Workers Vanguard No. 1029
6 September 2013
Not One Person, Not One Penny for the Imperialist Military!
ROTC Off Campus!
(Young Spartacus pages)
The U.S. military’s Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) is now returning to the City College of New York (CCNY) for the first time in over 40 years. Forced off CCNY and over 100 other campuses by the militant struggles against the Vietnam War, ROTC is a program that trains students to become the next generation of officers whose job will be to carry out U.S. imperialist slaughter around the globe. The Spartacus Youth Clubs oppose the imperialists, their war aims and their armed forces, upholding German revolutionary Wilhelm Liebknecht’s call: “Not a man and not a penny” for bourgeois militarism!
From the atomic incineration of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to the dirty wars in Central America that slaughtered leftist insurgents, to today’s global “war on terror,” U.S. imperialism—under both Democratic and Republican administrations—has proven to be the most powerful terrorist force on the planet. It sits on the largest stockpile of operational nuclear weapons and has a military budget greater than that of the next 19 countries combined.
The Democratic Obama administration is infamous for its “Terror Tuesday” meetings to decide which Pakistanis, Yemenis and U.S. citizens to assassinate in drone strikes. The Commander-in-Chief orders his officers to oversee the torture of Guantánamo prisoners, including through force-feeding. And as we go to press, Obama is putting the finishing touches on his plan to bombard Syria. Hands off Syria! U.S. out of the Near East!
Domestically, the military is a key tool for suppressing dissent and carrying out strikebreaking. The U.S. rulers sent the National Guard to Los Angeles to crush the 1965 Watts ghetto rebellion and the 1992 upheaval sparked by the acquittal of the LAPD cops who beat black motorist Rodney King. In 1970, the same troops who massacred four antiwar protesters at Kent State University had been dispatched straight from strikebreaking duty against Cleveland Teamsters. In 2011, Obama deployed the military against ILWU Local 21 during the struggle between the longshoremen’s union and the bosses in Washington State. At home and abroad, these are the jobs for which ROTC is training students.
While carrying out its crimes against the world’s peoples, the Obama White House has prosecuted twice as many whistle-blowers as all previous administrations combined. U.S. Army Pfc. Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, a 25-year-old hero, was tortured, subjected to a military show trial and sentenced to 35 years under the Espionage Act for the “crime” of releasing to the world classified documents showing only a fraction of the horrors carried out by the U.S. military. Through its treatment of Manning and its unrelenting war on Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, the White House is sending a message that it will tolerate no dissent or exposure of its war crimes, its massive spy operations and its shredding of basic democratic rights. Free Manning now! Hands off Snowden and Assange!
Petraeus, ROTC, Military Recruiters Off Campus!
The City University of New York (CUNY), which has 24 campuses including CCNY, has granted General David Petraeus a visiting professorship at Macaulay Honors College. The résumé of this former CIA director and commander in Iraq and Afghanistan includes overseeing the torture of insurgents and civilians; directing drone strike assassinations; and heading up the CIA spy apparatus that, for decades, has organized to destabilize and overthrow elected governments that are not to Washington’s liking, and to install its lackeys.
The halls of CUNY campuses are crawling with academic ideologues for U.S. imperialism. But Petraeus is different: he has the blood of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans and others on his hands. He should be driven off campus—not for his views, but for his deeds. We are in favor of students, teachers and campus workers driving imperialist war criminals off campus through protest and exposure. Last fall, when NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen came to campus, the SYC initiated a protest against him (see “SYC Protests NATO at CCNY,” WV No. 1011, 26 October 2012).
Many campuses have been welcoming back ROTC, especially after Obama’s 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). For years, many reformists and liberals based their protests against ROTC solely on the U.S. military’s institutionalized anti-gay bigotry. We protest all forms of discrimination, including in the military. At the same time, our opposition to ROTC is based not on the multitude of anti-democratic features of the U.S. armed forces, but on our dedication to the destruction of imperialism and opposition to its depredations worldwide.
We fight against every attempt by the ruling class to use college campuses as direct training grounds for the agents of U.S. imperialism. But academic institutions are not “ivory towers” isolated from the rest of capitalist society; rather they serve the needs of the capitalists. The CCNY administration was never against ROTC or the U.S. military. When it dropped ROTC from campus in 1971 in response to student protests, it simultaneously encouraged the setup of a regional ROTC center to serve CCNY off-campus. The administration is the agent of the ruling class on campus. Abolish the administration! For student, teacher, worker control of the universities!
The Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee (RSCC), a Maoist student group active at CUNY campuses, wants the administration to be wielded for “revolutionary” ends. The RSCC Platform states, “We want teachers who suppress progressive and revolutionary ideas to be removed.” This is a despicable call to purge teachers and feeds into the nationwide crusade against the teachers unions, spearheaded by the White House and directed in New York City by Bloomberg’s administration. We side with the teachers unions against the wholesale attacks on public education, including the attempts to shred seniority rights and tenure.
In its July 13 leaflet “Hands off Assata Shakur! Eyes on David Petraeus! Stop the Militarization of CUNY!” the RSCC claims, “We find two tendencies within the legacy of CUNY: one revolutionary and one reactionary.” It fatuously declares: “We must view CUNY as an ideological front against the bourgeoisie and imperialism, particularly US imperialism!” While the RSCC peddles the myth of a potentially anti-imperialist state-run college, the SYCs expose and protest the administrators, who unleash the cops to quash student protest. In 2005, three CCNY students and one staff member were arrested and brutalized by the cops for protesting military recruiters during a career fair. The students were also suspended (see “ROTC, Military Recruiters Off Campus Now!” WV No. 846, 15 April 2005).
