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Anti-War OR Anti-Imperialist? June 28, 2005 by RedStar2000


It's no secret that the movement against the war in Iraq is, at least in the U.S. itself, moribund. That's not to say that "nothing" is happening...but it is to say that, well, not much is happening.

There are probably a number of reasons for this. One of the crucial reasons is discussed in this collection.

We have no large, organized anti-imperialist movement in the United States.

That leaves a big hole.


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Those IFTU (Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions) guys are rats. When the UFPJ (United for Peace & Justice) associates itself with them, they are lending credibility to rats.

I don't see how this can be disputed by any informed person.

Now, the "bigger issues" that go far beyond this particular "lapse" of the UFPJ are historical and highly contentious.

The "inner squabble" between various Leninist sects and their "fronts" is indeed of little interest outside their memberships.

How that manifests itself in the "public face" of the anti-war movement is more significant.

For example, you wrote...

quote (Carl Davidson):

One million people marching on Washington in the middle of a war demanding simply 'Get Out Now' IS OBJECTIVELY an anti-imperialist demonstration, even if half the people on the stage are liberals and the other half don't even mention the term.


Setting aside whether or not this is what we can expect to endure at the next UFPJ gathering (I'll defer to your informed judgment on that one), your statement suggests that drawing "a big crowd" is more important and even much more important than what we tell all those people...or that when we've said "Get Out Now", we've said "all" that we have to say. Or perhaps that the speeches at these rituals are entirely irrelevant -- I'd have to agree with that!

"Objectively anti-imperialist"? I guess so...but in an extremely tenuous, not to say timid way. Those big marches are not, in tone at least, particularly militant or angry...people bring their kids and pack lunches. They are "peaceful assemblies to petition the government for the redress of grievances" -- profoundly unthreatening to the prevailing social order by design.

Do they "radicalize people"? I suppose some participants may be encouraged by the big crowds or perhaps by some of the talk they hear from people close by. And, for all I know, some people may be radicalized by the negative example of such marches -- "this kind of thing is never going to accomplish anything; I have to look for something stronger".

Frankly, I think they are mostly "feel good about yourself" ceremonies. They allow people to tell themselves "I'm really not a good German" for one or two days a year and then return undisturbed to their normal lives.

It's "more political" than a family trip to Disney World...but not by much.

quote:

But this inane left posturing helps no one...


To be sure...but "not-so-left" posturing doesn't contribute much either.

When we "ultra-leftists" argue for up-front and explicit support for a victory by the Iraqi resistance, we are arguing against the implicit assumption that this war is a "mistake" or a "neo-con conspiracy" to "betray America's values".

The present war is the inevitable result of the normal functioning of the existing system. It's happened before; it's happening now; and it will keep on happening no matter who is in the White House or who owns Fox News or whatever.

That's the "message" we want to convey and that we think the anti-war movement (such as it is) needs to convey to the American public...whether our demonstration is 100 people or one million people.

Of course, that's an "unpopular" message...it's "down-beat" and even "depressing". It's a "feel bad about yourself" message...we are all really in the shit right up to our eyebrows.

Shame, said Marx once, is a "revolutionary emotion"...and we Americans have much to be ashamed of.

But how shall we ever even begin to attack the monstrous system we have created...if we cannot admit that it is monstrous?

And that we are responsible for its existence!

As one "old-timer" to another, you know as well as I that the real problem with these "broad coalitions" is not personal villainy or organizational perfidy...it's the shared conviction among all involved that "America has made a mistake that we need to and can correct".

No, they can't.
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First posted at NYC IndyMedia on June 24, 2005
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quote (Carl Davidson):

Finally, I think part of the problem here is one of substituting analysis for strategy and tactics.

Wars are inevitable under imperialism -- and there may even be a few between socialists in the future, too. As long as imperialism persists in this world, there will be wars. Saying that, however, doesn't mean each and every war is inevitable, nor that a war can't be prevented or stopped while imperialism still manages to survive, even if weakened, does it?


It's difficult for me to understand where "strategy and tactics" come from...if not from "analysis".

Yes, it's quite true that imperialist wars against "third world" countries can be halted (at least in their overt military manifestations)...but how does this happen?

Is it not mainly due to the resistance in those countries being sufficiently strong and persistent to deny the imperialists a decisive military victory?

Sure, the people who live "in the belly of the beast" can help -- and it could even be argued that such help may be pretty damn important in the final outcome.

But it's also pretty clear that our role is fundamentally subordinate...we're simply not in any position to "stop" a planned imperialist war before it gets under way.

