[Marxism] [com-news] With the people of Iraq -- win, lose, or draw!

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu Apr 29 18:33:24 MDT 2004


About ten days ago the Marxism list published issue no. 1 of Socialist
Voice, an online publication initiated by Roger Annis and John Riddell,
two of the revolutionaries who were expelled from the Supporters' group
of the Canadian Communist League. Their offense was expressing
disagreement with a report by a CL leader that characterized a recent
Canadian protest as "bourgeois nationalist" because it focused on
denouncing the US-led war in Iraq, and that defended the SWP's
opposition to the current struggle against the occupation of Iraq.

John Riddell asked me to comment on Roger and John's article, "Is Iraq
the New Vietnam?" which expressed their support both to the struggle for
self-determination for Iraq and their support for the protests against
the US-led war.  They then asked me to turn my comments into an article
to be published on Socialist Voice, which I have done.  The article
follows. I have made some minor editorial changes for political clarity.

The opinions expressed are mine. In Socialist Voice, Roger and John will
be expressing their views in articles under their own names.
Fred Feldman



***********************************************************
               S O C I A L I S T   V O I C E
    Correspondence on issues before the working class

Number 2, April 25, 2004        socialistvoice at sympatico.ca
***********************************************************

Editors' note: This issue presents comments by Fred Feldman 
on our article, "Is Iraq the new Vietnam," as well as on 
some arguments raised recently in the socialist press. The 
next Socialist Voice will present our reply, as well as 
comments received from other readers. We are also 
developing a website, where Socialist Voice correspondence 
will be available.

Please feel free to forward. Subscribe or unsubscribe at 
the above e-mail address. 

As we write, the U.S. government is boasting of its 
forthcoming assault on Falluja, where so many Iraqis have 
already fallen to the occupiers' murderous fire. We urge 
readers to join and build protest actions in your areas. 
--Roger Annis and John Riddell


WITH THE PEOPLE OF IRAQ--WIN, LOSE, OR DRAW
By Fred Feldman (ffeldman at bellatlantic.net)

Although I think Roger and John are very much on the right road here, I
feel 
uncomfortable with an "Is it a new Vietnam?" axis. I think Iraq is
pretty different, 
even as it emerges as a genuine mass fight against the occupation  and
against 
the attempt -- not something that Washington has achieved yet -- to
defeat and 
reshape Iraq's independence and sovereignty in the interests of U.S.
imperialism. 
This fight has the potential to develop into a broader revolutionary
struggle for 
the liberation of Iraq from imperialist domination, but today this is a
struggle 
aimed at forcing U.S. and other foreign troops out of the Iraq and
restoring and strengthening the 
country's former independence. 

I think "is it a new Vietnam" axis can lead, among other problems,  to
the imposition of a schematic model 
on struggles, which can then be transformed into criteria for our
support. As in: 
"We should not be in solidarity with the people of Iraq in the struggle
to end the 
occupation since 'it is not a new Vietnam as it lacks the following
features of the 
Vietnam situation, etc.'" 

But I do recognize "Is it a new Vietnam?" is a real discussion on a real
subject, 
basically: Is this becoming a popular nationalist struggle capable of
forcing U.S. 
imperialism to abandon the occupation and the attempt to impose a U.S.-
controlled regime on Iraq? 

A Debate for our Enemies

This is quite different than the question, "Is it a 'quagmire'?" This is
entirely a 
debate for our imperialist enemies and their journals, etc. Vietnam was
not a 
"quagmire" for us. Iraq is not a "quagmire" for us. Vietnam was an
expression of 
the international class struggle against colonialism, occupation, for
national 
unity, and against landlordism and capitalism. Iraq is a struggle to end
U.S. 
occupation and reassert their independence and sovereignty and, if the
masses 
grow strong enough and throw up an adequate leadership in the process,
to go 
forward from there as far as they can get. 

