The Workers' Advocate Supplement

Vol. 7 #4


April 20, 1991

[Front page: Military and CIA recruiters, get out of the high schools]


About "Replying to American Communists": Communism and the class struggle.................................. 3

Sham militancy or real struggle?...................................... 2
Trotskyist Spartacist League on MLP's refutation of the "Defend Iraq" slogan........................................................ 8
The experience of the war and the fiasco of "military support" for Hussein......................................................... 12

Military and CIA recruiters, get out of the high schools

Sham militancy or real struggle

On the views of the Portuguese comrades on the tasks during the collapse of revisionism:

Communism develops with the class struggle

For your reference:

Trotskyist "Spartacist League" on MLP's refutation of the "Defend Iraq" slogan

The experience of the war and the fiasco of "military support" for Saddam Hussein

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

Military and CIA recruiters, get out of the high schools

From the March 24 issue of Chicago Workers Voice, paper of the MLP-Chicago. There was also another article against the war and articles against layoffs at Donna's meatpacking Jim Edgar's state budget cuts for Illinois, and the USPS program of squeezing the postal workers.


Military recruiters are doing poorly lately. This is no surprise. The Gulf War has shown the reality of the military. It is a war machine. It is an imperialist army. The military's lies of opportunity, of job training, of money for education, are vividly clashing with the reality of dying in a war for the greater greed and glory of U.S. imperialism.

The military is sending its recruiters to the Chicago high schools, such as to Benito Juarez. The recruiters claim they want to help the youth get ahead, but all they want are soldiers to fight for the profits of the oil companies and other capitalists. They want cannon-fodder to use to defend the rich U.S. imperialists from their rivals, to get rid of regimes that don't follow the U.S. baton, and to put down the just struggles of the toilers abroad and at home. When the little bully Hussein grabbed Kuwait, the big imperialist bully Bush sent 500,000 soldiers over to the Middle East to put his friend, the Emir of Kuwait, back in power, thus restoring U.S. domination over the Kuwaiti oil fields.

The history of U.S. imperialism is a history of war. Before the Middle East it was Panama, and before that, tiny little Grenada. And we will never forget Viet Nam where the U.S. carried out massive bombing targeting any building over one story high in North Viet Nam; where they carried out scorched earth tactics against the South Vietnamese people. Not to mention the ongoing role of the U.S. military against the popular movements in El Salvador and other Latin American countries.

CIA recruiters are even going to Benito Juarez. It looks like they can't find native Spanish-speaking and bilingual college students who are willing to do their dirty work and so they are turning to the high schools. It is the CIA that the U.S. government uses for its special secret dirty work, like overthrowing other governments, and secretly aiding repressive and fascist regimes. Assassination plots and coups by the CIA are too numerous to count. For example, there is the CIA role in the coup d'etat in Chile where the democratically-elected government of Allende was over- thrown and the fascist Pinochet put in power. The CIA trained the rightist death squads in El Salvador and other countries; it organized and backed the contras against Nicaragua; the CIA itself mined Nicaragua's harbors. Bush himself is a CIA man; he beaded the CIA under President Ford.

During the war in the Middle East the government launched a whole patriotic propaganda campaign to try and line the working people up behind the war drive of the rich. This has been taken to the youth through the schools with yellow ribbon campaigns and write-to-a-soldier campaigns and so forth. The military recruiters are part of this pro-imperialist military campaign, whitewashing the U.S. military as defenders of peace and democracy, and lying about the great benefits for the youth in the military. Why should the minority students at Benito Juarez, who are oppressed here in the U.S., sign up to fight and die for the U.S. in its wars abroad?

And when the Army is called out against the just rebellions of the people inside the U.S.-as the Army and National Guard were used against the rebellion of the Black people in the late '60's--or when troops are used against striking workers--such as the coal miners and the postal workers in the 1970's-the working class and minority youth in the military will be used to attack the poor in the service of the rich. The U.S. military machine defends the interests of the capitalist class at home and abroad. It is not an army acting in the interests of the workers and the oppressed minorities of the U.S. nor does it defend the workers and oppressed of other countries.

Many students at Benito Juarez are the children of immigrants. Their parents came to the U.S. in desperation because of the harsh conditions in their own countries caused by the domination of U.S. imperialism. Why should they sign up and join the military aiding in this oppression abroad?

On the contrary the military and CIA recruiters should be thrown out of the schools! And an anti-imperialist movement should be built up amongst the students. During the movement against the Viet Nam war in the 60's, students organized mass actions against recruiters, forcing them off of, and even banning from, many college campuses and some high schools. ROTC facilities and programs were attacked, and ROTC was discontinued at some campuses for years. The fight against the lying military recruiters is part of the fight against imperialism and war.

For education, not imperialism!

The city schools are a disaster, especially in the minority areas. Police roam the corridors. There is no decent education nor job training. The youth should not have to join the imperialist military or ROTC in the hopes of getting a decent and affordable education. Students need to build a movement to defend their interests and against the rich, their wars and their military. In fact it was the struggle of the Mexican community that led to bilingual education and Benito Juarez in the first place. Carry on the anti-imperialist traditions of the Mexican community! Our war is at home!

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Sham militancy or real struggle

The April 1 issue of the Workers' Advocate carried the article "Lessons from the anti-war movement/Militancy or no?" The following article was left out for lack of space.

The war in the Persian Gulf raised the question of how to fight imperialism. Different activists and groups in the anti-war movement had different views on this.

Most Trotskyist groups had their own version of anti-imperialism. They claimed it meant giving the slogan "defend Iraq" (Spartacist League) or "victory to Iraq" (RWL) or some variant. With these slogans, they meant "military support" for Saddam Hussein's regime, which is a brutal tyranny over the Iraqi toilers.

For these groups, there were only two sides: Bush and Saddam Hussein. Therefore, they held, to oppose Bush, you had to render "military support" to Saddam Hussein.

We, on the contrary, declared from the start that the only true anti-imperialism was to support the toiling masses in Iraq as well as the United States. We stressed opposition to U.S. imperialism, which is both "our own" exploiter and the leading world imperialist policeman. At the same time, we held that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, and his invasion of Kuwait had nothing to do with anti-imperialism or the interests of the Iraqi people. There was nothing to choose in the squabble between the world bully Bush and the regional bully Hussein. Anti-imperialism required opposing the war machines and oppressive systems of both sides.

We opposed support for either Bush or Saddam, but instead stood for the development of the revolutionary movement in the U.S. as well as in Iraq and the Middle East.

The tragic war has verified that Saddam's anti-popular tyranny had nothing anti-imperialist in it. It was a thin reed to rely on, and a dishonorable stand for anyone claiming to be a friend of the toilers.

And the popular revolts against Hussein have verified that there was indeed a third force in this situation, the toiling masses. Whatever the immediate outcome of the revolts, it has been revealed even to the blind that the Iraqi people hate tyranny.

Furthermore, Bush and the Pentagon didn't welcome the popular revolts against Hussein. Instead they breathed easier with every setback to these movements, and even gave Hussein some room to suppress them.

An anti-imperialism without the people

But how have the advocates of "military support to Hussein" reacted?

So far we only have their initial views. They have been annoyed with the struggle against tyranny and hinted that the revolts against Hussein are simply a creation of imperialism or other regimes.

A flagrant example is the March 1 issue of RWL's Fighting Worker. It is headlined "Avenge Iraq!" Perhaps, the reader may think, RWL has seen the light and wants to avenge the Iraqi masses for the crimes of both U.S. imperialism and Hussein's tyranny? Not at all. They are still rendering their "military Support" to Hussein's regime. They go so far as to denounce the Iraqi soldiers who refused to die to the last man for Hussein and instead surrendered en masse. And they praise the Republican Guard, the elite troops of the regime which are now engaged in massacring the people.

Is this because RWL didn't yet know about the popular uprising?

Not at all.

It had already broken out. And RWL wasn't pleased. RWL still doesn't look to the masses in Iraq, but instead blames the world for the fiasco of its "defend Iraq" slogan. Why, according to them, if only the regimes in Egypt or Syria or elsewhere had been overthrown. But for that matter, what about revolution in Iraq? Well, RWL wouldn't mind--provided every Iraqi revolutionary first dies on the front lines in Kuwait.

