[Marxism] What Will It Take to Defeat the War?

Fred Bergen all.power.to.the.soviets at gmail.com
Mon Jul 14 21:20:34 MDT 2008


What Will It Take to Defeat the War?

Not Another Popular-Front "Peace Movement," 
Mobilize the Working Class to Fight for Power!

Break with All the Capitalist Parties - For a Revolutionary Workers

For Workers Strikes Against the War 
Defeat U.S. Imperialism - Defend the Iraqi and Afghan Peoples

The following leaflet was issued by the Internationalist Group at the
antiwar conference called by the National Assembly to End the Iraq War
and Occupation held in Cleveland, Ohio on June 28-29. Over objections
from the conference organizers, the assembly voted to change the name to
National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations,
and to emphasize the connection with U.S. backing for the Zionist
occupation of Palestine. The sponsors of the confab were so right-wing
that they feared losing "unity" with Democratic supporters of Israel and
the Afghanistan war! What did not change at all was the popular-front
character of the new outfit, tying it to the bourgeois parties despite
the fig leaf of electoral "independence." Making this utterly clear, it
was decided not to call a national antiwar mobilization prior to the
November elections explicitly in order to court those forces who wish to
aid the Democrats (and therefore want to avoid making problems for the
presumptive Democratic nominee, Barack Obama).

A "National Assembly" has called an "Open National Antiwar Conference"
in Cleveland to found a new antiwar organization, in addition to the
various already existing coalitions. Its promoters, chiefly Socialist
Action (SA) and several other self-described socialist groups, expect
hundreds of activists to attend the conference and deal with the
debilitating problems facing the antiwar movement as the U.S. terror war
on the world is well into its seventh year. Many antiwar activists were
disturbed when massive protests were held all over the globe on the
fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq - everywhere except this
country. "The absence of a massive united mobilization during this
period in the United States," says the call for the Cleveland
conference, "should be a great concern to us all."

The conference organizers say that the main reason that protests were
called off, that protests have dwindled in size, and that earlier
antiwar marches, which were the largest in the history of the U.S., have
failed to have any effect on the course of the war, is organizational:
squabbles between narrow "sectarian" formations supposedly stood in the
way of united, "democratic" decision-making. Wrong. The problem is
political. The reason that there were no big antiwar actions last March
was because the main "coalitions" didn't want to embarrass the
Democratic Party at the height of the primary season.

The January 2008 issue of Socialist Action newspaper carried an expos?
("U.S. Antiwar Movement Falters: An Insider's View") of the machinations
of the leaders of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) to prevent a
national antiwar mobilization last March, saying they sought to "focus
on currying favor with the Democrats." True enough, as far as it goes.
Yet now, through the "National Assembly" it has initiated, SA is
prepared to do the same thing it criticized the UFPJ for. Why is there
is no mention of Afghanistan in the conference call? Simple: because the
Democrats are all for the war on Afghanistan. Any why does the action
proposal by the coordinating committee call for a national protest only
in Spring 2009? Because they don't want to get in the way of Democrat
Barack Obama's election bid. Yet Obama is for escalating the war in
Afghanistan and says he is prepared to bomb inside Pakistan and attack

So because the conference organizers, with all their talk of being
"independent," are bound by their bourgeois political loyalties, they
are set to repeat the policies of the present "antiwar movement"
leaders, which will produce the same impotent failures as previous
protests. Albert Einstein is said to have defined insanity as doing the
same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If 20 or
so "mass mobilizations" since 2001 appealing to Congress to stop the war
have had no effect, how is a new national organization dedicated to
"peaceful, legal" mass mobilizations of the same sort going to stop the
war machine? Answer: it won't.

Behind the seeming insanity is a program. "Though this be madness, yet
there is a method in't." This new effort at an "inclusive,"
"independent," "democratic" antiwar formation is actually organizing a
coalition of class collaboration that is "inclusive" of the Democrats
and other capitalist parties. Look at the list of endorsers: it includes
the "Progressive Democrats of America" (a group set up by the Democratic
Socialists of America), the Duluth Democratic Farmer-Labor Party,
various representatives of the capitalist Green party, etc. But even if
the bourgeois parties and politicians weren't directly present, these
coalitions are inevitably and invariably aimed at pressuring the
capitalist rulers.

