Building a broad mass movement

David Walters dwalters at igc.org
Sun Jan 5 21:19:05 MST 2003


David Schanoes wrote, in part:

>Adam,


>I think compromise is essential within a certain framework, as do we all.
>The question is the framework. My suspicions would be much allayed if even
>one speaker took the revolutionary defeatist approach.  But that won't
>happen because we, or they, don't want to scare away their liberal
>supporters.  OK, so their position is that we don't argue the revolutionary
>program now, even as one of many democratically presented views.  And that
>says all you need to know about the popular front.

I always sort of say "ugh" when I see this discussion. My 3 cents
(accounting for Mark Jones, the Law of Value, and inflation :) on this...

David who is the "we" in second to the last sentence? Are you speaking for a
revolutionary party building the demonstration? I don't think so. The reason
is clear: you do NOT establish a framework as you propose in the first
sentence, you ignore it in fact, only concerned about getting out "...the
revolutionary program..."

The framework, if you agree to it, is that a rally or march is being used to
mobilize people against an imperialist action by the US against the people
of Iraq organized by those that oppose what the US is doing. The perspective
for revolutionaries is that if the US is defeated, then it will spur
movements for self-determination around the world, just as the defeat of the
US in Vietnam did. During this war there was only one slogan that summed up
the anti-imperialist movement, confronted directly what the US was doing,
solidarized itself with the Vietnamese fighting for self-determination: that
was "US Out Now". The modern extension of this demand is "No War on Iraq"
and/or "No US Intervention in the Gulf". Anything that hinders the
development of a coalition around this general perspective is so much
useless swill.

If you hold that it's necessary to raise the issue of capitalism and it's
replacement by a workers government and workers power, and it's WITHIN the
context of the agreement around the central demands, I don't have a problem
with a speaker representing a revolutionary socialist perspective. In fact,
I'm for it, but it's not worth *splitting* over it. Fred Halsted, as SWP
candidate for President in 1968 did just that that same year, at a mass
rally against the Vietnam War in San Francisco, condemning imperialism by
name and calling for socialism and a break with the Democratic party. But he
was able to do this based on the SWP's ability to build the central
coalition around the central agreement, and the liberals were FORCED to
build the march and rally, mobilize etc, lest the event become to 'red' in
their eyes, not to mention losing influence over thousands of 'votes'.

But the demand to have such a view represented has to be *a priori* based on
that speaker representing something other than "socialism" or "revolution"
which is not what the masses of people are being mobilized around at this
time (nor support, by political inclination, either). I believe in San
Francisco there were at least two speakers last October who made the same
points Haldsted did back in 1968.

When Lenin raised the issue of defeat of his imperialist country as a lesser
evil (and calling on revolutionary social-democrats to do the same in
*their* imperialist countries) we were talking about a situation where the
SOCIALISTS could of prevented a war in two, maybe three countries because
they had effective political hegemony over the mass working class movement.
We are in a much weaker position than the Euro-social democrats of Lenin's
day (who, BTW, carried out his debate almost TOTALLY and EXCLUSIVELY inside
the international Social Democracy).

As to your point about a "popular front". Nonsense. Popular Fronts were
initiated by the Comintern in 1935/36 (the first one, BTW, was actually in
1934, in Malaga, Spain) as way of, in their view, of fighting fascism and in
the Marxist opposition's view, to hold back the revolutionary mobilization
of the working class. It's another debate/discussion we don't want to have
here. Above all it's defined as an electoral coalition seeking governmental
power. Comparisons with an anti-war *movement* are absurd as these movements
are organized around one aim, to stymie the ability of the US to wage war
against the rest of the world and our own working class.

It's very possible that such a movement here in the US, if it's successful,
will help radicalize sections of the working class and it's a Marxists duty
to help carry this to fruition, but only by *building* the mass movement
against the war. It's also our duty to stymie the ultra-left from steering
the movement into an implosion over radical 'sounding' demands fit really
only for a debate at a West Village coffee house (apologies to any brothers
or sisters who reside in the West Village but you understand my point).

Communistically yours,
David Walters


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