From discussions between the ALC and the LRP on the anti-war movement

(CV #36, Sept. 2005).

. Earlier this year the Animal Liberation Collective prepared a pamphlet entitled "Discussions with the LRP: Correspondence between the League for the Revolutionary Party and the Animal Liberation Collective, February 2003 - March 2005". It deals mainly with issues related to the anti-war movement, which the LRP denounces as a "middle-class movement". We obtained a copy of this pamphlet from the ALC at the March 19 anti-war demonstration in New York City, where they were also distributing an anti-imperialist leaflet. Although we are not animal liberationists, nor do we have the favorable assessment of Trotskyism that they have, we found the ALC pamphlet to be an important document. It raises such issues as whether anti-imperialists should put out leaflets and go to anti-war demonstrations. The LRP participates only in the most minimal way in most anti-war actions and a number of other demonstrations, perhaps selling their theoretical journal there, but refraining from putting out leaflets or organizing for these actions. The ALC, on the contrary, wishes to made a wide distribution of anti-imperialist leaflets at anti-war events.

. Below are some excerpts from this pamphlet. We have extracted passages that center mainly on whether to carry out agitation at anti-war events, on the LRP's waffling on how they would vote with respect to the draft, and on the ALC's non-sectarian stand towards non-animal liberationists. The ALC had met the LRP and was trying to work with them. The discussions between them indicate why this hadn't worked out. These issues are relevant to the issue of the polemic between the Communist Voice and the LRP. And we will be dealing with more of these issues, such as the Marxist conception of the relationship of the mass movements to revolutionary organizing, in future issues of "Communist Voice".

. The ALC can be contacted at al_collective@hotmail. com, while the LRP has a webs site at [The entire text of the ALC pamphlet can be found at]

[First half of April 2004]
To the LRP:

. We still favor army rebellion, but we advocate soldiers protesting against the war and occupation. Soldier protests carry the potential of rebellion. In the crisis of a full-scale war, the relationship of forces, especially between the soldiers and the officer corps, might have changed very abruptly. The protracted nature of the current conflict, leads us to believe that organized struggle between the soldiers and officers would necessarily involve intermediate stages. (These lines were written before the events of the last few days, which once again raise the possibility of a crisis situation. ) [p. 11]

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. Roughly, by "anti-imperialists", we mean groups and individuals who stand unconditionally opposed to all wings of the ruling class, and who stand unconditionally opposed to all military policies of the ruling class, including those of the UN. Concretely, we do not consider Workers World Party or the RCP to be "anti-imperialist", because they support (sections of) the Democratic Party by offering Democratic Party politicians *friendly* platforms from which to speak. If a group or individual strongly objects to offering *friendly* platforms to bourgeois politicians, there is a good chance we would count them among the "anti-imperialists".

. By "campaign of class struggle" we mean a campaign whose agitation and propaganda help to position the working class for a direct struggle for power. Agitation which encourages soldier rebellion/protest, is perhaps one of the most important examples of what we mean.

> A final question: at the debate, your comrade stated that
>"one of the distinguishing features of (the AL Collective)
> is a positive out look towards animal liberation." Does
> that indicate that you regard a stance and/or activities
> on this question to be an essential component of
> revolutionary program today? And if so, why?

. We do not believe that some particular stance or activities on the question of animal liberation are essential to a revolutionary program today. We do, however, regard some specific stances (i.e. the "right" stances) and activities (i.e. appropriate activities) on the question of animal liberation as *compatible* with a revolutionary program today.

. We believe that a workers state and a planned economy provide the only serious basis upon which society may take lasting and significant steps toward animal liberation. We support, and aim to work for, workers revolution, even if it is not immediately apparently that steps toward animal liberation would be taken by a workers government, and even if the condition of animals were made temporarily worse. For us, the success of workers revolution worldwide can never be subordinate to any other issue. [p. 12]

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. A draft provides military strength for the imperialists immediately, while a draft army is potentially a liability to imperialism in the future. In war, tempo is a critical factor. Suppose the US is losing a war with its mercenary army. A draft in that case might be critical to an imperialist military victory. Wouldn't it be appropriate to oppose the draft as part of a general defeatism? We raise this question, but are willing to discuss the issue with you further. [p. 14]