The Vietnamese struggle and its  consequences inspired worldwide
opposition to imperialism and solidarity 
including a massive movement in the United States. Iraq today is
inspiring an 
antiwar response, especially among the countries which have sent troops
for the 
U.S.-led war. The countries where a fight against the war is beginning
include the 
United States, which went through the experience of Vietnam and the
antiwar 
movement in an intense way. 

Of course, if imperialist politicians start losing confidence and
talking about a 
"quagmire," that is good for our side in the struggle. That's not our
debate. We 
have no interest in slapping the critics of the administration in the
face and 
yelling, "Stop bleating! Shape up! There's no quagmire! Stay the
course!" 

But we also don't tell working people to support getting out of Iraq
because it is a 
"quagmire," but because it is a struggle of our brothers and sisters in
a just cause. 

Is Imperialism Strong Enough?

One of the big differences with Vietnam is who is shaking up the status
quo. In 
Vietnam, it was the masses that tried to conquer new ground --
independence, 
national unity, land reform, and the overturn imperialist domination and
ultimately capitalism. This posed 
questions rather sharply: are the masses strong enough, organized
enough, do 
they have an adequate leadership? Over time, for the goals that were
fought for, 
the answers turned out to be yes. The war of liberation took 30 years. 

In Iraq, it is imperialism that has shaken the status quo. It is U.S.
imperialism that 
has radically de-stabilized an already unstable situation. It is U.S.
imperialism 
that has taken on the task of destroying the gains of the anticolonial
revolution in 
Iraq and reshaping the country in their interests. It is imperialism
that has 
occupied and is trying to destroy the existing relations and structures
and mass 
attitudes that constituted the independent sovereign Iraq, with all its
limitations, 
that had been won. This poses the question: Is imperialism strong
enough, at 
home and abroad, to accomplish this overturn today. If they are not,
then the 
possibility exists of freeing Iraq from occupation and ending the
attempt to 
reverse these gains before a leadership and movement of the caliber of
Vietnam 
has been forged, and before a communist leadership exists, although
through a 
mass struggle that advances toward this goal. 

I don't think imperialism is strong enough today, and I think that is
part of the 
reason that Iraq is seen in some bourgeois quarters as something of a
potentially 
ruinous adventure. I don't think imperialism has the strength on the
home front 
for this today, and I don't think the colonial revolution has been
rolled back 
sufficiently to really make this possible. U.S. imperialism is being
driven in this 
direction by the whole crisis of the system, but carrying out a project
of this 
scope requires much more stability and reaction on the home front, and
much 
more and deeper defeats for the colonial struggles. 

An Element of Adventurism

I believe there is a necessary and growing element of adventurism in
U.S. foreign 
policy. They must seek to defy and change the relationship of forces in
their 
favor, an element of what Hitler did in waging war against Russia and
the United 
States and England at the same time. Not an exact parallel, but just
because 
imperialist policies arise from necessity does not eliminate the element
of 
adventurism. Look at the current threats to nuke North Korea -- which
must be 
taken very seriously, adventurist or not. U.S. imperialism is being
pushed, 
fundamentally by economic difficulties and resulting sharpening
interimperialist 
competition and popular resistance to the consequences of the crisis, in
the 
historical direction of radical solutions that require transforming the
home front 
as well as countries like Iraq and Haiti (to cite another case). 

Official Washington proceeded in the occupation of Iraq on the
assumption that 
the colonial revolution is over, finished, done for, and no longer
presents an 
effective obstacle to imperialist reconquest and reshaping of the Middle
East and 
elsewhere. They also assume that the consequences in the United States
of the 
Vietnam war and the radicalization of the 60s and early 70s have either
been 
rolled back, or completely absorbed to the benefit and strengthening of 
imperialism. My estimate is that are wrong on both counts. 

