by Joseph Green
(CV #36, Sept. 2005).
The "proletarian militarism" of the LRP
Lenin and the draft
The struggle against the US imperialist occupation of Iraq
. The Trotskyist League for the Revolutionary Party prides itself on being about the only left-wing group that would welcome the resumption of the draft. (1) It regards anti-militarism contemptuously as "social-pacifism", argues for "proletarian militarism", and denounces the anti-draft struggle.
. This polemic is taking place in the midst of a new round of wars and war threats by US imperialism. It has fought wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it is growling at Iran and some other countries. It has especially become bogged down in a bloody occupation of Iraq. The Iraqi people are being bullied and slaughtered, and American youth are being used as cannon fodder for the goals of imperialist world domination. Imperialist policy makers have become worried that the armed forces have been stretched thin. Discontent is spreading within the armed forces, public opinion is increasingly against the occupation of Iraq, and military recruiters are finding it harder to harder to entice youth to sign up.
. In the midst of this crisis, Democratic Congressmen Charles Rangel and John Conyers, from the left wing of the Democratic Party, have once again pressed for the passage of their bill to re-instate the draft. They pretend that this is an anti-war measure, claiming that the government will hesitate to send a drafted army into war. But they solicit support for their bill from pro-war congresspeople, who want a draft precisely to allow the army to be sent into more wars. The Bush administration has so far refrained from the unpopular move of reinstating the draft, but Conyers and Rangel have been doing advance work to pave the way for the draft. In this they have been joined by the League for the Revolutionary Party; unlike Conyers and Rangel, it doesn't put forward pro-draft legislation, but it vehemently denounces opposition to the draft. Conyers and Rangel try to rally the reformists on behalf of the draft, while LRP, in the name of denouncing reformism, try to rally revolutionaries around the draft.
. Several articles by Tim Hall in Communist Voice have condemned the stand of Conyers and
Rangel and also that of the LRP, thus drawing a series of replies by the LRP. This article is an
answer to their latest reply in their Journal Proletarian Revolution issue #73 ("Why 'No Draft" Is
No Answer: Military Crisis Triggers Talk of Conscription"). It is cast in the form of the
imaginary dialogue between the Communist Voice journal and the LRP. But all the words
assigned to LRP are taken from PR 73 or other LRP literature.
The "proletarian militarism" of the LRP
LRP: "When we briefly restated our position in Proletarian Revolution No. 66, we were attacked by a number of leftists for allegedly calling for a revived draft, despite our explicit statements to the contrary. The most extensive response came from Tim Hall of the Detroit-based Communist Voice Organization (CVO) in the May 2003 issue of their magazine. Hall tried to argue that Lenin's legacy, as well as the experience of the anti-Vietnam War movement of the 1960's and '70's, proved the correctness of the anti-draft position. He also claimed that the Congressional bill to revive the draft 'received acceptance' from the LRP, an outright lie that we exposed in our reply, 'The Leninist position on Conscription,' in PR 69. "Hall responded with a new article, "The LRP Surrenders to Militarism and the Threat of a New Draft.' (Communist Voice, March 2004. ). . . Hall still doesn't acknowledge that he misrepresented our position, although he no longer repeats the initial lie. That's progress, but it's not yet honesty." (PR #73 pp. 19-20)
. CV: You have always stressed that you preferred to see a draft. When you wrote about the Conyers and Rangel bill in PR #66, you stated "since our ruling class must have an army, we prefer that it be drafted". And the subject of your article was to denounce those who opposed the draft. You did denounce Rangel's reasons for the draft, but you clearly stated your own preference for it. So it's clear, you don't like Conyers or Rangel, but you yourself want the draft.
. Then in your first polemic against us in PR #69, you wrote that "as long as some kind of bourgeois military is unavoidable, revolutionaries prefer a drafted army to a mercenary army." (emphasis yours, PR #69) You repeated your denunciation of Rangel's motivation for his bill, but you also repeated your preference for the reinstatement of the draft.
. Oh yes, you were up in arms about how "thoroughly dishonest" it was to say that you "support the Conyers/Rangel proposal". You argued that you would "in no way support the bourgeois draft and would never vote for one or call for its resumption". Oh really? When you prefer something, and when you work hard to clear out the obstacles to it, that you means you support it. When you say that it is the Leninist position to prefer the draft, and that all revolutionaries should prefer the draft, that you means you support it. When you emphasize over and over that you prefer the draft, and then swear up and down, with your hand on your heart, that you don't support the draft, you have made double-speak into a profession.
