The following article was originally published in Socialist Voice No. 13 (Summer 1981).
“No more Vietnams,” cries the Reagan Administration, meaning that no longer will the U.S. government permit a small country like El Salvador to loosen the grip of imperialism. “No more Vietnams,” wail the liberal Democrats, indicating that sections of the ruling class still fear the consequences of sending U.S. soldiers into a foreign adventure when the American people have not been fooled into believing it is in their interest. The international “left” echoes the same cry – meaning in reality that a negotiated settlement with the U.S. puppet masters is preferable to an outright victory of the revolution. And thousands of anti-war militants, who believe that “No more Vietnams” means that the U.S. has no right to intervene in El Salvador at all, are instead being hoodwinked by their liberal-left misleaders into support of this betrayal.
Reagan, under the fraudulent but customary justification that the Salvadorean revolution is imported by foreign Communists rather than generated by capitalist oppression, has stepped up arms deliveries and sent Green Berets to aid the butcher junta-government. Ominously, the Pentagon has publicly derided the military capacity of the Salvadorean army, implying that only U.S troops can really do their job. And even more ominously, the entire “left” spectrum – ranging from the Russian, Cuban and Nicaraguan governments to the Salvadorean rebel leaders to the miserable U.S. “Marxist” groups – have already capitulated to the American imperialists.
Is it really true that the Salvadorean revolution is being betrayed by its leaders and professed allies – despite all the charges by the State Department about Communist arms being funneled to the rebels, despite all the solidarity statements from Cuba, Nicaragua and the West German-led Socialist (“Yellow”) International, despite all the demonstrations across the country demanding “U.S. Out”? Yes, it is absolutely true, as we shall prove here. The charge must be taken seriously by everyone who genuinely wishes to end the torture, exploitation and oppression in El Salvador and by extension throughout the world.
Start with Russia. During the 26th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in February, Kremlin spokesman Leonid Zamyatin told reporters bluntly that “The Soviet Union does not provide El Salvador with arms. It never has. It never will.” President Brezhnev, in his well-publicized addresses to the Congress, did not mention El Salvador and the U.S. role there even once. Reagan and his underlings are continually, if manipulatively, warning the world about the Russian threat to Poland. But the Russians silently concede the U.S. imperialists’ right to dominate Central America. Reagan and Brezhnev agree that El Salvador is in the North American “backyard.” Even if the Soviet denial of aid to El Salvador was not entirely true, the aid has at best been scanty. For the USSR values its need for imperialist “detente” higher than any concern for a distant anti-U.S. insurgency.
As for Cuba and Nicaragua, El Salvador’s neighbors ruled by governments established by popular guerrilla movements, the evidence is mounting that their aid, limited all along, was sharply cut back after the U.S. State Department issued its “White Paper” on February 23. The reliable Latin America Weekly Report (February 27) noted that the document “provided little concrete evidence of arms flows into El Salvador.” It explained:
The documents, allegedly captured from the Salvadorean Communist Party and one of the guerrilla groups, the Ejercito Revolucionario del Pueblo (ERP), between last November and January, actually show the guerrillas’ disappointment with the lack of aid from Nicaragua, and their constant supply and equipment problems. The documents mention commitments of 800 tons of arms from the socialist countries, but only point to the delivery, through Cuba and Nicaragua, of 200 tons. (Emphasis added.)
Along the same lines, a February 12 article by the New York Times reporter in Managua, Alan Riding, quoted a “senior Nicaraguan official” as saying “Washington’s message has been heard loud and clear. There is recognition of the very high political cost to Nicaragua of involvement in El Salvador.” And on March 9, the same reporter wrote that “United States officials say they have been privately assured that the Nicaraguan government will try to prevent armaments from passing through here to El Salvador. In public, Managua has offered to promote a political rather than military solution to the Salvadoran conflict.”
Clearly, the Nicaraguan government has capitulated to Washington’s pressure – whether before or after the February State Department attack is immaterial. This has been its policy all along: it has attempted to preserve the bourgeois position in its own country and to this end has suppressed workers’ struggles whenever it could. So its denial of anything more than verbal support to the Salvadorean revolution comes as no surprise. But the U.S. is not satisfied. Reagan proceeded to cut off all aid to the Sandinista regime in March, including vital food supplies. The Administration also tacitly supported the training of Somozaist forces in Florida who are planning an invasion of Nicaragua. Inevitably, the fruits of capitulation have been meager indeed.
While the Sandinistas would prefer to see a left-leaning regime in El Salvador, they are petty-bourgeois nationalists whose survival depends fundamentally not on the spread of revolution but on their ability to strike independent deals with imperialism. Ironically, the rebel leadership in El Salvador has no cause for its professed “disappointment,” since they too are nothing but nationalists whose goal is now openly admitted to be striking a deal of their own with imperialism, the so-called “political solution.”
