The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 68/No. 7           February 23, 2004  
It’s what you’re for that counts,
not what you’re against
(Reply to a Reader column)
In a letter in this issue, reader John Riddell expresses uneasiness with the Militant’s reporting, analysis, and editorial stance concerning the U.S.-led assault and occupation of Iraq.

Riddell implies that what the Militant has said so far on the matter is an inadequate explanation of “working-class policy towards imperialist wars and occupations of oppressed peoples.” In such conflicts, he continues, “communists side with the oppressed people, regardless of its formal leadership. Such solidarity lends support to national liberation forces and, where they do not yet exist, helps create the conditions for their emergence.” He urges the Militant to “say more on the transitional forms through which working-class solidarity with the Mideast peoples undergoing imperialist occupation can be expressed.”

I don’t share Riddell’s assessment. In numerous editorials and columns over the last year, the Militant has called for unconditional withdrawal of U.S. and all other occupying forces not only from Iraq and Afghanistan, but from the Balkans, Korea, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and any other place Washington and its imperialist allies deploy their armies for plunder. It has urged participation in peace marches and other actions where such demands can be advanced, even if the main organizers don’t agree with such slogans. It has also explained that antiwar demonstrations, however large, have never stopped imperialist wars and will not halt them now. It has pointed out that the patriotism of the liberal-left that dominates today’s peace groups helps mislead workers and farmers into the war party’s framework of defending “America.” The Militant has also tried to win youth and working people, including those who march for peace, to the perspective of the Bolsheviks—building proletarian parties capable of leading the toilers to take power through a popular revolution, establish a workers and farmers government, overthrow capitalism, and join in the worldwide fight for socialism. In short, the Militant has promoted the road towards the dictatorship of the proletariat.

This course, in its totality, is the only effective solidarity that revolutionists can offer to “the Mideast peoples undergoing imperialist occupation.”

To clarify further this communist stance I will counterpose it to the course of the two main tendencies of the middle-class left that are at the center of the leadership of today’s U.S. “peace movement.”  
CPUSA drops even pretense of Leninism
On the one hand is the Communist Party USA and the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism—a split off from the CPUSA. These groups are part of the leadership of United for Justice and Peace, one of the two main U.S. peace coalitions.

An example of the patriotic framework of these forces is the “Call to Action” appearing in the December 23 edition of CPUSA online, which advertised a CP national conference that took place January 31 in New York City. “Build Unity to Take Back Our Country in 2004! Defeat Bush and the Ultra Right!” was the headline.

An interview with Sam Webb, the CPUSA’s national chair, published in the January issue of Political Affairs, the party’s theoretical magazine, expounded further on the Stalinist party’s course of class collaboration and accelerating abandonment of even a pretense to Leninism. “There is a tendency to think that the Bolshevik experience constituted a model of socialist revolution,” Webb says. “In some ways we were prisoners of the experience in Russia in 1917…. It doesn’t fit the U.S. in 2003. Perhaps we can learn as much from Allende’s Chile as from Lenin’s Russia.”

“We have,” Webb argues in the interview, “a long democratic tradition, as do other countries. Although many on the left say our democracy is partial and incomplete, the fact is that democratic notions and sentiments are deeply ingrained in our thinking…. Therefore, our vision of socialism has to have democracy at its core.” Asked about the new society the CP envisions, Webb continues: “Nor do I think that a socialist movement will sideline the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence or a system of checks and balances on concentrated political power.”

After such clarity on the CP’s reliance on bourgeois forms of rule, it is no wonder that the party’s “antiwar” position is summed up in the call to replace U.S. troops occupying Iraq with those under the blue helmet of the imperialist-dominated UN. The corollary “struggle to defeat Bush,” the party’s “main task in the coming period,” according to Webb, helps lead those so inclined into the fold of the Democratic Party—one of the twin parties of U.S. imperialism.  
Workers World backs Saddam Hussein regime
The Workers World Party, another Stalinist organization, is part of the central leadership of International ANSWER, the second major U.S. coalition “to stop war and end racism,” as it describes itself. While bourgeois liberal forces in this grouping don’t share a number of Workers World’s positions, the party itself is not shy about airing them. One, in particular, is the organization’s unabashed support for the party-police state that the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein headed for nearly four decades.

The February 5 Workers World, the party’s weekly newspaper, for example, published an article by Fred Goldstein under the headline, “U.S. in Iraq: Mass resistance hinders neocolonial plans.” After painting a fantastic picture of a U.S. quagmire in Iraq and massive popular resistance to the imperialist occupation, Goldstein says: “The destruction of the regime of Saddam Hussein and the Baathist Party by military means enabled the U.S. to destroy the institutions built up by the revolution during more than 35 years of independence. But it did not consummate a thoroughgoing internal counter-revolution, of the type that took place in Iran in 1953, when the CIA brought the Shah back to the throne and destroyed the Tudeh party and all progressive mass organizations; or in Indonesia in 1965, when the CIA working through the military killed over a million communists and progressives; or in Chile in 1973, when the CIA helped Pinochet and his butchers murder tens of thousands of organizers of the mass movement….