Such popular fronts serve to chain the exploited and oppressed to a wing
of their exploiters and oppressors - i.e., the supposedly "democratic"
or "anti-fascist," "anti-imperialist" or "antiwar" capitalists. And from
Spain and France in the 1930s to Chile and Portugal in the 1970s, they
always prepare the road to defeat by heading off revolutionary struggle.
The vaunted "independence" of the various coalitions is a fig leaf to
cover up the fact that they are in fact aiding the parties of war and
racism. Yet the fundamental point is that to stop imperialist war it
will take international workers revolution to bring down the capitalist
system that generates endless wars.

Otherwise, the perspective is for one imperialist war after another, and
one impotent antiwar movement after another. Look at the list, just
since World War II: Korea (1950-53, with U.S. troops still there);
Vietnam (1954 to 1975); Afghanistan (1980-1989); Cuba Bay of Pigs (1961,
followed by decades of economic blockade); Central America (1980-1989),
Iraq, Gulf War (1990-91), Yugoslavia/Bosnia (1995), Yugoslavia/Kosovo
(1999), Afghanistan again (2001 to date), Iraq again (2003 to date), not
to mention countless coups, "peacekeeping" operations and other U.S.
imperialist interventions in Africa, Asia and Latin America. And the
drum beat of war goes on.

Ultimately, it points toward a new World War III against the U.S.'
present imperialist "allies" and rivals. The next step may be an Israeli
attack on Iran, backed up by Washington.We say: Iran, a semi-colonial
country, has the right to nuclear or any other weapons it needs to fend
off imperialist attack. Defend Iran against Israeli/U.S. attack!
The Trotskyists of the Internationalist Group, U.S. section of the
League for the Fourth International, put forward a program against
imperialist war that is sharply counterposed to the bourgeois politics
of all the factions of the antiwar movement. Rather than peace parades
that appeal to Congress to moderate the war policy ("Troops out," "Bring
the troops home," etc.), we seek to mobilize the international working
class at the head of all the exploited and oppressed to defeat the
imperialists in this war, unleashing workers power through strikes
against the war and refusal to transport war cargo, on the road to world
socialist revolution to overturn the capitalist system. This was the
program of the Bolsheviks, who brought World War I to an end by turning
the imperialist war into a civil war, toppling the capitalist order in
Russia in the 1917 October Revolution and unleashing a wave of
revolutionary agitation internationally.

"Ridiculous!" "Ultra-left!" exclaim the self-proclaimed socialists, even
would-be "Trotskyists" who back this latest antiwar coalition. These
same people insisted that our call for workers strikes against the war
was utopian "pie in the sky." But the IG fought for and played an
important role in building the first-ever strike against a U.S. war by
an American union. This past May 1, the International Longshore and
Warehouse Union (ILWU) shut down every port on the West Coast against
the war in Iraq and Afghanistan (see our extensive coverage of this
historic action in the current issue of The Internationalist). While
various reformist pseudo-socialists now want to praise the ILWU, trying
to include it as one more sector of their antiwar popular fronts, we
insisted from the beginning that strikes against the war must be
directed against the imperialist parties of war and racism, leading to
the building of a revolutionary workers party.

"Mass Action" for the Democrats, or Workers Strikes Against the War

The fundamental difference between powerless peace parades and
mobilizing workers power is not on the plane of tactics or
organizational structure. The difference is in the class content of the
program against imperialist war. As the Trotskyists wrote in the 1930s
as the local wars were spreading (China, Ethiopia, Spain) leading up the
second imperialist world war:

"The most common mistake made in the attempted it struggle against war
comes from the belief that this exists somehow 'independent' of the
class struggle in general, that a broad union of all sorts of persons
from every social class and group can be formed around the issue of
fighting war, since - so the reasoning goes - these persons may be all
equally opposed to war whatever their differences on other points. In
this way, war is lifted from its social base, considered apart from its
causes and conditions, as if it were a mystic abstraction instead of a
concrete historical institution. Acting on this belief, attempts are
made to build up all kinds of permanent Peace Societies, Antiwar
Organizations, Leagues Against War, etc.

