Behind the empty bravado of
non-class anti-imperialism

(CV #33, March 25, 2004)

John Paul Cupp: On the need for a pro-Iraq united front in the US
Real anti-imperialism, or sham? by Wilhelmina
On the need for a pro-WORKER front by Nick


. On November 29-30, Portland's John Paul Cupp posted around the Internet a statement calling for a united front of anti-imperialists to support the Iraqi resistance. It caught our attention because building more unity of anti-imperialists for actions, contingents, campaigns, and so on is something we strive for. But Cupp's statement was a sectarian screech against the work to build a political movement against the war, and he also advocated support for reactionary forces in Iraq. This would include the Baathist remnants of the Hussein regime and fundamentalist clerics.

. Cupp ran into immediate opposition on Indymedia. But his stand represents a certain trend of thinking. Certain others on the left, most notably many of the Trotskyists, also defend support for local reactionaries by claiming that this is anti-imperialism. Usually they are not as forthright as Cupp. They may claim to give only "military not political support" to these reactionaries, or they may gloss over precisely which forces they are supporting. But forces like, say, WWP/ANSWER will essentially use the same appeal that American activists supposedly have no right to do anything but support the supposed local leaderships.

. Such thinking as Cupp's is the sorry result of a politics that ignores the class struggle. It is not based on considering the interests of the workers and other toilers. And in reality, beneath the anti-imperialist phrases of this tendency lies a very demoralized way of thinking. Faced with the horrors that U. S. imperialism is forcing on the Iraqi and other peoples, such people lose faith in the ability of the working people to resist. Instead of making every effort to assist the working people of this country and Iraq to build a movement independent of the bourgeoisie, they look for salvation by siding with one reactionary fighting another.

. This is the same thinking that leads reformists to demand that the movement back the Democrats under the banner of "anyone but Bush". The reformists have lost faith in the ability of the workers of this country to stand in their own interest, so they devote themselves to backing one or the other pro-capitalist politician. In its way, John Paul Cupp's statement, despite its red and anti-imperialist bravado, only represents the flip-side of this. He comes along to say "anyone but the Bush/imperialist-installed government in Iraq" while sloughing over the reactionary nature of the leaders he says U. S. activists should have "unconditional solidarity with".

. We reproduce below excerpts from Cupp's appeal and two replies which it met from anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninists in the Northwest. Some typos have been corrected.

On the need for a pro-Iraq united front
in the US

by John Paul Cupp
Information Co-Ordinator, Anti-Imperialist Solidarity Committee (USA)
anti_imperialist_solidarity@yahoo. com

. It is clear that invasion of Iraq was an act of unprovoked aggression. As such, the people of Iraq, and their leadership, whatever our differences, deserve our unconditional solidarity as they resist this attack and further occupation. This includes solidarity with the very armed resistance that is sending "our troops" to their justly deserved body-bags.

. The Zionists and neo-con war hawks have literally mapped out a plan for "regime change" throughout the Arab and traditionally Islamic world. Is it not then understandable that the banner of Anti-US/Anti-Zionist struggle is carried highly by Arabs, Muslims, and all genuine anti-imperialists throughout the world? Is in not then understood that whatever our differences, these comrades-in-arms, are entitled to our unconditional support?

. All pretenses of the invasion of Iraq, have been shown to be blatant lies, and the real nature of this so-called "liberation" mission is all too clear to see. Absolutely no one, can on one hand call themselves anti-imperialist, and at the other not only oppose the continued occupation, but also not side with the anti-occupation resistance, including armed resistance.

. In the era of fierce anti-imperialist class struggle, the primary mode of resistance is the gun, that is armed resistance centered on the masses themselves, as the army of national-liberation. . . We call on the Popular, Leftists, and worker-based forces to understand this truth, and to take a principled stance in solidarity with Iraq. May the Imperialists and their GI Mercenaries find their throats slit and their heads bashed in with concrete!

. . . . .