. Now it's true that you won't vote for a draft bill, since you don't have any representatives in Congress. But as a matter of fact, you aren't sure whether you would prefer to vote against the bill or simply abstain. When a group involved in anti-imperialist agitation at anti-war events asked you point-blank "whether a working class revolutionary should support, oppose, or maintain neutrality regarding the resumption of a bourgeois draft", you couldn't give them a straight answer. You wrote that
"how revolutionaries would vote depends on circumstances . . . By the time we are large enough to have elected representatives in Congress, the draft will probably have already been implemented for some time, . . . . 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 the bill favoring a drafted army, there are still many possibilities."
And you went on and on and on. You said you might vote no, but you also might abstain. And
the reason you wouldn't vote yes, was only because you didn't want to vote in favor of any "final
legislation regarding the constitution of the bourgeois military", no matter what it said. (2) Even
though you don't have any Congressional representatives, you have already learned parliamentary
LRP: "If there is no conscripted army under capitalist rule, there has to be a mercenary army. As Lenin stressed, only absurdly utopian pacifists can imagine an imperialist state without an armed fist. For that reason, a campaign against the draft within the context of reforming capitalism amounts to a campaign in favor of a mercenary army. "Since Leninists oppose all bourgeois armies, the LRP does not favor an anti-draft movement, which would objectively stand for a mercenary army." (PR #73, p. 24) ". . . no state can exist without armed power. . . . Any campaign against the draft represents a demand on the capitalist state to maintain a professional, mercenary army, since that is its only alternative. That is why we say "'No Draft' Is No Answer." (PR #69)
. CV: It is quite possible to oppose the reinstatement of the draft while opposing the existing imperialist army. We do so, and the trends which gave rise to us did so repeatedly in the past. Back in the 60s, the Cleveland Draft Resistance Union opposed the draft, not in order to find a way to strengthen the US army, but as part of the struggle against the Vietnam war. Moreover it linked up the struggle against the draft with support for activists inside the armed forces. And the Marxist-Leninist Party, and now the Communist Organization , have marched, rallied, distributed leaflets at workplaces, supported GI resisters, and otherwise fervently opposed the aggression of the non-drafted army against the peoples of Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. And we have supported the struggle against military recruiters, thus directly striking at the "volunteer" army.
. For example, in the early 80s, there was a struggle over the restoration of registration for the draft. The Marxist-Leninist Party took part in this, and our stand on it is outlined in the statement "On the Struggle Against the Draft and Work Inside the Military" in the Resolutions of the Second Congress of the Marxist-Leninist Party. (See pp. 45-6 of this issue of CV. ) It clearly denounces those politicians and reformists who "claim to oppose the draft, but . . . do so only from the standpoint of debating how best to strengthen the imperialist armed forces." This resolution was written two decades prior to the polemic between you and the CVO, and yet it answers in advance your accusation that opposition to the draft must mean support for the "volunteer" army, as well as other of accusations against us. (3)
. Thus if you really opposed all bourgeois armies, "volunteer" or drafted, you could oppose the reinstatement of the draft, and indeed you would have to oppose its reinstatement. We can truly say we oppose both forms of the imperialist army, because we have directly been involved in campaigning against both. You haven't. You don't oppose the draft, not out of fear of inadvertently supporting the "volunteer" army, but because you actually prefer the draft, as you have repeatedly stated. Thus you don't really oppose all bourgeois armies.
. Instead you reason that the imperialists will always insist on a strong army, so -- from your
reformist point of view -- there's no point struggling against it. This is capitulationist logic of the
worst sort. From the fact that the imperialism insists on its armed fist, what really follows is that
the various forms of the anti-war struggle are completely necessary. Similarly, market capitalism
will never do without its corporations and companies, but this doesn't mean that a strike against
one corporation is objectively a campaign in favor of the other corporations. From the fact that
capitalism is inconceivable without exploitation, it doesn't follow that one should be reconciled
to exploitation, but that the working class will have to fight repeated struggles against
exploitation until capitalism is replaced by socialism. From the fact that imperialism and
militarism are inseparably linked, it doesn't follow that one should reconcile oneself to
militarism, but that the struggles against imperialism and militarism are closely linked.
LRP: "But Hall's 'gist' . . . implies that we support imperialist militarism. Not true: once again, we openly oppose all capitalist armies. The militarism we endorse is proletarian militarism. We oppose every imperialist war . . ." "In PR #69 we also reprinted Lenin's early article, 'Anti-Militarist Propaganda and Young Socialist Workers' Leagues,' which describes how revolutionary Marxists in the early 20th century carried out educational activities aimed at young soldiers. Hall thinks this article undermines our position because it shows that Lenin hated bourgeois militarism. In fact, we reprinted it for that very reason, and because it shows how revolutionaries approach newly-called soldiers--. . ."
