[Marxism] Where does 'Militant" stand on war in Iraq?

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu Nov 27 21:37:32 MST 2003

The following article appeared in the December 8 Militant.  Notice
that the article, while citing an earlier article, headlined "Bring
the Troops Home Now", the demand is nowhere repeated as a demand on
the US government.  In fact, the role of the US imperialist
GOVERNMENT, currently headed by one George Bush, is dissolved into
generalities about the ruling class' support for the war, neglecting
the fact that the imperialists do not go to war on their own, but
through THEIR government.  The article specifically denies that this
is "Bush's war," which it is, of course, among other things.  There
is no evidence that he is leading this war against his will, anymore
than there was against Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon.

To the extent that this article centers its fire on any government, it
is the ousted government of Iraq, and those currently engaged in
active military struggle against the occupation. As is customary with
the Militant these days, the romanticization of the current state of
the resistance by SOME US leftists is used to provide cover for the
Militant's refusal to clearly oppose the current US war against the
resistance, solidarize with the resistance to the occupation (just as
Lenin and Trotsky solidarized with resistance against imperialism even
when it had inadequate or even reactionary leadership), and refusal to
demand the immediate unconditional  restoration of Iraqi (and, while
we're on the subject, Afghan) sovereignty NOW-- regardless of the
government or governments that emerge(s) as a result. The Militant
recognizes that the resistance has majority support in important parts
of Iraq, but seems to regret or even condemn this fact.

At the end of the article, the Malapanis and Manuel quote an earlier
article indicating the view that demanding an end to the occupation
and withdrawal of the troops is now the work of future Iraqi

The Militant seems to have decided that the defeat of the French
government, the German government, the section of the British ruling
class that wants Blair to move away from the US, and Saddam Hussein
are the lesser evils.  This is a new wrinkle in the history of
"revolutionary defeatism."

Of course, the Militant fiercely denounces the views of all kinds of
groups, without ever openly debating or even taking note of the Cuban
government's views, which are quite different than their own and often
similar to those they denounce as reflecting alien or enemy classes.
This is the SWP's "Cuban road."
Fred Feldman

What’s the ‘war on terrorism,’ resistance in Iraq?
(Reply to a Reader column)

In a letter in the December 1 Militant, reader Richard Young said a
clearer explanation of Washington’s “war on terrorism” is needed. “Why
is the U.S. spending huge material and human resources to occupy Iraq
and Afghanistan?” he asked.
This has been a central feature of lead articles and editorials in the
Militant this year. The Militant doesn’t assume, however, that readers
go back to previous coverage. For a fighting working-class newsweekly
seeking new readers constantly, frequent explanations of phrases such
as “war on terror,” not assertions, are necessary. For this reason,
Young’s question is very welcome. We’ll try to summarize the main

The lead editorial on Iran in the July 7 Militant stated: “Washington
is leading an international coalition of imperialist powers and their
allies under the banner of ‘smashing terrorism’ to defend the
imperialist system and extend its domination. They are doing it by
concentrating on their most vulnerable foes—armed opposition groups
able to maintain themselves as an alternative because of the declining
political prospects of the national bourgeoisies in the semicolonial
world. The U.S. and other imperialist powers have wide support for
going after all these groups that often carry out suicide bombing
attacks and other similar such actions. There are no disagreements
among the imperialist powers, or within bourgeois public opinion, on
the policy of targeting ‘terrorists.’ Washington has kicked its French
competitors around enough with the war on Iraq and is successfully
pushing Paris to get back in line as a deputy sheriff helping to
maintain the world imperialist order.”

In addition, Washington is going after states it accuses of “harboring
terrorists,” including Iran and Syria, and, in a different form,
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The editorial “Bring the troops home now!” in the March 24 Militant,
written just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, explained the
reasons for the imperialist attack on Iraq. They underlie the current
occupation as well.

“This is not just a war for oil,” the editorial said, calling on
working people to oppose not only the Anglo-American assault but the
entire imperialist system and its wars. “It is about which among the
competing imperialist powers will control the mineral and strategic
Mideast platform that Iraq sits on. It is part of a wider conflict
over the redivision of the former colonies in Africa, Asia, and the
Middle East among the ‘civilized hyenas’—as Bolshevik leader V.I.
Lenin aptly called the imperialist powers. This interimperialist
conflict, with Washington-London on one side and Paris-Berlin on the
other as the main unstable poles, is at the center of the ongoing
UN-sanctioned assault on Iraqi sovereignty and the imminent U.S.-led
invasion. This war is the first of a number of imperialist wars in
coming years, as the capitalist system worldwide sinks deeper into a
prolonged depression.”