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. You characterize the anti-war movement as "middle class". We would say that the leadership is class-collaborationist, and restricts itself to slogans which are acceptable to the ruling class, or at least some wing of the ruling class. The demonstrators, however, are in large part wage-earners or members of wage-earner families. We think that it is our duty to fight the influence of class-collaborationist leadership over working class masses, wherever we can. To absent ourselves would be to give a gift to the class-collaborationist leadership. We are somewhat critical of groups that restrict their "fight" against ANSWER etc. to propaganda (i. e. newspapers) which reach only a very small minority of demonstrators, and who shun agitation (i. e. leaflets) which can reach a much larger section of the demonstration. The class-collaborationists, after all, are not restricting themselves to selling newspapers.

. We would like to know what your attitude is toward agitation in mass movements today, with the forces you have available. [p. 15]

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April 12, 2004
[From LRP]
Dear Peter and the AL Collective,

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. Again, for the multitude of demonstrators, for example on March 20, the ideas in your leaflet are neither actionable or popular. The bulk of demonstrators were for Anybody But Bush, which is why they are hardly convinced that voting for Kerry is not the most effective action. That is the reality of today's movement, such as it is. Thus, in effect though not intention, your leaflets are the anti-war demos are propaganda leaflets even though you do advocate some actions within them, because they can only impact a narrow audience.

. This is not to say that agitation has no place in a propaganda group. Without the test of practice, the cadres of a revolutionary organization, and the advanced workers they seek to reach, have no means of testing the validity of the program and methods of struggle they advocate. But historically, small groupings which have sought to emphasize mass work over propaganda and program, by prioritizing agitation over propaganda, have fallen into opportunism in their attempts to reach the masses. If one makes agitation the priority from the beginning of a small formation, the more foundational work of establishing a full Marxist scientific program and theory and clear principles, which in fact is a primary task until the mass party is built, never gets done. (Propaganda remains an ongoing task even where agitation becomes more dominant but that is a different point. ) [p. 24]

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April 27, 2004
To the LRP,

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. Regarding conscription, there are three distinct questions that seem to be under discussion. The first question, is whether a working class revolutionary should support, oppose, or maintain neutrality regarding the resumption of a bourgeois draft. The second question is what attitude a working class revolutionary ought to take regarding anti-draft *movements*. The third question is what attitude a working class revolutionary ought to take regarding resistance to a bourgeois draft vs submission to such a draft.

. We are somewhat unclear regarding the attitude of the LRP to the first question. The article `The Leninist Position on Conscription' in Proletarian Revolution #69 states:

"So while we in no way support the bourgeois draft and would never vote for one or call for its resumption, we argue against campaigns that oppose resumption of the draft."

. One clause states that the LRP would never vote *for* resumption of the draft. We would naturally expect the following clause to finish out that idea, to state either that the LRP would vote *against* the draft, or that the LRP would abstain when confronted with such a vote. Instead it is stated that the LRP is against *campaigns*.  .  . It sounds as though you would abstain, but rather than assume this, we would like to hear one way or the other from you. [pp. 31-2]

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. You wrote:

<<Our discussion of the anti-draft movement was based in the
<<concrete reality of its dominant pacifism which is antithetical
<<to communists. It is the opposite of what we stand for, because
<<we know that revolution means class war. And in fact
<<anti-draft movements are generally pacifistic and middle class
<<--and not by accident. And this is key.
<<What anti-draft movement do you have in mind which has not
<<been dominated by pacifism and the middle class?

. We didn't raise the issue of an anti-draft "movement". Are you trying to make the point that an anti-draft "stance" is necessarily associated with a pacifist middle class "movement"? The Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, and similar organizations stood opposed to the draft in the 1960's and '70s. These were not "anti-draft" movements, but radical auto workers movements which had opposition to the draft as one component of their program. Since they were not strictly "anti-draft" movements, they perhaps do not provide an answer to our question as it was stated. Wouldn't a better question be "what working class movements, which have not been dominated by pacifism and the middle class, have opposed the draft/" [pp. 32-3]

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June 15, 2004
[From LRP]
Dear Peter and the AL Collective,

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. This brings me to the question of our attitude towards the draft and movements that oppose it. I believe that our article in PR 69 is really quite comprehensive on this, and I won't attempt to restate it. I also think that Joseph explained our position very well in his last letter to you. I will try to answer your questions and arguments. You make the point that there are three "distinct" questions involving the draft:

"The first question, is whether a working class revolutionary should support, oppose, or maintain neutrality regarding the resumption of a bourgeois draft. The second question is what attitude a working class revolutionary ought to take regarding anti-draft *movements*. The third question is what attitude a working class revolutionary ought to take regarding resistance to a bourgeois draft vs. submission to such a draft."

