Spartacist Canada No. 161
"Antiwar Movement" Pushes Illusions in Canadian Imperialism
Young Spartacus pages
Two events this spring—a meeting and a demonstration—provided the perfect snapshot of a bankrupt “antiwar movement” mired in Canadian nationalism. On the March 20 weekend the Canadian Peace Alliance (CPA) and the Canadian Federation of Students held a Canada-wide “Student Assembly Against War and Racism” in Toronto. The opening night featured a panel discussion on “Why Occupation Won’t Bring Peace to Afghanistan.” The first panelist, one Abdul Rahman Karim, declared: “I am especially grateful—and I do want to make this point—to the thousands of Canadian soldiers who have conducted themselves with professionalism in Afghanistan.” Karim even endorsed as “a good step” the Obama government’s plans to increase the Afghan army from its current 90,000 to about 200,000! Echoing the Tories’ lying propaganda about how the occupation is bringing great things to the Afghan people, at one point Karim intoned, “We have an obligation to speak out
to protect the gains that we’ve made so far.” Gains?
Presiding over this pro-imperialist rubbish was James Clark, a prominent leader of the International Socialists (I.S.). Clark not only refrained from criticism, but cancelled the promised discussion, ensuring that there would be no adverse comments from the audience. Members of the Trotskyist League and Spartacus Youth Club vocally opposed this cowardly censorship, and many in the audience voted against shutting down the meeting.
Two weeks later, on April 4, the CPA sponsored cross-Canada demonstrations to coincide with the protests against the NATO anniversary summit in Strasbourg. Calling to “Protest Against Canada’s Afghan Surge,” the CPA claimed that “Real security and prosperity will only be possible in Afghanistan when Western governments end their support for NATO’s war,” concluding with the demand that “NATO members must be accountable to their own populations, and not to NATO generals.”
Who, if not the “Western governments,” does the CPA think is running NATO’s war in Afghanistan?! And the plaintive call on the imperialist powers to divorce themselves from their own military alliance is beyond absurd. These demands reflect the CPA’s reformist, Maple Leaf nationalist goals: “redirecting funds from military spending to human needs; working toward global nuclear disarmament; making Canada a consistent leader for world peace; strengthening world institutions for the peaceful resolution of conflict; and protecting the rights of all people to work for peace, social & economic justice.”
The idea that the Canadian imperialists—the junior partners of U.S. imperialism—could be pressured into becoming a force for peace and justice anywhere, at home or abroad, is as vain as it is laughable. Canada long since shed its former “peacekeeping” pretense which in any case always served the interests of its U.S. senior partners. The main purveyors of this nationalist-pacifist mythology today are the New Democrats and the reformist left groups that hang on their coattails.
It was thus fitting that the CPA’s most prominent speaker in Toronto on April 4 was NDP MP Olivia Chow. Last December the NDP cast off its paper-thin position to “end the war” in Afghanistan in order to climb into bed with the bosses’ Liberal Party in a short-lived coalition against the Tories. Soon after, the Liberals climbed out of bed. Left to themselves, the NDP sought to resurrect their antiwar façade, a farce in which the CPA’s Toronto affiliate graciously assisted by providing Olivia Chow a platform.
The NDP was on the platform that day, but Barack Obama was omnipresent as the fake left’s Holy Spirit of all things feel-good and progressive. When ex-president George Bush visited Calgary and Toronto recently, the CPA organized rallies in protest. In contrast, when Obama, the new Commander-in-Chief of racist American imperialism, visited Ottawa in February, the CPA organized no protest there, but issued a groveling “Tell Obama—Yes we can!” statement politely asking him to “cancel plans to expand the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
It is the imperialist system of exploitation and subjugation that breeds war and devastation without end. But this basic Marxist understanding is thoroughly alien to the left groups who help lead the CPA, notably the I.S. By spreading illusions in the possibility of “peace” under imperialism, these groups reduce themselves to the role of accomplices to the violence and exploitation of this ruling class.
The Fake Left and Afghan Women: Echoes of Imperialist Hypocrisy
Serving the interests of imperialism is hardly new for the I.S. When the Soviet Union entered Afghanistan in December 1979 to fight the CIA-backed mujahedin cutthroats, whose insurgency was sparked by the Afghan government’s modest program of social reforms, the I.S. denounced the Soviet “invasion.” This was in lockstep with the imperialists’ drive for the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union, which the I.S. went on to celebrate.
The I.S. has been touting one Nikolai Lanine, a former Soviet soldier, who spoke on the CPA’s March 20 panel. Lanine equated the progressive Soviet intervention with the present reactionary NATO imperialist occupation of Afghanistan. Instead of a NATO occupation, Lanine calls for a “genuine long-term UN peacekeeping mission, probably for 15-20 years at least” (Socialist Worker, 6 March 2007)—an imperialist occupation in UN colours.
Today’s NATO puppet regime includes many of the same gang of imperialist-backed mujahedin warlords who turned the country into a hell for women when they took power in 1992. In April, when this government enacted a horrific law which sanctioned the rape of women by their husbands, a protest by some brave Afghan women was set on by a mob of Islamists who hurled stones and shouted anti-woman filth. Afghan MP Shinkai Karokhail declared that the demonstration “was the first time in the history of Afghanistan that women were aware of their rights.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
The 1979 Soviet intervention marked the only war in modern history fought centrally over the status of women and we Trotskyists backed it, declaring “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan!” This was an expression of our unconditional military defense of the Soviet workers state despite its degeneration under a Stalinist bureaucratic caste. The liberating effects of the Soviet presence could easily be measured: in 1988, Afghan women made up 40 percent of the doctors and 60 percent of the teachers at the University of Kabul; 440,000 female students were enrolled in educational institutions and 80,000 more in literacy programs. Western dress was common in the cities, and women enjoyed a real measure of freedom from the veil and subjugation for the first time in Afghanistan’s history. Some 15,000 women joined the militias, taking up arms to defend not only the rights they had won but their very lives. With the 1989 Soviet withdrawal and subsequent triumph of the CIA’s holy warriors, this was all drowned in blood.
It is obscene but all too typical that those like the I.S. (and their pal Lanine), who claim to champion the interests of Afghan women, would promote the fortunes of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). Throughout the 1980s, RAWA stood with the CIA-backed Islamic fundamentalists and fought against the Soviet military. More recently they too have lobbied for UN imperialist “peacekeepers” to occupy Afghanistan. (For the full goods on this outfit, see “RAWA Afghan Feminists Back Imperialist Reaction,” Workers Vanguard No. 776, 8 March 2002.)
In Canada as elsewhere, there is an unbreakable link between the fake left’s toadying to apologists for the imperialist occupation in Afghanistan today and their earlier support to the CIA’s anti-Soviet mujahedin. The Trotskyist League and Spartacus Youth Club seek to build an organization capable of bringing revolutionary consciousness to the working class, and of leading it to seize power from the most powerful, violent and well-organized ruling class in history: the imperialist bourgeoisie. For revolutionaries in Canada, this means in the first instance fighting to mobilize workers in struggle against the rulers on Parliament Hill and Bay Street. Anti-imperialism abroad means class struggle at home!