In Defense of the SWP/anti-war mov't

Robert Malecki malecki at
Sun Oct 13 23:45:28 MDT 1996

>In Defense of the SWP perspectives during the anti-Vietnam War movement.
>Several people on this list, most notably North American Bob Maleki, now
>living in political exile in Sweden, have, in the most flippant ways,
>condemned the SWP and it anti-war initiatives.
>I have many criticism of the politics of the SWP, which I left after its
>sectarian attacks on the Workers World Party initiated anti-war
>demonstration of May 3, 1980 (I left for a large variety of reasons,
>too), most of which deal with what the Party could of done, IN ADDITION,
>to its fine work in mobilizing American people in defense of
>self-determination for the Vietnamese people.
>There are two issues, as I see it, around the anti-war movement. One was
>what was the issue confronting the people of the world during this war
>and the other was what to do about it.
>The SWP's position started from the viewpoint that the Vietnamese
>revolution was under attack by US imperialism. That defense of this
>revolution was paramount and the only way to accomplish the victory of
>the revolution in Vietnam was to end US intervention there.
>The only way to accomplish this, then, was to mobilize the largest
>number of people possible to make it difficult politically for the
>imperialists to carry out their aims unencumbered by had
>happened to the equally brutal Korean War which enjoyed at least the
>passive support of the majority of the US working class at the time.
>To accomplish this aim the SWP initiated several united fronts, most
>notably the National Peace Action Coalition (NPAC) and the affiliated
>Student Mobilization Committee (SMC). The organizing slogan of the
>NPAC/SMC struck at the heart of US imperialist intervention: US Out Now!
>Opposition to this strategy came from two sources, one to the "left"  of
>the SWP and one to the "right" of the SWP. In the former camp was the
>People's Coalition for Peace & Justice (PCPJ), second to NPAC in size
>and support, and initiated by the Communist Party USA. PCPJ usually
>adopted as a slogan or organizing tool what ever the Vietnamese were
>raising at the time: "Negotiate Now!" then "Adopt the 10 point peace
>program" (of the NLF/PRG) "Adopt the 8 point peace program," etc.
>Slogans would change with the winds of international Stalinism. The PCPJ
>approach never really was able to appeal to most Americans and certainly
>didn't mobilize many people, at least in comparison the demands of NPAC:
>US Out Now! ... which was certainly more to the point.  Most of the big
>demonstrations in NY / Washington DC / San Francisco that united NPAC
>and PCPJ were under the slogans raised by NPAC, not PCPJ.
>On the left was a wide variety of critics of NPAC and the SWP. For the
>Maoists, this meant fighting with the police at every or many
>opportunities, raising the slogan "Victory to the Vietnamese" (a feel
>good slogan with no punch what-so-ever) and waving red or NLF flags at
>demonstrations organized by NPAC. To be fair, the Maoists and almost
>Maoists did do a fair share of their own demonstrations but on a far
>smaller scale and with seemingly no impact on the world around them.
>Another important point is that the Maoists, more than any other group
>on the left, recruited the most out of the radicalization of the 60s and
>70s. I'd say they recruited 10 students for every 1 the YSA (SWP youth
>group) recruited.
>In addition the Sparts and other "Trotskyoid" groups did no mobilizing
>beyond their own membership and usually around slogans like the Sparts
>favorite one "All Vietnam Must Go Communist" which was my absolute
>favorite for silly things to put on a banner (yes it must, so
>what?...the other was a Maoist one I saw at a big demo in NY which read
>'Workers and Peasants Unite!'...and I thought, 'what, in Brooklyn
>NPAC never let the anti-war movement get captured by the Stalinists of
>PCPJ who wanted to turn the movement into a "multi-issue" grouping,
>tailored for Democratic Party politicians. Yes, NPAC allowed, nay
>invited, popular Democratic (and some anti-war Republicans) politicians
>to share the stage at rallies and marches it organized. These
>politicians NEVER dominated the speakers platform nor did they set the
>tone for the politics of the demonstrations. They did legitimize, in the
>eyes of many Americans, the movements appeal, although this was rejected
>by the "pro-NLF" Maoists and other so-called "anti-imperialists" who saw
>this as a capitulation to the Democrats.  But this goes, in large part,
>to the heart of the issues raised by the critics of the SWP: they, the
>critics, did not want to appeal or mobilize the nascent anti-war
>sentiment of the American people! They didn't care one iota. They only
>cared about feeling good about their revolutionary credentials, their
>red flags and so-called "anti-imperialist" slogans.
>We in the SWP cared about mobilizing the greatest number of people in
>demanding the US get out now from Vietnam. We cared about mobilizing
>unions and the labor movement to use their economic/political clout to
>mobilize against George Meany's pro-war stance. There is not enough room
>on the Internet to go over every group who criticized of the SWPs.
> I used to say to ultra-lefts in my high school in NY: "Notice
>that you come to our demonstrations but we never go to yours, why...?
>because yours are small, pathetic and inconsequential to the class
>struggle going on in Vietnam and the US. If your orientation is correct,
>go out and organize hundreds of thousands of people around you 'slogans'
>and effect change in imperialism's relationship of forces with the
>Of course the rest is history. These "leftists" never did squat.
>I will depart from SWP orthodoxy on somethings. I think some of the
>civil disobediance, taken together with the mass movement organized by
>us, was important. Certainly the destroying of draft records, arrests
>made at draft centers and other smaller actions did help, the movement
>as a whole. Our arguement at the time with these people (and many were
>involved with NPAC) was that they elevated these tactics to a strategy
>and often did so by misleading people at large and peaceful
>demonstration into conflict with the cops...but I do think there was a
>place for these actions as a tactic.
>David Walters

Dear David,

This is the most honest defense of the popular front politics of the SWP
that i have ever read. I really believe everyword you say that you mean it.
That is the problem.

The whole point being that the SWP was the leading force in the organising
of this popular front, thus leaving Trotskyism behind for reformist politics!

I on the other hand at the time thought that the European sections of the
USec in the International majority Tendency (IMT) were much futher to the
left then the SWP.

And on the International level the SWP line was a minority which hardly
anybody supported.

Finally anybody who wants to read about this period and the definite break
of the SWP with Trotskyism for reformism I suggest the phamplet "Stalinisn
and Trotskyism in Vietnam"..

BOB malecki

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