[Marxism] Re: SWP and antiwar struggle (was: Cowards, Scoundrels and Complete Imbeciles")

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Mon Feb 16 20:37:17 MST 2004

Steve Gabosch quotes Argiris Malapanis in the Feb. 23 M	ilitant:: 
"In numerous editorials and columns over the last year, the Militant has

called for unconditional withdrawal of U.S. and all other occupying
not only from Iraq and Afghanistan, but from the Balkans, Korea,
Bay, Cuba, and any other place Washington and its imperialist allies
their armies for plunder. It has urged participation in peace marches
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
and will not halt them now. It has pointed out that the patriotism of
liberal-left that dominates today’s peace groups helps mislead workers
farmers into the war party’s framework of defending “America.” The
has also tried to win youth and working people, including those who
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

This is in part an evasion of the actual line that the Militant has been
putting forward in the last several months.  This line has not been
dropped or rejected by the Militant or the Socialist Workers Party, just
folded up and put in its coat pocket – as Cannon said about Burnham’s
position on the Soviet Union in 1940. The views on the inevitable rising
hegemony of US imperialism; the imperialist “soft protectorate” which
has created the “civic space” in Iraq (space actually created by the
resistance to the occupation of the vast majority of Iraqis and by the
WEAKNESS of US imperialism); the reduction of the struggle in Iraq to an
interimperialist conflict between the United States and Franco-German
imperialism; the claims that Washington has succeeded in forging a kind
of imperialist New Model Army with high morale and motivation in the
ranks and officer corps and has thus conquered the “Vietnam Syndrome,”;
the denunciation of “Anti-Americanism” and the tendency to equate
hostility or even criticism of Bush with  “anti-Americanism” are all
likely to rise again in my opinion.

Unconditional withdrawal is being called for, and that is good, although
the call for immediate withdrawal is still absent and I think that is
politically significant.

And of course the refusal to stand with the oppressed nation of Iraq in
its complex and, yes, disunited struggle against US occupation remains
–- a fundamental break with the historical program of the working class
that no amount of jabber about the proletarian revolution and “no
substitutes for the working class” can justify.

I am glad that Malapanis states that the Militant “has urged
participation in peace marches.”  This is basically a lie about the
past.  With one or two exceptions at the high point of the movement in
the early 2003, the Militant has urged participation in none of the
protests and has organized participation only of those assigned to sell
its press who have been politically oriented to denouncing the actions.
But in the spirit of revolutionary optimism, I hope that Malapanis’
falsification of the past is intended as a promise to do better in the

Much of the Malapanis article, however, seems like a series of excuses
for not participating – excuses applicable to all manifestations of the
class struggle and all expressions of the historical interests of the
working class that are not directly led by masses of workers and
directly aimed at the dictatorship of the proletariat.  Phrases about
“the dictatorship of the proletariat” and “no substitute for the working
class” was the excuse of many a sect for staying away from and/or
snarling with hostility at all the class struggles  of the 1960s and
1970s – the antiwar movement, the Black struggle, the women’s movement,
the gay movement, the environmental struggles –- and, yes in every case,
Miners for Democracy, the farmworkers struggle and grape boycott,  and
Steelworkers Fight Back too!

Malapanis writes that the Militant “has also explained that 
antiwar demonstrations, however large, have never stopped imperialist
wars.” Sales of the Militant and Pathfinder books have never stopped an
imperialist war, but that is not a sufficient argument against them.  

The question is (1) can and do they  contribute to the fight against an
imperialist war, a question Malapanis evades here and (2) do they arise
organically out of the class conflict between the oppressed and
exploited in this country and the warmakers. Are they an inevitable
manifestation of resistance to the war that is in the interests of the
working class. Malapanis doesn’t even  notice the existence of this
question. The fact is that Militant sales during the Vietnam War did not
end the war, but they did contribute something to the process and so of
course (to put it mildly) did antiwar protests.  

If the Militant sales were really part today of a fight against the war
against Iraq, and not an expression of sectarian withdrawal from it, the
sales would be progressive today, and so are the antiwar protests.

The big sections of the Malapanis article taking up Workers World and
the CP are also elaborate justifications for abstention.  As far as the
formal purpose of Malapanis’ piece – to explain why John Riddell is
wrong in suggesting that the Militant’s position on Iraq retreats from
the positions of the Communist movement on standing with the oppressed
nations against imperialism – the frothing about the CP and Workers
World prove exactly zero.  The world is not so small that if the CP and
Workers World are wrong, the Militant must be right.  The possibility
that all three are wrong in different ways cannot, to put it mildly, be

With apparent shock and horror, Malapanis delivers the  news that the
Communist Party has OPENLY broken with Leninism.  I know it sometimes
takes time for the Militant to cover a political development but this is
ridiculous.  And actually, I recall from my days in the archives that
the paper actually reported this development by 1935 at the latest. As
for Workers World, Malapanis pulls off a mind-blowing expose -- that
they have a soft spot for Saddam Hussein.  Is this news to anyone in the
antiwar movement and environs anymore?  There are actually few more
widely publicized political positions on the left in the United States. 

But the positions of the CP and Workers World are presented as being
sharp new turns to the right. Why?

By selling the idea that all other left groups are moving continually
further and further to the right—-my God, this year some of them are
even SUPPORTING DEMOCRATS!-- they justify a strategy of complete
isolation of the party from the struggles these ever-rightward moving
forces engage in or support.  How can you have united fronts or
coalitions with such people, how can you have common actions? The
working-class vanguard must stand alone, with a proud sneer and a
depressed mood.

The perspective is very bleak (especially if you have been keeping
yourself out of the political action on one excuse or another for up to
two decades now) and, like those who gathered in the monasteries of old
for refuge from the misery of the Dark Ages, the best thing the SWP can
do under present conditions is to keep their heads down and digitize
those manuscripts – and keep collecting tithes.

Steve Gabosch doesn’t want to see this, and, frankly, it is not an
important enough question right now for anyone to insist that he see it.
As long as he joins with others in struggle against the war, in
solidarity with Cuba and so on – as long as HE isn’t abstaining -- well
that’s more than enough for now.

Fred Feldman 

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