With their stand of "military support" for Hussein, the RWL also ends up denouncing the anti-war movement. It writes: "The antiwar movement in the US was of little help once the war began." Just like the Trotskyist Spartacists, who also "defend Iraq", they identify the anti-war movement with the liberal politicians and their reformist hangers-on. They don't see any value in the fervent struggle of masses of activists. All this was of "little help."

It might be said, with more accuracy, that RWL was of little help to the anti-war movement.

RWL'S style of "anti-imperialism" has nothing to do with the real struggles among the oppressed. They have disassociated themselves from the mass of activists in the U.S. as well as from the rebellious Iraqi toilers. All they see is the existing regimes and powers-that-be.

Real anti-imperialism is based on the toilers

True anti-imperialist work didn't consist in speculating on the victory of Hussein's bayonets, nor in damning the anti-war movement in the U.S.

Anti-imperialism means supporting the toiling masses in Iraq and the Middle East. It encouraging their movements, both by openly discussing their shortcomings and by supporting their struggles against local tyrants and exploiters and against the world superpower, U.S. imperialism.

Anti-imperialism means working to build up the antiwar movement in the U.S. It means not damning the movement, but encouraging the new generation of activists coming into the anti-war struggle.

Anti-imperialism means real work, and not relying on a single magic formula, even if it were a correct formula. It means actually taking the anti-war movement to the working class neighborhoods and factories. It means doing patient work to show the real nature of the imperialist institutions to the masses.

The stand of "military support to Hussein" was an anti-imperialism without the masses, and even against the masses. It is no anti-imperialism at all, but just the whining of a slave who is too oppressed to even imagine a class struggle for liberation.

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On the views of the Portuguese comrades on the tasks during the collapse of revisionism:

Communism develops with the class struggle

The world is changing rapidly. From the collapse of revisionism to the changes in world imperialism, events are breaking up the old alignments, including those of the left-wing. It is a harsh period. But crises, no matter how painful, also have their revolutionary side. There is much in the left traditions of the past which has to be broken up and removed, one way or another.

On January 1, 1990 the Workers' Advocate published the editorial Tasks of workers' communism during the collapse of revisionism. It aimed to encourage revolutionaries around the world to seek communist answers to the problems of this era. It dealt both with the current problems of work among the masses, such as united front tactics, developing an open face for communism, maintaining contact with the masses even in a time of ebb, and building party organization, as well as the stand to the major world issues, such as the nature of revisionism, the theory of socialism, and the assessment of the world situation.

The Portuguese comrades of the OCPO (Communist Organization--Worker's Policy) have been working to resist the flood of opportunism and renegacy which has followed not just from the world collapse of revisionism, but also from the decline of the Portuguese movement since the revolutionary days of the mid-1970s. The OCPO translated and printed a not-always-accurate summary of Tasks of workers' communism in their journal, including the introductory remarks and fragments from the rest of it. Further, the OCPO took the occasion to set forward their own views on the present situation in their major article Replying to American Communists dated November 1990. It is good that the OCPO has elaborated its views, and one purpose of Tasks of workers' communism was to encourage such statements. So we reprinted Replying to American Communists in its entirety in the March 15 issue of the Supplement. We intend to discuss a number of the views they set forward, with this article being an introduction.

What is a thorough break with the opportunism of the past?

A notable feature of OCPO's reply is that they feel that little in the editorial Tasks of workers communism is worthy of consideration. They regard it as merely platitudes, and say that it is simply "an elementary enunciation of Marxist-Leninist principles". [1] Actually, however, they don't take our statements as elementary truths, but they disagree with them. They regard our views as a reflection of what is old and outdated.

Their statement emphasizes the need to create a bold, new departure. They believe that this will follow directly from sweeping statements about Soviet history. Replying to American Communists sets forth the outlines of their approach, which aims to upset anything ready-made from the past. At every step, they justify their views by citing opposite statements from some figure of the past or some trend in the old movement.

Yet, when looked at a bit more closely, it turns out that many of their key declarations and views have not broken from the past at all. And often their assertions about a subject are not even consistent, but mainly express an attitude of despair about the decline of the revolutionary movement.

Attitude to the collapse of the old regimes

The OCPO talks of breaking with the ready-made answers of the past. Yet the OCPO discusses the collapse of the revisionist regimes, all it can see is disaster. They don't seem to regard the replacement of bureaucratic state- capitalism by western-style capitalism as another step in the evolution of capitalism, but as something else, the final liquidation of some sort of socialist remnants. And they seem to ask, what will happen to the national liberation movement, without the possibility of support from the revisionist countries?

The OCPO concedes that the collapse of the revisionists regimes is clearing the way for the class struggle. But they apparently regard this as another pale platitude. They end up ambivalent towards the collapse of East European revisionism. And in their commentary after the events of spring '89, they were especially upset with the Chinese mass movement.

For years, when revolutionaries sought to build an anti-revisionist movement, they faced the objection that world capitalism will crush the mass struggles unless there is support from the revisionists. All too few were those who dared to stand up independently against both world revisionism and Western capital. More typical were those who might criticize revisionism, even severely, but who nevertheless regarded the revisionist regimes as somehow outside of world capitalism. Whatever OCPO's intention, Replying to American Communists combines the denunciation of the revisionist countries with shock about having to live in a world without them.

An Intermediate stage between capitalism and socialism?

The OGPO believes it has something new and important to say about the nature of the revisionist regimes. The OCPO accepts that these were state-capitalist regimes, but regards this as an old and tired-out view that fails to grasp what is really at stake.

Instead Replying to American Communists stresses that these regimes had features separate in some way from capitalism. True, the OCPO officially opposes and polemicizes against the idea of something intermediate between capitalism and socialism. But their own descriptions of these regimes again and again suggests something intermediate. The OCPO sets forward that they had, over the decades, an "embryonic" system. [2] It oversimplifies their economic systems as one totally without "competition", while apparently regarding competition as the hallmark of capitalism. [3] It can cannot see the imperialism of Soviet revisionism, except as embryonic, because of the relative economic weakness of the USSR, ignoring that Tsarist imperialism also had the same peculiarity.

The result is that the OCPO doesn't give a deeper analysis of bureaucratic state-capitalist economy, but repeats some of the old arguments put forward by those regarding it as an intermediate form.


The OCPO lays stress on its analysis of "centrism." In the past, OCPO's main criticism of our Party has been our supposed failure to break from centrism.

But what is centrism? At one point Replying to American Communists describes it as "look(ing) for an intermediate stage between bolshevism and revisionism". [4] But at other points they themselves describe that "the stalinist regime was placed in an intermediate position, which is distinct from the revolutionary years as well as from the revisionist decay". (emphasis in the original) [5] This intermediate position was illustrated by the supposed policies of "intransigence towards the internal bourgeois forces, the defense of the USSR's economic and political independence, the interest in the international communist movement, the proclamation of an unswerving fidelity to socialism, to leninism and to the road of October". [6]

According to our research into the Soviet policies of the mid-30s, as well as of Stalin's post-World War II policies, this is simply a false description. The policies put forward trampled on Leninism and socialism in. everything but name, developed the party into the bastion of the new bourgeoisie, acted crudely and cynically towards world communism, and so forth.

Moreover, does OCPO regard this centrism as revisionist or not? The OCPO article says "it is of no use to try to evaluate the stalinist regime according to the dilemma 'revolutionary or counterrevolutionary?', 'marxist or revisionist?', since it does not help us to understand its place in the total trajectory of the USSR' " [7]

In fact, therefore, the OCPO's own analysis of centrism defines it as some type of intermediate form between communism and revisionism. As we have noted, Replying to American Communists evades saying that the centrist policies were revisionist or Marxist. And, for example, when it says the centrist polices expressed a "national bourgeois strategy", it strangely enough seems to regard this as another reason why one shouldn't talk of revisionism. [8] It says "it seems completely out of place to criticize this policy on the basis of proletarian internationalism" because "it was a bourgeois nationalist policy linked to reformist and pacifist mirages." [9]

This is a just confused jumble of views and not a bold new departure.

A new standpoint about strategy, tactics and method of work?

The OCPO statement promises that its answers to Soviet history will provide the basis for "a new standpoint about problems such as the party and the revolution, strategy, tactics, and style of work. Marxism cannot ever be what it was before, especially after this vast experience." (emphasis as in the original) [10]

But the article refuses to directly discuss any of the problems of method of work dealt with in Tasks of workers communism. When it does touch on these problems, it has little new to say.

