Rhodesia and the Use of Force
Letter published in Labour Worker Mid-November 1965 at the time of UDI in Rhodesia.
No-one could disagree with Harold Jackson’s analysis of the Rhodesian crisis when he shows the brutally reactionary policy of the white minority, and the essentially opportunistic nature of Wilson’s policy.
I was, however, somewhat disturbed by the headlined demand “Force must be used to bring democracy to Rhodesia.” Labour Worker has repeated time and time again during the last year its view that the rôle of the Labour Government is to run the capitalist machine, not to introduce socialism. Certainly there has never been any suggestion that a Labour administration has transformed the British Army and Air Force into a workers’ militia.
Wilson has revealed his desire for compromise over this issue by stating that force is not to be used. Nonetheless, it is not the task of socialists to hang onto the coat-tails of the archbishop of Canterbury, and demand that the British Armed Forces – one of the instruments of the capitalist state – do our job for us. Such a demand only confuses the issue, at a time when the task of socialists is not to prescribe policy for Wilson, but to cut through the mystifying fog of ideology, and expose the realities of the situation.
We can be clear on one thing – that if British troops (or for that matter a U.N. force) were sent to Rhodesia, it would have the rôle of “preserving order” – that is, suppressing any direct action by the coloured population. It is correct to say that a truly democratic society can be established in Rhodesia only by the use of force. But this violence will come from the Africans themselves, not the state machine of a capitalist nation (or international organisation).
As socialists, we should give any assistance or support required by African organisations in Rhodesia. But to call for action by British troops is to echo the reformist slogan of the American Socialist Workers Party during the 1964 Presidential Election – “Bring the troops out of Vietnam and send them to Mississippi”.