The following article was published in Proletarian Revolution No. 69 (Winter 2004).
Revolutionaries stand for the military defeat of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the imperialist U.S. troops and their allies. We in the League for the Revolutionary Party believe that a massive opposition to the Iraq war will arise when large sections of the U.S. working class understand that the class enemy they face at home – the capitalists who fire thousands of workers and fund politicians who slash public services – are the same ruling class that seeks to dominate the world and sends young people to kill and be killed abroad. That eruption would lend real support to the Iraqi masses fight against the criminal occupation.
Anti-war organizing in the U.S. remains divided among two main formations, ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) and UFPJ (United for Peace and Justice). ANSWER, however diverse its nominal coalition, is controlled by the Workers World Party (WWP) and typically decides by itself when and where to protest, then invites others to tag along. UFPJ, although run by nominally anti-imperialist radicals, congenitally accommodates to pro-United Nations and pro-Israel liberals. It has a strong “Anybody but Bush” pro-Democratic Party wing.
From the communist point of view (see our reports in Proletarian Revolution Nos. 67 and 68), there is little to choose politically between them. Neither stands for the defeat of imperialism and the defense of Iraq. For all its anti-imperialist rhetoric, ANSWER does not allow anti-imperialist speakers to confront the imperialist Democrats on its platforms. Even Workers World’s own “socialist” speakers keep their mouths shut. UFPJ more openly promulgates pro-imperialist politics in the form of demands that the United Nations take over the occupation from U.S. forces. ANSWER’s chief spokesman, Ramsey Clark, also typically denounces the U.S. for usurping the powers of the imperialist U.N.
The leading anti-war organizations have adopted the slogan “Bring the Troops Home.” The slogan is U.S.-nationalist, since it asserts that the main victims are the American troops. Many of the troops indeed are victims; they come from the working class, were seduced into the army by economic incentives and don’t share the ruling class’s desire for this war. Nevertheless, the fundamental character of the American troops in Iraq is that of an occupying and victimizing force. Like during the Vietnam War, a number of liberal politicians have adopted “Bring the Troops Home” as a patriotic way of appealing to anti-war sentiment. They propose to continue the occupation of Iraq through the U.N. or other substitutes, with the guiding hand of the U.S. still in place.
Worse, “Bring the Troops Home” also feeds into, and often coexists with, “Support Our Troops,” the pro-war slogan used to justify support for the U.S. military. When used in this sense it is a deliberate lie, designed to blur the anti-war line and confuse supporters. The government is supporting the war, not the troops: it is cutting veterans’ benefits, chiseling soldiers out of health care and breaking all promises about how long they have to stay in Iraq.
Of course, many people who mistakenly favor the slogan are against the war and the occupation. There is a movement of soldiers’ families who are uniting behind “Bring the Troops Home” and express a great deal of hatred for the “playtoy generalissimos” who are getting their children and spouses killed. But the slogan leaves them tied to patriotic illusions, and it doesn’t serve the interests of working-class soldiers who need to really understand how they are being used by imperialism.
Another slogan commonly pushed by the anti-war coalitions and the far left – notably the WWP and ISO – is “Money for Jobs (or Education), Not for War.” This slogan is meant to expose the government’s willingness to spend lavishly on imperial needs, in contrast to its cutbacks of social programs at home. But it actually creates illusions in what the bourgeois state can or will do. The slogan is liberal pap which feeds the lie that voting for Democrats will result in expanded social programs.
The slogan also implies that a superpower can exist without powerful military forces, thereby dodging the reality that the U.S. capitalists pursue war for inherent imperialist reasons. (On this, see our article on military conscription on page 15.)
We are certainly for fighting for the needs of the working class at home as well as against imperialist wars abroad. But socialists above all should not mask the depth of the social transformation that is needed. That is why we have raised slogans that call for general strikes against the capitalist attacks and denounce both the Democrats and Republicans as parties of war, racism and austerity. When an LRP speaker addressed an anti-war rally in Chicago in April (see PR 67), he made the connection between the war abroad and the class war at home:
We have to ... do all we can to encourage the fightback against layoffs, budget cuts and increasing racist attacks at home, including fighting the pro-Democratic Party union bureaucrats who hold back those struggles. Growing struggles here will start to make the connection between the ruling class’s attacks on us here, and its military attacks abroad.
This war is about capitalist profit-making, from exploiting the Middle East’s oil, to exploiting workers in the U.S. Such growing struggles, if they break free of the grip of the Democratic Party, could really challenge the system and lay the basis for overthrowing it once and for all through a socialist revolution. That’s the way to go from defeating this war, to making sure wars like this never happen again. That’s how we can avoid the trap that stopped the anti-Vietnam war movement from challenging the system and rather let it live to commit more crimes.
Despite their overt and covert support for the occupation, the Democratic presidential candidates have succeeded in corralling much of the anti-war movement, including those trade unions that opposed the war and the electoralist elements that supported Ralph Nader’s dissident bourgeois candidacy in 2000.
Working-class revolutionaries know that one major successful strike would do more to inhibit the ruling class war drive and ignite the underlying anger of the beleaguered American working class than a hundred middle-class protests. We fight for advanced workers to take the lead of all forces devoted to ending Washington’s incessant wars. We openly fight to make our fellow workers conscious of their power and the need for a general strike in the interests of the working class at home and abroad. We openly fight for the re-creation of the proletarian revolutionary party to overthrow imperialism and its butchery once and for all.