For your reference:

FSP's Kathleen Merrigan replies
on the situation in Iraq

. The CVO received the following statement from Kathleen Merrigan about CVO criticism of FSP's support for the Islamic fundamentalists and ex-Baathists in Iraq. The CVO's Frank Arango replied on July 11, critiquing FSP's attempt to "have it both ways in the class struggle" -- "to support valiant women and working class organizers in Iraq, and at the same time support forces that suppress and murder them".

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Communist Voice Organization Continues to Misconstrue and Malign
Freedom Socialist Party's Support for the Iraqi Resistance

April 30, 2008

by Kathleen Merrigan (FSP)


. It is difficult to know where to begin in answering the latest lengthy diatribe against the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) from Communist Voice Organization (CVO). Frank Arango's response to "Partitioning Iraq -- a U. S. 'solution' that would spell disaster for the region" (Freedom Socialist Vol. 28 No. 6) by Megan Cornish is so full of contradictions, hyperbole, incorrect assumptions, and mischaracterizations that one can't help but question CVO's honesty when Arango says they "aim at resolutions of the controversies." His analysis and arguments are such a mess of confusion that I will not attempt to answer them all, but focus on the most important.

. FSP has made the effort to work cooperatively with CVO in the mass antiwar movement in Seattle and will continue to do so. One can only question why Arango accuses FSP of an "uncomradely and slanderous attitude" towards the CVO, in an article whose title could hardly be more inflammatory ("Freedom Socialist Party continues to support exploiters and oppressors of the Iraqi masses"). He invites us to peruse all articles of the CVO for clarification of their positions but fails to do the same, basing his entire polemic on one FSP statement and two short articles in the Freedom Socialist, one of them almost five years old.

. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and even before, the FSP has published dozens of articles and statements on Iraq. A serious examination of everything the FSP has said on this issue answers the CVO criticisms and shows a complex analysis of the class contradictions within the Iraqi resistance and a history of consistent emphasis on the workers and women who are resisting both U.S. occupation and religious fundamentalism, as well as support for Kurdish national self determination.

. FSP's statement "Bring the Troops home NOW!" published on the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, was the subject of CVO's original 13-page opus. Our flyer could not have stated our position any clearer and seems to have been ignored by both Arango and Mark Williams, author of the first CVO article. We said, "Though the specter of civil war is present, there are forces within the Iraqi resistance who are organizing across ethnic and religious lines to continue the fight to expel the U.S. The fastest way to end this war is to support the indigenous resistance movement of trade unionists, women's organizations, intellectuals, students and elders who want a secular and democratic Iraq."

. Because the Kurdish struggle is not mentioned in that particular statement, CVO claims that we do not support Kurdish self-determination. One could just as easily argue that because Palestine and Afghanistan are not mentioned in the most recent CVO statement on U.S. imperialism ("Mobilize against bipartisan imperialism!" Communist Voice, February 2008), CVO does not support Palestinian liberation or is in favor of U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. That would be as "uncomradely and slanderous" as CVO's seemingly intentional misconstruction of FSP's position in defense of Kurdish national rights!

. Further, CVO confounds our position against the forced partition of Iraq by the U.S. with opposition to Kurdish national rights! We can and do support the national unity of Arab Iraqis in opposition to sectarian divisions fomented by the U. S. -- and at the same time support national self-determination for all nations, including the Kurds. Can CVO seriously believe the two are in conflict, or that our position against sectarian divisions is a "non-class approach"?

. Like support for oppressed nations (another cross-class formation), support for Iraq against U.S. imperialism is precisely a matter of international working-class solidarity. If we did not take these stands (and support other democratic demands), we would push the workers of oppressed nations and groups closer to "their own" ruling classes because they would not be getting the solidarity they deserve from leftists and the workers who follow their leadership.

. The Freedom Socialist has carried many articles detailing the growth of the Iraqi labor movement, the struggles of Iraqi unionists, interviews with Iraqi feminists and more. What's more, we have supported these progressive sectors of the Iraqi resistance in deeds as well as words, supporting speaking tours for Iraqi unionists and feminists, making financial contributions to Iraqi leftists, and raising the slogan of support for the Iraqi resistance in national and international anti-war and progressive movements.

. Radical Women, our sister organization, initiated and organized an international petition drive on behalf of the Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq that we endorsed and supported.

. We declared our support for the right of the Iraqi people to resist even before the U.S. invasion and we have come under attack time and time again from right wing media pundits and anti-war pacifists for this position. We have been maligned on national TV and seen our hall picketed by fascists. We have never wavered in our position, and we are appalled that CVO expends such time and effort arguing against unconditional support for the Iraqi resistance, however critical they are of its Baathist and fundamentalist elements.