. CV: Yes, you reprinted Lenin's article, but you disassociated yourself from its anti-militarism. You wrote an introduction to the article that claimed that Lenin only talked about "anti-militarist" propaganda because this was an early article, and you put the phrase "revolutionary militarist", which is not Lenin's, into his mouth. You wrote:
"Lenin was writing before World War I and had not yet worked out his theory of imperialism. His opposition to the bourgeoisie's foreign conquests was framed, therefore, not as anti-imperialism but as a revolutionary militarist's version of anti-militarism."
. Shame on you for your double-speak! You denounce the anti-militarist aspect of Lenin's work; you invent the double-speak of "a revolutionary militarist's version of anti-militarism"; you claim that anti-militarism is obsolete once fights imperialism; and then you claim that you aren't really a militarist, because you reprinted an article that talks about "anti-militarist propaganda". Geez.
. The ideology of the class-conscious working class is not militarism of any type, but is that of proletarian internationalism and socialism, and proletarian anti-militarism is a component of this ideology. When the proletariat organizes itself for war and revolution, it does so in a diametrically different way than the bourgeoisie. There is a different attitude to the fighters, who aren't drilled to be mindless killing machines. There is a different attitude to the broad masses, and their relationship to the fighters. The revolutionary proletariat also puts its political and class goals in command of its military activities, rather than seeing everything in a military light. If you oppose imperialist wars from a militarist standpoint, you will undermine and sabotage the anti-war struggle. This is what you do when you denounce the anti-draft movement, thus cutting away one of the branches of the anti-war struggle that has a certain importance in the American movement. This is also what you do when you tie the movement against the war in Iraq to an alliance with Saddam Hussein and Islamic fundamentalists: your militarist ideology leads you to think that you can separate "military support" for reactionaries from "political support". We will get back to this later.
. But back to Lenin's article. It's true that it showed some interesting methods of anti-militarist
agitation. But your militarism makes you discount such methods when you see them in practice.
Lenin referred, for example, to workers accompanying draftees working to their induction. In the
days of the Vietnam war, the Cleveland Draft Resistance Union (CDRU), as Tim Hall pointed
out in his last article, held a demonstration to accompany one of its members who accepted
induction in order to organize inside the army; and they picketed the induction center as he was
drafted. (4) This is an illustration of how anti-draft work, carried out in an anti-imperialist spirit,
can link up with work inside the military.
Lenin and the draft
LRP: "Hall's major criticism is that we abandon the struggle against militarism, and his chief method is to try to enlist Lenin on his side. But Hall has a hard time dealing with the real Lenin. . . . ". . . Hall is dead wrong about Lenin. First, it is simply false that Lenin saw conscription as something that 'had to be resisted by the workers.' Lenin spent decades as a leader of Russian communists, and there is not one example of his party ever calling on workers to resist the draft. . Nothing Hall cites or could cite gives any evidence of Lenin ever supporting draft resistance, and there is overwhelming evidence of just the opposite, summarized our pamphlet and in PR 69."
. CV: Conyers and Rangel's bills in Congress raise the question of the reintroduction of the draft. Did Lenin ever express his view about the re-introduction of the draft? Yes, he did. And as it so happens, he wrote about the campaign to re-introduce the draft in the US in World War I. He wrote
"The American people do enjoy considerable freedom and it is difficult to conceive them standing for compulsory military service, for the setting up of an army pursuing any aims of conquest . . . The Americans have the example of Europe to show them what this leads to. The American capitalists have entered this war [World War I--JG] in order to have an excuse . . . for building up a strong standing army."(5)
. So Lenin clearly sympathized with the struggle against setting up conscription in the US. You
know that Lenin did so, because Tim Hall helpfully pointed out Lenin's remark to you. And
previously, in PR #69, you spent three paragraphs trying to deny the clear meaning of Lenin's
remark, and Tim Hall answered this in his article "The LRP surrenders to militarism and the
threat of a new draft".
LRP: "Hall gets round his lack of evidence by sleight-of-hand. Since Lenin opposed any support for bourgeois military, he was opposed to a drafted bourgeois army; therefore he must have been for resistance to conscription."
. CV: The fact is that Lenin clearly opposed the re-introduction of the draft in the US. You simply
can't deal with that. So you think if you ignore it, maybe people will forget it. If you can just
shout enough names at Tim Hall, maybe people will be distracted.
