion implied. It is completely irresponsible to get carried away by panic or to entertain a euphoric complacency on such an important question—for what is at stake here is literally the physical survival of the human race.

Imperialism is more determined than ever to employ its counter-revolutionary violence against every revolutionary advance in the world. This takes the form of systematic armed intervention, sometimes disguised as support to one of the sides in a civil war, at other times an open massive foreign intervention.

The world imperialist system is historically decomposing in the throes of a profound crisis. Revolutionary conflagrations have been erupting one after the other for over a half-century, with no end in sight. Thus, the main danger of war lies in these numerous foreign interventions against revolutions in progress. For the last decades the great majority of wars have been of this type. It is the same today. It will be the same tomorrow.

This is not in the least a new phenomenon. In fact, since the intervention against Soviet Russia in 1918–20, every revolution that has been triumphant, or on the road to important victories, has had to confront a counter-revolutionary war from outside. These are just the most important examples of this statement: the intervention of German imperialism against the Finnish revolution in 1918; that of the Entente (France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Romania), using Romania as the cutting edge, against the Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919; Hitler and Mussolini against the Spanish revolution in 1936–7; the British and American intervention against the Greek revolution in 1944–49; the imperialist intervention (first British then Japanese then American) against the Chinese revolution; the first Indochinese war of 1945–1954; the imperialist intervention against the Korean revolution and the third Chinese revolution in 1950–1953; the Dutch imperialist intervention against the Indonesian revolution 1945–1953; the British imperialist intervention against the Malaysian and Kenyan guerrillas in the late forties and early fifties; the French imperialist war against the Algerian revolution 1954–1962; the imperialist/Zionist war against the Egyptian revolution in 1956; the Indochinese war of us imperialism in 1961–1975; the Portuguese imperialist war against the revolutions in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissão; the repeated attacks on the Palestinian revolution in 1967, 1970, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1981 and 1982. The scope of some of these wars was incomparably greater than that of the Malvinas war or even the present imperialist intervention in Central America. We need only mention the first Indochinese war, the Israeli attack coupled with the Franco-British intervention in the Suez Canal in 1956, the Algerian war, which involved hundreds of thousands of soldiers from the imperialist countries.

The new fact is not these ‘localized’ counter-revolutionary wars. They are the rule. The new factor is that represented by the Nicaraguan and Iranian revolutions. There, at least at the moment of the fall of Somoza and of the Shah, imperialism found itself politically (not materially or militarily) incapable of intervening because of the repercussions of the defeat it suffered in Indochina in 1975.

At the time we in the Fourth International considered that this paralysis had to be short-lived. The political resolution adopted by the Eleventh World Congress in 1979, as well as that of the International Executive Committee in May 1981, correctly stated that imperialism was developing the means to carry out new counter-revolutionary interventions against revolutions already underway, or against new anti-imperialist initiatives. These preparations included, among other things, the setting up of the Rapid Deployment Force (rdf).