. While most of the Left has its head up its ass, trembling in fear at the misnomer of "antisemitic " which the Zionist Enemy dishes out at it each time it comes closer and closer to standing with Palestine, and its Arab and Muslims inhabitants, the Muslim Comrades, whatever our differences, within in the Imperialist Countries, are applauded the world over for their willingness to combat the Zionist Enemy. For this, whatever our religious differences with Islam, we must applaud our Islamic Brothers for their courage, and stand in the trenches with them, no matter how much our hated common enemy calls us "antisemitic" or "third-positionist" ( fascist), for we know that Zionists and their capitulators are the real third positionists!

. As Iraq is a traditionally Islamic country, it is only under-standable that the Muslim Ummah (unity of Islamic people) around the world would stand with Iraq. In standing for Iraq's right to self-determination, we stand for it unconditionally, no matter what religion(s) it chooses for its self. The Muslim People of Iraq, and in fact, just about no one in Iraq has harmed the working class of the US, particularly the Black, Chicano, and Native American Working Class. It is clear that whatever our differences, the Islamic Community, is a highly oppressed community, and that the so-called "left" controlled by traditionally Judeo-Christian elements, has an unjust bias against Islam. Even comrades, who are atheists, agnostic, or "secular", should be able to recognize that this undemocratic bias is counterproductive to our goal of building genuine anti-imperialist people's movements. What is even clearer is that, like it or not, the Islamic Community is a major part of the pro-resistance forces that should be built in the US.

. We call for Red-Green Unity, that is the unity of Worker-based popular forces, and Islamic popular forces in the US. This mirrors the on the ground realities of Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq. An injury to one is an injury to all. We should oppose "green-baiting" in order to build a Pro-Iraq United Front as much as we would have opposed "red-baiting" of socialists, communists, and anarchists, during the McCarthy era. Also the Geo-political ramifications of Iraq are great. It is unlikely that the Imperialists and Zionists will "cut their losses" and accept defeat in Iraq easily. Therefore, it is necessary that all pro-Iraq Forces are on page with one another, have warm normalized relations, and that centralized co-ordination occurs. United we can aid in the Military/Political Defeat of the US, consolidate gains with the Iraqi Resistance, and share with the world, the liberation this brings!

. We call for further strengthening ties, directly with the Iraq Resistance Forces, including Armed Resistance Forces, whether this is legal or not. The sons and daughters of John Brown and Nat Turner, must not care! It is clear the primary factor leading to the end of the war in Vietnam, was not the US anti-war movement, but the number of GI's that The NLF and Vietcong sent home in a body-bag. Such is the case with this war. It is noble that 100,000 or more would stand together with signs to oppose a war in Iraq, or the further occupation, but it is cosmetic at best. Furthermore, without principled stances, we are not in a position to actually create gains, that is to aid in the military/political defeat of Iraq. In fact in a country such as ours, with wanton opportunism, a group or 20, or even 3, is more capable than the large sectors of the Anti-war movement to create gains, both at home and abroad.

. . . .

. Below are some suggestions for what would concretely define a Pro-Iraq Camp, and what would be an immediate exclusion. . . .

1. Withdrawal of all support for US Troops, up until they on some level resist. While most of the anti-war movement wishes to show its loyalty to "our troops", we recognize two diametrically occurring antagonistic forces exist. We stand with Iraq, and not US Imperialism.

2. Co-ordinated solidarity campaigns for Troops of any country stationed in Iraq, which either mutiny or refuse to fight. By demonstrating that cannon fodder does not have our support unless, it resists, and that by resisting, not only does it have our support, but it will be able to "get away with" its actions, we are draining the fish pond of the imperialists. We do not recognize the validity of the law, of any country which wages or aids in the waging of an unjust war of aggression in Iraq, and as such we stand for resistance unconditionally.

3. Refusal to tolerate Opportunism, and Chauvinism, Principally, Pro-US Sentiment and Zionism. Without a fighting platform based on principle we are nothing. By letting the "enemy within" to foster, we are aiding our own demise.