We oppose signing up for the volunteer army. Correspondingly, we also oppose military conscription, which serves to turn the bulk of working-class youth into cannon fodder for imperialist wars. Since their humiliating military defeat in the Vietnam War, the U.S. rulers have been hesitant to reinstate the draft for fear of the public outrage this would cause. Yet, sooner or later, the U.S. ruling class will find it necessary to reinstate the draft. The duty of revolutionaries, if drafted, is to go into the military with the mass of young workers and seek to win the working-class ranks to the fight for socialist revolution (see “On Draft Resistance: You Will Go!” Spartacist No. 11, March-April 1968).
The U.S. rulers today catch poor and minority students in the vise of minimum-wage jobs and skyrocketing tuition, and many youth see no alternative to eternal debt peonage other than through a tuition break offered by joining ROTC and carrying out the imperialists’ bidding. What is necessary is a fight to abolish the student debt! For free, quality education and a state-paid living stipend for all!
Democrats—The Other Party of Racism and War
Reformists and antiwar liberals would have you believe that imperialism is just a militaristic “policy” that the ruling class can scrap if they are pressured hard enough through protests, elections or moral suasion. In his classic work on the subject, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916), Lenin explained why imperialism is not a set of particular policies, but the final stage of capitalism in its decay. The words of our Trotskyist forebears, written over 80 years ago, are still true:
“It is necessary, however, to understand that war is an integral part of capitalism. Every national section of capitalism depends upon its military arm for the defense of the same. War is the practical means through which one or the other capitalist state acquires control of the world market. The armed forces of a capitalist state has a twofold function: on the one hand the defense of the interests of the state externally, and on the other, the weapon by which the working class is kept in subjection at home. When this is understood it will become quite clear why the ‘outlawing’ of war can come about only through the destruction of capitalism.”
—“Imperialist War and the Class Struggle,” Young Spartacus, March 1932
To abolish imperialist militarism and capitalist exploitation, it is necessary to organize the social power of the working class for socialist revolution. Students by themselves do not have the social power necessary to transform society. They must ally themselves with the multiracial working class, which can physically bring capitalist production to a halt. The working class has the capacity to drive the bosses from power and establish workers rule. Only workers revolution can smash U.S. imperialism!
Returning a fifth of the world’s population in China to capitalist enslavement is today the ultimate prize sought by the imperialists. Anyone who is seriously committed to fighting U.S. imperialism must take a firm stand in defense of China and the other bureaucratically deformed workers states—Vietnam, North Korea, Laos and Cuba—without giving any political support to the Stalinist bureaucracies. Genuine opposition to U.S. imperialism requires the unconditional military defense of the countries where capitalism has been overthrown.
Fighting against imperialism means fighting for the working class and militant youth to break from the parties of the class enemy. But the RSCC is doing the exact opposite. Founded in February 2012, the RSCC was or is affiliated with the pro-Democrat Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO). RSCC supporters have verbally claimed to us that this relationship has ended, but we have looked in vain for any evidence of such a rupture. Where is the RSCC’s written position on the FRSO’s 2008 endorsement of Obama, the candidate of the class enemy? (See “Freedom Road Socialist Organization: Democrats’ Loyal Maoists,” WV No. 1004, 8 June 2012.) So stung were they by this exposure of the FRSO that, on March 16, the RSCC organizers outrageously threatened to call the cops on our comrades who were distributing this WV article outside an RSCC forum!
The Democratic Party, in fact, is the bourgeoisie’s preferred party to lead it into war. Democratic Party administrations led World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the wars against Serbia and Libya. And it is on Obama’s watch that the ruling class is waging its ideological war to mop up any vestiges of the “Vietnam syndrome” and get the ROTC operations back up and running openly rather than in a semi-covert way.
For all their “revolutionary” rhetoric, red flag waving and occasional criticisms of Obama, these Maoists do not breathe a word of opposition to the capitalist Democratic Party in the RSCC Platform, Constitution, or Points of Unity. Currently the RSCC, together with the centrist Internationalist Group (IG), is spearheading the “Ad-Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY” and called two protests this month against ROTC and General Petraeus. Given the RSCC’s politics—as well as those of the IG, which chases almost any reformist tail to wherever it leads—it is no surprise that the Ad-Hoc Committee’s 500-word manifesto (“CUNY Must Not Be a War College!” undated leaflet) manages the nearly impossible feat of failing to mention the Democratic Obama administration for which Petraeus worked, which is now overseeing the return of ROTC, and which is terrorizing the planet.
The fight against ROTC is part of a necessary fight for workers revolution to expropriate the capitalist class. We seek to join in concrete action with those who want to drive ROTC and Petraeus off campus, while always maintaining our separate political program and freedom of criticism. The SYCs, youth auxiliaries of the Spartacist League/U.S., section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), seek to break young workers and students from the ideological chains that bind them to illusions in capitalism and the warmongering Democratic Party. Young militants must study the lessons of history and understand that the world as it is today is not how it has always been, nor will always be. The capitalists may seem omnipotent today, but they are not so powerful as to prevent class struggle from breaking out. We stand for building a revolutionary Trotskyist party to lead a workers revolution that will replace today’s dictatorship of the bourgeoisie with the dictatorship of the working class.