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Communist Voice

Successor to the Workers' Advocate

Volume 2, Number 5

Oct. 1, 1996

$1 .00

Renewed Palestinian struggle and the fiasco of the mini-state . . . 13

Reply to the anarchists on the Spanish Civil War . . . 20

Anti-imperialism versus the “defend Iraq” slogan . . . 32

In this issue

The imperialist Helms-Burton law and the myth of Cuban socialism by Mark, Detroit


The Communist Voice Organization discusses its future


Labor Day leaflet: We need a real struggle against the bosses by Detroit Workers’ Voice


No spark in The Spark: Against the prettification of sellouts by Tim, Detroit


The mini-state debate in the light of the renewed Palestinian struggle



Reformist panaceas crash on the rocks of reality by Mark, Detroit


Marxism vs. anarchism on overcoming the marketplace

From the Open Letter to the left of the Black Autonomy Collective of Seattle by Greg Jackson. Seattle


Anarchism and the marketplace (excerpts)


Reply to the Open Letter: The experience of the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War shows that autonomous collectives can’t overcome the marketplace by Joseph Green, Detroit


The recent bombing in Iraq and the controversies over anti-war work in the Persian Gulf War



On the Spartacist League and the ‘defend Iraq’ slogan: Building an anti-imperialist movement or putting hopes in Hussein’s military by Joseph Green, Detroit


Reply to criticisms of the Workers ' Advocate on the war (part four) by Slim, Detroit


Letters from Julie, Anita and Jake of the Chicago Workers' Voice group


Reply to Anita by Mark, Detroit


Correspondence: On the Nader candidacy by Frank, Seattle


The imperialist Helms-Burton law and the myth of Cuban socialism

by Mark, Detroit

This past winter, Clinton gave his blessings to a bill co-authored by Republican reactionaries Jesse Helms and Dan Burton that tightens the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba. This bill is another rotten chapter in imperialist bullying of Cuba. Ever since the toppling of the U.S.-backed Batista regime in 1959, the U.S. has been trying to restore its lost domination over the island. Meanwhile, the revolution in Cuba died long ago. Castro and the other Cuban rulers adopted the signboard of "socialism" but actually consolidated a state-capitalist order under the wing of the now-defunct social-imperialist Soviet Union. The ruling bureaucrat-capitalists in Cuba have, especially since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, moved toward more "market-style" reforms. In fact, Clinton and Helms's efforts to strangle Cuba come at a time when the Castroite rulers are greatly widening the opportunities for world capitalism to exploit Cuban labor and resources. But Cuba's opening to the world market doesn't satisfy the Clinton administration. It wants a Cuban government that knuckles under to the whims of U.S. imperialism and it wants the votes of the right-wing Cuban exiles. To accomplish this, now it is even willing to irritate other capitalist powers who are upset at Helms-Burton's measures to punish anyone in the world who invests in Cuba.

The Helms-Burton Bill

Clinton came to power claiming he would change the hard-line policy of the Reagan-Bush administrations toward Cuba. But little has changed. During the 1992 campaign, Clinton began his groveling in front of the reactionary exile group, the Cuban-American National Foundation, which rewarded him with $120,000 in campaign funds despite the group's general sympathies for the Republicans. Even before this February's downing of the planes of the reactionary Cuban exiles by the Cuban government, Clinton was trying to reach a deal with the Helms-Burton backers. After the planes were shot down, however, the administration cast aside its previous misgivings about certain provisions of the bill and paved the way for a vast bipartisan majority in Congress to pass the bill.

The bill's purpose is to help ruin the Cuban economy and thereby force the ouster of the Castro regime in favor of a "transitional government" that meets the approval of the White House and Congress. The bill explicitly states that a condition of lifting the embargo is a new government which does not include Fidel Castro or his brother, Raul. To this end, the bill makes all previous embargo measures back to the Kennedy administration into laws which only Congress can change. Previously, various features of the embargo could be removed at the discretion of the president. Thus, to placate the right wing, Clinton has allowed one more roadblock to be set up in the way of ending the U.S. embargo.

The most noteworthy new measures of the Helms-Burton bill are those against capitalists of other countries who "traffic" in property formerly owned by U.S. businesses prior to the Cuban revolution. "Trafficking" is defined as buying, selling, transferring, profiting from, or improving former U.S. properties. The owners of such properties and their families are barred from legal entry into the U.S. As well, the bill allows the former U.S. owners to bring suit in U.S. courts against the "traffickers". Thus, the bill attempts to make foreign firms operating outside the U.S. subject to U.S. laws and courts.

The "trafficking" provisions were the basis of Clinton's former rejection of the bill and the administration still has great qualms about them. It frets over retaliatory measures against U.S. capitalists, as any serious attempt to enforce a U.S. lawsuit against a foreign multinational operating outside the U.S. would risk a legal and trade confrontation the administration does not want. The response from world capital was quick. From the European Union to Canada, from Japan to Latin America, the capitalist governments have condemned the measures, and some promised counter-suits in their own courts and other forms of retaliation.

In response, Clinton is straddling the fence on enforcing the "trafficking" provisions of Helms-Burton. The administration is enforcing the measures against travel in the U.S. by "traffickers" but is using loopholes in the bill that allow it to delay implementation of the lawsuit provisions. Though the bill allowed Clinton the option of postponing the right to bring lawsuits, Clinton declared this provision in effect. But he has also decided to not actually allow any lawsuits to begin until well after the November presidential elections. In this way, he hopes to score points with the right-wing exile community in the elections while trying to smooth things over with friendly capitalist powers. In any case, the overall economic blockade would not immediately be affected.

Disagreement among the bourgeoisie

With Clinton and Congress trying to placate the right-wing on Cuba, another section of bourgeois opinion is critical of this policy and wants an easing of the embargo. They do not want the embargo lifted because they are interested in alleviating the suffering of the Cuban masses. Rather, they believe that U.S. imperialism can best push its agenda in Cuba if there is an opening. They object to the right-wing bullying on the grounds of expediency. They point out that 30-plus years of embargo have not brought down Castro and allow Castro to cement his power by playing on the sentiments of the Cuban masses against arrogant U.S. threats. As well the bourgeois embargo opponents note that there is no viable organized force in Cuba that could presently challenge Castro. Thus, they hold that U.S. interests in Cuba are best served by having U.S. corporations inside the country, even while Castro is still around. They know that U.S. corporations entering Cuba will be a source of U.S. political influence there.

The bottom line for the bourgeois opponents of the hard-line policy is, well, the bottom line. They see the corporations of other countries setting up shop in Cuba and reaching trade deals. They worry that the U.S. companies will be frozen out. This view is expressed, for instance, by Wayne S. Smith, a prominent bourgeois commentator on Cuba who was U.S. ambassador there from 1958-61. In an article in Foreign Affairs of March/April 1996, Smith concludes that the Cuba embargo "complicates relations with America's most important trading partners while denying U.S. companies any share of the Cuban market. The latter is not large, but a recent trade study estimated that the United States and Cuba could quickly be doing some $7 billion a year in business." (1) In another article in the same publication, Pamela S. Falk, Staff Director of the U.S. House of Representatives Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, notes that corporate giants such as GM, Bank of Boston, Sears and major hotel chains have been on scouting expeditions to Cuba. AT&T wants to participate in the multi-billion dollar privatization of the Cuban telecommunications system. The article quotes the CEO of the Ingersoll-Rand construction corporation stating "The embargo is a waste of taxpayer dollars and time" while his counterpart at Archer Daniels Midland claims not to "know a corporate CEO who thinks excluding U.S. business is a good idea, particularly when all of Western Europe is down there." (2)

While it is undoubtedly true that many capitalists do not like the present policy on Cuba, it does not automatically follow that the embargo will quickly fall. For one thing, the embargo has long had widespread appeal among the U.S. bourgeoisie overall, which does not trust the Castro government to look after their interests no matter how many concessions it gives to foreign investors. For another, there is a question of whether the corporate interest in investing in Cuba is strong enough for them to force the capitalist politicians like Clinton and Dole to forgo political expediency and look "weak on communism". (After all, the bourgeoisie spent decades building up anti-communist hysteria against Cuba.) In the case of the huge potential of the China market, the U.S. bourgeoisie did not allow their usual hysteria against the so-called "communism" there to stop economic relations. But the Cuban market does not have anywhere near the same importance to overall U.S. imperialist interests as does the China market.

Of course, the embargo against Cuba is not just opposed by corporations who want to conquer the Cuban market, but by progressive activists who oppose various hardships imposed on the Cuban masses by the embargo and the efforts of the U.S. to strangle Cuba. But it would be a big mistake for activists to think that the lifting of the embargo will solve the main problems of the Cuban masses. This requires not only opposition to U.S. bullying but opposing the Castro regime and the state-capitalist order in Cuba. Indeed, an end to the U.S. embargo means the beginning of the U.S. multinationals sharing in the plunder of the Cuban toilers. The anti-embargo section of the U.S. of the U.S. bourgeoisie opposes the pro-embargo section from the standpoint of what policy best serves imperialism. Activists who want to stand with the Cuban masses must oppose the embargo as part of a stand against the exploitation of the masses by Cuban state-capitalism and the foreign corporations it welcomes in.

Castro gives a wide opening for foreign capitalist investment

Despite its socialist signboard, Cuba has for a long time been a state-capitalist system. But the fact that the Castro government has been pleading with the foreign multinationals to pour into Cuba is a vivid exposure of the class nature of the Cuban social order. Just as other revisionist regimes in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China sought a way out of their economic woes through capitalist "market" reforms and opening up to Western capitalist investment, so now are the Cuban rulers. Castro, of course, claims that he is inviting the foreign firms in to help save Cuban "socialism". But in Cuba, too, what is happening is that the state-capitalist forms are giving way to more naked capitalist measures. The last few years have shown Western investment and market reforms in the former revisionist countries have not solved the economic woes of the masses, much less having anything to do with socialism. Rather they have generally lowered living standards and increased the gap between rich and poor.

But Castro is doing all he can to turn Cuba into a haven for the capitalist exploiters of the world. A law enacted in 1995 enables foreign corporations to own outright enterprises in almost every sector of the Cuban economy. Prior to this law, foreign capitalists were allowed to own 49% of Cuban enterprises, but in practice, the government allowed majority foreign ownership. The Cuban revisionist rulers have bent over backwards to make foreign enterprises profitable. There are generous tax policies, ease in remittance of profits out of the country, and foreign employers are exempt from the normal labor codes. The government even agreed to pay for the construction and infrastructure of facilities to entice foreign investors to participate in new and already-existing ventures. (3) In the tourism sector, an area of heavy foreign investment, the Cuban authorities boast that there is a 100% return on investment within five years. Such high returns are verified by even the critics of Castro.

Among the forms of partnership between the Cuban enterprises and Western capitalist investors are debt-equity swaps. Cuba began borrowing heavily from the Western imperialist countries in the 1970s and the debt crisis grew acute in the 1980s with Cuba unable to meet its debt payments. To solve this problem, the Castro government, like other poor nations buried in debt to the more powerful capitalist countries, has begun to turn over its state enterprises in return for debt relief. For instance, a Mexican firm got part of a billion dollar Cuban textile enterprise under a deal where part of the export earnings of the joint venture go toward reducing debt to Mexico.(4)

As a result of these policies, an estimated five billion dollars of direct investment has already come to the island. (To get a rough idea of the size of that in Cuban terms, consider that the gross domestic product was about $14-15 billion in 1992.) According to one source, by 1993 there were about a hundred joint ventures. (5) Foreign investment in the tourist industry has played a major role in tourism outstripping sugar, Cuba's traditionally dominant main export, as a source of gross income and hard currency. (Shrinking levels of sugar production in recent years are another factor.) (6)

Among the bigger investment deals is the $500 million commitment of the Canadian company, Sherritt International, to engage in oil exploration, cobalt and nickel mining, the sugar industry and other areas. In the tourist sector, foreign investors include Spain, Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Colombia. U.S. hotel magnate Donald Trump has declared himself anxious to get in on the action. All told, some 1,300 U.S. business executives have met with Cuban officials though actual deals are presently blocked by the U.S. embargo. These meetings have produced a number of non-binding agreements, reportedly as large as $10 billion, which is huge by Cuban standards. Though these deals are non-binding, they not only indicate the interest of U.S. corporations, but that the Cuban revisionist rulers are placing their hopes for the future not in socialism, but in a mix of Cuban and foreign capitalism.

Growing "market" reforms of Cuban enterprises

Parallel with the opening to outside market capitalism has been the adoption of ever-more market reforms within the domestic economic set-up. The Cuban rulers have not only offered up ownership of state property to foreign capitalists but to small groups of the Cuban bureaucratic elite. The so-called sociedades anonimas are state companies turned over to private ownership of big shot managers and party officials. These companies operate outside even the pretense of a central government plan. They run on their own income and keep whatever profits they generate. There isn't much to distinguish them from "normal" capitalist businesses. These enterprises are not merely small businesses either. For example, these firms are big players in the tourist industry. Some of these enterprises increase their power through interlocking ownership/management with similar companies, and not only offer shares of their businesses to the Cuban elite but to foreign investors. These firms may also branch into different fields of services and production.

The Cuban tourist operation, Cubanacan, is an example of these large businesses. It not only built hotels and conducted other tourism business but branched into the import business, promoting products from 27 different foreign companies and became the sole exporter of certain medicines among other products it exported. Cubanacan even set up some medical clinics in other countries. Another large enterprise of this type is Cimex, with 48 subsidiaries and a dozen associated companies in seventeen countries. (7) Among other things, Cimex has its own merchant fleet, sugar refineries and export businesses. It uses part of its income to speculate in international stock and commodity markets. The sociedades anonimas compete against each other for foreign investment and hard currency. For instance, rivalries developed between the Cubanacan and Gaviota enterprises and the national airline for dominance over air travel.

In agriculture, state farms have, in effect, all but been abolished. These farms occupied 80% of agricultural land. Reforms in 1993 divided state farms into competing co-ops. These co-ops have the right to use the land as they see fit with some restrictions. Originally these farms were to sell to the state whatever they didn't consume themselves. But evidently these co-ops are now allowed to sell their surplus production on the open market. Participants in the co-ops no longer will get a set wage as on the state farm but will be get a share of the income of the co-op. In a society on its way to socialism, co-op agriculture may serve as a transition from small private farms to large-scale agriculture belonging to society as a whole. But these co-ops are not moving society toward socialized property but are designed to increase the competition among groups of farmers. Such competition between the co-ops will lead to ever-greater gaps between wealthier and poorer co-ops and their members. Cuban agriculture is thus moving toward co-operative forms that have operated in any number of market-capitalist countries.

The Cuban government has given growing room for small private entrepreneurship. Even before recent reforms there were 100,000 small private farms alongside the dominant state sector. In 1994, the government returned to a policy it tried in the mid-80s of allowing free-market sales of the surplus production of small private farms. The original experiment led quickly to extreme profiteering and was temporarily canceled by the regime. But the return to the market shows that it was not the free market per se that upset the government. Rather the Cuban authorities were upset over particular results of the mid-80s plan such as the undermining of government agricultural procurement and rampant selling to private speculators who brought up production and then marketed it at exorbitant prices. But once the Cuban officials bless private agriculture, it is ridiculous to expect it will be free of the ills that accompany it everywhere.

As well, small private service, artisan and manufacturing businesses have been given wide latitude. A large section of the population supplements their income with self-employment ventures. Cuban government estimates indicate that about 20% of the 1991 workforce of four million participated in petty enterprises. And the Cuban authorities are discussing allowing individuals to pool their resources and form larger businesses which would be permitted to hire wage-labor. (8) In fact, the private hiring of wage-labor already goes on to some extent.

The expansion of the private sector is Castro's solution to the crisis in the state sector. Cuban official are planning massive layoffs in the state sector including the shutting down of unprofitable enterprises. As the state sector shrinks, private business is supposed to take up the slack. Thus, Castro is paving the way for sizable private companies built off of state assets along with a large petty-bourgeois section of small producers.

But such market reforms are only part of the story of the spread of market capitalism in Cuba. Cuba has long had a major black market economy. With the economic disaster that hit Cuba with the collapse of the Soviet bloc regimes, the black market assumed huge proportions. With the production of Cuban state enterprises greatly reduced, the black market became the major source of retail sales. Cuban government research estimates that the black market sales were equal to about 17% of total retail sales in Cuba in 1990. Two years later they accounted for two-thirds of retail sales! (9) From the materials studied for this report, it is not clear whether the partial economic recovery of the last couple of years has shrunk the size of the black market. But clearly it remains a huge factor in Cuba. While the Cuban rulers periodically clamp down on some "excesses" in the black market, it has generally been tolerated.

State-capitalism en route to private capitalism

Even before the market reforms of the last several years, Cuba was not a socialist society, nor in the process of becoming one. Rather the Cuban state enterprises are state-capitalist in nature. Under Castro, Cuba developed an extensive social welfare system which was of benefit to the masses. But society remained divided between exploiter and exploited. The main means of production has been in the hands of the state in contrast to the typical capitalist countries where private ownership predominates. But the state property is, in effect, the collective property of the managers and party and state officials. The wealth produced by the state enterprises goes to maintain the disparities between the privileged few of the bureaucratic elite and several millions of workers.

Moreover, despite state ownership, Cuban state enterprises have mimicked many features of private capitalist ownership. A more extensive examination of how state-capitalism operated historically in Cuba is a subject for future articles. But let's look briefly at one issue, state planning. One feature that marks an economy running on Marxist socialist principles is that it operates as an organic whole according to a centralized state plan. In Cuba, there was a central plan for the entire economy, but this plan was widely violated in practice. State enterprises largely had to survive on their own resources, creating forms of anarchic competition. For example, there has been a constant scramble between enterprises for materials for production, resulting in hoarding. It also resulted in massive trading of resources between enterprises outside of state control. Likewise, enterprises commonly charged more than allowed by the official price structure. (10)

On this basis, the government generally wound up sanctioning wider and wider autonomy for the enterprises. The autonomy of the enterprises, even when subject to the state production plan, paved the way for the recent measures turning state property over outright to private individuals. In other words, state-capitalism has been paving the way for private capitalism.

Although a central plan exists today, a series of reforms over the last several years has further weakened its influence. Indeed, of all the different products produced by the government enterprises, most have now been exempted from the state plan. Factor in the other market reforms and the sprawling black market, and it is not hard to see that anarchy of production pervades "socialist" Cuba.

Cuba's state-capitalist course has also been connected to its historic dependence on the Soviet revisionists. After the early post-revolutionary years, Soviet advisors largely devised the Cuban economic plans, modeling them on the same capitalist principles on which the Soviet economy ran. As well, Cuba was integrated into the Soviet state-capitalist economic bloc. This integration maintained the country's lopsided dependence on sugar exports, a backward feature left over from the days of U.S. domination. Large trade deficits to the Soviet bloc contributed to Cuba's mounting debt crisis. Finally, the economic collapse of the state-capitalist regimes dragged the Cuban economy into severe crisis.

Expose Cuban revisionism

Even as Cuba adopts one after another market reform, even as its pretenses of being socialist are being stripped, the predominant view in left-wing politics is to glorify the state-capitalist system there. Such views are pushed by an array of revisionist and trotskyite groups. Some, like the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) or the Workers World Party (WWP), gush over every move of the Castro regime and tout Cuba as the model of socialism. Others have criticism of the regime but consider Cuba as essentially socialist or support the regime's alleged "anti-imperialism." But in whatever form, such views must be opposed.

Of course, the apologists of Cuban revisionism may claim that Cuba's rulers are just organizing a temporary retreat, not giving up on socialism. After all, according to Castro, the concessions to capitalism are just a "special period" of socialism. This is nonsense. Marxism recognizes that even revolutionary societies striving to establish socialism may have to temporarily put up with the vestiges of the old exploitative order. But the so-called "retreat" really began decades ago when the state-capitalist order was consolidated. The naked capitalist forms that are fashionable today are merely the retreat from one form of capitalism to another.

But the apologists don't care much about the consequences of Cuban revisionism. For instance, a member of the Chicago Workers' Voice group, which has constantly belittled the notion of anti-revisionism, argues that it was necessary for Castro to form an alliance with the social-imperialist Soviet Union to combat U.S. pressure on Cuba. This is a good example of using the theoretical possibility of making unpleasant concessions to capitalism into an apology for concessions that cemented Cuba's path toward state-capitalism at home and undermining the revolutionary movements abroad. (11)

Instead of apologies for Castroism, it is time for revolutionary-minded activists to combat its influence. Just as the socialist ideal was dragged through the mud by the Soviet and Chinese revisionists, so Cuban revisionism is following in these footsteps. Pawning off Cuban society as "socialism" undermines the ability for the ideas of genuine communism to inspire the masses. Standing with the Cuban masses means not only fighting U.S. imperialist bullying, but encouraging our class brothers and sisters to build up their own class organization, independent of, and opposed to the Castroite revisionist rulers. Only the building of such a trend really means supporting the cause of socialism in Cuba. Only such a trend can offer a revolutionary opposition to imperialism. As well, only an anti-revisionist trend can build the class movement to defend the immediate interests of the Cuban toilers in the face of austerity measures and the ravages of the free market policies.

Exposing Cuban revisionism is a vital task facing all those who want to hold up the banner of genuine socialism and the Marxist-Leninist ideals.


1. Wayne S. Smith, "Cuba's Long Reform," Foreign Affairs: March/April 1996, p. 111.

2. Pamela S. Falk, "Eyes on Cuba", Foreign Affairs: March/April 1996, p.14.

3. Eckstein, Susan Eva; Back from the future: Cuba under Castro, p.103; Princeton University Press; 1994.

4. Ibid., p.104.

5. Perez-Lopez, Jorge F.; Cuba's second economy: From behind the scenes to center stage,p.156; Transaction Publishers; 1995.

6. Foreign Affairs: March/April 1996, p.17.

7. Eckstein, p.70.

8. Foreign Affairs: March/April 1996, p.103.

9. Perez-Lopez, p.143.

10. Meanwhile, in the realm of distribution of consumer goods among the population, an official two-tier system has long been in place. For the masses as a whole, there were subsidized but scarce basic necessities. On the other hand, the government's "parallel markets" offered a wider array of goods but at much higher market prices that workers generally can't afford. "Dollar shops" officially open only to foreign tourists (until recently) are another tier. The black market is yet another tier. This multi-tiered system of distribution reflects anarchic production, not socialism.

11. Mind you, the author of such views doesn't like such things as Castro's foreign policy and its stand towards the revolutionary trends in other countries, but ignores that this too was a "necessity" of Castro's alliance with the Soviet revisionist rulers. For more on such views of the CWV's Julie (a.k.a. Sarah), see Communist Voice, vol.1, #3, pp. 21-22.

The state of anti-revisionist communism

The Communist Voice Organization discusses its future

The Communist Voice Organization (CVO) held its first national meeting a month ago. The first point on the agenda was a review of the year's work, and an overall discussion of the problems that had arisen. The CVO has had a vigorous first year, and it would take quite a while to simply list the theoretical subjects the Communist Voice had dealt with. There was

* a Marxist analysis of the Zapatista program and their prospects that differs fundamentally from the views of the reformist. Trotskyist, and petty-bourgeois nationalist groups,

* some work on the changes in the nature of the working class,

* the polemic with the anarchists and some other anti-Marxists,

* consideration of the struggle of the indigenous people and the ’fourth world” theory,

* the comparison of state capitalism to the economic system during the transition to socialism,

* looking into what the world system of imperialism presently looked like,

etc., etc.

But the CVO meeting was not satisfied with noting the vigorous work reflected in the preceding nine issues of Communist Voice, but concentrated on what is needed to allow this work to continue. For one thing, it is essential to recognize the importance of carrying forward the anti-revisionist critique of the various distortions (revisions) of Marxism-Leninism. What passes as Marxism today is mostly a variety of useless and repulsive views, such as Stalinism and its twin Trotskyism; the state ideologies of certain state-capitalist regimes (Cuba, China, etc.); semi-anarchist and 'left” communist purist disdain for the struggle; reformism; and even academic gobbledygook. This is a time of theoretical and ideological confusion, and this highlights the need to clarify what Marxism is and what it is not.

As well, there was extensive discussion on the need to ensure the collectivity of work. If the CVO is to be an organization in fact, and not just in name, all comrades must participate in the work of the Communist Voice, from research and writing for Communist Voice to distribution of the journal.

The second point on the agenda was the proposal, which met with enthusiasm, to center a good deal of attention on the study of present-day Cuban society and the repudiation of Cuban revisionism. The attitude to the Castro regime has been one of the dividing lines between real and fake communism for a long time, and this is especially the case today with the collapse of most of the fake communist regimes that had support in the left, such as those of the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, and with China combining blatant market mechanisms and political tyranny Cuba is just about the last revisionist regime for which there is general enthusiasm in the left. The SWP promotes it as a revolutionary ideal, while others criticize it but claim it is 'socialist' or, at least, “anti- imperialist" (as is done by our former comrades in the Chicago Workers’ Voice group and in the 'majority' of the late Marxist- Leninist Party as they abandoned anti-revisionism). Thus exposing the nature of the Castroist 'communism' is an important part of the fight against revisionism, and it will contribute to the study of how revisionist state-capitalist regimes work.

But the study of Cuba has additional importance. It involves the study of the Cuban revolution and the wave of revolutions of which it was a part. Before the Castroist movement degenerated into a state-capitalist regime, the Cuban revolution was an important liberating event. It shattered some older forms of exploitation, brought many benefits to the masses, and brought to power a regime which was interested in a radical reform of the old social order But this regime was not communist and was instead guided by a hodgepodge of reformist, revisionist and, at times, volunteerist ideas. Eventually Soviet revisionism became the dominant trend as a state- capitalist order was consolidated. This is a history with many lessons.

The third point on the agenda was the contacts of the CVO with the movement and the masses. Despite the small size of the CVO and the heavy weight of the theoretical tasks, such contact is important. There was much discussion of the types of contact with the masses suitable to the small size and forces of the CVO, and there were practical proposals for strengthening this contact and involving more comrades. As well, the polemics carried out by the CVO play a definite role in these contacts, as well as in developing the CVO’s grasp of Marxist theory. The debate with the former majority of the late Marxist-Leninist Party (MLP) and with other circles from the MLP is dying out, and the polemics will be oriented in other directions. Here, as well as under the first point, there was discussion of the various trends in the left at this time.

The fourth point on the agenda was the study of imperialism. One of the main struggles against the old MLP majority was upholding the analysis that imperialism exists and has not changed its rapacious nature. A certain amount of work was done on updating the picture of imperialism to take account of new developments. However, this work had bogged down to a large extent, and there was discussion of how to continue it. Emphasis was placed on the need, if this work is to progress, to concentrate on gaining a picture of the major new trends affecting the world situation—from the present forms of economic monopoly to the relations of domination and subordination in the world political order; from the changes in the world class structures to the environmental and raw material issues of the future.

The fifth point on the agenda was a discussion of the study of the basic teachings of Marxism The ideological atmosphere surrounding us is idealist and bourgeois. and one can't assume that theoretical work will continue along the lines of Marxism and materialism without conscious attention to its fundamental viewpoints. Along with research about new world developments, there has to be continued study of Marxism-Leninism itself. The comrades discussed the past study plans and suggestions for the future.

As well, the officers for the next year were elected and some other organizational points taken care of. The meeting generated enthusiasm for the tasks that the CVO will have to undertake in the future if it is to contribute to the building of an anti-revisionist Marxist trend. The carrying out of such a meeting, including a summation of past work and discussion of future plan is a concrete example of communist organizational work. Even at present with only a handful of comrades in the anti-revisionist ranks, work has to be collective if it is to be successful. While the oppressors can rely on the weight of the marketplace, conscious organization and party-building is an indispensable weapon of the oppressed. []

A Labor Day leaflet:

We need a real struggle against the bosses!

The following article is from the August 30 issue (#12) of Detroit Workers’ Voice, which also contained an article describing Communist Voice. It was distributed at Earthfest ’96, at the Labor Day parade organized by the unions in downtown Detroit, and elsewhere. Detroit Workers’ Voice is published by the Detroit Marxist-Leninist Study Group.

A big problem facing the working class of Detroit and the country today is illustrated by the long-standing newspaper strike. That problem is: faced with the vicious wage-cutting, union-busting attacks of the employers, the union leaders do not want to put up a serious fight!

The top union leaders and AFL-CIO bigwigs in the newspaper strike support boycotts, passive civil disobedience in downtown Detroit, even a weekly newspaper — but all these tactics have proved futile for over a year because the key issue is not faced: production of the newspapers must be shut down by mass marching and picketing. This is the only way major strikes have ever been won: there would be no industrial unions today if the workers in the 1930's had not shut down the bosses’ production, as in the Flint GM sit-down strikes of 1937 Without it, the newspaper strike is slowly fading away A third of the strikers have already had to fmd other jobs, while the unions’ Detroit Sunday Journal itself worries that the News and Free Press may be approaching profitability again.

Yet the Detroit newspaper workers have always had and still had widespread public support. Members of our class are displaying “No News or Free Press Wanted Here” signs from Algonac to Monroe, from downtown Detroit to Pontiac. But capital (Big Business) gives up nothing without a serious fight. The only way to hurt the bosses severely in the pocket book is to shut down production.

It can be done. It was done Labor Day weekend last year and the weekend after. Newspaper workers, auto workers and workers of other trades faced down the police, beat off their attacks and had virtually closed the Sterling plant (the helicoptering out of the Sunday edition was a joke, far too expensive to continue).

But during the following week the employers got one of their flunkey judges (the government, including the judiciary, is on the side of the employers on all major issues) to issue an injunction barring mass picketing. This injunction could have been defied, if only the union leaders had allowed the same (or bigger) mobilization of workers as the week before. The workers had already defeated the same police as would have tried to enforce the injunction.

But the union leadership caved in, called off the mass mobilization, and so only 300 workers showed up (compared to 2000 previously). The leaders then whined that the workers were too weak to defy the injunction. No, this weakness was caused by the top union leaders themselves; the mass of workers had been ready for mass picketing! But the union leaders told everyone to drive slowly around the plant and try to create a traffic jam instead.

The sentiment to support the strikers was running high among the workers in the auto plants and elsewhere in those weeks, but the craven union leaders prevented the working class of Detroit from expressing its unity and strength. This was a historic sellout, a turning point that has allowed production to continue to date and the strike to drag out with no settlement in sight. The strikers are faced with the strong possibility of the strike being lost altogether, or settled with the worst possible terms for the workers. In either case, this would be a disastrous defeat for the newspaper workers and their families and it would only help the rapacious bosses step up their robbery of the workers of other trades. And this possibility becomes more real every day as the union leadership lets the strike slowly peter out.

Oh yes, the union leadership has a lot of suggestions to keep strikers busy There are supposed to be other ways to win the strike besides shutting down the plant. But these other “solutions’’ have proven weak at best. The consumer boycott of the papers is OK as a supplement to mass action to stop production of the paper, but it can’t win the strike by itself. The publication of the Detroit Sunday Journal has eaten up hundreds of thousands of dollars which could have paid for strike support or for the defense of workers arrested or jailed in a serious fight to stop production. And worse yet, the union misleaders encouraged faith that the NLRB would save the workers. And what did the NLRB do? Its recent ruling further limited picketing and tied the union in knots.

And the union leaders also say to vote for, and help finance the campaigns of, establishment politicians, politicians who speak for the capitalists and who fill their coffers with campaign contributions from them. Some say the Democrats will save us from the Republican offensive. Yet Clinton has just signed a bill slashing welfare so as to force more people to accept lower wages, and this bill also singles out whole sections of the working class for especially brutal treatment as millions of immigrants are thrown to the wolves. Meanwhile Clinton spends more and more money on police and on wiretapping. Aside from the direct capitalist tools, the Democrats and Republicans, a “Labor Party” has just been founded a couple of months ago. But this “labor party” won’t criticize the union bureaucrats and isn’t even sure what it thinks of the Democrats. This is a “labor party” just as tightly controlled by the top union leaders as the unions themselves, not a true party of the militant workers.