4. Unconditional Solidarity With Iraq and Its Leadership. Whatever our differences, the People of Iraq, and the People of Iraq, alone, are the master of their own destiny. They do not need Chomsky, Zinn, or any other Western Leftist to think for them. They are entitled to our solidarity no matter what our differences. The Iraq people have shown that they are light years more advance in the concept of anti-imperialist class struggle, and are the ones most capable and deserving of choosing the strategies and tactics they choose in their glorious anti-occupation struggle. This may be last but far from being least, it is first and foremost. To the comrades of Iraq, WE ARE WITH YOU!!!

Real anti-imperialism, or sham?

by Wilhelmina 12:10am Sun Nov 30 '03

. . . . .

. By way of introduction, I'll say the title "On the Need for a Pro-Iraq United Front In the US" itself should make a reader wary. It doesn't say an united front in "support of the Iraqi masses", or in "support of the Iraqi peoples' anti-imperialist resistance", or a similar formulation. No, it calls for a "pro-Iraq united front". But during the past year we've seen the same call given by various Trotskyists who used it as the banner under which to give the Hussein tyranny support in its war with U. S. imperialism (a war which was reactionary on both sides). Moreover, both the Baathists who would like to once again lord it over the masses but have not become part of the occupation regime (as many have) as well as various religious fundamentalist forces who would like to rule on behalf of the Iraqi bourgeoisie in the form of an anti-democratic theocracy can not only agree with, but whole-heartedly support "a pro-Iraq united front in the U. S. " However, they cannot support a united front which stands with the interests of the Iraqi masses against both the U. S. imperialist occupiers, and their former (or would-be) reactionary oppressors. They cannot support a united front supporting the development of the revolutionary democratic movement in Iraq. They cannot really support a united front which works to support the tens of thousands of Iraqis who came into the streets during the first days of the occupation shouting "No to Saddam, no to the U. S. !". Nor can they really support a united front which supports the right of the Kurds to self-determination.

. Thus, Cupp's title is, at best, unfortunate and worrisome. But beneath it we find things which real anti-imperialism (and real anti-revisionist Marxism-Leninism) just can't sign on to. The prime example is the call for "Unconditional Solidarity With Iraq and Its Leadership".

. What leadership is being referred to? There are many forces fighting the U. S. -led imperialist occupation, all with leaderships of some type. Some of these are democratic and anti-imperialist, some reactionary and either would-be imperialists or former imperialists trying to make some kind of come-back. Thus, I don't think anti-imperialists should give the pro-Hussein forces still resisting the occupation ANY solidarity, let alone "unconditional solidarity". The Baathists have proven over and over that they're allies of world imperialism in oppressing the Iraqi people, and, when in power, that they're regional imperialists in their own right. (It was this regional imperialism which led them into conflict with the world super-imperialists headquartered in Washington to begin with. )

. What about the religious fundamentalists that oppose the occupation but have also sent gangs to attack demonstrations of unemployed workers demanding relief from the occupation authorities, and have attacked activists and offices of left-wing groups organizing among the workers? I don't think anti-imperialists can give them any solidarity either, let alone "unconditional solidarity".

. The social forces in Iraq (and in the world) whose interests are truly anti-imperialist are the workers and oppressed peasants. It is they with whom we have solidarity. We should whole-heartedly support the development of the revolutionary democratic current in the Iraqi resistance because it serves the interests of these forces in Iraq, and worldwide. But does this mean that we give "unconditional solidarity" with whatever leadership comes to the fore, or with whatever policy is adopted by it? I don't think so, not if it means that we can't publicly criticize what we think are wrong things it does, i. e. , violations of democracy by these leaders, or unprincipled compromises they might make with Iraqi reactionaries. Our unconditional solidarity is with the resistance struggle itself. It's therefore our DUTY to oppose things which we think are harmful to it. This is real proletarian internationalist support for the Iraqi masses' struggle.