"This kind of attitude is about as effective as it for doctors to treat
the high fever in acute appendicitis by putting the patient in an
ice-box. The only way actually get rid of the high fever is to remove
the cause of the fever - that is, to take out the diseased appendix. The
thing is true for war: the only way to get rid of war is to remove the
cause of war."
-War and the Workers (1936)

This war to enslave the people of Iraq and Afghanistan is also, like
every imperialist war, a war against the "enemy within." From the U.S.A.
PATRIOT act to the overturning of Brown vs. Board of Education (the
ruling that led to formal desegregation of the schools), to the military
quarantine and counterinsurgency operation against the poor black
population of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and the Gestapo-style
roundups and deportations of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, this
war has targeted blacks, immigrants and labor on the "home front." What
is called for is a powerful workers struggle for the defeat of this war,
which would unite and mobilize the oppressed masses in the colonies and
in the heart of the imperialist beast.

The National Assembly calls to "bring the troops home now!" Despite what
the opportunists claim, this is not the same as defeating U.S.
imperialist war, "objectively" or otherwise. Hillary Clinton made the
point explicitly: "Senator McCain and President Bush claim withdrawal is
defeat... Well, let's be clear, withdrawal is not defeat. Defeat is
keeping troops in Iraq for 100 years. Defeat is straining our alliances
and losing our standing in the world. Defeat is draining our resources
and diverting attention from our key interests" (Boston Globe 18 March
2008). Barack Obama wants to disengage from what he calls the "dumb war"
in Iraq, albeit slowly and partially, leaving thousands of troops in the
area, in order to wage what he thinks are "smart" wars against
Afghanistan and Iran!

"Troops out" is an appeal addressed to the growing sector of the
imperialist bourgeoisie that sees the Iraq adventure as a failure and
wants to rescue U.S. imperialism for future wars. "Support the troops by
bringing them home"? This is a red-white-and-blue loyalty oath to U.S.
imperialism. Bring the troops home to do what? Patrol the Mexican
border, as Republicans and Democrats (and the fascist Minutemen)
suggest? After Hurricane Katrina, the elite 101st Airborne division and
Blackwater mercenaries were brought home, with orders from Louisiana's
Democratic governor to shoot to kill the stranded survivors!

The "theory" of "mass action" that the conference promoters expound
endlessly is a banality that explains nothing and conceals everything.
It will take "mass action" to stop the war, like it would take "motion"
to travel to Alaska. But motion in what direction, in what sort of
vehicle? Who's in the driver's seat, and who's stuffed in the trunk?
Mass action of what class, with what program? The conference proposes
"The independent and united mobilization of the antiwar majority in
massive peaceful demonstrations.... Mass actions aimed at visibly and
powerfully demonstrating the will of the majority...." But imperialist
wars are not made by majorities, and they are certainly not ended by
popular demand. The capitalists produce constant war to grab markets for
labor and industry away from their imperialist rivals.

Imperialist war can only be defeated with class war. Talk of
"majorities" peacefully persuading the (ruling-class) "minority" to
withdraw from Iraq by "demonstrating" that the majority is a majority,
is a deception that serves the ruling class by promoting illusions in
bourgeois "democracy." So what if the capitalists and war supporters are
a minority? It hasn't stopped them before. This minority rules through
the capitalist state apparatus: it has the police, the prisons, the
courts and the armed forces at its disposal, as well as the capitalist
media as a platform for "opinion makers." This minority makes war to
keep its heel on the necks of oppressed and exploited millions. Nothing
but smashing the capitalist system will put an end to imperialist war.
The "Progressive Democrats," Greens and the phony socialists are
opponents of workers revolution. Unity with them means endless war.

Two, Three, Many Peace Parades, or a Revolutionary Workers Party?

