[Marxism] About Chui Choy and Sío, the SWP, Babylon 5, the antiwar movement, and some other stuff
lueko.willms at t-online.de
Tue Nov 20 14:08:20 MST 2007
On Mon, 19 Nov 2007 03:07:49 -0500, Joaquin Bustelo wrote:
> I see just now that David has posted a query about
> my previous missive: "I don't get the long essay/tome
> by Joaquin...? What was the *point* of this essay? Anyone?"
> I actually thought that last one was pretty straightforward,
Obviously not, as seen by my reply to David Walters, and your
expansion in this your message which I reply to:
> Yet taking the antiwar movement into the electoral arena
> in alliance with the other social and protest movements
> WAS the obvious next step. If marches and demonstrations,
> along with other forms of protest and pressure, everything
> from civil disobedience to lobbying, could not get the
> politicians we had to stop the war, the conclusion of most
> rational people would be to remove those politicians and
> replace them with ones that WOULD end the war.
That at least puts the question of political power in the center.
What I dislike is your phrasing of it which makes taking political
power an alternative to mass demonstrations, in the same way as
the founding fathers of the Green Party in Germany conceived their
party building effort: as just as a different arena, besides stageing
a sit-in in a congressman's office, and having a street protest
("oh, these are so dull"), we just also wage our campaign in parliament.
We know what this party became: the spearhead of "humanitarian imperialism",
the ideological messengers of cutting wages and of the "government monopoly
Excuse my digression -- I couldn't resist.
The point is: what is meant by "remove those politicians and replace
them with ones the WOULD end the war" (which leads me to meditate about
the meaning "would" -- grammatically this is a conditional or
conjunction, i.e. something which may happen or not).
Leaving the grammar aside, let's think a moment what it means "to end
the war", who is the acting force in ending the war, and by which means
is that done.
First, what does "end the war" mean? Was there anybody in the USA in
that time who did not want to end the war? Even Goldwater wanted to end
the war; he ran against L.B. Johnson because he believed that Johnson
would not be able to end the war, only he could. Nixon surely wanted to
end the war.
The all wanted to end the war by winning it. Bush's phrase about the
attack on Iraq "this was is about peace", as absurd as it sounds, is
certainly rational, because -- George Orwell's theory in 1984 aside --
people begin wars only to end them -- as victors. The first phase of
the 20th century interimperialist war was branded as "the war to end all
Then there were people who wanted to end the war by forcing and
convincing the Vietnamese to make concessions -- they thought the main
demand should be do begin negociations with the Vietnamese.
So such a pacifist slogan is and was useless, but the anti-war
movement, which J.B. wanted to united behinde some electoral campaign,
was absolutely not clear about it. The big debate was between the
clear-cut demand to withdraw the US troops immediately and completely,
without any condition, formulated in a popular way as "Bring the troops
home now" or simply "out now".
That is something completely different than simply demanding "end the
war". It is the opposite of "end the war by winning it".
So Joaquin's electoral campaign slogan as proposed above would have
let the wolves in sheep's skin off the hook, and allow all kind of
imperialist treachery behind its mask.
Secondly, who is the acting force to end the war?
Joaquin calls "to remove those politicians and replace them with
ones that WOULD end the war", so it is those elected politicians which do
end the war. It is not the people ("we the people"), but the elected
representatives who do it. We elect them, and then wait and see what
those do, on which we have put all our hopes. "We, the [working]
people" do not act in such a setup as a "class in and by itself", but
charge some substitute for it; we are from then on only passive
That's is the essence of bourgois "representative democracy" - we are
supposed only to select among their candidates those who is thought of
being the most acceptable substitute, but not acting ourselves.
All this is perfectly compatible with the current two-party setup,
where one party might pose as being against the war effort of the
current government in election time, and then, when elected continue to
end the war by winning it "by any means necessary".
This is already covering the third topic mentioned above, by which
means will the war be ended? An electoral approach as Joaquin proposed
relies on parliamentary votes.