. John Paul Cupp's last paragraph , however, is a demagogical tirade against the very idea! The people of Iraq "do not need western leftists to think for them", "the Iraqi people have shown that they are light years more advanced in the concept of anti-imperialist class struggle"etc. He writes about the People (capitalized), but it's a call for robotically trailing behind whomever Cupp eventually tells us is the Iraq leadership that we must (according to him) give "unconditional solidarity". . . .

On the need for a pro-WORKER front

by Nick 10:49pm Sun Nov 30 '03

. Cupp makes a series of statements, many of which are unquestionably correct, but these are mixed in with a bunch of incomprehensible drivel, and worse, a whole bunch of truly bad, even reactionary trash.

. Yes, the invasion of Iraq was an act of unprovoked aggression. There are few, even among the ruling circles, who do not admit to this truth. These days their only claim is that is was justifiable aggression. Yet, Cupp's next statement does not flow from this truth, and could hardly be wronger. Just because the US attacked Iraq without provocation, it doesn't follow that any and every leadership of the Iraqi people deserves our support. .  .  . Cupp's post is peppered through with this sort of bait and switch, starting with an indisputable statement, and then drawing questionable conclusions from it, conclusions which are founded in a blurring of the lines between class interests in the struggle:

. * Because the Zionists and US imperialists have mapped out a plan for regime change throughout the middle east (true and indisputable), we have to unconditionally support the "Arabs and Muslims", as a whole (despite the fact that some are horrifically exploitive and oppressive to others of them). .

. . . .

. * Iraqi self-determination might swing toward Islam, and we need to support their right to do so, if it is their choice, therefore we have to uncritically support them in doing it, despite the fact that Islamic fundamentalism is an anti-worker, pro-bourgeois trend, and an ultra-reactionary one at that (anti-imperialist Marxist-Leninists do not relinquish our responsibility to analyse the class relations and forces, and to push for a resolution most advantageous for the working class in that country and internationally, just because we repeat the incantation of "self-determination").

. * We need to oppose "green-baiting" (true. This can be simply stated as "fight the oppression of Muslims", and in this form it is nearly universally recognized as a value of the anti-imperialist left), therefore we need a "red-green unity" (what does this mean? Leninist united front tactics? Then of course. Never criticising Islamic fundamentalism? Then of course not. United front tactics, not as twisted and distorted by various revisionist trends, but as described by Lenin, involves cooperation wherever possible, but always always always on the basis of principled stands. Lenin particularly dwells on the need to never trade away your right to publicly criticize those you are working with, in the interest of "unity" -- really capitulation to the ruling class).

. There are more examples in Cupp's post, where he takes a commonplace assertion (often wrapped up in militant, or even just odd, phraseology) that no anti-imperialist could disagree with, and draws exactly the wrong conclusion from it. . . . .

. Cupp is dismissive of "stand[ing] together with signs", saying yes, it is "noble", but "cosmetic". This is a part of his overenthusiasm for our short-term prospects. Today, the prospects for defeating imperialism in Iraq are tiny. And Cupp's formula, "red-green unity", supporting (unspecified) Iraqi leadership, etc. will not bring us closer. Only patient building of an independent working class anti-imperialist movement here, and encouraging a true anti-imperialist movement in the middle east will bring us closer. . . .

. In the four points of unity for a "pro-Iraq" faction, again, Cupp blurs over distinctions which need to be made. Yes, we must not fall for the "support our troops" garbage, yes, two "diametrically occurring antagonistic forces exist [sic]", but these are not Iraq and US imperialism. These are the workers of the world, and world imperialism, in whatever form it exists, be it US, Iraqi, Israeli.

. Yes, we must support those troops who resist US imperialist adventures. Yet, realistically, we do not have the forces to help the resisters "get away with it". This is pure delusion to intimate that we do today. The movement has to be far more developed than it is today for this to be true.

. . . . . <>

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Last modified: April 14, 2004.