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Workers Vanguard No. 888

16 March 2007

Reformists Crawl to Democrats

Down With U.S. Imperialism! For Class Struggle at Home!

U.S. out of Iraq, Afghanistan! Hands Off Iran!

The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 has led to the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, a toll that increases daily with the communal warfare between Sunnis and Shi’ites unleashed by the occupation. The United Nations estimates that some 8 percent of the population has been forced to flee the country, while untold thousands remaining in Iraq have been driven from their neighborhoods and towns.

The war and occupation that have devastated Iraq and its peoples is also increasingly a debacle for U.S. imperialism. It is the growing defeatist mood in the ruling class that the liberals and reformist left appeal to in their calls for national antiwar demonstrations on March 17-18—the fourth anniversary of the war—that beg the capitalist politicians for peace. Their appeal to the Democratic Party—the other party of U.S. imperialism—is explicit and direct, summed up in a common chant at recent protests: “Stop the killing! Stop the war! What the hell is Congress for?”

Perceiving that real damage has been done to the interests of U.S. imperialism by the Iraq occupation, Bush’s bourgeois critics are increasingly vocal. A number of politicians and media mouthpieces have warned Bush against issuing a (highly likely) pardon of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff, following his March 6 conviction on charges of lying and obstruction of justice in the CIA “leak” case. Libby was the fall guy for the White House for the outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent, which was the Bush gang’s retaliation for her husband Joseph Wilson’s exposure of some of their more grotesque lies about Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction.”

With the U.S. bogged down in a losing military adventure, the Los Angeles Times (12 March) reports that “American military planners have begun plotting a fallback strategy for Iraq that includes a gradual withdrawal of forces” in the event that “the current troop buildup fails or is derailed by Congress.” The article notes “an atmosphere of extraordinary tension within the Pentagon.”

In a bid to extricate the U.S. from the Iraq morass, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on March 8 announced a bill to pull troops out by August 2008, or sooner if the Iraqi government does not meet “benchmarks” set by its Washington handlers. Democratic leaders banged heads for weeks to come up with a bill that might actually pass and would not portray them as soft on “national defense.” The bill would increase funds for the military, on top of hikes demanded by Bush. According to Democratic Congressman David R. Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, the bill would “redirect more of our resources to the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, fighting the right war in the right place.”

The latest atrocities in this “right war” include the slaughter on March 4 of at least 16 people in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province, when U.S. troops opened fire on civilians. Troops then seized and deleted photographs and film footage of the massacre from AP cameramen. The next day, nine members of one family were killed in a U.S. air strike in central Afghanistan. The Bush administration has also engaged in a series of military moves against Iran, dispatching additional naval forces to the Persian Gulf/Arabian Sea region, and continues to push for stricter UN sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear energy program. The recent increase in U.S. troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan poses an added threat to Iran.

As revolutionary Marxists, we say that working people in the U.S. and internationally have a side against the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. This does not entail the least political support to either the Islamic fundamentalists or the nationalist remnants of the Ba’athists in Iraq, or to the Taliban and similar reactionary forces in Afghanistan. We oppose any economic sanctions, which are acts of war, against Iran. Iran needs nuclear weapons as a deterrent against imperialist attack. In the event of military attack by the U.S. or any country acting on its behalf, we call for military defense of Iran while giving no political support to the mullah regime.

We warn that a big reason the Democrats look to cut U.S. losses in Iraq is to reinforce American military capabilities directed against China, the largest and most powerful of the remaining countries where capitalist rule was overthrown. We stand for the unconditional military defense of the Chinese, North Korean, Vietnamese and Cuban deformed workers states against imperialism and domestic counterrevolution, despite the rule of parasitic Stalinist bureaucracies.

The same ruling class that has wreaked devastation from Iraq to Afghanistan and threatens more of the same in Iran has slashed the pensions, health care and jobs of the working people at home while shredding democratic rights in the name of the “war on terror.” The scandal over the horrendous conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which has prompted the resignation of the Army’s surgeon general among others, is only the latest display of the contempt the capitalist rulers have for those they exploit and oppress, and in this case send off to kill and be killed in their predatory wars.