Near the end of Replying to American Communists it suggests that too much attention to the problem of maintaining links with the masses would result in concessions to popularity and a degeneration towards reformism. [11] This is an old idea that reflects the inability to formulate the actual differences between reformist and communist participation in the struggle.

Another example is that the Replying states that "Undoubtedly, Trotsky, and the other opposition members...rendered accurate criticism of the opportunism in external policy/' [12] It also states that Trotsky and other opposition members shared "the same economic and social premises" as Stalin, but this presumably refers to their stand towards internal policy. We ourselves are still examining the debates of the time in the Soviet Union, but it is certainly not true that there was an "accurate" description of what external policy should be. Presumably, Replying means that Trotsky and the other opposition members were correct in pointing to the existence of opportunism in external policy, and is not referring to their detailed views of what world communist policy should be. But in any case it appears that Replying is not that concerned with the concrete tactical and political problems of the external policy of that time. Here and elsewhere Replying to American Communists doesn't really seem to see the need for new answers, or even detailed consideration, of questions of tactics and methods of work, but apparently holds that the real issues are more general and sweeping and shouldn't be reduced to such minor matters.

When it comes to the question of party structure and party life, Replying to American Communists criticizes the oppressive and dictatorial structure of the revisionist parties. And indeed the revisionist model was a new and different type party from that of communism, just as communism itself requires a new and different type of party from the social-democratic parties, even from social-democracy as it was back in the days when it was revolutionary. But Replying actually provides little but indignation at the tyranny of the revisionist parties. Irony about the revisionist model being new, about complete unity of action, and about the methods of dealing with opportunism does not go too far in providing new ideas to distinguish between the bureaucratic revisionist party of internal tyranny and the communist party of conscious struggle.

Was there 'passionate revolutionary work' in the past?

The OCPO seems to believe that referring to the "revolutionary work of past" or admitting the existence of a past "revolutionary wave" means failing to break decisively with the wrong ideas of the past. Replying discusses the revolutionary wing of the upsurge of the 60s as "basically, a movement criticizing decaying state capitalism according to the values of ascending state capitalism". It talks of it as mainly an external extension of the views of China and Albania. [13]

But denying that there was a real revolutionary movement is not a radical departure from past opportunism. Or the contrary, this denial actually undermines the criticism of the opportunism and revisionism that held back and misdirected the old struggles. If there was no revolutionary wave, then the failures and setbacks and disintegration of the old movement was mainly due to this lack of revolutionary content. Without a revolutionary content, without activists passionately committed to change, without the class struggle having given rise to a new wave of activists, it wouldn't matter what views the movement had, it would have been bound to fail anyway.

In the U.S., as the criticism of revisionism progressed, there were always small groups that denied any value to the past movement on the ground of the theoretical advances gained so painfully. Every few years, these groups denounced everything, including themselves, as worthless trash in the past, and thought that this made them the vanguard of the future. It is painful to see the OCPO adhere to the same practice. And it also tends to create a jumpy atmosphere about theoretical purity in the present, for theoretical mistakes in the present would render the current movement as worthless as the past.

Is it a break with the past to regard revolution as a platitude?

Replying to American Communists regards all references to the revolutionary developments underlying the present difficult conditions as useless optimism, a hiding of the problems of the present, and so forth. This goes so far that it is upset that Tasks of workers communism, while referring to the triumphant attitude of the bourgeoisie, also points to the bourgeoisie being a bit worried. [14] It doesn't matter that the bourgeois's own magazines and newspapers reflect this worry. The radical thing, in OCPO's eyes, is to wallow in how all-powerful the bourgeoisie is.

But communist work has to bring alive for the workers the abyss that capitalism is facing, and the progress of history towards revolution. This is also called socialist agitation. It is necessary not just in the days before a revolutionary upsurge, but in the long period of organizing the working class as an independent force during years of right-wing hegemony. In the Second International, there were those who saw revolutionary agitation as simply a religious catechism or a pale platitude. The left-wing considered this a revisionist betrayal of Marxism even though many parties faced long years and years of work before any prospect of deep crisis was apparent If the underlying factors leading to revolutionary change aren't something alive and living for the communists, how will, the communists ever imbue the working class with the desire to build a new society?

On the methods of theoretical work

Much of Replying to American Communists might appear to be a defense of theory against immersion in practice. But on closer examination, the OCPO displays as much impatience with theory as with concern with maintaining contact with the masses.

In the name of avoiding "historical idealism" or considering profound objective factors, they seem to downplay the importance of theory. Again and again one finds Replying to American Communists pouring scorn on the idea that the line of the movement could affect matters.

They are also impatient with our attempts to deal with the theory of socialism, to restudy Marx and Engels on socialism, or to study in detail the course of Soviet history. They are impatient with our slow and plodding approach, which involves the accumulation of a good deal of information, and the constant breaking down of broad generalities into many particular questions. They are even impatient with looking into whether Lenin's and Stalin's views differed on transitional measures to socialism. [15]

Instead the OCPO place their entire hopes on their present conclusions about Soviet history. They don't see the need for a detailed study of Soviet economy or politics or history. Instead they have made use of a method of brilliant guesses and generalizations about Soviet history. They accept as obvious various views about the Soviet Union given by various sources and search for a red interpretation to them, Sometimes they are right; sometimes in our view they are wrong; and sometimes they express cut-and-dried opinions on things which it will take us a good deal more time to answer ourselves one way or another. But they are actually not defending theoretical work so much as a set of answers, and they are impatient with our stress on the theoretical work itself.


But the riddles of Soviet history can't be solved without deeper work. The method of inspired guesswork can jump ahead rapidly, but it ends up in an impasse. And the method of simply negating what some opportunist or other said lacks serious value. So OCPO's generalities often end up in simply insisting that everything had to take place exactly as it did take place. And sometimes they end up in contradictions which they haven't thought through.

For example, when they wish to show the error of other people's views about what went wrong in the Soviet Union, they say that even posing the question of what went wrong means trivializing the matter. Why, they say, it means replacing materialism by the consideration of the errors of leaders and is just historical idealism. They hold that no question of line could have affected the outcome of the situation in the Soviet Union, and they repeat this in a thousand ways.

Yet they end their statement with a list of issues to look into, such as: How to form a close-knit network of organs of class dictatorship in order to ensure that they will not be replaced by bureaucratic degeneration? How to ensure workers' control over the factories? How to combine the widest democracy with inflexible repression over the counter-revolution? [16] These are all important issues, but they are no more or no less questions of line than the issues which they disparaged earlier as idealism. In fact, often they are the same issues.

They say that the objective conditions doomed the' socialist revolution in the Soviet Union, as it also doomed the prospects for socialism elsewhere in the revolutions throughout this century. But they then also say that this has been the epoch of transition from capitalism to socialism and imply that it is not necessary to judge what sort of revolution would be possible in each country, because the conditions should be judged on a world scale. [17]

They condemn what was done in the Soviet Union. But they say nothing else could have been. But what is the value of theory anyway, if it couldn't affect what happened? A revolution might be crushed by the class enemy or by foreign encirclement, that's true. But even if historical work proves that circumstances doomed the Soviet revolution, was it really inevitable that the communist party didn't recognize that the revolution had been defeated? Was it inevitable that the communists degenerate into new capitalist rulers? Even if a proper line couldn't prevent the doom of the revolution, couldn't it have led the communist party to stay among the masses and representing their class interests rather than becoming the party of the counterrevolution? To fail to see this is to close one's eyes to the extent of the historical tragedy.

Our differences with OCPO doesn't center on what year the revolution burned up, but on the method of approach. We ourselves are still examining the different periods of Soviet history and have not yet come to a conclusion about when the revolution came to an end. We shall undoubtedly take OCPO's views into consideration. But we believe that this historical study has to have a firm foundation. We also believe that the necessary communist theoretical work does not reduce itself to Soviet history. And we do not believe that the Communists of the world should divide among themselves based on their exact analysis of Soviet history.

