Sept 29 and after

Lou Paulsen wwchi at
Sun Sep 30 10:03:14 MDT 2001

The current imperialist war crisis has now lasted for 18 days, and yesterday
there was a series of protests in U.S. cities - DC, San Francisco, Los
Angeles, Chicago, and Columbus are the ones I know of - and also around the
world, in Delhi and Barcelona, Athens, Frankfurt, Istanbul where it's
illegal to have demonstrations, Sydney, Kuala Lumpur, Mombasa, Kenya, and
'tens of thousands' in Rome, and I have no reason to believe this is a
complete list.

This post does not pretend to be a 'complete' summing up of the state of our
resistance to the war, but I think it's time for us to be talking and asking
about how we are doing.  Who is in this movement?  Who is not in yet, but
can be gotten into it?  How can we do better?  Those of us who have been on
the street, what have we seen?

The following are vague observations of my own.

- The socialists, pacifists, and anarchists have come together on this a lot
better than I initially expected.  The liberal left is out of the movement
completely at this point.  This has its advantages and disadvantages.

- So now the REAL work begins: taking the message to the other 99.9% of the
working class and the oppressed communities.  There have been some very very
positive labor statements against war, notably 1199's.   But it only
scratches the surface (and of course organized labor is a small fraction of
the working class).  Of course we Marxists are supposedly spending all our
time reaching out among the working class and striving for a hearing at all
times, not just when there's a war crisis.  But a war crisis is the time
when you really see how much, or how little, you did in this direction in
the preceding years.  Personally, I regret every moment over the last 25
years when I watched some idiotic TV show instead of handing out leaflets on
the street corner. :-(  If we are thinking now "we had better reach out to
the working class now", it is not a good commentary on what we have been
doing previously.  But better late than never.

Of course one of the problems in doing this is that the working class just
has a passive attitude toward foreign policy as a whole, which is not
irrational, because it is in foreign policy that the "dictatorship of the
bourgeoisie" is most in evidence, and they don't even make a pretense of
deciding things "democratically".

But in this case, the U.S. imperialist bourgeoisie have the moral advantage
of being on the defensive (in the public-relations sense).  I spent much of
my time yesterday handing out leaflets to passers-by at the Chicago action,
and there was some willingness to read them, especially among people of
color.  Most working people are not in favor of a genocidal war against
Arabs or Afghans.  But I would say that a high majority really are in favor
of a "police action" or "limited war" more or less confined to "getting the
ones who did it (and who might do it again tomorrow)".  You have to have a
rather high level of consciousness to be immune to this idea.  Of course,
the more the administration projects an image of restraint, and limits its
targeting to bin Laden / al Qaeda, the more mass support they get.  Some
people will say "Yes, we may have done these other bad things in Iraq and so
on, and maybe we should rethink them, but in the meantime, we can't just let
terrorists kill us, can we?"

- However, there IS this recession going on.  The obvious fact is that if we
are going to pay for a war - "we" here means the working class who always
pay for every war - we are going to have less for our own protection against
unemployment, poverty, and homelessness.  And the converse is also true.
Thus, every economic demand that we make now really becomes an anti-war
demand.  (If we demand guarantees against unemployment, then the government
will have to answer that there is no money for that, because of the war.
The educational effect of this is obvious.)

- Because this war crisis came as a surprise to the bourgeoisie, I think
we have had an initial advantage in that the left was better organized than
right to organize among the masses.  (The fact that the IAC already had a
permit for a White House demonstration, and that many people were already
primed to go to DC on S29, was of course a lucky break.)

Of course the government and media are
always organized for war, but I think it's symptomatic that there was a
right-wing counterdemonstration today in DC which got out only 100 people,
while we had between 7000 and 15000.  That's what I mean by mass
organization.  Of course they have had the big national unity rallies which
are also war rallies, but they have not been very bellicose war rallies -
yet.  We haven't had to deal with being beaten up by super-patriots and
fascists and so on.  Personally, I think we should absolutely not get
complacent about this or expect this situation to be permanent.