A little history may be in order here. Most of the key organizers of the
Cleveland conference are alumni of the Vietnam peace movement. Part of
the motivation for this conference comes from a generation of ex-members
of the ex-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP) who dream of reliving
the halcyon days of their youth as leaders of the SWP's Vietnam-era
National Peace Action Coalition (NPAC). They claim it was the antiwar
movement that stopped the Vietnam War. This is a willful rewriting of
history, unless we are to believe that the National Liberation Front and
North Vietnamese army were some sort of Quakers. The U.S. imperialists
and their allies were defeated militarily by the Vietnamese workers and
peasants, two years after the U.S.' official Vietnam antiwar movement
packed up and went home. The peace movement was satisfied with the
withdrawal of most of "our boys" while mass-murder bombing and a proxy
civil war escalated. Trotskyist revolutionaries, on the other hand, said
that "our boys" were the Viet Cong, and hailed the U.S. defeat in
Vietnam, proclaiming "All Indochina Must Go Communist!"

Moreover, NPAC along with the Communist Party-dominated People's
Coalition for Peace and Justice (PCPJ) were the right wing of the
seething mass movement of potentially revolutionary discontent that
exploded out of the black ghettos onto college campuses and into sectors
of the working class. Just like today's Cleveland assembly that rolls
out the red carpet to the "progressive" Democrats, NPAC had Democratic
senator Vance Hartke on its governing board, even while the SWP piously
intoned that its pop front was "independent" of the Democrats. When
leftists intervened in a 1971 NPAC conference to protest the presence of
the capitalist politician and CIA bag-man Victor Reuther, SWP/NPAC goons
viciously attacked them, throwing one oppositionist through a glass door
to defend their coalition's bourgeois "respectability."

At NPAC peace parades - which would vanish during even-numbered (i.e.,
election) years, just like the barely-moving "movement" today - more
than once the SWP set up daisy chains of marshals chanting "peaceful,
legal!" to try to divert and exclude demonstrators carrying NLF flags.
In his chronicle of the Vietnam antiwar movement, SWPer Fred Halstead
admits that as soon as U.S. troops were withdrawn, "Virtually all the
local antiwar coalitions also folded up" (Out Now! [1978]). Halstead
also records that "No mass socialist movement emerged from the antiwar
activity... Once the war in Vietnam was over, the organized movement
against it ceased to exist. This was inevitable." Inevitable, since the
SWP's subordination to Democratic "doves" made these reformists hardened
opponents of revolutionary politics, or of any political line to the
left of the "single issue" dictated by the need to keep their capitalist

The experience of NPAC should give pause to those radicals who would
seek to be the "left wing" of the Cleveland popular front. Any real
struggle against imperialist war is necessarily a class struggle and can
only be waged in and through the mass organizations of the working
class. We do not present our revolutionary program as an "action
proposal" to this body, since to do so would only prettify what is a
popular front of class collaboration. It is necessary instead to break
the "alliance" that chains the workers to their war-making exploiters in
the name of "peace." Those who genuinely seek to put an end to
imperialist war must break decisively with all the capitalist parties,
the Green Party of longtime Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney
included, and break with the popular front embodied in the "National
Assembly" and all the other "antiwar" and "peace" coalitions. Every last
one of them is beholden to the Democrats, the only difference is the
UFPJ is up front about it, while the rest (ANSWER, TONC, CAN, World
Can't Wait, etc.) try to disguise it.

The National Assembly in Cleveland has been founded with the
participation of sectors of the Democratic War Party. It exists to
promote "peaceful" mass demonstrations that never have stopped an
imperialist war, and never will. It stabs the suffering people of
Afghanistan in the back, ignores the war against blacks and immigrant
workers, and has nothing to say about the looming war on Iran, all for
the sake of unity with "broad progressive forces," i.e. the capitalist
Democratic Party. And if the tame peace-crawls proposed by this
condominium of fake socialists and bourgeois politicians end up playing
an ancillary role in the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, this will
only set the stage for the next imperialist war - which will also have
its "mass action" antiwar movement, as will the next war, and the next
until the whole system is brought down through socialist revolution.

