On supporting the growing resistance in the military
Our main support is to develop the anti-war movement here at home. In this, activists need to conciously work to build up an anti-imperialist pole of attraction in the movement.
(From a letter to friends around the country--W.)
From the first days of the invasion of Iraq there were soldiers opposed to this brutal imperialist conquest. With Washington's justifications for war and occupation being exposed as lies one after another, and while the Iraqi resistance steadily grew, the opposition from the foot-soldiers of the war machine grew stronger. Going AWOL, disserting, and refusing to obey orders became common. A group of soldiers even denounced the war as one being for oil, empire, Halliburton, etc., on American television. Now the G.I. resistance is on the verge of becoming massive.
We've all heard about the mutiny of the "Rock Hill 19" (the majority of whom are Black working-class soldiers from the South). It's an important development. Then Saturday morning's Seattle P.I. reported that 843 of 1445 soldiers in the Individual Ready Reserve are absent from a recent call-up for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Further, we know from our own talks with soldiers who have come back from Iraq that there exist a deep hatred among the troops there against being used as hired guns for the rich. This will inevitably give rise to more refusals of orders, and more acts of mutiny. Even the bourgeois press is forced to admit these days that there's a "morale" problem among the soldiers of imperialism. The attached excerpt from WSWS (which I do not politically support) gives an idea of what the capitalist papers are reporting.
These are great developments. From Bush, the liberals, and the class-traitors who lead the AFL-CIO we've heard "Support Our Troops" till it comes out our ears. Well, "OUR Troops" in Iraq are the resisters and mutineers. These are the truly heroic Americans there. We should do all we can to support them, and to encourage more soldiers to resist (more of which below). We should also prepare to organize more new veterans into the anti-war movement. This question is not entirely unrelated to the former because many of these vets have resisted very heavy pressure to reenlist. In fact they're now doing this in such large numbers that the brass and politicians are hard put to find more cannon fodder.
There is no doubt that increasing numbers of the angry young G.I.s returning from Iraq (and Afghanistan) are going to seek out and join the anti-war movement. Being mainly from the working class they'll help it to transform its class outlook. And, having been through hell, they won't be impressed by the flimsy pacifism, non-seriousness, and other ills that often dominate in the movement today. They'll demand militancy. They'll demand anti-imperialist analyses of their experiences, and scientific explanations of what imperialism really is. And they'll demand more anti-war actions. These will be welcome demands indeed. (I write these words with a great deal of confidence because I was once in their shoes during another war, Vietnam, and this is just how I and thousands of other returning G.I.s thought and acted upon our return.)
Returning to the question of the ongoing G.I. resistance per se: The main way we can support and encourage the resistance inside the military is by building the anti-war movement here at home. This is a very concrete issue, and mobilizing friends or co-workers to attend demonstrations with us is an important part of it. Right now this means getting ready for the demonstrations on October 28 at SCCC (6 pm) and November 6 at Westlake (1 pm). But there are other just as concrete of sides to building the movement that are the truly decisive ones. I must introduce these with some brief analysis and observation.
The wars and occupations of the Bush government are not an aberration from an otherwise "peaceful" U.S. foreign policy. Kennedy-Johnson brought us the slaughter of millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians, invasion of the Dominican Republic, and secret murderous thuggery in Latin America and elsewhere. Every previous and subsequent administration of the past century acted in a similar fashion. (And today's "opponent" of Bush, Kerry, only opposes some of the tactics Bush used in organizing the wars and occupations---i.e., he's for more multilateralism---but not the acts themselves. Hence he voted to give Bush the green light to invade Iraq, and now says he would have done so even had he known there were no weapons of mass slaughter in Hussein's hands. He's also said he would send more troops, said "I'm not talking about leaving [Iraq]. I'm talking about winning", and said U.S. troops would still be in Iraq after four years if he's elected.)
This consistency between administrations whether they're led by Republicans or Democrats rests on the fact that all of them fight for the interests of monopoly capital first and foremost. But the laws of the capitalist system of production are such that aggregates of capital must expand, and profits be maximized. This drives the capitalist classes of the nation-states of the world (which are all capitalist today) into dog-eat-dog rivalry over markets, sources of raw materials (like oil in the Middle East), and low-wage labor; as well as driving them to attempt to crush national-democratic struggles of oppressed nations or peoples; as well as driving their constant war on the wages, working conditions and living standards of the workers and poor of all countries. Hence imperialism and monopoly capitalism are indivisible: militarization and imperialist wars are built-in components of the modern capitalist system of production.
The only logical conclusion is that to oppose the wars and occupations of the U.S. and other imperial powers we must target the imperialist system itself. But the political groups presently dominating the anti-war movement are reformists who deny that there is something deeply systemic about U.S. troops being in Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia, the Philippines and many other countries. Based on this they look for solutions from within the system. Thus the most openly rightist among them, if they speak of imperialism, relegate it to being just the policy of Bush and the neo-cons. Hence they parade and applaud the Democratic Party politicians at their rallies while these well-groomed ladies and gentlemen work to turn the anti-war movement into a movement for "wiser" imperialist foreign policy, a more multilateral one, one that more cunningly fights the "war on terror", etc. If they denounce the war-profiteering by Halliburton, or dare mention the issue of oil (which they rarely do), these things are conveniently laid at the door of Bush-Cheney. And, in general, they say that the crimes of U.S. imperialism that are being exposed and opposed are caused by mistakes, stupid policies, madmen, profiteers solely associated with a particular administration, and so on. There COULDN'T be anything deeply systemic going on!
There is also the torn lot of reformists who tend to see that the Democrats are as equally imperialist as the Republicans.
