Detroit Workers' Voice #36
. The following article is from Detroit Workers' Voice #36, April 4, 2003, which is published by
the Detroit Marxist-Leninist Study Group. Reprinted in Communist Voice, May 20, 2003.
. The US invasion of Iraq is in high gear. Baghdad is being bombed; cities are being besieged; and civilians are being trampled underfoot. As the US and British forces encounter difficulties and delays, they have become meaner. Every day brings a new atrocity. The bombing has hit more and more civilians, the restriction of water and supplies have been used as weapons to get cities to capitulate, and blood has flown freely.
. This is a war between a greedy superpower and a local tyranny over oil and regional influence.
There is a third side in this war, the anti-war movement of the masses here and abroad, and the
Iraqi working people oppressed by both US imperialism and Saddam's tyranny. It is neither
democratic to support the US military, nor anti-imperialist to support the Hussein dictatorship.
The third side, the side of the working masses, is the only just side.
The reasons for the war
. This is yet another war of choice. Bush chose the country and the time to best suit his political
purposes. It was not a war forced on the US, but a war that has been advocated for a decade by
hard-line conservatives. Indeed, it has been a war in search of a pretext.
. So what are the real purposes of this war?
. This is not a gallant war, but a dirty war. It is an imperialist war. It is not in the interest of the
American people, the Iraqi people or working people anywhere. It is in the interests of the CEOs
and multinational corporations who want to dominate the world, exploit its cheap labor and rape
The Iraqi masses
. Saddam's regime is far weaker than Bush's, but his purposes aren't any better. Even now, the Iraqi regime aims to maintain its tyranny. A hatred for the Hussein regime has grown among the Iraqi people.
. But there is also a hatred for foreign occupation. It is not just Hussein loyalists who oppose US and British presence. After the fall of the Hussein regime, as the nature of occupation emerges, it is likely that discontent will spread.
. The Bush administration wants, not democracy, but a regime which obeys US policy. It is scared of the Shiite majority in Iraq, because that majority might want closer relations with Iran. It won't give the right to self-determination to the substantial Kurdish minority in Iraq, because this would upset the neighboring Turkish government, which oppresses its own Kurdish minority, and because the US government doesn't believe in self-determination anyway. And it hasn't found anyone among the remaining Iraqis whom it really trusts either.
. Today the Iraqi people are divided among themselves; different factions are doing different
things; and many people are simply waiting. There is no strong movement that puts forward the
interests of the working people, as opposed to that of the bourgeois leaders of various factions.
But it is the working masses who are the bastion of the anti-imperialist and democratic causes in
Iraq. The anti-war movement should strive to link up with these masses, support their struggles
against US imperialist occupation and Saddam's tyranny, and help them develop their own
independent view. This requires that we have a critical attitude to the problems in the anti-war
movement here in the US as well, for here the mass movement is also divided. We too face not
only an immediate struggle against imperialism, but a protracted struggle to develop a durable,
independent movement that really represents working class interests.
Strengthen the anti-war movement,
expose the class basis of the war
. There were demonstrations of gigantic size just before the war's outbreak. Many different trends and groupings participated, with varying ideas about what was to be done. Since the outbreak of the war, demonstrations, teach-ins, and other protests have continued. The size has been smaller so far, but they are widespread and of a determined character. This has had a powerful effect on the atmosphere in this country.
. Some Democratic Party politicians and labor bureaucrats had criticized a war without UN backing or even signed some resolutions. But when the war came, most turned silent. There was a 99-0 vote in the Senate to support Bush as commander-in-chief of the war effort, and most Democrats in the House voted for a similar resolution. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi declared that "Despite our differences on policy, when we go into battle it will be one team, one fight." And Senate Democratic leader Daschle apologized for the timing of remarks he made criticizing Bush's diplomacy. Most Democratic politicians and labor bureaucrats, under the banner of "support our troops", backed the war effort. Insofar as they retained some criticism, it was over how best to support the common effort. This didn't stop the anti-war protests from taking on a bitter and determined character, for these characters were always brakes on the anti-war movement. But we should not forget that the big-wigs have caved to pressure from the militarists.
. At the outbreak of this war, as in most wars, there has been a temporary jump in support for the government. This is not only because there is confusion over the real aims of the war, and because the supporters of the war naturally become more active now that it has begun. It is not some mistaken ordinary people, but the capitalist interests, who are the real force behind this war. At the start of a war, the bourgeoisie rallies around its government and its military, and calls upon the establishment media, the pro-capitalist parties, the pro-capitalist labor leaders, and even elementary schools to help whip up fervor for the war, or at least to stamp out dissent. Some firms (such as media giant "Clear Channel") have even financed and organized supposed grassroots pro-war demos. In their search for higher profits, the American bourgeoisie wants to dominate and exploit other countries. They seek to develop and strengthen American hegemony over the world. Even when the bourgeoisie is somewhat divided over the wisdom of a particular war or foreign policy, most of it rallies behind the war effort anyway, as the critics support the same basic imperialist goals as the rest of the bourgeoisie. They don't want the basic imperialist institutions challenged, as these are what allow the American bourgeoisie to impose its will on the rest of the world.
. That is why the Democratic Party falls in line, and that is why the work of the anti-war movement is so important. It is hard for isolated individuals to stand against the confusion-mongering and pressure of the bourgeoisie. It requires common action and organization for the working people to fight the militarism of the bourgeoisie.