Pacifism, especially in the "socialist" inflection with which SA and the
other opportunists preach it, diverts anger against the war into
powerless "mass" lobbying in the streets. There is only one program to
stop the imperialist war, and that is the program of revolutionary
Marxism, i.e., Trotskyism. Every day that bourgeois coalitions for
"peace" overshadow and crowd out class struggle against imperialist war
will be another day of unimpeded imperialist slaughter and barbarism.
The period in which the class traitors lead the "movement" nowhere must
come to an end. As the founder and longtime leader of American
Trotskyism wrote during the Korean War:

"The class struggle of the workers, merging with the colonial
revolutions in a common struggle against imperialism, is the only
genuine fight against war. The Stalinists who preach otherwise are liars
and deceivers. The workers and colonial peoples will have peace when
they have the power and use their power to take it and make it for
themselves. That is the road of Lenin. There is no other road to peace."
--James P. Cannon, The Road to Peace (1951)

Break with the bourgeoisie! Build a revolutionary workers party!

"None of the Above"

Various amendments have been offered to the Assembly's Action Proposal
and various opportunist leftist groups will be present. Here is a brief
rundown on some of them.

The League for the Revolutionary Party, a centrist group whose origins
go back to the current of "State Department socialists" of the
anti-Trotskyist renegade Max Shachtman, is embarrassed by the dove on
the logo for the National Assembly and wants it removed. They also want
the assembled Democrats and their friends to oppose the war in
Afghanistan. About 30 years too late! In the 1980-89 Afghanistan war,
the neo-Shachtmanite LRP denounced Soviet intervention while Trotskyists
hailed the Red Army and called for extension of the gains of the October
Revolution to the Afghan peoples. But the LRP does not call for a break
with the Democrats, or anything even approximating a Leninist program
against the imperialist war.

Not surprising, since the LRP's supreme ambition is to be the "left
pole" of a class-collaborationist peace movement. The LRP's signal
pledge of loyalty to the bourgeois order is its elaborate justification
of its "preference" for a draft - just as the U.S. military is
struggling to fill its boots and body-bags. Why? The imperialists "must
have an army," so these phony "revolutionaries" "prefer" a draft. So do
Charles Rangel and a number of other bourgeois politicians. The
Internationalist Group stands on the tradition of Lenin, Liebknecht and
Luxemburg: Not a man or woman, not a penny for imperialist war!

Then we have the Northeast Federation of Anarcho-Communists (NEFAC), a
clot of anti-Soviet "communists" who cheered on the counterrevolution in
the Soviet Union and the deformed workers states of Eastern Europe.
These gentlemen anarchists sniff that the Iraq invasion "violated all
standards of truth, morality and international law and justice." Imagine
that, anarchists for international law! So NEFAC proposes that the
Assembly "calls on the national AFL-CIO and Change to Win federations to
follow the powerful example of the ILWU and organize a coordinated
one-hour stoppage of all work on Election Day, 4 November 2008, to
demand the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq and

In other words, the mid-level union bureaucrats and bourgeois
politicians who populate this Assembly should ask the pro-imperialist
bureaucrats at the head of the labor unions to organize a token
demonstration on election day. If you weren't born yesterday you know
what that would look like, on the off-chance that it comes to fruition
at all: NEFAC is calling for a get out the vote effort for the
Democratic war party, dressed up in laborite "anti-war" language. The
historic May Day ILWU strike against the war, which the IG fought for
while NEFAC was looking for a way to wedge itself comfortably into the
bourgeois peace movement, came from elected union delegates over
resistance from the pro-capitalist union bureaucracy.

There is also a proposal from the AL (Animal Liberation) collective for
"education," which calls on the constituents of this Assembly to educate
the masses about basic Marxist concepts of class relations in capitalist
society and the nature of capitalist war. They might as well ask
crocodiles to become vegans. The whole raison d'etre of the phony
socialists is to mislead the workers.

Finally, the ex-Trotskyist Spartacist League (SL) will be in evidence.
The SL may make some correct criticisms of the various antiwar
coalitions, yet it has abandoned the Leninist program for the defeat of
the U.S. imperialists, instead substituting the "Out Now" slogan that is
indistinguishable from SA and the rest of the opportunist left. The SL
calls vaguely for "class struggle at home." But there is one thing that
"class struggle at home" doesn't mean for the now-centrist SL: the
struggle for workers strikes against the war. The SL used to champion
this call before the counterrevolution in the Soviet Union led to a
regression in the consciousness of its leadership, which now blames the
working class for its own capitulations.

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