LRP: "Here is how Hall puts it: "'In my article I illustrated Lenin's opposition to a bourgeois standing army with a quote from 1916: "On the question of a militia, we should say: We are not in favor of bourgeois militia; we are in favor only of a proletarian militia. Therefore, 'not a penny, not a man,' not only for a standing army, but even for a bourgeois militia, even in countries like the United States, Switzerland, Norway, etc.' The LRP conveniently ignores this resolutely anti-militarist quote because it firmly establishes what I call the first aspect of Lenin's attitude towards militarization and conscription.' "Of course, even in the 'not a penny, not a man' sentence (which comes from his article 'The Military Program of the Proletarian Revolution', Collected Works, vol. 23), Lenin indicated his resolute opposition to any bourgeois army, not just a drafted militia. . . . (As for the LRP 'ignoring' this excellent sentence, it is reproduced in its full context in our 'No Draft'' Is No Answer pamphlet. )"
. CV: Your reasoning seems to be that, because Lenin was opposed to all imperialist armies, he therefore couldn't take a concrete step against any particular imperialist army. You hold that since the imperialist bourgeoisie will always insist on having an army, any struggle against one type of army is really a struggle for another type of imperialist army. In actual fact, the level of militarization can change in an imperialist country. The introduction of the draft is generally an increased militarization of a country. Hence, one who opposes all imperialist armies, would have to oppose the introduction of a draft for an imperialist army, or else the supposed opposition to militarism would just be a sham. Hence Lenin had no difficulty in opposing the introduction of an American draft. He didn't waffle back and forth on this question, forgetting in his 1917 statement against the introduction of the draft in the US what he had written in 1916 about the militia.
. You may have reprinted Lenin's statement about "not a penny, not a man" in your pamphlet, but
you ignore its meaning. You turn the dramatic anti-war slogan of "not a penny, not a man" into
the senile declaration "not a word, not an action" against the militarization of a country. This is
similar to what you did with Lenin's article on anti-militarist propaganda. You reprint it, precisely
in order to put it behind you.
LRP: "Resistance to conscription is not part of Lenin's vocabulary here any more than anywhere else."
, CV: In your examples, you seek to confuse the question of whether Lenin opposed the introduction of a draft with whether he advocated a system of draft resistance, that is, defiance of an existing draft, refusing to go when called for service. These are two separate questions. There is no question that Lenin supported struggle against the introduction of the draft for an imperialist army.
. But our discussion, while it started because of Conyers and Rangel's bills to reinstitute the draft, also has dealt with the issue of draft resistance. In this regard, Lenin didn't advocate a general system of draft refusal, and neither do we. He called for puncturing pacifist illusions, and so have we. But he also called for taking part in all mass anti-war movements, despite the pacifist illusions that the masses might bring to them. He declared in 1915 that
. "The temper of the masses in favor of peace often expresses the beginning of protest, anger and a realization of the reactionary nature of the war. It is the duty of all Social-Democrats to utilize that temper. They will take a most ardent part in any movement and in any demonstration motivated by that sentiment, but they will not deceive the people with admitting the idea that a peace without annexations, without oppression of nations, without plunder, and without the embryo of new wars among the present government and ruling classes, is possible in the absence of a revolutionary movement."(6)
. Thus Lenin regarded that it was possible, indeed compulsory, for communists to work with movements and demonstrations that expressed mass protest against reactionary wars, even if these movements started under pacifist slogans. Communists weren't to take up and propagate pacifist illusions, but they were nevertheless to find ways to work with these movements. Lenin's statement didn't specify the entire range of movements that might arise, which ones expressed a mass anti-war protest, and how precisely to work with them. It is up to the revolutionaries of any particular time and country to analyze these matters for themselves. But they clearly won't be able to do so if they automatically write off all these movements as social-pacifist manifestations of the middle-class.
. The draft resistance movement in the Viet Nam war was precisely such a movement as Lenin referred to. Whatever the views of many of its participants, its vigor, depth and bitterness reflected opposition to a particular reactionary war; youth didn't want to kill or die for an unjust cause. The particular conditions of the times explains why draft resistance played an important role in that anti-war movement. The lack of a mass revolutionary party and the fact very few youth probably had the slightest idea of how to oppose the war from inside the military were probably among the reasons. But in general, as Lenin points out, it will often be the case that the growth of anti-war consciousness among the masses is reflected through movements with a pacifist component.
. You, by way of contrast, denounce not just the anti-draft movement, but the whole anti-war
movement. You exaggerate the struggle against pacifism to the point that you boast of your
"class characterization of the anti-war movement as 'middle-class'." (PR #73, p. 23) You regard it
as something unfit for the serious attention of "proletarian militarists" such as yourself.
LRP: "Lenin neither demanded nor supported bourgeois militarism. But he obviously insisted on taking advantage of it to enhance the revolutionary position."
. CV: The same could be said of his attitude to pacifism. Lenin didn't recoil in horror from anti-war demonstrations from fear that the pacifists would gain the upper hand. But you think that, if you can point out the pacifist component of a movement, that proves the movement is inherently "middle-class", "social-pacifist", and of little or no interest to the working class. You think that you have damned the anti-draft movement to hell when you point out the pacifist ideology of many draft resisters. You think you can justify all this by showing that Lenin opposed pacifism. It never strikes you that you thereby show your own doctrinairism and your inability to understand how a mass movement develops and Leninist tactics towards it.