The AFL-CIO leadership is committing these sellouts because it is in bed with the capitalists as a whole, even while they complain about this or that particular boss. The AFL-CIO leadership seeks not class struggle but accommodation with the employers and a position in the councils of the capitalist class.

They are used to promising to rein in worker militancy in exchange for minor concessions from the bosses, and even when the employers are out for blood, the union leaders just don’t have it in them to stand for a real fight. In return, the top union leaders get high salaries and status, even while unions are gutted and the rank-and-file workers suffer wage cuts. The NLRB regulations that govern union activity and the internal rules set by the AFL-CIO itself are built around this principle of class accommodation between the workers and the bosses. And union stewards and lower union officials are forced to toe the same line, even though they don’t get the rewards of the top bureaucrats. Many workers enter these positions hoping to make a difference, but find that nothing changes. Workers are indeed better off with a union than without, but today’s unions are dominated by a leadership that is leading the workers to one defeat after another.

The only answer is a militant, mass rank-and-file workers’ movement! In strikes like that at the Detroit newspapers, production must be shut down by mass picketing, or they will be defeated like the struggles at Staley and Caterpillar. Workers from other workplaces should be ready to come out when needed to support strikers.

Workers are under attack all through this country, and we must develop networks at each workplace and linking workplaces. When conditions are ripe, workers must not wait for approval from the union leaders before launching mass actions. This includes both large actions at big strikes and small actions at some workplaces, like a slowdown or a work-to-rule in your own department. Small actions too are important. They can be the nuts and bolts that build up trust and confidence among the workers and begin to teach us that through our solidarity and militant action we can defeat the employers’ attacks. The present union leadership will attempt to undermine these struggles and all independent links among the workers, sometimes by outright attacks, sometimes by trying to take them over so as to make them tame, so we workers must be prepared to criticize and expose these sellouts openly among our peers. We must be prepared not just to be militant, but also to build up our own organizations to fight on the economic and political issues. Only with struggle and organization and opposition to class collaboration will there be a militant workers’ movement. Only thus can the movement be oriented to struggle against the capitalist ruling class, not accommodation with it. Only thus will there be an all-out struggle against the arrogant capitalist offensive that is impoverishing and torturing us.

Down with the bloodsucking newspaper bosses!

Fight the wage-slashing, union-busting capitalist offensive!

Mass action, not faith in the NLRB, or the politicians, or the “corporate campaigns”!

Build a militant, mass, rank-and-file workers’ movement independent of the union misleaders!

Sellout union leaders, out of the way! []

Prettification of the sellouts

No spark in The Spark

by Tim, Detroit

The Spark," a leaflet known as “the green sheet,” is handed out twice a month at the large Fort St. General Mail Facility in Detroit. It is produced by the Trotskyist organization Spark, which also publishes a national paper called Spark. The green sheet has a wide readership at Fort St. due to its occasionally humorous putdowns of individual supervisors which appear on the gossip side of the leaflet. The other side is devoted to a single, more serious political article.

The leaflet Spark talks incessantly but vaguely about the workers getting together to fight exploitation, and there are frequent vague references to the need and possibility of a society without exploitation, an undefined sort of socialism. Spark’s putdowns of top supervisors often use sharp language against them as individuals. All this would make you think that these alleged Marxists stand for the working class. But the Spark issues of August 29 and September 9. 1996, are very revealing about where this group actually stands in the fights that the workers are waging against the capitalist bosses right now.

Let’s take September 9 first. Spark carries a brief note on the gossip side which I will quote in full.


Two level 16 supervisors almost came to blows at the bar across from the Post Office.

The pressure coming down from the highest levels of management can get to them, too. Sometimes people break and attack each other It looks like we need to set a better example for supervisors here, and show them that sticking together against the pressure and harassment that comes down from above can be healthier than going along with it.

Nothing is said here about the oppressive role of supervisors. The interest this note had for most workers lay in identifying the supervisors who almost fought. But the real significance of it is that Spark, an allegedly Marxist organization, comes out in sympathy with supervisors in general. Supervisors are the direct agents of the oppression and exploitation of the workers by management, by the big capitalists who head the Post Office and its main customers, the big mailers. These rapacious parasites are making billions off the sweat, injuries and declining real wages of the postal workers. The supervisors enforce escalating overwork, long hours, sick leave denial, vicious disciplinary action, etc., against the workers to make sure that the golden river keeps flowing to the capitalists. For this the supervisors get a few crumbs in the form of higher pay and bonuses. It is true that the supervisors come from the workers and that a few of them try to treat the workers humanely

But, like all capitalist companies, postal management demands that its overseers be dictatorial; those who don’t crack the whip don’t get promoted. So joining supervision is rightly seen by the workers as joining the enemy camp, and it is always pointed out how so-and-so “changed” when he or she became an acting supervisor or “was always that way.”

Instead of exposing the repressive role of supervision. Spark’s article encourages the worker-readers to ignore it, to think of the supervisor as just one of the workers, to sympathize with the supervisor when he or she has a conflict with upper management and to hold out hopes that the supervisors will get together and take part in the workers’ struggle against management. This is blatant prettification of one of the main targets of the workers’ struggle. It can only weaken our fight by hiding the difference between friend and enemy. Often, in times like the present when the workers’ movement is at a low level, struggles will break out against individual supervisors; the workers must be encouraged to keep waging these “little” fights (they are not little to the workers concerned but often involve issues highly important to their welfare). If the workers do not maintain their fighting spirit when the struggle is at this level, not only will they get pushed around and made more miserable, but they will also find it harder to stand up for their interests when larger issues do arise. Spark’s prettification of the supervisors actively discourages these small, essential fights.

Even when attacking its favorite upper-level supervisor targets, such as the “Barracuda” or the “Pink Panther,” Spark often holds out hope that management will somehow see that oppressing the workers is ineffective and will learn to treat us right. You can see this is in the September 9 note.

The September 9 article would be bad enough if it were an isolated event, but it’s not. Spark has a long history of taking up for our supervisory enemies. Here are some other examples:

. . . the workers (in Cancellation — T.) are treated right by the supervisors and the 204b's. - Jan. 8, 1990

How can a worker stand up as a supervisor every day for four years and still not be supervisor material? — August 21, 1989 (Spark is crying that some acting supervisor hasn’t gotten promoted to full supervisor — T.)

The good out of all this (a situation where supervisors illegally altered the color codes scheduling the mail in order to protect their own butts and were arrested by postal inspectors — T.) is that the supervisors have been reinstated.

Now if the inspectors could be handcuffed and suspended then they 'would learn the lesson that hopefully the supervisors learned. — November 13, 1989 (Here Spark not only shows sympathy for the supervisors but also supports disciplining them and even hopes that the postal inspectors will learn to behave! — T.)

Now, what does Spark’s prettification of the supervisors have to do with their August 29 article about Labor Day? Plenty. Having outrageously taken up for one enemy of the workers — the supervisors, in the Labor Day article Spark hides the crimes of another — the sellout labor leaders.

Spark’s Labor Day article barely refers to the Detroit newspaper strike, which is facing the strong possibility of a disastrous defeat. Spark correctly points out that many strikes today are being lost, with terrible consequences for the strikers and workers everywhere. But does Spark denounce those who are causing the workers to adopt weak policies of struggle that lead to defeat? Does Spark denounce the Detroit labor leaders for calling off the growing mass picket lines which in September 1995 were succeeding in blockading the production of the joint Sunday edition of the News and Free Press? Does Spark denounce the AFL-CIO and newspaper union bigwigs for capitulating to the September 199S Sterling Heights court injunction banning mass picketing, an injunction which could have been successfully defied since it would have had to be enforced by the same police that the workers had defeated the two previous weeks? Does Spark denounce these so-called union leaders for calling off the worker mobilization which was reinforcing the newspaper workers’ ranks with scores of militant auto workers and which was starting to attract workers from other industries as well, thus beginning to spread the struggle beyond the bounds of one-employer, one-workforce? Does Spark denounce the sellouts by the labor leaders anywhere — at Staley, Caterpillar, etc.?1

NO! Spark’s Labor Day article is shamefully, criminally silent about these betrayals. The Detroit betrayal was (and is, since the strike continues with no change of policy by the bureaucrats) an historic betrayal, one whose consequences will hang around the necks of Detroit workers (and nationally as well) for many years to come. It is a major “pearl” in the sellout necklace being forged by the labor “leaders,” right up there with Staley and Caterpillar. The bureaucrats are selling the workers down the river by diverting their struggles away from militant mass action directly against the employers and government into ineffective “corporate campaigns.” But on the occasion of Labor Day, when many workers march with their unions and the top labor leaders make their ceremonial appearances and orate their windbag speeches, at a time when Spark could have helped alert the Detroit area working class to the crimes of the sellouts, the green sheet was silent on the betrayals. Shame on this cowardly stand!

What reason did Spark give for the decline of the newspaper strike and the defeat of other strikes? It said the defeats were due to the strikes being isolated — directed against one facility of one employer — and that isolated strikes have little chance today. Spark wrote:

The problem is, isolated strikes have little chance of winning. — August 29, 1996

But the Detroit newspaper strike did have a chance; in fact, it was on the road to victory or to some kind of settlement far better than the present looming defeat, as long as the workers were disrupting production at the Sterling plant in September 1995.

Not only that, but the militant mass pickets of that Labor Day weekend and the weekend after were drawing workers from other industries into the fight on the picket line, and the battle was the talk of the auto plants and postal facilities. In other words, the isolation Spark now cites as the cause of failure was then being broken. This means that the policy of active mass picket disruption of production that the workers had adopted then (in defiance of the union bureaucrats, it must be added) was the key to the entire situation. The key to success lay in this policy; this was the actual way to break the isolation. Moaning about isolation while hiding the crimes of the bureaucrats and failing to call on the workers to wage mass picketing only means discouraging the workers from the struggle. That is Spark’s role.

In contrast to Spark’s shameful stand was the militant leaflet distributed at the Labor Day march by Detroit Workers' Voice, paper of the Detroit Marxist-Leninist Study Group.2 It squarely denounced the sellout of the newspaper strike by the labor leaders and urged the workers to break with the tactics of the sellouts and find ways to release their mass initiative in militant struggle.

At the Fort St. facility, one activist criticizes Spark for not giving the workers a complete program of how to overcome the exploiters. This is vague. Right now Spark is: 1) prettifying the supervisors, and 2) prettifying the sellout labor leaders. This is how, concretely, Spark is failing to show the workers how to overcome their exploiters.

For a movement to arise and be successful it must criticize and discredit the ideas that weaken its fight. Just as the black people’s movement in the 1960’s had to criticize and discredit the politics of the Uncle Toms, the workers’ movement of today must oppose the idea that supervision is part of the workers’ movement and denounce the labor leaders’ policy of substituting “corporate campaigns” for militant mass struggle. And we must criticize and discredit those alleged Marxists like Spark who prettify the sellouts. If we don’t do this, the workers’ movement will have great difficulty fighting the assaults of the bosses.


1For more on these strikes, see “Why were Caterpillar and Staley workers defeated?/Struggle isn’t hopeless, the union bureaucrats are!” in Communist Voice, vol. 2, #2 (March I5, 1996) and “Staley struggle/How not to learn from a defeat” in Communist Voice, vol. 2, #4 (Aug. 1, 1996)

2 See elsewhere in this issue of Communist Voice for this leaflet. []

The mini-state debate in light of the renewed Palestinian struggle

by Mark, Detroit

At the end of September, the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza were ablaze once again. Faced with one outrage after another by the Israeli government of Netanyahu, the Palestinian masses arose in protest. Israeli troops replied in their usual way, with murderous repression. Israeli helicopter gun-ships fired point blank on Palestinian crowds. So brutal were the Israeli troops that even some of the police of Arafat’s mini-state government, in defiance of their top officers, ignored their usual duty to keep down militant protests of the Palestinian masses and turned their guns on the rampaging Israeli troops.

Below we reprint an article I wrote on the situation facing the Palestinian struggle which originally was published in February 1995. It was part of a series of exchanges on this subject with Jason of the misnamed Revolutionary Socialist Study Group in Seattle.1 Jason, who had formerly written poems in support of the intifadeh, was so excited by the prospect of a mini-state that he decided that the PLO-Israeli peace accords showed that past ideas about the reactionary nature of Zionism and imperialism were wrong. He said he was challenging the MLP’s “long-held assumptions about international aid, as well as the role of Zionism” as well as “certain theoretical assumptions about the role of imperialism.” These exchanges were part of a wide-ranging polemic that took place between former members and supporters of the Marxist-Leninist Party in the wake of this party’s collapse at the end of 1993. Jason was part of a the ex-MLP trend that generally prettified imperialism and had lost faith in the revolutionary class struggle. I was among those who wanted to maintain a revolutionary critique of imperialism and Israeli capitalism characteristic of the former MLP

Although the article is not an up to date account of the Palestinian-Israeli situation, it touches on a number of important issues that must be grappled with by those who want to support the cause of the Palestinian masses. What was the significance of the Israeli-PLO peace accords and the setting up of the mini-state Palestinian National Authority (PNA)? What is the class nature and role of the Islamic fundamentalists? Did Israel’s recognition of the mini-state authority portend wonderful economic development via Israeli capital and world imperialist investment and aid? Would the Israeli ruling class become peace-loving? As for the Palestinian struggle, what were it’s general tasks and goals in light of the creation of the Palestinian National Authority? Is revolutionary class organization needed independent of the PLO and Hamas or should the toilers place their faith in such forces?

The PLO-Israeli peace accords and the creation of the Palestinian mini-state, the Palestinian National Authority, did bring certain changes. Israel retreated from the military occupation of certain of the Palestinian territories. And the new situation affected revolutionary strategy as well. With the Palestinian bourgeoisie coming to power in the PNA, the issues that always existed in the Palestinian struggle came more to the fore, and with this, the need for revolutionary class organization.

But when the article was written over a year-and-a-half ago, events were already shattering the myths promoted by Jason. Already it was clear that the his prediction of glorious progress coming through the PNA in collaboration with an allegedly peace-loving Israel and a benevolent imperialism was nonsense Far from the panacea promoted by Jason, the peace accords meant that in exchange for limited control over part of the Palestinian territories formerly under direct Israeli military occupation, the PLO essentially agreed to be Israel’s junior partner in quelling the uprisings of the Palestinian masses. The toilers remained subjugated and poverty stricken. Israeli troops continued to put down the masses who were not satisfied with the deal and the new Palestinian police helped them. Meanwhile, the promise of abundant aid and economic relief proved hollow.

Now the right-wing government of Netanyahu has taken over in Israel. Even though the peace accords limit the Palestinian authority to the status of a bantustan, Netanyahu thinks that Israel made too many concessions, and he says that he will never agree to a Palestinian state. Thus his government has reneged on various deals made by Israel previously. For example, they have refused to remove Israeli troops from the city of Hebron. As well, they are going ahead with a project originally proposed, but then postponed, by the previous Labor government to build major highways to facilitate more Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands in the West Bank. Meanwhile the restrictions on Palestinian travel between the Palestinian areas and into Israel remain tight. Among other tilings, this has made it impossible for many Palestinians employed inside Israel to work and intensified the impoverishment in the Palestinian areas. Netanyahu’s decision to open the new tunnel entrance by the Moslem holy places was of little consequence in itself. But it symbolized the new Israeli government’s naked contempt for the Arab population of Jerusalem and elsewhere.

Netanyahu’s stance has not only antagonized the Palestinian masses but also aggravated the relations between Israel and the PNA. Does this mean that the class differences among the Palestinians will fade away so long as the peace accords are in doubt? Not at all. No matter how sharp the contradiction between Netanyahu and the PNA may become, different classes among the Palestinians will continue to have different interests, and there may be sharp clashes among them. Through the stormy times ahead, Arafat will continue to seek a return to wheeling and dealing with the Israeli oppressors, and he will try to keep the masses in line and channel any struggle that breaks out into pressure to help the Palestinian bourgeoisie reach its deals with Zionism and the major capitalist powers. Hamas wants to impose an Islamic fundamentalist straitjacket on the Palestinians to replace the Israeli yoke. And the masses want freedom and a struggle for the improvement of their condition, but there is no organized force that stands up for these interests of the Palestinian workers and poor.

The events since the article below was written confirm its conclusions about the nature of Israel, imperialism, and the PLO-Israeli peace accords. They offer more proof of the need for a revolutionary class orientation for the Palestinian masses.


1 My article was circulated on e-mail to the various interested parties as Detroit #72, Jan. 17, 1995. It first appeared in print in the Chicago Workers' Voice Theoretical Journal #6, February 10, 1995. Earlier exchanges between Jason and me on this subject also circulated on e-mail and then appeared in the CWVTJ #3, June 1, 1994 and the CWVTJ #5, December 1, 1994. []

From the debate on the Palestinian ministate

Reformist panaceas crash on the rocks of reality

by Mark, Detroit

The following article was first circulated on e-mail on Jan. 17, 1995 as Detroit #72 with the subtitle “On Jason’s ' Seattle #75’” in place of the subtitle on the debate on the mini-state. It first appeared in print in the Chicago Workers' Voice Theoretical Journal #6 (Feb. 10, 1995).

In May of 1994, Jason put forward views on the Palestinian-Israeli situation in which he stated his desire to challenge “certain long-held assumptions about international aid, as well as the role of Zionism, which are, in my eyes at least, being proved suspect through the development of the current situation in Israel and Palestine.” In line with his “new” ideas, Jason concocted an elaborate scheme for the development of the newly-created Palestinian “mini-state” whereby the Israeli Zionist bourgeoisie and international imperialism would bring the good life to the Palestinian masses. He even tried to show how the Israeli settlements, based on the robbery of Palestinian land and resources in the West Bank and Gaza, were really a god-send for the Palestinians. In June, Jason further elaborated his theories, arguing that Israel would become peace-loving because “to have a huge military regime” and to “be a modern state” were “two mutually exclusive types of state(s).”

It’s been over eight months since Jason began to release his views. The tumultuous events in the mini-state and the occupied territories over this time have been a test for Jason’s theories. Do they demonstrate the validity of his reformist analysis, of his opposition to a revolutionary critique of Israel, imperialism and the Israeli-PLO accords? Do they show the Palestinian toilers should put their faith in their long-time oppressors and their new junior partners running the mini-state? Or do they show, as Jason’s revolutionary critics have been pointing out, that the class issues have assumed ever-more importance in the Palestinian struggle?

How have Jason’s theories stacked up? Have the international financiers poured in money to uplift the poor? No. Most of the aid has been held up.

Has Israel become the helpful “good neighbor”? No. The robbery of Palestinian land continues with new settlements. The Zionist authorities have periodically cut off Palestinian workers from their jobs in Israel. Unemployment and poverty are growing worse.

And what of the promises of peace? Israeli police continue to gun down Palestinian protesters with impunity. Not to be outdone, the Palestinian authority police have attempted to curtail protest against Israel, leading to the horrendous massacre of demonstrators in Gaza in November. And just to let the Palestinian police know who’s still the big boss, Israeli police recently opened fire on Palestinian police. Jason’s daydreaming about the new nature of imperialism and Zionism has shown itself to be an unremitting nightmare.

Jason continues to run from reality

Jason always boasts that his views are based on “reality” while his opponents are just empty-headed phrasemongers. So let’s see how he reacts to this dose of reality. In his December 29,1994 article, Jason admits that all sorts of terrible things are going on, that there is a “slow strangulation of the PNA (Palestinian National Authority),” etc. But does this give him the slightest pause about his previous assertions about the wonderful things that would come about from imperialism and Zionism? Not on your life.

Jason reasons that “despite such a bleak picture, certain favorable conditions exist. One is that international aid, as it was originally planned, was both relatively generous, and without many of the usual strings of austerity these institutions normally include as conditions of aid. The amounts that were announced were actually about as much as the territories were capable of absorbing.” What touching faith in the imperialist financiers! Why they want to shower all the riches on the Palestinians that they could possibly use. Better hold some up or there will be too many jobs, too high wages, too many schools, too much housing!

The other “favorable condition” according to Jason is “Israel is interested in investing in the West Bank.” Jason admits that “such investment would obviously be advanced for the purposes of allowing the Israeli bourgeoisie to advance their interests”. But for Jason, what’s good for the Zionist occupiers is good for the Palestinian masses. He ignores that Israel’s interests are for the mini-state to be a tiny, slave-wage sweatshop, not some kind of economic wonder for the Palestinians. Through Jason’s rose-colored glasses, however, all he can see is a wondrous world of “increased employment,” “the long-term building of a Palestinian industrial/agricultural base” and how “advantageous for the Palestinians as a whole” Israeli investment will be.

Now let’s come down from Jason’s fantasy world and get another picture of what Israeli development of the occupied territories has historically been like. One author describes this development as “choking off development in the Territories so as to provide both a captive market for Israeli goods and a cheap labor force.” Who penned such an unflattering picture? Jason — in the very same December 29 document promoting the wonders of development hand-in-hand with Israel! Indeed, Israel has been promoting development in their own interests in the occupied Palestinian lands for a long time. And if we judge things by the last several decades of actual historical reality, and not Jason's fantasies, it is not a pretty sight. Israeli development has largely consisted of robbing the land and resources of the Palestinians to create Israeli settlements. It has consisted of wanton plunder, backed up by the iron fist of the Israeli armed forces and the paramilitary settlers.

Jason won’t contest the past “choking” or the present “strangulation.” The only problem is he never learns anything from it. Instead he paints smiley faces on the stranglers and tells us don’t worry, they’ll be good boys in the future. And so his admission of the ruinous consequences of past Israeli development has not dissuaded him from becoming an apologist for the Israeli settlements. In his December 29 article he once again tells us that only “military” settlements must go, and this is “a small minority of the settlers overall.” Of course, the idea that the rest of the settlements are detached from Israeli militarism is a farce for they owe their origin and continued existence to the Israeli armed forces and the paramilitary settlements.

Why, according to Jason, when Israel does bad things, that has nothing to do with the real interests of the Zionist bourgeoisie. He imagines that good deeds for the Palestinian toilers are really in the interests of these career criminals. Thus he considers that when Israel is exerting economic pressure and pressing Arafat to crackdown on the masses it means Israel “is shooting itself in the foot.” And he advises the Zionist rulers that they “cannot allow the situation to continue without an increase in attacks on Israel.” Yes Jason, Israel must be peaceful or those nasty Palestinians will be attacking it. I’m sure the Israeli generals will beat their swords into plowshares any day now.

Neither the entire history of Israeli domination over the Palestinian masses nor the present-day events have any real bearing on Jason’s conclusions about imperialism and Zionism. He has decided that it’s inevitable that they are forces for good and no amount of facts will get in the way. Jason’s “realism” simply consists of adjusting himself to the basic sums quo, of glorifying oppression.

Minor tinkering instead of real change

This sort of “realism” is reflected in Jason’s proposed solution to the present debacle in the Palestinian mini-state and the rest of the occupied territories. According to Jason, “there is no point in spending time complaining that they (the Israel-PLO accords — Mk) are stacked in Israel’s favor” because they are “a fact.” This is typical of Jason’s general approach to the world. Once he declares something a fact, then there is no point in trying to significantly change things. Just go with the flow. Since the accords exists, they must be accepted. And since they must be accepted, Jason’s plan does not go beyond some minor tinkering with the admittedly rotten deal and pretending this will lead to some glorious results.

For example, Jason plays up his alleged concern for “democratization of the PNA.” He complains bitterly about how undemocratic Arafat’s administration is. But with his “realistic” politics, what does this amount to? His first idea on “democratization” is to keep the Arafat administrating in power! As Jason puts it: “From a tactical angle, it is difficult to simply demand their ouster, as this will not be accomplished short of a violent civil war.” In other words, since the PNA will not peacefully step down, then their is no alternative but to accept its dictatorship. Jason says the Arafat cabal has “all the political instincts of the Czar.” But Arafat’s Czarist instincts are enough to cow down Jason.

But wait! Jason can fix things. All you have to do is “advance the slogan that other forces, of which there are many of a secular nature, be appointed to the government. Some of these will be better accountable to the masses.” Now here’s an exciting prospect for democracy. Take a Czarist regime and add a few slightly less repressive (well, some of them anyway) people and voila, we have the “democratization of the PNA” Not only that. “It will also allow the Intifada to increase its ability to press the PNA to take specific stands vs. other actors, such as the Israelis.” Only in Jason’s dream world can you have a government that agrees to collaborate with Israeli oppression and, at the same time, helps advance the struggle against itself and the Zionist ruling class. No wonder Jason is unable to tell us who these “other forces” are who can accomplish such miracles!

Jason’s describes his other path to democracy: “local elections insure accountability on day-to-day issues that no other process will at this time.” Of course, there should be local elections. And it’s possible that some more competent local bureaucrats get elected. But the real power will still reside with Czar Arafat. The national administration will be the ones involved in deciding overall development plans and financing relations with Israel, negotiations of water rights, control the mini-state army, etc. The local bureaucrats will only operate within these parameters. So the basic miserable situation faced by the Palestinian masses will remain. The national authority will exercise its dictate in collaboration with Israel. Economic deprivation will still be rampant. Democracy will remain quite limited.

If Jason wants some real “accountability,” he should concentrate on building up a powerful struggle against the mini-state authority, not grovel before it. A democratic electoral system should certainly be a part of such a movement’s demands. Such a system could increase the masses’ ability to participate in political life and could provide a forum for parties representing the interests of the toilers. But elections can only be an adjunct to building the mass struggle, not replace its necessity.

Obscuring the class nature of the Islamic fundamentalists

Another issue with the elections is what happens if the Islamic fundamentalists come to power? Since Jason considers defense of the mini-state authority to be paramount, he does not call for a struggle to bring down even an Islamic rule. Instead he whistles past the graveyard. He doubts that Palestinians will “freely hand them (their rights — Mk) over to religious fanatics given a democratic choice where they are only one of several options” because “that sort of thing flourishes best amongst a poorly educated people with no democratic traditions and little political sophistication.” Of course the liberals of Germany said the same thing about Hitler coming to power. Meanwhile, Jason himself claims that Hamas’ policies have “endeared them to a section of the Palestinian masses” and their ideology “has a powerful appeal.”

And while Jason doubts Palestinians would elect Hamas, he does his best to prettify them. He gets upset with me for pointing out that “Hamas represents the Islamic fundamentalist section of the bourgeoisie and would like, for now at least, a share of the power and privileges the PLO has.” He says this is an attempt to “reduce Hamas’ motivations down to that of a venal, corrupt bourgeoisie strata” and doesn’t recognize that most of Hamas’ flaws are “ideological.” Well, I hadn’t talked about how “venal” or “corrupt” Hamas was. It is Jason who tries to make the degree of corruptness the central issue. This allows him to dodge the question of what class interests the Islamic fundamentalist organizations represent. In fact, he points with pride how his analysis contradicts the idea of “class issues primary, everything else secondary ” Jason thinks the main issue is whether the personal motivation of some Islamic fundamentalist leader is to amass a fortune, not that Hamas represents one section of bourgeois class tyranny trying to displace the present bourgeois regime. And by obscuring the class nature of Hamas, Jason winds up portraying the program of Hamas as little more than spiritual contemplation and kindly charity work.

The way Jason looks at things, Hamas’ ideological concerns mean it won’t defend the capitalist order whereas in reality an Islamic regime will mean the most backward and suffocating sort of capitalist order. If the religious fanaticism of Hamas means they are not advancing a political agenda, then I suppose the Pope and the anti-abortion zealots have no political agenda either.

He is also quite enamored by the “network of social service organizations” of the Islamic fundamentalists for their “concrete support for Palestinians.” Jason considers this evidence that Hamas is not corrupt and that which class interests it represents is a minor concern. Yes, some of the inadequate international relief aid goes through Hamas. But reactionaries have often used similar aid programs to buy a little good will while supporting social orders of extreme oppression. Indeed, Jason himself noted the narrow political infighting among all the groups distributing aid in his May 10 document. There he states that “charity operations are seen as the territory of one particular faction,” for example, “administrators are pressured to hire workers of one particular group” and “control over limited resources is becoming more important than what uses are made of the resources.” Doesn’t sound like mere disinterested charity, does it? But for Jason, the main thing is that Hamas doesn’t have as many luxury cars as Arafat’s cronies.

Jason’s distorted view of class analysis

By detaching their ideological “flaws” from their class basis, Jason assists Hamas in presenting itself as an organization of the downtrodden. He just scoffs at the class analysis of Hamas as “class reductionism.” For Jason, there are just a lot of different oppressions that “operate simultaneously and in a totally intertwined manner.” But he avoids the fact that the root cause of all these forms of oppression are various class interests and that different class interests are the underlying cause of different trends within each form of struggle against oppression. Hence when Jason hears about class analysis being applied to, say, national oppression or women’s oppression, he can only imagine it to mean obliterating all distinctions between various forms of oppression, of reducing things to absurdity

In fact in his June article, Jason says flat out that he considers Marxism an inadequate tool for analysis, arguing that it is “only one of many useful tools when looking at non-class (race and gender) questions” and is a “dismal failure” “on questions dealing with an individual’s spiritual needs.” Of course since Jason classifies radical Islamic fundamentalism as basically “cultural oppression,” it is no wonder he considers pointing out the class nature of Hamas to be a dismal failure, as “not the way to examine the threat they pose.” Marx was well known for pointing out the underlying basis of religious conflicts in Europe several centuries ago was the clash between rising capitalism and the old feudal order But Jason, who assures the world it is the stand of his opponents that “actually misses the essence of the way Marx used dialectical and historical materialism,” can dismiss class interests by referring to religious motivations.

A theory for restricting the struggle

As we have seen, no matter how much the Palestine mini-state authority cracks down on the masses, Jason supports it, albeit with a cosmetic face-lift. Yet, at the same time, Jason wants to pose as the greatest proponent of the struggle of the toilers. Indeed he fumes at anyone who would suggest that his views would encourage the masses to “wait passively for things to change”. Now why would someone get that idea, Jason? Just because you promoted a glorious picture of Palestinian development under Israeli domination or continue to tout the alleged generosity of the international financiers? Or maybe it was your discovery of the new economic law that will lead to a peaceful Israel? If imperialism and Israel are as wonderful as Jason portrays them, any sensible person would see no point in fighting them.

But perhaps we have been unfair to Jason. After all, in Section 3, point #2 of his December article, Jason has a list of all sorts of struggles and declares that they are “all absolutely essential to wage simultaneously.” But it’s all for show as one struggle after another is sacrificed on the alter of his “statehood framework.” Let’s see how each of the five struggles he lists is rendered impotent by this framework.

Number “5.” is “the Palestinians vs. international donors, e.g. the IMF, and the Palestinians vs. Arab capital.” Jason says these struggles must be placed “on the ‘back burner’.” Presumably you mustn’t do anything to jeopardize all the great riches about to be showered on the mini-state. And too many workers’ struggles and social demands makes for a bad investment climate.

Struggle number “2.” is “the Palestinians vs. the Palestinian National Authority, as it is presently constructed." With the proviso “as it is presently constructed” Jason’s fight against the PNA is reduced to schemes to maintain the repressive authority like Jason’s idea to add a few appointees to it.

Moving along. Struggle number “3.” is “the Palestinian toilers vs. the Palestinian bourgeoisie.” So you can fight the bourgeoisie but not have a serious struggle against the bourgeois mini-state authority. But what of the development plans of the mini-state? Doesn’t supporting the mini-state require seeing that its development plans succeed? Won’t the Palestinian authority consider a militant workers’ movement a threat to its efforts to develop capitalism? In his May document Jason himself worries that the workers demands must be limited by the demands of capitalist development. He states he is for “a progressive stand toward Palestinian workers while understanding the need for the capitalist development of the economy, etc.” Whatever Jason thinks the above phrase means, it will be the opinion of the exploiters that counts. And it is highly likely that the exploiters and their state authority will consider most any worker demand that cuts into their profits as adversely affecting capitalist development. Moreover, it is hard to believe that Jason can be for much of a fight against the Palestinian capitalists when he has put the struggle against foreign capital on the “back burner” and when he is excited about the combining of foreign capital (Israeli included) and the Palestinian economy.

