[Marxism] re: Supporting the resistance?

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Sun Apr 24 21:55:07 MDT 2005


I want to first thank comrades like Louis, Elizabeth, M. Junaid Alam and
others who are engaging on these issues is such a serious way. 

Junaid has, I think, understood my argument perfectly and makes an important
contribution in clearly differentiating two different *kinds* of movements:
one driven by very immediate, felt needs of a specific sector, class,
nationality, etc. (such as the immigrant movement). These sorts of movements
--trade unions are I guess paradigmatic of them-- are *driven* by class
struggle in a very immediate and transparent way. In a shorthand sort of way
I'll refer to these below as "class based" movements.

The other kind of movements are ideologically motivated. I would insist
these are also driven by class struggle albeit in a much more complex way.
An international "solidarity" movement in imperialist countries with the
struggle of a third world nation is, I think, probably a fairly clear
example of this kind of movement. Again, strictly for the sake of economy in
expression and without trying to create some huge theoretical apparatus
around this, I'll refer to these movements as "ideological" ones below. 

These distinctions, between "class-based" and "ideological" ones are never
100% pure, but I think they are extremely helpful in examining questions
like: given that Afro-Americans are overwhelmingly against the war, and
relatively privileged white folks mostly for it, why are antiwar protests in
the United States composed mostly of relatively privileged white folks
instead of Black people?

Junaid says "supporting the right to resist" may well be "poetry" in the
sense I wrote about in my previous post on this thread, but "poetry" is
appropriate to the antiwar movement today because it is an ideological
movement rather than a more directly class-based movement.

I think what Junaid says is probably applicable to a significant degree
among the student antiwar forces, and some others, like the traditional
peace movement, radicals from the 1960's and 70's and 80's, etc. 

And I do believe it is important to explain why Iraqis are resisting U.S.
occupation, and why, despite the pain caused to working-class families in
the United States, people should sympathize or identify with the fight of
the Iraqis to drive out the invaders from their land. 

However, is this that Junaid raises the right basis for an antiwar movement,
or should it be the basis for something else?

I believe that in addition to the ideologically driven wing of the antiwar
movement, there is already at least one other sector, and one of tremendous
importance, in the antiwar movement that is NOT AT ALL of the "ideological
movement" type. And that is the military families movement.

It is also arguably true that the US Labor Against the War and what it
represents in the union movement can't be approached as an "ideological"
movement.

In addition, one strategic objective that many of us who have been thinking
about these questions have identified is broadening the antiwar movement so
that those sectors of the population most directly affected by the war, and
most heavily opposed to it, and especially the oppressed nationalities
within the United States, become a driving force in the movement against the
imperialist war, and more from an "immediate felt needs" angle than an
"ideological" one.

I think we should begin our search for how to do this with this idea: it is
simply NOT TRUE that the material resources necessary for persecuting the
war can be "borrowed" from the future and paid back in the sweet bye and
bye. These are resources being sucked from the communities NOW. 

The armor plating for humvees are mass transit systems not installed or
properly maintained; you cannot "borrow" steel from future production. It
has to be produced in the here and now. We should not let what goes on in
the financial superstructure obscure the material reality: the imperialist
war machine and this war is a huge drain on resources, specifically, the
resources working people want the government to use to ameliorate some of
the day-to-day problems we face.

And here we have to face something openly, which is, imperialist privilege.
MANY working people in the U.S. don't FEEL how a diversion of steel and
factory capacity to war production affects their mass transit system because
they don't use mass transit. The relatively privileged position of the U.S.
working class, and not just a narrow "thin upper crust," insulates them from
these effects.

THIS is the great obstacle to transforming the antiwar movement from an
"ideological" to a "class based" movement in the sense Junaid and I have
been speaking of two different kinds of movements. We have not yet figured
out how to bridge that gap. 

Everyone says it is necessary to link the war abroad and the war at home,
but in fact Socialist Worker (and not just, I'm "picking" on the ISO
comrades because they're the larger of the relatively sane left groups right
now) spends more time discussing the relationship between out now, support
to self-determination, and the right to resist than trying to figure out how
to tie the war abroad to the war at home. (I say the ISO is part of the
"relatively" sane left because --frankly-- on the face of it, you have to be
at least a little insane to try to do what we're all embarked on.)

But what about the movement Junaid talks about, the conscious
anti-imperialist movement of people who identify with the just struggle of
the Iraqi people, or can be convinced to do so, on the basis of
moral/ethical/ideological arguments? 

That I think is a much broader movement in terms of issues than just Iraq,
or foreign policy generally. That is the layer of people who should be
brought together into a "green" or "radical" or "anti-capitalist" or
"socialist" or "revolutionary" party-type movement/group/convergence.

This is the sort of layer that began to coalesce around the Nader/Green
campaign in 2000, a movement that was disrupted by the September 11, 2001,
events and their aftermath. And my gut feeling is that much more important
than it being brought together on an ideally perfect way today is that it be
brought together on some roughly positive/progressive basis. 

This was also a question that I faced in the early 70's in the group I was
in, the YSA. SDS had played this role for many student rebels for 2-3 years
but then it exploded; there was a constant tendency on the part of campus
rebels to transform antiwar formations into SDS-ish multi-issue groups,
which the YSA fought and not just for good reasons (there was, and I believe
it is true today also that there is, objectively, a basis for a specific
antiwar movement against the major imperialist war actually underway at this
moment) but also for narrow, sectarian reasons, namely, that the multi-issue
group people should join was the YSA.