I think the only real force to count on is the working masses, the
industrial proletariat and our allies on all their forms, or "all the
various social movements", as Joaquin likes to quote Marta Harnecker.
So I think that the SWP (in the USA) was completely right in trying
to stay the course of mass actions also during election years, and
especially then, and insisting not that the war should be ended
somehow, either by winning or by losing it, but precisely by removing
all US military forces from the embattled country right away, and just
now, without any delay, and without any conditions.
And to insist that mass mobilisations in the streets and in the
workplaces (it had begun already in schools and universities) are the
one and only means to end the war.
Why mass demonstrations? Mass demonstrations as strikes have the germ
of an insurrection in them. Initially, even at their highest points in
the first half of the 1970ies, they were propaganda actions, but -
think about the unity of identity and difference, a core tenet of dialectical
thinking -- they when they grow, just the sheer mass of millions of
people marching is a force which can bring a city to a standstill (much
more than the minority violence of a group of "stree fighters"), and it
poses the question of who is regulating traffic, and any other activity
in and around the mass assembly. It begins to pose the question of real
political power. It carries the germ of dual power in it.
That's why the ruling minority is afraid of them (even if they do not
really understand themselves), and try to diffuse -- diffuse it just
into electoralist detours.
The debate in the anti-war movement back then was not so much about
the beauty of having only one slogan on the leaflet or the main banner,
instead of cluttering it with many, but precisely the interwoven
questions which I mentioned above: relying on our own forces by mass
mobilisation, or acting via proxy and substitutes, and "ending the war"
as a vague pacifist dream vs. the clear-cut demand to remove the US
fighting forces immediately and without allowing them to do any more
harm to the Vietnames or inflict some damage on them in order to force
some more concessions. Joaquin today is proposing to blur all that.
Coming back more to electoral campaigns proper.
Even if bourgeois elections are not meant to put the power of the
capitalist class in question, but only to select the front figures to
represent it, it does pose the question of political power.
Nontheless, campaigning in a bourgeois election, is not taking power,
but a propaganda campaign about solutions for the pressing needs of
today, which do pose the real question of political power, but in terms
of which class (or alliance of classes) is to rule over which
other classes. It is just the different program for the road to power
-- or to leave it in bourgeois hands -- which forms the basis for
different political parties. It does not make sense to mix the flags
and dilute the program in favor of a general propaganda for "socialism"
without having a common idea of how to advance towards actually taking
One of the main things to explain in a revolutionary election
campaign, is that "we will not act in your name", "we will not promise
to do something for you", except to use the campaign and an eventual
seat in a bourgeois parliament as platform to campaign for street
protests, and struggles in the workplace.
This does not mean that we limit ourselves to a "oppositionists of
the world, unite" instead of "workers of the world, unite". I just
discuss the electoral issues on the basis of how I judge the current
situation in imperialist countries. Of course, one can also use
governmental power in a bourgeois state, should the possibility arise,
to transform that, but then based on an increasing mass mobilisation,
as is happening in Venezuela. And let us remember, that Hugo Chávez
put his first mark on national politics of his country by his 1992
attempted coup. I think also of the short-lived "workers governments"
in Thüringen and Saxonia in the 1923 revolutionary situation in
Germany, which were formed by a coalition of the KPD and SPD groups
in the regional parliaments.
In Cuba, the 26 of July rebels under Fidel Castro's leadership also
included some elements who, when victory was achieved, turned out as
people who did not want to go all the way (remember Augusto Cesar
Sandino, "only the workers and farmers will go all the way"). I think
there is an important difference between such a common armed campaign
to a propaganda campaign by forming an electoral coalition of very
diverse forces. The Rebel Army in Cuba did fight state power very
directly and immediate way and sense, while an electoral propaganda
campaign only _talks_ about political power, hiding often
irreconcilable differences about the road to power.
Common action stands above common propaganda. Let everybody talk for
her- and himself, and let us act together.
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