It continued: “Far from being ‘Bush’s war,’ as the current situation
is described by many critics of the current U.S. administration, the
course has the full support of the entire U.S. ruling class. If U.S.
forces succeed in taking over Iraq, Washington will have massive
ground forces in place along the Afghanistan-Iran and Iraq-Iran
borders. It will exercise domination of the Arab-Persian Gulf region
and be in a much stronger position to threaten the ruling monarchy of
Saudi Arabia to not take any further steps that contradict U.S.
interests in the Middle East. Such an outcome would mean a significant
economic and military shift in the relationship of forces in the world
in favor of Washington.”

And that’s what happened. The U.S. government succeeded in achieving
“regime change” and imposing a de facto American protectorate in Iraq.
Paris, on the other hand—the most aggressive of Washington’s rivals,
which pushed for regime continuity and no American protectorate in
Iraq—came out the biggest loser among the gang of imperialist thieves.

This turn of events has exacerbated, not smoothed, the conflict
between the competing imperialist blocs, as shown by the rivalry
between the U.S. and European powers over forcing Iran to halt its
nuclear plans.

What’s the character of resistance to U.S. occupiers?
In his letter, Young also asked for “more coverage of the occupation
[of Iraq] and the response of those fighting against it.” Recent
Militant articles have outlined the current reality in Iraq and the
aims of the occupiers. Young’s request, however, calls for addressing
the character of the resistance in Iraq more explicitly.

A number of groups in the middle-class left have attempted to paint up
resistance to the U.S. occupation as a national liberation movement.
The most prominent among them in the United States is the Workers
World Party. An article by Richard Becker in the May 15 Workers World,
the party’s newspaper, concluded with the following: “Having achieved
their victory
the occupiers now confront a people who have a long and
proud history of resistance. The anti-war movement here and around the
world must give its unconditional support to the Iraqi anti-colonial
resistance.” A more recent article by Fred Goldstein in the November 6
Workers World stated, referring to the guerrilla attacks on U.S. and
other occupation forces in Iraq, “The war of resistance is moving in
the direction of a genuine people’s war with widespread popular

The logic of these statements is a stance of political support for the
Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein and favoring its return to power.
The recent attacks on U.S., Italian, and other troops in Iraq have
been largely carried out by remnants of the brutal party-police state
the Baathist Party led, not a popular guerrilla force like the
National Liberation Front of Vietnam that earned that popularity
through its decades-long fight against French, Japanese, and U.S.
imperialism. The attacks have been concentrated in the Sunni-dominated
region of central Iraq, which had been the Baathist Party apparatus’s
main stronghold. That’s why the claims by the U.S. forces of support
or at least acceptance of their occupation by many, if not most,
Iraqis are not simply a hoax.

Most news reports from Iraq show that U.S. forces have faced far fewer
attacks in southern Iraq than they have in the Sunni heartland.

The reason is that much of the population in the south is from the
Shiite Islamic majority and had faced fierce discrimination from Iraq’
s predominantly Sunni ruling clique, including bloody repression by
the Hussein regime during the Shiite rebellions at the end of the 1991
U.S-led Gulf War.

A November 24 New York Times article stated, “Hezbollah, the
Iranian-backed Shiite group, has established a significant presence in
Iraq, but is not taking part in attacks on American forces inside the
. Iran is believed to be restraining Hezbollah from attacking
American troops.” Tehran fears Washington’s concerted efforts to
undermine Iranian sovereignty and push for another “regime change” in
the region.

Not only in Iraq and Iran but throughout the Mideast,
anti-imperialist-minded workers and farmers have no leadership that
represents their interests. Decades of Stalinist counterrevolutionary
policies, both by Moscow and by Stalinist organizations throughout the
Middle East, created a void that bourgeois nationalist organizations
waving Islamic banners fill today—groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and
al-Qaeda, which have nothing in common with the popular liberation
movements that marked an earlier period.

Years of Stalinist betrayals in Iraq helped pave the way for the
Baathist regime to come to power, which under Hussein beheaded the
1958 popular democratic revolution and dealt crushing blows to the
working class.

As the editorial in the November 17 Militant put it, “Revolutionists
in Iraq today would fight for Iraqi sovereignty, which the U.S. armed
forces prevent. At the same time, they would be opposed to the return
of the Baathist regime. They would use whatever civic space exists to
build and consolidate a revolutionary organization that could lead
working people there down the road to get rid of the U.S. troops and
keep the United Nations out as well.”

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