A common language and the translation of 'Tasks'

One of the difficulties with the OCPO's methods of theoretical work is that it makes it hard to achieve a common language between the communists of different lands. For example, the OCPO repeatedly treats our views simply as a reflection of what it calls the "marxist-leninist trend", by which it is referring to the old anti-revisionist movement that collapsed into Chinese or Albanian revisionism. It doesn't matter that our views are different from those groups, or even that we have been in bitter ideological conflict with these groups. The OCPO still thinks that refuting the views of these groups thus means refuting us. It is notable how often the OCPO, in a reply to us, deals with the views of others, views quite different from ours.

An example of this is the summary of Tasks in their journal. We thank them for the attention they have paid to Tasks of Workers Communism. But unfortunately the way they prepared their summary would make it hard for the summary's readers to compare the varying frameworks being set forward by OCPO and by Tasks.

The description in Tasks of issues such as united front work, the task of theoretical work, the need for an open face of the party, etc. contained enough detail to take stands on some of the differences among the workers' communists on these issues. Although Tasks is not a long enough statement to do anything but speak briefly on these questions, it does raise these issues. The OCPO summary however tended to cut down the sections on these issues to just a few sentences expressing some generalities.

On the issue of theoretical questions related to the study of Soviet history, the OCPO's summary cuts out most of the reference to transitional measures. Yet the question of transitional measures is important to studying the differing frameworks in the study of Soviet history.

In a few places, the OCPO summary seems to have been mistaken. For example, in discussing the tasks of theory, it seems to have Tasks present the repudiation of the wrong line of the 7th Congress of the CI as part of the study of Soviet history. Actually, Tasks gives it as an example that "the theoretical tasks of the day are by no means restricted to the analysis of Soviet history. Many other issues of strategy and tactics of the revolution must be dealt with, from the nature of revolution in the oppressed countries to the question of united front tactics." Thus, on this point, the OCPO's summary appears to mistakenly attribute to Tasks the OCPO's view of the matter.

On the question of the origin of today's workers' communists, the summary has Tasks presenting it as springing pretty directly from the 60s and 70s and the anti-revisionist struggle of the time. In fact, Tasks says that, the origin goes back "ultimately" to struggles against revisionism, and it gives the struggles during the upsurge of the 60s and 70s as an example, not the sole and direct point of origin.

These drawbacks in OCPO's translation were not intentional. But they seem to have something to do with OCPO's preference for broad generalities instead of a close study of the particular features of a situation. They were hasty to attribute our views to carryovers from the old movement and apparently, to some extent, overlooked the views themselves.

The journal

Replying to American Communists ends by asserting that developing a communist program is the most important thing for the proletariat's reorganization 's an international revolutionary force. [18] They believe that this program "can unify once more all the exploited in the world and' prepare them for a new assault on the capitalist fortress". [19] And their practical proposal is that an "international journal of communist propaganda would be a positive step" towards this program. [20]

OCPO doesn't clarify what type of journal is proposing, who it thinks would support this journal, or why the declaration of a journal would surmount the practical problems that affect international theoretical cooperation at this time. Nor is Replying to American Communists consistent when it declare that our theoretical articles are precisely where we are resisting progress, and then put forward, as its immediate proposal, that we should be the major pillar of a new international journal dedicated, presumably, to theory.

We are in favor of international communist cooperation, both with respect to theory and for struggle against the bourgeoisie and imperialism. The OCPO's proposal, however, seems impractical to us. Instead we believe that the existing journals should strengthen their cooperation. The Workers' Advocate, as well as the journals of the OCPO and various other groups, has attempted to reflect views and controversies in the world movement, and this existing form should be improved.

Communism must spring anew from the struggles of today

Moreover, OCPO's proposal also one-sidedly separates the development of communist views from the over-all class struggle. It presents that the program itself will solve the problems of the movement. We believe, on the contrary, that the communist movement can and will develop only in conjunction with the class struggle and the ongoing world contradictions of today.

Tasks of workers' communism was based on the view that communist activists and movements come from the class struggle. It held that theory and historical work are a burning necessary for a movement that wants to be able to transform the world in a radical way, and not simply be a pressure group. But this theory develops alongside the overcoming of the difficulties of communist work, and our very ability to judge the complexities of yesterday is connected to the experience in revolutionary work which we gain today.

We don't think that our differences with OCPO's framework means that we can or should ignore their particular views. In the next article we intend to go deeper into some of the issues raised by their article Replying to American Communists.



Below are references to statements from Replying to American Communists. The page numbers are to the English translation published in the March 15 issue of the Supplement.

[1] Page 15, col. 1.

[2] For example, page 17, col. 1.

[3] For example, page 17, col..1.

[4] Page 18, top of col. 2.

[5] Page 19, bottom of col. 2.

[6] Page 19, middle of col. 2.

[7] Page 19, bottom of col. 2.

[8] Page 22, col. 2.

[9] Page 22, 2nd paragraph from the bottom of col. 2.

[10] Page 16, top of col. 1.

[11] Page 29, last paragraph of col. 2.

[12] Page 24, col. 2.

[13] Page 18, middle of col. 2.

[14] Page 16, col. 1-2.

[15] Page 24 col. 2 to page 25 col. 1.

[16] Page 30, col. 1-2.

[17] Page 28, bottom half of col. 2.

[18] Page 30, col. 1.

[19] Page 30, col. 2.

[20] Page 30, col. 2.

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For your reference:

Trotskyist "Spartacist League" on MLP's refutation of the "Defend Iraq" slogan

From the March 15 issue of Workers Vanguard, paper of the Spartacist League of the U.S. A reply begins on page 12.

"Anti-imperialists" who denounced defense of Iraq

MLP: "Ex"-Stalinists adrift

Part One of Two

Demonstrators at antiwar marches in January were handed an odd leaflet denouncing "Bush's war" and declaring "No more blood for imperialism," while ending with a polemic against the slogan "Defend Iraq." Published by the Marxist-Leninist Party (MLP), this tract is a case study in political schizophrenia. Filled with anti-imperialist phrases, the polemic appears to be directed at the most left-wing antiwar protesters. But what the MLP tells them is that they should oppose calls to defend the country which has been devastated by the Pentagon's murder machine.

In contrast, the Spartacist League called to "Defeat U.S. Imperialism'--Defend Iraq!" We Trotskyists say that the working people of the world had a side in this, war, to stand with the people of Iraq, an oppressed semicolonial nation, against the bloody onslaught of the imperialist powers and their cohorts and flunkeys. While denouncing the tyrant Saddam Hussein and calling for the working people of Iraq to work for the overthrow of the bloody Ba'athist regime, we drew a sharp class line against imperialism. As one SL sign put it, "Down with Washington's New War--A Defeat for 'Our' Rulers is a Victory for Us!"

Why are the MLP "Marxist-Leninists" so exercised to denounce those who sided with Iraq against the U.S. government? First off, this reflects a not-so-veiled effort to ingratiate themselves with the social-patriotic organizers of the "anti-war movement." The MLP's constant practice is to offer left criticisms while being careful not to overstep the bounds of what is acceptable to the organizers of such "popular-front" protests which tie the left to the Democratic Party of U.S. imperialism. The MLP wants to carve out a niche as the left tail of the pop front. But the price of admission to climb on board the bandwagon of the red-white-and-blue "peace" movement is to swear a loyalty oath. And the MLP's opposition to "defend Iraq" did that.

Its tailism was captured in one headline of its leaflet that declared, "Defy the Liberals, Don't Split the Movement." Oh sure, the MLP criticized those who called for "UN sanctions" and who declare they "support our troops." No problem, so did the SWP, FIT, RWL and a host of house-broken leftists. But the Democratic Party liberals drew the line at defense of Iraq. They even split from the January 19 D.C. demo organized by the rotten reformist Workers World Party and held an even more right-wing peace crawl the next week because the WWP didn't condemn Iraq. But the MLP did, with gusto.

Far from "defying the liberals," it went further, declaring that those guilty of "cheer-leading for the Iraqi side" represent a "current of opinion also a problem 'for the anti-war movement," and which "undermines building a serious anti-war movement." The "serious antiwar movement" that the MLP was building had as its main slogan "bring the/our troops home now." It was emphatically social-patriotic, talking only of American casualties and waving the stars and stripes all over the place. It also disappeared the minute it was clear that Bush could get the oil without spilling hardly any American blood, while making the Tigris and Euphrates run red with Iraqi blood. Obviously communists siding with "the enemy" would be considered "a problem" for such a movement which agreed with Bush's goals and only begged to differ with his methods.

