[Marxism] reply to Joaquin

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun May 1 10:38:38 MDT 2005

>But we will also not keep our mouths shut when we are slandered.  We would 
>hope that no one would and that everyone would insist on open and honest 
>political debates and comradely relations.   Finally, to address a point 
>that Yoshie raised, the ISO does not believe that we are THE 
>anti-imperialist section of the movement, rather we are only a part of 
>it.  We hope to help bring together all those (Solidarity, Arab and 
>Palestinian activists and supporters, individual socialists and 
>anti-imperialists, etc) who believe in Iraqi self-determination and the 
>need for a mass anti-war movement independent from the Democrats together 
>to compound our mutual strength.   Todd Chretien California Organizer ISO

Todd, you have to put line-skips between paragraphs. I know that you are 
using a Mac, but that does not prevent hitting the enter key twice between 
grafs. It makes things much more readable.

Although I agree with Stan's political commentary on the ISO, I think it 
was unfortunate that he alluded to problems on the ground in Fayetteville. 
Over the years, I have learned that mailing lists are impossible for 
sorting out claims and counter-claims such as these.

I want to return to the post I made which touched off this thread, since it 
sticks to the text. Not having any contact with the organized antiwar 
movement, this is what I must rely on. I feel it is necessary to return to 
the ISO text I had trouble with to begin with since Todd has repeated its 
faulty logic. Todd talks about coalescing an anti-imperialist wing of the 
antiwar movement. This is in line with the ISO article on SDS that I took 
strong exception to:

"The strength of the Stalinist currents in SDS was increased by the 
weakness of the Trotskyist tradition. The largest Trotskyist organization 
in the U.S., the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP), played a central role in 
the various national coordinating committees that organized the semi-annual 
mass antiwar demonstrations in Washington as well as in the youth wing, the 
Student Mobilization Committee (SMC). But the SWP always looked at the 
antiwar movement as a single-issue movement and reacted with outright 
hostility to any attempt to inject more radical, anti-imperialist politics 
into it. It dismissed SDS as a petty-bourgeois, semi-anarchist group, and 
while it had a large presence in the SMC, it made no attempt to influence 
the debates inside SDS. Instead of playing the role of the revolutionary 
left-wing of the antiwar movement, the SWP gave a left cover to the 
pacifists and liberals who dominated the coordinating committees."


For me, this is the real question--not where or when the ISO sells its 
newspaper, etc. Basically, this is an *ultraleftist* understanding of the 
Vietnam antiwar movement and clearly is a guideline to ISO's participation 
today in the struggle to end the occupation of Iraq. The role of a Marxist 
organization, especially one with a thousand numbers, is not to "inject 
more radical, anti-imperialist politics". Rather, it is to provide 
effective leadership for the entire movement by drawing together disparate 
forces into a powerful united front around the slogan of immediate 
withdrawal. Everything that stands in the way of that task is to be 
avoided, even if it is couched in revolutionary rhetoric. There is nothing 
more "radical" and "anti-imperialist" than a half-million people 
demonstrating for an end to the occupation.

The SWP *did* play the role of the revolutionary left-wing of the antiwar 
movement by cajoling, wooing and pressuring pacifists, CP'ers, labor 
bureaucrats, Democrats and others into agreeing to periodic mass actions. 
Those mass actions around the single issue of immediate withdrawal had the 
effect of "throwing sand in the system" as Stan Goff so eloquently puts it. 
The notion that the SWP "gave a left cover" to pacifists and liberals is 
just nonsense and reflects a total misunderstanding of what was going on in 
this period.

I am afraid that ISO looks too fondly on the SDS experience, which belies 
its student radical roots. ISO'ers seem miffed when this is pointed out to 
them. I myself think that there is nothing wrong with recruiting students. 
However, it is not so good when a revolutionary organization functions more 
like an updated version of SDS rather than a leader of variegated social 
institutions that have no ties to student movements. You have to be able to 
sit down with a church leader and convince him or her of the need to 
support a mass demonstration, no matter their aversion to Iraqi fighters. 
This requires a different mindset and training than writing an article 
exposing David Corn or Naomi Klein.

Building a united front in the USA today involves adapting the tactics of 
the early Communist movement to a political landscape where workers parties 
are non-existent. Despite this, the very same challenge exists. Communists 
in the 1920s had the same sort of distaste toward the social democrats (who 
had murdered Rosa Luxemberg after all) that modern day leftists have to 
working with moderate elements in the antiwar movement. No matter one's 
aversion, that is the task that must be addressed.

The difference between the Vietnam antiwar movement and today is this. 
There is no revolutionary organization with the clear vision of how to 
unite the entire movement in mass action. The UFPJ  coalition is far too 
accommodating to the Democratic Party and ANSWER is far too in thrall to 
the top-down leadership habits of the WWP--even though it has a more 
correct understanding of the need for unrelenting mass actions. This 
political vacuum is obviously the result of the death of the SWP. In any 
case, I invite Todd and other ISO'ers to read Fred Halstead's "Out Now" 
which has very many good ideas about how to provide true revolutionary 
leadership for the antiwar movement. I steal all my good ideas from others, 
so I would advise others to follow suit.

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