. CVO alleges that our support for the Iraqi resistance has been uncritical, has downplayed the crimes of the reactionaries and fundamentalists and betrayed the class struggle in Iraq. Again, any serious examination of our position shows this claim to be totally false and self-serving. Freedom Socialist articles too numerous to mention have discussed the contradictions within the Iraqi resistance, condemned the crimes of the fundamentalists and emphasized the importance of building working class organizations. To note the facts that the position of Iraqi women was the highest in the Arab world prior to the two U.S. wars against Iraq or that al-Sadr's supporters are the poorest of Iraqis do not indicate support for either Saddam Hussein or Muktada al-Sadr. Instead, these facts point to the tendency of imperialism to hit the most vulnerable groups hardest, and likewise identify who will be the strongest fighters against it. Marxists are first of all materialists, who must be able to evaluate objective reality.

. Nevertheless, we do support the right of all Iraqis to resist occupation. Furthermore, in the fight between U.S. imperialism and Iraqi forces, (including Baathists and Moqtada al-Sadr) we stand for the defeat of the U.S. military. We believe that driving the occupiers out of Iraq is the necessary first step in fighting for a democratic, secular and socialist revolution and our thoughts on this matter are echoed by the socialists, unionists and feminists struggling for this revolution in Iraq. This is the basis of our unconditional, but critical, support of the Iraqi resistance.

. The concept of critical support is fundamental to Leninism and Trotskyism. It allows revolutionaries to take clear positions on all vital struggles of oppressed people, even though real life movements are often flawed. By supporting movements of oppressed workers, nations, races, women and other groups, leftists make common cause with the workers of each group, building the revolutionary movement.

. Iraq's bourgeoisie does not exist in a vacuum. They are part and parcel of a global imperialist system and longtime clients of the U.S. Therefore it is perfectly logical to place equal responsibility for their crimes on the U.S. ruling class. The invasion and occupation has created an environment in which fundamentalism and sectarianism thrive, and an end to the occupation itself would be the single biggest blow against these elements.

. CVO's implied position that workers and women are not part of the armed resistance, that any reference to the Iraqi resistance must mean solely the armed resistance, and that a movement dominated by former Baathists and religious fundamentalists is not worthy of our support, allows CVO to avoid distinction from pacifists and other petty-bourgeois elements in the anti-war movement. Arango demonstrated this clearly in an email on the Seattle October 27 Coalition discussion list when he explained that his position was closer to those of the pacifist Friendship of Reconciliation and American Friends Service Committee than any of them are to that of the Trotskyists. Such a statement demonstrates how CVO's position is objectively opportunist.

. Arango discounts Megan Cornish's assertion that CVO hedges on whether or not it supports the Iraqi resistance, as a mere "polemical method." But our question to CVO remains: In the war between U.S. imperialism and the Iraqi resistance, which side are you on? If you refuse to support those fighting against the occupation, you are objectively siding with imperialism.

. The truth is, as both Arango and Williams admit in their critiques of the FSP, that the basis of our disagreement boils down to what the CVO sees as the misguided and incorrect ideas of Leon Trotsky, specifically the theory of Permanent Revolution, which Arango maligns without explaining. In a nutshell, the theory of Permanent Revolution states that national liberation struggles in colonized countries, and democratic movements everywhere, naturally tend to grow over into revolutionary struggles -- for the very reason that only the working class has the power and will to win them. In the age of imperialism, these democratic movements (as well as all-out revolutions) continuously erupt around the globe, and put socialist revolution on the order of the day. This means that supporting democratic movements is the most important job of revolutionaries, not only because it is the prerequisite of international solidarity, but because it builds the revolutionary struggle. More specifically, the prime job of revolutionaries in imperialist countries is to fight against their own ruling class, both in its imperialist adventures internationally and in supporting democratic movements at home.

. While Arango invites us to a serious discussion to resolve these differences, he knows that, short of abandoning its Trotskyist legacy, FSP will not find agreement with the CVO. In the end, I think we will continue to disagree on important issues, but I hope we can continue to work cooperatively in the movement and the streets. <>

Other articles in this debate


Struggling to have it both ways in the class struggle
by Frank Arango, July 11, 2008

* Freedom Socialist Party continues to support exploiters and oppressors of the Iraqi masses
by Frank Arango
* For your reference: Partitioning of Iraq - a U.S. 'Solution' that would spell disaster for region, by Megan Cornish (FSP)
(Communist Voice, Issue #41, vol. 14 , #1, Feb. 20, 2008)


(Communist Voice, Issue #38, vol. 12, #2, July 27, 2006)

How to order CV, write us!

Modified July 12, 2008.