Defeat US Imperialism With Workers' Revolution!
Boston: How To End The War?
Reformist Movement Leaders Have No Answer
The Greater Boston Stop the Wars Coalition (STWC) is organizing a meeting for Friday, May 18, headlined “Ending the War: Peace Movement Leaders Ask, ‘Which Way Forward’?” The panelists, ranging from self-proclaimed socialists to representatives of beltway lobbying groups and the Quakers, are a representative sample of the “peace movement” nationwide. Although the “movement” is divided between a variety of “coalitions,” both nationally and locally, they all have the same basic political makeup. You have one or two socialist groups at the core posing as “just us peace folks”; they all put forward a minimum “democratic” program aimed at attracting support from mainstream liberals; and they all manage to drag one or another bourgeois politician onto the speakers platform for their demonstrations to gain the desired veneer of “respectability.” What none of these coalitions have is a program to mobilize power to stop the warmongers in their tracks: the power of the working class.
Not that they ignore workers, of course. They all want to include “labor” as one more constituency in their “broad” movements. Socialist Alternative (SAlt), which leads the Boston-area STWC, in an article calling to “Build the Antiwar Movement” in its newspaper Justice (April-May 2007) talks of the need to “broaden the antiwar opposition into the working class.” Yet what’s needed is not to get some “labor leaders” to sign on to toothless petitions begging the Democratic Congress to withdraw troops from Iraq, or even to have union contingents in peace parades in Washington or locally, but to organize workers action against the imperialist war on a class basis. An article on the SAlt web site claims that the Boston STWC, is “independent of the Democrats and has a democratic-making process.” Yet while national groups like United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), Troops Out Now Coalition (TONC), ANSWER and the rest may get the big-name Democrats like Jesse Jackson, Dennis Kucinich or Cynthia McKinney. STWC gets Boston city councilors like Felix Arroyo and Chuck Turner. The basic politics are the same.
For decades a host of opportunist socialists have organized such “coalitions” as popular fronts, which chain the workers organizations and sectors of the oppressed to would-be bourgeois “allies.” The term popular front was coined by the followers of Joseph Stalin in the mid-1930s as the once-revolutionary Communist parties turned into vulgar reformists who do not seek to overthrow capitalist rule, only to “reform” the unreformable. As a spokesman for the American Trotskyists wrote in the 1930s:
“Most significant of all is the application of the People’s Front policy to ‘anti-war work.’ Through a multitude of pacifist organizations, and especially through the directly controlled American League against War and Fascism, the Stalinists aim at the creation of a ‘broad, classless, People’s Front of all those opposed to war.’ The class collaborationist character of the People’s Front policy is strikingly revealed through the Stalinist attitude in these organizations. They rule out in advance the Marxist analysis of war as necessarily resulting from the inner conflicts of capitalism and therefore genuinely opposed only by revolutionary class struggle against the capitalist order; and, in contrast, maintain that all persons, from whatever social class or group, whether or not opposed to capitalism, can ‘unite’ to stop war.”
–James Burnham, The Peoples Front – The New Betrayal, 1937)
STWC “independent of the Democrats”? Let’s see. According to the article on the Socialist Alternative web site quoted above, at the last STWC protest, SAlt members chanted, “What the hell is Congress for? Cut the funding, stop the war!” What the hell is Congress for? It’s a legislative body of the capitalist ruling class whose job is to rubber-stamp imperialist wars, outlaw strikes and the like, as any real Marxist could tell you! By playing to democratic illusions, SAlt’s slogans subordinate antiwar protesters to the Democratic party. History has shown that if the imperialists are not defeated by workers revolution, the end of one bloody adventure only marks the beginning of the next. Each imperialist slaughter is decried by protests that implore the rulers to redirect the billions spent on senseless carnage to social needs (“books not bombs,” “jobs not war,” etc.), which invariably and inevitably fall on deaf ears because you can’t stop war under capitalism.
If we don’t attack the root cause of imperialist war, today’s youthful anti-war protesters will be shuffling from one anti-war “movement” to the next until they are drafted or exchange their sneakers for walkers. The struggle against war is necessarily a class struggle, because it is the capitalist drive for ever-expanding markets and resources, the competition between the great imperialist powers for domination over the oppressed and colonized peoples, and inter-imperialist struggles for world hegemony that are behind the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s why we of the Internationalist Group and League for the Fourth International insist that it is necessary to fight imperialist war with class war, and that we must defeat imperialism and its endless wars through international socialist revolution.