. These are three aspects of the conscription issue but they are not at all distinct, in that they are all very much related to each other. On the question of opposition versus neutrality, you raise the question of how we would vote in relation to the resumption of the draft. You imply that our not indicating whether we would vote against it or abstain is a logical omission. It was not. The question of how revolutionaries would vote depends on the circumstances (which are quite hypothetical to say the least in the present period). By the time we are large enough to have elected representatives in Congress, the draft will probably have already been implemented for some time, or else by the time we are large enough and popular enough to have the kind of support that could potentially put us in a seat in Congress, there may not even be Congressional elections, at least the kind that would allow a revolutionary party to participate. But even accepting the hypothetical situation of our having a representative sitting in Congress today and confronted with the question of voting for, against or abstaining on a bill favoring a drafted army, there are still many possibilities. As Trotsky explained in a polemic with Max Shachtman that can be found in the collection In Defense of Marxism, revolutionaries would under no circumstances vote in favor of any final legislation regarding the constitution of the bourgeois military. (1) We do not support one form of capitalist state over another but rather seek to rally the working class to the cause of overthrowing that state. If a bill were to be put forward essentially and specifically to replace the mercenary army with a conscripted army, we would probably abstain, depending on whether a "no" vote would imply support for maintaining a mercenary army. If a "no" vote implies support for maintaining a mercenary army, we could not in principle vote "no." However if the bill is an omnibus bill laying out a complete military budget or program, we might well vote "no," because we would be voting against the entire military program. In either case, we would be supplementing our vote with a complete public explanation and motivation of our position, since our whole purpose in holding any seat in bourgeois legislative bodies would be to advance the consciousness of our class through exposing the real nature of all the legislative acts, not to participate in the capitalist government.

. This is very much related to how we regard anti-draft movements. As we argued extensively in PR 69, protests and organized opposition to the implementation of the draft that focus on the conscription policy per se are simply backhanded calls for a mercenary army. This is because anti-draft movements rely on the essentially pacifist illusion that resisting and opposing the draft can somehow stop the government from organizing the military. The participants of such movements have the luxury of telling themselves that no matter what kind of military is organized, they themselves are morally free of any taint of being complicit in it.

. Organizing against the draft cannot stop the draft. The bourgeoisie will be able to raise a conscription army even if it is extremely unpopular. (How well such an army will fight is another question!) During World War I there was massive opposition, protest and evasion of the draft. All that opposition did not prevent the American bourgeoisie from committing a massive conscripted army to the war. What opposition did accomplish was the prosecution and imprisonment of many anti-war activists who could have been at the front agitating among the troops against the imperialist war.

. We characterize anti-draft movements as being primarily middle-class. This doesn't mean that there cannot be a working class organization or movement with a position against the draft. With your example of the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement as a working class movement that held a position opposed to the draft, you answered your own argument. We disagree with DRUM's position. But, as you point out, one would not characterize DRUM as an "anti-draft movement." Opposition to the draft was not their main focus and did not define them as a group. (They had other serious programmatic deficiencies, notably a Black "nationalist" orientation. )

. You defined the third question regarding the draft as "what attitude a working class revolutionary ought to take regarding resistance to a bourgeois draft vs. submission to such a draft." When we argue why opposition to the draft makes no sense strategically (since it means preferring a mercenary army to a conscripted army), we stress that in a drafted army the ranks of the military are more accessible to popular moods of the masses and are ultimately more accessible to revolutionary activity.

. Now some subjectively revolutionary elements see this accessibility as an opportunity to induce resistance to the draft. For revolutionaries it is more important strategically that there be anti-war, anti-imperialist elements throughout the ranks of the conscripted army than that a relatively few resistors manage to escape. As I think you agree from several of your comments, a conscripted army is a threat to the ruling class at the same time that rulers find they must rely upon it to carry out their imperialist aims. We want to maximize the weakness and lay the basis for "turning the guns around," etc. So while we wouldn't ostracize or condemn draft resistance or desertion, we seek to dissuade anti-war militants from this course.