“In Iraq, because of the nature of the Iraqi Revolution and what it achieved for the masses, there was no such counter-revolutionary internal base for the CIA and Pentagon to work with. They tried for 12 years to overthrow the regime by sanctions, economic strangulation, repeated bombing of the so-called no-fly zones and by financing plotters and guerrilla forces. But they were unable to break the morale of the masses and they were unable to find internal forces of reaction strong enough to bring imperialism back.”

Goldstein presents the Hussein regime as the heir and continuator of the “great anti-imperialist revolution” of 1958.

The Baathist regime, however, in which Hussein rose to the top spot by 1979, was the one that overturned the 1958 revolution that liberated the country from British colonialism as part of the wave of anticolonial revolutions after World War II. For details on how this was carried out see “Imperialist plunder of Iraq has long history” and “Baath party regime beheaded 1958 revolution” in the March 31 and April 21 issues of the Militant last year, respectively.

As the Militant has explained recently, years of Stalinist betrayals in Iraq helped pave the way for the Baathist regime to come to power, destroying the 1958 democratic revolution and dealing crushing blows to the working class. That was the counter-revolution. That’s one of the main obstacles working people in Iraq have faced. (Not “the military prowess of U.S. imperialism,” which Riddell inaccurately says the Militant has stressed as one of the main hurdles in front of Iraqi people today.) And that’s why Washington has found a host of groups openly backing or going along with the imperialist assault and occupation—from most of the Kurdish parties, to Shiite organizations that are part of the U.S.-run Iraqi Governing Council, to the Iraqi Communist Party.

Because of Stalinist betrayals in Iraq and throughout the Mideast, there is a complete absence of communist nuclei in these countries. The political vacuum thus created has been filled by bourgeois nationalist formations—like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, or the National Salvation Front in Algeria—that have nothing to do with defending the interests of the toilers.

The so-called resistance in Iraq today is dominated by remnants of the Baathist regime. To the degree other forces are involved there is no indication that they represent anything that’s progressive. The act of throwing a bomb or firing a missile at a U.S. troop unit or helicopter in Iraq today doesn’t automatically make one progressive. None of these forces have announced to the world that they are for a program that’s in the interests of the exploited majority—unlike the National Liberation Front (NLF) in Algeria, for example, when it waged guerrilla warfare against French colonialism in the 1950s and 1960s. National liberation movements like the NLF have always put forward a program explaining what they are for, even when they were forced to function in completely clandestine conditions.

The important thing is what you are for, not what you are against!

This was brought home to me by comments by delegates of the Progressive Youth Union in Bahrain—the youth group of the Communist Party—during a January meeting of the World Federation of Democratic Youth in Larnaca, Cyprus.

These individuals were euphoric about what they described as the result of U.S. imperialist intervention in the Middle East since the opening of the 1990s. There are more openings, more space, for communists to function openly in Bahrain today, they emphasized, comparing the current conditions to 25 years ago when CPers and other opponents of the regime were routinely jailed, tortured, killed, or forced into exile, and when tolerance of secular organizations was virtually nonexistent. Their view was that imperialist intervention, beginning with the U.S.-led Arab-Persian Gulf War in 1990-91, is forcing democratic changes and should thus be supported. Other delegates from the Mideast expressed similar attitudes, but those from Bahrain stated this in the boldest manner. These delegates also said that they and their organization celebrated the capture of Saddam Hussein by imperialist troops in Iraq, much as the Iraqi Communist Party did, because the Hussein regime was such a brutal dictatorship, one which they had fiercely opposed.

Being against Saddam Hussein, or even “anti-imperialist,” however, doesn’t make one progressive either. What counts is what you are for. The Stalinists, like others on the “left,” often say they are for “democracy,” as the CP USA so eloquently explains. Because their existence is based on class collaboration, not a revolutionary class-struggle orientation, they end up on the bandwagon of one or another imperialist power that imposes certain bourgeois democratic forms as part of its imperialist offensive and occupation. Once the fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat ceases in practice to be at the center of the program of a workers party, everything else follows.

Compared to living under the Hussein regime, it is true there is more space for working people to defend their interests in Iraq today, and elsewhere in the Middle East. Revolutionists need to take full advantage of this opportunity. But class-conscious workers don’t therefore support democratic imperialism. The broad trends towards secularism, for women’s rights, and in opposition to capital punishment and torture around the world that the Militant has noted, for example, are the results of struggles by working people, students, and various middle-class layers in the semicolonial world and internationally. They are products of the conquests of the anticolonial revolutions of the last century, not imperialist benevolence. As long as they serve to advance imperialist interests, Washington and its allies will wield them—but only so far.

In short, there is no stand-in for the working class—whether it be of the democratic imperialist type, the “Islamic fundamentalist” kind, or the Stalinist-like, Saddam Hussein dictatorship variation.  
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