. It is not sufficient to proclaim the straight and narrow road to socialist revolution, and then
lament the lack of "revolutionary leadership" as the reason that the masses didn't take this road. It
is necessary to search for the particular ways to help the working class, and the masses generally,
take one and then another and another step forward building an independent, revolutionary
movement. It's necessary to search for the paths that will allow the working masses to bring
forward their own revolutionary leadership. You mock the experience of movements that bring
forward new activists to revolutionary life. You denounce the movements of today for not exactly
imitating the patterns of a hundred years ago. And this not only makes you a sectarian
doctrinaire, but it's why you can't understand anything Lenin wrote, whether you reprint it or not.
The struggle against the US imperialist occupation of Iraq
LRP: "For an organization that prides itself on learning from Lenin, the CVO has a nakedly social-pacifist stand on a live issue directly related to imperialist militarism today: the Iraq war and occupation. Lenin, of course, stood with every oppressed people in their struggles against imperialism. In this spirit, the LRP does not just call for the U. S. to get out of Iraq. We stand with the armed resistance to imperialism and stand for the military defeat of the imperialist forces. "And this is something the CVO does not do. For all their talk about overthrowing the imperialist military machine, when it comes to an actual war where the imperialist military is under fire, the CVO in effect calls down a plague on both houses. In opposing both the U. S. occupation and the armed resistance, it fails to offer 'military support' to the Iraqi fighters harassing and administering political defeat to the imperialists."
. CV: How noble is your indignation! Too bad the spiel is a pack of lies. The issue between you and us is not whether to support armed resistance to US imperialism, but whether to give "military support" to that section of the resistance who are either fundamentalist fanatics or Baathist diehards.
. Someone who didn't know the special meanings you give to words wouldn't necessarily know that from your speech, would they? They wouldn't know that you are including Saddam Hussein, and other ex-Baathist officials, and the fundamentalists in the honorable term "Iraqi fighters", would they? And they wouldn't know that, unlike you, we point out that there are not two, but three sides in the Iraqi struggle. We support the third side, the Iraqi masses, against both US imperialism and local Iraqi reaction, something you forgot to mention.
. Iraqi workers are faced directly with the struggle against both the local reactionaries and US imperialism. While you denounce us for opposing both wings of the reactionary forces bearing down on the working class, you're having trouble finding any militant Iraqi worker who agrees with you. So in the last issue of your journal Proletarian Revolution, you identify yourself with a prominent Iraqi trade union leader. But it turns out that he believes in fighting on two fronts, and includes the Saddamists as among his enemies, while you give "military support" to these same Saddamists.
. Your journal writes:
. ". . . there are growing reports of working-class struggle. The Southern Oil Company Union (SOCU) successfully struck against the miserable wage schedule instituted by [US official--JG] Bremer. Hassan Juna'a Awad, a leader of SOCU, wrote the following in an article published during a recent visit to Britain:
. " '. . . And today we are resisting this brutal occupation together [referring to Sunni and Shia--JG], from Falluja to Najaf to Sadr City. The resistance to the occupation forces is a God-given right of Iraqis, and we, as a union, see ourselves as a necessary part of this resistance--although we will fight using our industrial power, our collective strength as a union, and as a part of civil society which needs to grow in order to defeat both still-powerful Saddamist elites and the foreign occupation of our country.' (The Guardian, Feb. 18. )" (PR #74, Spring 2005, p. 16, emphasis added)
. Thus Awad called for struggle against "the Saddamist elites" as well as the occupation. Awad's statement doesn't clarify his views towards the fundamentalist clerics, and we ourselves don't know much about the SOCU. But he wants to fight those forces he recognizes as local reactionaries as well as the US occupation.
. Having quoted Awad, your journal seeks to correct his remarks by adding that "Revolutionaries
will fight for the defeat of the imperialist forces in every clash, together with Iraqi forces of all
political colors." (emphasis added) This is a colorless way of describing the Saddamist elites,
who are among the Iraqi forces you are advising Awad to unite with. Indeed, not just the
Saddamist elites. A few paragraphs earlier you had referred to "bourgeois religious and secular
forces, some engaging in terrorist attacks, behind-the-scenes collaborationist maneuvers and
anti-working-class attacks." You want Awad to unite with all of these, because they are in the
resistance. Another of your articles admits that the forces include "groups of former members of
Saddam's dictatorship who are widely hated for their vicious oppression, particularly of the
Shi-ite masses", "ultra-reactionary Sunni terrorist organizations, which brand as infidels both
foreigners and Shi'ites", and other "bourgeois-clerical forces" from among the Shiites. ("U. S.