The MLP's broadside against defense of Iraq was based on an article "Should the Anti-War Movement 'Defend Iraq'?" in their newspaper, Workers' Advocate (1 December 1990). Therein they criticized the WWP, ISO, Socialist Action and other nameless groups who are falsely equated with Trotskyism and who semi-, hemi-, demi-, sort-of sided with Iraq, usually in the fine print on the inside pages of their papers (since they are congenitally loath to take a stand that would be unpopular with the popular front). The unnamed chief culprit was the genuinely Trotskyist Spartacist League which uniquely and forthrightly defended Iraq against imperialist attack. We took the MLP (and other left groups who flinched at defense of Iraq) to task in our article "Down With the Two War Parties!" in WV No l. 518 (18 January). Now the MLP has come back with a lengthy (seven-page) response in their Workers' Advocate Supplement (20 February).

Before responding to their specific arguments, we'd like to say a word about why we are making the effort. In the first place, unlike the general practice on the left, the MLP didn't try to duck the issues but took them on directly, even reprinting the section of our article dealing with their group. As we noted in our article, in contrast to consummate cynics like the ISO or WWP who hide their supposed socialist politics whenever they become inconvenient, the MLP is noteworthy more for its confusionism. And secondly, these "Marxist-Leninists" have been put up against the wall politically by the terminal crisis of Stalinism. After having been some of the zaniest "The East Is Red" Maoists around, then following the lead of the helmsman of the Adriatic, Albania's Enver Hoxha, the MLP is now adrift on a sea of contradictions.

Leninism vs. Liberal Pacifism

So what arguments does the MLP use to justify its refusal to stand with Iraq against the onslaught of the most powerful imperialist military juggernaut in history? First and foremost, they try to paint calls for military defense of Iraq as "support for the tyranny of the Iraqi regime." This willful equating of military defense and political support is at the heart of the MLP's rationale. But they know full well that the Spartacist League doesn't "cheerlead" for Hussein. In fact, in their Supplement article they say the SL carries "hypocrisy to new heights" by being "among the most loudmouthed in demanding support for Hussein's military efforts, while at the same time it also shouts against Hussein."

But, they claim in order to cover their blatant distortion of our position, "this stand is impossible in practice," and accuse the SL of using "verbal tricks" to cover this up. So what are these "Spart tricks"? Well, that "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'." Some trick! In fact, the MLP is forced to admit that this stance might be appealing to would-be anti-imperialists: "To overthrow Hussein while defending Iraq might sound reasonable, if one forget[s] that what is meant by defending Iraq is lauding Hussein's military efforts."

What they're referring to is the "military effort" against the 500,000-plus U.S. troops and the warplanes that flew over 100,000 sorties against Iraq in the most concentrated bombing campaign in history. Any Iraqi worker or peasant, soldier, mother, father or youth who burns with anger against the mass murderers who turned their country into a killing field could only despise those leftists who refuse to support a war against the imperialist oppressors.

So why would professed Marxist-Leninists take such a position? The article in the December Workers' Advocate lets the cat out of the bag when it says that "the working people and youth instinctively feel" that since the "Iraqi regime is a despicable tyranny," Iraq "has no noble or "progressive goals in the war"--and therefore should not be defended. Obviously they are not referring to the workers and youth of the Near East, who demonstrated in the hundreds of thousands in defense of Iraq and for the defeat of U.S. imperialism. Rather they are responding to opinion in the U.S., where the population has had Bush's "Saddam equals Hitler" war propaganda relentlessly pushed down their throats.

When it came down to the duty of revolutionaries in the belly of the imperialist beast to stand for the defeat of their "own" rulers' bloody aggression, as the White House whipped up patriotic war frenzy at home, the MLP shamefully took a dive, bleating like any good pacifist liberal that "this is a criminal war on both sides." This is exactly the kind of thing Lenin was talking about when he insisted:

"..there must be no toleration of the verbal condemnation of imperialism while no real revolutionary struggle is waged for the liberation of the colonies (and dependent nations) from one's own imperialist bourgeoisie."

--"The Tasks of the Third International" (July 1919) [Collected Works, Vol. 29, p. 505, Section IV, the sentence begins with the word "Fourthly." --Sup.]

And what does the MLP say to the Iraqi masses? Well, "to the working people of Iraq and the Middle East, we say they are right to oppose the U.S. imperialist buildup...." But, pray tell, how are they supposed to do that without defending Iraq? And if this is an "unjust war on both sides," does this mean they call upon Iraqi soldiers to turn their guns around? This would have been quite pleasing to Washington, which hoped that its terror bombing would provoke a rebellion of officers in Iraq who would then fire in the same direction as Washington's troops. In other words, an organization that sought to put the MLP's line into practice in Iraq could only play a quisling role as U.S. puppets in the face of imperialist attack.

Defense of oppressed countries against imperialism

Evidently feeling pressure to defend its neutrality, in Washington's bloody war on Iraq, the MLP's polemics have grown increasingly tortured in attempting to square this shameful position with Leninism. Last fall the Spartacist League, in going after pseudo-socialists who refused to defend Iraq ("The Left and the Persian Gulf' Desperately Seeking Imperialist Doves," IFF No. 510, 21 September 1990), cited a classic quotation from the 1915 pamphlet by Lenin and Zinoviev, Socialism and War.

"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 oppressor, slave-holding and predatory 'Great' Powers."

[Lenin's Collected Works, vol. 21, pp. 300- 1, in the section "The difference between wars of aggression and of defense".-- Sup.]

In its December article, the MLP claimed there was no parallel between the "hypothetical wars Lenin was discussing" and Iraq today, because India was a colony, and besides, Hussein wasn't seeking a confrontation with imperialism. After we pointed out that at the time Morocco was ruled by a sultan, Persia by a military dictator, and China by a warlord--all of them reactionaries every bit as bloody as Saddam Hussein--the MLP now comes back with pages of a thoroughly scholastic attempt to prove that Lenin's 1915 position on China, India, Morocco "and so on" was not a general position on wars between imperialist countries and countries oppressed by imperialism.

They accuse us of quoting out of context in the service of the SL's "view...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." What the MLP derisively calls a "little set of stereotyped dogmas" is in fact the body of political principles of Bolshevism. They can twist and turn as much as they want, but we can cite any number of other quotes from Lenin making the same point. For example:

"A war against imperialist, i.e., oppressing, powers by oppressed (for example, colonial) nations is a genuine national war....'Defense of the fatherland' in a war waged by an oppressed national against a foreign oppressor is not a deception. Socialists are not opposed to 'defense of the fatherland' in such a war." --"A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism" (October 1916)

[Collected Works, vol. 23, p. 34, near the end of section 1. "The Marxist' attitude towards war and 'Defense of the fatherland' "--Sup.]

The MLP wants to claim that in Socialism and War, Lenin was not speaking of a war against imperialism by the bourgeois rulers but rather a "revival of the revolutionary movement."Not so. Lenin stated explicitly:

"To the extent that the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation struggles against the oppressing one, we are always, in every case, and more resolutely than anyone else, for it, because we are the staunchest and the most consistent enemies of oppression."

--"On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination" (February-May 1914) [Collected Works, vol. 20, pp. 411-2, about half way through section 4. "'Practicality' in the National Question"--Sup.]

The MLP also implies that Iraq is not an oppressed country. It quotes Lenin's reference to "semi-colonies, as, for example, Persia, Turkey and China," and then concludes: "This meant that their situation was quite different from present-day Iraq." Under Hussein, they say, Iraq seeks "to become a regional bully." Would the MLP like to claim that Turkey was not then acting as a bully toward the subject peoples of the collapsed Ottoman Empire? In his famous "Report of the Commission on the National and Colonial Questions" at the Second Congress of the Comintern (1920), Lenin stated:

"The characteristic, feature of imperialism consists in the whole now divided into a large number of oppressed nations and an insignificant number of oppressor nations, which command colossal wealth and powerful armed forces.... The oppressed nations...are either in a state of direct colonial dependence or are semi-colonies such as Persia, Turkey and China, or else, having been defeated by the armies of a big imperialist power, have become greatly dependent on that power by virtue of peace treaties. This idea of distinction, of dividing the nations into oppressor and oppressed, run through all the theses."

[--Collected Works, vol. 31, pp. 240-241]

Not relevant to Iraq today, comrades?