. Let me just clarify that we do expect the American rulers eventually to implement the draft. . . . [pp. 39-41]

From ALC
Wed, 25 Aug 2004

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The Middle Class Nature of the Anti-War Movement

<<On the other hand, despite some individual working-class
<<participants and a few small labor contingents, the anti-war
<<movement is clearly primarily middle-class in composition
<<and political outlook. >>

. Independent working class politics is almost unknown to the current generation of workers in the US (and not just in the US). The AFL-CIO bureaucracy is solidly behind the main capitalist parties. Protest movements, when they do not openly involve the cooperation of sections of the main capitalist parties, typically have a pro-capitalist or at least "middle-class" orientation.

. Workers developing a sense of hatred towards imperialism's adventures are thus likely to attend anti-war demonstrations, even though these demonstrations feature bourgeois speakers, even though they attract masses of non-working class elements, and even though they attract (relatively)privileged workers as opposed to the most oppressed workers.

. At these rallies and demonstrations, these awakening workers will be exposed to groups that call themselves "communist" and "socialist", yet who provide friendly platforms for bourgeois politicians. If these awakening workers belong to unions, they may be exposed to bureaucrats from the AFL-CIO who are also "against the war". The message that they will receive from these sources is that class-collaboration, for the sake of opposition to war (or whatever the issue of the day) is good. They will be given the message that sections of the labor bureaucracy can be trusted. In short, they will be fed all sorts of illusions.

. For better or for worse, these workers, as they develop a sense of hatred towards imperialism's adventures, are among the most politically advanced workers in the US. For example, a transit worker who attends an anti-war rally, is probably far more likely to be open to reading Revolutionary Transit Worker, than a co-worker who doesn't find the war in Iraq to be an issue for him or herself.

. We thus see it as an absolutely critical task to politically challenge those forces that are attempting, with significant success, to lead radicalizing workers down the path of "left" support for the bourgeoisie. The presence of bourgeois politics and bourgeois politicians, and the masses of "middle-class" elements at these demonstrations does not provide an adequate reason, in our opinion, to belittle the importance of "popular propaganda" written in a style accessible to workers attending these events. As long as such demonstrations are poles of attraction to radicalizing workers, we think revolutionaries should endeavor to attract these workers away from bourgeois politics and toward revolutionary politics. [pp. 53-4]

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March 13, 2005
To the LRP

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. In the mass anti-war rallies, you refrained from agitation. We questioned your comrades regarding this, and were given as a reason, the "middle-class nature" of these rallies. We pointed out that, in addition to middle class individuals at these rallies, there were also workers, and that these workers, by attending the rallies, demonstrated a generally above average level of political consciousness. At the Million Worker March, where we distributed a leaflet promoting the idea of hot-cargoing military goods, we were again unable to observe the LRP distributing leaflets of any kind. We do not know what rationale you may have for not leafleting the MWM. Although your pamphlet(2) . . . says that agitation is crucial to winning vanguard workers, and gives very good reasons for why crucial, your practice seems to suggest that you believe that agitation is not really that crucial after all, at least not for winning the advanced workers that might be present at anti-war rallies or the Million Worker March. Your practice suggests that you believe that propaganda (in the form of Proletarian Revolution magazine) is sufficient.

. Note: When we argue that agitation is "crucial" we are not saying that agitation ought to be the "primary" activity of a revolutionary organization in this period. We hope that there is no misunderstanding on this point, but just to make it clear we offer the following analogy. In the process of manufacturing precision machined products, it is "crucial" that the parts being machined are measured, so that adjustments can be made to machine settings etc. However, the "primary" activity of a machine shop is to manufacture parts, not to measure them. [pp. 61-2] <>


(1) This refers to a passage in "From a Scratch--To the Danger of Gangrene, January 24, 1940", which is part of the collection In Defense of Marxism: The Social and Political Contradictions of the Soviet Union, Pathfinder Press, pp. 204-5. Here Trotsky refers to a letter he wrote Max Shachtman on September 20, 1937, objecting to the idea of voting for the military budget of the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War. --CV (Return to text)

(2) Referring to the LRP pamphlet "Propaganda and Agitation in the Building of the Revolutionary Party". (Text)

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October 15, 2005.