The Enemy Is At Home
Published in Socialist Worker 19 January 1980, as one of the regular columns I wrote in 1979-80 under the title: “It’s The Same the Whole World Over”.
Faced with accelerating inflation, an energy crisis and the collapse of public services, Jimmy Carter and Margaret Thatcher have discovered a solution of striking originality…. blame the Russians.
If the pronouncements of a horde of politicians and newspapermen are to be believed, the main threat today is not falling living standards, but the arrival of Russian troops amid the snowy mountains of central Asia.
The West, we are told, has been too soft; Russia is fundamentally shifting the balance of power in the world to its own advantage.
Now it is of course true that the men who rule Russia are quite capable of land-grabbing when the opportunity presents itself.
The present bunch are no different in nature from the Stalin gang who forced their political and economic domination onto Eastern Europe at the end of the Second World War.
And it is also true that Russia is a formidable military power. No one knows that better than the Russian people, who have to pay through the nose for Brezhnev’s tanks and missiles.
After sixty years of the construction of so-called ‘socialism’, Russia cannot produce enough grain for its own people.
The economy is stagnating, infant mortality is on the increase. And all because of the arms bill.
But when all that is conceded it is still arrant nonsense to suggest that the adventure in Afghanistan radically shifts the balance of power in the world.
For years Russia had influence in the Northern part of Afghanistan while the Americans concreted on the South. Then the US cut down its aid and gave the Russians a free hand. In terms of world politics nothing has changed.
Again, much is made of the fact that Russia has gained influence in Africa and that the US were driven out of Vietnam.
But Egypt is now firmly in the US camp and the Afghanistan affair has given Carter a golden opportunity to make pals with the murderous generals in Pakistan.
Now China is virtually eating out of US hands. American imperialism has scarcely had its teeth drawn.
Behind the words, action is minimal. No one wants a nuclear war over Afghan snow – though every crisis of this sort does increase the chance that a technical accident or political miscalculation could produce an unwanted holocaust.
The US have cut grain exports to Russia and limited Russian fishing rights. But these are partial reductions, not total bans.
Pressure is one thing, but Jimmy Carter has no desire to see Brezhnev threatened by workers rioting for bread.
For in the last resort, after all the squabbles are over, they both have a vested interest in the same system.
That’s why international socialists have always argued that the main enemy is at home.
For the Afghans, that means the Russian army.
For us it means Thatcher.