Does this mean that the SL "has lost sight of the toiling masses and the revolutionary movements," that we engage in Maoist-style "cheerleading" for "Third World" bourgeois governments as the MLP claims? On the contrary, the Trotskyists have always fought against any political alliance with the bourgeoisie, both in imperialist and in backward capitalist countries. Trotsky's program of permanent revolution, which was confirmed by the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, explains that the "national" bourgeoisie in nations of belated capitalist development is tied by a thousand threads to the imperialist order, and is therefore incapable of carrying through the tasks of bourgeois-democratic revolution. These can only be achieved through the dictatorship of the proletariat, resting on an alliance with the poor peasants, an extension of the revolution to the imperialist metropoles. Part of this perspective is uncompromising struggle against imperialist attacks on colonial and semicolonial countries (see page 11 [page 11 of the Workers Vanguard was entitled 'Trotsky on the Sino-Japanese war" and had statements from Trotsky referring to the Japanese aggression against China in the mid-1930s in which he tries to, convince other Trotskyists to oppose imperialist aggression in China and the fascist revolt in Spain. --Supplement]).

It was Stalin who used the Menshevik theory of alliance: with a "progressive" bourgeoisie in a "two-stage revolution" to subordinate the Chinese Communist Party to Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang, leading to the beheading; of the Chinese workers revolution in 1927. Ever since, the Stalinists have pushed the program of class collaboration with the "anti-imperialist, progressive bourgeoisie," from Indonesia to South Africa to Chile, etc., with similarly disastrous results.

Military Defense vs. Political Support

That the MLP attempts to pass off its capitulationist line as rip-roaring "Marxist-Leninist" politics testifies to the fact, that, despite all its "study campaigns," it keeps its members in the dark about some very basic Marxist conceptions. Thus Workers' Advocate claims that "in fact the formula of 'military, not political, support' isn't Lenin's. And it isn't Leninist or Marxist or materialist." No doubt most MLPers believe this distinction between military defense and political support is really a "Trotskyist deviation."

Yet Lenin himself insisted on the distinction between military defense and political support. In August 1917, the Bolsheviks blocked militarily with Kerensky's Provisional Government in Russia against the right-wing revolt led by General Kornilov. Lenin wrote at the time:

"We shall fight, we are fighting against Kornilov, just as Kerensky's troops do, but we do not support Kerensky. On the contrary, we expose his weakness. There is the difference. It is a rather subtle difference, but it is highly essential and must not be forgotten."

--"To the Central Committee of the RSDLP" (30 August 1917) [Collected Works, vol. 25, p. 286--Sup.]

Lenin castigated as petty-bourgeois moralists those who sought to take " 'revenge' on the SRs and Mensheviks" by refusing, to defend them against Kornilov. Far from giving political support to Kerensky, the Bolsheviks' intervention to defeat the Kornilov revolt prepared the overthrow of the tottering bourgeois Provisional Government a few weeks later.

This issue of military defense vs. political support is closely related to the broader question of the united front. When this tactic was adopted by the Communist International in late 1921, the watchword was "march separately, strike together." In fighting against the common enemy, there must be no mixing of political banners. This was perverted by Stalin into the program of the "popular front" (codified at the Comintern's Seventh Congress in 1935) which, far from preserving the political independence of the proletarian vanguard, instead subordinated it to the bourgeoisie. This is very relevant today, for example to the anti-war protest "movement" which the MLP vows not to "split".

In its polemic against the SL in the Workers' Advocate Supplement, the MLP chastises us for being too charitable about its attitude toward the January peace demos (we said it denounced them as reformist), and their point is well taken. Notwithstanding some criticisms of reformist leaders, the MLP insists it "supported the Washington demonstrations" called by the pro-Democratic Party social-pacifists on the basis of liberal slogans. After emphasizing that it "supported" the peace crawls despite their social-patriotic program and leadership, the MLP underlines that it refused to defend Iraq since that would mean "support for Hussein's army," An interesting counterposition, wouldn't you say?.

In line with the opportunist view that only those struggles are desirable that are possible, and those that are possible are the ones going on at the given moment, the MLP sneeringly dismisses the SL's call for labor strikes against the war as pie in the sky. "The that such strikes, even small ones, aren't going to take place at the present time." Not thanks to the MLP, they won't. The MLP's tailism meant that when one of their supporters at the NYC Transport Workers Union was faced with the choice of standing with the bureaucrats when they called on everyone to "support our troops in Saudi Arabia," or sitting down in protest as did supporters of the Committee for a Fighting TWU, he remained standing with the bureaucrats (see "TWU Bureaucrats and Wannabees Stand Up for War " WV No. 521, 1 March).

At the most fundamental level, these "Marxst-Leninists" have no conception of the class line. And the MLP is so insistent on refusing to defend Iraq and denounces those who do, because it senses rightly that if it admits that one can military defend Iraq without politically supporting Hussein, this would call into question its justifications for refusing to defend the Soviet Union against imperialism.

Because we Trotskyists recognize that the Soviet Union, despite the bureaucratic degeneration of the revolution under Stalin and his successors, remains a workers state, we therefore defend it against the forces of internal and external counterrevolution. In contrast, the MLP, like other Maoist-derived "M-Ls," claims that the USSR is "state capitalist" in order not to defend the Soviet peoples against the looming threat of bloody capitalist restoration. It all comes back to the Russian question.

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The experience of the war and the fiasco of "military support" for Saddam Hussein

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

Part Two

The mass slaughter of the Persian Gulf war has ended, and its bloody aftermath is upon us. The course of the war and the anti-war movement has put various political trends to a test. What has experience shown?

First and foremost, American imperialism has exposed itself in the eyes of a new generation of activists. American Intervention for oil and empire was not a mistake, but the ingrained vice of the whole capitalist establishment. The reformists advocated faith in the Democratic Party, in Congress, and in the United Nations, and one after another all those institutions were shown as participants and organizers of imperialist war. Both capitalist parties were parties of war and imperialism, while the UN showed itself as the overall voice of Western imperialism.

But the experience of the war was just as harsh on those who advocated "military support" for Hussein's regime, variety of Trotskyist groups, and groups descended from Trotskyism, advocated support for the military efforts of Saddam Hussein in the name of "defending Iraq" or of 'Victory to Iraq". But events has shown that this had nothing to do with anti-imperialism, building the anti-war movement, or defense of the Iraqi toilers. These groups had a sectarian stand in the anti-war movement, and were more interested in forcing the tyrant Hussein down people's throats than in exposing imperialism. The maneuvers of Hussein verified over and over that his war had nothing to do with the fight against imperialism. And when the masses of Iraqis rose up and attempted to topple Hussein immediately after the war, it embarrassed the advocates of military support for the regime.

In the February 20 issue of the Supplement, we dealt with some of the arguments of the Trotskyist Spartacist League against our Party's stand of anti-imperialist work in the anti-war movement. In the March 15 and April 12 issues of SL's Workers Vanguard, they have replied to us. The March 15 issue deals with the question of "military support" for Hussein, and we have reprinted it in its entirety in this issue of the Supplement. We shall show that it verifies completely our description of the Spartacists as people who can see no further than the powers-that-be. Their "anti-imperialism" is an anti-imperialism that has little do with the independent motion of the toilers. And their revolutionary-sounding slogans end up again and again only as play-acting, sectarianism, or "military support" for the crimes of the corrupt world of exploiters, from Saddam Hussein to the revisionist, state-capitalist regimes.

SL's "military support" for Hussein's regime meant opposing his overthrow

The SL claims, in its article against us, that it had been "calling for the working people of Iraq to work for the overthrow of the bloody Ba'athist regime." Yet, in the same article, it goes on to ridicule any Iraqi who dared to turn the guns around against the Iraqi regime as a U.S. puppet. Here is what it says.

"And if this [the Persian Gulf war] is an 'unjust war on both sides [as MLP says],' does this mean that they [the MLP] call upon Iraqi soldiers to turn their guns around? This would have been quite pleasing to Washington, which hoped that its terror bombing would provoke a rebellion of officers in Iraq who would then fire in the same direction as Washington's troops. In other words, an organization that sought to put the MLP's line into practice in Iraq could only play a quisling role as U.S. puppets in the face of imperialist attack."

