Workers Vanguard No. 954
12 March 2010
Reformists Beg Imperialist Warmakers for Peace
Obamas Bloody Afghanistan Offensive
U.S. Out of Afghanistan, Iraq!
Hands Off Pakistan, Iran!
Having announced late last year that he was ratcheting up the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to nearly 100,000, President Barack Obama last month launched the largest military operation since the U.S. and NATO forces invaded that country in 2001. On February 13, thousands of troops attacked rural Marja in Taliban-controlled southern Afghanistan. This was the first stage of a wider military offensive aimed at seizing control of Kandahar, the country’s second-largest city.
Washington offered cynical promises that the civilian population would be spared during this offensive. But bloody atrocities directed against civilians are inherent in all imperialist occupations because the occupiers view every local resident as a potential insurgent. Indeed, on the second day of the assault in Marja, U.S. troops fired missiles into a family’s home, killing 12 people, half of them children. On February 21, in the deadliest single U.S./NATO attack on civilians in six months, three minibuses were blown away in an air strike, killing 27.
Parallel with Obama’s surge in Afghanistan, the White House is expanding the CIA’s program of using unmanned drone aircraft to launch missile attacks against Taliban fighters in Pakistan, where the government, under U.S. pressure, has launched offensives against Taliban forces in the northwest region bordering Afghanistan. Already, in the first year of Obama’s administration, the U.S. carried out more drone strikes in Pakistan than in the previous three years under Bush. More than 700 Pakistanis were killed in these attacks last year alone. Meanwhile, the Pentagon reportedly plans to reinforce the more than 100 U.S. special operations forces currently in Pakistan.
The U.S. military is also stepping up operations in the strategically important Horn of Africa and Gulf of Aden region. Along with escalating drone strikes against suspected Al Qaeda fighters in Yemen, in December Obama approved a series of operations by U.S. commandos together with Yemeni troops that have killed scores of people. In Somalia, the U.S. is reportedly providing training, funds and logistical support for a planned offensive by what passes as the local government, backed up by African Union “peacekeepers,” against clan-based Islamic fundamentalist militias that control much of the country.
The Obama administration has also expanded Bush’s efforts to force Tehran to rein in its nuclear program. Iran, which claims that it does not aim to develop nuclear weapons, is now subject to a barrage of UN and U.S. sanctions. We oppose these sanctions, which are acts of war. In Saudi Arabia last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lectured Iran’s rulers that they “do not have a right” to “pursue nuclear weapons.” In fact, given the threats by the U.S. imperialists as well as their Israeli clients, it would be perfectly reasonable for Iran to pursue acquisition of nuclear weapons and adequate delivery systems to deter military attack.
Wars of conquest and occupation are integral to the capitalist-imperialist system, as is demonstrated by the entire history of U.S. imperialism from the Philippines at the dawn of the 20th century to Iraq and Afghanistan today. At home, the capitalist rulers who have looted the economy rake in hundreds of billions in government bailout money while the working class and poor are driven into deeper deprivation, homelessness and misery. The unemployment rate for black workers in Michigan is projected to soon surpass 25 percent—the rate of total unemployment in the depths of the 1930s Great Depression. The only way out of this system predicated on exploitation, racist oppression and war is socialist revolution: the seizure of power by the proletariat and the building of a workers state that will expropriate capitalist property and institute a planned economy based on production for social need.
In the face of the 2001 and 2003 invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Spartacist League stood for the military defense of those countries against imperialist attack without giving any political support to the reactionary Taliban cutthroats or the bloody capitalist dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. We raised the call for class struggle at home against the U.S. capitalist rulers. We underlined that every victory for the imperialists in their military adventures encourages more predatory wars while every setback serves to assist the struggles of working people and the oppressed the world over. Today we continue to call for the immediate withdrawal of all imperialist troops and bases from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.
