[Marxism] "Winning" and "losing" in Seattle

David McDonald dbmcdonald at comcast.net
Wed Aug 9 23:39:07 MDT 2006

Lou Pa:

And so your opinion is that if we hadn't done such sectarian things as that,
we would have won?  Stopped the war, that is?

Or if not that, won what?  Had a bigger demonstration?  Is that "winning"?
No?  But you think it would have put us closer to "winning"?  What do you
think "winning" will be, and how will it be done?

I don't know the details of all this, but in your view I suppose that if WWP
didn't exist there would have been a larger demonstration in Seattle which
would have been more like "winning", although it wouldn't have mentioned


Well, I admit I did set you a little trap there. At the split meeting I
discussed, WWP, ISO, Socialist Alternative, Stand Up Seattle (just so you
won't think I'm picking on your party) refused to countenance much more than
the "mention" of Palestine/Israel conflict. The actual argument was whether
a demand linked to the conflict had to be, not "mentioned," but of equal
standing with the fundamental US Out of Iraq slogan; not whether there could
be a speaker on the conflict from the Arab community, which had been agreed
to (that would have been a breakthrough, by the way) but whether the
conflict would have "equal billing" with the Iraq War. The brand new
executive director of the most important and broadest faith-based
organization told the meeting flat out that because his organization was
made up in part by Jewish organizations, he needed some help from the body
in figuring out how to address the issue of Palestine without killing the
possibility of his organization participating. None of the above-mentioned
organizations blinked an eye at the exit of the largest organization (by 50
or 100 times) in the room, and some of them thought and said, as I mentioned
before, that driving the Church Council of Greater Seattle out of the
coalition by represented a "leap forward" in "political maturity" for "the
movement." Before the foul odor of the meeting had dissipated the Democratic
Party hatchet man who looks for exactly such opportunities went to the
Church Council and offered to organize a radical-free and radical-idea-free
prayer meeting. He got the job. Thanks for nothing, Lou.


By extension, I suppose I can assume that WWP and PSL (which is not "tied"
to us, by the way) and many other people are cooperating in "splitting the
movement" by raising the issue of Lebanon and Palestine in August of 2006,
since it divides the uncritical supporters of pretty near the entire
Democratic population of Congress, some of whom propose Iraq pullout
timetables, on the one hand, from the opponents of the genocide, on the
other, whereas it would be better to have "unity" and not embarrass the
likes of Howard Dean, and after all it is only Palestinians and Lebanese
whose lives are at stake, and their lives are no more important today than
they were in 2004.  Or am I misreading your position?


Watch those extensions. Times change, struggles advance and retreat. What
was moronically sectarian in 2004 is not necessarily so in 2006. My iniative
when the Lebanon invasion of 2006 occurred was to attempt to foment a very
simple, straightforward meeting or rally to demand an immediate cease-fire,
with no other political content. Why bother? In my estimation, at that time,
any meeting of any substantial size devoted to the issue of immediate,
unconditional cease-fire might have had some effect on reality. I judged
that people were appalled; that they mostly wanted the killing to stop; that
the continued Israeli invasion and bombing of Lebanon was thought
indefensible and that people might rally for cease-fire. It seemd one of
those rare times when the most obvious, humane, and understandable idea --
stop killing -- was also the most radical; I judged it possible to make
those who opposed a rational and just idea like cease-fire stand out like
the creeps they are, not because I called them creeps but because by their
refusal to do something simple and humane they would isolate and expose
themselves as operating on a political agenda according to which Palestinian
human life counts for nothing.

Long story short, it didn't work. Not enough takers. I don't regret trying
because I think you have to continually test the waters. Not to see if
people woke up today with your program reduced to a microdot and implanted
in their irises for ready reference, but to see if there was any possibility
of UNITED action that might actually affect reality. Let's say it: reform.

PSL, on the other hand, as I mentioned, called the August 12 demonstration
in consultation with no one, discussed the demands with no one, made no
phone calls that I or anyone else who is constantly engaged in antiwar work
knows of, and in general did their absolutely-by-rote thing just as they
have done for the thirty-six years I have been aware of them. So we will
have a nice little vanguard demo on the 12th. Better than nothing but,
truly, not by much.


Actually, let me tell you what "winning" means to me.  It means WINNING.  It
doesn't mean having a bigger demonstration.  It means when the workers and
the oppressed put the murderous imperialist class OUT OF BUSINESS.  And if
you then tell me that we are a hell of a long way from doing that in the US,
you're not providing new information here.  However, the "anti-war
movement", whoever that is, is going to be debating how to organize antiwar
demonstrations against this war and that war and the next war and the war
after that, into our children's and grandchildren's time and their remote
descendants, until hell freezes over, or the oceans boil, or technological
society collapses, or the human species manages to render itself extinct,


You underline my point. You argue that in the absence of the possibility of
immediately seizing power there is nothing to do but educate the working
class through propaganda, not mass action. In other words, the only really
valuable thing to do is to build the party. Massive or vanguard action, who
really cares so long as the flag is planted and the points are made?

Since propaganda and education is the only valid activity in the absence of
insurrectionary sentiment (WINNING, as you capitalize it), it makes sense to
band together only with those who share your whole program, for the sake of
clarity. That is why ANSWER meetings in Seattle are held in closets.

Your party is so far away from the habit of attempting to do anything but
build your brand through vanguard propaganda actions that it seems not to
occur to you to broaden things out. We are supposed to believe that after a
lifetime of not giving a damn about working with political forces who don't
agree with you -- that would mean compromise on politics, wouldn't it? --
your party, in an insurrectionary time, will suddenly find the political
wherewithal to lead the contentious and politically fractured masses to
power and administer the bear hug of friendly death to enemies masquerading
as friends by allowing them to reveal their real politics through reasonable
steps you propose and they refuse in front of the awakened masses. I don't
think so. You don't have the unity-seeking habit and you don't even miss it.

I will give you this. You are consistent. You never change.

Lou Pa:

Similarly, the reason that the genocidal war goes on in Lebanon today is,
largely, the fact that the working class of the US does not realize that
it's a bad thing.  This goes back to why we were trying to impart some
knowledge about the issue BACK IN 2004.


Thanks for clarity. You have said it again. "Trying to impart some
knowledge" is propaganda. You are not serious about stopping the war and you
get in the way of people who are. You think we are reformist idiots trying
to get into Howard Dean's pants. You dismiss the idea of engaging forces to
your right when partial agreements exist. Bad. Wrong.

Well, I've wanted to get that off my chest for a while. I was ashamed of
myself for not taking your tendency on publicly on this list, and now I've
said my piece. Anytime you folks want to build something big in the real
world let me know. I don't bear grudges.

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