Struggle number “4.” is “the secular Palestinians vs. the Islamic fundamentalist Palestinians.” Presumably, this is a call to oppose Islamic fundamentalism, although Jason isn’t even quite sure of his attitude towards an Islamic state in Palestine. However, Jason is upset that anyone would call Hamas a bourgeois force. But criticism of religion stripped from its class basis cripples the ability of the critique to have appeal among the masses.

Finally, there is struggle number “1.”: “the Palestinians vs. the Israeli occupation.” Jason prides himself on his support for the intifada. But he also has given his blessings to the PLO- Israeli accords, part of which was agreement to clamp down on anti-Israeli protest. If he is really serious about building up the PLO mini-state authority, then he must agree to keeping the intifada in line.

Moreover, Jason has already ruled out the struggle against the vast bulk of Israeli robbery of land and resources. Only military outposts are bad, he says. But while Israeli settlers are allowed to make themselves at home, Jason does not support the right of repatriation for those Palestinians who lost their homes, land and livelihood to Israeli terror. When it comes to Palestinians living in exile outside the occupied territories, he proclaims “there is simply no place for that many people.” What next? Perhaps Jason will advise the black South Africans dispossessed of their farms and villages under the old apartheid system to give up their demands to get their land back. After all, don’t the rich white farmers promote development? Aren’t they mainly economic farms, not military farms?

After his list of struggles, Jason tells us “although it is necessary to talk about the individual struggles separately, nonetheless any strategy must be able to incorporate the different currents of struggle under an overall framework. My view is that that framework is the drive for Palestinian statehood.” Let’s all work for statehood, Jason says. But what state are we talking about? Are we talking about the tiny bantustan which has been granted the right of playing rent-a-cop for Israel? The state that lacks the normal sovereign rights of states? The state based on a deal that is an embarrassment even to the likes of Edward Said, a major figure of PLO national reformist politics? This is the state that Jason, despite his complaints against Arafat, is backing.

And what does it mean to incorporate all the separate struggles against oppression under this overall framework? Let’s sum up what became of all the separate struggles. One is basically a call to save the repressive state with tinkering, one is on the “back burner” and the other three are supported in theory and undermined in practice. When it comes to struggle, Jason giveth and Jason taketh away. This is the great new theory Jason arrived at by replacing the class framework for examining the Palestinian struggle with his statehood frame­work. This is a new theory that winds up with the same basic features of the tired old theories of bourgeois nationalism.

Jason on organization

Besides the great new theory of anti-struggle, Jason offers some advice on how the Palestinian masses should organize. In Section 3, point 2c, he describes what he considers to be the problems that beset the organization of the intifada. At first, there were locally run groups that were “ad-hoc coalitions” based on “cooperation between factions.” The intifada suffered though when leaders from outside began to issue orders to local leaders who “began to be recruited and controlled by different factions.” Jason demands “returning of control to activists at the base.” That’s a good sentiment. But since Jason avoids any analysis of the politics of the local or outside forces, his criticism amounts to railing against organized trends and “outsiders” in general. If Jason thinks the answer is returning to the days before the growth of political trends in the movement, then he is talking about the impossible. Mass movements of any significant duration are bound to give rise to political trends and clashes between them. And longing for a past where politics was supposedly unimportant will not solve anything.

Or maybe Jason is talking about “reinvigoration” of the movement by taking up his conception of struggle within the statehood framework. That should put the clamps on any motion in short order!

But there is a way that really will help revive the movement. That is the path of working to build up a trend representing the interests of the masses, a class trend distinct from, and in opposition to, the politics of the PLO and the Islamic groups. Only when the masses embark upon the path of establishing their own politics and organization will they be able to control their own destiny and make possible the reinvigoration of the base.

Mocking class organization

But every time Jason hears the notion of class organization he gets hysterical. In his December 29 document, for example, he mocks the concept as “blood-curdling threats to destroy Israel.” And his articles keep up a steady drumbeat that my problem is that I don’t realize Israel is not about to be overthrown soon, that it is not time to “storm the Knesset”1, etc. For Jason it is inconceivable that revolutionary organizing can and should take place even though the day of the overthrow of the Zionist state is not at hand. The need for revolutionary organizing to move forward the battles of today while making the toilers conscious of the goals that are not immediately realizable is foreign to him. For Jason, there is either “storming the Knesset” or ridiculing the present-day tasks necessary to eventually achieve the grander goals like the overthrow of the Zionist rulers. And this outlook has led Jason to abandon a revolutionary perspective for “realizable” pipedreams about the good life via the powers-that-be.

In order to hide the fact that my call for revolutionary organizing is not based on illusions about the difficulties of struggle in this period, Jason hides my analysis of the difficulties. For instance, when Jason lists my quotes on the value of class organization from (from pages 8-9 of the CWVTJ of June 1, 1994) he somehow omits the following lines from right in the midst of those quotes: “None of these tasks are easy. They buck the present dominant political trends. As well, the death and destruction caused by Israel has exacted a heavy toll on the Palestinian toilers. The days of sweeping victories in organizing and winning the big demands are not just around the comer.” The next line Jason quotes: “But embarking upon the path of class organization is the only way the Palestinian cause will move ahead.” Doing revolutionary work in difficult times is what Jason deems empty “blood-curdling threats to destroy Israel.”

Jason declares Marxism-Leninism irrelevant

A particular focus of Jason’s attack on class organization is his scoffing at the thought that Marxism-Leninism can have influence among Palestinians. He terms the chances of this “simply non-existent.” His first argument is that “the theory itself is in crisis” What this crisis consists of, Jason doesn’t bother to tell us. But in his writings Jason consistently denounces the most basic Marxist precepts or attacks his fanciful distortions of them.

Examples of the former include his Seattle #65 where he denounces the “paradigm of revolution” including such “set-in-cement postulates” as “it (revolution — Mk) was inevitable” or that “its motive force was the working class” Well, there is nothing left of Marxism without the idea that the working class will be the gravediggers of capitalism and establish socialism.

For one of the endless examples of the fanciful distortions, see how Jason distorts the Marxist idea of supporting the goal of socialism and seeing other revolutions as clearing the grounds for socialism into the idea that only if other revolutions turn into socialist revolutions, should they be supported. (Seattle #65, the same section on the “paradigm of revolution”.) Or see how Jason converts Marx into an apologist for neo-conservative economics (discussed in my September 27 reply to Jason contained in the CWVTJ #5, p.24).

So Jason’s first argument of why Marxism-Leninist influence is not possible is essentially that you should be against Marxist influence.

Jason’s second argument is that before a Marxist-Leninist party can exist, “there would have to be a group or trend of radical intellectuals headed in that direction.” Here once again, Jason the “Marxist” simply caves in to the status quo. Under the banner that Israel is not going to be quickly overthrown, he scoffs at revolutionary organizing to eventually achieve that goal. Now, under the banner that a mass Marxist party is not around the corner, he thinks there is no point in working toward that goal. For Jason, it’s fine to advocate Marxism when there’s a big crowd around applauding. Else it’s time to tuck your ideals away and seek sanctuary in painting lovely pictures of what life could be like under the present oppression. For Jason, it is enough to shout “the theory itself is in crisis” and declare the possibilities for Marxism-Leninism over. But if one is a Marxist, as Jason pretends to be, then the crisis means that there will be a debate about what comprises a revolutionary ideology, what Marxism really is, and how the Marxist principles apply in the present conditions.

Are there conditions present that will motivate the Palestinian masses to search for a theory of the revolutionary class struggle? Jason claims those supporting the building of class organization have views that are “not a creation of an actual analysis,” show “little connection to the on-going situation” and are just “phrasemongering. ” But one would have to have their eyes shut tight to not see the general conditions that are laying the basis for the influence of an ideology that can guide the revolutionary class struggle. We have been arguing that the deal between the Palestinian bourgeoisie and Israel to set up a repressive mini-state would mean that the class struggle would come more to the fore. We have pointed out that large sections of the masses want to continue the struggle against Israeli oppression against the wishes of the bourgeois mini-state authority We have called attention to the class nature of the struggle against poverty in the occupied territories. We have spoken of the extreme exploitation of the masses that would remain, even if the mini-state stabilizes, and how the masses would have to fight against this. Meanwhile, even Jason acknowledges that activists at the base are getting fed up with established groups and that there is a need for a theory of struggle that is an alternative to the established trends (although Jason’s statehood framework theory is hardly an alternative).

No one can say in advance how fast Marxism will take hold as a mass trend. But clearly the present situation in the Palestinian struggle puts the question of revolutionary theory on the agenda. If one can only see the present dominance of other trends, then inevitably there will be despair over revolutionary theory and collapse into reformism. But if one opens their eyes to the entire reality, then one can also see how the present conditions are creating opportunities for Marxist influence.


1 Israeli parliament — CV

Marxism vs. anarchism on overcoming the marketplace

The Black Autonomy Collective and the Spanish Civil War

by Joseph Green

My article "Anarchism and the marketplace" in the Sept. 1995 issue of the Communist Voice attracted the ire of the Black Autonomy Collective (BAC) of Seattle, member of the Black Autonomist International. Greg Jackson, one of the BAC's leaders, denounced it in his open letter of April 1996 to the left, which has recently come into our possession. The BAC produced Jackson's letter as a pamphlet, entitled "Authoritarian Leftists: Kill the Cop in Your Head! The Struggle against Fascism begins with the struggle against Left-wing White Supremacy!" (emphasis as in the original)

Jackson's letter centers on the well-known "guilt-trip-the-liberals" technique, this time applied to the entire left. Jackson doesn't appeal to other activists as comrades in the struggle, but as worthless scum who can only redeem themselves by shutting up and doing what he says. Jackson says, talking about the "white left" (his term, not ours), that "most (if not all) are provocateurs, opportunists, and fundamentally incorrect" -- but ends up demanding that these same provocateurs, opportunists and fundamentally incorrect people "provide unconditional (no strings attached) material support for non-white factions". This. he says, is the practical way that the "white left" can "come to terms with your white skin privilege (and the ideology and attitude(s) this privilege breeds) . . ." Give money and resources and praise, but don't comment and don't criticize and don't analyze and forget about "dogma" (theory). Don't criticize us, says Greg Jackson, and don't even criticize Farrakhan, he adds. Yes, Farrakhan. Jackson says that the "white left's isolation and alienation is revealed even more profoundly" in its criticizing the Million Men March. In contrast to this, Jackson says that, among the forces in the Million Men March, "despite our own minor ideological differences [with Farrakhan's Nation of Islam--CV], we agreed on one point: it was none of your business or the business of the rest of the white population. When we organize among our own, we consider it a 'family matter'. When we have conflicts, that is also a 'family matter'. Again, it is none of your business unless we tell you differently."

Also notable is Jackson's disdain for theory. For him theory is dogma, ritual, theology, Eurocentrism, and just downright hypocrisy. Why debate about revolutionary orientation, and socialist values and the future society when it's all so simple -- weren't there communal societies in the past? weren't there militant struggles? aren't the daily lives of the oppressed already an example of the protracted struggle that is needed: so aren't "miniature" examples of the new society all around?

In the course of this polemic, the pamphlet takes the Communist Voice as the sole so-called "white leftist" which it trashes in any detail. Below will be found

the relevant passage from Greg Jackson's pamphlet;

excerpts from the article "Anarchism and the marketplace" which Jackson is denouncing; and

my reply in detail to Jackson, which centers on the central theoretical point -- how can the marketplace be overcome -- and discusses the experience of the Spanish Civil War. Jackson claimed that this experience proved that anarchist-led collectives can liberate the masses from capitalism. But the economic history of the anarchist experiment tells another story and is in line with the analysis I made in "Anarchism and the marketplace". The dramatic big events of the Spanish Civil War have often been discussed, but the economic and ideological history of the collectives and other organizational forms used by the workers and peasants is just as important. I hope the reader will find this history, as I have, both fascinating and instructive. []

From the Open Letter to the Left of the Black Autonomy Collective

by Greg Jackson, Black Autonomy Collective, Seattle

Because the white left refuses to combat and reject reactionary tendencies in their (your) own heads and among themselves (yourselves), and because they (you) refuse to see how white culture is rooted firmly in capitalism and imperialism; . . . you in fact re-invent racist and authoritarian social relations as the final product of your so-called 'revolutionary theory'; what I call Left-wing white supremacy.

* This tragic dilemma is compounded by, and finds some of its initial roots in, your generally ahistorical and wishful "analysis" of Black/white relations in the U.S.; and rigid, dogmatic definitions of "scientific socialism" or "revolutionary communism", based in a Eurocentric context. Thus, we are expected to embrace these "socialist" values of the settler/conqueror culture, rather than the "traditional amerikkkan values" of your reactionary opponents; as if we do not possess our own 'socialist' values, rooted in our own daily and cultural realities! Wasn't the Black Panther Party "socialist"? What about the Underground Railroad; our ancestors (and yes, even some of yours) were practicing "mutual aid" back when most European revolutionary theorists were still talking about it like it was a lofty, far away ideal!

One extreme example of this previously mentioned wishful thinking in place of a true analysis on the historical and current political dynamics particular to this country is an article by Joseph Green entitled "Anarchism and the Market Place", which appeared in the newsletter "Communist Voice" (Vol. #1, Issue #4, September 15, 1995).

In it he asserts that anarchism is nothing more than small-scale operations run by individuals that will inevitably lead to the re-introduction of economic exploitation. He also claims that "it fails because its failure to understand the relation of freedom to mass activity mirrors the capitalist ideology of each person for their self." He then offers up a vague "plan of action", that the workers must rely on their "class organization and all-round mass struggle". In addition, he argues for the centralization of all means of production.

Clearly, Green's political ideology is in fact a theology. First, anarchism was practiced in mass scale most recently in Spain from 1936-39. By most accounts (including Marxist-Leninist), the Spanish working class organizations such as the CNT (National Confederation of Labor) and the FAI (Federation of Anarchists of Iberia) seized true direct workers' power and in fact kept people alive during a massive civil war.

Their main failure was on a military, and (partially) on an ideological level:

(1.) They didn't carry out a protracted fight against the fascist Falange with the attitude of driving them off the face of the planet.

(2.) They underestimated the treachery of their Marxist-Leninist "allies" (and even some of their anarchist "allies"), who later sided with the liberal government to destroy the anarchist collectives. Some CNT members even joined the government in the name of a "united front against fascism".

And (3.), they hadn't spent enough time really developing their networks outside the country in the event they needed weapons, supplies, or a place to seek refuge quickly.

Besides leaving out those important facts, Green also omits that today the majority of prisoner support groups in the U.S. are anarchist run or influenced. He also leaves out that anarchists are generally the most supportive and involved in grassroots issues such as homelessness, police brutality, Klan/nazi activity, Native sovereignty issues, (physical) defense of women's health clinics, sexual assault prevention, animal rights, environmentalism, and free speech issues.

Green later attacks "supporters of capitalist realism on one hand and anarchist dreamers on the other". What he fails to understand is that the movement will be influenced mostly by those who do practical work around day-to-day struggles, not by those who spout empty rhetoric with no basis in reality because they themselves (like Green) are fundamentally incapable of practicing what they preach. Any theory which cannot, at the very least, be demonstrated in miniature scale (with the current reality of the economically, socially, and militarily imposed limitations of capitalist/white supremacist society taken in to consideration) in daily life is not even worth serious discussion because it is rigid dogma of the worst kind.

Even if he could "show and prove", his proposed system is doomed to repeat the cannibalistic practices of Josef Stalin or Pol Pot. While state planning can accelerate economic growth no one from Lenin, to Mao, to Green himself has truly dealt with the power relationship between the working class and the middle-class "revolutionaries" who seize state power 'on their behalf'. How can one use the organizing methods of the European bourgeoisie, "(hierarchical) party building" and "seizing state power" and not expect this method of organizing people to not take on the reactionary characteristics of what it supposedly seeks to eliminate? Then there's the question of asserting one's authoritarian will upon others (the usual recruitment tactics of the white left attempting to attract Black members).

At one point in the article Green claims that anarchistic social relations take on the oppressive characteristics of the capitalist ideology they're rooted in. Really? What about the capitalist characteristics of know-it-all ahistorical white "radicals" who can just as effectively assert capitalistic, oppressive social relations when utilizing a top-down party structure (especially when it's utilized against minority populations)? What about the re-assertion of patriarchy (or actual physical and mental abuse) in interpersonal relationships; especially when an organizational structure allows for, and in fact rewards, oppressive social relationships?

What is the qualitative difference between a party bureaucrat who uses his position to steal from people (in additional to living a neo-bourgeois lifestyle; privilege derived from one's official position and justified by other party members who do the same. And, potentially derived from the color of his skin in the amerikkkan context) and a collective member who steals from the local community? One major difference is that the bureaucrat can only be removed by the party, the people (once again) have no real voice in the matter (unless the people themselves take up arms and dislodge the bureaucrat and his party), the collective member can receive a swift punishment rooted in the true working class traditions, culture, and values of the working class themselves, rather than that which is interpreted for them by so-called "professional revolutionaries" with no real ties to that particular community. This is a very important, yet very basic, concept for the white left to consider when working with non-white workers (who, by the way, are the true "vanguard" in the U.S.; Black workers in particular. Check your history, especially the last thirty years of it.).

This demand has become more central over the last thirty years as we have seen the creation of a Black elite of liberal and conservative (negrosie) puppets for the white power structure to speak through to the people, the few who were allowed to succeed because they took up the ideology of the oppressor. But, they too have become increasingly powerless as the shift to the right in the various branches of the state and federal government has quickly, and easily, "checked" what little political power they had. Also, we do not have direct control over neighborhood institutions as capitalists, let alone as workers; at least white workers have a means of production they could potentially seize. Small "mom and pop" restaurants and stores or federally funded health clinics and social services in the 'hood hardly count as "Black capitalist" enterprises, nor are any of these things particularly "liberating" in themselves.

But white radicals, the white left of the U.S. in particular, have a hard time dealing with the reality that Black people have always managed to survive, despite the worst or best intentions of the majority population. We will continue to survive without you and can make our revolution without you (or against you) if necessary; don't tell us about "protracted struggle", the daily lives of non-white workers are testimony to the true meaning of protracted struggle, both in the U.S. and globally. Your inability or unwillingness to accept the fact that our struggle is parallel to yours, but at the same time very specific, and will be finished successfully when we as a people, as working-class Blacks on the North American continent, decide that we have achieved full freedom (as defined by our history, our culture, our needs, our desires, our personal experiences, and our political idea(s)) is by far the primary reason why the white left is so weak in this country.

In addition, this sinking garbage scow of American leftism is dragging other liberating politically vessels down with it, particularly the smaller, anti-authoritarian factions within the white settler nation itself and the few (non-dogmatic and non-ritualistic) individuals within today's Marxist-Leninist parties who sincerely wish to get away from the old, tired historical revisionism of their particular 'revolutionary' party.

(Italics, underlining, and boldfacing here and in all other extracts anywhere in this issue of Communist Voice from Jackson's writings are as in the original. Also, parenthetical remarks in extracts from Jackson are as in the original, unless otherwise marked.) []

From Anarchism and the Marketplace

Below are extracts from the article that the Black Autonomy Collective is denouncing:

. . . a nagging question remains. Even if the government were eliminated, would oppression end? What about the power of the giant corporations? Some of them are as large and wealthy as many governments, and employ as many people. What about the power of the marketplace? Doesn't it ravage forests, pollute water, condemn tens and hundreds of millions of people to poverty and toil, as brutally as any government?

The run-of the mill capitalist politicians say that an economy run by the marketplace and a variety of corporations brings freedom. On the other hand, the reformists and anarchists, who think they are saying something radically different, would replace the giant corporations and profiteers by communal or other small-scale enterprises. They hope thus to eliminate authority and hierarchy, since each enterprise is small and may even be run as a collective. Then, they think, there would be no oppression and no ruling class and maybe no authority. Well, they may envisage weak federations of local councils, but for them to think about this too much is to trend on the dread waters of politics.

But when production is carried out by independent enterprises, whether communally owned or run by profiteers, this is not the basis of freedom, but ultimately it is the basis of oppression. It means that the various enterprises and workers are connected, not by any conscious plan, but by the rule of market forces, by the result of thousands of transactions among the little groups. And the market forces inevitably give rise to a division of rich and poor, to monopoly, and to the oppression of the poor by the rich.

So perhaps, however radical the anarchist ideology appears, it has something in common with the anti-government neo-conservative atmosphere of our time, However much it hopes to eliminate all coercion -- government or corporate -- its solutions are bound to the marketplace.It's no accident that one outright capitalist party, the Libertarian, is willing to flirt with anarchist phrases. It says it would remove all interference by the government in personal decisions, but it would subject the people even more to the marketplace than Newt Gingrich's 'Contract on the Workers and the Poor'.

Anarchism fails because it can't see that the economic basis of the government remains under small-scale production including that run by communal groups. So its denunciation of the state ends up as wishful thinking, or even worse, finds a reflection in the anti-government posturing which the right-wing and the Libertarians use as a cover for supporting the marketplace. It fails because it sees the individual or the small group as self-sufficient, while in fact only the collective action of the working masses -- the building of a proletarian party, the carrying out of revolutionary struggle, the collective running of the economy -- can overcome exploitation and provide a true basis of the flourishing of individuality and creativity. It fails because its failure to understand the relation of freedom to mass activity mirrors the capitalist ideology of each person for their self.

* * * * *

The only way to overcome oppression is by eliminating the division of society into hostile classes. And this requires that the workers not recoil before, but take up the most powerful methods of political struggle in order to assault the domination of private ownership. They must rely on class organization and all-round mass struggle, political and economic and ideological. They must take over all production via revolution. At first, the new society requires a revolutionary government. Such a government will at long last be a tool of the majority of the people in their fight against exploitation by the few. It will help stamp out exploitation and bring the economy under the conscious control of all workers. But ultimately, as the economy is really run by all, everyone will be both a worker and an overseer of society's affairs, and so class division will come to an end. It is the end of class division that will bring the end of government and the whole political apparatus. Only in this way can there be a real and not illusory end of government and of political.

* * * * *

Anarchism has a disorganizing effect in the class struggle. . . . It tends to see organization and discipline and joint effort as a shackle on the individual, and it fails to see how they can be the agencies of liberation.

* * * * *

. . . Today we study the misadventures of one group, the Revolutionary Socialist Study Group of Seattle, which broke up into two trends of thought: supporters of capitalist realism on one hand and anarchist dreamers on the other. We show how both sides of this split have abandoned communism: the 'realistic' opponents of revolutionism, and the anarchist parody of revolutionism are both based on marketplace ideas. []

Reply to the Open Letter of the Black Autonomy Collective:

The experience of the Spanish anarchists shows that autonomous collectives can't overcome the marketplace

by Joseph Green, Detroit


The Spanish example refutes the anarchists


The failure of the anarchist method of abolishing money

Patriarchalism and small-scale production

Failure of the anarchist method of abolishing government

Errors of the Spanish anarchists, as admitted by the anarchist nationalists

First error--weakness in the fight against fascism

Second error--lack of independence

Third error--lack of international solidarity

Eurocentrism and Morocco

From Spain to the Black Autonomists of Seattle

A key question which Greg Jackson and the other anarchists and Libertarians can't deal with is how to eliminate the power of the marketplace. Mr. Jackson fumes against my article "Anarchism and the marketplace", but he won't directly deal with my assertion that

"a nagging question remains. Even if the government were eliminated, would oppression end? What about the power of the giant corporations? Some of them are as large and wealthy as many governments, and employ as many people. What about the power of the marketplace? Doesn't it ravage forests, pollute water, condemn tens and hundreds of millions of people to poverty and toil, as brutally as any government? (emphasis added)"

I pointed out that

"when production is carried out by independent enterprises, whether communally owned or run by profiteers, this is not the basis of freedom, but ultimately it is the basis of oppression. It means that the various enterprises and workers are connected, not by any conscious plan, but by the rule of market forces, by the result of thousands of transactions among the separate groups. And the market forces inevitably give rise to a division of rich and poor, to monopoly, and to the oppression of the poor by the rich."

What does the Black Autonomy Collective offer as an alternative to the marketplace? If we look at the next to last page of any issue of "Black Autonomy", we find the "unified position statement of Black Autonomy newspaper and affiliated Black Autonomist (anarchist) activists in the United States". It is entitled "Anarchism + black revolution = new black autonomous politics". It states that "The new autonomous politics is made up of the anti-authoritarian core of Anarchism and many of the tenets of revolutionary Black nationalism". But despite its mention of revolution, one will find just about nothing about what this revolution is supposed to do. Oh yes, it mentions a "revolutionary project to defeat the system of capitalism and enslavement . . ." But it don't say how it envisages this, and how capitalism and the marketplace will be overcome. We're just supposed to take their word for it that their plans are capable of doing this.

Jackson refers us to the example of Spain in 1936-39. He tells us that

"anarchism was practiced in mass scale most recently in Spain from 1936-39. By most accounts (including Marxist-Leninist), the Spanish working class organizations such as the CNT (National Confederation of Labor) and the FAI (Federation of Anarchists of Iberia) seized true direct workers' power and in fact kept people alive during a massive civil war."

His implication is that the Spanish anarchists really did overcome the marketplace and were so successful that the anarchist areas were the breadbasket for the Spanish Republic in its losing battle against Franco's fascists from 1936-39.

This example is important for Jackson, who presents himself as the practical activist par excellence, above all "dogma". He implies that he knows what's right not because of the hated theory, but because it actually works! After all, he says, "Any theory which cannot, at the very least, be demonstrated in miniature scale . . . in daily life is not even worth serious discussion because it is rigid dogma of the worst kind." So he had better have an example, or else his anarchism is condemned by his own words as "rigid dogma of the worst kind". Well, Jackson can't seem to find a convincing one from "daily life", but at least he can find one sometime in this century. And that example is the Spanish Civil War.

The Spanish example refutes the anarchists

So let's look at this example. Let's not begrudge the time and effort it takes, for the example of the Spanish Civil War collectives is indeed a fascinating one that will repay serious study. And it is one of the main examples used not just by Jackson and the anarchist nationalists, but by most anarchists. There are many examples of isolated anarchist colonies, but they didn't prove durable. The Spanish Civil War provides about the only example of anarchist collectives embracing both agriculture and industry, the countryside and the city, on a mass scale. But this example shows that the anarchists were incapable of overcoming the power of the marketplace, and ended up blaming the masses for their "utilitarian and petty bourgeois spirit" (as we shall, in a moment, see the CNT saying) rather than admitting that anarchist dogma was at fault.

The Spanish anarchists believed that a system of autonomous collectives, with the weakest possible connections between them, was the alternative to capitalism and also to the Marxist view of society running the entire economy as one whole. Thus the anarchists believed that once they had collectivized the village communities or taken over the workplaces in the cities, that they had abolished capitalism, money, and all government. In fact, this proved not to be the case, and anarchism proved unable to understand what was going on and unable to provide revolutionary guidance to the workers and peasants of Spain. Among other things, market forces asserted themselves among the anarchist-led collectives, providing a vivid illustration of the point made in my article "Anarchism and the marketplace". It wasn't just the major hardships of the Spanish Civil War that plagued the collectives, but the economic relations (or lack of them) between the collectives. The inability of the system of independent collectives to overcome inequality and other problems was noted by serious commentators on the Civil War of various trends, including those who are quite sympathetic to the anarchists. Indeed, as we shall see shortly, at the time this was taking place, some prominent Spanish anarchists and the CNT union themselves noted these problems, but they didn't know what to do about it. This can only be denied by the wishful thinking of present-day anarchists, who make Spain into a legend but refuse to study what actually happened.

It's not that the collectives were a failure in themselves. Just prior to and during the Civil War, large numbers of toilers rose up to take over the agrarian communities in some regions of Spain and workplaces in Barcelona and some other cities. Some collectives and cooperatives worked well, some didn't, and some were even imposed on the toilers. But all in all, this was the masses starting to take things into their own hands, and they showed that they could continue production in their workplaces without the whip of the big landlords and bloated parasites. The taking over of the individual workplaces and communities is one step in a revolutionary process. But there is yet more that must be done -- the workplaces and communities must be integrated into an overall economy. A vast organizational task faces the oppressed masses who are rising up to eliminate the old exploiting system, but anarchist theory just brushes aside this problem -- coordination between collective would supposedly be easily accomplished by "mutual aid" or "voluntary cooperation" or, if absolutely need be, by the weakest possible federation. The anarchist theory was then, as now, allergic to centralism and central planning. The anarchists didn't and don't understand that a new centralism -- compatible with and requiring the initiative of the workers at the base -- has to be built up if capitalism is to be overcome. For them, democracy at the base and centralism are incompatible; they identify centralism with tyranny; and when they talked about "self-management" they meant collectives that are autonomous and independent. Faced with the need for coordination and planning and class-wide action in the Spanish Civil War, the anarchists were in a quandary. They ended up adopting more and more of the plans of their opponents, such as the reformist socialists, the Stalinists (fake communists), and the liberal bourgeoisie. Grumbling and stumbling, the anarchists accepted these plans, not just as a compromise, but because they had no independent idea about how to accomplish the needed centralism. They didn't know how to counterpose revolutionary centralism and class-wide consciousness to the bureaucracy of the reformists, Stalinists and liberal bourgeoisie.

The problems facing the anarchist collectives weren't due to their leaders not being fully dedicated or committed anarchists, as the BAC's Jackson implies. The real, long-time Spanish anarchists led a large section of those revolutionary Spanish workers and peasants who hated the bourgeoisie and capitalism. They were in the forefront of the movement to establish collectives (there were also collectives and cooperatives organized by other forces). The anarchist-led agrarian collectives were concentrated in Aragon and the Levante, and for about a year the anarchists had a pretty free hand with them, and the anarchist stronghold of Barcelona was a key center of the revolutionary workers' movement in Spain. This system only had a short time to develop. But even in the first year, economic forces arose among the collectives that the anarchists didn't know what to do about. And there is good reason to believe that the problem of coordination would only have become worse if the anarchist experiment had lasted longer.


Let's evaluate the Spanish collectives according to one of the basic goals set by the anarchists themselves. This was to ensure equality among the toilers. They believed that the autonomous collectives would rapidly equalize conditions among themselves through "mutual aid" and solidarity. This did not happen. The various agrarian collectives organized themselves in varying ways, and might in some cases pool the community's goods in a central storehouse. But these collectives faced economic conditions that varied dramatically from community to community, and factory to factory, and the living conditions between different collectives continued to vary dramatically. David Miller, a most sympathetic critic of the anarchists, refers in his book Anarchism to the universal admission of all commentators that conditions varied greatly among the Spanish collectives, with peasants at some agricultural collectives making three times that of peasants at other collectives. Miller concludes that "Such variations no doubt reflected historical inequalities of wealth, but at the same time the redistributive impact of the [anarchist] federation had clearly been slight."1

What happened to "mutual aid" among the collectives? The collectives didn't display that much interest in equalizing conditions among themselves, although they might see the point of supporting the struggle against fascism, for they feared the fascist troops would ravage their community and restore the rich to control of the land. Miller says that "rural communities were more likely to send their surpluses to the militias on the front and to the cities than to one another".2 This happened even though in "Aragon and the Levante -- the two major areas in which [agrarian] collectivization was able to proceed relatively unhindered", the anarchist regional federations took mutual aid and redistribution among collectives quite seriously, as "one of their primary tasks". One could argue that the collectives didn't have much time to develop, being in existence for only two and a half years at most, with the anarchists only having one year of reasonably unhindered work, but one could certainly not argue that this experience confirmed anarchist theory.