What does it mean to "turn their guns around". This is a poetic description of overthrowing the regime. To denounce turning the guns around means to denounce overthrowing the regime. It means to pledge political loyalty to Hussein's government.

Did the U.S. government really want the Iraqi masses to overthrow the Ba'ath tyranny?

In fact, SL itself admits that Washington wanted "a rebellion of officers" in Iraq, that is, the continuation of the Ba'ath regime but with a different tyrant at its head. In a separate article in its March 15 issue, SL also admitted that Washington did not want an overthrow of Saddam by the masses, and they quoted an American official saying that "it's far easier to deal with a tame Saddam than with an unknown quantity". (WV, p. 15, col. 1)

Nevertheless, knowing full well that Washington doesn't want the Ba'ath regime overthrown, knowing full well that Washington is even tacitly cooperating with Hussein against the masses, the foul-mouthed SL scribblers denounce "turning the guns around" as the activity of U.S. puppets.

Now one can see how the SL uses empty and meaningless words to cover up their opposition to the mass struggle. Oh yes, they are against Hussein. They are for the purest of pure revolutions. Just so long as it doesn't "turn the guns around". Just so long as it doesn't overthrow the regime.

And this venom by SL against "turning the guns around" is no accident, no slip of the pen.

In our previous article, we also noted that SL defended its stand on "defending Iraq" by quoting an article from Trotsky that talked about "the duty, to choose between two dictators". (See the Supplement, February 20, p. 27, col. 2) Underneath all the rhetoric, SL's stand amounts to support for tyranny.

Embarrassment over the popular rebellion

When the popular rebellions broke out against Hussein, the various advocates of the "defend Iraq" slogan were embarrassed. Some implied that this might simply be a U.S. plot, or a plot of neighboring regimes. They all took a stand-offish attitude.

The SL recognized that these rebellions were not supported by U.S imperialism. (This was not a mark of special virtue, since every bourgeois newspaper in the country was trumpeting the Bush administration's worry about these rebellions.) But it was stand-offish anyway. Its main concern was to lecture that, no matter, the "defend Iraq" slogan had been right.

Take the lead article in the March 15 Workers Vanguard. It denounces the bloody, savage U.S. imperialist crimes against the Iraqis. But when it gets to the mass rebellions, it merely reports briefly on it without much feeling. It mainly refers to Washington's attitude "as anti-government fighting broke out in Iraq." There are a few sentences about Washington being worried about this "Pandora's box". There is no expression of support, no slogan about the struggle, no passion or fire at all. There was no talk of support for the Iraqi masses, whether "military" or "political" or critical or otherwise.

The March 29 issue just overlooks the whole issue, even though it carries a front page article on the aftermath of the war. As it ignores the rebellion, it naturally also fails to denounce U.S. imperialism for helping the suppression of the rebellion.

The April 12 issue finally carries an article on the rebellions, a somewhat lengthy one. But once again, what SL shows real passion for is arguing against various Kurds for the "defend Iraq" slogan. It has the tact not to call the Kurds quislings and traitors. But this is only a ruse, because as we have seen, SL stressed that any Iraqi organization that thought about "turning the guns around" would just be a bunch of traitors and puppets.

The SL tells the victims of the Iraqi regime that 'the enemy of my enemy is not my friend' is not always a good maxim." It is definitely true that U.S. imperialism is not only a butcher of the Iraqi masses in general, but a cynical oppressor of the Kurds in particular. And it is true that there is confusion among the Iraqi masses about the relationship of Ba'ath tyranny and imperialism. But unfortunately the SL hasn't learned the lesson itself. Or it would realize that this same lesson shows that Hussein was no friend, and the Persian Gulf war was really unjust on both sides.

What do the Iraqi masses think?

Nevertheless, the rebellions show a lot about the mass temper in Iraq.

In its article against us, the SL gets on its high horse and declares:

"Any Iraqi worker or peasant, soldier, mother, father or youth who burns with anger against the mass murderers who turned their country into a killing field could only despise those leftists who refuse to support a war against the imperialist aggressors."

But the rebellion tells another story. And in its own article in the April 12 issue, it is the SL which is frantic for fear that Iraqi Kurds will regard it with disgust and loathing for its "defend Iraq" slogan, which they recognize as support for the government of Iraq.

The Persian Gulf war was not a noble war against imperialism. It was fought for sordid gains. Hussein took Iraq into yet another war to establish the Ba'ath regime as a regional power, to get a bit more oil money, etc. And so it is no wonder that the Iraqi workers and peasants have quite another idea about the Hussein regime than the SL.

Undoubtedly there is a just and noble hatred against the U.S. imperialist ravaging of the country and mass murder of Iraqis. But there is also anger at Hussein for his oppression of the masses, his mass murder of Kurds and opponents, and his driving. Iraq into one war after another.

Were there only two sides in this war?

The SL's polemic shouts over and over again that there were only two sides in the war. There was Washington, and there was Hussein. There was the Pentagon, and there were Hussein's armies. Over and over, they assert that anyone who didn't back Hussein's military efforts was helping Washington commit crimes against the Iraqi masses. They become quite emotional and strident and hoarse with their indignation.

But emotionalism isn't the best argument.

There was another side to this struggle. There was the side of the masses. There are the Iraqi workers and peasants, and there are the anti-war activists and progressive people in the U.S. And the interests of the masses was diametrically opposed to both sides in this war.

Despite what the SL liars say, the MLP was not "neutral" or "pacifist" or "liberal" in this war. We fought with enthusiasm and determination against this mass slaughter. We encouraged the only just and progressive side in this war-the side of the masses, and we tirelessly exposed the Democratic Party liberals, the Congress, the UN, and the entire imperialist establishment. We worked to build up an anti-imperialist movement in the U.S., and we supported the interests of the Iraqi toilers and the anti-war protests in the Middle East. We brought anti-imperialist slogans and agitation among the masses, and denounced U.S. imperialism as our chief enemy. But, as the tacit cooperation between Hussein and Washington in oppressing the Iraqi masses shows, it is impossible to be anti-imperialist without opposing the oppressive Ba'ath regime in Iraq as well.

When SL argues that there are only two sides to this struggle, it is not making a revolutionary statement against imperialism. It is echoing, from the flip side, the imperialist propaganda that is blasted at us every day from the newspapers, the TV, and the radio. Washington too agrees that there are only two sides-Bush or Hussein, the Pentagon war machine or Hussein's military.

SL's stand amounts to overlooking the working masses.

It amounts to only believing in the power of the present governments and their oppressive institutions. It amounts to despair in the real possibilities of encouraging an independent mass struggle. It doesn't matter how many slogans about revolution in the future SL gives--when it can't even see the side of the masses in the present Persian Gulf war, it is acting as unenlightened slaves awed by the power of their masters.

SL's "anti-imperialism" without the people

In order to justify this stand, SL has taken to tearing statements from Lenin out of context, and interpreting them to mean their opposites. For example, the SL has raised repeatedly the following sentence from Lenin:

"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)

How did SL interpret this sentence? They wrote the following:

"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."

(Cited in the Supplement, Feb. 20, p. 28)

SL clearly is implying that Lenin meant that one should give "military support" to notorious oppressors like Mulai Yusuf, or Yuan Shih-kai, or Ephraim Khan. We showed that SL was coming out in support of past oppressors to justify support for today's oppressor.

Lenin was referring to movements against national oppression and imperialist domination, which the Persian Gulf war was not. But we also went into the situation in Morocco, Persia, and China of that time. We showed that Lenin was not referring to struggles led by these notorious oppressors, but to struggles which would be opposed by or strike against the sultan Mulai Yusuf, the military dictator Ephraim Khan, and the warlord Yuan Shih-kai. The SL, for all its socialist talk, was overlooking the class alignments in the oppressed countries, and the actual relation of notorious oppressors to the imperialist domination of the oppressed countries.

How does SL reply to this?

It quotes the same sentence from Lenin again, and it again talks of the reactionary rulers in the oppressed countries. And then SL carefully avoids the question of what stand Mulai Yusuf, Ephraim Khan, and Yuan Shih-kai had to imperialism. It even prefers not to mention them by name, but just to refer to them in general. It has no answer.