Questions of Tempo

Overall, however, imperialism is weaker than it was at the time of
Vietnam, 
less able to crush genuine popular struggles. It is highly unlikely for
instance that 
it will take 30 years to force an end the occupation of Iraq. Possible
like many 
things are possible, but not highly likely. Iraq is already well ahead
of my 
speculative schedule for the growth of resistance -- I expected Iraq to
hit the 
present type of situation in two or three years, not one. The opposition
the U.S. 
rulers have faced at home from the beginning is a problem, and the U.S.
rulers 
are paying a price politically and in Iraq for having defied it. It is
more possible, 
not more difficult to defeat U.S. imperialism today than it was in
Vietnam. That's 
why the current upsurge in Iraq presents such a sharp problem for them,
although 
it is certainly not anything of the scope and power of the Tet
offensive, for 
example. 

I see no evidence, and I never have, that U.S. imperialism is strong
enough to 
overturn Iraqi sovereignty and independence, and bend the people to its
will. 
Remember, Iraqi independence and sovereignty did not simply disappear
when 
the country was occupied. They represent a set of relations that,
however 
incomplete and partial, were established in struggle. They have to be
overthrown, 
and occupation has yet to do that job. The Iraqi people are not starting
from 
ground zero -- despite Saddam -- but are defending existing conquests.
This is 
not a near-impossible task for them, or one that requires a
revolutionary 
leadership be forged as a precondition for victory, let alone for the
struggle. 

To adopt the idea that nothing can be accomplished to end the occupation
or 
prevent the complete imperialist subjugation or reshaping of Iraq short
of the 
formation of a communist leadership and an anticapitalist revolution is
dead 
wrong, and shows a real contempt for the actual power of the mass
struggle itself. 
The Iraqi people have set out on the road toward forming a genuine
revolutionary 
leadership -- the only road to this, the road of struggle. The formation
of a 
genuine revolutionary leadership in Iraq will probably take longer than
it will tale 
to end the occupation of Iraq. 

Iraq's Allies

Let's not exaggerate the isolation of Iraq. It has many allies in
addition to revolutionary-internationalist Cuba. It 
has the Spanish masses, who appear to be advancing toward forcing the
removal 
of troops despite the claims that the people of these countries cannot
affect these 
questions by protests. It has the people and government of Venezuela,
although 
new counter-revolutionary challenges are approaching there. The
Venezuelan 
government has been quite consistent about this, including refusing to
isolate 
Iraq. There is a deepening revolutionary crisis in Bolivia. There is the
Non-
aligned movement, which is re-emerging as a factor as the impotence of
the UN 
(as far as any progressive goal is concerned) is exposed. And there are
the masses 
in the Middle East who have shocked and surprised the imperialists
before and 
are going to do so again. 

We should not say that the struggle will be either long or short. What
does long 
mean? 30 years? Five years? What does short mean? A week? Ten years? We 
support the struggle, however long it takes. We should not suggest
either directly 
or indirectly or by implication that the occupation of Iraq can only be
ended by 
the socialist revolution, or by a movement under communist leadership.
Of 
course, sizable sections of the masses have to come forward and that is
happening, and, of 
course, that immediately begins to change the leadership, to forge new 
leadership. 

We should not, by word or implication, make getting rid of the 
bourgeois nationalist leadership a precondition for the fight or the
victory, 
anymore than we should say that no strike can win unless you get rid of
the 
bureaucrats. I think we should be confident that the Iraqi people will
develop the 
organization and leadership necessary to defeat the occupation and
regain their 
sovereignty and independence. We should not "hope" it. We should assert
it with 
the conviction that the future belongs to working people, not the
imperialists. 

Of course, our basic class position does not hinge on whether the Iraqi
people are 
capable of ending the occupation in the historical short run (not
necessarily Wa month or a 
year) or even whether the United States today is capable of occupying
and 
subjugating Iraq in the long run. We are with the people of Iraq against
the 
occupation, win, lose, or draw. 
--April 25, 2004 



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