A similar phenomenon took place among worker collectives in the city of Barcelona, which was the main center of anarchist industrial collectives. The workers took over the factories, but anarchist principles could not establish durable cooperation among these factories. The anarchist theory led to the ordinary anarchist considering each factory as owned simply by the workers that labored there, and not by the working class as a whole. This was noted at the time by the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist union itself, the CNT. One of its commissions referred to the failure of the collectives to work together properly and stated that "By regarding each collective as private property [of the workers of that workplace], and not merely as its usufruct, the interests of the rest of the collective have been disregarded. . . . The collectivized firms are solely concerned with their [own] liabilities, leading to an imbalance in the finances of other firms." It claimed that "a utilitarian and petty bourgeois spirit" was manifesting itself among the masses.3 In short, the CNT noted that the workers regarded themselves as owners of their own particular workplace, rather than seeing their workplace as the property of the entire working class, which grants them the right ("usufruct") to operate it on their behalf. And it identifies the result of this as a lack of coordination.

How did the anarchists relate the various workplace collectives to each other in Barcelona? Despite anarchist declarations against money, they made use of a patchwork system including a Central Labor Bank, an Economic Council, credit, cash purchases, requisitioning, etc. They not only were unable to eliminate money and capitalist accounting, but had to organize forms of banking and finance. Moreover, the growing polarization among the collectives was reflected in many of them losing their independence. The poor collectives needed funds to pay wages, and many obtained these funds by mortgaging their workplace's equipment and stockpiles to the bourgeois Catalan government of the "Generalitat".4 As a result of the operation of this "pawn bank," as it was called, the control of these workplaces passed in essence to the Catalan government.

No wonder that the anarchist Horacio Prieto, member of the national committee of the CNT and at one time its secretary (leader), cried out in pain:

"The collectivism we are living in Spain is not anarchist collectivism, it is the creation of a new capitalism, more inorganic than the old capitalist system we have destroyed . . . Rich collectives refuse to recognize any responsibilities, duties or solidarity towards poor collectives.

. . . No one understands the complexities of the economy, the dependence of one industry on another." (January 6, 1938) 5

And yet this is the same Spanish collectivism that the BAC's Greg Jackson assures us proves that marketplace forces will not operate among autonomous collectives.

The failure of the anarchist method of abolishing money

Let's take a further look at anarchist theory in light of the Spanish experience. The anarchists had believed that simply taking over the workplaces and village communities would suffice to abolish money. One author describes the process in the countryside as follows:

"In Binéfor, as in the other 450 collectivized Aragon towns, money was declared abolished. Anarchists rejected it as the root of everything they abhorred. An economy based totally on barter being impractical, the committee issued coupons in 5-, 6- and 7-peseta denominations. The value of all male work, whether performed by doctor or truck driver, was fixed at 7 pesetas a day. Women . . . got 5 pesetas. The old currency was not seized, and a black market flourished. Some services were available only to collectivists. Whoever chose not to join the system could not get a haircut; the only barber shop did not cater to individualistas."6

Thus having begun by abolishing money, the local committee of the autonomous commune proceeded to issue local coupons that functioned as local money.7 It didn't strike the anarchists to consider whether their local coupons served the role of money. For the anarchists, money only meant the hated national banknotes, while local currency was not -- in their eyes -- money at all. Meanwhile the necessity for the collective to deal with other collectives, and as well to provide money to peasants visiting other parts of Spain, resulted in a patchwork system. According to Miller, the inconvenience of this system resulted in the "growing belief, in anarchist circles, that a uniform national currency was after all a good thing."8

The collectives carried out a number of measures which were probably of great value to the local population. This included rationing of some key goods, such as wheat and wine, and financing some services -- such as barber shops, apothecaries, etc. -- by the collective instead of by fees from individuals. The excitement at the peasants actually deciding matters and at these new methods of dealing with economic hardship no doubt appeared to many as the abolition of the old capitalism. But these steps do not in themselves go beyond capitalism, and indeed have been used by capitalist governments, as seen in rationing and in national health insurance, public education systems, public library systems, etc. Indeed, some of these measures actually increase the power of government, but the anarchists didn't see local government as government -- more about that in a moment. The main point here is that the anarchists saw only the surface features of money -- the banknote issued by the financial institutions of the rich and powerful -- and not the real economic features of money.

The problem is not that the anarchists couldn't accomplish the impossible -- the immediate abolition of money. This failure discredits their anarchist theory, but it doesn't in itself fault the practical actions taken by the anarchists in organizing the collectives. The problem is that, saddled with their false theory, they could not understand the real nature of the economic steps taken in the collectives, and thus they could not deal with the economic relations that arose among the collectives. With their view that local government and local coupons aren't really government and money, they couldn't understand the need for social control over the economy, control by all of the working people as a whole, if steps towards abolishing capitalism were to be made. For them centralism = authoritarianism = capitalism, and they had no idea that their simple equations doomed them to be victims of marketplace forces.

From the point of view of Marxist theory, it is not surprising that money cannot be done away with at once. Marxism recognizes the need for a relatively lengthy transitional period between the start of the social revolution and the attainment of a classless society which has done away with government, money, etc. During this transitional period, the workers have to learn to run the economy in a centralized way, thus overcoming the marketplace. As well, the productive forces must be developed far enough to eliminate the scarcity economy among the masses. And the class divisions in society have to be overcome in practice before the workers can dispense with the use of a revolutionary state machine. But the anarchists denounce the Marxists for worrying about transition periods, and say that this means the Marxists are just "state socialists" and "state capitalists". All you supposedly have to do is have the workers and peasants take over each workplace and farm by themselves, and then money and government can be abolished immediately. The experience of the Spanish Civil War shows that the anarchist plan could not abolish money and government.

Patriarchalism and small-scale production

The anarchists believed that the village communities would enter the realm of a future liberated society if only they became autonomous collectives. They didn't see the collectives as only one step, and they didn't see the need for the collectives to be integrated into a broader social control of all production. But when the village communities were freed from the old national forms of money and when they achieved self-government as collectives, they not only hadn't been liberated from capitalism, they even still discriminated against women. We have glanced briefly above at the anarchist collective of Binéfor, which despite its supposed abolition of money still paid men more than women. This didn't happen simply in Binéfor, but in most of the collectives. And it isn't simply the slander of some bigoted opponent of anarchism, but was discussed by anarchist women themselves. One author points out, in discussing the situation in 1936-37, that

"The anarchists had always declared the equality of all human beings, but, as the anarchist feminist organization, Mujeres Libres [Liberated Women], emphasized, relationships still remained 'feudal'. The most blatant way in which the anarchists had failed to live up to their professed ideals was the different levels of pay for men and women in most CNT enterprises. . . . Little headway was made outside the cities, though the greatest demonstration of the new equality was the number of militiawomen fighting in the front line."9

The inequality between men and women existed in industrial collectives in Barcelona as well as in the Spanish countryside. But it was most resistant to change in the agrarian villages. And this patriarchal oppression of women isn't something particular to Spanish agrarian collectives. As far as the countryside goes, it is typical of independent agrarian collectives engaging in small-scale production. It was seen in the Russian mir a century ago and in a number of Mexican ejidos in this century. The agrarian village community, if it is a self-contained entity, is not the harbinger of a new society, but tends to suffer from all the ills of small-scale production. This is true even if its members own the land in common, have various joint responsibilities, and decide their local community affairs democratically. In the Bolshevik Revolution, the communists, before their party degenerated into Stalinist revisionism, took seriously the issue of working for the equality of working women with working men. This required not simply liberating the village community from the old tsarist oppression, but tying the village community into a broader social context. It required the workers systematically seeking to influence the countryside, and it required bringing the benefits of large-scale production to the village. Among the methods of influence was mobilizing the local population around social measures promulgated throughout the country. The banner of the struggle was not autonomy, but class-wide effort.

Failure of the anarchist method of abolishing government

The anarchist abolition of government didn't fare much better than their abolition of money. They believed that once they had established their self-governing communities in the villages and taken over the workplaces in the cities, government was abolished. That's not what happened.

Take the villages. The anarchist version of the abolition of money resulted in the local village committee issuing coupons, running various social services (barber shop, apothecaries, etc.), determining the conditions of work, etc. This actually increased the role of the local committee. As one source points out, in the midst of praising the agrarian collectives: ". . . But the lives of those who joined were strictly controlled by the elected administrative commission that managed the collective, shared out the work, and paid the wages on a 'household' basis (single man, 5 pesetas; single woman, 4 pesetas; head of family, 5 pesetas; his wife, 2 pesetas, etc.)."10

The power of the poor in these committees was undoubtedly a great improvement over having one's life dictated to by the rich. But anyone who thinks that a local committee -- because it's local -- is not exercising political power has never taken made a realistic study of self-governing communities and organizations.

But to continue. What about the all-important supply of foodstuffs to the cities and the front lines of the fight against the fascist armies? It turns out that this wasn't simply left to the agrarian villages. Instead it was aided by the use of force, by anarchist militias. Above I have cited Miller saying that the agrarian collectives supplied the cities and the front, although they didn't equalize conditions among themselves. But what Miller left out, is the role of the anarchist militia columns in supplying the city and the front. Antony Beevor, who is favorable to the anarchist collectives, points out that "In Aragon some collectives were installed forcibly by anarchist militia columns, especially Durruti's. Their impatience to get the harvest in to feed the cities, as well as the fervor of their beliefs, sometimes led to violence."11

This is not to say that the agrarian collectives didn't see the necessity of supplying the cities and the front. But to actually accomplish this supply, it took more than the goodwill of the collectives. Militia columns were used. And when it came to equalizing conditions between the agrarian collectives -- something far too delicate and intricate to be accomplished by roving militia columns -- very little was done. This puts a somewhat different picture on the "mutual aid" in the countryside.

But what does it mean to use the militia columns? The armed forces are one of the key features of the state. And the militia columns were not under the command of the autonomous villages and were not the village community in arms, but were roving bands filled in large part with anarchists from the cities. So here we have the anarchists making use of one the chief tools of state power in order to collect grain from the collectives. Of course, the anarchists believed that since these were anarchist militias, and free of saluting and other features of the Spanish regular army, that they were no longer tools of state power. This was the same mistake they made when they assumed that local coupons were not money, because they were not the hated banknotes issued by the central government.

As far as the Barcelona and Catalan governments went, the anarchists fared no better. At the outset of the Civil War, the anarchists were dominant in Barcelona, the main city of Catalonia, and could have dispersed the government of Catalonia, the so-called "Generalitat", which was in the hands of liberal bourgeois Catalan nationalists. The anarchists didn't do so, because it went against their anarchist ideology to form a government. They were content in July 1936 to form a Central Committee of the Anti-fascist Militias (also known as the Anti-fascist Militias Committee), to take over workplaces, and to create local committees. At a time when the Anti-fascist Militias Committee was pretty much the dominant force in Catalonia, the anarchists coexisted with the government. It seemed that the anarchist opposition to government was now interpreted as also being opposition to dispersing the government. The anarchist leader Ahad de Santillán later wrote:

"We could have remained alone, imposed our absolute will, declared the Generalitat null and void, and imposed the true power of the people in its place, but we did not believe in dictatorship when it was exercised against us, and we did not want it when we could exercise it ourselves only at the expense of others. The Generalitat government would remain in force with President Companys at its head, and the popular forces would organize themselves into militias to carry on the struggle for the liberation of Spain. Thus was born the Catalonia Antifascist Militias Committee, . . "12

By September 1936, the anarchists joined the Generalitat government of Catalonia, and in November joined the Republican government of Spain. Thus the anarchists first refused to form a government, as a violation of their anti-state and anti-authoritarian principles, and then joined both the provincial and national governments.

Once again, the problem isn't that the anarchists couldn't achieve the impossible -- the immediate abolition of government. This failure discredits the anarchist theory, but it doesn't in itself fault the practical steps they took in developing what were in effect organs of revolutionary power. But these practical steps were deeply flawed by their inability to understand, due to their false theory, what type of political organization is needed by the revolutionary movement. They misinterpreted the use of militia columns and local committees as the abolition of government, when it was a step in the development of a sort of revolutionary government.

Errors of the Spanish anarchists, as admitted by the anarchist nationalists

Now the BAC's Jackson himself admits that there were some errors made by the Spanish anarchists. Let's look at Jackson's analysis. He claims that the anarchist "main failure was on a military, and (partially) on an ideological level". He entirely ignores the economic problems facing the anarchists, as he prefer to live in a world of legends and wishful thinking on that front. But the errors he does list are of much interest. And although Jackson says there was something of an ideological basis for them, he stays as far away in practice from giving that basis. That is an error that we won't make.

First error--weakness in the fight against fascism

First of all, Jackson tells us that the Spanish anarchists "didn't carry out a protracted fight against the fascist Falange with the attitude of driving them off the face of the planet." Now this is a shocking admission. The anarchists, the self-proclaimed greatest enemies of the state, didn't carry out enough of a fight against the fascist Falange, the representative of the worst type of repressive state. Unfortunately, Jackson doesn't tell us why this was so. Didn't the Spanish anarchists shout as loud as Jackson about the evils of the state and all authority? Yes, they did. And if they nevertheless couldn't put enough emphasis on the fight against the fascists, why should we believe that Seattle anarchists like Jackson can carry out a sufficiently protracted and fierce fight against the reactionaries here?

Let's suggest a reason why the Spanish anarchists had trouble. The anarchist ideology -- take over your local workplace, and that's all that is needed -- gives rise to a localist outlook. Its disgust at centralism goes against the idea of organizing nation-wide (and even broader) struggles against the reactionary enemy. This requires a centralized struggle; and anarchists aren't any happier with political centralization than with economic centralization.

One author, sympathetic to anarchists, nevertheless writes that: "For example, the anarchists of Catalonia felt that to recapture Saragossa would be tantamount to winning the war. The advance of the Army of Africa13 in the south-west [of Spain] could almost have been in a foreign country, as far as they were concerned."14

Ironically, another writer in Black Autonomy put his finger in passing on one aspect of the issue. David Ashley wrote that "Splintered nations have always destroyed themselves with just the slightest push from the outside. . . The reason for this is that no matter the size of an organization it will defeat disorganization and in-fighting."15 Organization will defeat disorganization, even if the organization is tiny compared to the huge disorganized mass -- that's a strange admission for an anarchist to make. But it gives a key to the difficulty that the Spanish anarchists had in the fight against the Falange. The Falange was organized, while the anarchists -- able to take over and run individual collectives, or even some regional committees -- nevertheless tended to disorganization.

Second error -- lack of independence

The second reason Jackson gives is that the Spanish anarchists "underestimated the treachery of their Marxist-Leninist 'allies' (and even some of their anarchist 'allies'), who later sided with the liberal government to destroy the anarchist collectives. Some CNT members even joined the government in the name of a 'united front against fascism'." Here we see that the anarchists to some extent trailed the Stalinists (the Spanish Communist Party was no longer Marxist-Leninist but had been overcome by Stalinist revisionism by the time of the Spanish Civil War). Moreover, while Jackson blames the Stalinists for the political errors of the anarchists, he admits that the anarchists themselves joined the government -- i.e. trailed the liberal bourgeois republicans.

But why did the anarchists do this? Is it because the Spanish anarchists had a tradition of working with the communists and following them around? Far from it. The Spanish anarchists were just as hostile to either Marxist communism or Stalinism (fake communism), and just as hostile to the bourgeois politicians as Jackson. They shouted just as loud as Jackson, and they had been doing it for far longer than Jackson has been doing it. They had been trained in decades of abuse against politics as well as against Marxism. So it's hard to believe that they joined a government out of softness towards either Marxism or Stalinism.

What happened is that the anarchists lacked any independent answers to the struggle against fascism. Without these independent answers, they could do nothing but splinter and follow other political forces, even those forces whom they had been denouncing for decades. When they saw that the autonomous collectives were getting into trouble, they had to turn to solutions proposed by other political forces, because they had no real answer for themselves. When they saw that the anarchist militias weren't sufficient for the military struggle, they had to turn to the plans for regularizing the army proposed by other political forces. When they saw that they couldn't simply abolish government in the midst of the crisis, they vacillated between letting the liberal bourgeois governments alone and joining them.

It is to the credit of the Spanish anarchists that they recognized that some of their rhetoric had to be thrown aside. They couldn't be satisfied with the empty rhetoric that satisfies Jackson because they could see with their eyes that the anarchist plans were in trouble. But on the other hand, they had no idea of how to deal with the problems they saw. They ended up trailing other forces, while grumbling about this and that. It was a fiasco of the highest order.

This isn't the first time that anarchism had proved bankrupt in Spain. Engels discussed a similar fiasco that overwhelmed the Spanish anarchists in the 19th century in his pamphlet "The Bakuninists at Work: An Account of the Spanish Revolt in the Summer of 1873". Here the Spanish anarchists were faced with the possible replacement of the monarchy with a democratic republic. According to the Bakuninist theory which they were following at the time, the anarchists shouldn't have cared about the political events unfolding. As Engels describes it, the Spanish anarchists "had been preaching for years that no part should be taken in a revolution that did not have as its aim the immediate and complete emancipation of the working class, . . ." (This is still anarchist doctrine.) And yet, every Spanish worker knew that the working class must intervene in the crucial political events that were occurring.

So what did the anarchists do in 1873? They ended up in part abstaining from taking any definite line in the struggle, and in part following the bourgeois republicans. Having preached against revolutionary government, the Bakuninists nevertheless joined in government "juntas" with the bourgeois republicans, generally without being able to influence their program. And militarily, Engels pointed out that their allergy towards centralism resulted in fragmentation of the revolutionary forces, so that the reactionaries could "conquer one city after another with a handful of soldiers, practically unresisted."

The root cause of the anarchists trailing other forces in the Spanish Civil War was the failure of anarchist theory. It's what happened in 1873, and it happened again six decades later in the Spanish Civil War.

Third error -- lack of international solidarity

Jackson's third criticism of the Spanish anarchists is that they "hadn't spent enough time really developing their networks outside the country in the event they needed weapons, supplies, or a place to seek refuge quickly." Here again, Jackson doesn't suggest a reason why this happened. Yet here again the localist anarchist outlook would go against such preparations. True, the anarchists had had their own International association in the 1870s, separate from the original First International and the Marxists. It had flopped so badly that the anarchists never tried to resuscitate it and seem to prefer to forget about it. Given anarchist localism, it is not surprising that this International doesn't even seem to be been missed by current-day anarchists.

Eurocentrism and Morocco

Finally, let's note another shortcoming of the Spanish anarchists that is related to their shortcomings in internationalism. Jackson is silent about this shortcoming, although it would seem to be related to the "Eurocentrism" that Jackson talks so much about. (Jackson accuses the "white left" of being Eurocentrist throughout his open letter.) It may seem strange that Jackson accuses the general left -- which debates the nature of regimes in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe -- of being Eurocentric, while he himself gives the experience of the struggle in a Western European country, Spain, as his main example of successful anarchism. This is another example of an anarchist having one idea in theory, but being forced to eat his words in practice. But far more significant is that Jackson fails to note the "Eurocentrism" of the Spanish anarchists.

The issue here concerns Morocco, a part of North Africa. Morocco was at that time partitioned between Spain and France. During the Spanish Civil War, the fascists made use of a large number of Moroccan troops. If the Spanish working class was to defeat fascism, it was important to raise the Moroccans in revolt against their fascist Falangist commanders. In order to do this, it would have been necessary to proclaim Morocco's right to self-determination and to promise that, if the fascists were defeated, there would be an end to Spanish domination. This was never done. While the Republic's granting of autonomy to Catalonia and the Basque region had increased its support in those areas of European Spain, there was no serious attempt to win over the Moroccan masses in Africa.

It looked as if the bourgeois republicans would rather lose to the fascists than see Morocco become independent. They were also frightened that recognizing Moroccan rights would alienate France and other imperialist powers. It was up to the working class to stand up for the national rights of the Moroccans. But the anarchists weren't that interested in this issue. In the literature discussing the views of the Spanish anarchists, it is hard to even find mention of the Moroccan problem. ( No doubt this too is part of the localist orientation of anarchism, as well as their opposition to all states.) But according to one source, "Prior to the Civil War, all the revolutionary parties had stood for the independence, or at least the full autonomy of Morocco." But only POUM (which was not anarchist) "came out publicly" for this during the war.16

It's not that the Moroccan war had been a minor issue in Spain, which might be accidentally overlooked at a time of national crisis. A revolt of the Rif tribespeople of Morocco led by Abd el-Krim had lasted from 1919 to 1926. In 1921, they had crushed an entire Spanish army in a major battle, and for several years a large zone of Morocco was liberated. It took major forces from France as well as Spain to put down this uprising. And history would soon show how disastrous it is for the working class if "their" country wins an unjust war of oppression. The Spanish "Army of Africa" that suppressed the Moroccans17 would be the core of the fascist forces that would suppress the Spanish toilers in the Civil War; among its generals were the spark plugs of the fascist rebellion, such as Mola, Goded, Queipo de Llano, Sanjurjo, and Franco himself18; and the subjugation of Morocco had paved the way for the use of thousands of indigenous Moroccan troops against the Republic. As Marxism teaches, a nation that oppresses another forges the chains of its own slavery. French and Spanish communists had campaigned vigorously in support of the Rif rebellion while it was proceeding, and the Spanish communists had continued to support Moroccan independence until their Marxist-Leninist stand was replaced by Stalinist revisionism. In the mid-30's, the Stalinists abandoned the Moroccans as part of their wheelings and dealings with the liberal republicans. And the anarchists? They just didn't seem that concerned with the issue during the Civil War.

And so the Spanish anarchists treated the Moroccans with indifference. And Greg Jackson -- the campaigner against Eurocentrism supposedly on behalf of the [non-European] masses -- overlooks the issue.

But Jackson isn't that concerned with the real history of the struggle against national and colonial oppression. Since he is not just an anarchist, but a nationalist anarchist, his concern is to prove that unity is all but impossible between the black workers and other workers. So he pretends that communism and the workers' movement have never really opposed the oppression of the minorities and subject nationalities. In fact, the communist parties and movements, in their days as Marxist revolutionary movements, led masses of workers to raise the banners of the anti-colonial movement, the right to self-determination, the struggle against racial discrimination, and the unity of workers of all nationalities, races and backgrounds. The campaigns of communists in favor of freedom for the peoples oppressed by their "own" county, their "own" bourgeoisie, were consistent and spirited. This stand of the communists was spurred on by their Marxist theory, which encourages workers and activists to see their liberation as coming from a world-wide class struggle and not from fencing themselves off from the world in a supposedly autonomous collective. Besides the campaigns of the communists in favor of the revolt of the Rif tribes, mention could also be made of the communist stand against apartheid in South Africa, against racial discrimination in the U.S., against the colonial empires of the imperial powers, etc.

From Spain to the Black Autonomists of Seattle

We have thus seen that the example of Spain goes against the anarchist theories. Jackson brought up Spain as a reply to my article "Anarchism and the marketplace" where I pointed out that the anarchist ideal of autonomous collectives leaves the workers enslaved by market forces. Jackson replied by telling us to look at the anarchist collectives in the Spanish Civil War. We have looked, and we have seen that inequality remained in the countryside while even the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists of the CNT were upset with the result of the autonomous workplace collectives in Barcelona. And this is despite the fact that the Spanish collectives represented just about the best that the anarchists ever achieved on any sizeable scale.

Well then, does Jackson have any further answers to the problems of social liberation beyond what the Spanish anarchists already tried? Jackson is upset with "the centralization of all means of production", which he can only visualize as "state capitalism". So presumably Jackson does not believe that society as a whole can run the economy. The economy will not be centralized. But this leaves to question. How will the individual small pieces of the economy be run? The Spanish anarchists found it wasn't enough to simply say "mutual aid" or "voluntary cooperation". Does Jackson have any further answer?

Well, Jackson insists that the form of future society must already exist on a small-scale in today's society. It must be "demonstrated in miniature scale . . . in daily life". But unfortunately, Jackson doesn't tell us what are the examples today of the autonomist future society "in miniature scale". But it turns out that he supports small businesses, if they are run by black people. So this is apparently a part of the new society "in miniature".

Thus Jackson not only doesn't have any new answers to the problem of social liberation, but he appears to be moving backward. While Jackson and the anarchists of the Spanish Civil War period hold many theories in common, they represent different social forces. The Spanish anarchists were deep in the workers' movement, although they were unable to give it revolutionary guidance. Jackson however fumes at the general workers' movement, but is sympathetic to the national bourgeoisie.

Jackson is helping organize a boycott of "white-owned businesses in Seattle" in favor of "Black businesses".19 Moreover, David Ashley, a self-proclaimed "black middle class" member of BAC, states that "The role of the Black middle class is not to stop striving, but to strive for the people. There is nothing wrong with business if the business is run by the people and for the people not for the fattening of bosses' pockets."20 This suggests that the BAC admits there is something similar between an autonomous collective and a business that, in their view, "is run by the people and for the people". Such a business is Ashley's romanticized picture of what petty-bourgeois enterprise could be.

In his open letter to the left, Jackson even theorizes about the role of business. He defends "our [BAC] support of Black-owned businesses" by claiming that it "goes hand-in-glove with Marx's theory that revolution could only ensue once capitalism was fully developed." If Jackson were serious that business has to be built up to ensure that capitalism is developed, then of course he shouldn't limit his support only to black business or to small businesses. But it is a craven reformist interpretation of Marxism to argue that one should support the bourgeoisie in order to develop capitalism. Marxism advocates the development of the class struggle, while the Greg Jackson theorizes on the need to support the national bourgeoisie.

Indeed, Jackson -- when discussing the division in the black community -- denounces the black elite simply as puppets of the overall power structure, not as bourgeois. He glosses over their class nature, but instead writes of "a Black elite of liberal and conservative (negrosie) puppets for the white power structure . . ." He doesn't point out that the "Black elite" has its own class interests, but only denounces it for subordinating itself to the dominant bourgeoisie.

But let's look further into the autonomous collectives of the anarchists. Jackson's vision of them differs substantially from that of the Spanish anarchists in at least one way: the Spanish anarchists would have the workers of all backgrounds mixed together in their collectives. But what about the BAC? Would its idea of the future collective include people of all nationalities and backgrounds, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, indigenous, etc.? Jackson doesn't say. Yet, looking at the various declarations of the BAC, it's a legitimate issue to raise. In a progressive collective, one would imagine that each and every individual should have a full say on all controversial issues. But Jackson insists that the "white left" and "white" working class should stay out of the affairs of black people, such as discussions of the revolutionary goal. Indeed, he writes that he has "no illusions about white people confronting their own racism". So does this mean segregated collectives, while the "white collectives" are to give "unconditional (no strings attached) material support" to any decision of the "black collectives" (and the Hispanic, Asian and indigenous collectives are somehow to find a way to fit into this system)? Or does this mean collectives where only part of the workers has a say?

Perhaps Jackson and the other anarchists would regard it as Stalinist or Pol Pot-ist to have definite answers on these questions. Hard thought on issues of revolutionary orientation is regarded by Jackson as "dogmatic", and definite answers as "theology". Why should the movement worry about these issues, in the anarchist view? Wouldn't this be, in Jackson's view, adopting the authoritarian and hierarchical methods of the revolutionaries of the past? But what happens if a movement full of empty slogans and conflicting ideas ends up in a position of influence in the middle of a mass upsurge, as happened to the Spanish anarchists? It will be faced with the need for answers on what should be done. Won't it be a bit late to start debating the question at that point, when the time calls out for immediate action?


1 David Miller, Anarchism, "Constructive Achievements", p. 164.

2 Ibid., p. 163.

3 Pierre Broué and Emile Témime, The Revolution and the Civil War in Spain, p. 163.

4 Ronald Fraser, Blood of Spain: An Oral History of the Spanish Civil War, pp. 211, 578. (This book contains a good deal of documentation, aside from its interviews.) Catalonia, under the Republic, was an autonomous province of Spain. Its "Generalitat" government -- which sided with the Republic against Franco's fascists -- was led by the liberal bourgeois Catalan nationalists. The anarchists, at the height of revolutionary ferment, were content to set up their own councils and leave the Catalan government in place. They soon joined this government, along with other left-wing parties.

5 Blood of Spain, p. 209. Don't confuse Horacio Prieto with the more well-known Spanish Civil War politician Indalecio Prieto, a reformist socialist and minister of the Spanish Republican government.

6 Peter Wyden, The Passionate War: The Narrative History of the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939, p. 72.

7 Such coupons were used in many collectives organized by the UGT union of the reformist socialists as well as by collectives organized by the anarchist CNT.

8 Miller, p. 163.

9 Antony Beevor, The Spanish Civil War, p. 89. The inequality between the wages paid to men and women even by those collectives that had otherwise equalized wages is noted by many sources.

10 Broué and Témime, p. 159.

11 Beevor, p. 93. Buenaventura Durruti was one of the heroes of Spanish anarchism.

12 Broué and Témime, p. 131, citing Santillán's Por qué perdimos la guerra [Why we lost the war], p. 168.

13 This was the most trained and battle-hardened section of the Spanish army and of Franco's forces. Despite its name, the Army of Africa was part of the Spanish army.

14 Beevor, p. 91.

15 "The Truth of the Black Middle Class", Black Autonomy, May-June 1996, vol.2 #3, p.6. Presumably Ashley makes this point about nations due to the BAC's nationalism, and doesn't recognize the relation of this point to autonomous organization.

16 Stanley G. Payne, The Spanish Revolution, p. 270.

17 The "Army of Africa" doesn't refer to the North Africans that fought the Spanish, but the part of the Spanish army that was devoted to suppressing and occupying Morocco. The Spanish officers that served in Morocco and helped slaughter the North Africans were known as africanistas.

18 Fraser, p. 566.

19 See Jackson, "Seattle's Black Revolutionary Factions Fight Back Against Police Brutality and Murder", Black Autonomy, May-June 1996, p. 3. There is no mention of the attitude to Asian and Hispanic businesses.

20 Ashley, "The Truth of the Black Middle Class", Black Autonomy, May-June 1996, p. 6.

[End of article group]

The recent crisis in the Gulf and the controversies over anti-war work during the Persian Gulf war

Another war crisis has come and gone in the Persian Gulf. With the bloody interference of the regime of Saddam Hussein in the affairs of the Iraqi Kurds in August-September and the imperialist gunboat diplomacy of Clinton, the issue was raised again: what is the path forward for the anti-war movement? Some left-wing groups take the point of view that the only way to defeat American imperialism is to place hopes in the bayonets of Saddam Hussein. They say they don’t like the Iraqi regime, but they ardently support it at some critical moments.

In particular, a number of Trotskyists and reformists hold that there is something anti-imperialist in the military antics of the Iraqi regime. They try to channel the burning anger of activists against continued imperialist intervention in the Middle East into support for tyrants like Saddam Hussein. International solidarity should mean support for the people, for the workers and peasants against both the major imperialist powers and the local exploiters. Yet, reminiscent of the “three worldism” of the 1970s, today various left groups, in the name of anti-imperialism, support reactionary regimes that suppress the working people of the Middle East.

Such Trotskyist organizations as the Socialist Workers Party (The Militant) and the Workers’ World Party organized demonstrations in September denouncing Clinton’s bombing of Iraq but without any denunciation of the Hussein regime. Indeed, SWP whitewashed the war of the Hussein regime against the Kurds by saying that it was solely “Washington and its allies” that have “insured the division of the Kurdish people”. Meanwhile a collection of “left” Trotskyist sects from various countries circulated statements with more exalted rhetoric that claimed to be against every reactionary But the basic point of the statements was military support for Saddam Hussein. They would like to see Hussein overthrown, they say, but until he is, they’ll cheer for his military victory.1

The same issue with respect to the Hussein regime came up in the Persian Gulf War. The late Workers’ Advocate — journal of the now-defunct Marxist-Leninist Party — had a different view. It campaigned vigorously against both U.S. imperialism and Saddam Hussein. It advocated “no blood for oil”, and showed that the real motives of U.S. imperialism had nothing to do with freedom. It denounced the U.S. slaughter of the Iraqis, supported the GI resistance, exposed the liberal imperialists of the Democratic Party, and took enthusiastic part in the anti-war movement. But it also denounced Saddam Hussein and exposed that there was nothing progressive or anti-imperialist in the Iraqi takeover of Kuwait and in its side of the Persian Gulf War. Hussein was not fighting against imperialism but to oppress other peoples and to reinforce the oppression of the Iraqi people. The Workers ’ Advocate raised slogans against both then-president Bush and Hussein. And these slogans were taken into general anti-war rallies, and also — as part of organizing solidarity for the Iraqi masses—into demonstrations of Iraqis in Detroit.

