Workers Vanguard No. 899

28 September 2007


Reformist Left: Tail of Democratic Donkey

U.S. Out of Iraq Now!

Down With U.S. Imperialism! For Socialist Revolution!

The recent Congressional hearings on the “surge” of U.S. troops in Iraq, featuring General David Petraeus, commander of American forces in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, did nothing to change public opinion against the bloody occupation. This dog-and-pony show, cynical from start to finish, served to underline the commitment of the current administration to “stay the course” in Iraq as well as the posturing of those who seek to replace that administration, i.e., the Democratic Party.

The progress of the “surge” can be measured in parcels of carnage and misery. Upwards of a million Iraqis have lost their lives since the 2003 invasion, this on top of the 1.5 million who died for lack of food and medicine due to the sanctions overseen by the Democratic Clinton administration in the 1990s. Millions have been forced to emigrate or to relocate internally in desperate hope of surviving the carnage, whether perpetrated by the murderous imperialist occupiers and their hired mercenary butchers, such as Blackwater, or through the sectarian violence unleashed by the occupation. What was once one of the more advanced countries of the Near East today lies in ruins.

In the U.S., sentiment against the occupation in the populace redounded to the benefit of the Democratic Party during the 2006 midterm elections. This was in part due to the services of the reformist left, which sought to build an “antiwar movement” premised on “Anybody but Bush” politics (read: elect Democrats). Now, however, even mainstream Democratic voters are bitterly complaining that electing Democrats has not made a dent. Indeed, when Petraeus gave his report to the House on September 10, the Democrats distinguished themselves primarily by denouncing antiwar protesters who gathered at the hearing and were forcibly removed and arrested under the orders of the Democratic Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Ike Skelton.

Nearly half the Democratic Senators joined with their Republican counterparts ten days later to condemn a New York Times ad by the liberal group, a major force in Democratic politics, that headlined: “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?” The vote came a mere three days after a video surfaced showing 21-year-old Andrew Meyer being tackled and viciously tasered by University of Florida cops for raising a couple of relatively tame questions to Democratic Senator John Kerry.

Such is in fact standard operating procedure for the Democratic Party, the other party of blood-drenched U.S. imperialism. Anti-Vietnam War protesters were bloodied by cops at the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968, during a period of far more radicalization and militant struggle against that losing, dirty colonialist war. Now, the Democrats seek election to the White House based not simply on popular opposition to the Iraq occupation, but centrally because they see that particular war and occupation as running counter to the interests of U.S. imperialism. In this, they speak for more rational and far-sighted wings of the ruling class and the military, joined by some Republicans.

The Republicans are overt enemies of workers and oppressed; the Democrats are past masters at lying to them. The reformist left, having put its energies, such as they are, into promoting Democratic electoral victories by one means or another, now laments the “spinelessness” of the Democrats. The reformists’ efforts are devoted to “making the Democrats fight.” Meanwhile, not one major Democratic presidential contender calls for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Such a withdrawal would be correctly seen as a defeat for U.S. imperialism, and in the squalid world of American electoral politics, the Democrats do not want to be saddled with “losing” this filthy war and occupation.

As revolutionary Marxists in the belly of the imperialist beast, we demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Just as we took a side in defense of Afghanistan and Iraq against the U.S. invaders while politically opposing the Taliban reactionaries and Saddam Hussein’s bloody regime, we have a side today: against the U.S. occupiers, their allies and Iraqi lackeys. Insofar as the forces on the ground in Iraq aim their fire at the occupiers, we call for their military defense against U.S. imperialism without giving any political support to Islamic fundamentalism or nationalism.

Our starting point is the understanding that imperialist war is the necessary product of the capitalist system. It is the concentrated expression of a profit system that daily slaughters workers on the job, that consigns millions to the scrap heap, that metes out brutal racist cop repression. Imperialism is capitalism in its death agony, in which a handful of advanced powers compete for control of markets, raw materials and access to cheap labor. To get rid of war, poverty and oppression, the entire capitalist system must be overthrown through workers revolutions in the U.S. and internationally.

Reform vs. Revolution

This revolutionary program is starkly counterposed to that of the reformists and the various antiwar coalitions they have built and promoted—Workers World Party (WWP) and its Troops Out Now Coalition (TONC), the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) and its World Can’t Wait (WCW) outfit, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and its various Campus Antiwar Network (CAN) groups, the Party for Socialism and Liberation/ANSWER. The mounting frustration with the Democrats is seen by these groups not as an opportunity to break working people and young activists from the politics of “lesser evilism,” but rather to further entrench such politics by preaching that what is needed is more and bigger protests to pressure the Democrats to do the right thing. This program was on display at the September 15 antiwar protest in Washington, D.C., called by ANSWER. And it is what is also being promised for the September 29 antiwar protests heavily promoted by TONC.

Thus, a Workers World (27 September) article titled “How Congress Could Stop the War—But Won’t” states that “it will take a massive, determined, angry and independent movement to force the conciliatory Democratic majority in Congress to put impeachment on the table and take war funding off.” The front-page headline of the prior issue of Workers World (20 September) read: “Camp Out on Congress’s Doorstep to Say No Funds for Racist Occupation!”