The only “anti-war movement” that succeeded in stopping an imperialist war was the Russian revolution of 1917, led by the Bolshevik party of Lenin and Trotsky. For the Bolsheviks, ending the war was inextricably tied to proletarian revolution: getting to the root cause of imperialist war by turning the imperialist war into a civil war of the oppressed against their oppressors. Without the Bolsheviks' uncompromising stance for the defeat of their “own” capitalist government and for the defense of the weaker nations oppressed by their government, they could never have ended the imperialist slaughter of World War I.
Today's fake-socialists pursue the opposite policy: they build a class-collaborationist antiwar movement dedicated to pressuring “their own” imperialist government, rather than propagandizing to the workers to sweep away the rule of capital. The opportunists’ first and only consideration is not “what will it take to end the war,” but “what will be acceptable to our liberal and reformist allies in the ‘broad’ movement.” These cynics end up reinforcing the bourgeoisie in its moment of greatest crisis: they are obstacles to socialist revolution.
In its pretense of being “independent of the Democrats,” what is Socialist Alternative’s “alternative”? In an article titled “Time to Break with the Democratic Party – Build an Antiwar, Anti-corporate Alternative!” (Justice, March-April 2007) SAlt writes: “Imagine if the main leaders of the antiwar, immigrant rights, civil rights, and women’s organizations also threw their resources and authority into building a new broad-based, antiwar, anti-corporate, working-class political party” (Justice, March-April 2007). In the first place, the present misleaders of all these organizations are bound hand-and-foot to capitalist politics. To call on them to set up a new party is to spread illusions – anything they set up is just going to be a pressure group on the Democrats. Moreover, most antiwar, civil rights, women’s and immigrant rights organizations are themselves bourgeois organizations or coalitions. The purpose of SAlt’s whole elaborate formula is to dance around and water down the straightforward call for a revolutionary workers party. And the real content of their article is a barely-disguised plea for Ralph Nader to run for president again in 2008.
In 2000 and 2004, Socialist Alternative endorsed Nader, pitching him as an “antiwar,” “anti-corporate” candidate against the Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry. “Antiwar”? Ralph Nader’s 2004 election platform called for the “development of an appropriate international peace-keeping force.” Like NATO “peacekeeping” forces in Bosnia and Kosovo? What about Iraq? “We want to have a responsible six-month withdrawal of the US military and corporate occupation,” Nader told NPR on 9 July 2004 in a debate with Democrat Howard Dean. These days, that would put Nader to the right of some Congressional Democrats, roughly in the camp of the former war hawk and Marine general John Murtha. Some “antiwar” alternative! Nader is also an immigrant-basher, opposing calls for legalization of undocumented workers “because you are giving a green light to cross the border illegally”! Nader made this disgusting statement in an interview with the fascistic Pat Buchanan in the latter’s magazine, American Conservative (21 June 2004). Nader’s support for the “anti-globalization movement” is based on national-chauvinist protectionism, a platform which “unites” him (and Socialist Alternative) with the likes of Buchanan.
It is from such “movements” that SAlt intends to fashion its “broad” “anti-corporate” “alternative” to the Democrats. To unite the multinational working class in struggle against imperialist war, we need an internationalist, working-class revolutionary program. The Internationalist Group says: No to protectionism, yes to proletarian internationalism! Full citizenship rights for all immigrants!
Socialist Alternative constantly seeks to fudge the class line, and nowhere is this more clear than over the question of the police. A week after the September 11 terrorist attacks, in a statement calling to “End the Cycle of Terrorism” (how “even-handed”!) SAlt wrote, “If the police fail to protect immigrants, Arabs, or Muslims from violent attacks, defense committees should be formed….” If the cops fail to protect immigrants?! Hold on a minute. The police are the armed fist of the capitalist state, and their job, before and after September 11, has been to keep the “peace” of racist exploitation, which includes persecuting, imprisoning and even murdering blacks, immigrants and workers. In response to the NYPD's assassination of Sean Bell on November 26 last year, SAlt's refrain (in a 17 December 2006 leaflet) was: “Establish independent, elected labor-community bodies to investigate charges of police abuse and review police activities with powers to meaningfully punish misconduct.” The experience of “civilian review boards” and “cop watch” programs is that they are toothless devices to divert and demobilize mass protests against racist police atrocities.