Imperialism in Iraq: Bloody War, Phony Election", PR #73, p. 18)
LRP: "When the Iraq war was looming in 2002, Communist Voice ran the headline 'Opposing both sides in the war crisis'--that is both the imperialist invaders and the Iraqi forces. And under the current occupation they denounce both the imperialists and the armed resistance, who 'fight the occupation to impose their own brutal rule.' (CV, August 25)
. CV: You're so hostile to the idea that the Iraqi masses should fight both their foreign and domestic oppressors that you censored the very title of my article. It's "The third side, the Iraqi masses: opposing both sides in the war crisis" (CV, December 15, 2002) The article stressed that "There is a side in this situation that deserves the support of the anti-war movement, but it is neither US imperialism nor the Saddam Hussein regime. It is the Iraqi masses." And it pointed out that "the present crisis in Iraq has three sides, not two. We must distinguish not just between US imperialism and Iraq. We must distinguish between US imperialism, the Hussein regime, and the masses. And we must support the Iraqi masses against both its oppressors. . . . An anti-imperialist opposition to the war . . . can have no sympathy with the idea of maintaining US alliances, nor can its goal be to restore working relations between the Hussein regime and the US. It has to be based on the idea of helping to build up the force of the working masses. It has to realize that such a force will eventually be more powerful, even if these days it is still only a potential force, than Western imperialism and all the reactionary regimes and movements." (www.communistvoice.org/30c/ThirdSide.html).
. Thus we gave the call "no to Bush's imperialist war and Hussein's tyranny", which meant
upholding the third side, the Iraqi masses. But you gave the call to defend the Hussein regime,
which you presented deceptively as the defense of Iraq. The experience of both Gulf Wars,
including the massive but failed revolts against the Hussein regime following the first Gulf War
and the mass desire to root out the Baathists following the second Gulf War, showed that your
"military support" for the Hussein regime was a betrayal of the struggle of the Iraqi people
against both US imperialism and the Hussein regime.
LRP: ". . . the CVO's line is similar to that of the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq, which also justifies its neutrality on the scene in Iraq by citing the reactionary political programs of the insurgent leaders."
. CV: Nonsense. You really need a good pair of eyeglasses. We have criticized the WCPI repeatedly for its opposition to the armed struggle against the occupiers, for its softness towards the idea of a UN occupation, and other errors. Consider the March 25, 2004 issue of Communist Voice, which contains the article of Tim Hall's that you are polemicizing against. It also contains a series of articles on the war in Iraq, and examples of our agitation. If you were serious in examining our viewpoint, you would look at issues of CV such as this one to see where we stand.
. And what did we say about the WCPI? The article "Solidarity with the Iraqi workers!" discusses the different trends and organization among the Iraqi working masses. It gives the WCPI credit for being one of the few organizations that seeks to establish an independent working class position in Iraq, that organizes the unemployed, and that defends the interests of women. But precisely because of the importance of the WCPI, our article has three sections devoted to a careful evaluation and criticism of the stands of the WCPI, namely "WCPI on the UN and elections", "WCPI support for banning the 'hijab' headscarves", and "WCPI on the armed resistance". The section on the armed resistance says, in part, that
"There are reports of armed resistance organized on a spontaneous basis, of workers contemplating armed resistance, and of armed resistance organized on a local basis with fairly loose connections to any definite trend. It also seems that a number of guerrilla operations require support from the local masses. So despite the strength of the reactionary trends in the armed resistance, there is also a section of the masses who support the armed resistance based mainly on hatred for the occupiers . . . the WCPI undermines efforts to appeal to the masses who are sympathetic to the armed resistance when they denounce armed resistance itself. . . . it makes it easier for the rotten forces in the armed resistance to claim exclusive rights to this front of struggle."
LRP: "The CVO observes that the resistance is largely led by reactionaries and correctly calls for building independent working-class organization and a revived class struggle in Iraq. 'We need to support the workers in Iraq getting organized in their own interests,' they say, specifying 'their own unions, revolutionary political parties, unemployed organizations, women's rights groups, etc.' But they say nothing about how these organizations should relate to the guerrilla struggle, which has mass support. They do not advocate that the workers should organize their own armed militias to fight, even temporarily, alongside the bourgeois-led resistance. Talk about 'remaining silent' in the fight against imperialist militarism." (, pp. 6-7)
. CV: You admit that we call for the creation and building up of an independent working-class trend in Iraq. You admit that we indicate most of the proper methods for doing so. You admit that our assessment of the leadership of the resistance is accurate, and you have nothing to say about our other political assessments of Iraqi forces. You are having a good deal of trouble finding anything wrong with our stand on the situation in Iraq. That's why you pretend that we oppose armed resistance to US imperialism, but you are wrong about that, as I have shown. So much for your accusation of our supposed social-pacifism and neutrality in the struggle against imperialism.