Not to be outdone, the ISO’s Socialist Worker online (7 September) moans that the “antiwar movement has failed to build on the momentum from last November’s election.” Its 3 August article on an occupation of Representative John Conyers’ office by liberal activists lauds “antiwar activists” for “taking steps to put liberal leaders of the Democratic Party on the hot seat—demanding action, not words, to end the U.S. war on Iraq and stand up to a Bush administration hell-bent on continuing it.” The punch line of the article: “We must hold the Democratic Congress to account—and pressure it to do what the antiwar majority wants: cut off funds for the war and set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops.”

The logic of such pressure politics was brought home by an insipid leaflet by the New York City CAN demanding that Hillary Clinton “Cut the Funding, Stop the War! What the Hell is Senate For?” Its purpose as the “higher” branch of Congress has always been, in the words of Alexander Hamilton, to be “out of reach of those occasional ill-humors” of the masses. More broadly, the purpose of the entire capitalist government with all its tentacles and branches is, as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels put it in the Communist Manifesto, to act as “a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”

Against the reformists’ lulling of the workers, youth and oppressed into faith-based appeals to the good offices of the bourgeois state, we say what is necessary is class-struggle opposition to U.S. imperialism by the multiracial American proletariat. The struggle against imperialist war must be part and parcel of a struggle against the entire system of exploitation and oppression. The primary obstacle to this revolutionary perspective is the pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy, whose embrace of the capitalist system and promotion of U.S. imperialism’s interests chains the working class to its class enemy, centrally via the Democratic Party.

The working class, the only force with both the objective interest and social power to overthrow this system, needs revolutionary leadership. The Spartacist League fights to build a revolutionary workers party—a U.S. section of a reforged Fourth International—that will lead the proletariat in the struggle for workers rule.

U.S. Hands Off Iran!

In presenting themselves as even more tough than Bush & Co. in the “war on terror,” all the major Democratic presidential candidates support the bloody U.S./NATO occupation of Afghanistan. Moreover, they have all sought to compete with Bush in beating the drums against Iran, promising to keep all options, including a nuclear strike, “on the table” to deal with this supposed “threat.”

When Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited to speak at Columbia University on September 24 (which he did), as when he asked to pay his respects to the dead at the World Trade Center “Ground Zero” (which he was not allowed to do), the politicians of both parties were apoplectic. It’s more than nauseating to hear their whines about “human rights abuses” in Iran as the U.S. rulers spy on, imprison, taser and otherwise make miserable the existence of a large swath of the population in this country. While we are politically hostile to the reactionary mullah-led Iranian regime, we stand against U.S. war threats and nuclear blackmail and say: U.S. hands off Iran! Iran needs nuclear weapons and adequate delivery systems to deter imperialist attack. In the event of an attack by the U.S. or any force acting as its proxy (e.g., Israel), the international proletariat must stand for the military defense of Iran.

As for the reformist left, the “opposition” to war against Iran that it might mention in its publications was exposed last year when the RCP’s WCW and the ISO’s CAN signed onto a petition to “Dear President Bush and Vice President Cheney” advising:

“The most effective way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons would be to closely monitor its nuclear energy program, and to improve diplomatic relations—two tasks made much more difficult by threatening to bomb Iranian territory. We urge you to lead the way to peace, not war, and to begin by making clear that you will not commit the highest international crime by aggressively attacking Iran.”

As we wrote in “ISO, RCP to Bush: Disarm Iran, ‘Lead the Way to Peace’” (WV No. 870, 12 May 2006): “This petition is like appealing to Jack the Ripper to take up social work—while simultaneously demanding that his potential victims walk the streets defenseless.”

For New October Revolutions!

Those newly introduced to political protest often feel that the differences that separate the tendencies on the left should be held in abeyance and that we should “all get together.” But this course is criminal for those fighting to overturn this murderous imperialist system. Reformism is based on the lie that the evils of the bourgeois order can be overcome and that the capitalists can be made—through protest and pressure—to serve the interests of those they exploit and oppress. Although the occasional reform can be wrested through struggle from the capitalist rulers, such reforms are always reversible. History shows again and again that in opposing the program of socialist revolution, the reformists serve to keep this murderous system going, ensuring that protest and anger against it are kept within bounds safe for the bourgeois rulers.

In stark contrast, Marxists tell the bitter truth about this system and fight to organize for its destruction through socialist revolution. Our model is the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the victorious workers revolution that established the world’s first proletarian state power. For decades, including after its bureaucratic degeneration under Stalinism, the Soviet Union was a beacon of liberation, not least for the masses in those countries subjugated by imperialism.

We fought for the unconditional military defense of the Soviet degenerated workers state against imperialist attack and internal capitalist counterrevolution. We called for workers political revolution to oust the Stalinist regime and replace it with one based on workers democracy and revolutionary internationalism. Today, we extend this same program to the remaining deformed workers states of China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba. As for the anti-Communist ISO and its international cothinkers, they hailed the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92—a world-historic defeat for the international proletariat—proclaiming: “Communism has collapsed…. It is a fact that should have every socialist rejoicing” (Socialist Worker [Britain], 31 August 1991).

The military-industrial powerhouse of the non-capitalist world, the Soviet Union had at its disposal a nuclear arsenal that could challenge that of the U.S. That rough nuclear parity stayed the hand of rapacious U.S. imperialism on more than one occasion. Now, in the post-Soviet period, the world has become a far more dangerous place, one of unfettered U.S. military intervention abroad and relentless pounding on the exploited and oppressed “at home.” We fight to forge a Bolshevik party that can mobilize the U.S. proletariat—independent of and in opposition to the capitalist parties—in sweeping away this murderous, decaying capitalist system. Defeat U.S. imperialism through workers revolution!