“Labor-community bodies” to “meaningfully punish” killer cops?!! Not without a revolution. As Karl Marx noted in drawing the lessons of the 1871 Paris Commune, “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes” (The Civil War in France). This understanding is a key difference separating revolutionary communists from social-democratic reformists like Socialist Alternative who think that it is possible to deal with racist cop terror by pressuring the institutions of the capitalist state. These are just the sort of dangerous illusions that the German Social Democrats had who thought that the police could “protect” workers against the threat of fascism. When Hitler came to power and used this repressive apparatus to jail and kill hundreds of thousands of socialists and communists and to murder millions of Jews in the Nazi extermination camps, they all paid for the reformists’ suicidal illusions.
Socialist Alternative and the Stop the Wars Coalition are not the only peace group active in the Boston area. The Workers World Party (WWP) and its International Action Center (IAC) periodically hold antiwar demonstrations. In Boston, the WWP/IAC have joined with some priests and local bourgeois politicians in the Rosa Parks Human Rights Day Coalition. Trading on the civil rights movement icon’s name, in the fall of 2005 they organized an event to scold black and Latino youth to “stop the violence.” WWP recently hailed the non-binding resolution passed by the Boston City Council on February 14 to “support our troops by bringing them home” as an “anti-war” resolution. Yet this resolution states, “Whereas, officials of the Boston Police Department have testified at City Council hearings that a major difficulty in maintaining the number of officers on the streets at 1990 levels results from the cut backs in federal resources that were provided during that period.” So WWP/IAC wants to “bring ‘our’ troops home” so they can trade in their rifles and fatigues for pistols and badges!
Break with the “Antiwar” Popular Front! Build a Revolutionary Workers’ Party!
Any serious opponent of imperialist war must ask what are they accomplishing by building the STWC, the Rosa Parks Committee or any of the other “antiwar coalitions”? In reality, they chain the oppressed to the “liberal” wing of the ruling class, the ones who currently bemoan “Bush’s war” in Iraq but yesterday hailed Clinton’s wars on Yugoslavia. All they are doing, in short, is to give war a chance. Today the Democrats have become the main war party, because for all their bellyaching about “setting a date” to “begin” withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq (but not Afghanistan), it is their votes in Congress that fund the imperialist war machine. This what the popular front does, just as in the 1930s when it lined up the militant workers of the CIO industrial unions behind Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Democratic Party and ultimately the second imperialist world war.
The tactic of the united front, as developed by Lenin and Trotsky’s Communist International, sought to bring mass working-class organizations into struggle around common, immediate goals, and to expose the treachery of the reformist leaders of the workers’ organizations who opposed the struggle. This requires that the revolutionary elements retain their full political program and openly criticize the reformists. “Antiwar coalitions” like STWC (or UFPJ, TONC, ANSWER, etc.) are something else entirely: the pseudo-socialist organizations that do the donkey work agree with the churches, non-profits and various irrelevant paper organizations on a lowest common denominator program in the framework of bourgeois politics: “bring the troops home,” for “no (American) blood for (Iraqi) oil.” This program cannot stop this and future wars, because it accepts the basic capitalist framework that generates endless war.
The Internationalist Group/League for the Fourth International, in contrast, calls for workplace meetings, labor protests, walkouts, and strikes against the war. We call on workers in the key shipping industries to refuse to move, that is, “hot-cargo” supplies for the war. We say that the only way to defeat imperialism and free the world from the threat of war is through socialist revolution. It is necessary to break with the Democrats and all the bourgeois parties and politicians, like the Greens and the Naders, and to oust the pro-capitalist union bureaucrats and other misleaders who lead the oppressed to embrace their oppressors. There is no half-way solution: the hard truth is that there is no “alternative” to, no short-cut to get around the struggle for a revolutionary workers’ party. The mission of the Internationalist Group/League for the Fourth International is to build the nucleus of this party. n
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