And it's indisputable that if and when the U.S. is defeated in Iraq, they will simply try again elsewhere -- "grow or die" is the inescapable dynamic of empire.

In some fashion, this lesson about reality must be communicated to the great masses of Americans.

And who will do that if we don't?
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First posted at NYC IndyMedia on June 24, 2005
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quote (Carl Davidson):

If you can't envision mobilizing the forces to do something relatively specific and limited, like stopping the onset of a war or ending one, 'redstar,' how in the world do you expect to bag much bigger game, like ending imperialism with proletarian revolution?


Because I was not speaking of what may be possible at some time in the (perhaps distant) future...but what may be possible now or at least in the immediate future.

You and I both remember a time when domestic opposition to imperialist war was much more vehement and wide-spread than it is now...and yet, with all that happened in the U.S., it was really the Vietnamese that "did the job".

In addition, of course, we have very recent experience to guide us. There were huge demonstrations against the war in both the U.S. and the U.K. prior to the aggression...to no avail.

At the very least, they would have to have been several orders of magnitude greater to have had any effect on the war plans.

I think we have to be realistic in assessing what can and cannot be done at any given point. I do not know if a million people will go to Washington in September...but I do know it will have no effect on the war at all.

The people in the U.S. who are probably having the most effect on the war right now are people doing various kinds of anti-recruitment work or trying to reach people already in the military.

If a "million people" were to put in a few hours a week picketing a military recruiting center...I think it might help quite a bit.

quote:

But that doesn't change our responsibility one bit to mobilize and organize a new majority of people here to become willing to take action to end the war even if things weren't going too well for the anti-occupation forces in the occupied country.


A "new majority"? No, that's not going to happen...and it sort of implies that we, in fact, "need" a majority to be "legitimate".

Imperialism is a "bad thing" objectively...even when a majority of people in the imperialist country support it.

quote:

Now the real test of your revolutionary mettle is not cheerleading an array or resistances abroad you really know little about, but is demonstrated by how well you carry out revolutionary education among the most advanced elements of that mass protest here, and how well you consolidate that work into growing a revolutionary organization, an organized force that is not into left posturing or cheerleading, but knows how to build its strength in the current non-revolutionary conditions in its own country, how to project a clear line of march further down the road, and is able to maintain unity and broad alliances with others it has only partial agreement with at the moment.


Did you write that yourself or did you copy it from some recruitment pamphlet? It has "boilerplate" written all over it.

I don't think anyone is "growing a revolutionary organization" at the moment -- though there are certainly people who claim to be doing that. You may, perhaps, be one of them.

Nor has anyone projected a "clear line of march" in the present period...such "lines of march" that I've seen suggest a good deal of pragmatic fumbling around to find "something that will work" -- will catch the public eye and get them to at least begin thinking of the possibility of something different.

There's nothing "wrong" with that...as long as it's not costumed as something more than it really is. To suggest, for example, that "lobbying one's congressperson" is a "clear line of march" (in the sense that Marx used that phrase) is...presumptuous.

quote:

But advocating that we need an 'anti-imperialist' movement INSTEAD OF an antiwar movement, rather than growing a revolutionary organization WITHIN a broader mass democratic movement, is neither here nor there. At best, it's simply self-defeating; at worst, it's unnecessarily splittist.


Ah, I guess if one lives long enough, one sees everything come full circle. The idea of a "revolutionary vanguard" deeply embedded within a non-revolutionary mass movement and "oh-so-gradually" easing that movement into a revolutionary perspective while steadily recruiting its most "advanced elements"...how old is that?

And when did it ever work worth a damn?

You know what really happens? The "revolutionaries" "oh-so-gradually" absorb the non-revolutionary perspective of that "mass movement". Why? Because things are easier that way..."going with the flow" is always easier.

In America (and probably in all capitalist countries), the "flow" is almost always towards the "center" and then towards the "right".

Only those groups or movements that refuse to "go with the flow" have a chance to avoid that fate.

If a significant portion of the movement against the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. were to develop a consistently anti-imperialist position, that might indeed be "splittist" (or be called that). But it would create far more favorable circumstances for the emergence of a genuinely revolutionary current in the U.S. than anything that will ever come out of the "great coalitions".

In fact, I can't think of a single example of any "great coalition" that's ever produced a revolutionary current of any kind, can you?
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First posted at NYC IndyMedia on June 25, 2005
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quote (Carl Davidson):

Goodness, Redstar, it seems you're the realistic pessimist and I'm the optimist in this round.