The Revolutionary Democratic Front (FDR) is a bloc between the working-class political-military organizations like the ERP and a handful of liberal, Social Democratic and Christian Democratic figures led by Guillermo Ungo. These politicians, deemed the “progressive bourgeoisie” by the left, split from the junta early to join the FDR. Ungo, the current head of the FDR, ran for vice-president on the same ticket as the junta’s current president, Jose Napoleon Duarte, in 1972, and has been openly seeking a negotiated settlement with the U.S. – both under Carter during the FDR’s so-called “final offensive” in January, and now under Reagan.
The FDR’s “political solution” can only mean a coalition government with elements of the present junta, as distinct from its previous program for a coalition between the masses’ organizations and the “progressive bourgeoisie.” The January 23 Latin America Weekly Report referred to a secret meeting in Tegucigalpa, Honduras between representatives of the FDR and the U.S. State Department to discuss a ceasefire plan that included “reorganization of the Salvadorean government to bring in FDR representatives.” The report was subsequently denied by U.S officials, but the FDR had leaked it without making any criticism of the joint government proposal.
We pointed out in Socialist Voice No. 12 that the formation of the FDR was designed to guarantee that the Salvadorean revolution would preserve capitalism after the overthrow of the junta. This guarantee was signaled by the published program of the FDR, by the unmistakably pro-bourgeois figures who were its leading spokesmen and by the guerrilla strategy of the insurgents that keeps the working class, a potent force in present-day El Salvador, from playing the leading revolutionary role. The quotations above show that the FDR strategy has turned further to the right.
The FDR is following a well-travelled road. All class-collaborationist workers’ organizations seek to deal with the liberal bourgeoisie and imperialism, out of not love but what they see as necessity. To regenerate the Salvadorean economy and to prevent a U.S.-inspired invasion, the FDR knows it has to forestall an outflow of capital and capitalists. It hopes to appeal to a “progressive” section of the bourgeoisie which will understand that the only hope for profits in El Salvador is economic reform.
This was the line of the Mensheviks in the Russian revolution and of the Stalinists in the defeated 1925-27 Chinese revolution. It has always led to betrayal, and – when carried out – to the massacre of the proletariat. For capitalists, even nice ones, want profits, do not want their property endangered, do not want strikes (especially general strikes), do not want workers in the streets demonstrating, do not want workers with arms. Any capitalist, satanic or charitable, would infinitely prefer to invest in Florida swampland condominiums where profits are high and protected. Capital which cannot so easily leave El Salvador (like landed property) craves the restoration of order. The only possible appeal of the FDR to these elements is its control over the workers and its ability to curb them through reforms and other sops.
However, given the world economic crisis and the decline of profit rates, the liberal bourgeoisie and American imperialism are less able to pursue such a policy than they were in the heyday of prosperity. The bourgeoisie, all sections of it, can only rely on the military and police forces to repress the workers. Even Duarte’s reforms are no help. That is why the left only succeeded in drawing a few bourgeois politicians to its side, but not any “progressive bourgeoisie” itself. Now it must move further to the right to keep them. But it will never separate the bourgeoisie from its only lifeline, the military. Any attempted deal for a bloc with the bourgeoisie, and not simply its powerless shadows like Ungo or Duarte, must come to terms with the army. In the unlikely event that this policy succeeds, as it once did in Chile, the generals will murder the liberals and the workers they betrayed shortly after.
The Nicaraguan Sandinistas have gone so far in their attempt to propitiate their bourgeoisie and the U.S. that they proclaim their policy of extreme “benevolence” to the slaughterers who manned Somoza’s old National Guard. Even so, the only sacrifice the bourgeoisie will accept is the strangulation of the workers’ institutions and movements. When and if the Ungo’s and the Borge’s succeed in breaking the spirit of the workers, then they too become dispensable. Only because the workers are not yet broken do their misleaders avoid the fate of Allende.
No wonder the overthrow of the junta has been removed from the FDR’s agenda. Previously the workers’ strikes and the guerrilla battles had served to buttress the diplomatic efforts of Ungo and others to win support for the FDR’s proposed “revolutionary democratic government.” Now the mass struggles are being used to win a share in governmental power with the bloody junta itself, responsible for the slaughter of over 10,000 Salvadorean workers and peasants in the year-and-a-half it has held power. Such a government would be completely untenable. Ungo and other FDR figures were ministers in the first junta government after October 1979 and were forced to resign within a few months because they were powerless to halt the carnage. While all popular front governments lead to disaster for the working class, the FDR now advocates, in effect, a return to October 1979, the military junta with a left cover.
