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

Hugh Rodwell m-14970 at
Mon Oct 14 17:09:35 MDT 1996

Bob M and David W are having a go at each other over a very important issue
-- the best slogans for mobilizing an anti-war movement in the imperialist
countries especially the US during the Vietnam war.

Let's remember that there was a tremendous and growing upsurge against the
war among the youth and many young workers in uniform.

David argues:

>The Usec Majority wasn't anymore "left" than the Maoists were here.
>First of all, the position held by the SWP at the time and the slogans
>rasised were supported by close to 40% of the Usec membership, insofar
>as the old Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency (and later Faction) represented
>this perscentage of the Usec. At any rate, their position was "Victory
>to the Vietnamese" and "Support the NLF" and similar slogans. Of course
>the anti-war movement in Europe was from the point of view of Europeans
>looking at what the US imperialists were doing. Even so, their slogans
>failed to address the main enemy and what to do about it: US Out Now!
>was, IMO, the only REAL anti-imperialist slogan during the anti-war
>days of the 60s and 70s.

I think we can see here a clear difference between agitational needs and
propaganda needs. Mobilizing the masses on the one hand and sharpening the
spearhead vanguard of the mass movement on the other.

Compare October 1917. The mass agitational slogans were Bread Peace Land.
The propaganda vanguard slogans were All Power to the Soviets! and Down
with the Provisional Government! Both sets were needed, in their proper

David is arguing a more agitational position:

        Troops Out Now!

But this only makes sense in a revolutionary strategy if it grows out of a
defeatist position in relation to your own imperialist bourgeoisie. There
was enough feeling against the war among the troops to nourish propaganda
along the lines of:

        Not a single bullet against Vietnamese workers and farmers in uniform!

        Vietnam to the Vietnamese!

        Down with the US imperialist warmongers and their government!

        For an anti-capitalist and anti-military government!

Unconditional support for the armed struggle of the Vietnamese against the
US imperialists did not in any way imply writing a blank cheque for the
politics of the Stalinists "leading" the revolutionary war. (For this
reason the slogan Victory to the NLF! was a copout.) Just the opposite. In
the propaganda battle for the leadership of the antiwar movement, the blind
alley of Stalinist policies had to be warned against and fought. Difficulty
is no argument against this. As always the battle was being fought on two
or more fronts simultaneously. The decisive factor was the relationship of
the militants to the mobilized masses.

The anti-war activists were prepared to go a long way in their anger. Most
typical of this was the openly mutinous fragging of unpopular officers and
NCOs in the field.

The movement failed in the task of organizing all this anger and
channelling it towards a clearly focused power goal. Precisely because it
was a formless movement and not led by a disciplined party of seasoned
internationalist militants with strong roots in the decisive sectors of the

One of the main reasons for the lack of a sense of direction was the
spineless political capitulation to the nationalist policies of the
Stalinist leadership of the Vietnamese liberation struggle. This leadership
never called for revolution on their behalf in the imperialist countries or
even implied it could occur. Peace and coexistence with the American people
was all they ever preached. "The government is our enemy, not the people."
Not a word about the US government being the worst enemy of its own people
because of its roots in capitalist exploitation!

No wonder the historical defeat of US imperialism in Vietnam didn't bring
about a satisfactory solution to the problems facing that country and the
whole region of south-east Asia.

The question of Soviet and Chinese Stalinism in relation to all this will
have to wait.



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