Yes, there's probably some truth to that...though you yourself did point out earlier that this is a "non-revolutionary" (I would have said reactionary) period.

I certainly did not mean to give the impression that there is anything "wrong" with "delegitimizing, desanctifying and deobfuscating the power of the current authorities". That's a good idea in any period...but you have to be careful that you're really doing that and not just playing into the hands of the authorities by unintentionally conferring additional legitimacy on them by your words or deeds or both.

Big ceremonial anti-war marches in Washington do confer additional legitimacy to the authorities...or at least have been easily "spun" in that direction. The authorities say (and the media echoes) "see how democratic America really is!".

The very first SDS March on Washington was probably "shocking" to the political elite and certainly electrifying to a large number of students back then. The 20th or 50th or 180th such march is recognized by all as a "non-event".

Indeed, SDS, having done it once, never bothered to do it again. Some people argue that that was "just terrible" and even "ultra-leftist" -- but in my opinion, SDS "got it right".

In fact, I think you could make a pretty good argument that SDS was an "anti-imperialist movement" in 1965-69 and did generate "revolutionary currents" albeit relatively small ones. Had it been able to hang on for another five or even ten years, who can say what might have emerged?

But that is "water under the bridge". There is no modern equivalent of SDS...but there do seem to be people and groups that are, well, discontented with UFPJ's perspective.

If such people and such groups eventually coalesce around an explicit anti-imperialist agenda, then, I think, things will start to "move" again. (And I will be much less "pessimistic". *laughs*)

UFPJ would like very much for "everybody" who is against this particular war "for any reason" to "join their show"...there's a seat at the table reserved for each and every one of them. I think that's what your phrase "a new majority" means.

The unity that I would like to see is different; a new table in a new location considerably to the left of the UFPJ...seating all those explicitly opposed to U.S. imperialism as a totality.

I know...that doesn't sound very realistic at this point. You have no difficulty, I'm sure, imagining the squabbling between various Leninist sects...not to mention getting the anarchists to the table at all.

But until that, or something very much like that, happens, I think the present anti-war movement will just continue to stagnate.

By the evidence of reports on this site, the bicycle campaign in New York City is far more energetic and genuinely popular than the anti-war movement...does this not strike you as appalling if not actually shameful?

But there you are -- the young drift towards "where the action is". It was true in the days of SDS and it's just as true now.

quote:

But the coalitions DO provide the soil in which revolutionaries grow and put forth the practical tests for their ability to actually lead. And if they do their job well, both they and 'great coalitions' get stronger and broader. As Ho Chi Minh once put it, 'the harder the core, the broader the front.'


Today, Vietnam is restoring capitalism, as everyone knows. Not to repeat myself endlessly, but what experience has shown is that the "hard core" dissolves into the "broad front" and eventually disappears entirely.

Consider our own American Communist Party. In the 1930s they organized (to all intents and purposes) the CIO. And what happened next? Most of the "communists" just dropped the idea of communism altogether -- and the ones that didn't were kicked out.

It's easy enough (and common enough!) to say "Oh, but they fucked up this way and that way, and I won't make their mistakes, etc."

Perhaps you won't. My "pessimistic" prediction is that you will then make new mistakes and end up in the same boat as the old CPUSA.

For the "hard-core", "great coalitions" are a "mistake-prone" environment. The concessions you must grant to remain part of that coalition, over time, will turn you from "hard-core" into "soft-center".

That seems to be just the way things work.
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First posted at NYC IndyMedia on June 25, 2005
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quote (Carl Davidson):

But unless someone else wants to jump in, this may be a good point to end this particular thread.


And I was just getting "warmed up". *laughs*

quote:

True, after the first march on DC we [SDS] organized in April, 1965, the new leadership elected in 1966, including myself, adopted the '7th war from now' thesis, i.e., we would de-emphasize single-issue marches on DC because 'we are organizing locally to build a radical movement that will be able to stop the 7th war like the one in Vietnam from now.'


Yes, I remember that decision and enthusiastically supported it.

I still do.

Now here we are in the "7th war" and with more such wars "in the (literal) pipeline" (Iran, Syria, Colombia, Venezuela, and ???).

And, I think in all essential respects, the UFPJ is the present "incarnation" of the "New Mobe".

Only this time, there is no "incarnation" of an organized anti-imperialist movement.

And, thus, things do not look good...at all.
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First posted at NYC IndyMedia on June 26, 2005
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