The FDR, of course, denies that it intends to share power with the military junta. “We cannot talk to the fascists in the armed forces, but we’re willing to give the Christian Democrats the benefit of the doubt if they could show they had any power of their own.” So spoke Ungo’s colleague Salvador Samayoa, a former junta minister now with the FDR, quoted in Mexico City by reporter Riding (Times, February 24). It is either a fantasy or a lie. These Christian Democrats are no political innocents – they know all too well they have no power without the officers. They have been the front-men for the “fascists” for months, giving a civilian cover to what would otherwise be naked military rule. For their part, they would like to talk to the bourgeois politicians on the FDR’s side, without the “Marxists” in the political-military organizations that are subject to direct pressure from their working-class base. So-called moderates on both sides are hoping for a Duarte-Ungo solution with a subdued role for the generals. This is also the preference of Robert White, Jimmy Carter’s ambassador to El Salvador, who has been campaigning throughout the U.S. against Reagan’s refusal to negotiate with the moderate oppositionists.
In our previous article, we argued that the capitalist government envisioned by the FDR would be no solution at all:
The truth is that no bourgeois government, not even a revolutionary nationalist one, can carry out the kind of reforms promised by the FDR. No nation can go it alone in the epoch of imperialism, especially a small country that has been raped by the imperialists and lacks the resources to provide for its people's needs. If the revolt brewing throughout Central America is short-circuited and results only in the establishment of left-leaning pro-capitalist regimes, a new deal between the indigenous bourgeoisie and imperialism will inevitably be struck. The capitalists and their government will be forced to clamp down hard on the workers. The Sandinista regime in Nicaragua is the model: it is no accident that it is engaged in breaking strikes, preserving capitalist property and re-establishing strong dependent economic ties to the U.S. If the FDR is able to take power in El Salvador, the present slaughter will end but the cycle of imperialist domination, repression and brutal exploitation will shortly begin anew.
That was before the FDR’s new coalition government strategy became apparent. Now it hopes to set up a semi-democratic regime (the Duarte-Ungo solution) without wiping out the junta’s army. But the FDR cannot seriously hope to force the junta to surrender short of defeating it. The guerrillas’ January offensive, which they claimed to have launched to present the incoming Reagan Administration with a fait accompli, failed to defeat the junta or even to establish the guerrillas firmly in important towns. Our prognosis of a return to repression under a revolutionary bourgeois regime will be all the more immediate under a regime that relies on collaboration with the butchers.
The January offensive itself indicts the guerrillas’ policy. On January 10, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), the military arm of the FDR, issued its “General Order No. 1” which said in part: “The hour of revolution has arrived – the hour of liberation has arrived! ... Forward, heroic Salvadoran people. To total combat until the final victory, to the decisive military battles, to popular insurrection. Prepare for the general strike until victory.” (Intercontinental Press, January 19).
But after the offensive failed, the FMLN changed its tune. The hour of liberation was no longer called the “final offensive” but only a “general offensive,” designed to train its combatants and prepare for a subsequent offensive in May. In fact, the origin of the term “final offensive” itself was buried under a cloud of smoke, although any reader of General Order No. 1 would be entitled to assume the FMLN either meant what it said or was bluffing. There have been unverified reports that the FDR is internally divided over negotiating. However, now that the FDR-FMLN insists that it wasn’t really trying to win, revolutionaries have cause to believe it. If the FDR was not fighting to seize state power, it was fighting to lay the basis for diplomatic negotiations. Its insurrectional call to the masses was then a deliberate fraud intended to stimulate working-class action that the leaders knew would fall short of victory. The urban workers who heeded the call were thereby left defenseless against the regime’s retaliation.
This is a serious charge, which the FDR’s own statements back up. We had pointed out this danger in our previous article criticizing the guerrilla strategy: “At best such a strategy leaves the working class on the sidelines waiting for the heroic guerrillas. ... In El Salvador today it has done worse, leaving the workers exposed to the tender mercies of the military butchers.” According to the February 27 Latin America Weekly Report, the guerrillas say that “their chief error ... lay in their failure to provide the strikers in the cities with military support, which allowed the security forces a free hand to suppress the protest.” The “military support” now promised by the guerrillas is still not what is necessary – arming the workers themselves. The FDR’s continued refusal to do this is a conscious policy of betrayal, not an “error.” The self-criticism is hollow.
