Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at
Wed Jul 23 18:20:50 MDT 2003

Forgive me if I'm about to state the bleedin' obvious, but having just
looked through the long threads on this, I haven't found it anywhere:

There is a difference between what we as Marxists have an obligation to say
about a situation, and what we should accept and even welcome from
non-Marxists. If a soldier's spouse defies the brass and tells the media
"we should support our troops by bring them home", I'm delighted. But if I
get interviewed (and it happens, though only on local community radio) I
have a responsibility to at least avoid the phrase "support our troops" and
to try to move the discussion away from patriotism.

There's also a difference between what we argue for in detailed propaganda
(and among lefties, for example on this list) and what we try to build a
mass movement around. I'm for building a mass movement around "troops out
now". It's true this is a limited demand; it's true that once it was
fulfilled the mass Vietnam anti-war movement in the west declined. But the
main immediate task is to build the mass movement in the first place. For
that we need something with a real cutting edge, yet simple and accessible
to large numbers of real people. In my opinion, calling for "troops out
now" has the advantage of cutting uncompromisingly against the war aims of
the imperialists, yet it's still common sense. (Whereas the slogan "stop
the bombing, negotiate" raised in the Vietnam days, or recent statements
that the war in Aceh will "only be solved by negotiation" can be far more
readily co-opted.)

At the same time, however, we have a responsibility within that movement to
argue a more advanced set of ideas. We need to argue to activists that
"troops out" is a good start, but only the start. Combining these two might
not always be easy, but with a little dialectics we should be able to
manage it, or else what are we good for?

The trouble with many anti-imperialists in the Vietnam days was that they
counterposed these two tasks.

And oddly enough, some of the most ferocious anti-imperialists at Berkeley,
who disdained the "troops out" slogan as reformist, ended up trying to
convince the movement to line up behind the "10-point peace plan" which was
really a new version of "negotiate".

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