The crimes of America’s racist capitalist rulers are compounded by the sheer incompetence and corruption of the current administration. This deadly combination was seen by all in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when largely poor and black people in New Orleans were left to die. Hurricane Katrina survivors continue to be abused. As for the Democrats, an article by Mike Davis in New Left Review (January-February 2007) notes that “pressure from conservative white Democrats” led the party’s strategists “to deliberately delete any mention of New Orleans from 2006 campaign advertising.”

In sharp opposition to the reformist left, which seeks to install a “lesser evil” at the head of the murderous capitalist state, the Spartacist League seeks to build a workers party that fights for the overthrow of the capitalist-imperialist order through socialist revolution. Our watchword is the historic Marxist slogan: Not one man, not one penny for the imperialist military!

As a speaker for the Spartacus Youth Club said at a February 15 antiwar teach-in at Columbia University: “Opponents of imperialist slaughter must understand that the struggle against imperialist war must be a struggle against the capitalist system that breeds such wars.” Noting that “the fundamental difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is how best to wage the ‘war on terror’,” he continued, “The power of labor must be mobilized against the capitalist rulers at home and students must mobilize behind that power.”

Reform or Revolution

Military setbacks and outright defeats for the imperialists also weaken the class enemy of the U.S. proletariat on the home front, providing an opening to advance the class struggle. Polemicizing against the opportunist “leftists” of his day, V.I. Lenin described their stance in his Socialism and War (1915) as “class collaboration instead of the class struggle, renunciation of revolutionary methods of struggle, helping one’s ‘own’ government in its embarrassed situation, instead of taking advantage of these embarrassments so as to advance revolution.” It was Lenin’s Bolshevik Party that, through principled opposition to the Russian bourgeoisie during the interimperialist First World War, combatted chauvinist prejudices in the proletariat and led the workers to power in the socialist October Revolution of 1917.

As we wrote in “Opponents of the Revolutionary Internationalist Workers Movement” (an appendix to the SL’s Programmatic Statement, titled “For Socialist Revolution in the Bastion of World Imperialism!”): “All of our party’s activity is directed to organizing, training and steeling the proletarian vanguard party necessary for the seizure of state power. In contrast, the politics of the reformists and centrists consist of oppositional activity completely defined by the framework of bourgeois society.”

Such has certainly been the case with all the various antiwar coalitions—United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ); ANSWER, now led by the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL); the Troops Out Now Coalition (TONC) of the Workers World Party (WWP); World Can’t Wait, etc. None of these “antiwar” groups called for the military defense of Afghanistan or Iraq during the wars in 2001 and 2003, limiting their slogans to pacifist “No to War” appeals to the imperialist rulers. Inevitably, these liberal coalitions promoted the “Anybody but Bush” politics that helped the Democrats retake Congress in November. Now these same organizations blatantly appeal to the Democratic Congress to “stop Bush’s war” by using the “power of the purse.”

In our last issue we reported that supporters of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) were among those at a February 11 University of Illinois-Chicago rally for Barack Obama who unfurled a banner demanding: “Obama: Stand Up! Cut the Funding!” The ISO ceaselessly complains that the Democrats are “weak in the knees” and “need a backbone”—to be provided, if one believes Socialist Worker (2 March), by “a grassroots antiwar movement that can pressure politicians from outside the established party system.” The ISO does not call for breaking with lesser-evil bourgeois politics; it just promotes different vehicles toward that end. That includes promoting Ralph Nader and running ISOers as candidates of the Green Party, a smalltime capitalist party that acts to pressure the Democrats to take a more “progressive” course.

The “World Can’t Wait/Drive Out the Bush Regime” project of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) plans school walkouts on March 20 under the call: “Every generation has a mission—Ours is to drive out the Bush regime!” This, of course, also happens to be the “mission” of the Democrats, particularly focused on 2008 presidential elections.

