More on the ''defend Iraq'' slogan:

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


. On Dec. 1, 1990, the Workers' Advocate carried an article "Should the anti-war movement 'defend Iraq'?" The Trotskyists of the Spartacist League replied to this article, and a polemical exchange ensued. The MLP's side was represented by a three-part series in the Workers' Advocate Supplement, the article below being part one of this series. It originally appeared in the WAS of Feb. 20, 1991 (vol. 7, #2). It was reprinted in Communist Voice of October 1, 1996 (vol. 2, #5).
The SL place their anti-imperialist hopes in the victory of Saddam's bayonets
SL's view of the oppressed countries eliminates the class movements
"Three worldist" disregard of the class struggle
SL denounces the anti-war movement in the U. S. as ''peace crawls''
Labor political strikes against the war
Looking towards the pro-capitalist trade union apparatus
Is it support for the Democrats to denounce Bush?
Worshipping world revisionism even as it collapses
An anti-imperialism that has little to do with the independent motion of the toilers

. 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 [1990] 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 with the 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 the Iraqi tyranny from day to day. Yesterday the American bourgeoisie, led by Reagan and then Bush, flirted with Saddam, covered up his crimes against the Kurds, and even gave him some military support. Today Bush calls him the new Hitler. And the liberal politicians follow in the wake of bourgeois opinion, quibbling with 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. The article The Spartacist League (SL) has taken it upon itself to answer it. In the issue of their paper, Workers' Vanguard, of January 18 [1991], they comment on our stand. (Elsewhere in this issue of the Supplement, we reprint the section of their article that deals directly with us. ) 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 "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 present call to the masses 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 Yüan 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 Yüan Shih-kai, that adventurer, traitor and friend of reaction, crush a republic in 'backward' Asia. " (Collected Works, Vol. 19, p. 100, emphasis 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 to 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 [1991] 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.

Worshipping 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" (emphasis added). [I.e., SL doesn't recognize the right to self-determination unless it likes the leadership of the nation in question. -- ed.]

. 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. <>

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Last changed on March 14, 2003.