[Marxism] Re: Anti-imperialism (response to Yoshie)

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue May 10 12:46:40 MDT 2005


Yoshie writes:

"The Single-issue mass peaceful demos of the '60s presupposed (a) the
work of SCLC & SNCC in the south, (b) the white organizers energized by
those southern campaigns, (c) the miscellaneous activities of hundreds
of local SDS chapters, (d) the _huge_ casualties in Vietnam (e) the
presence of Vietnam on national TV every night, (f) the riots in the
black ghettoes, (g) the atmosphere and attention created by thousands of
miscellaneous actions (many of them apolitical in intention), (h) 30
years of work by the CP and ex-CP'rs, (i-y) hundreds of things I can't
think of just now, and (z) an SWP that emulated the mad astronomer in
_Rasselas_, who thought his predictions caused the sun to rise each
morning."

Comment:
Yoshie seems to believe that the conditions she describes were matters
of which the SWP and its members were blithely unaware, imagining that
the success of the protests and the antiwar movement were the products
solely of their tactical schema.

In my review of Barry's book from Green Left Weekly reprinted above, I
wrote:


"However, Sheppard's portrayal of the anti-war movement highlights
something that is sometimes forgotten or insufficiently remembered
today. It takes more than correct tactics on the part of anti-war
activists to defeat an imperialist war, especially in the homeland of
the main aggressor. The Vietnam War of US imperialism was not defeated
just by the Vietnamese, though their colossal revolutionary effort was
decisive. Nor was it just a combination of the Vietnamese Revolution
with the anti-war movement. 

"The fight to destroy Jim Crow segregation in the South did not stop for
the war. It won as the war was escalating. In the course of this
struggle, the Black population rose up in cities across the US. Black
political parties began to emerge that challenged the power structure. 

"This was the era of the Black caucuses in the United Auto Workers and
the victorious Miners for Democracy movement in the coalfields, and the
United Farm Workers revolt of the oppressed Mexicano and Chicano farm
workers. And of the mass protests of Chicanos (descendants of Mexican
immigrants and of those who had lived in the areas of what is now the
south-west United States stolen from Mexico in the 1848 war). 

"The women's movement began fighting for abortion rights and equal
employment opportunities. And gays rose up to effectively take control
of New York's West Village from the cops, who had oppressed them for
decades, in the great Stonewall rebellion of 1969. This was not a period
of mass anti-war demonstrations alone, but a period of general social
unrest that challenged the capitalist structure. 

"And the struggles that decided the Vietnam battle did not take place in
Vietnam and the US in isolation. Sheppard describes the SWP's
participation and support for a revolutionary upsurge in France,
fighters in India and Czechoslovakia, Palestine - all part of the world
upheaval that helped push back imperialism. Sheppard travelled the world
as a representative of the party, meeting with fighters in Japan, Sri
Lanka (then Ceylon), and other countries."

Awareness of this can be found in almost every party resolution of the
period.

However, Yoshie is wrong in suggesting that the single-issue mass
peaceful demonstration is a creation of a mad scientist, like the white
man in Nation of Islam theology. Such demonstrations have been occuring
for a long time, not rarely and in just about every country.

Nor is it clear to me that the fact that we have none of the advantages
that we have in the Sixties proves that antiwar protests today must be
multi-issue.  Must the modest antiwar movement that exists today attempt
to substitute for the struggles that don't exist?  And by the way, a
single-issue demonstration can be much more militantly anti-imperialist
than multi-issue ones? Multi-issue can simply mean pro-Democratic Party?
Or they can push the war issue aside from the left like the May Day
celebration organized by Workers World and IAC and their circles this
year.

The distinctive character of the antiwar demonstrations during Vietnam
was not their narrowly single-issue or still less single-slogan
character, but their FOCUS ON THE WAR.  The refusal to retreat from the
fight to get the US rulers out of Vietnam, whether the retreat was to
the liberal right or the "revolutionary" left.
Fred Feldman






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