[Marxism] Anti-imperialism?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon May 2 09:26:34 MDT 2005

I want to direct comrades' attention to an article in today's Counterpunch 
that articulates an approach that I have described as ultraleft. It urges 
the antiwar movement to become "anti-imperialist".

Counterpunch, May 2, 2005
Lobbyists or Organizers?
If Imperialism is the Cause, Shouldn't the US Anti-War Movement be 


Our job is to create the situation where that understanding becomes the 
case and is acted upon. Are the current antiwar organizations (UFPJ and 
ANSWER in the US, Stop the War Coalition in the UK) the proper vehicles for 
creating this situation? I can't speak for the UK organization or any 
organization in other countries outside of the US. However, when it comes 
to the US organizations, I believe the answer is no, not as they are 
currently operating. UFPJ has failed to put forward an anti-imperialist 
analysis of the war and occupation: a fact that is perhaps best displayed 
by their tacit support of war party member John Kerry via the Anybody But 
Bush electoral movement in 2004. ANSWER seems to have too much baggage 
associated with its founding organization (Worker's World Party-WWP) to be 
able to reach very far beyond its current constituency. This is too bad for 
ANSWER, especially considering their work against the sanctions and ongoing 
war on Iraq for more than a decade and their support amongst the 
communities of color in the United States.

I would like to state here that this is not meant to be a call to disband 
either of these organizations. After all, they have played (and will 
continue to play) an important role in the antiwar movement. It is instead, 
a call on those who consider themselves to be non-WWP anti-imperialists to 
stop trying to change the nature of UFPJ and ANSWER and form our own 
antiwar grouping(s). There is a need for a broad anti-imperialist coalition 
to oppose the designs of Washington and London. There is also a need to 
take that opposition to the streets, the schools, the workplace, the 
military, and wherever else we can. The time is getting late. Who will make 
the first step towards building this organization?

full: http://www.counterpunch.org/jacobs05022005.html

Rather than looking for another competing movement based on 
"anti-imperialist" ideology, there is instead a need to *unify* the 
existing forces around the slogan of immediate withdrawal. As David 
McDonald correctly observed, it does not encourage mass participation when 
the two major coalitions each call their own demonstration on the very same 
day in New York City.

More to the point, we really have to be very clear on the question of mass 
consciousness in the USA. If we make opposition to imperialism an important 
aspect of the movement, it will remain very small and therefore very 
ineffective. The people who come out to protest in massive numbers do not 
have an analysis of capitalism or imperialism. Most vote Democratic and 
most want to show their opposition to what they perceive as violations of 
democratic principles and peace. I remember when I went to my first several 
anti-war demonstrations. The word "imperialism" meant absolutely nothing to 
me. I was appalled by the spectacle of B-52's dropping bombs the size of 
Volkswagens on Vietnamese villages and the nonstop lies of people such as 
Robert McNamara or Dean Rusk. It was only after coming into contact with 
Marxists at the New School for Social Research that I began to open up to 
the possibility that the war was a function of inexorable economic processes.

It is important to keep in mind the difference between agitation and 
propaganda. A slogan like "Out Now" is an agitational slogan geared to 
producing mass actions. To explain imperialism, it requires propaganda. 
This is best done by one on one contact between people, not 
through  "exemplary" protests organized around slogans such as "Support the 
Resistance". I can understand why Ron Jacobs is attracted to this approach 
since he is the author of a rather positive study of the SDS Weathermen, 
who embodied this approach.

In the final analysis, the role of revolutionaries is two-fold. On one 
hand, they have to be the best builders of mass actions and have finely 
honed skills as unifiers and reconcilers. They have to have the patience to 
work with liberals, pacifists and trade union functionaries who could not 
be further apart from them politically on questions such as the nature of 
monopoly capitalism. Why? These are the people who have mass followings. 
Until we have a transformation of American politics based on clear class 
differentiations, this will remain true. On the other hand, they have to 
patiently explain that the war in Iraq was not some kind of "conspiracy" 
directed by evil rightwing politicians. It is a war that is driven by 
geopolitical requirements to safeguard oil supplies and to keep Arab 
radicalism at bay. But to mix up the two tasks will result in damage to 
both of them.



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