So instead SL turns to a general issue. If it can't show that these reactionary rulers were anti-imperialists, it tries to show that there is no alternative to them. It implies that there is no movement separate from these rulers, or at least that Lenin wasn't referring to such a phantom. It seems that not only is the SL mad at the anti-war movement in the U.S., not only does it declare this movement worthless, but it is revealing the same attitude to the mass anti-imperialist movement in the oppressed countries.

Here is what SL says:

"The MLP wants to claim that in Socialism and War, Lenin was not speaking of a war against imperialism by the bourgeois rulers but rather a 'revival of the revolutionary movement.' Not so. Lenin stated explicitly:

"To the extent that the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation struggles against the oppressing one, we are always, in every case, and more resolutely than anyone else, for it, because we are the staunchest and the most consistent enemies of oppression."

("On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination", February-May 1914 [Collected Works, vol. 20, pp. 411-2, about midway through section 4. " 'Practicality' in the National Question"])

Apparently, SL believes that there are two categories, bourgeois rulers and the movement, and this statement backs support for the bourgeois rulers. And wow, SL thinks, it does it in the "staunchest and most consistent" way. Just like how SL backs Hussein.

Actually, Lenin is discussing national movements, and the cases where the bourgeoisie was leading a national movement in which class differentiation hasn't taken place. The statement doesn't directly speak to the question of who is in the government. Indeed such a national movement, even if the bourgeoisie is leading it, may well be opposed by various reactionary sultans, military dictators, and warlords. Nor does the statement contrast military and political support, but we will deal with the issue of military versus political support in a later section of this article.

The movement of the oppressed

For the time being, we shall restrict ourselves to a single point. SL is denying that the anti-imperialist struggle is based on the popular movement of the masses, and contrasting it to the struggle of rulers. Leninist communism, on the contrary, is based on the struggle of the oppressed masses. SL states that "we can cite any number of other quotes from Lenin" making their point. But we shall show that in every single work of Lenin's cited in SL's article, SL is hiding the fact that Lenin is talking about the movement. It would have been better if SL had read a single important work through to the conclusion and pondered it, rather than simply tear isolated sentences at random from one work after another.

First of all, let us consider the "Right of Nations to Self-Determination" from which the above sentence comes from. This work clarifies over and over again that it is referring to mass national movements. For example, consider this general description of the national struggle: "The conclusion that follows from all these critical

remarks of Marx's is clear: the working class should be the last to make a fetish of the national question, since the development of capitalism, does not necessarily awaken all nations to independent life. But to brush aside the mass national movements once they have started, and to refuse to support what is progressive in them means, in effect, pandering to nationalistic prejudices, that is, recognizing 'one's own nation' as a model nation (or, we would add, one possessing the exclusive privilege of forming a state)." (From, Section 8 "The Utopian Karl Marx and the Practical Rosa Luxemburg", underlining added)

Or again, consider the opening passages in this work where Lenin sets the theme he is dealing with:

"...This is not the first time that national movements have arisen in Russia, nor are they peculiar to that country alone. Throughout the world, the period of the final victory of capitalism over feudalism has been linked up with national movements."

(From the third paragraph of Section 1 "What is meant by the self-determination of Nations?")

Well, what about the work Socialism and War itself? It refers to the development of a mass movement, and talks of this development as being the key to whether a war is a just war. It states:

"In China, Persia, India and other dependent countries...we have seen during the past decades a policy of rousing tens and hundreds of millions of people to a national life, of their liberation from the reactionary 'Great Powers' oppression. A war waged on such a historical basis can even today be a bourgeois-progressive war of national liberation."

(From the section "War is the continuation of politics by other (i.e.: violent) 'means' ")

Here we see a concept opposite to SL's rhetoric. SL defends wars by reactionary tyrants who have been sitting on the workers and peasants, on the grounds that they may awake the masses. Lenin, on the contrary, argues that only if there has been a policy of awakening the masses can the war be a just one.

What about Lenin's Report of the Commission on the National and Colonial Questions at the Second Congress of the Cl? SL cites it as a trump card, because it refers to the division of the world into oppressed and oppressor nations. It hasn't even entered SL's sectarian head that recognition of this division is important in order to support revolutionary and anti-imperialist movements. No, SL handles it as if it were a mere geographical concept, having nothing to do with mass movements.

However, it turns out that in Lenin's report and the discussion at Second Congress, the focus was placed on the national movements and their nature. This discussion is entirely alien to the support of tyrants sitting on the movement, such as Hussein, and it would have been considered a monstrosity at that Congress. So, consider Lenin's remarks:

"Third, I should like especially to emphasize the question of the bourgeois-democratic movement in backward countries. This is a question that has given rise to certain differences. We have discussed whether it would be right or wrong, in principle and in theory to state the Communist International and the Communist parties must support the-bourgeois-democratic movement in backward countries. [Mind you, they are debating whether to support this movement-it didn't enter their minds to debate whether to support the sultan Mulai Yusuf and other tyrants SL puts forward as similar to Hussein--Supplement.] As a result of our discussion, we have arrived at the unanimous decision to speak of the national-revolutionary movement rather than of the 'bourgeois-democratic' movement. It is beyond doubt that any national movement can only be a bourgeois-democratic movement, since the overwhelming mass of the population in the backward countries consists of peasants who represent bourgeois-capitalist relationships.... However, the objections have been raised that, if we speak of the bourgeois-democratic movement, we shall be obliterating all distinctions between the reformist and the revolutionary movements. Yet that distinction has been very clearly revealed of late in the backward and colonial countries,..."

The SL also tries to garner support from Lenin's letter about what was to be done during the attempt by General Kornilov to stage a right-wing military coup against the Kerensky government in Russia in 1917. Here SL switches over to an illustration from an imperialist country, as Russia was still imperialist under the Provisional Government of 1917. It is an example with little to do with Iraq, since Russia at that time was in the midst of a revolutionary movement, with the Provisional Government being blown this way and that, while the Ba'ath regime has an iron rule repressing all the political life in the country. And, by the way, even in this situation Lenin refused to issue the "defend Russia" slogan against the other imperialist powers in World War I, while SL is advocating the "defend Iraq" slogan.

Nevertheless, it is a most interesting and important example, which our Party discussed in 1985 with respect to united front tactics. (See the May 1, 1985 issue of the Supplement, pp. 31-32, "The Bolsheviks in the fight against the Kornilov revolt", which was a section of the article "Some Notes on the Seventh World Congress of the Cl".) We shall deal with this example again later on, but for now let us note two things. .

First of all, the SL is giving the very line that Lenin denounced in his letter to the Central Committee cited by SL. Lenin stated definitively "Even now we must not support Kerensky's government. This is unprincipled." (To the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P., Collected Works, vol. 25, p. 285, emphasis in the original) Lenin held that the form of the struggle against Kerensky must change, and that the Bolsheviks should fight Kornilov, as Kerensky was posturing about and as Kerensky's troops were actually doing. But nevertheless "there is a rather subtle difference" between this and supporting Kerensky.

And secondly, Lenin emphasized that the question was not phrases about the Provisional Government, but dealing with the revolutionary mass movement. Even in presenting demands on the Provisional Government, the basic thing was that "We must present these demands not only to Kerensky, and not so much to Kerensky, as to the workers, soldiers and peasants who have been carried away by the course of the struggle against Kornilov." Carried away by what? By phrases which meant essentially what SL's "military support" means.

And finally, SL uses one more quote. This too concerns the movement in imperialist countries, rather than directly discussing the oppressed countries. SL cites Lenin's article "The Tasks of the Third International/Ramsay MacDonald on the Third International" saying that mere verbal condemnation of imperialism cannot be accepted, but a real revolutionary struggle must be waged for the liberation of the colonies.

But how does Lenin distinguish a merely verbal struggle from a real struggle? Does he call for support for the sultan Mulai Yusuf and other tyrants who were in league with imperialism, as SL claims he does? Not at all. He calls for, among other things, support for the revolutionary movement in the colonies. He says that a party which "does not systematically assist the revolutionary work which has already begun everywhere in the colonies, and does not send arms and literature to the revolutionary parties in the colonies, is a party of scoundrels and traitors." (Collected Works, vol. 29, pp. 505-6) Imagine what he would think of those who rendered "military support" not to the revolutionary parties in the colonies, but the sultan Mulai Yusufs!

In the next installment we shall deal with SL's contrast of "military" versus "political" support, more on the movement in the U.S., and other issues.

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