The Democratic Party, promoted directly or indirectly by the reformist left as a more humane and peaceful alternative to the Republicans, has historically been the bourgeoisie’s preferred party of war—from the interimperialist World Wars I and II to the counterrevolutionary Korean and Vietnam wars to the 1999 war against Serbia. Due to their posture as a “friend” of working people, blacks and the oppressed, the Democrats can more effectively sell U.S. imperialism’s wars to the populace in the name of “democracy” and “human rights.” In this they are served by the pro-capitalist union misleaders, who uphold the interests of U.S. imperialism and chain labor politically to the class enemy through their support to the Democratic Party. We say: Break with the Democrats! Build a workers party that fights for socialist revolution!

Same Program, Different Vehicles

As happens before every set of antiwar demonstrations, the various coalitions are accusing each other of disrupting the “unity” of the “movement.” And, as has been true each time, there is no difference in the programs on offer, which all promote the lie that the capitalist profit system can be pressured to be “peaceful” and to meet the needs of the masses. UFPJ may simply be a bit more open about it, for example at its January 27 protest in Washington, D.C., which featured a panoply of Democrats.

The WWP’s Workers World (1 March) editorializes that “Congress Could Stop the War—But Won’t.” Seeking to add a wee bit more pressure in that direction, the WWP’s TONC plans a weeklong encampment in D.C. to demand of Congress: “Cut Off ALL War Funds! Defund the Pentagon—$$$ for AIDS, Jobs, Healthcare, Housing & Education!” etc., etc. The WWP’s former comrades in the PSL, which runs ANSWER, cluck their tongues over TONC’s groveling appeals in an article on the PSL Web site titled “Congress and the Anti-War Movement” (23 February). The PSL intones, “Suggesting that Congress can be trusted to end the war is a dangerous illusion.” Every bit as dangerous is the illusion that Congress just needs a push from “the people.” Such is the message of the PSL/ANSWER March 17 “March on the Pentagon,” which pleads: “From Iraq to New Orleans, Fund People’s Needs NOT THE WAR MACHINE.”

Bowing and scraping to Capitol Hill, the pseudo-socialist PSL embellishes the fraud of bourgeois democracy, which is nothing more than a “democratic” veil over the class dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Preaching the same gospel, the ISO’s Socialist Worker (8 December 2006) opines: “The long dormant antiwar movement must take to the streets to remind this country’s ruling elite that they ultimately must answer to the people they govern.”

ANSWER touts the fact that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the “historic” Vietnam antiwar march on the Pentagon, which supposedly “marked a turning point in the development of a countrywide mass movement” (Socialism and Liberation, February 2007). As the Spartacist League wrote in a leaflet titled “From Protest to Power” that was distributed at that march, “It is futile to oppose the intervention in Vietnam while supporting the economic system which generates that intervention and the ideology that legitimatizes it.” Referring to an earlier antiwar protest, the leaflet commented that Marxist historian “Isaac Deutscher caught the problem exactly when he said that he’d exchange the whole huge April 15th mobilization for just one dock strike.”

In an online article, the PSL insists that “what will defeat” the U.S. “as in Vietnam, is a powerful and independent people’s movement” (“What Can End the War in Iraq?” 9 March). But it certainly wasn’t the peace crawls and Pentagon “levitations” that drove the U.S. out of Vietnam. Indeed, after 1967 there were six more bloody years of military struggle before the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, and another two years before the final taking of Saigon by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). It was the battlefield victory of the heroic NVA and South Vietnamese National Liberation Front (NLF) that defeated U.S. imperialism. The result was a social revolution in which South Vietnam was united with the North Vietnamese deformed workers state.

“All Indochina Must Go Communist!” was our battle cry, as we called for military victory to the NVA/NLF. Raising the call: “Labor Strikes Against the War,” we sought to galvanize the widespread discontent in the U.S. that was being expressed in part through several major strikes. The antiwar movement that ANSWER harks back to was based on an alliance with capitalist politicians representing the defeatist wing of the bourgeoisie. The “movement” melted away after the U.S. withdrew troops from Vietnam in 1973 and the draft was ended by Republican president Nixon.

