[Marxism] The US SWP, abstentionism and anti-imperialism

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Mon Apr 5 18:52:26 MDT 2004

Well, I may as well throw my tuppence worth into this discussion.

While my political sympathies are with Walter, I think one part of his 
critique of the US SWP position is wrong, and this is the part of Brian 
S's position which is correct.

Basically, when you live in an imperialist state, whether the US, 
Britain or Spain, or New Zealand, *the main enemy is at home*.

I lived in Britain for much of the time between 1980 and 1986 and one of 
the worst things about the British left was how very 'anti-imperialist' 
they were as long as the imperialism involved was not that of their own 
ruling class.

Opposition to US imperialism is very cheap in Britain.  People would 
protest in their hundreds of thousands in opposition to *US* cruise 
missiles in Britain, while ten Irish republicans were dying long, slow 
and agonising deaths on hunger strike and the bulk of the British 
'revolutionary' left wouldn't even mobilise their own memberships for 
protests in support of the hunger strikers and for the five demands.

So I'm not much impressed by people in Britain who focus entirely on the 
US or, in the current Iraq case, Bush.

Here in NZ, the group I belong to, the Anti-Capitalist Alliance, has 
focussed primarily on exposing NZ duplicity in the war - our government 
stayed out in a formal sense, while actually contributing a warship to 
the Gulf and the 'war on terror' and then, after the other imperialists 
had beaten Saddam, NZ sent a bunch of army engineers over to join in.

In this country there are massive illusions about NZ imperialism and its 
governments, and exposing the nature of this society (a lot of the left 
even promotes the idea that NZ is some kind of neo-colony) is vital.

OK, having said that, what are we to make of the Barnesite position?

For the British Barnesites to make some criticisms if the focus there 
was overwhelmingly on Bush would have been fine, in their paper.  But, 
of course, they are not allowed to have a paper.  Like the Children of 
God and the Moonies and so on, the paper they sell in Britain is an 
American paper.  So straight away you are dealing with US chauvinism. 
So what actually happened is not British revolutionaries stressing the 
role of British imperialism, but a fairly chauvinistic US sect telling 
off the British antiwar movement and whining that it is too 
anti-American.  That's not actually a correct position, when it comes 
from the US and is based on whining about 'anti-Americanism'.  It's just 
a form of US chauvinism.

Here in NZ, what is left of the Barnesites totally abstained form the 
antiwar movement, except for turning up at the start of demos and 
setting up a full literature table and trying to sell their rather 
expensive books and single copies and subs to their American newspaper, 
a paper which hardly ever even has articles about NZ.

There's nothing correct in that approach.

Moreover, I find it amusing that the Barnesites are denouncing the 
British antiwar movement for being soft on Blair when the British 
Branesites, *vote for Blair at election time*.  Who is really being soft 
here?  The NZ ones vote for the yuppie Labour Party here, and did so all 
the way through the 1980s when the fourth Labour government was 
organising the biggest transfer of wealth from the masses to the 
already-rich in NZ history!

Also, the March 20 demo in London seems to have focussed much more on 
the British government.

Philip Ferguson

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