This stand put the Workers ’ Advocate in contradiction to the Trotskyists and some other groups.2 A polemic was waged with the Spartacist League, denouncing their “military but not political support” for Saddam Hussein’s regime. It was shown that you can’t separate military and political support, and that the Trotskyist groups were putting their faith—and not for the first time! — in the bayonets of the reactionaries rather than in work to organize the proletarian movement. But the Chicago branch of the Marxist-Leninist Party (which published the Chicago Workers’ Voice) was influenced by the atmosphere created by the Trotskyists and some petty-bourgeois anti- imperialist groups. Although it distributed the Workers’ Advocate, and the anti-war articles in the CWV were similar to the material in the WA, the Chicago Branch became uneasy as time went by. In the face of the pressure from the Trotskyist presentation of “military support” of the Hussein regime as anti-imperialism, they began to worry that denouncing the Hussein regime seemed rightist. And in the face of the pressure of three-woridist nationalist groups, they even worried that vigorous support for the GI resistance might look rightist, as the GIs had enlisted rather than being drafted.3 They didn’t think their own opposition to Hussein was rightist, but they centered their worries on the Workers’ Advocate.

Thus the Chicago Workers’ Voice group began a debate inside the MLP over the anti-war agitation in the Workers’ Advocate. They looked with a microscope for flaws in the antiwar agitation in order to justify their unease with the WA’s militant stands. This debate is relevant to the issues that are coming up today: Should activists be apologetic for denouncing the Iraqi regime? Does it show real militancy to only denounce U.S. imperialism and to whitewash the crimes of the local exploiters in third world countries? What does anti-imperialist work mean? And even: are there a set of stereotyped slogans that revolutionaries use on every occasion, or should one adjust one’s slogans to what is needed to open the eyes of the masses to the particular situation facing them?

We reproduce below articles from these debates, both those between the MLP and the Trotskyists and those within the MLP. We begin with an article from the polemic of the MLP against the trotskyist Spartacist League which deals with their “victory to Iraq” and “military but not political support” to Saddam Hussein. The Spartacists presented their stand as supposedly Leninist support for the struggle of oppressed countries against colonial and neo-colonial domination. But as the Trotskyists are unable to distinguish the different forces in Asia, Africa and Latin America, or the different stages of the movement that exists in them, they end up confusing bloodstained tyrants with anti-imperialist movements. So the Spartacists claimed that Lenin envisioned that the most reactionary dregs and dictators would fight imperialism, and had called in advance for support of such struggles. They listed a number of such dregs that Lenin supposedly had singled out as potential anti-imperialists. The article below on the “defend Iraq” slogan points out that Lenin didn’t support any of the dregs mentioned by the Spartacists, and had never envisioned they would fight imperialism. Lenin supported progressive mass movements against imperialism, and not the local reactionaries who were trying to drown those movements in blood.

And, continuing our series of articles on the debates during the last days of the MLP, we include part four of comrade Slim’s defense of the Workers’ Advocate's anti-war agitation. Replying to the charges of the Chicago Workers’ Voice group, Slim shows that WA carried out a revolutionary policy. This shows that it is not necessary to praise tyrants and oppressors in the third world in order to wage a revolutionary struggle against U.S. imperialism. He also provides a careful discussion of the real meaning of the Leninist principle of welcoming the “defeat of one’s own government” in a reactionary war. And he sketches what it really meant to have a revolutionary policy at a time when there isn’t a revolutionary situation, such as the U.S. during the Persian Gulf War.


1 See the September 4 statement, “RE: Iraq, for the defeat of U.S. imperialism: U.S., Hands off Iraq”, which was signed by the Liaison Committee of Militants for a Revolutionary Communist International, apparently comprising Poder Obrero [Workers’ Power] (Bolivia), Poder Obrero (Peru), the Communist Workers’ Group (New Zealand), and the International Bulletin (Europe).” Then there was the longer joint statement on Iraq of Sept. 13 by the Liaison Committee of Militants for a Revolutionary Communist International, the Leninist Trotskyist Tendency, and the Committee for a Revolutionary Regroupment.

2 Most Trotskyist groups gave “military support” to the Iraqi regime in this war, but they divided over whether to declare this publicly The “left” Trotskyist groups shouted slogans like “victory to Iraq” (meaning the Iraqi military of Saddam Hussein), but such groups as the Workers World Party and the ISO didn’t want to scare the liberals with such slogans. Thus some Trotskyist groups kept their views on “victory to Iraq” in the background, while doing their best to prevent any condemnation in demonstrations of the Iraqi regime or of its invasion of Kuwait.

3 The debate on the GI resistance is dealt with extensively in “On GI resistance and anti-war work during the Persian Gulf War” in the Nov. 15, 1995 issue of Communist Voice, vol. 1 #5. The CWVs Rene didn’t think much of the GI resistance. Most of the other CWV members didn’t go that far. but they were skeptical of the WA’s vigorous support of the GI resistance. []

From the debate on the “defend Iraq” slogan:

Building an anti-imperialist movement or putting hopes in Hussein's military?

By Joseph Green, Detroit

The first article in the Workers’ Advocate on this subject was "Should the anti-war movement ‘defend Iraq’?” (Dec. 1, 1990). The Trotskyist Spartacist League replied to this article, and a polemical exchange ensued, with the MLP’s side represented by a three-part article in the Workers' Advocate Supplement by Joseph Green. The first part of this article is reprinted below. It originally appeared in the WAS of Feb. 20, 1991 (vol. 7, #2) with the subtitle “More on the ‘defend Iraq’ slogan”

With the sanctions against Iraq replaced with open warfare, the anti-war movement has grown even larger The ravaging of Iraq has reinforced mass revulsion at the war drive of U.S. imperialism. As the anti-war movement has grown, it has drawn in many new people with varying ideas and viewpoints.

Our Party has welcomed this movement, and sought to strengthen it. We have taken part in the general movement, and we have also worked hard at the workplaces and elsewhere to spread the anti-war movement among the working class. We have sought to develop an independent working class trend that exposes the real role of the Democratic Party, of Congress, of the United Nations, and other establishment and imperialist organizations. We have also patiently opposed the “more patriotic than thou” and “support our troops” slogans, and promoted oppositional slogans and working class internationalism.

We have advocated that the chief enemy is at home. But we have also dealt with ideas about Iraq that go against an anti-imperialist perspective. From the start, we showed that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, not an anti-imperialist. And in the article Should the anti-war movement “defend Iraq “ in the December issue of the Workers' Advocate, we dealt with the “military support” for Hussein that the Trotskyists (and certain other reformist groups that originated in Trotskyism) are advocating in the name of “defending Iraq. ” They put forward this “military support” as the revolutionary, or anti-imperialist, or truly internationalist position. In fact, it is a direct abandonment of the tasks of encouraging the anti-imperialist struggle here or in the Middle East. We showed that it implied that the only real sides were for Bush or for Hussein. Such a stand prevents work for the real defeat for U.S. imperialism, for the only real defeat for imperialism is building up progressive movements of the toiling masses both here and in the Middle East.

With the increasing devastation of Iraq and the cries of bloodthirsty chauvinism from the White House and the newspapers, a noble sentiment comes up to defend the Iraqi masses from this slaughter. This solidarity wife fee Iraqi people should encourage people to keep up the anti-war struggle, and to look ardently into how to build the movement. But it does not justify the slogan “defend Iraq”, if such a slogan is used to mean “military support” for Saddam's war.

It is true that the liberals don't want slogans in favor of Iraq's military victory. They will run as fast as possible from anything that suggests it. For this reason, various Trotskyists such as the Spartacist League suggest that slogans like “victory to Iraq” show real independence from the liberals and the Democratic Party.

But the value of a slogan is not measured by how red in the face the liberals become, but by whether it answers the needs of the revolutionary movement. The bourgeoisie, liberal or conservative, will change its opinion of fee Iraqi tyranny from day to day. Yesterday the American bourgeoisie, led by Reagan and then Bush, flirted wife Saddam, covered up his crimes against fee Kurds, and even gave him some military support. Today Bush calls him the new Hitler. And the liberal politicians follow in fee wake of bourgeois opinion, quibbling wife Bush over how best to achieve bourgeois objectives. But the anti-imperialist movement needs a consistent view of Saddam's tyranny that doesn't change from day to day, and isn't dependent on the shifts of the bourgeoisie in its pursuit of imperialist class interests.

Our article on the slogan “Defend Iraq” has created a certain stir.1 The Spartacist League (SL) has taken it upon itself to answer it. In the issue of their paper. Workers' Vanguard, of January 18, they comment on our stand.2 They write in a breezy fashion and don't much bother with facts. They start by calling us “an odd Stalinist sect which hails Enver Hoxha”, neglecting our decade of criticism of the policies put forward by the Party of Labor of Albania, and our denunciation last year of how Albania had lost any socialist character. Actually, it is some Trotskyists, and possibly the SL itself, who are among the few people holding that the present economic situation in Albania is socialist, and that all one has to do is eliminate “Stalinist mismanagement”. And they say that we “denounc(ed) as reformist the two January demonstrations.” Although the Sparts probably regarded this last comment as fair-minded praise, because they themselves denounce anti-war demonstrations as “peace crawls”, it isn't true. We supported the Washington demonstrations, although we vigorously opposed the wrong views of the official leaders, and instead put forward our own anti-imperialist views among the demonstrators.

But enough of refuting this or that Spart inaccuracy. Let us look into how the Sparts defend their stand of “military support” for Saddam Hussein.

The SL place their anti-imperialist hopes in the victory of Saddam's bayonets

First, however, let us be clear on what the SL's position is. Let's first verify that when SL gives the slogan of “defend Iraq”, it does indeed mean military victory for Saddam Hussein's regime.

Most of the groups that are cheerleaders for the Iraqi military combine this with some statements against Saddam Hussein. Generally they tone down this criticism, but they hold their nose at some of the atrocities of Hussein's regime. The SL carries this hypocrisy to new heights. It is among the most loudmouthed in demanding support for Hussein's military efforts, while at the same time it also shouts against Hussein. For example, its January 4 paper had an article Saddam Hussein's war on Kurds, leftists: Iraqi rulers' bloody reign. And articles in Workers Vanguard, even as they cheer on Saddam's military, may end up with slogans calling for the overthrow of Hussein and all other rulers in the Middle East.

But this stand is impossible in practice, and the SL uses a number of verbal tricks to cover up its contradictory nature. If it advocated “organizing military support for Hussein while overthrowing Hussein” the absurdity would be too apparent. So when it talks about support for Hussein's army, it talks of “defending Iraq” or “defending Iraq against American imperialism”, but when it talks of overthrowing the Iraqi regime, it is “overthrow Hussein.” To overthrow Hussein while defending Iraq might sound reasonable, if one forget that what is meant by defending Iraq is lauding Hussein's military efforts.

And like other Trotskyists, SL defends its slogan by talking of “military but not political support” But if SL meant its slogan of “defend Iraq” to apply to the Iraqi masses, and not to the present-day Iraqi regime, why deny “political support”? Shouldn't there be full political support for the revolutionary movement of the Iraqi masses?

In fact, on the front page of Workers' Vanguard, you can often find excitement over the military and diplomatic fortunes of the Hussein regime's current efforts. Such statements may be followed later by a call to overthrow Hussein and every other ruler in the Near East. Nevertheless. SL creates an atmosphere of expectation and cheerleading for the fortunes of Hussein's military adventure.

Nor does SL give examples of how the Iraqi workers [should] “defend Iraq” while overthrowing Hussein. It does not polemicize against Hussein's “defense” of Iraq in favor of the workers' defense. The defense of Iraq it is talking about is simply Hussein's military and diplomatic efforts.

In SL's articles on the “victory to Iraq” slogan, it makes use of some articles by Trotsky on Ethiopia and Brazil. But the passages cited by SL advocate victory to the military efforts of emperors or “semi-fascists” And in one of the articles SL uses (On Dictators and the Heights of Oslo, April 22, 1936), Trotsky wrote that there was a “duty to choose between two dictators” By saying that these articles apply to the present situation, SL makes clear that it has chosen Hussein as the dictator to support in this war.

SL tries to show the revolutionary nature of its stand with some stock phrases about what the masses in the Near East should do. They should build Trotskyist parties, have a socialist federation of the Near East, workers' revolution, etc. Anything at all, just so long as you forget that SL's call to the masses [as to what they should do] at the present is military support for Hussein's war. SL's immediate hopes are placed in the tanks and artillery of the Hussein regime. Its military victory would allegedly regenerate the popular movement, overthrow Hussein himself, etc. etc.

SL's eyes are dazzled by the wonders that will be brought by Saddam's bayonets. Far from this being a sign of anti-imperialist fervor, it instead shows that SL isn't dealing with the problems of the anti-imperialist movement at all.

SL's view of the oppressed countries eliminates the class movements

In our article on the “defend Iraq” slogan, we pointed out that some Trotskyists were trying to present their glorification of Hussein's military adventure as “Leninism.” They would pick an individual statement out of context, and turn it into its opposite. In particular, we discussed their use of the following individual sentence from an important and detailed work of Lenin's:

For example, if tomorrow, Morocco were to declare war on France, or India on Britain, or Persia or China on Russia, and so on, these would be ‘just,’ and ‘defensive’ wars, irrespective of who would be the first to attack; any socialist would wish the oppressed, dependent and unequal states victory over the oppressive, slave-holding and predatory ‘Great’ Powers.” (Lenin, “Socialism and War”, Collected Works, Vol. 21, pp. 300-301)

We pointed out that Lenin put forth in this work and elsewhere that war had to be judged on the basis of the politics that paved the way for these wars. In the examples given by Lenin above, he was referring to colonies and dependent countries fighting for their liberation against oppressors. But the Hussein regime in Iraq wasn't fighting for independence but to become a regional bully in the Persian Gulf. As a result, not only is the American war on Iraq barbarous, aggressive and imperialist, but the Iraqi side is also unjust. No matter who attacked first.

SL however has another view.

Their view is that since the U.S. is an imperialist power and Iraq is a Near Eastern country, the war is automatically a just war on the part of Iraq. They assert that the present-day situation with Iraq is analogous to the situations listed by Lenin. They ridicule us because we:

can’t see ‘any parallel’ of Iraq vs. the U.S. today with ‘the hypothetical wars Lenin was discussing.’ Why not? Because India was a colony. So what about China? Well, Hussein is a reactionary who didn't want a confrontation with imperialism. But as we pointed out, ‘When Lenin wrote this, Morocco was ruled by the sultan Mulai Yusuf, Persia by the military dictator Ephraim Khan and China by the warlord Yuan Shih-kai — rulers just as bloody and reactionary as Iraq's Saddam Hussein.’ "

So what does SL see in common between the Hussein regime and Morocco, Persia and China? That their rulers were reactionaries who didn't want to fight imperialism!

SL doesn't even ask what were the masses doing in these countries, what kind of movement was developing, and what were its tasks. It doesn't examine whether there was an ongoing revolutionary movement or liberation movement in these countries, and what relation it had to the “bloody and reactionary” rulers. Nor does it examine the actual relation of these countries to imperialism, apparently thinking it obvious that all countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, any time in this century, are analogous.

All SL can see is who controls the state power, and the sum total of its tactical wisdom is to give “military support” to the rulers. It paints up the confrontations of these rulers, no matter how blood-stained, no matter from which class, no matter what relation they have to the toiling masses, as the struggle of the oppressed against imperialism.

And SL would have us believe that Lenin shared these views, and allegedly would have given military support to Mulai Yusuf, Ephraim Khan, and Yuan Shih-kai.

The truth is the exact opposite.

Lenin opposed painting the local reactionary dregs in anti- imperialist colors. And his statement referred to wars which, most likely, would be waged not only against the European powers, but also against the Mulai Yusufs, Ephraim Khans, and Yuan Shih-kais.

Let's take a look.


The SL pretty much concedes that India in 1915 isn't analogous to Iraq today, since India was a British colony back then.


But, says SL, look at China. This is supposed to be analogous to the present situation in Iraq and to justify “military support” for Saddam Hussein. This presumably means that

(1) SL does not see the Chinese struggle of that time against foreign dictate,

(2) SL believes that any war against imperialism was going to be led by the tyrant Yuan Shih-kai, and

(3) SL holds that the tasks facing the Chinese people at that time are similar to those facing the Iraqis today.

But what actually was going on in China in those years?

China was not a outright colony like India. Nevertheless, Lenin regarded it as a dependent country. His Report of the Commission on the National and Colonial Questions to the Second Congress of the Communist International referred to “semi-colonies, as, for example, Persia, Turkey and China”.

This meant that their situation was quite different from present-day Iraq.

This was also a period of intense ferment in China. In May 1913, in his article The Awakening of Asia, Lenin wrote:

Was it so long ago that China was considered typical of the lands that had been standing still for centuries? Today China is a land of seething political activity, the scene of a virile social movement and of a democratic upsurge. Following the 1905 movement in Russia, the democratic revolution spread to the whole of Asia — to Turkey, Persia, China. Ferment is growing in British India.” (Collected Works, Vol. 19, pp. 85-6)

This movement overthrew the Chinese dynasty and set up a republic. But there were different class forces involved, and the movement did not proceed in a straightforward way For a few years, Yuan Shih-kai came to the head of the government, giving rise to dissension and struggle among different class forces.

Lenin pointed out that this might well give rise to a war between China and Europe — but with Yuan as one of the targets of this war. In 1913, in his famous article Backward Europe and Advanced Asia, Lenin stated:

And ‘advanced’ Europe? It is plundering China and helping the foes of democracy, the foes of freedom in China!

Here is a simple but instructive little calculation. A new Chinese loan has been concluded against Chinese democracy: ‘Europe’ is for Yuan Shih-kai, who is preparing a military dictatorship. Why does it support him? Because it is good business.

What if the Chinese people do not recognize the loan? China, after all, is a republic, and the majority in parliament are against the loan.

Oh, then ‘advanced’ Europe will raise a cry about ‘civilization’, ‘order’, ‘culture’ and ‘fatherland’! It will set the guns in motion and. in alliance with Yuan Shih-kai. that adventurer, traitor and friend of reaction, crush a republic in ‘backward’ Asia." (Collected Works, Vol. 19, p. 100, underlining added)

So if today's Iraq and Saddam Hussein were actually analogous to the situation in China with respect to Yuan Shih-kai, it would mean that “military support” for Saddam Hussein meant alliance with imperialism.


And what about Morocco? Apparently SL also disagrees with our assertion that Morocco was a colony. Morocco apparently is supposed to be analogous to the present situation in Iraq, and Lenin's statement about Morocco is supposed to justify "military support” for Saddam Hussein.

So SL presumably

(1) doesn't see any movement for national independence in Morocco,

(2) believes that a war against imperialism would have been led by the sultan Maulay Yussuf, and

(3) holds that the tasks of the mass movement in Morocco are similar that in present-day Iraq.

SL is wrong on all three points.

First of all, SL, that supposed great and most resolute enemy of imperialism, can't even recognize the struggle for national independence. They will grant it for India, which is a colony, but they can't see it for Morocco in 1915.

Was Morocco a "colony”? Oh no. Not at all. Our mistake. Why, it was simply a protectorate.

Most of the country was a French protectorate. A small part was a Spanish protectorate. And Tangier and the surrounding area was under general European control. It wasn't until 1956, four decades after Lenin's Socialism and War, that France and Spain were forced to recognize the independence of Morocco, and Morocco was sewn back together.

Well, but did Lenin have the Sultan Mulai Yusuf in mind when he talked about a Moroccan war against imperialism? After all, the SL is trying to justify military support for Saddam Hussein by comparing him to this reactionary sultan.

But look at what actually happened in Morocco.

Morocco was turned into a protectorate in several stages. In 1907, there was the Act of Algeciras. And popular resentment at this treachery struck not just at the imperialists but also at sultan Maulay Abd al-Aziz. As the resentment spread, he was finally forced out in 1908, and replaced by his brother Maulay Hafid. Then in 1912 came the Treaty of Fez, which established the French protectorate. Again the mass anger turned not only against France, but against the sultan (Maulay Hafid), and so the sultan Maulay Yusuf came to power. This was the sultan referred to by SL. He in turn had a shaky rule and relied on French help to stay in power, in so far as he had any power.

It seems unlikely that Lenin or anyone else expected him to lead a struggle against the French imperialists.

In fact, a war against the French did break out. And it was during the years of sultan's rule. A great rebellion broke out in the Rif region of Morocco in 1921. At first directed against the Spanish, the rebels brought the war into French Morocco in April 1925. But its leader was not sultan Maulay Yusuf, nor was the sultan any part of it. It was led by Abd el-Krim, and "military support” for the sultan would have meant opposing the actual anti-imperialist struggle of the Moroccan people.

It seems the rebellion of the Rif Kabyle tribes was the type of war envisioned by Lenin in Socialism and War. Although it took the initiative to attack the French, it was a just war for independence. The Communist International supported it, and the French workers carried out some actions in support of the Rif rebellion. If the Morocco of sultan Maulay Yusuf is really analogous to modern Iraq, as SL believes, it simply verifies that "military support” for Hussein means betraying the anti- imperialist struggle.

Far be it from us, however, to paint the Rif rebellion in unrealistic colors. It seems that Morocco was quite backward socially and economically, even compared to a number of other dependent countries of that time. Certainly the Communist International felt this way. In 1922, The Theses on the Eastern Question at the Fourth World Congress of the CI regarded Morocco as among those countries with nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples where "the feudal-patriarchal system has not decayed to such an extent as to completely separate the native aristocracy from the mass of the people” so that "those upper classes take up the active leadership of the struggle against imperialist violence (Mesopotamia, Morocco, Mongolia)”

But this backwardness of Morocco underlines the fallacy of SL's views. Even in backward Morocco, it was not the Maulay Yusuf, but the Rif rebellion that struck at imperialism. To analyze Morocco, and its struggle against the French, one had to know more than that Morocco was an oppressed country and the sultan was the local ruler. One had to look into the class structure and mass struggles in Morocco. Even the very backwardness of Morocco underlines the poverty of SL's little set of stereotyped dogmas, which can't grasp the variety of conditions facing the anti-imperialist struggle in different countries and different times.

Finally, we note that the Rif rebellion was put down in blood. Afterwards, independence came in a much slower and more painful way that left the royalty in power.


SL would also have us believe that the situation in Persia (Iran) was analogous to present-day Iraq.

However here too, as we have seen, Persia was regarded by Lenin as a dependent semi-colony at that time.

The particular situation in the years leading up to the writing of Socialism and War was that there was a revolutionary wave in Persia, but it faced intervention and suppression by Russian bayonets and other imperialists. The result was a series of unstable reactionary governments came to power.

In 1908 Lenin pointed out:

"There has been a counter-revolution in Persia . . . The exploits of the Cossacks in mass shootings, punitive expeditions, manhandling and pillage in Russia are followed by their exploits in suppressing the revolution in Persia. . It is not the first time that Russia's Christian soldiers are cast in the role of international hangman . . . The position of the Persian revolutionaries is a difficult one; theirs is a country which the masters of India on the one hand [the British government], and the counter-revolutionary Russian Government on the other, were on the point of dividing up between themselves. But the dogged struggle in Tabriz and the repeated swing of the fortunes of war to the revolutionaries who, it seemed, had been utterly defeated, are evidence that the Shah's bashi-bazouks, even though aided by Russian Lyakhovs [who commanded troops intervening in Persia] and British diplomats, are encountering the most vigorous resistance from the people. A revolutionary movement that can offer armed resistance to attempts at restoration, that compels the attempters to call in foreign aid — such a movement cannot be destroyed. In these circumstances, even the fullest triumph of Persian reaction would merely be the prelude to fresh popular rebellion. ” (“Inflammable material in world politics”, July 23 (August 5), 1908 in Collected Works, vol 15, pp. 182-3)

In fact, the revolutionary ferment lasted for some time in Iran, continuing for several years after World War I. Isn't it clear that Lenin, in Socialism and War, was considering the possibility that a revival of the revolutionary movement would result in a new struggle against foreign intervention, and not praising the military dictator of the moment?

Three worldist” disregard of the class struggle

So it turns out that the very examples chosen by SL speak out against it. SL's views have nothing in common with Lenin's stand on war and peace. The SL has lost sight of the toiling masses and the revolutionary movements, and ends up attributing the possibility of anti-imperialist liberation struggles to the government leaders of the moment, be they ever so reactionary

Underneath its revolutionary verbiage, the views SL puts forward on dictators and oppressor governments in Asia, Africa and Latin America are reminiscent of what used to be called “third worldism.” “Three worldism” couldn't handle the class struggle in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Faced with the development of national liberation movements and the setbacks in developing independent working class action in the industrialized countries, it increasingly despaired of the class struggle. Over a period of time, it ended up spawning views that even apologized for the most reactionary governments and classes in the third world, and presented their squabbles with the “first world” and “second world” in anti-imperialist colors.

SL denounces the anti-war movement in the U.S. as “peace crawls”

The SL connects its views on “defending Iraq” to a denunciation of the anti-war movement in the U.S. According to SL, aside from its differences with us on theoretical issues, “the MLP's contradiction lies its desire to the left wing of a ‘movement.’”

What's wrong with trying to build up the left-wing of the anti-war movement? Isn't this what anti-imperialist activists and class-conscious workers should do?

Not according to the SL.

It denounces the movement as “pop front ‘peace’ crawls”, which is one of the subheads in its article . True, SL does take part in demonstrations. But it has an arrogant, sectarian attitude. Only its own contingents, and those who follow its particular slogans, are of value. It actually theorizes against the “anti-war movement” in article after article. It counterposes the movement to real revolutionary work, to labor political strikes, to a full-fledged socialist revolution, to anything you like. It denounces the movement for the stands of the reformists and liberals. It closes its eyes to the important role of the anti-war movement played in the development of revolutionary views in the past. And by denouncing this movement, it turns its back in practice on one of the crucial ways in which anti-imperialist sentiment is actually manifested among the masses.

Its article actually works its way to the conclusion that none of the anti-war movements are any good anyway. “To those who want to fight imperialist war,” the SL says, “we point to the only victorious ‘antiwar movement’ in history, Lenin and Trotsky's 1917 Bolshevik Revolution which ended the slaughter of World War I for the Russian workers and peasants. ” If the Bolsheviks had had this type of contempt for the mass movements and struggles of the oppressed, they never would have been able to lead the Russian workers in the October Bolshevik revolution.

SL goes so far as to even try to smear the movement with a fascist taint. Why, the October 5 issue of Workers Vanguard pontificates, “As a matter of fact, the largest protest to date in the West against the U.S.-led intervention in the Persian Gulf was a rally of 15,000 led by the French fascist leader Le Pen!” (p. 10)

Our Party has a different approach. We don't believe that you have to denounce the movement to be independent of the Democratic Party and the reformists. On the contrary, the wide development of the mass anti-war movement creates good conditions for denouncing the capitalist parties and their reformist apologists. And we appeal to the activists and demonstrators to strengthen the anti-war movement. The SL may be so envious of who gets positions on the speakers' platforms that it curses the demonstrations, but this only shows that it is more concerned with official positions than with encouraging the rank-and-file activists and the mass ferment against the war. When they denounce the “movement” for not bringing revolution immediately or for having backward ideas, it shows that the SL doesn't have the faintest idea of how the masses actually come to anti-imperialist and revolutionary stands, of how the masses of people actually express oppositional sentiment, of how to wage political struggle against reformism and capitalist politics, and of how to encourage the spread of political consciousness.

The SL so identifies anti-imperialism with denouncing the movement that they assume that the MLP denounced the big January anti-war demonstrations in Washington, D.C., because the Workers' Advocate put forward anti-imperialism and criticized the views of the official organizers of the coalitions. No, SL sectarians, we leave to you the “honor” of opposing this and other mass outpourings against the war.

Labor political strikes against the war

The SL lays special stress on the slogan of “labor political strikes against the war.” It counterposes this to the movement. It even suggests that, unlike demonstrations, this could stop the war. In a front page article on October 5, for example, it writes

. . For labor political strikes against the impending war! Action by longshoremen. Teamsters, shipyard and transport workers to stop the supply of munitions would be a powerful blow against a vicious imperialist war in the Near East.”

Of course if there were important mass political strikes against the war, this would electrify the movement, encourage activists to orient themselves to the working class, and affect the political climate of the whole country. The problem, however, is that such strikes, even small ones, aren't going to take place at the present time. SL thinks it is very radical because it shouts about such strikes, but it shows that they are more interested in striking a pose than in doing real work.

The problem with their slogan of anti-war strikes is not that the SL is interested in the working class, but the opposite. The SL doesn't seem interested in the actual work that has to be done to draw the working class into the struggle. After all, the patient discussions, the drawing of workers into the “movement”, the daily efforts to build up an independent voice of the working class, all would pale beside the brilliant light of “labor political strikes” that actually paralyze the sending of munitions to the Gulf.

Looking towards the pro-capitalist trade union apparatus

In fact, just as SL's loud anti-imperialist shouting ends up cheerleading for the Iraqi military, so its slogans about “labor political strikes” ends up speculating on the labor bureaucrats. Just as the case with Saddam Hussein, they combine general denunciations of the labor union hacks, as strident as you like, with expectations in the official pro-capitalist union apparatus doing something.

Near the end of the Statement of the Spartacist League/U.S. on the Impending War in the January 18 issue of Workers' Vanguard, there is the following remark:

While Teamster tops wave the flag, the heads of nine major unions declare, 'we emphatically oppose the initiation of offensive military action . at this time’ (their answer is 'sanctions’).

And the ILWU West Coast longshore union declared: ‘a US invasion of Iraq is unacceptable, indeed, unthinkable.’ This is empty talk, but it's a pale reflection of the discontent in the ranks.

For action by longshoremen. Teamsters, shipyard workers and transport workers to stop shipping of munitions to the Persian Gulf!”

The empty words from the trade union hacks are just as meaningless as similar statements from liberal politicians at demonstrations. Yet the SL curses demonstrations when it sees the liberal politicians, while it takes heart at the declarations of the pro-capitalist trade union hacks. Take any of the SL's denunciation of “pop frontism” with the liberals and pro-capitalist politicians, and substitute the trade union bureaucracy for the liberals, and labor action for demonstrations, and you have SL slapping itself in the face.

Is it support for the Democrats to denounce Bush?

But what we propose is supposedly, in SL's view, all “very much in the popular-front framework.” Why, you ask? Well, says SL, “take their front-page headline. ‘Take to the streets against Bush's war.’ This is an appeal for a pro-Democratic Party ‘peace’ movement.”

Oh really?

Why didn't SL quote the rest of the front page headline of the January 1 Workers’ Advocate, which demanded “No more blood for imperialism”? Or the front page editorial which declared that “imperialism means war” and appealed for the working class to get organized? Or the inside article on Congress, which declared that “Congress and Bush agree on the war buildup” and showed what the liberal Democrats were up to?

But facts don't bother SL much. It itself admits that our article on the controversies in the anti-war movement in that very same January 1 Workers' Advocate put forward the orientation to “defy the liberals”. It seems to find that puzzling, probably because it identifies the movement with the liberal politicians and their friends. And then it turns around and pretends denouncing “Bush's war” means we want to build a movement to support the Democratic Party liberals.

SL's idea of anti-imperialism is so narrow that it finds the denunciation of Bush suspect in itself.

