[Marxism] Spain, "The Militant" and "anti-American demagogy"

Richard Fidler rfidler at cyberus.ca
Sun Apr 4 10:26:07 MDT 2004

I am glad Nicholas Siemensma exposed Bob Gould's demagogy in attacking
Peter Boyle for the latter's critical analysis of the Australian Labor
Party's new call for withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq.

It is interesting to note that in the parliamentary exchange between ALP
leader Latham and Prime Minister Howard, which Peter Boyle had appended
to his post, Latham attributes the change in the ALP position to a
secret briefing he was given in January by the Australian intelligence
service: "I walked away from that briefing knowing and understanding the
government's policy in Iraq was a fiasco - an absolute fiasco. What is
more, I concluded that the faster Australia could get out of Iraq the
better - in response to that policy fiasco...."

Latham argues throughout in terms of Australia's "national concern". Of
course, the "national interest" is also the decisive criterion for the
overtly imperialist newspaper, The Australian, which states, in the
editorial Nick appended to his post:

"...it is in the national interest to advance the cause of democracy
in Iraq as the US did in Europe and Japan after World War II. There was
no option but to stand firm with our American ally in the Cold War.
There is none now."

So the debate on Australia's military commitment in Iraq between the ALP
leadership and the main battalions of the bourgeoisie in Australia is
framed largely in terms of what is Australia's national interest. Peter
Boyle is 100% correct to draw the attention of the activists who read
Green Left Weekly and participate in its discussion list to this
limitation in the ALP's position. Without that knowledge, the antiwar
movement could be blindsided by the inevitable backsliding of some if
not all of the ALP's top leadership at some point in the future, e.g.
once in government.

Also, contrary to Gould's cynical analogy, Boyle's position is 180
degrees at odds with the sectarian abstentionism of The Militant, which
effectively derides the Spanish masses for defeating Aznar by
electing... another party of Spanish imperialism. The PSOE's pledge to
withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq (albeit conditioned by support for a
possible UN occupation force) is a major victory for antiwar forces in
Spain, just as the ALP's reversal on the troops was a victory for the
Australian antiwar movement.

Boyle and the DSP comrades in the Socialist Alliance have correctly
pointed to how the antiwar movement can exploit these developments, for
example by attempting to draw the ALP leadership back into the antiwar
movement and publicly challenging it to stand by its new position. And
they are implementing this tactic in practice. Could it be that this is
what really rankles Bob Gould? After all, it shows the hollowness of his
claim that the DSP and other forces in the Alliance are blinded by a
sectarian inability to relate to the masses who still turn to the ALP in
their desire to get rid of the Liberals and their coalition allies.

The U.S. SWP used to hang a big banner in the hall at its annual
conventions in Oberlin, Ohio bearing a quotation from James P. Cannon:
"The art of politics is knowing what to do next." Our comrades from the
Maoist milieu had a similar statement that was a bit more precise, about
knowing how to exploit the secondary contradictions within the ruling
classes to advance the struggle over the primary contradictions between
the classes.

The SWP appears to have lost that art. They have come a long way from
the days when they would defend the presence of a Senator Vance Hartke
on antiwar platforms. The DSP, in contrast, is giving us some good
examples of how to apply "the art of politics" on a major issue of
international importance. Good on them. And a Bronx cheer for Bob Gould,
who - on this issue, at least - can offer only gratuitous cheap shots.


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