[Marxism] SWP resolution: a response, a peculiarity, a challenge, part 1

Steve Gabosch sgabosch at comcast.net
Mon Apr 11 21:35:23 MDT 2005


Here is a part 1 of a response to a post from Joe Callahan earlier today 
(copied at the bottom).

****** A CLAIM

On 4/11/2005 Joe Callahan wrote:
>"The SWP has publicly published a "Draft Resolution" entitled "Their 
>Transformation and Ours," in New International #12.  They say it will be 
>approved at a convention in June 2005."

I just read this article myself yesterday.  Joe correctly points out:

>""Their transformation" refers to changes in the U.S. military and the use 
>of the U.S. military which are underway (I.e. greater mobility, smaller 
>numbers, more high-tech gadgets etc., re-deploytments)"

This resolution's analysis and history of these sweeping military changes 
is full of details, including some charts, and should be of interest to 
Marxists.  There is a lot there to discuss.

But Joe then veers off and begins to say incorrect things about what this 
resolution says.

Joe claims:
>"Such things are discussed at length along with U.S. imperialism's 
>political and strategic goals, at least as according to Jack Barnes.  But 
>this document drops any mention of the demand for the withdrawal of U.S. 
>troops from Iraq, not to mention lacking any explanation that the 
>occupation is not in the interests of workers in Iraq and in the U.S. and 
>worldwide."

This is not correct.  The document does indeed include that demand, as has 
the Militant many times.

 From the SWP resolution:
Page 79: "Progress in extending and strengthening the union [union power] 
opens the door to start bringing labor's weight to bear in support of Black 
rights, women's equality, the rights of immigrants, defense of the social 
wage, and other social and political struggles.  It opens the door to 
organizing education about, and opposition to, the imperialist rulers' 
militarization drive, expanding war budget, and increasing use of military 
might abroad and at home, including the fight to bring the troops home from 
Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East -- now!"

Herein, by the way, in two sentences, is the heart of the SWP's current 
political strategy on how, in the here and now, it proposes to organize to 
oppose US imperialism, in Iraq and elsewhere.  The SWP sees the road to 
defeating imperialism through union power and bringing labor's weight to 
bear on world politics.  In the SWP's view, such struggles against 
imperialism can only be ultimately victorious by workers, through their own 
organizations and mobilizations, taking state power and beginning the 
historic construction of socialism.

Joe's claim that this document "drops" any mention of US troop withdrawal 
from Iraq is incorrect, but explaining to Joe that this demand is in the 
document he refers to, and that the SWP has consistently called for 
immediate withdrawal of US-led forces from Iraq in the Militant, may do 
little good.  Joe simply doesn't believe they mean what they say even when 
he does read it.  Joe says "They may trot out again from time to time some 
empty lip service to the demand for withdrawal of U.S. troops.  But this 
will have little meaning beyond a fig leaf attempting to cover naked 
acquiescence to imperialism."  Joe, to his credit, accurately points out 
the SWP 2004 campaign for president also made the call for troop withdrawal 
from Iraq clear.  But again, he doesn't believe the SWP meant it.

So what is Joe really getting at?  The fig leaf argument refers to the 
question of believing not what people say, but what they do.  Clearly, Joe 
admits that the SWP does explicitly call for immediate withdrawal from 
Iraq.  So his implication that the SWP is "dropping" this demand from its 
program is warrantless, even from his own observations.  What he really 
means is that this talk from the SWP is just "phrase-mongering", to use 
another old political cliche to go along with the "fig leaf" and "empty lip 
service" phraseology - variations on the ancient theme that so-and-so is 
lying.  Joe is implying that despite its words, the SWP is really lying, 
that the SWP is really doing nothing, that it is abstaining from the fight 
against the war in Iraq.  Actions, of course, count much more than words, 
and that is why the SWP's words cannot be believed.

Joe makes his point this way: "This resolution is not a short article, it 
is a lengthy line resolution being publicly distributed.  If the line had 
anything to do with fighting against the imperialist war and ongoing 
occupation it would be here."

****** JUST WHAT IS THE SWP POLITICAL LINE?

But it is there.  The political line of this resolution is very much 
centered around fighting against imperialist war and ongoing occupation - 
and the world capitalist system that engenders these wars - by first of 
all, understanding what the imperialists are doing (hence the detailed 
analysis of sweeping changes in the US military and changes on the world 
political scene following 9/11 and the 2003 Iraq war) - and by aiming at 
organizing and mobilizing the only social force capable of ending 
imperialist aggression - the working class.  This is the content of the 
quote from the resolution I gave above referring to union power.  It is the 
content of many statements in that resolution, such as "*labor remains at 
center stage of U.S. politics*" (their emphasis).

In the SWP's view, as stated in many of its writings, this proletarian 
orientation has been the general political strategy of communist groups 
like the SWP since the Russian Revolution, and in earlier forms, since the 
Communist Manifesto and the Paris Commune. The SWP looks to the 
mobilization of the working class through its class organizations, such as 
unions, as the center of a class-struggle strategy to oppose imperialist 
wars and occupations such as in Iraq - mobilizations which ultimately can 
end imperialism through the establishment of workers and farmers 
governments that begin and advance the process of abolishing world 
capitalism.  The SWP sees its current strategy as part of a long lineage of 
such work stretching over 16 decades.  The SWP makes no secret of any of 
this.  And very little of what the SWP does makes much sense without seeing 
this as the core of its political strategy.