In contrast, for years the reformist left built an “antiwar movement” premised on the illusion that the blood-soaked capitalist rulers could be pressured to make peace and serve human needs, exemplified by timeworn demands for money for schools/jobs/health care, not war. As intended, the effect of rallying against “Bush’s war” was to promote the electoral fortunes of the Democratic Party—the other party of U.S. imperialism. As the Democrats retook Congress in 2006 and especially as Obama’s presidential campaign took off, the protests withered. Upon Obama’s election as president, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) held a victory party and Workers World Party (WWP) declared its “joy”: Mission accomplished.
Obama’s election has, also as intended, given a facelift to U.S. imperialism. But with U.S.-led forces sinking deeper into the Afghan quagmire, Obama’s attempt to persuade Washington’s NATO allies to commit additional troops is largely falling flat. While Germany agreed to up its troop levels, France balked at the request. And the Dutch coalition government fell when its Labor Party component refused Washington’s request to extend that country’s military presence in Afghanistan for another year. The New York Times (25 February) editorialized: “We fear the Dutch decision could provide cover for wavering politicians elsewhere—Germany, for example, or Canada, which is now scheduled to pull out its troops at the end of 2011.”
At home, with most of the population opposing Obama’s war in Afghanistan and reeling from the effects of the Great Recession, the liberal-reformist left is beset by dread that Republicans are about to regain control of Congress and, even, the White House two years later. The liberal Nation (12 February) spelled it out most clearly: “As for the surge in Afghanistan and the endless war that goes with it, by election time 2010 it’s an even bet that it will have further undermined any hopes of a late-inning Democratic Party revival.”
The ISO chimes in, more in sorrow than in anger: “Having given the Democrats a huge opportunity to move the country away from the right-wing Republican dominance of the Bush-Cheney years, voters are now not sure they want to return the Democrats to power in the 2010 elections” (“How the Democrats Blew It,” Socialist Worker, 29 January). For his part, WWP leader Larry Holmes bemoans Obama’s “thankless job—and some people consider it a setup—of presiding over this political period” (Workers World, 18 February).
The reformists’ current task is to re-energize a “movement”—any movement—to put some wind back in the Democrats’ sails. Thus the message on offer from the annual March “antiwar” exercise staged by the ANSWER coalition, an outfit founded by WWP and now controlled by the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL): Obama, the Wall Street Democrat, must start listening to his “progressive” supporters, too. After all, according to a 13 December 2009 posting by the PSL on its Web site, Obama is in the middle of a delicate “balancing act between the interests of imperialism, on one hand, and the growing opposition around the world against imperialism on the other.”
Baldly expressing the disappointment felt by the President’s reformist fan club, the ISO wrote in “The Year of Frustrated Hopes”: “Obama had the opportunity to change the direction of U.S. politics and society—and the popularity to accomplish it” (Socialist Worker, 29 January). Here is a crystal-clear example of what Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin described in “Marxism and Reformism” (September 1913): “Reformism actually means abandoning Marxism and replacing it by bourgeois ‘social policy’.” As exemplified by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal coalition in the 1930s, the pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy and reformist left have long sought to influence “bourgeois policy” by means of pressuring the Democratic Party, deceptively offered as the friend of labor, blacks and the poor.
In the midst of the popular euphoria over Obama’s inauguration, we reaffirmed the need to fight to break the political chains binding the proletariat and the oppressed to the capitalists. As we wrote in “Barack Obama Takes Helm of Racist U.S. Imperialism” (WV No. 929, 30 January 2009):
“There is no ‘common ground’ between imperialist president Barack Obama, representative of the capitalist system, which is based on the exploitation of labor, and the working class, including its growing immigrant sector and its strategic black component. Labor desperately needs a fighting leadership to unleash the power of the multiracial working class in struggle for workers’ economic interests and for black rights, to organize the unorganized, to demand full citizenship rights for immigrants, and to oppose U.S. imperialism
“We fight for a workers party with a revolutionary internationalist program aimed at the liberation of the proletariat and all the oppressed. As opposed to the Obama-enthralled reformist opponents, our revolutionary continuity extends from the Bolsheviks of Lenin and Trotsky, who led the 1917 October Revolution. Our watchwords are those of these revolutionary antecedents: for a proletarian, revolutionary and internationalist party to lead the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat and all the oppressed masses. For new October Revolutions!”