Worshiping world revisionism even as it collapses

While the SL curses the “anti-war movement” in the name of anti-imperialism and socialism, its radicalism suffers a complete breakdown when it comes to the state-capitalism of the revisionist countries. It doesn't denounce the imperialist acts of Soviet revisionism. On the contrary, it fervently defends the brutal Soviet aggression against Afghanistan and is upset that Soviet troops withdrew. And it believes that revisionist state- capitalism is really socialism, which has simply suffered from Stalinist “ mismanagement ”.

The ongoing collapse of the revisionist regimes hasn't changed SL's mind. It simply wants to pick up some of the slivers fragmenting off from the revisionist parties and groupings. So it appeals to the revisionists in the name of upholding the allegedly socialist base that is being abandoned by the revisionist leaderships.

The lead article of the November 30, 1990 issue of Workers' Vanguard is devoted to the Soviet Union. At one point it declares:

Many military cadre are rightly outraged by the widespread denigration of Soviet patriotism; increasing draft dodging and desertions, especially in the non-Russian republics; the open surfacing of Nazi collaborators in the Baltic republics; the sabotage and vilification of the military intervention in Afghanistan against the CIA-armed Islamic mujahedin. But perhaps more than anything else, they are outraged by Gorbachev's unilateral retreat before NATO and the Fourth Reich of German imperialism, as demobilized officers and soldiers return to face the threat of unemployment and tent cities.” (p. 11)

So the SL doesn't even shrink from appealing to the soldiers and officers on the basis of preserving the old, repressive military system. It is upset that at the disintegration of the old apparatus - horrors, there are draft dodgers. This throws a whole new light on SL's opposition to “anti-war movements”.

Nor is the SL happy with national self-determination. It can see nothing but Nazis in the Baltic republics. And elsewhere on the same page the SL proudly reproduces a leaflet for circulation in Russia which talks of the “the right of every nation with an anti-counterrevolutionary leadership to whatever self-determination it considers necessary” (underlining added).3

The SL also wants to reverse the verdict on Afghanistan, just as American militarists want to reverse the verdict on Vietnam. And it is upset with the dismantling of the Soviet imperialist hold over Eastern Europe.

And what does the SL hope to gain with this?

A Trotskyist party in the Soviet Union could recruit into its ranks Red Army men who do not want to see their country exploited and colonized by Western imperialism.”

Thus SL's “military support” of Soviet revisionism leads it to endorse some of the most blatant imperialist acts of the Soviet leadership.

An anti-imperialism that has little to do with the independent motion of the toilers

The SL would present itself as the only anti-imperialists, and the one who is really challenging the system and raising fundamental slogans and problems. But again and again its revolutionary slogans end up as play-acting or sectarianism, while its actual orientation ends up banking on some already existing powers-that-be. It does not orient itself on building up an independent workers movement, and it denounces building a left-wing of the movement, but instead dreams of great upsurges following from the action of the some of the old, corrupt forces in the world.

The SL talks about revolution in the Near East and the defeat of U.S. imperialism. But faced with the realities of the present day, it ends up placing its hopes on the military victory of the Saddam Hussein regime.

The SL would like to pose as the real fighters against the Democratic Party and the liberals. But when it sees the actual anti-war movement, it whines about “peace crawls”, and fails to see the actual oppositional sentiment of the masses.

The SL talks about the working class and counterposes the “movement” to “labor political strikes”. But this ends up as repeated, empty appeals for the pro-capitalist trade union apparatus to do something.

And when it comes to the collapse of revisionism proceeding before everyone's eyes, SL still insists that the bureaucratic state-capitalism economic base is “socialist” and calls for its defense. In the name of defense of socialism, the Soviet Union, etc. it cheers on some of the most blatant imperialist and repressive steps of the Soviet revisionism. It denounces the Soviet leadership for not being more resolute in slaughtering Afghanis or in suppressing the self-determination of nations “with counterrevolutionary leaderships” in the USSR.

The SL thinks it is revolutionary, but lapses again and again into “military support” for the forces of the corrupt, old world, from Saddam Hussein to the pro-Soviet revisionists.

1 The article “Should the anti-war movement defend Iraq’” appeared in the December 1990 issue of the Workers’ Advocate, vol. 20, #11.

2 As it appeared in the WAS, this article was accompanied by a reprint of the relevant section of the SL article.

3 I.e. SL doesn’t recognize the right to self-determination unless it likes the leadership of the nation in question. — CV []

The debate in the last years of the MLP over anti-war agitation during the Persian Gulf war

Below we print part four of Slim’s defense of the anti-war agitation of the Workers’ Advocate during the Persian Gulf war. It deals in particular with what it means to have a revolutionary anti-war policy in a situation where revolution is not imminent It also deals with what the Leninist stand of facilitating the defeat of one’s own government in a reactionary war actually means. It thus covers in more detail issues which he dealt with in his first three parts. It is in particular a reply to letters from Julie, Anita, and Jake of the Chicago Workers’ Voice, which are reprinted here following Slim’s article. As well, a reply by Mark to these letters is also reprinted. These materials all appeared originally in the Information Bulletin (IB) of the Marxist-Leninist Party.

There have been three other installments of our coverage of this controversy, all of which have centered on Slim’s four-part article, because it is exceptional in its careful coverage of the different points of view and of its attention to the theoretical issues at stake. And we have carried statements from other comrades and reference material.

Part one of our coverage appeared in the Communist Voice of 15 Sept. 1995 (vol. 1, #4), and included materials from IB #62-64, including statements from Rene, Anita and Colleen of the Chicago Workers’ Voice, George from the SFBA, and part one of Slim’s reply.

Part two concentrated on the attitude to the GI resistance and on how to oppose the “support our troops” slogan. It contained part two of Slim’s reply, and materials from a number of other comrades, as well as the key articles from the Workers’ Advocate and Chicago Workers’ Voice against the “support our troops” slogan.

Part three appeared in the CV of Jan. 15, 1996 (vol. 2, #1), and centered on the question of what it means to follow Leninist principles. Does it mean finding a few formulations that must be repeated word for word in every article? It was shown that Lenin’s own writings don’t conform to this view of Leninism. Or does it mean grasping the content of revolutionary theory and carrying out all one’s work in the spirit of that theory? This CV had part three of Slim’s article on the WA, and a letter from Julie from IB #65. There was discussion of the issue of direct revolutionary calls, the “defeat” slogan, and of how to promote among activists the goal of revolution.

Reply to criticisms of WA on the war — Part IV

(On the letters from Julie, Anita and Jake in the June 7th IB)

By Slim, Detroit

The following article first appeared in Information Bulletin #72, Sept. 1, 1992.

In June, the IB carried letters from comrades Julie, Anita and Jake. They mainly took up the issue of the WA’s agitation on the Gulf war and sought to clarify their views on some of the main questions. Any clarification of the issues, any better focusing of what is at stake in this debate, would be well appreciated. Unfortunately, these letters often brought more confusion to the debate than clarity It becomes necessary to once again try to clear out some of the smoke and focus the argument on what is really at stake.

Who is setting up a straw man?

Comrade Anita argues that some of the responses to her, and others, criticism of the WA has set up a “straw man” and created a wrongful counterposition of different tasks of our agitation. (Anita, June 7, 1992 IB, pages 5-6). The comrade does not quote anyone doing this. Instead, she simply asserts her own interpretation of the two sides in the debate. Anita tells us:

" ... it does seem that the main points being raised in disagreement center around the following logic:

1. The WA answered the questions raised by the movement itself,

2. The direction of agitation in the WA on the war was defeatist and revolutionary,

3. Therefore it is not significant that the WA did not have specifically revolutionary calls, agitation for Marxism-Leninism and socialism vs. imperialist war, or an explicit stand for the defeat of U.S. imperialism in most of the antiwar agitation.

My view is that agitation during a war like the Gulf War, in which one’s own imperialist bourgeoisie is a player, must have all three features, i.e. answer the questions raised by the movement itself, be consistent in a revolutionary direction, and take an explicit stand for the overthrow/defeat of one’s own bourgeoisie and for socialist revolution and Marxism-Leninism. This is my understanding of the tasks for revolutionary agitation in general.” (Anita, June 7, 1992 IB, page 5, emphasis as in the original)

This counterposing of the question is simply wrong. Leaving aside the question of the defeat slogan for the moment (I will deal with that separately later on), what comrade has ever said that the WA should not “take an explicit stand ... for socialist revolution and Marxism-Leninism”? And, even more to the point, when did the WA itself fail to appeal for revolution and socialism?

In the December 13th IB I spent nearly two pages giving direct quotes from issues of the WA in dispute — quotes that appeal for revolution in relation to the threat of war. (Pages 8-10) I then go on to discuss the question of revolutionary methods of struggle saying:

There is no question that the WA agitated directly that socialist revolution is needed, I have shown that above. But did the WA also push in the direction of class struggle? Did it use the war-time issues to build hatred for our ‘own’ government and work to direct that hatred into a revolutionary stream? Did it, in short, follow revolutionary methods of struggle?” To which I answer, “I think with any fair appraisal of our agitation you would have to answer yes.” (Slim, December 13, 1991 IB, page 11)

There is no counterposition of tasks here. Yet comrade Anita acts as if none of this was ever said. And comrade Julie does worse. She actually cuts off the end of a quote from me in order to imply that I agree with her view that the WA from September, 1990 through January, 1991 failed to appeal for revolution.1

Comrades have to deal with what was actually said in the WA. Comrades have to deal with what is actually being said in this debate. Otherwise, it can only be concluded that it is comrades Anita and Julie who are the ones creating the “straw man” — falsely claiming that I, and perhaps unnamed others, believe revolutionary appeals are unnecessary

This is wrong. It has been proven wrong. It is simply not what is at issue in this debate.

Then what is the issue about specifically revolutionary calls?

So what is being disputed? From what has been said so far, it seems clear that comrades Anita. Julie, and Oleg — at least — have a similar view. They distinguish between revolutionary appeals and theoretical articles in the WA in general, which they disregard, and those in the articles solely on the Gulf crisis. And they believe that those revolutionary appeals (and some theoretical arguments) that appeared in WA articles solely on the Gulf crisis after the shooting-war actually broke out in mid- January should have appeared earlier.2

This is a very narrow question — a question of the timing of particular explicit appeals for building a revolutionary movement and of certain particular arguments for Marxism-Leninism and socialism vs. imperialist war. It does not help to clarify the dispute in the least to try to suggest that it is something more than this.

The question I have been asking these comrades is why? Why, in the articles solely on the Gulf crisis, do they believe there should have been particular appeals and specific theoretical arguments in the September, October, December and January 1st WA’s? What principle of Marxism-Leninism, or what particular analysis of this war, or what particular assessment of the mass movement required that from “early on?” Unfortunately, neither Anita, nor Julie, nor Jake answer this question. It is now about 10 months since this debate has been going on through the pages of the IB, and much longer since the debate broke out. And still they have no answer.

Yet this remains one of the main the issues at stake. This is still one of the main questions that must be answered.

We cannot produce WA by formula

Since there is no particular argument on principle or concrete analysis, one is left with only a proposal for a general pattern or a schema or a formula for our anti-war agitation. The idea one is left with from the arguments of Anita and Julie and Jake is that a certain set of phrases and a certain set of theoretical arguments must be given at the beginning of any threat of reactionary war

And it is this apparent notion of work on the basis of a predetermined formula that I oppose. To look at the question in this way tends to point the Party away from concrete analysis and producing agitation that is actually directed at the mass strivings. It tends to direct one’s attention away from noticing that there is a difference between a threat of war and an actual war, from analyzing what has to be combated in the bourgeoisie’s campaign, from considering the mood of the masses or thinking about how do we reach them and evoke a revolutionary response at each stage. And instead of focusing on a concrete assessment of the situation, the predetermined formula centers attention on certain prescribed phrases and arguments and tends to head the Party towards phrasemongering.

Now comrade Anita denies that she is giving a simplistic formula. She says:

When I say explicit agitation for revolution, socialism and so forth, I do not mean that each article written must have a call for socialist revolution, or that ‘Defeat’ must be given as the main slogan or action call. I mean that such agitation should be done so that the stand is clear and not left up to interpretation. Our readers should not have to work too hard to figure out what exactly our stand is, or what our thinking is. To really fulfill these tasks, requires some theoretical explanations of our stand and tactics and also sometimes using an explicit slogan or a couple of sentences.” (Anita, June 7 IB, page 5)

And later she says:

. . Again the issue is not to fulfill quotas of certain phrases; my criticism is that we did not take full advantage of the contradictions that a war, even a short war, bring out in order to explain the relationship of imperialism as a system to war and to explain that such wars will continue unless imperialism as a system is overthrown by socialist revolution.” (Anita, June 7 IB, page 6, emphasis as in original)

Well it is good that comrade Anita is not arguing that every article must have a call for socialist revolution or that there is a quota of certain phrases that must appear. But the issue remains that she is emphasizing that certain phrases and certain arguments must be given as soon as (or quickly after) U.S. imperialism even threatens a war. And she provides no concrete reason on why that is the case. What is that but, in fact, a simplistic pattern or formula?

What does comrade Anita’s general pattern mean concretely?

Let us look back at Comrade Anita’s schema for a moment and consider concretely some of the questions it poses.

Could we, in September for example, “answer the questions raised by the movement itself” (Anita, June 7, 1992)? But no mass movement against the war had yet arisen in September. To answer the questions of the movement then was, of course, patently absurd. But that is the kind of silliness one is led to when you try to set up a formula for our agitation as Anita has done.

Or take another question. Should we have appealed to the mass questioning of why one war after another back when only the threat of a Gulf war had first appeared and when that threat had not as of yet created that question in a mass way? That seems to be what Anita wants when she complains that “it is not until March that there is ... an article on Marxism-Leninism, socialism and war (article on ‘why war after war’).” (Anita, Sept. 20, 1991 IB, page 27)

On this, one would have to say that such an article could perhaps have been written. But it would have appealed at most to only a quite tiny section of activists — mainly those who had previously been active, for example, against U.S. aggression in Central America, and who to a large extent were already quite jaded. It seemed more important at the time to use our limited resources to explain what this threat of war was about and to deal with the campaign of the bourgeoisie which was trying to kill the anti-war movement before it could even get going.

Now I can just hear comrade Anita, when she reads this statement, saying that there Slim goes again counterposing issues of the mass movement to an explicit stand for socialist revolution and Marxism-Leninism. But I am not. I have already explained that WA was explicitly appealing for revolution and I gave some quotes to prove it in the December 15, 1991 IB. Here I am trying to describe concretely — for a paper with limited space and with a limited staff of writers — the kind of choices we have to make in deciding what articles on war or the threat of war should appear in the WA and when.

In my opinion, the WA did a pretty good job of making those choices.

The WA did not fail to make explicit appeals for socialist revolution (as I showed in the December IB). And, although Anita keeps worrying about it, I am yet to hear of any activists who were actually confused or had trouble interpreting that our Party stands for revolution.

As well, I believe our Party did, in a fairly timely way,

take full advantage of the contradictions that a war, even a short war, bring out in order to explain the relationship of imperialism as a system to war and to explain that such wars will continue unless imperialism as a system is overthrown by socialist revolution.” (Anita, June 7, 1992 IB, page 6, emphasis as in original)

To be sure the WA did not carry such articles as on why one war after another from the beginning. But it did get them out when the mass movement had made a turn towards militancy, when there were wider circles of activists around the country actually beginning to question not just this particular war but the system, and when the party had actually made contact with many of these circles and some, at least, were willing to begin to look into what the WA had to say. It was not in September and October and December, but after the shooting war broke out that we began to have activists saying things like, “I thought the Democrats or the U.N. would do something. But you were right. WA is a great paper.” And it was then that there was the most potential, and the most need, for more elaborate ideological work among anti-war activists against the whole system of imperialism and for revolution.

I am, of course, not arguing here that on principle there should be no such articles as the one on why one war after another at the beginning of any threat of war. Nor am I arguing that one should never produce such articles if they can only reach a small circle. That depends on the situation. Indeed, I suspect that if the Chicago branch had written such an article in September or October or December we would have found some way or another to make use of it.

But if we are to judge the WA — not on the basis of some predetermined formula and not by how well it spoke to every issue in one or another particular circle of activists — we have to assess whether, with its limited resources, it did what had to be done and in a fairly timely fashion. If you assess the WA on this basis then I think you would have to admit that the WA did a pretty good job.3

The need to combine agitation from different fronts

There may be two other issues here related to revolutionary agitation. But I cannot be sure from what has been said and, therefore, I don’t want to polemicize on the issues. Instead, I will simply state my views in order to make my stand clear.

One question has to do with the necessity for the Party to combine agitation from different fronts of struggle. In talking about educating the working class, drawing it into action, and bringing it closer to the Party we have often discussed the need to combine political agitation with economic agitation. But there has been less discussion of the fact that even with workers or other militants who are active on one political front or another there is a necessity to work to develop their interest in other issues in order to give them a real class education and to draw them closer to socialism and the Party.

There is nothing inherently revolutionary in the fight against racism, or the fight for women's rights, or the fight against a particular imperialist war. Activists cannot develop socialist consciousness from within the confines of any one of these narrow fronts of struggle by itself. To be sure any major crisis — which may arise from any number of causes be it a brutal police beating or massive layoffs or the outbreak of an imperialist war — can give rise to intense mass action and begin to evoke a revolutionary mood among wide sections of the masses. But for activists to become class conscious, and for them to actually be drawn closer to the Party, they must go beyond interest in one particular front of struggle and begin to look into and question other facets of society. For this, the Party has to pay attention to combining agitation on different fronts and bringing that to the activists.

The WA pays a lot of attention to the different mass fronts. But our conception is not that, for example, anti-war activists can be drawn to revolutionary socialist leanings simply through our anti-war agitation. Rather, our conception is that an essential part of drawing anti-war activists towards socialist conclusions is to encourage them to support the fight against racism and the pro-choice movement and the struggle against layoffs and to consider the ramifications of economic crisis, and other political questions.

The WA is a revolutionary tool not simply because it carries agitation for the anti-war movement or the anti-racist movement or the strike movement. More important is that the WA combines agitation on those different fronts, and combines that with concrete political exposures and economic analysis, to broaden the perspective of activists on any given front and to encourage them to begin to understand capitalism as a system, to see the necessity to overthrow it, and to grasp what forces can carry out a revolutionary transformation to another society.

The need to explain revolution and socialism at this time

The second issue on which I want to state my view has to do with explaining revolution and socialism.

Under present circumstances, after such a protracted ebb in the mass movements, it is really hard to speak of a revolutionary movement. At the same time the anti-communist campaign of the bourgeoisie has been greatly enhanced by the collapse of the Soviet bloc.

In these conditions which we face today, small crises like what we faced with the Gulf war do not automatically evoke thoughts of and a striving towards socialism. (There was a time that it may have — when the socialist workers movement was stronger or when the Soviet Union, and later China, had great prestige and seemed to represent an alternative to this capitalist hell. Of course the latter also created its own problems for the exposure of revisionism.)

So the question we confront is, in this situation, how do we develop our agitation for revolution and socialism?

It is my opinion that in this situation “explicit calls” for revolution and socialism have only a limited value. They are, like the hammer and sickle on our masthead, primarily a banner that give only a partial idea of the stand of our party (and given the confusion around the Soviet Union and China they can give a misleading idea of our stand). There is no question in my mind that we must retain the hammer and sickle and, as well, that we have to continue to give “explicit calls.” But I don’t think that is the main problem or the main task we confront at this point in developing our revolutionary agitation.

I agree with Jake that “we must find ways to promote a revolutionary perspective.” (Jake, June 7, 1992 IB, page 9) But I don’t think that means that at every meeting of activists we should stand up and shout that we need revolution. (Perhaps I am mistaken, but that was the only lesson that I could see that would be drawn from Jake’s anecdote if we are talking about, as he does, “correcting” our mistakes.) I don’t think that even poses the question of what we need to be doing. Rather I think we have to spend more time analyzing and combating the particular ideological obstacles to a revolutionary socialist consciousness that come up among the activists and the masses of workers. 1 think this requires special work.

For example, in Detroit we have had to pay a lot of attention to trying to draw militants among postal workers towards socialist consciousness and the Party. This includes not only developing the struggle on postal issues itself but, also, combining postal agitation with political agitation on various fronts. It includes a lot of effort to draw these workers into mass actions against racism, against the Gulf war, in support of women’s rights, etc. It has also involved special articles directed at postal workers explaining what Detroit Workers’ Voice is and what the MLP is. We also gave special speeches — at the beginning of the formation of the IHPWU (Injured and Handicapped Postal Workers United) and later when it held certain broader meetings — that both dispelled worries that one had to be a socialist to work with IHPWU and, at the same time, did agitation in favor of Detroit Workers Voice and the Party And we also designed special agitation on socialist revolution for these workers and other activists coming closer to us. For example, this year’s New Years meeting was devoted entirely to the question of why the workers need socialism, drawing especially on the experience of the postal workers and directed at the particular questions or hang-ups they have.

I do not mean to promote this work as some sort of model. But I do want to draw out that, given the present situation, specialized work to develop revolutionary socialist agitation directed squarely at the actual concerns, the concrete worries, and the real questions of the activists is where I believe our attention must be focused. The theory of Marxism-Leninism and the socialist perspective have to be unfolded through the medium of such concrete questions. And, as far as the WA goes, the question is how to reflect that specialized work in the WA and how to use the WA to push for such work.

These problems are not answered, indeed they are not even raised, if the Party’s attention is focused on the question of “explicit” calls for revolution in agitation solely on the threat of war

Does the defeat slogan mean revolution?

That leaves us with the question of the defeat slogan. It is a separate question. But unfortunately you might not notice that from listening to comrades Anita and Jake since they have so muddled the question theoretically.

Anita and Jake tend to argue that “defeat” and “revolution” are the same thing.

For example, Jake declares,

. the correct answer to these trots is ‘defeating U.S. imperialism’ means overthrowing it.” (Jake, June 7, 1992 IB, page 10)

And Anita sometimes uses the two interchangeably, saying things like

". . . we must “take an explicit stand for the overthrow/defeat of one’s own bourgeoisie ” or opposing the “lack of a clearly stated position in favor of the defeat or overthrow of U.S. Imperialism ” (Anita, June 7 IB, page 5 and page 6, emphasis added)

Perhaps sometimes, in short hand, things like this might get said. But they are not the correct way to pose the question and certainly should not be brought into a theoretical dispute. Instead of upholding Leninism, they vulgarize it and create confusion.

How does Lenin discuss the question of the defeat slogan? He stresses, from the earliest programmatic statements on World War I that:

. From the viewpoint of the working class and the toiling masses of all the peoples of Russia, the defeat of the tsarist monarchy and its army would be the lesser evil by far.”4

And Lenin continued to stress this point of view throughout the war, including at the time when the Tsar’s army had been severely thrown back. At that point he emphasized that

. . . the defeat of Russia has proved the lesser evil.”5

Does Lenin consider revolution to be a “lesser evil?” Certainly not, he considers revolution to be a positive advance. The fact is that he is simply not talking about revolution here. Rather, he is discussing the military defeat of the Tsarist army in a particular war, or at least major military reverses in such a war.

So why then does Lenin consider the defeat of your “own” imperialist army a “lesser evil?”6 He gives essentially two reasons.

The first is that victory for your “own” imperialist army may bring in its wake a step up of reaction and oppression of the masses by the ruling class. With regards to Russia in World War I, Lenin stressed:

This holds particularly true in respect of Russia. A victory for Russia will bring in its train a strengthening of reaction, both throughout the world and within the country, and will be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the peoples living in areas already seized. In view of this, we consider the defeat of Russia the lesser evil in all conditions.”7

Secondly, he points out that the defeat of the army might, in certain circumstances, facilitate the development of a revolutionary movement. With regards to Russia in World War I, Lenin points out:

History seems to be repeating itself: again there is a war, as in 1905, a war tsarism has dragged the country into with definite, patently annexationist, predatory and reactionary aims.

Again there is military defeat, and a revolutionary crisis accelerated by it.

The defeat of Russia has proved the lesser evil, for it has tremendously enhanced the revolutionary crisis and has aroused millions, tens and hundreds of millions.”8

It is clear, then, that Lenin did not see the defeat of the Tsarist army in the war as the same thing as a revolution to overthrow the Tsar and he did not use the two ideas interchangeably. Rather he considered defeat of the Tsarist military a “lesser evil.”

To be sure, a military defeat can help to push the masses into the streets against the government and can, in the proper conditions, lead to mass revolutionary struggle. This is one of the reasons why Lenin points out that a war that begins between two governments can be transformed into a civil war of the masses against the governments. And it is one of the reasons that we should stand for the defeat of our own imperialist government in a reactionary war. But that should not be used to forget the distinction between defeat and revolution.9

This distinction — between defeat and revolution, between military defeat of a government in war and revolutionary overthrow of the government, between considering defeat a “lesser evil” and considering revolution a positive advance — is very important to understand. It has a number of implications for our agitation and should really be thought about.

Are calls for defeat a principle of Leninism?

This, of course, has some relation to the demand for “calls” for the defeat of our “own” U.S. imperialism in the Gulf war. Several comrades say there must be such calls for defeat. And they seem to think not having the word “defeat” is a violation of principle.

Now comrade Anita denies that this was an argument. She claims,

As for the question of advocating defeat for U.S. imperialism, none of the criticisms of the WA agitation call for the use of ‘Defeat U.S. Imperialism’ as a main slogan or call.” (Anita, June 7 IB, page 6)

Well, that is not really true, Anita. Comrade Rene, for example, argues that

In the same papers one does not find: b) calls to defeat US imperialism (our ‘own’)" (Rene, Sept. 20, 1991 IB, page 24)

And comrade Julie specifically states her agreement with Rene saying that,

Although I think there are differences ‘as to the significance of the U.S. victory' I do think there were weaknesses in ‘calls to defeat U.S. imperialism.'” (Julie, Jan. 20, 1992 IB, page 5, emphasis added)

Are these not demands that the WA should have carried “calls” for the defeat of U.S. imperialism? Isn’t the idea here that we should have, even if defeat were not the main slogan, at least campaigned on the defeat slogan?

Now Julie also says, “But I think that even without a more theoretical article we could have made the specific statement that we stand for the defeat of U.S. imperialism and that this means building a revolutionary movement.” (Julie, June 7, 1992 IB, page 2) Perhaps this is what Anita is talking about when she says that the criticisms of the WA were simply a matter of wanting a “clear stand” on defeat.

But if that were the only issue then what is wrong with the statements in the December 1, 1990 issue of the WA? The article “Should the anti-war movement ‘defend Iraq’?” at the beginning:

We strongly believe that the Marxist-Leninist stand on the Persian Gulf war is that this is an unjust, reactionary war on both sides. It is a robbers’ war. The duty of the working class in the U.S. in such a war is to fight ‘the main enemy at home’ — ‘our’ capitalist ruling class.”

Then later it asks

Does desiring defeat for U.S. imperialism mean desiring victory for Iraq?” (Page 11)

In the context isn’t this a clear stand for the defeat of our own U.S. imperialists in the Gulf war?

Or what about the statement in the February 20 issue of the Supplement. In the article “More on the ‘defend Iraq’ slogan: Building an anti-imperialist movement or putting hopes in Hussein’s military?” it is again stressed “We have advocated that the chief enemy is at home.” And then, in the same paragraph, the article criticizes the Trotskyist stand saying,

Such a stand prevents work for the real defeat for U.S. imperialism, for the only real defeat for imperialism is building up progressive movements of the toiling masses both here and in the Middle East.” (Page 26)

What more of a specific statement do you want?

It seems to me the issue being raised by comrades Rene and Julie is not simply one of a “specific” statement but, rather, that they wanted the WA to campaign on the defeat slogan. And so we have to ask the question, are calls for defeat or a campaign on the defeat slogan a principle of Leninism?

The answer would have to be no. Look through what Lenin said and you will not find him anywhere arguing that there should be “calls for defeat” or an agitational campaign for defeat.

For example, Lenin says:

A revolution in wartime means civil war; the conversion of a war between governments into a civil war is, on the one hand facilitated by military reverses (’defeats’) of governments; on the other hand, one cannot actually strive for such a conversion without thereby facilitating defeat.”10

This statement is fairly clear — the main thing is working to convert reactionary war between capitalist government into civil wars between the masses and those governments. Military defeats of the government facilitate converting to civil war and striving to convert to civil war facilitates defeat. There is no idea here of a special agitational campaign for defeat.

But let’s look at another example. Lenin declares:

The opponents of the defeat slogan are simply afraid of themselves when they refuse to recognize that very obvious fact of the inseparable link between revolutionary agitation against the government and helping bring about its defeat.”11

Here Lenin speaks directly to our question. “Revolutionary agitation against the government” is linked not with agitation for defeat but, rather, with “helping bring about its defeat.” There is no idea of “calls for defeat” or a special agitational campaign on defeat. Rather, the question is whether you actually work in a revolutionary direction which, itself, will help bring about the defeat of the government. This is the idea that is consistently expressed by all of Lenin’s writing on the defeat slogan.

Is theoretical elaboration of the defeat slogan obligatory?

But if calls for defeat are not a matter of principle, is the theoretical elaboration of the defeat slogan obligatory?

Comrade Anita seems to thinks so. She says:

Again, I think that being defeatist in essence or implicitly defeatist is necessary, but not enough. I think it obligatory to explain the issue for the more politically conscious activists so that they can better understand our thinking and tactics, and are better armed themselves. To do this we needed to actually state our position.” (Anita, June 7 IB, page 6-7)

Well, if we are speaking of this as a matter of principle then Anita is simply mistaken. Not only is it not obligatory to give such a theoretical elaboration of this particular principle, it is seldom done.

Look, for example, at the last more than a decade of the Party’s agitation and theoretical articles against U.S. imperialist aggression.

Since the Party’s founding in 1980, there have been a number of major movements of U.S. imperialist troops which threatened war (to Lebanon12 in 1987, to Honduras13 in 1988). And there have been actual invasions of other countries (Grenada14 in 1983, Panama15 in 1989, Iraq in 1991). And there has been other major military involvement in wars (the decade long CIA-contra war against Nicaragua and the U.S.-backed death-squad regime against the revolutionary movement in El Salvador).

I did a quick survey of the WA on these wars and could find neither agitational campaigns for the defeat slogan or theoretical elaboration on the defeat slogan.

As well, the 2nd Congress of the MLP had a major resolution entitled “The struggle against militarism and imperialist war.” This resolution elaborated the basic principles and tactics of our Party for building up the anti-war movement and using it to help develop the revolutionary movement. There is not one word about the defeat slogan in it.

In fact, I found only two explanations of the defeat slogan anywhere in our literature since the Party was founded.

One was in the article “10 years after the people’s victory in Vietnam,” where we repudiated the bourgeois lies that claimed U.S. imperialism was not actually defeated by the national liberation movement in Vietnam.18

The second one was on the war over the Malvinas. And here, it should be pointed out that the defeat slogan was not raised in the popular agitation on the war, but only in a polemic nearly four months later. And then only because the RCPB(M- L) denounced the slogan as part of their move to join hands with British social-democracy.17

Now my survey of articles was a bit rushed. And perhaps I have missed something somewhere. But it appears that past experience shows that the WA did not do something different in the war against Iraq than what it had been doing for eleven years. And, unless Anita or some other comrade can explain why we should have treated the war against Iraq differently, I see nothing “obligatory” in giving a theoretical explanation of the defeat slogan.

What was obligatory in this war was opposing the reformists — whose slogans aimed to create illusion in the Democrats and the U.N. and thereby helped the bourgeois aim of trying to save U.S. imperialism from any embarrassments in the Gulf — and opposing the phrasemongering Trotskyists whose slogan of “defend Iraq” created illusions in the Saddam Hussein regime and would have, if accepted, cut the movement off from the broad masses who were starting to question the war. To actually stand for the defeat of our “own” imperialists in this war meant especially a struggle against these forces and their slogans — a struggle based on a concrete assessment of what was going on with this particular war and this particular mass movement against the war.

What was the issue in the movement?