One may disagree with this strategy, this political line - rather briefly 
summarized in my own words, of course - one may find it outmoded, 
inapplicable in this period, too narrow, too abstract, too ineffective, too 
whatever.  But this strategy - what the SWP refers to as a *proletarian* 
strategy - is the foundation of just about everything the SWP has to say - 
and for that matter, what the SWP has always had to say.  It most certainly 
is the basis of the February 2005 SWP  proposed resolution in NI#12 that 
Joe speaks to.

****** PART 2

In part 2 of this response I will offer some observations about a 
peculiarity I see in Joe's post - and similar posts by others - and present 
a challenge to Joe and others in a comradely spirit.

- Steve



Joe's post:
__________________________________________
On 4/11/2005 Joe Callahan wrote:
>    The SWP has publicly published a "Draft Resolution" entitled "Their 
> Transformation and Ours," in New International #12.  They say it will be 
> approved at a convention in June 2005.  "Their transformation" refers to 
> changes in the U.S. military and the use of the U.S. military which are 
> underway (I.e. greater mobility, smaller numbers, more high-tech gadgets 
> etc., re-deploytments)
>     Such things are discussed at length along with U.S. imperialism's 
> political and strategic goals, at least as according to Jack Barnes.  But 
> this document drops any mention of the demand for the withdrawal of U.S. 
> troops from Iraq, not to mention lacking any explanation that the 
> occupation is not in the interests of workers in Iraq and in the U.S. and 
> worldwide.
>     Instead the "draft resolution" simply gives Barnes's real line of 
> denouncing the resistance and claiming that the occupation is "opening up 
> space."  He chortles that there is supposedly little opposition to the 
> occupation, "U.S. forces conducted this stage in the war with little 
> opposition among the Shia population, who have themselves been targets 
> for decades of Baathist terror, bombings, and assassinations."  (What 
> about U.S. bombings and terror?)  "U.S. operations also enjoyed 
> overwhelming support in Kurdish regions. Despite deep wells of hatred 
> among the Iraqi toilers for the imperialist occupiers, the detested 
> Baathist forces and their allies who are waging the war they didn't fight 
> in 2003 are antagonistic to and incapable of mobilizing and leading a 
> revolutionary national liberation struggle in Iraq. None has a class 
> interest in uniting the workers and peasants of Iraq to advance their 
> national sovereignty. None has a program to do so."  (And the White House 
> and Pentagon do?)
>     Apparently according to Barnes the U.S. aggression is unintentionally 
> liberating Iraq and the entire region.  "The unintended consequence of 
> the imperialists' course, however, is to open up space in Iraq and 
> throughout the region for the working class and peasants to organize and 
> fight to advance their interests; to open up space for oppressed nations 
> such as the Kurds; to open up space for the fight to advance women's 
> rights; to open up space for the fight to advance the separation of 
> religious institutions from politics and the state; to open up space for 
> the circulation of propaganda popularizing and explaining proletarian 
> politics.  The unintended consequences throughout the Middle East, South 
> Asia, North Africa, and beyond will continue to unfold."
>     This is a naked capitulation to imperialism.  It's a faint echo of 
> the Bush administration's own imperial rhetoric that they are liberating 
> Iraq and bringing democracy to the whole Middle East.  This is like the 
> white man's burden socialism of the 2nd Intl.  Uncle Sam's Marine Corps 
> and other troops are going to "open up space" for the primitive Arabs and 
> South Asians to learn about democracy, women's liberation, national 
> liberation of oppressed nationalities, separation of church and state and 
> more.  No doubt among the best classrooms are the torture chambers of Abu 
> Ghraib and other U.S. prisons where tens of thousands of Iraqis are 
> undergoing imperialist "schooling."
>     The massive demonstration in Baghdad on April 9 against the U.S. 
> occupation shows that this occupation is nowhere near as popular as 
> Barnes would like us to believe.  The capitalist press said there were 
> "tens of thousands," which probably translates to hundreds of thousands 
> in reality.
>     Of course the SWP's line is not really new. But they have dressed it 
> up from time to time with the fig leaf of a call for the withdrawal of 
> U.S. troops.  They did this last fall during the election campaign.  It 
> would have been unseemly to merely echo the imperialists 
> propaganda.   They may trot out again from time to time some empty lip 
> service to the demand for withdrawal of U.S. troops.  But this will have 
> little meaning beyond a fig leaf attempting to cover naked acquiescence 
> to imperialism.
>     This resolution is not a short article, it is a lengthy line 
> resolution being publicly distributed.  If the line had anything to do 
> with fighting against the imperialist war and ongoing occupation it would 
> be here.  The theme of the imperialist invasion and occupation "opening 
> up space" is expanded on from previous use in the fall of 2003 where 
> Barnes only referred to "opening up civic space."
>     In addition to the SWP's organizing drive of a few dozen workers in 
> Utah, their pet project for the year is the formerly Stalinist, World 
> Festival of Youth and Students which will be in Caracas in August, which 
> will indeed probably be a very important and impressive event. This 
> gathering is described as anti-imperialist.  I would point out that to 
> have any claim to being "anti-imperialist" here in the belly of the 
> monster, you have to begin by implacably fighting against the U.S. 
> military aggression in Iraq, demanding the immediate withdrawal of U.S. 
> and other troops.
>     Barnes is indeed transforming the SWP, and quite dramatically, but 
> not exactly along the lines of making it "more proletarian," as he 
> asserts.  In the late 90's I felt the organization was headed for some 
> kind of crisis or crises, perhaps an orgy of expulsions or 
> something.  But I never dreamed it would endorse an imperialist 
> occupation in the Middle East or elsewhere.
>
>Joe Callahan
>
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