. So what's left of your criticism? It's that you call for workers to align themselves for now with the ex-Baathists and fundamentalists who dominate the leadership of the armed resistance. You betray the Iraqi workers and the armed resistance itself by this stand. You lump the militant Iraqi masses with the reactionary bourgeois trends who are fighting to subjugate them, and downplay that these trends are an immediate danger for the Iraqi working people. The Iraqi workers cannot put off the struggle against the local Iraqi exploiters and reactionaries until the occupation is defeated; they must wage this struggle now, while also fighting the occupation. They cannot defeat the Iraqi bourgeoisie simply by fighting harder against the occupation than the ex-Baathists and fundamentalists; they must also fight directly for their rights. Every time they organize a union, fight for democratic rights, fight for women's rights, fight for recognition of the right to self-determination of the Kurds, fight for religious tolerance, or otherwise rise up in their own interest, the working class is faced with the big stick of the local reactionaries as well as that of the occupation.
. As CV wrote earlier:
. "If the class and political relations in Iraq had a dramatic effect on the war, they will have an equally dramatic effect on the struggle against the occupation. There is not simply going to be a united patriotic struggle while the divisions among the Iraqi people are put aside for another day. With the collapse of the Hussein tyranny, the political contradictions in Iraqi society, some of which were forced underground by the general tyranny, are breaking out into the open. Thus the issue of Islamic clericalism has broken out in force; the issue of Kurdish national rights is the specter that won't go away; and underground parties have emerged into the light of day. Different political and class forces are putting forward their claims, and the coming days will show the real power represented by the varying trends. What attitude these trends take towards the occupation; how far they unite with each other; how far some of them unite with the occupation against other trends--all this depends not just on patriotic rhetoric, but on real class and political relations. . . .
. "Thus the struggle against the occupation regime will be intertwined with a series of political and economic demands of the masses. . . . Behind the political trends, lies the class divisions in Iraqi society. Whether the working masses develop their own trend in the coming period, or are subjected to bourgeois nationalist and clerical trends, will determine the overall features of the anti-occupation struggle. . . .
. ". . .. The working masses must strive to put their stamp on the anti-occupation struggle, and to develop a revolutionary-democratic current within it."(7)
LRP: ". . . CVO fails to offer 'military support' to the Iraqi fighters harassing and administering political defeats to the imperialists. "It is true that the resistance is currently led by reactionary bourgeois and Islamic forces who often compromise with the imperialists, oppress the masses--women especially--and are reckless with the lives of Iraqi civilians. . . . [But] Proletarian revolutionaries have to participate in the armed revolt as an independent force and find tactics to win the anti-imperialist fighters to a working-class leadership. "[This is] . . . a tactic for temporarily siding with bourgeois nationalists on the battlefield to resist imperialist repression. . . . . (for a full discussion of the Marxist method of 'military support,' see PR 59. ) (PR #73, p. 7)
. CV: You favor "temporarily siding with bourgeois nationalists", indeed with "reactionary bourgeois and Islamic forces". You promise this will be temporary, but you sided with the Hussein regime in the first Gulf War almost a decade and a half ago; you sided with Hussein in the second Gulf war; and you side with the ex-Baathists and Islamic reactionaries today during the occupation. For year after year after year, you close your eyes to their massacres of the Iraqi working people. Fifteen years and counting.
. No doubt all sorts of temporary and even unexpected alliances do occur in mass struggles. The working class has to know how to maintain its independence while using such alliances. But right now the Iraqi working masses are facing with developing an independent trend, and the ex-Baathists and fundamentalists are striving strongly to prevent this. You are telling the masses to ally with the reactionaries who are immediately attacking them. You pretend that it is a matter of choice for the working masses who to fight and who to ally with, but your advice would, if it were taken, result in undermining the ability of the working masses to wage any struggle at all.
. You pretend that one can overlook the the attacks of the reactionaries while maintaining an
"independent stand". But meanwhile you yourself are conciliating the reactionaries. The
ex-Baathists and fundamentalists aren't simply a compromising or vacillating force in the
struggle against imperialism, as you imply. They are fighting to impose their own brutal rule, and
they have their own imperial ambitions. They are not only being reckless with the lives of Iraqi
civilians, but they have consciously attacked the masses.
LRP: ". . . revolutionaries would make absolutely clear that the imperialists are the main enemy; we oppose the occupation forces in every conflict with Iraqis. However, revolutionaries would also seek to lead armed defense of the masses against terrorist and criminal attack. . . . "This is the Leninist tactic of military support, whereby revolutionaries agree to fight the same enemy as the insurgents while not giving the bourgeois resistance an ounce of political support." (PR #69)
. CV: Any force that carried out armed defense of the masses against "terrorist and criminal attack" would soon find itself in direct conflict with the ex-Baathists and fundamentalists that you want it to temporarily ally with. That would be the end of military alliance ("military support") with these forces. Indeed, such struggle between the working masses and the fundamentalist reaction already exists at a certain level. Meanwhile, the "terrorist and criminal attacks" have escalated the threat of civil war between different religious and bourgeois forces in Iraq.