Now when comrade Anita says that a theoretical elaboration of the defeat slogan was “obligatory” she speaks specifically of educating the anti-war activists. Perhaps then she believes the matter is one of dealing with the movement after all.

Certainly Anita does say “it was an issue for sections of the movement.” (Anita, June 7 IB, page 7). And comrade Julie also states that the issue “was specifically debated” in the movement in Chicago. (Julie, June 7 IB, page 3-4) They both mention that the defeat slogan was an issue in particular among “Mexican immigrant contacts” and in “student circles” influenced by the ISO. Now earlier, comrade Anita suggested that the dispute in the Party was over the issue that I, and others, were only concerned with the issues in the movement and that “could mean a kind of tail ism.” (Anita, June 7 IB, page 6) But now it appears that really isn’t the issue at all. Rather, Anita and Julie are themselves concerned about issues in the movement and want the WA to make particular theoretical elaborations to speak to some particular sections of the movement in Chicago.

Unfortunately, however, they still do not say how the question of the defeat slogan came up, or what their analysis of the phenomena was, or why — concretely — it was essential to have a theoretical elaboration of the defeat slogan.18 And it does not matter how often comrade Julie complains, “I find it strange that Slim seems not to remember reports on this issue.” (Julie, June 7 IB, page 4) The question is not my memory but, instead, that Julie is arguing that there needed to be a theoretical elaboration of the defeat slogan and she must explain why. I am not going to develop her argument for her. Julie and Anita and other comrades that have this view must explain it.

Since they don’t give us a concrete picture it is hard to figure out exactly what’s going on. But from certain hints they give, I get the picture that the actual issue was not the defeat slogan per se but the particular question of the “defend Iraq” slogan. For example, comrade Julie tells us that,

the ‘defeat’ slogan in specific came up among a small number of Mexican workers who are influenced by both the MLP and the Spartacists.” (Julie, June 7 IB, page 3) And comrade Anita mentions “the problems some of the Mexican immigrants had in figuring out what to do with Hussein ..." (Anita. June 7 IB, page 7) This suggests that it was the Spartacists’ campaign for the “defend Iraq” slogan that was troubling this circle.

Similarly, with respect to the student circles, comrade Julie mentions that “we debated the issue against both the ISO and somewhat tangentially with MLWO which also came to these meetings for awhile and argued that the slogan for the movement should be ‘U.S. Out of the Persian Gulf, Iraq out of Kuwait.’” (Julie, June 7 IB, pages 3-4) One suspects that if they were debating the issue with ISO then they were arguing against the “defend Iraq” slogan which the ISO also held to, although it didn’t push it like the Spartacists did. (As far as the MLWO slogan, that is another matter which would have to be dealt with in its own right. But this also did not involve the defeat slogan per se.)19

From the hints on these two examples one is forced to assume that the actual issue was the “defend Iraq” slogan. But then that was the slogan that the WA polemicized against and through which it did elaborate a number of the Leninist principles that stood behind our tactics in fighting the war.

Unless Anita, or Julie can provide some alternative assessment, I am forced to draw the conclusion that WA acted quite properly in emphasizing the attack on precisely that question and elaborating it.

Did we criticize the Trotskyists from the left or the right?

Then what about the polemic against the Trotskyists? Comrade Anita argues that to only attack the “defend Iraq” slogan without also explicitly elaborating what it meant for a Marxist-Leninist to stand for the defeat of U.S. imperialism in this war weakened the fight against the Trotskyists. She argues:

Indeed it seems that the question of what stand to take on defeat of U.S. imperialism was an issue in places other than Chicago too, otherwise why dedicate so much energy to arguing against the Spans and RWL positions? Comrade Slim responds to Comrade Julie’s letter on this (IB 2/20/92) by stating that the polemic against the Trotskyist position was necessary as part of the struggle against opportunism because the Trotskyists were pushing their view to the militant activists but that there wasn’t anything requiring us to address the issue from the ‘other side’. Well, I think there were reasons that required us to do so: 1. The fact that if you criticize the Trotskyist position without making clear the Marxist-Leninist stand in favor of ‘defeat’ it leaves some doubt as to whether you are criticizing them from the left or right, and 2. Discussion of the real issues for defeat of U.S. Imperialism is part of the struggle against right opportunism which looks to accommodate itself to the ‘unchangeable fact’ of the existence of imperialism. In other words, not explaining ‘both sides’ of the defeat slogan weakens the fight against the Trotskyist distortions and against the straight-up social democratic/liberal reformists.” (Anita, June 7, 1992 IB, page 7)

Here we have a quite specific charge, for which I am grateful. Let us judge it. Of course such an assessment cannot be done by pure logic but, rather, from studying the polemics themselves and looking at how well they argued against the Trotskyist views and how well they answered the questions on the minds of the activists who had to deal with these views.

Now before going on to deal with Spartacists, I would point out in passing some facts about the RWL (which Anita mentions). The RWL’s constant complaint was that the MLP was “dual defeatists.” They did this at a series of mass meetings and protest marches, and they did it so loudly that it would not have occurred to anyone in the RWL circles or in the movement in Detroit (RWL’s main local base) to think of questioning that the MLP stood for the defeat of our “own” imperialists. RWL’s sole issue was “victory for Iraq” — and anyone who did not stand for that was called any number of bad names because babies were dying in Iraq from U.S. bombs. In fighting against them the two central issues were:

1) breaking through the barrier of emotionalism and bourgeois logic that suggests in a war you have to be for one government or the other and explaining concretely how there was nothing anti-imperialist in the military efforts of the Saddam Hussein regime; and

2) opposing their sectarian attempts to split the movement on the basis of the “victory to Iraq” slogan, and explaining to the activists how in fact to build the movement independent of the capitalist parties, in an anti-imperialist direction, which alone could contribute to building a revolutionary movement that could one day overthrow our “own” government and put a stop to imperialist wars. These were the main issues that were posed by the RWL’s theory and practice and were, also, the main issues that came up among anti-war activists who were faced with dealing with them. I believe the polemics in the WA did a good job of repudiating their stand and providing a basis for anti-war activists to grasp our stand and learn from it.

As far as the Spartacists, against whom we wrote three specific articles in the Supplement20 along with the article in the December issue of the WA, I believe the issues were quite similar to those with regard to RWL. It should be noted here that we polemicized against the Spartacists not because they had much influence in the movement. They did not in any city that I am aware of. And not because the defeat slogan was a raging debate in the movement across the country. Rather, we polemicized against the Sparts because it was they who tried to give the most thought-out theoretical explanation of the “defend Iraq” slogan, and that slogan was important to repudiate since it was supported by a series of Trotskyist groups or groups that originally came from Trotskyism — including the WWP and the ISO — who did have influence in the movement (although the WWP and the ISO largely down played this slogan in their work).

Now although in their paper the Sparts may have implied that the MLP did not really stand for the defeat of our “own” imperialists, their polemic emphasized two main lines of argumentation: 1) that the military adventure of Saddam Hussein’s regime was a just and defensive war that would lead to a broader liberation struggle in the Near East; and 2) that the comrades of MLP were social patriots because we supported and participated in the mass movement against the war which, according to the Sparts, was inherently tied to the Democrats and worthless.

In dealing with the first point we had to spend a lot of time stripping away the Sparts phrasemongering to expose that what they were actually talking about was defending Hussein’s military We also spent a lot of time going through quotes by Lenin, explaining the actual history, and showing that Lenin’s conception of just and defensive liberation wars were those having to do with popular movements and not with dictators like Hussein. In this aspect, the polemic was quite an important theoretical elaboration cutting against not only the Trotskyists but, also, against the three worlds theory and revisionism generally and their support for reactionary bourgeois regimes in the oppressed countries.

In dealing with the second point we had to expose the Sparts' sectarian attacks on the mass movement and their phrasemongering through which they argue that the mass movement is worthless unless it is already revolutionary. We had to explain how anti-imperialist and revolutionary consciousness can arise out of a movement dominated by opportunist leadership and how revolutionaries must work in such movements. We had to explain how there was no basis at that time for “labor political strikes” and that the Sparts' sectarian appeal for them ends up resting on hopes in the trade union bureaucracy. And so forth.

With regards to both points we repeatedly drove home the truth that in reactionary wars the issue is not which government to side with but, rather, to look for a third side, the side of the masses who must be organized to fight against the governments. We showed how to combine agitation on the basis of “the chief enemy is at home” with support for the popular movement.

Now exposing the Sparts’ revolutionary phrasemongering and telling the truth about the limitations of the situation for the class struggle in the U.S. at that time may not seem very satisfying. But it was what had to be done. And not only because these were the Sparts’ actual arguments but because these were objectively the issues that needed explaining to the more politically conscious anti-war activists at the time.

In fighting the Sparts we exposed the fact that “defense of Iraq” was actually defense of bloodstained dictators and that reliance on the union bureaucracy actually underlies much of their revolutionary phrases (i.e. we exposed their reformism). We also hit at their sectarian attacks on the mass movement, explained our revolutionary stand, and indicated how to stand for independent politics within a movement still dominated by reformism. From this I’m afraid I do not see how there could be confusion on whether we were attacking the Trotskyists from the left or right. I simply do not really see any weakening of the fight against the Trotskyists here.

In saying this, I don’t mean to suggest that the polemics could not have been written in any another way. I can imagine for example, writing several sections of these articles under some heading about the tasks necessary to stand for the defeat of our “own” U.S. imperialism. But those sections would, in one way or another, have had to tackle the same questions and make the same arguments that were made in the polemics that were written. Unless Anita or Julie or some other comrade can give me concrete reasons why such sections had to be written to address definite issues among the activists, then I will stick by my present estimation that our fight against the Trotskyists was done well.

Does the hatred of activists require elaboration of the defeat slogan?

Anita does give a general argument that “It (the defeat slogan) was made an issue in those sections (of the movement) by the level of hatred for U.S. Imperialism among some activists .. .” And she further says that

I must say here that while the problems some of the Mexican immigrants had in figuring out what to do with Hussein show political weaknesses, I think their hatred for U.S. imperialism is a political strength.” (Anita, June 7 IB, page 7)

I too think that the development of fierce anger against U.S. imperialism is a good thing, a thing that we were striving to develop among the activists in all of our agitation. But whether that anger demanded calls for the defeat of the U.S. imperialism or the theoretical elaboration of the defeat slogan is not a matter of simply saying there was some level of anger. The political stand accompanying that anger itself has to be assessed. For example, we are all aware of any number of instances during the 1960’s where forces who exhibited great anger against imperialism also did a great deal of damage to the movement. The antics of the pacifist Berrigans and the desperate turn to terrorism by the Weathermen both quickly come to mind. Or, for another example, there was that section of the movement whose hatred for the U.S. war on Vietnam was such that they spilled their anger out against the workers who had been pushed into uniform. This trend was damaging because it threatened to cut the movement activists off from the ordinary soldiers, their families and friends. A great deal of time and effort had to be put into combating this trend and orienting the movement towards the masses, including towards organizing GIs.

The point here is that you have to assess the political stand and views of the angry activists and only on that basis can you decide what slogans and what theoretical arguments are essential for work with them.

I cannot myself assess the Mexican immigrant circles or the student circles that comrades Julie and Anita mention. But from their hints, it would seem that at least some of these circles had “problems . . .figuring out what to do with Hussein .” (Anita, June 7 IB, page 7). If by this it is meant that the problem was that their anger against U.S. imperialism led them to support, or to consider supporting, the military adventure of the Saddam Hussein regime then it was a mistake.

Please note that in each of the articles against the “defend Iraq” slogan the WA stressed the point that we were in favor of defense of the Iraqi masses (including Iraqi soldiers) from the slaughter by U.S. imperialism but that should not mean support for Hussein’s military adventure. We spelled out that we opposed the “defend Iraq” slogan only when it meant “military support” for Hussein’s war. Such support was a serious mistake and not just because it missed the role of the masses in Iraq and Kurdistan. It was also a danger because shouting support for the Hussein regime’s military adventure was one of those things that threatened to cut the activists off from the masses of workers and oppressed in this country who instinctively could not stomach jumping in bed with Hussein.

My own estimation, given the limited analysis we’ve received from Anita and other comrades, is that the issue was not the elaboration of the defeat slogan, but rather patient explanation among those activists who were confused by the “defend Iraq” slogan. Much of our polemics with the Trotskyists was directed squarely at such activists showing them both how supporting Hussein did not assist the Iraqi and Kurdish workers and also how to link up with the masses in the U.S. and develop their anger against U.S. imperialism.21 I think those polemics were a good example of patient explanation. And this, when coupled with our own day-to-day agitation and organizational work, should have given the activists a model of how to approach the broad masses and draw them towards the movement. Perhaps Anita or Julie or some other comrade can explain the issues among these activists more thoroughly and change my mind on the subject. But until they do, I would have to say that I think the WA acted correctly.

July 17, 1992

(As originally printed in the IB #72, Sept, 1, 1992, this article concluded with an appendix reproducing the Jan. 26, 1991 anti-war leaflet issued by the Chicago Branch of the MLP. This appendix is omitted. — CV)


1 Julie quotes only “I believe, if you are speaking of the articles which are solely on the war itself, then it is true there are not statements explicitly calling for the overthrow of the U.S. government or for socialism in the September through January”; she leaves off the following: “(not February or March) WAs. But it is wrong to say there is not agitation for revolution and socialism ‘in relation’ to the reactionary Persian Gulf war ” (See Julie, June 7, 1992 IB, page 1 and Slim, December 13, 1991 IB, page 8)

Note here, as well, that comrade Jake also argues in general “that WA was weak on . . revolutionary perspective (the lack of a revolutionary call).” (Jake, June 7, 1992 IB, page 9). He, too, believes this is the issue, but he doesn’t even bother to try to discuss what was said in the WA or in the debate that’s been carried in the IB's.

2 In order to lessen the burden in the text of lengthy quotes, I quote Anita, Julie and Oleg here. This is what they have said:

My criticism was not that the WA never denounced Bush or U.S. imperialism, but that we did not link that denunciation to a clear stand for socialist revolution and for defeat of U.S. imperialism. We did not, early on, explain these issues to the workers and activists who read the WA." (Anita, June 7 IB, page 6, emphasis added.)

All of (this) leads me to continue to be concerned about the early agitation on the war. I don’t think that the articles from September to February completely lived up to the standards that we ourselves set. It is not until the February issue that there is an article about the U.S. being the number one aggressor in the world listing the crimes of U.S. imperialism. And it is not until the March issue that there is an article mentioning overthrowing imperialism (lead article) or an article on Marxism-Leninism, socialism and war (article on ‘why war after war’).” (Anita, Sept. 20 IB, page 27, emphasis added.)

I stated in my previous letter that ‘there were some glaring weaknesses in some of our agitation (on the Persian Gulf war) . . . including the lack of a revolutionary call in a series of articles up until the January leaflet, the lack of a clear stand that we do stand for the defeat of U.S. imperialism in the article on ‘Should the anti-war movement defend Iraq’, and in general lack of call to overthrow imperialism until the war broke out in mid-January and the weakness in regard to our agitation against ‘Support the Troops,’ (IB #63, p. 5, col. 1). I still think these weaknesses undermined our overall revolutionary tactics.” (Julie, June 7 IB, page 1, emphasis added.)

I thought things were getting better with the publication of the theoretical article on imperialist war in the March issue." (Oleg, Sept. 20 IB, page 30, emphasis added.)

3 Comrade Anita ridicules the idea of making an over-all assessment of the WA saying, “It does not seem obligatory to me to list everything that was done well in the WA in order to be able to criticize what I see as serious weaknesses.” (Anita, June 7, 1992 IB, page 5) But it is comrade Anita herself who raised the question of an overall assessment when she declared that “I don’t think the articles from September to February completely lived up to the standards that we ourselves set.” (Anita, September 20, 1991 IB, page 27) And the question of an over-all assessment was raised even more sharply by comrade Rene with his charge that in WA there is “a consolidated trend of ideas that seek to cover for U.S. imperialism . . . ” (Rene, September 20, 1991 IB, page 27) When I and others reply to those incorrect assessments by pointing out what the WA actually did do to “live up to the standards that we ourselves set,” then comrade Anita implies we are creating issues that were never raised. Please comrade, charging that WA had “serious weaknesses” is itself an assessment. And to make such an assessment you have to deal with what the WA did do in the context of the actual situation and the limits of our resources. Anything else can only be considered to be an idealist assessment which will not help the Party advance in the slightest.

4 Lenin, “The tasks of revolutionary social-democracy in the European war,” Collected Works, Vol. 21, page 18.

5 Lenin, “The defeat of Russia and the revolutionary crisis”, Collected Works, Vol. 21, pages 382.

6 Lenin is, of course, only talking about a reactionary war on both sides in which internationally it cannot be decided that the defeat of either side would be a lesser evil. In another kind of war, one might not consider the defeat of one’s own imperialists a “lesser evil.” For example, in a national revolutionary war against an imperialist monster, we would consider the defeat of the imperialists a positive advance.

7 Lenin, “The conference of the R.S.D.L.P groups abroad,” Collected Works, Vol. 21, page 163.

8 Lenin, “The defeat of Russia and the revolutionary crisis”, Collected Works, Vol. 21, pages 378, 382.

9 Please note here comrades that Lenin talks about the defeat of the Tsarist army “enhancing” and “accelerating” the revolutionary crisis. This is because there was already a revolutionary crisis in Russia prior to the outbreak of World War I. And, indeed, the socialists through much of Europe at that time had estimated that there was an objectively revolutionary situation which would lead to revolution in a whole series of countries with the outbreak of a world inter-imperialist war or in the aftermath of it.

We, of course, could not speak of such a situation in the U.S. at the time of the Gulf war. There was no revolutionary movement to speak of before the war broke out. And although conditions have been building for a renewed outbreak of the mass movements all through the 1980s (which could lead to a revival of the revolutionary movement), a number of factors have continued to undermine that struggle. The most we could have hoped for with the Gulf war (which, also, was of course not nearly such a crisis as WWI) was the outbreak of enough mass struggle, that grew to enough intensity, that a section of the movement would begin to break off from the Democrats (and the reformists who trailed them), target imperialism, and begin to question the entire system and to look for an alternative. We could not really look towards a transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war inside the U.S., but only towards the development of an independent movement which would open the way for a revival of the revolutionary movement. With the extreme brevity of the war, things did not actually go that far. Nevertheless, I believe we were correct to push in that direction with our slogans, our agitation and our methods of work.

In the same vein, we could not really expect in this war the defeat of our “own” government or even the kind of major military reverses that Lenin was talking about. At most, we could hope that the U.S. military would suffer some embarrassments which may have heightened the contradictions inside the U.S. and intensified the mass movement. To expect more than this would have indicated illusions in either Hussein’s regime (which by its very nature could not wage a Vietnam-style people’s war) or in the strength of the mass movement. Thus, when we say “we stand for the defeat of our ‘own’ government” in this war we actually mean something narrower than what Lenin was talking about in World War I. We are speaking of any, even minor, setbacks to the U.S. military which might help to open the way for the intensification of the mass movement and the emergence of an independent movement.

10 Lenin, “The defeat of one’s own government in the imperialist war," Collected Works, Vol. 21, page 276

11 Lenin, “The defeat of one’s own government in the imperialist war," Collected Works, Vol. 21, page 277

12 See May 1, 1987 issue of the WA.

13 See April 1, 1988 issue of the WA.

14 See Dec. 15, 1983 issue of the WA.

15 See January 1, February 1, and March 1, 1990 issues of the WA.

16 See May 1, 1985 issue of the WA.

17 See September 5, 1982 issue of the WA.

l8 After I completed writing this document I received a copy of a new report by comrade Julie on “left social-democracy in Chicago,” which was submitted to the IB (see IB #71). This document describes in some detail the leftward-moving circles of activists and the debates among them that came up in Chicago during the Persian Gulf crisis. Despite certain flaws, I consider this a valuable contribution to the inner-party controversy in that it provides more of a concrete picture of what was going on in this important section of the movement in Chicago which allows comrades in other cities to make up their own minds on a number of issues. It is useful, as well, for developing our discussion on the Party’s tasks in the fight against revisionism and opportunism in the next period.

Unfortunately, however, comrade Julie herself still does not explain from this information how the Chicago branch analyzed various of the phenomena, why she has believed that there were “glaring weakness” in the WA agitation because it allegedly failed to pay enough attention to left social-democracy, or why the question of left social-democracy demanded a theoretical elaboration of the defeat slogan in the WA. Because of this, my complaints against her views remain largely unchanged. As well, my guess that the issue was not the defeat slogan per se but, rather, the particular question of the “defend Iraq” slogan seems vindicated. Because of this I felt no obligation to rewrite this document to deal with the additional information she has provided.

Certain of the information provided by the report should be noted here. For one, the report verifies that the largest section of activists who were moving to the left were attracted to the Pledge of Resistance, and that the issue of the defeat slogan was not debated in these circles. Indeed Julie reports, “There was some surprise in some circles, particularly Prairie Fire, to even be told that it (support for Hussein and Iraq) was an issue." (See the section of the report on the debates in Pledge of Resistance. IB #71, p. 18, col. 1)

The “defend Iraq” slogan was an issue among some of the activists in the smaller student circles that came up around ISO. For a further comment on what Julie’s report reveals about the debate in these circles, see footnote 19.

The activists in the newly emerged anarchist circles apparently also discussed and opposed the Trotskyist arguments, apparently opposing the ideas of supporting Hussein’s military adventure.

And, finally, the report provides no information on the small Mexican circles that are mentioned by both Julie and Anita in their recent letters.

19 Note that comrade Julie’s report on “Left social-democracy in Chicago” provides interesting material on the debates in the student circles that came up around ISO.

Her description of how the comrades from the Chicago Branch argued against the MLWO slogan make it clear that the defeat slogan simply did not enter in to this debate. (See description in the section on the debates in the student circles around ISO. (IB #71, pp. 19-21) Her description of the debate with ISO supporters directly (which she says took place among a few students mainly outside of the ISO dominated coalition and at an ISO called meeting) is interesting. The main question was whether or not to “defend Iraq.” ISO did apparently raise the point that Lenin said you should stand for the defeat of your own government, but that meant “in a war between a smaller imperialist power and a large imperialist power (you should) support the small,” and that revolutionaries in Iraq should not stand for the defeat of their own government too. (IB #71, p. 20, col. 1) These, of course, are the kind of arguments that the WA was addressing.

I am confused by one description of the ISO’s argument that was given in Julie’s report. It says, “Their argument went something like this, ‘to say you support revolution is ridiculous, won’t happen. Need to support anti-imperialist struggle of Hussein.’” I don’t know if this was discussing support for revolution in Iraq or in the U.S.

If in Iraq, then this was one of the views that the WA and the Supplement directly argued against. And the uprisings in Iraq provided valuable experience to refute this view, which the Supplement made good use of.

If this was an argument about what to do in the U.S. then it indicated one of the complications in developing an elaboration of what standing for the defeat of our own government meant in this particular war. Because, indeed, to think that this war would create enough of a crisis to spur a revolution in the U.S. was ridiculous. And it indicates that to just reply to the trots that “defeating U.S. imperialism means overthrowing it” or “building the revolutionary movement” does not even begin to refute their argument or make clear to anyone what was a correct stand in this war.

Unfortunately, from Julie’s description, it appears that when the Chicago Branch was confronted with this direct argument by the ISO (an argument any thinking activist would almost surely come up with themselves given the present situation in the U.S.) they did not deal with it. As well, there is the Jan. 26, 1991 leaflet of the Chicago Branch entitled “The anti-war movement and the struggle to defeat U.S. imperialism”, which Julie says was put out in part “because there had been some argument over what it meant to defeat U.S. imperialism.” That leaflet also does not deal with this argument and, unfortunately, fails to actually explain what the defeat slogan meant in this war. Instead it mainly argues on support for Saddam Hussein, and only adds the simple statement that “when we say that we work to defeat U.S. imperialism we mean that we work for a revolution in this country, for a movement among the working class and oppressed masses.” In my opinion, this is a good example of why I have stressed that it is not helpful to have some simple statement on the defeat slogan. And it shows why, if the defeat slogan was going to be raised in any major way, one would have to explain what the defeat slogan actually meant in this particular war and how the Party’s tactics were based on Leninism. (This leaflet is reprinted below as an appendix [it is omitted from this reprinting of Slim’s article. — CV.].)

I do not believe that there was enough of a problem on the question of the defeat slogan that the WA had to put a major effort into dealing with the complications involved, when really the main issues that needed to be addressed were in the way the WA unfolded the polemic against the “defend Iraq” slogan.

20 See the February 20, April 20, and June 15, 1991 issues of the Workers' Advocate Supplement.

21 Note for example the beginning of the article “More on the ‘defend Iraq’ slogan: Building an anti-imperialist movement or putting hopes in Hussein’s military?” page 26 in the February 20 issue of the Workers’ Advocate Supplement.

Other articles from the debate on anti-war work

Below we reprint from the Information Bulletin excerpts from the letters from Julie, Anita, and Jake of the Chicago Workers’ Voice group that Slim was discussing in his “Reply to criticisms of WA on the war — Part iv” We also print Mark’s comment on an issue raised by Anita’s letter.

From Julie, Chicago Workers’ Voice

The following letter from Julie first appeared in Information Bulletin #68, June 1, 1992.

Several comrades from Chicago have written letters regarding the Workers' Advocate agitation on the Persian Gulf war, the Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and other issues.

I think the discussion on this issue involves what are the principles underlying our tactics towards this war and the movement which arose against it, what was the character of this movement, and how to influence this movement in a revolutionary direction.

I stated in my previous letter that “there were some glaring weaknesses in some of our agitation (on the Persian Gulf war) especially coming from our Party which has a fairly rich history in movements to oppose imperialist war, including the lack of a revolutionary call in a series of articles up until the January leaflet, the lack of a clear stand that we do stand for the defeat of U.S. imperialism in the article on ‘Should the antiwar movement defend Iraq’, and in general lack of call to overthrow imperialism until the war broke out in mid-January and the weakness in regard to our agitation against ‘Support the Troops.’"1 [IB #65, p. 5, col. 1] I still think these weaknesses undermined our overall revolutionary tactics.

I see jumpy conclusions from Comrade Joe2 that “a number of comrades (in Chicago) have joined him (Rene)” in “moralist anti-imperialist phrasemongering.” [IB #65, p. 33, col. 2] And there is a certain dismissal of the issues from comrade George and Slim. They imply that the only concern with the Workers ’ Advocate agitation is that there should be phrases about revolution and the defeat of U.S. imperialism. Nevertheless there are some admissions from several comrades in regards to the issues raised. They too seem to think that there were issues missing in the Workers’ Advocate’s agitation in this period.

Slim: “I believe, if you are speaking of the articles which are solely on the war itself, then it is true there are not statements explicitly calling for the overthrow of the U.S. government or for socialism in the September through January” (WAs). [IB #64, p. 8, col. 21

The only weakness that I can see is that we did not have more theoretical articles fully explaining the Marxist-Leninist basis for the tactics we were pursuing.” [IB #64, p. 14, col. 1] Although I believe the article 'Should the anti-war movement “defend Iraq”?’ did a good job of explaining some of the Marxist-Leninist principles and how they should be applied to the Persian Gulf conflict; and it hit on one of the major ways the ‘defeat’ slogan was being distorted by the Trotskyites at the time; and it touched on the question of the liberals, and the Trotskyists tailing the liberals, at the beginning and end of the article; it could have been more all-sided and useful for the revolutionary-minded activists with a section explaining the application of the 'defeat’ slogan in the U.S. . " [IB#64, p. 14, col. 1]

Also “Experience has shown that the changes decided on in April were not sufficient” in regards to organization of the work on the Workers’ Advocate. [IB #64, col. 2]

Comrade Joe, despite having the view that Chicago comrades ” seem to still be influenced by traces of three worldist (albeit a leftist variety) thinking ’, [IB #65, p. 30, col. 2] nevertheless states “I think that in the early agitation on the war it would have been helpful to have a more concentrated expression of the relationship of the potential war to the overall class struggle in the U.S.” [IB #65, p. 25, col. 1]

But there is a weakness in the early agitation on the war. This weakness is that WA in September and October does not in a concentrated way draw out the connection between the war in the making and the overall class struggle in the U.S. It draws out who will pay in blood for the war, how the rich will profit, but it does not draw out what effect victory or defeat in this foreign policy will have on the overall class struggle. A victory would mean strengthening political reaction and chauvinism, a strengthening of the bourgeoisie. While defeat (and here I am talking about any difficulties, not necessarily overall military or political defeat) work in the direction of weakening the class enemy, chauvinism and political reaction, work in the direction of creating more openings for the class struggle. Such a connection I think is important for the training of the workers in revolutionary perspective, in teaching the workers to go for their enemies’ throats. Therefore it would have strengthened our agitation to have drawn this out clearly and concisely. This is not a criticism of principle because the defeatist spirit permeated the WA articles, but for educating purposes it helps to draw it out.” [IB #65,, p. 26, col. 1-2]

Also comrade Jim, after an anecdote about an incident at a forum held in S.F., made the comment:3

Afterwards, in the report to the C.C. about this forum, I added my own opinion that it would have been useful to have had some type of article that directly linked up Lenin’s well-known principles of the struggle against imperialist war (defeat of one’s own government, etc.) with our tactics during the Persian Gulf war. I felt that this would have been useful for reconfirming and testing these principles and m ore particularly, as an inoculation from Trotskyist phrasemongering.” He goes on to say he doesn’t think it essential. [IB #65. p. 24, col. 2]

So it seems that it is not just the comrades in Chicago who think that maybe possibly there might have been some issues missing in our agitation on the Persian Gulf war.

Maybe this means that there is more than “moralist anti- imperialist phrasemongering” behind the issues being raised by some comrades in Chicago. I think that indeed there are some issues in regards to what we want to accomplish with the Workers’ Advocate, what are the points that we want to be bringing to the masses and to the activists.

And part of the problem is that some comrades views on how to deal with some of the agitation are wrong.

I want here to go into the question of what has been referred to as the “defeat” slogan. One, I should make it clear that I am not opposed to the direct statement that “we stand for the defeat of U.S. imperialism” having been used. However, I never stated that I feel that we should have stopped at this. I think we needed to have explained to the activists that we stand for the defeat of U.S. imperialism, that this means building a revolutionary movement here and supporting revolutionary struggle in the Middle East and what the relationship of our tactics is to this overall orientation.

But I think that even without a more theoretical article we could have made the specific statement that we stand for defeating U.S. imperialism and that this means building a revolutionary movement. And I think some wrong views are being raised in regards to this question.

For instance, comrade George’s letter4 states “Would raising the slogan ‘Defeat U.S. imperialism’ have made our anti-imperialist stand any clearer or stronger? I don’t see how. . . As a main slogan or immediate call it made no sense. It seems to me it would have been an abstract speculative slogan. The possibility of U.S. being defeated in this war only occurred in our day dreams — if only Hussein would suddenly change his stripes and wage people’s war, if only the Arab masses could break free of their bourgeois, if only the movement in this country were at a higher level. Then sure some form of the ‘Defeat .’slogan might take on some importance for guiding the movement in a revolutionary direction. But not in the situation we were in.” [IB #64, p. 4 col. 2 - p.5 col. 1] I can’t agree with this conclusion.

I don’t think using the idea that “we stand for the defeat of U.S. imperialism” in relation to this war means that we have to hope for a victory of the other side. I think George’s thinking is wrong on this issue. I don’t know if this was part of the thinking on the WA staff when it did not deal with the positive question of what desiring defeat for U.S. imperialism means in the article “Should the anti-war movement 'defend Iraq’.” If this was part of the thinking then it was wrong. We don’t just see the two governments in this war. There is for us also the question of the masses. No, I think the idea we want to convey is that the defeat of U.S. imperialism means building a revolutionary movement.