Some comrades have been arguing, and I think some of the ISO comrades in
particular tend in this direction, that there should be a two-level antiwar
movement, a "consciously anti-imperialist" hard core surrounded by a mushier
just "out now" or even "sick of war" mass movement.

I do not find this really convincing. I think the "anti-imperialist" foreign
policy framework is too narrow, because I believe ultimately regular "class
based" movements of working people must achieve that "ideological" level of
understanding and --this is very important-- vice-versa.

I'd be lying if I said "therefore the solution is such and such." I don't
know what the solution is, and there may be more than one valid way of
contributing to a solution, and even if you think you know what that
solution, the end product, looks like, I would urge you to be tolerant to
excess. Everyone knows what a car looks like, but if you've ever been in an
auto plant, you know most of the pieces that go into making a car don't look
like a car AT ALL, and the ones that do evoke the image of a car are either
a hollow shell or just wheels on axles without a driving force or any sense
of direction.

What I mean by that is, for example, here in Atlanta there is a difference
among various revolutionary socialists (and by that I mean not just people
in the group I'm in, Solidarity, but comrades in other groups too). Some say
what needs to be done is to take "war at home" issues (like mass transit)
into efforts aimed at building the antiwar movement; others that what should
be done is to carefully inject "war abroad" propaganda and consciousness
into movements resisting the rulers' "war at home" such as protests against
mass transit cutbacks.

Me, my natural instincts and inclinations, because of my background and what
I feel most comfortable doing (which is propaganda aimed at a narrow layer
of already radicalized people, i.e., what I do on this list) is to build an
antiwar movement that relates to other issues, i.e., a "war abroad"
ideological movement trying to link up with the "class based" movements.
However, as fate would have it, I find myself mostly working in a
"class-based" movement (an immigrant civil rights organization) and trying
to figure out how to go beyond what could be called --in a certain sense--
the economism that is "natural" in that kind of organization. 

And my inclination is to say that neither approach is "the" answer, we
simply don't know "the" answer yet, and I would insist that we don't even
know whether there is an answer in these terms. We may be engaged in
fashioning screws and seat cushions, and still quite a distance from even
having a clue as to what the finished product is meant to be. But my gut
feeling is the screws and seat cushions will come in handy.

But what I do believe is that it is absolutely *criminal* is not to do this
TOGETHER, in a common framework that allows us to share experiences and
problems and praise or criticize each other as comrades. We have THAT --a
*tiny* bit-- in Atlanta, but not nearly *enough*.

That united, refounded socialist/radical/anticapitalist movement which we
don't yet have is the 
movement that I think should be doing the propaganda around why Iraqis are
resisting and why people in the U.S. should sympathize with that just
struggle to drive out the occupiers.

*  *  *

Finally, I want to say something about the political climate. There are a
lot of things being said about the political climate being more favorable
circa 1965 or so, and how reactionary it is today.

There may be an element of truth to that, but it needs to be tempered. In
the mid-1960's, in academia, there was NO ONE saying or writing what Ward
Churchil said about 9-11. The one who did say something like that was
Malcolm X, about chickens coming home to roost, but Malcolm didn't get in
trouble with right-wingers at some state-sponsored university for saying
that, he got his ass tossed out of the Nation of Islam --the most advanced
expression of Black Nationalism at the time-- for saying that. 

The standard "defense" against the charge that opposing the Vietnam war was
tantamount to calling for Communism wasn't that people had a democratic
right to call for Communist victory, but that the best way to fight
communism was... (and so on).

How much have things changed? One of the central leaders of the Black
nationalist movement in the mid-1960's said that the movement had a position
for women: "prone." I submit not even W himself would talk that way today.
Back then, not just SNCC leaders but presidents and comedians did so
routinely, if not quite as baldly.

Back then, those who claimed to be communists would stridently deny that
communism had anything to do with homosexuals or any defense of their
rights. TODAY the gay marriage issue comes up and the big majority of the
American people say they want gay relationships to at least have equal legal
status and privileges with heterosexual marriages ("civil unions"), and the
axis of the debate becomes NOT how long the prison terms of the perverts
should be but what form legal recognition of the relationship should take.

We may not have TODAY the big protest demonstrations and heated debates of
those years (though I seem to remember some pretty tumultuous
demonstrations, and as massive as any of the Vietnam era, in the last
half-dozen years), but history has not gone into reverse. There is a REASON
why Rummy has this goofy theory about technology substituting for cannon
fodder in the imperialist army, but it's got NOTHING to do with Moore's law
about the power of computers. It has to do with the unwillingness of the
ruling class to pay the political price that would be required to
reinstitute the draft, and their fear that, when push comes to shove, a
draftee army today would become just as mutinous as the Vietnam-era force
was.

And going back even beyond the 60's and living political memory to the
1930's, look at Bush's campaign to "reform" social security by
un-socializing it. The more Bush has succeeded in explaining his plan, the
more working people oppose it.

The bourgeois press tries to convince us that this Republican administration
has the country on a fast track to the dark ages; it simply isn't so. 

Joaquín


-----Original Message-----
From: marxism-bounces at lists.econ.utah.edu
[mailto:marxism-bounces at lists.econ.utah.edu] On Behalf Of M. Junaid Alam
Sent: Saturday, April 23, 2005 7:08 PM
To: marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu
Subject: [Marxism] re: Supporting the resistance?






More information about the Marxism mailing list