Some line up behind Nader (and other reformers). But Nader's stand on Iraq is still an imperialist one. Rather than working for the U.S. and all other foreign troops to get the hell out of Iraq now (and let the Iraqi people settle their future) he works for six more months of the present occupation to be followed by a new occupation by troops from "neutral" Muslim countries. But there are no such countries! All are allied with one or another or all of the big imperialist powers (with these powers influencing their foreign policies to greater or lesser extents), and all fight for the exploitative and domineering interests of their capitalist classes. Hence their troops (Nader's troops) would be sent to defend imperial interests.
Nader supporters (and Nader himself) may not see it this way. But then their whole politics is filled with illusions. For example, Nader repeatedly lauds the capitalist system of production. To him the giant corporations or big business are just excesses of capitalism (not its law-driven products) that can be regulated. In fact he counterposes the corporations and big business to capitalism!
Others work to build the anti-war movement against all the imperialist parties (or think they do) but still with the aim of pressuring the establishment to "somehow" be what it cannot be. Thus, they remain in the reformist orbit. (Even if they advocate trashing or monkey-wrenching the imperialist war machine it still doesn't take them out of this orbit.)
The sham-Marxists (revisionists) in the anti-war movement by no means ideologically and organizationally dominate it, but they help the reformists who do. True enough, they analyze how imperialism is the underlying issue (imperialism as it's seen by them, and anti-imperialism as seen by them---big issues that are too much to address in this letter), and they may shout against imperialism in their newspapers. But when they're part of a big coalition (i.e., WWP in A.N.S.W.E.R. or RCP in N.I.O.N.) they mute their criticism of the imperialist Democrats. Thus both A.N.S.W.E.R. and N.I.O.N. have many times invited McDermott, Kucinich and other deceptive imperialists to speak at large anti-war demonstrations. But the WWP and RCP speakers have refused to expose and oppose their demagogy before the mass audiences. However they seek to justify this, it's opportunism in the service of the imperialist order.
I think this analysis and these observations point to some concrete tasks that must be accomplished if the anti-war movement is going to move ahead.
(1) We need to be consciously working to build an anti-imperialist pole of attraction in the anti-war movement. This means spreading anti-imperialist analysis through leaflets, discussion, and other means. Moreover, to effectively do this points to other tasks. Firstly, to be convinced and convincing anti-imperialists we need to study this system we're opposing. Two good places to start, in my opinion, are Lenin's "Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism" (even though there have been many developments since his time), and Communist Voice ( http://www.communistvoice.org). Secondly, we need to build anti-imperialist organization. This isn't going to happen by magic, and small steps cannot be ignored, even very small steps. Thus we need to be sure to get names and addresses of people who share our ideas, develop our correspondence, forge small groups that participate in the coalition-led anti-war actions as well as conducting their own independent anti-war activities---all with the aim of linking up with other anti-imperialists to influence the entire movement.
(2) Imperialism is the class policy of the monopoly capitalist class. But the working class in even the richest and most powerful countries has no interest in imperialism and suffers dearly from it---particularly the national-minority and immigrant workers, and working-class youth. After all, it's the sons and daughters of this class who are being sent half-way round the world to kill and suffer and die for the interests of the murderous filthy-rich ruling class of this country.
And it's this class---the majority class in the big imperialist countries---that the capitalist government squeezes with budget cuts and taxes to pay for its militarism (while looting the national treasury for hand-outs, contracts, and tax relief for the big capitalists). So it's this class above all others that anti-imperialists must turn to and rally. (Since the class-traitors leading the AFL-CIO are pro-imperialists who generally act as mouth-pieces and organizers for the Democratic Party we must do this work on our own, from below, and despite their opposition.) To do this we must develop and use sharp class appeals in building the anti-war movement, and fight for the whole movement to do so. The old non-class and moralistic approaches won't do.
Of course, while working to build the anti-war movement in the direction just outlined there are still other things we can do to support and encourage the resistance inside the U.S. military. These include popularizing each outbreak of resistance, popularizing slogans like "Support the G.I resistance!", helping the legal defense efforts of soldiers being tried by the military authorities, giving AWOL soldiers various forms of help when they need it, getting anti-imperialist leaflets and literature into the hands of enlisted people, etc. But the main point remains. Steadfast work and successes in building the movement outside the military (i.e., drawing more people into it, and raising its ideological and organizational level) is preparing conditions for more concentrated work among the soldiers.*
In conclusion, the growing resistance by ordinary soldiers inside the U.S. armed forces is very heartening. Anti-war activists want to give this trend among the troops all the support and encouragement they can. We can best and most surely do this by building the movement against imperialism here at home. In this way we will be giving real support to the masses of people now struggling under the U.S. jackboot in Iraq and Afghanistan.
*Those few of you on this list who were active in the movement against the imperialist aggression against the Vietnamese people remember well the anti-war coffee houses that were set up near military bases. (It's hard not to think about them as the resistance in the military grows!) They provided literature and a meeting places for anti-war G.I.s. They organized discussions and held forums during off-duty hours. They helped resisters write and produce anti-war leaflets and newspapers---and daringly helped them smuggle them onto the bases. They were an organic link between resisters and the wider movement.
Naturally, the G.I. coffee houses also had problems: The authorities and reactionaries constantly attacked them; they could not be supported solely from their own revenues; the people who built them up sometimes had political differences that they sought to resolve through sectarian methods that weighed down all; and others. And I must stress that I DO NOT advocate that we simply transplant our experiences with G.I. coffee houses during the late '60s or early '70s to today's conditions (which are quite different). All I'm raising is the issue of finding imaginative ways to better link up with active-duty soldiers as the movement progresses. In this, those of us who were active during those times can play a good role, especially in pointing to the real possibilities of organizing soldiers---something that we've learned from our own experiences.
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