Why I Believe in "No War But the Class War" and Not Killing Non-Combatants
I am engaged in a heated off-line debate/discussion about the controversial question of violence against non-combatants. This is obviously an issue that cannot be avoided by anybody trying to persuade the American public to oppose Israel and support the Palestinians (and now Lebanese) who are presently so bravely fighting the Israeli military onslaught. The moderator in this debate/discussion called on people to say what they believe, in terms of basic principles. This is what I wrote.
I believe that a person's status as a non-combatant has nothing whatsoever to do with what s/he thinks or with the nature of the society s/he lives in. A non-combatant is a person who, at the moment in question, is not an on-duty member of a military that is oppressing people and is not otherwise (as a civilian possibly) engaged in committing unjust violence against people.
I believe a non-combatant may or may not be guilty of a crime committed in the past (possibly as a combatant), and if they are they should be punished, perhaps by execution, after a fair trial determines their personal guilt. Except for such judicial, as opposed to military, violence, there is no moral or political or military reason to kill non-combatants, and the consequences of doing so are only counter-productive.
I believe that upper class rulers foment wars along non-class lines in order to control people and prevent people from fighting the class war for a more equal and democratic world.
I believe that upper class rulers organize violent atrocities against one nationality or religion or ethnic group in the name of another precisely to foment such wars and to destroy working class solidarity. Examples of this are abundant: the Japanese "Rape of Nanking," the Yugoslavia violence in the 1990s destroying Croat-Serb solidarity, the Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, all of WWII and WWI, and so on.
I believe that people have a right to fight back violently against the combatants who are unjustly oppressing them. (I do not believe, by the way, that oppressed people have to wait, before fighting back, for working class people "on the other side" to support them. I have been told that Trotskyites and maybe Marxists in general believe this, but whether they do or not, I do not.)
I believe that when oppressed people fight combatants violently and do not target violence against non-combatants, then that maximizes their (oppressed people's) strength both militarily and politically. Politically it maximizes the clarity of their message to the world: that they are fighting against oppression and the people who violently enforce it, not against people simply because of their nationality or religion or ethnicity. This maximizes the likelihood that people everywhere (including ordinary people "on the other side") will increase their support of the oppressed, moving either from hostility to neutrality or from neutrality to active support. This is what happened in the Vietnam war to Americans, both GIs in Vietnam and civilians at home.
I believe in the slogan, "No war but the class war." Killing non-combatants is not part of the class war; it is part of the non-class war that upper class rulers try to get working class people to engage in.
I believe that sometimes the upper classes are successful in persuading people that their own lives and safety require the killing of non-combatants. This certainly happened in WWII when FDR and Truman convinced millions of Americans that they needed to commit mass murder of German and Japanese civilians in order to be safe. Just because the upper class sometimes succeeds in this effort does not mean that we should agree with them!
I believe we need to build a revolutionary movement that draws its strength from ordinary working class people understanding that what working people have in common with each other--values of solidarity and equality and democracy and a desire to live in peace with one another--is far more important than what they may share in common with their upper class rulers.
I believe this is fundamentally true even though upper class rulers sometimes succeed in persuading their working class populations that it is not true, as is certainly the case for many Jews in Israel today and Jews elsewhere in the world in the past. As difficult as it may be to build a revolutionary movement, it is nonetheless the only way out of the trap that otherwise awaits us, in which upper class elites pit working people against each other in bloody wars ad infinitum, just to strengthen their power over us.
I believe that whatever strengthens a revolutionary movement maximizes our chance of making positive changes even in the short term, because the ONLY thing that has a chance of making upper class rulers think it is in their interest to back off on their attacks on people is the fear that if they don't, it will result in a stronger revolutionary movement developing, which they know is the only thing that truly spells their doom.