The ISO and Afghanistan

Having refused to call for the defense of Iraq against the U.S. invasion in 2003, a number of reformist groups have fallen over themselves to paint the Iraqi “resistance” as some kind of “anti-imperialist” movement. A typical article in the ISO’s International Socialist Review (January-February 2007) croons about the “mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers” who make up said “resistance.” As we have stressed for the last four years, insofar as the forces on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq aim their blows against the imperialist occupiers, we call for their military defense against U.S. imperialism. At the same time, we do not paint these forces as “anti-imperialist.” As revolutionary Marxists, we are vehement political opponents of the Taliban and, in Iraq, of the Islamic fundamentalists, remnants of the Ba’ath regime and other forces carrying out sectarian carnage in Iraq.

The Iraq war is vastly unpopular, and any embarrassment the “resistance” causes the Bush gang can be more grist for the Democrats’ mill. Not so, however, when it comes to the brutal U.S./NATO occupation of Afghanistan, which the Democrats have fully embraced as part of the “war on terror.” We noted last issue that an ANSWER statement for the March 17 Washington protest raised no demands against either the Afghanistan occupation or U.S. threats against Iran. While ANSWER has seen fit to squeeze in such demands for its protest in Los Angeles, ANSWER’s national statement on its March 17-18 “Global Days of Action” disappears the Afghanistan occupation entirely.

The same issue of International Socialist Review that whitewashes the reactionary forces making up the Iraqi “resistance” contains an article by Phil Gasper stating, “The war in Afghanistan is every bit as much an imperial adventure as the war in Iraq.” “But,” Gasper queries, “does this mean that anti-imperialists should now give support to the Taliban, just as we have called for support for the resistance in Iraq?” While “Afghans have the right to resist,” he lectures, “the Taliban may ultimately do more to weaken that resistance than to help it.” The Taliban, he informs us, has “reactionary politics.”

No fooling. Gasper writes that the Taliban “has repeatedly threatened, attacked, and killed women and girls who attend school, work outside the home, or fail to comply with its strict dress code. Most recently its leadership has issued rules calling for teachers to be killed.” Strict dress code?! Most recently?! Atrocities were the stock in trade of the Taliban’s mujahedin predecessors when, with money and arms provided by the CIA, they fought the Soviet Army after its 1979 intervention in Afghanistan, at the request of a modernizing nationalist regime. With imperialist-backed forces threatening the southern flank of the Soviet Union—homeland of the 1917 October Revolution—the war posed an acid test for revolutionaries. We said, “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan!” and called to extend the gains of the October Revolution to the Afghan peoples.

Against the forces fighting for women’s liberation and social progress, the ISO, like the bulk of the “left,” lined up with the Democratic Carter and Republican Reagan administrations by denouncing the Red Army intervention. This betrayal came as second nature to the ISO, which from its inception has been defined by virulent hatred of the Soviet Union. In the name of “democracy,” these social democrats hailed every force arrayed against the USSR. When the Kremlin bureaucrats treacherously began withdrawing Soviet forces from Afghanistan, Socialist Worker (May 1988) cheered, “We welcome the defeat of the Russians in Afghanistan. It will give heart to all those inside the USSR and in Eastern Europe who want to break the rule of Stalin’s heirs.” The withdrawal from Afghanistan prepared the ground for the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet degenerated workers state in 1991-92, a historic defeat for the international proletariat that was hailed by the ISO anti-Communists.

Counterposed to all the various class-collaborationist “antiwar” coalitions, we seek to mobilize the U.S. proletariat—independent of and in opposition to the capitalist political parties—against all the imperialist depredations carried out by the U.S. ruling class. As Lenin’s Bolsheviks showed, promoting class-struggle opposition to one’s “own” bourgeoisie is crucial to forging a workers party that can lead the proletariat in sweeping away the murderous, decaying capitalist system. For new October Revolutions!


Workers Vanguard No. 888

WV 888

16 March 2007


Reformists Crawl to Democrats

Down With U.S. Imperialism! For Class Struggle at Home!

U.S. out of Iraq, Afghanistan! Hands Off Iran!


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