- The ANSWER coalition (, and the IAC which
initiated it, and WWP which has supported the IAC, are now rather in the
spotlight in the wake of the DC action.  This doesn't mean that we are
leading all the local organizing that's being done everywhere - here in
Chicago for example there are other forces with a lot more numbers.  But it
gives us some responsibilities, which we have to adequately meet, and it
also poses other forces with the question of how to relate to ANSWER.  I
would be interested in hearing from other members of the list on these

- The Bush administration has a lot of disunity in its own ranks about war
means and war ends, and as a result has been very vague and chaotic-sounding
about what they intend to do.  This is not a bad thing in itself, but it
hasn't been entirely positive for us either I think.  I have heard this more
than once: "What are you organizing against, they haven't even decided what
they are going to do!" and "How do you know that there will even be a war?"
and also "Bush seems to have calmed down now and to be listening to sensible
advisors."  [This is like the old myth of the good czar and the evil
advisors, only the reverse.]

Furthermore, there is a notion that immediately after the attacks the Bush
administration was gearing up for a huge and very bloody war, but that now
there has been a change and they are planning for something much less
drastic: some 'surgical strikes' on al-Qaeda, more security on the home
front, more international cooperation in police work, and maybe nothing that
will really be much different from what the U.S. was doing already.  Thus
there is a mood of optimism among the masses that there won't really be a
very bad war after all.  The guy at the copy service where I took some
leaflets, who is from Pakistan, said he didn't think there would be a war at
all.  It'll just be all talk, he said.

There is some basis for this - with a recession rolling over us, the US is
not in an good position for a very costly war, certainly not on its own, and
the European 'allies' (rival imperialists) are maybe not as excited about
the war as the US.  And some of the real difficulties of the war are clearly

However, we absolutely can't count on this in my opinion, particularly since
there is clearly a large element in government/military/right wing circles
which wants a large and broad and bloody war, aimed not so much at
Afghanistan as at Iraq.  In this article,
Pat Buchanan writes,

"Bush has been put on notice that this war cannot end with the head of bin
Laden and the overthrow of the Taliban.

"The shot across Bush's bow came in an ''Open Letter'' co-signed by 41
foreign-policy scholars, including William Bennett, Jeane Kirkpatrick, the
publisher of The Weekly Standard and the editor in chief of The New
Republic -- essentially, the entire neoconservative establishment.

"What must Bush do to retain their support? Target Hezbollah for destruction
and retaliate against Syria and Iran if they refuse to cut all ties to
Hezbollah and move militarily to overthrow Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Failure to
attack Iraq, the neocons warn Bush, ''will constitute an early and perhaps
decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism.''

It is worrisome that these "neoconservatives" are ready to come out so early
and so publicly against Bush and to accuse him of being willing to surrender
to terrorists, which is stiff language to use with a President in wartime!
Does anyone have a link to the text of this letter?  Who is behind them in
the military?  If they have military and intelligence backing, then even if
they don't win the policy debate in the conference room, they can stage a
provocation.  I don't believe that the WTC/Pentagon attacks were a CIA
stunt, but the NEXT 'attack' might be!

But leaving this group out, we can't believe that the administration is
being at all open about its plans.  We should remember the historical
example of the "phony war" between Germany and Britain/France between
September, 1939 and April, 1940, which of course was followed by the
blitzkrieg.  In any case things can change in the blink of an eye.

- If they launch a massive war, then, if my memory of the Gulf War serves,
we can expect an initial spurt of action, followed by a wave of
disappointment and depression as the reality sinks in that "once again we
have failed to stop an imperialist war."  (Simultaneously of course there
will be a wave of patriotic sentiment about "supporting our troops".)  What
can we do now to immunize ourselves against this, and effectively continue
agitation in the long haul?  I think we sort of have to mentally prepare
ourselves and our friends on the left for this.  We know that war is a
necessary part of the phenomenon of imperialism, and that "imperialism" is
not a foreign policy choice but the nature of capitalism today.  We should
make the point to those who are genuinely anti-imperialist, but who are
sitting on the fence about whether they should actually become socialists or
not, that in the long run there really are no prospects for a peaceful
capitalist America.

All right, that's enough kilobytes for now.

Anyway, good job, all of you who were out there in the streets yesterday - I
assume it means every Marxist here.

Lou Paulsen
member, Workers World Party, Chicago is our national website

PLEASE clip all extraneous text before replying to a message

More information about the Marxism mailing list