. The bourgeoisie has also used the "war on terrorism" and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to
restrict the rights of the working people. Police powers have been increased; legal safeguards
have been dismantled; and there have been cutbacks in schools, health care, and other social
programs. Meanwhile there's fat contracts for defense/security contractors. Not just the
Republican Party, but the Democratic Party is a party of the bourgeoisie. That is why it always
disappoints the expectations it fosters among the working people. That is why it pledges its
loyalty over and over to the Pentagon and the war effort. It's not simply a question that some
liberal politicians make mistakes or aren't very courageous; it's a question of the class basis of the
Conyers and the draft
. There are only a few Democratic congresspeople who go to anti-war protests. One of them is Representative John Conyers. His representative at the Dearborn rally of March 25 even claimed that he is against "imperialist war". But he doesn't show the masses that both big capitalist parties are imperialist parties and war parties. He and other Democratic war critics strive to keep the protests channeled into support for the Democrats and other bourgeois channels. And where does this lead? It turns out that he has co-sponsored a bill for reinstituting the military draft. He wants everyone to have to engage in two years of national service. He thus tells the people he is opposed to war, while helping the bourgeoisie militarize the country.
. Conyers claims that a draft would be an anti-war step, because if everyone served in the military, politicians allegedly wouldn't be so fast to send the army to war. But his draft bill was introduced into the other chamber of Congress by Senator Hollings, who supports the war on Iraq and wants the draft to prepare the military for future wars. Conyers has ended up backing the draft, because as a Democrat he feels compelled to find measures that the bourgeoisie will support, and then paint them up as progressive.
. Other Democrats too may sometimes criticize Bush's policies. But they do so because they
believe he is weakening imperialism. They advocate a "multilateralist" policy of building up the
alliances among the big powers, while Bush is a "unilateralist" with a go-it-alone policy. This
may be a real difference of policy, but it is a difference over how to strengthen US world
hegemony. It is a difference about how the world's exploiters and sweat shop owners should
relate to each other, where neither side supports the movement of the working masses. The
anti-war movement should concentrate on building the internationalist ties between the workers
and protesters of all countries, including those in France, so cursed by American conservatives.
But it should have no illusions in the imperialist governments of other great powers, including
France's right-wing president Jacques Chirac, nor in "international law", the UN or multilateralist
alliances of imperialist powers.
"Support our troops" or support the GI resistance?
. With the outbreak of the war, the establishment media argues that everyone must support the war effort. If you're not convinced by its war propaganda, it argues that no matter what the war is for, everyone must rally around the flag under the guise of "supporting our troops". They present this as concern for the welfare of ordinary soldiers. But actually, "support our troops" means supporting the generals and politicians, while sending the troops to be cannonfodder for imperialist war. The bulk of troops, whether in the US or Iraqi army, are ordinary working people who are used for the interests of the bourgeoisie. We should be concerned for their plight. But to really support the working people who are caught up in the war, we must denounce the generals and the imperialist war. We should do our best to help the common soldier realize the nature of this war. And we should support the courageous soldiers who stand up against this war. We should also support the Iraqi victims of the war as well, for not only "our" troops suffer, but "their" troops and civilians too.
. Some activists say "support our troops--bring them home", thus adding an anti-war message to
the slogan. They do this to expose the hypocrisy of the "support our troops" slogan. And true,
opposing militarism and war is the only real support that can be given to help working people
caught up in the military. So this slogan can be a comeback in a person-to-person argument. But
it would be better if movement slogans did not give any credence to the "support our troops"
mantra in any form. The connection of the phrase "support our troops" to the militarist meanings
denounced above is just too strong. The Democrats and the liberal bourgeoisie want to compete
with the Republicans over who best can "support our troops", while the movement should take
up the banner of internationalism instead.
Anti-imperialism or support for Hussein?
. Some Trotskyist forces in the movement advocate support for the Hussein regime. This is their idea of "defending Iraq". The Workers World Party does this quietly, while the Spartacist League loudly advocates "military support" for the Hussein regime and pretends that this is not "political support" for it. But word games aside, real support for the Iraqi people means supporting them against both US imperialism and the Hussein regime.
. The Trotskyists present this "military support" for dictatorship as "anti-imperialism" and
"Leninism". This turns Leninism on its head. Leninism holds that, whether in the big powers or
the countries they victimize, it is the working masses who are the bulwark of the anti-imperialist
struggle. If real communism is to again become a force in the movement, there must be a struggle
against the Trotskyist distortion of Marxism, as well as against Stalinism. Real communism
stands for developing an independent movement of the working masses, not placing one's hopes
in tyrants like Hussein or in Stalinist state-capitalist regimes. The Communist Voice
Organization stands for this revolutionary and anti-revisionist communism. We have published a
good deal of material showing what a revolutionary anti-imperialist stand really is, and what
Marx and Lenin really stood for.
For an anti-imperialist anti-war movement!
. Today, a good part of the American bourgeoisie today believes that it is invincible. Talk about empire-building is starting to fill the policy journals. Rumsfeld and other militarists believe that the "revolution in military affairs" will allow the US military to dominate the world through high-tech weaponry. So no matter whether the current war is long or short, the anti-war struggle is going to be a protracted one. The present war is the prelude to a struggle over the occupation regime, and to war threats against other countries.
. If the anti-war movement is to grow stronger and more effective, it must directly challenge the imperial pretensions of the bourgeoisie. It should target imperialism, and its class basis in capitalist exploitation. It should base itself on the working masses, and not on the policy differences among the bourgeois factions. It should aim at building up independent organizations of activists, workers and youth.
. At the same time, there is also a world movement of protest. In country after country, demonstrations have taken place. The anti-war movement here has its allies in the working people of Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, Africa, and Canada. An anti-imperialist perspective is also an internationalist one, which bases itself on the common interests of workers around the world.
Last changed on September 7, 2003.