[Marxism] With the people of Iraq -- win, lose, or draw! (REFORMATTED)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 29 18:49:34 MDT 2004

                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.

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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 

--Roger Annis and John Riddell

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 

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 a 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

Louis Proyect
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org 

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