[Marxism] Forwarded from Stan Goff RE: Letter from "the Heretic, " a GI stationed in Iraq

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Sun Dec 5 07:45:09 MST 2004

I am going to take some exception to Fred Feldman’s post on the roles of WW
and ISO in GI organizing, and I am one who values Fred’s thoughts and
respects him.
As one who has been involved from the get in the combined campaign of
Military Families Speak Out and Veterans for Peace (and now add to that the
GI Rights Hotline, the National Lawyers Guild Military Law Task Force,
Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and the new Iraq Veterans Against the
War), the Bring Them Home Now campaign, involving the mass organizations
(VFP and MFSO) from which many of the ground-level spokespersons have
emerged, this claim that WW and  ISO are more advanced in this than anyone
else is simply not the case.
I know and respect a number of people in both these groups, but the role of
each needs to be understood here.
We took a lot of heat from the ultra-left when the BTHN campaign took off,
BECAUSE we aimed our message and our outreach/leadership development efforts
at military members and military families.  We were castigated for how far
we did NOT go – that is, how we failed to confront potential new campaign
participants and MFSO/VFP members with the necessity of adopting a strict
line that included an entire anti-capitalist program.  There was a pretty
lively flame-up on this list for a bit when we started, in which the slogan
Bring Them Home Now was equated with unequivocal support for occupation
troops (a preposterous assertion if one actually read our statement of
ISO, who excel – given their largely young, academic base – at putting on
university-based public education events, have been very aggressive (and we
have welcomed that) in publishing the writing of our membership and in
putting our representatives in front of public audiences.  That at the end
of each of these appearances, there is always a pitch that posits the
solution to everything being “join the ISO” is something that is fairly easy
to overlook.
WW, when it was still in its pre-Becker/Holmes split conformation, was also
on the phone asking for me, for Lou Plummer, for Fernando Suarez de Solar,
et al, to speak at their events.  This is not the same as organizing.  It is
harvesting, to which I have no intrinsic objection.  In fact, SNAFU popped
up seemingly in direct response to BTHN as a similar formation (albeit
without mass organizations) that was under the hegemonic control of WW – a
troublesome tendency within that organization that has made many of us a
little gun shy.  I decided at the last minute to cancel a speaking
engagement at a WW event after a certain individual got me on the phone and
proceeded to trash several of my personal friends (he didn’t know that) and
comrades as “a bourgeois force,” because they worked in some capacity with
UfPJ.  (This business of calling participants in other, broader
organizations class traitors has simply got to stop.)
I am very appreciative, on the other hand, of the hard work of WW on many
anti-war mass mobilizations (their specialty, it seems).
There are other left formations working on this campaign, in a much more
significant capacity than either ISO or WW, but they are not doing so in an
instrumental way that is designed to convert it into a competitive
recruiting tool to the one true party.  They do not sell newspapers, nor do
they attempt to coach and control the communications of its representatives.
Mostly they just provide time, creativity, and a fair amount of sweat.  We
fight for positions in this campaign, and we have been successful in
persuading the majority to stick to its guns on the (bring them home) NOW
part of the campaign, but we do not control or make it a front.  In the real
world, in these real mass organizations, this position is the left-wing, and
it has been successful – as history has proven our point – against the
liberal electoral nonsense of several other lawyer-run ‘veterans’
We have even reprinted some of this “Heretic” blogger’s stuff, but I have
been uncomfortable with it
 not because of its content, but because the
level of socialist consciousness that it apparently reflects is suspicious
for someone who is still fighting in Iraq.  It smells like ghost-writing,
and if someone comes along and proves it to be such (I’m not saying it is or
isn’t), we get rolled on our general credibility.
My complaint is not against these specific groups, which I mention here only
in response to Fred’s comments.  I have a more general issue – as one who
was once on the inside of a group with similar methods – about the continued
predisposition of many left formations to engage in this kind of true
revolutionary party competition for the extremely limited number of
conscious American socialists – many of whom avoid all formations because
they are put off by these sectarian tendencies – and to attempt to colonize
movements and then claim credit for them.  I am only being direct to avoid
the error of liberalism here.
This is just another example of why we need to pursue refoundation.  News
flash – this style of organizing doesn’t work.
I think we should let a hundred flowers bloom, but some of these are
hothouse flowers
 including Tom Barton’s useful and provocative ‘GI
Special,’ even though it works too hard at a pose of profane anger – to
connect with the GIs, I presume – that it will not long be read by the
majority of military families.  Note that I read and use ‘GI Special.’  I
just think we need context.
One of the main successes of the BTHN campaign has been the balance between
actual GIs, who are often culturally trapped by their own masculinity and
institutionally trapped by Rumsfeld’s new Pantopticon military, and family
members – who are a majority women, giving us a different entry point into
these communities, a better one in my view than the Vietnam era coffee
houses where white college students had a hard time connecting with GIs who
were from working class and oppressed nationality backgrounds.  Building the
relationships to develop leadership and consciousness in this group takes
time, and hitting them in the face with a complete world system socialist
program is a sure-fire way to lose 99% of them up front.  Over time, doing
the work, most shift toward anti-imperialism, but the motivation comes from
within.  The information comes from without.
While I cannot speak for the whole campaign, I personally welcome the
anti-war work of ANY formation, and the continued collaboration with
socialist formations.  I have never attempted to conceal my own Marxism from
anyone.  But I think it is important to set the record straight, and to
point out again that this campaign is not a strategic campaign to inaugurate
the United Socialist States of America.  It is a tactical campaign to build
resistance to the occupation of Iraq from within military communities.
Confusing or conflating these two goals will ensure the mediocrity of the
latter by disassociating us from the actually-existing base.
I again invite people to follow our web site at
<http://www.bringthemhomenow.org/> www.bringthemhomenow.org .
Stan Goff

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