. Moreover, the defense against the reactionaries, as well as the struggle against the occupation
regime, can't simply be military. It's not simply an issue of military self-defense; it's a question of
developing class organization and class consciousness among the working masses. Thus defense
of the masses has to involve a wide series of political and economic struggles; it must involve the
development of a powerful social movement of the Iraqi masses. And this is the only way the
working class can unite the mass of the Iraqi people across religious and ethnic lines.
LRP: "We are for a mass insurrection that would swamp the present sectarian and elitist efforts. . . . To unite the diverse sectors of the population, revolutionaries would call for a united struggle for a revolutionary constituent assembly. We would stress that such an assembly could only be organized by a revolutionary workers' state. ..." (PR #73, p. 19, emphasis as in the original)
. CV: You are proposing a mass insurrection that would bring about a revolutionary workers state that would organize a constituent assembly. So you propose tactics that presume that Iraq is on the verge of a socialist revolution. This means that you are absolutely incapable of dealing with the present situation, where the workers' movement is disorganized, and the masses fear the imposition of fundamentalist rule. You propose a set pattern of Trotskyist dogmas that you impose on every situation.
. You advocate "military support" for Baathists and fundamentalists, not because you have studied the situation in Iraq, but because you propose "military support" for reactionaries all the time. You believe that the slogan of a "constituent assembly" would "unite the diverse sectors" of the population of Iraq. But, although democratic rights are an immediate demand of the Iraqi masses, something ignored by your "military support" for reactionaries who oppose these rights, the slogan of a "constituent assembly" is not going to unite the "diverse sectors of the population". It does not answer the question of whether the state will be secular or religious; it does not answer whether the right to self-determination of Kurdistan will be recognized; it does not answer the question of federalism; it does not answer the question of how the democratic will of the masses will be ascertained; it does not protect the conditions of labor; etc. The slogan of a "constituent assembly" doesn't speak to any of these conflicts among the masses and between the different class forces. You don't advance the slogan of the "constituent assembly" as a result of a careful study of Iraqi conditions, but only because this call is prescribed for backward countries in the world transitional program set forward by Trotsky in 1938.
. You have many proposals for what the workers and activists of Iraq should do. But these proposals are not based on a consideration of Iraqi conditions. Nor do you have much expectation that they will be carried out. No matter, You will explain that away by the lack of "revolutionary leadership" in Iraq. It never strikes you that there was something wrong in your proposals and viewpoints to start with.
To be continued <>
(1) See the LRP pamphlet 'No Draft" Is No Answer: The Communist Position on Stopping War,
Introduction, p. 5. (Return to text)
(2)See Discussions with the LRP: Correspondence between the League for the Revolutionary Party and the Animal Liberation Collective: February 2003-March 2005, p. 40-1. Excerpts from this pamphlet are elsewhere in this issue of CV, see pages 48-9 for the passage on how LRP would vote. (Text)
(3) Moreover, while supporting the draft resisters, the resolution points out that "the MLP does not give a general call to refuse registration or the draft. It believes that it hurts the struggle against militarism and war to give the impression that refusal, if only enough people take part, can stop imperialist war. This has never happened." It points to the need for "the mass revolutionary struggle against imperialism"; it supports those who register with the intention of fighting militarism from within the armed forces; and it calls for work with the vast majority of working class youth, who will eventually register because they have no alternative. (Text)
(4) "The LRP surrenders to militarism and the threat of a new draft," Communist Voice, March 25, 2004, p. 18, col. 2. (Text)
(5) "War and Revolution: A lecture delivered May 14 (27), 1917", Collected Works, Vol. 24, p.
417 In fact, the draft was reintroduced in the US during World War I, but it lapsed afterwards
until the eve of World War II. (Text)
(6) "Pacifism and the Peace Slogan" in "Socialism and War," Collected Works, Vol. 21, pp. 316-7. (Text)
(7) "US imperialism, get out of Iraq! For the organization of the Iraqi working masses!" Communist Voice, May 20, 2003, pp. 6, 8. (Text) <>
(Note: In CV #36, from which the above article is taken, the last quote from LRP is mistakenly
referenced to PR #73, p.4, rather than PR #73, p. 19. Minor formatting changes have been made
above, and some other typos corrected, as well as some additional indication given as to whether
emphasis in quotations has been added or is as in the original.)
October 16, 2005.