Then there is Slim’s letter in relation to what he calls the “‘defeat’ slogan.” He states ‘If the question did come up, it is hard for me to imagine that it could be dealt with by simply putting a sentence or two in our leaflets saying we stand for the defeat of our own bourgeoisie and that means building a revolutionary movement. I believe in any event we have to explain what the ‘defeat’ slogan actually meant in this war, what the party’s tactics were and how they were based on the ‘defeat’ slogan. In the situation we faced with the Gulf war, the ‘defeat’ principle could only mean taking the anti-war movement in an independent direction, severing it from illusions in the liberal Democrats and Congress and the United Nations, so that, in the long run, it could contribute to building up a movement for the revolutionary overthrow of our own government. Any thing short of a full explanation of our tactics in relation to the ‘defeat’ principle had the danger of exaggerating the possibilities of this movement, and, when it failed to go far, helping to create demoralization among the very activists we wanted to bring to our side.” [IB #66, p. 9, col. 1]

On this I think it would have been useful to have a theoretical elaboration of our tactics. But I also think it would have been useful to have a sharp statement that we stand for the defeat of U.S. imperialism and for us this means building a revolutionary movement. And, I definitely disagree that doing this would have been demoralizing to the activists.

I agree with Jim that there are limits to what a very small, overburdened staff can accomplish but I don’t agree that the failure of the WA to explain the “defeat” slogan from a positive angle was solely related to this. The WA and WAS managed three fairly lengthy articles on this topic including the Dec. 1990 WA and the WAS of February and April 1991. Furthermore, I presume that we wanted to go into this issue because we wanted to speak to some of the more militant left-leaning activists who because of their hatred for U.S. imperialism were influenced by the agitation of the Spartacists, RWL and others. To influence these activists it seems to me that we would have wanted to explicitly state that we do indeed stand for the defeat of U.S. imperialism and what that means for us. We thought it necessary to do so in the debates we had in Chicago on this issue.

I raised the issue of left social-democracy and Slim discusses it further in his letter. Again, I think it is possible that some of the weaknesses in our agitation might be linked to not paying sufficient attention to this phenomena and how to move the activists influenced by this phenomena forward.

I found Slim’s description of SAW [Students Against War] in New York interesting. He states that "most of them already believed there needs to be a revolution." [IB #66, p. 8, col. 2] And he says that “Their circles were plagued with a certain cynicism about the possibility of revolution and confusion about what type of revolution to work for — and both of these issues were tied to the debacle of revisionism in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China.” [IB #66, p. 8, col. 2] I am not familiar with this circle and have not seen any other reports on this phenomena. In Chicago there are anarchist youth circles. Among them there is a certain revolutionary sentiment along with a lot of “cynicism” and “confusion.” To my mind the debacle of revisionism is one issue with them. The “cynicism” and “confusion” in these circles is also connected to influence of reformism, influence of militant pacifism, a certain hostility towards working class, influence by straightforward anarchist ideology, and other issues. It seems to me dealing with their actual concerns requires more than “agitation denouncing the phony socialism of the revisionists, critiquing what went wrong in those revolutions, and providing positive ideas about the workers’ socialism that we are working for ” [IB #66, p. 8, col. 2] I agree these are issues. But it also seems to me that it would be useful to develop some theoretical explanation of the connection between revolution and our tactics of opposing the DP, opposing UN resolutions, etc., some theoretical criticism of anarchism and pacifism, some explanation of what our work in the working class entails and how we deal with issues among the masses, etc.

Comrade Joe states in his letter “I think that the views raised in the CC that we made a mistake by putting too much of our forces into the Soviet work and need to develop more work analyzing the world and class situation are correct.” [IB #65, p. 33, col. 2] Judging from Slim’s reply maybe there is an overemphasis on the “Soviet work.”

There is a somewhat separate question of whether debate on the “defeat” slogan ever came up in what could be called the left social-democratic trend or circles. I should make the point that fairly extensive reports were given on debates and discussions that took place in activists circles in Chicago. Among those were reports that this issue of the “defeat” slogan in specific came up among a small number of Mexican workers who are influenced by both the MLP and the Spartacists. These workers were indeed active in the demonstrations although not in other activist circles such as the Pledge or ISO-dominated student coalition.

The issue was also specifically debated in the circles of students (and these circles were fairly sizable) influenced by ISO in which we debated the issue against both ISO and somewhat tangentially with MLWO which also came to these meetings for a while and argued that the slogan for the movement should be “U.S. Out of the Persian Gulf, Iraq out of Kuwait.” Among other things we argued that the aim of the movement should be against U.S. imperialism and should support revolutionary movements in the Middle East and tried to give some definition to what the tasks were to build up an anti-imperialist movement.

I find it strange that Slim seems not to remember reports on this issue.

We also spent a lot of time denouncing the DP, UN resolutions, Congressional resolutions, and argued against taking up the slogan “Support the troops.” We were a factor in the ISO-dominated coalition taking “Support the troops” off its leaflet in mid-Jan. (ISO seemed surprised it was there and also argued against it.) We were a factor in the other student coalition PBJ (which was also in the ISO coalition but had separate leaflets, tables, etc.) taking the yellow ribbons off their literature table. We argued with ISO student leaders in the presence of others that we should support resistance in the military and that we should support organizing in the military (which ISO tended to say was much too dangerous). We debated that the movement should be directed towards putting out its own leaflets and press and not spend all its time trying to get press and influence the bourgeois press. ISO generally tried to put a damper on ideas that various students had of trying to put out an anti-war newsletter.

May 12, 1992 [Page references were added by the IB]


1 The Workers’ Advocate sharply denounced the “Support our troops” slogan, while rendering enthusiastic support to the GI resistance. The firm support for the GI resistance angered Rene of Chicago who held that supporting rebellious soldiers meant denying the imperialist nature of the armed forces. Other members of the Chicago Workers Voice group, while not necessarily denouncing the GI resistance like Rene, followed him in trying to prove that the WA was whitewashing the imperialist nature of the army. As a matter of fact, the WA zealously denounced the “Support Our Troops” slogan prior to the Chicago Workers’ Voice getting around to doing so. See the collection of material on the debate over the GI resistance in Communist Voice vol. 1, #5. Nov. 15, 1995. — CV.

2 This refers to Joe, Boston, who is a different person from Joseph Green, Detroit. Joe eventually became one of the leaders of the liquidationist majority that was skeptical of revolution, Marxism-Leninism, and the role of the proletariat. — CV

3 Jim, from the San Francisco Bay Area, was soon after a prominent leader of the liquidationist majority that was skeptical of revolution, Marxism-Leninism, party-building, and even doubted the existence of imperialism. — CV

4 The letter from comrade George of the San Francisco Bay Area is reprinted in its entirety in Communist Voice, vol. 1, #4, Sept. 15, 1995 as part of a collection of material on the controversy over anti-war work. George opposed the liquidationist majority.— CV []

From comrade Anita, Chicago

The following letter from Anita first appeared in Information Bulletin #68, June 1, 1992.

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Criticism of the anti-war agitation in the WA centers mainly on what was not said (the exception being the controversy over the articles against “support the troops”). It does not seem obligatory to me to list everything that was done well in the WA in order to be able to criticize what I see as serious weaknesses. In this letter I want to comment on some of the replies to my original letter, and clarify what I think some of the more important issues are. . . . . . . .

II. Anti-War Agitation in the WA

Summing up the agitation in the WA during the Persian Gulf War raises issues regarding comrades’ views of what the tasks for our press are in general, as well as specific questions on agitation for that war. Realizing that there are differing views among comrades who have responded to my criticism of the agitation in the WA, it does seem that the main points being raised in disagreement center around the following logic:

1. The WA answered the questions raised by the movement itself,

2. The direction of agitation in the WA on the war was defeatist and revolutionary,

3. Therefore it is not significant that the WA did not have specifically revolutionary calls, agitation for Marxism-Leninism and socialism vs. imperialist war, or an explicit stand for the defeat of U.S. Imperialism in most of the antiwar agitation.

My view is that agitation during a war like the Gulf War, in which one’s own imperialist bourgeoisie is a player, must have all three features, i.e. answer the questions raised by the movement itself, be consistent in a revolutionary direction, and take an explicit stand for the overthrow/defeat of one’s own bourgeoisie and for socialist revolution and Marxism-Leninism. This is my understanding of the tasks for revolutionary agitation in general. It seems even more necessary during unjust and reactionary wars when the contradictions of capitalism and imperialism are even more apparent than usual, and at the same time, the bourgeoisie wages a fierce campaign for chauvinism and class collaboration among all the masses.

When I say explicit agitation for revolution, socialism and so forth, I do not mean that each article written must have a call for socialist revolution, or that “Defeat” must be given as a main slogan or action call. I mean that such agitation should be done so that the stand is clear and not left up to interpretation. Our readers should not have to work too hard to figure out what exactly our stand is, or what our thinking is. To really fulfill these tasks, requires some theoretical explanations of our stand and tactics and also sometimes using an explicit slogan or a couple of sentences.

I can not agree with some comrades that an implicit stand is enough. Some comrades argue that there were not weaknesses in the anti-war agitation or that any weaknesses were negligible because the WA answered the questions of the movement. . It seems to me that this thinking counterposes direct, specifically revolutionary agitation to timely, topical agitation. I think, this creates a dichotomy between different tasks that we should accomplish with our press (i.e. speaking to immediate questions of the movement, political and economic exposures, and raising the broader class perspective for socialist revolution). . . . Following this logic — only issues that arise in the practical movement have to be dealt with, other issues are optional — could mean a kind of tail ism. It tends to negate the role of revolutionary agitation that also plants the idea of revolution and socialism and that works to raise the political level of all its readers. It gives a very narrow definition of the tasks of our agitation, if we only have to wait and see what are the key topical issues and then analyze them.

Comrade Slim develops a similar argument, but in a less narrow way. In his “Reply to criticisms of WA — Part I" (IB January 1992), he says that the task is to deal with the crucial issues of the movement while taking the agitation in a revolutionary direction, but that it was not necessary to go further. I certainly agree that agitation must deal with the crucial issues and consistently be in a revolutionary direction. . . [But this does] not relieve us of the responsibility to develop agitation which does bring out explicitly that the interests of the proletariat as a class demand socialist revolution and to explain how we see building a movement capable of such a thing. Slim quotes the WA from September and December of 1990 in which articles denounce the hypocrisy of Bush and Co. for talking about Iraqi aggression while committing so many crimes themselves, the war is also denounced as a war to ensure imperialist domination and of no interest to the workers. (Information Bulletin, December 15, 1991).

All this is good. My criticism was not that the WA never denounced Bush or U.S. Imperialism, but that we did not link that denunciation to a clear stand for socialist revolution and for defeat of U.S. Imperialism. We did not, early on, explain these issues to the workers and activists who read the WA. Does it give the perspective that we really want to give, for example, to call on the Arab toilers to settle accounts with their own oppressors and to state that Saddam Hussein deserves to be overthrown, while only calling on the U.S. workers to join the movement opposed to the war drive? It is not that I object to a call on U.S. workers to join the anti-war movement, but when we do not somewhere in the anti-war agitation have the rest of our views then it looks as if we have a view that the Arab regimes should be/must be overthrown but U.S. Imperialism can somehow be controlled by a mass fight against its policies. Again the issue is not to fulfill quotas of certain phrases; my criticism is that we did not take full advantage of the contradictions that a war, even a short war, brings out in order to explain the relationship of imperialism as a system to wars and to explain that such wars will continue unless imperialism as a system is overthrown by socialist revolution. I think that this is what Lenin was talking about when he said that the socialists “must explain to the masses that they have no other road of salvation except the revolutionary overthrow of their ‘own’ governments. "(Socialism and War, "On the Defeat of One’s ‘Own’ Government,’" LCW, Vol. 21, pp. 315).

III. On ‘Defeat of U.S. Imperialism’

As for the question of advocating defeat for U.S. Imperialism, none of the criticisms of the WA agitation call for the use of “Defeat U.S. Imperialism” as a main slogan or call. The criticism is quite specific: We did not take a clear stand on defeat and did not explain what we think it means to be for the defeat of U.S. Imperialism during the war, even in articles which were dealing with more programmatic questions (including our polemic exposing the Trotskyist support for Saddam Hussein as opportunism). Comrade Slim speaks to this issue with the argument that it was not necessary to specifically state our view on defeat of U.S. Imperialism because all the agitation was defeatist in its essence, in that it aimed at undermining the war effort, driving a wedge between the working masses and ruling class. Again, I think that being defeatist in essence or implicitly defeatist is necessary, but not enough. I think it obligatory to explain the issue for the more politically conscious activists so that they can better understand our thinking and tactics, and are better armed themselves. To do this we needed to actually state our position.

Secondly, I would argue that it was an issue for sections of the movement. It was made an issue in those sections by the level of hatred for U.S. Imperialism among some activists and by opportunist forces such as the Spartacist League and ISO who pushed their own version of "defeat". In Chicago, we certainly had to deal with this question in various circles, including in the Mexican immigrant contacts who were not infatuated with Saddam Hussein but were worried about a rapacious U.S. Imperialism being victorious once again. I must say here that while the problems some of the Mexican immigrants had in figuring out what to do with Hussein show political weaknesses, I think their hatred for U.S. Imperialism is a political strength. A couple of these contacts were not completely satisfied that the MLP was really for the defeat of U.S. Imperialism, and, although we dealt with these issues locally, it hurt our efforts not to have had WA articles explaining our views.

Indeed it seems that the question of what stand to take on defeat of U.S. Imperialism was an issue in places other than Chicago too, otherwise why dedicate so much energy to arguing against the Sparts and RWL positions? Comrade Slim responds to Comrade Julie’s letter on this (IB 2/20/92) by stating that the polemic against the Trotskyist position was necessary as part of the struggle against opportunism because the Trotskyists were pushing their view to the militant activists but that there wasn’t anything requiring us to address the issue from the "other side". Well, I think there were reasons that required us to do so: 1. The fact that if you criticize the Trotskyist position without making clear the Marxist-Leninist stand in favor of "defeat” it leaves some doubt as to whether you are criticizing them from the left or right, and 2. Discussion of the real issues for defeat of U.S. Imperialism is part of the struggle against right opportunism which looks to accommodate itself to the "unchangeable fact” of the existence of imperialism. In other words, not explaining ‘’both sides” of the defeat slogan weakens the fight against the Trotskyist distortions and against the straight-up social democratic/liberal reformists.

Here, I want to make a comment on Comrade George’s letter of 11/13/91. The comrade develops a whole line of argument against "Defeat U.S. Imperialism” as an immediate call or main slogan (although that is not what was being proposed). The comrade gets so carried away that he argues the following: "further, since this wasn’t a war in which we were rooting for the other side, it would have been confusing on its own.” [IB #64, p.5, col. 1] I hope that the comrade just didn’t think this through or meant something different. Rooting for the ‘’other” side is not a criteria for upholding revolutionary defeatism or even for using the "defeat” slogan; witness the tactics of the Internationalists in World War I. In his most recent letter. (IB, February 20, 1992 page 9), Comrade Slim developed an argument against the "defeat slogan”, stating that raising defeat of U.S. Imperialism would be demoralizing because there was no chance it would happen. This might be true if "defeat of U.S. Imperialism” was being raised as an action slogan or a call to take up immediate armed struggle or telling the activists to expect the U.S. to be militarily defeated by Iraq. However, as an argument against making explicit our defeatist stand and attempting to explain how we see the task of organizing for revolution, I think it is off the mark. I would also direct comrades to (Socialism and War, the section entitled, "On the Defeat of One’s ‘Own’ Government in Imperialist War”, LCW Vol. 21, pp 315) where Lenin polemicizes against the idea that it is absurd for socialists of all the belligerent countries to express their wish that all their own governments should be defeated. (I believe Slim quoted a part of this section regarding the mistake of thinking only at the level of governments vs. governments in his letter of November 1991).

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(Received mid-May 1992) []

WA must be explicit: we are for revolution against war

From Jake, Chicago

The following letter from Jake first appeared in Information Bulletin #68, June 1, 1992.

In the course of the current debate it was stated that if there were problems in the WA or in the orientation of the MLP, then it should have been reflected in the Party’s work. It was also stated that it was a short war, that it wasn’t known if there were problems in anyone’s anti-war work but basically comrades did a good job.

In general I think the MLP did OK in its anti-war work. Not great, just OK. There were weaknesses in our work which have to be corrected. I agree with comrades in Chicago that WA was weak on two topics: (a) revolutionary perspective (the lack of a revolutionary call), and (b) the Marxist-Leninist theoretical principles on imperialism, war and revolution.

I want to point out at least two examples where there were problems, and problems that followed directly from the orientation in the Workers’ Advocate.

Two anecdotes

1) On January 17, 1991, I attended a “town meeting’’ at Loyola University.

This was an event organized by the univ. administration. There were about 200 in the auditorium. The report I sent into WA was as follows:

Loyola had a campus town meeting of 200,1 spoke twice during it and got great applause, one comment on media and propaganda, other on Saddam and Iraq, both sides wrong, isn’t US Imp. picky about what atrocities they oppose?, oppose all tyrants, workers of Middle East have to settle accounts with oppressors.”

To add further details to this report:

A rightist in the crowd argued that Saddam was a tyrant, and the US was doing good by getting rid of him. The campus leader of ISO then replied that not all of what the media is reporting is accurate. “In fact most of the rapes in Kuwait were committed by Kuwaiti men against Palestinian women,’ he said.”

I then replied that Saddam was indeed a tyrant and that the anti-war movement should not hesitate to denounce his crimes. The anti-war activists in fact were opposed to both sides in this war, etc., along the tines stated above.

Although my speech was well received, and it helped to give some orientation on how to oppose the right wing anti- Saddam justification, there was a problem with it. It became evident in a discussion meeting with all the local party activists that was held in either late Jan. or early Feb. 1991. During this meeting, I realized that my speech at Loyola should have included a revolutionary call. I should have added something like:

Bush is every bit the tyrant Hussein is. Not only should the Iraqi workers overthrow the Baathist regime, but the working people of this country need to overthrow Bush and the Republicrats and their whole rotten system.”

Tactically, such a statement could bring the more radical anti-war activists closer to us, especially since some students around ISO at the time had some dislike for the wimpy side of ISO. But regardless of tactical considerations, we must find ways to promote a revolutionary perspective.

I’m sure that we could not have made a breakthrough in Jan. '91 no matter what we did. Most of the radical elements around ISO were not going to leave them to come around us (though 2 did leave ISO much later and we have contact with them). This is not the issue I am raising.

I say we must tell the truth about war (only revolution or a strong revolutionary movement can prevent it, stop it, defeat it). We must uphold the revolutionary perspective and find ways to popularize it among the radical workers and youth because that is what we stand for.

2) In Jim’s letter of 12-15-91 in the Jan. 20, 1992 IB, he states:

I also felt that an article explaining our tactics in light of Lenin’s theory on the struggle against reactionary war would have been useful; although I didn’t draw the conclusion that this showed a great weakness (see P.S. below)”.1

The postscript Jim mentioned relates an anecdote from the work in the Bay Area during the Persian Gulf war. At a public forum held by the MLP, a number of demoralized trots wanted to make an appeal for the Iraqi troops to make a last-ditch defense. Jim states the reply comrades gave to the trots:

While we will do everything to make use of the difficulties the Pentagon suffers in this war for building the revolutionary struggle against U.S. imperialism, we will also welcome every advance in the liberation struggle of the workers, Kurds and others in Iraq that the war may open up.”

At this point, an activist who happens to read our literature quite carefully, interjected that, while he had no disagreement with this thesis, he had noticed that the ‘defeat one’s “own” government’ formula does not appear in WA or in our leaflets. Our response was that this principle does not rest in the use of the slogan per se, and that the whole content of our agitation followed along the lines of this principle. This was the immediate and unequivocal reply of several comrades.”

I want to make a few points about this story. First, it backs up Chicago’s argument that there was a weakness in the WA; how much of a weakness, how serious is debatable. Second, I heard a slightly different version of it from [...] when he visited Chicago in the fall of ’91. (I’m sorry to drag [him] into this with him not being here.2 I want him to see this letter if possible.)

[He] said that after the meeting, comrades had generally concluded that the chair had given a weak answer. I think, but I’m not certain, that [he] also told me that SF comrades had concluded that a call for the overthrow of US imperialism should have been given as part of the answer.

Now I don’t want to argue about what was said at the meeting. I just want to make the point that:

(a) the correct answer to these trots is “defeating U.S. imperialism” means overthrowing it. We are organizing a revolutionary movement here and now! What are you organizing? Support for capitalist tyranny in the 3rd world? And

(b) the Workers ’ Advocate was weak in making this point (from August to January) and that this did have its consequences in the day to day work.

WA leads the MLP through the orientation given its articles. If WA is not strong on this point, how can the local party cadre, who are faced with enormous pressure from all sides against revolution and socialism, not share this weakness?

We are a revolutionary party and we are for organising the revolutionary trend inside the mass movement. Building the mass movement is a means to this end. We need the mass motion, in fact we cannot live without it. We steel it against opportunism (especially from reformism which is the main danger) and promote the most oppositional politics that we can at the moment. But regardless of where the movement is, we must explain that only revolution can end imperialist war and that we are for socialist revolution. Whether revolution is on the minds of the masses or not, we have to work to make it part of their thinking. Without this, how can we appeal to the most radical activists, to the revolutionary-minded? And if not them, who are we going to organize into a pro-party trend.

June 3, 1992


1 See footnote 3 on Jim.

2 The comrade Jake refers to had moved to another continent. []

On comrade Anita’s charge of tailism

The following article from comrade Mark, Detroit, appeared in Information Bulletin #72, Sept. 1, 1992.

In her comments in the June 7. 1992 Information Bulletin, comrade Anita raises the issue that the logic of some comrades defending the Party’s national articles on the Gulf war

is incorrect and even dangerous. Following this logic — only issues that arise in the practical movement have to be dealt with, other issues are optional — could mean a kind of tailism.” (IB #68, p. 6, col. 1)

From the above-mentioned sentence, one may get the impression that Anita feels the national articles pandered to backward prejudices in the anti-war movement. If this is what comrade Anita is driving at, I think she is obviously mistaken. Indeed, when you examine Anita’s June 7 comments, she does not even attempt to make much of a case that we pandered to backward trends. It appears her charge of tailism is essentially that

the WA did not have specifically revolutionary calls, agitation for Marxism-Leninism and socialism vs. imperialist war, or an explicit stand for the defeat of U.S. Imperialism in most of the anti-war agitation.” (IB #68, p. 3, col. )

If this is what Anita is driving at, I think this is a strange criterion for deciding what is and isn’t tailist.

If the WA articles were tailist, I think this would be a serious matter. But who were the articles tailing behind? Comrade Anita does not say. In fact, the articles on the war were downright combative against “our own” rulers including both the administration and Congress. They hit hard against the reformist anti-war trends. The articles ripped the myth of Saddam Hussein’s “anti-imperialism” and shredded the arguments of the “left” Trots and other phrasemongers who could only see Bush or Hussein and hid behind phrases like “defend Iraq” or “victory to Iraq.”

There were also explicit revolutionary calls. I will not repeat the list since it has been documented in earlier IB contributions. Anita and some other comrades may wish that this or that article solely on the war had an explicit revolutionary call, but in terms of evaluating the stand of the national agitation on the war. its class content, whether there was a revolutionary perspective, this criticism is of little consequence.

And what of the national articles’ appeals to the masses here? Did we pander to backward prejudices among them? Comrade Anita does not raise this in her arguments of June 7. In my opinion the national press told the truth to the masses about the real aims of U.S. imperialism in the face of the bourgeoisie’s wild chauvinist campaign and even though in some workplaces this stand might involve being temporarily isolated. And what about our appeals to the GI’s? Did we pander to imperialism in our appeals to them like some of the reformist forces? No. Did we tone down our anti-imperialist critique of the war or fail to support the stirrings against the war among the GI’s? No.

The articles did not tail behind any backward or reformist class or political forces. So why were they tailist? Comrade Anita seems to think that most articles should have explicit calls for revolution or defeat of U.S. imperialism or else the agitation is tailist. Anita insists she is not out to “fulfill quotas of certain phrases” but at the same time demands that over 50% of the articles (“most”) must have calls that give a clear stand for socialist revolution and for defeat of U.S. imperialism.

This is just another quota system. I think such a quota system is pretty much unworkable and useless. But even if comrade Anita thinks her quota system is a good idea, she still hasn’t explained what this has to do with tailism. Is there something in the Marxist-Leninist works that endorses, even by implication, such a quota system? I don’t think this was what Lenin was talking about in the quotation from Lenin’s Socialism and War which Anita cites. Is there something in the historical stand of the Party that endorses such views? I am ignorant of such a thing. I did look back on the Second Congress documents1 on the fight against imperialist war and it sets out something different. There are no quota requirements whether in terms of phrases, paragraphs or topics of particular articles. In the Second Congress it does mention that in addition to developing the general anti-imperialist politics, the Party thinks “Direct work must be done in support of the perspective of the socialist revolution.” (p.30)2 Read this section and you will find that nowhere does it require (or preclude) explicit calls for socialist revolution, much less any quota of calls. Rather it talks about developing a certain perspective that recognizes that only socialism can end imperialism, and with it, wars. And it raises the importance of bringing the proletariat to the center of the anti-imperialist struggle, building up the Marxist-Leninist trend, etc.

Comrade Anita backhandedly admits there were articles dealing with the issue of perspective when she admits it was only “early on” in the agitation (that) allegedly did not deal with these issues. (IB #68, page 6, col. 2) In other replies to various Chicago comrades, this issue has already been dealt with. As someone who has written for the WA for many years, I just want to voice my agreement that the timing of the articles had nothing to do with tailism or any other serious political weakness.

I do not think the issue is what number of articles were produced with short or lengthy explanations of the need for socialist revolution. Let us take the article which was produced that elaborated the Marxist-Leninist principles on war on page 10 of the March 1 issue of The Workers ’ Advocate.

If this article does a good job explaining the issues it tackles, is there really a need for an article covering the same ground in each issue of the WA or in several articles in one WA? Not at all. If Anita is worried that someone may read an article that doesn’t give the complete scope of our anti-war views, then she could xerox another article for distribution, refer the reader to other articles in the paper, etc. To expect that WA can just crank out any set number of articles that really explain our perspective in depth on the anti-war or any other issue, and not just [if it were to follow Anita’s quota system] add a revolutionary phrase or two, is unrealistic.

1The Documents of the Second Congress of the Marxist-Leninist Party appeared in the Jan. 1, 1984 issue of the Workers’ Advocate (vol. 14, #1). They contained a detailed description of the MLP’s views of that time, and its methods of work, on a number of fronts. — CV.

2 The page reference is to the WA, Jan. 1, 1984. — CV []

[End of article group]

Correspondence: On the Nader candidacy

Dear Comrades,

Pete asked me in a recent letter what we’d been doing in Seattle. Since a couple of the things we’ve done will probably interest other comrades — especially Z since he works in a lot of isolation — I thought I’d send my response in the form of a brief report to everyone.

Attending a fundraiser for the Nader campaign—

Phil and I attended a recent fundraiser for the Ralph Nader campaign where I sold 4 CVs (plus giving away one). Considering that I was “soft-selling” the journal and probably would have sold more had I stayed around another hour I thought that this was quite good. I also thought that the affair was interesting from several angles.

First, even though it was a week-night, and I don’t think the affair was widely promoted, 60 or more people showed up. This appeared to be more than the sponsors expected and they seemed quite happy

Secondly, at the time I was rather flat-footed regarding what Nader is saying in his campaign but found out through quite a few discussions that a lot of the people there, even some who are activists for the campaign, knew as little as I did (or even less). Many of the people attending expressed a general sentiment that one should support Nader because he wasn’t a Republicrat, he wasn’t bought off by the corporations and in fact attacked them, he took progressive stands on the environment, welfare, and a few other issues. A vote for Nader would therefore “send a message” to the powers that be that the masses are upset on these issues. But real attention to what Ralph Nader actually says seemed to be lacking.

However, and thirdly, the Democrats have gone so far to the right (with their left wing becoming almost invisible) that a section of the masses can no longer stomach them—at least as long as the Democrats stay their present course. This undoubtedly was reflected in the attendance at the meeting. Yet my discussions showed that the political views and analysis of those attending were all over the place. A few examples:

One young man considers himself a Marxist, thinks that Stalin and Mao were anti-Marxist, thinks that the whole issue is that capitalism and imperialism have to go, and thinks that Nader is working for this! (This man has an official position in the local Nader committee and I’ve never seen him around any of the revisionist groups.)

A former anarchist who later supported the Sparts (and a friend of his) admit that Nader has “problems” but argues that the campaign can somehow be used to raise the consciousness of the masses. And a much younger former supporter of the Socialist Alliance takes the same position. Tentatively put talk of Nader perhaps channeling existing consciousness and energy away from decisive tasks like building up an independent working class movement and party in the course of building up a movement that fights through strikes, demonstrations and other forms of mass struggle, etc., and into simply the electoral arena (behind Nader’s illusion-filled “initiatory democracy” politics) was brushed aside with comments that Nader doesn’t promote himself as a savior, “in fact he does the very opposite”, etc.

A young woman came up to me and said that the American people would never accept communism (the only such comment I received all night). Why was that? Because they wouldn’t stand being bossed around and working for the enrichment of others(!). Of course I calmly replied that she probably had a mistaken idea of what communism was, that we didn’t think it was what existed in the Soviet Union of Stalin, etc., and began some discussion on how what she described was actually what occurred under capitalism and how we proposed to fight this very thing. But the interesting thing was that I never got to finish the discussion because two or three people jumped in on my side. (Unfortunately, they were a little less democratic in their approach than I was and a reasoned discussion soon ended.)

Besides the two people formerly associated with anarchism or revisionism mentioned so far, there were several other people formerly associated with revisionism (one or two of which may still maintain some organized link) in attendance. These included an old Trotskyist (the oldest person at the meeting), a former R.U. [Revolutionary Union, a predecessor of today’s RCP — CV] associate who later became president of the X union here (and who has floated in the reformist in the years since his union was liquidated), and a former (?) member of the F.S.P. I think the average age of those attending was in the 30s. with quite a few people being in their 20s, and a smaller number being in their 40s, SOs, and 60s. Besides the Nader literature, CV was the only literature distributed.

The question of the new Labor Party was brought up by the former anarchist/former Spartacist supporter He was critical of it from the angle that it wasn’t running candidates and thought that this might be because it really wanted the workers to support the Democrats after all. He was interested in what I had to say on the way the founding convention was run. In the same discussion the former supporter of Socialist Alliance indicated that he barely knew that the Labor Party had been founded but tried to defend its not running candidates on the grounds that maybe it needed to consolidate itself and build up strength first. (But then what is the L.P saying on the current elections? Just because it’s not running candidates doesn’t mean that it has no responsibility to give a stand on them if it’s not opportunist.) Neither of these individuals was interested in buying CV.

Also, it was at the Nader fundraiser that we first learned that Clinton was coming to town and that there would be a demonstration (supported by the Nader Committee and several other groups) to denounce him.

* * * *

We discussed Nader’s politics a short time at our study group meeting last Sunday. One of the things raised was that Nader, like the Libertarians, points backward in time to a glorified version of Jeffersonian democracy, a time when “the people” (small farmers in the North — not the slaves, not the Native Americans, not the indentured workers, etc.) allegedly had all kinds of power. There’s in fact a lot of petty-bourgeois utopianism in his campaign and it does have an appeal to the petty-bourgeoisie. But this appeal is mainly restricted to various professionals, teachers, technocrats, “yuppies”, etc., because of Nader’s environmentalism and his working for government regulations. The outright small capitalists generally hate these things and tend more toward the Libertarian brand of petty-bourgeois utopianism. (Of course Ralph Nader doesn’t propose going too far backward in time, i.e., to the time before capitalism gave rise to giant corporations and monopolies — of course we don’t either. Instead he accepts that these things are and therefore always will be — and of course we don’t accept this. And from this standpoint he proposes that the corporations be regulated, democratized, etc.)

Warm regards,

Frank []