In Nicaragua it was not the guerrilla army which defeated the Somozaists but the armed workers in the cities. This was acknowledged by FSLN Commandante Humberto Ortega, interviewed in the Cuban publication Bohemia (reprinted in Intercontinental Press, February 18, 1980: “We had thought the masses would support the guerrillas in taking power. But that’s not how it happened. Instead the guerrillas ended up supporting the mass insurrection that overthrew the Somoza dictatorship ...” The armed proletariat made impossible any deal with the pro-Somoza bourgeoisie and army. But in the absence of a proletarian leadership, the Sandinistas took power and quickly confiscated the masses’ arms. The British Economist magazine (September 29, 1979) summarized: “The brunt of the carnage in September 1978, and again this summer was borne by ill-armed working-class militias from the shantytowns, not by the hit-and-run guerrillas. ... working-class irregulars with guns ... are being disarmed or speedily incorporated into the Sandinista army.” This is the lesson learned from Nicaragua by the Salvadorean FDR, which has no intention of letting the workers arm and organize themselves militarily.
Socialist Voice has been the only publication to criticize the anti-working class character at the core of the FDR’s strategy. A few left papers objected to its pro-capitalist program and the participation in it of bourgeois politicians, but no one else warned that the guerrilla strategy itself was against the workers’ interests. In other more prosperous times, as we wrote, it could have led to nothing better than “a state capitalist regime ruling for and over the masses, no matter what the guerrillas’ beneficent intentions.” Now they can’t go even that far. The pseudo-Trotskyists failed to make such a criticism because, like the Stalinist- and reformist-trained Salvadorean left leaders, they believe that socialism will come in the wake of a revolution made by non-proletarian forces and therefore they tail the FDR.
There is no excuse for this failure to perceive reality on the part of supposed Marxists dedicated to the working class. The evidence was in well before January for those with eyes to see. Even before the guerrillas united with the “progressive capitalists” last spring, they were not fighting for a proletarian revolution, even though some groups used the words. Instead, they limited the struggle to militant trade-unionism for the workers, on the one hand, and called for “prolonged people’s war” in the countryside, on the other.
Since January 1979, the Salvadorean working class has risen in mass strikes, plant seizures and general strikes. Before the guerrillas set up the FDR with opposition capitalists, they led the mass strikes to some partial victories and many stalemates. After the founding of the FDR, the new leadership of radical guerrillas and dissident politicians called two general strikes of a few days each last summer. This gave the military plenty of time to round up and massacre the most revolutionary workers and to occupy seaports, airports, waterworks, electric power installations and other major industries. Especially after the failure of the August 13-15 general strike, the working class was exhausted, demoralized and under the constant supervision of the armed forces. After more than a year of being treated by their leadership as a big stick to be brandished or set aside at whim, given the FDR’s policy of keeping them disarmed, is it any wonder that the Salvadorean workers distrusted the general strike call of January 10?
The masses want unity but this must be class unity. The FDR can achieve unity with the capitalists only at the expense of unity and the very survival of the working class.
Now that the offensive is over, the best evidence shows that the masses will support the rebels, even if passively. But the shadow representatives of the non-existent “progressive bourgeoisie” have begun stabbing the FDR in the back. FDR admirers have made much of the political role of the Catholic church in El Salvador; many priests support the FDR, including former Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed by rightists for his efforts a year ago. His successor, Bishop Arturo Rivera y Damas, originally continued Romero’s policy but has now rescinded support for the guerrillas; he maintains an officially neutral stance but admires the pseudo-reforms of the Duarte government and blames the left for most of the killings.
When it looked like the FDR would be the instrument for preserving capitalism; the church stood with it; now that its prospects have dimmed and Duarte has made cosmetic changes, Rivera y Damas has switched. It is only to be hoped that the loss of such fair-weather friends will clarify their class nature to the revolutionary Salvadorean proletariat. The lower rungs of the church hierarchy still remain with the FDR but will desert the masses should they launch a struggle against class collaboration. Individual priests and nuns may remain with the workers, but the bulk will follow Judas as always.
In the U.S., the left has embarked upon a defeatist, class collaborationist course that fully matches that of the petty-bourgeois nationalists in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Cuba. The major solidarity organization here is CISPES, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. CISPES public rallies and demonstrations have been dominated by bourgeois spokesmen, mainly liberal Democratic Party politicians and Catholic clergy, who offer no program but begging the Administration to talk to the FDR moderates (and perhaps prayer). At a conference called in solidarity with El Salvador in New York on March 21, two incidents made graphically clear the thoroughly pro-capitalist character of CISPES (and the vacillating, centrist character of the myriad of left groupings – Social Democrats, Maoists, Stalinists, pseudo-Trotskyists, etc. – who gave the conference their uncritical approval).
The honored guest at this conference was one Carlos Federico Paredes, a former Vice-Minister of Economic Planning under the Salvadorean junta, who resigned his post not in early 1980 along with Ungo, Samayoa and their colleagues in the FDR – but on January 25, 1981, after the year-long slaughter in El Salvador. This gentleman, who shares responsibility for the mass butchery of the Salvadorean people along with his military masters, was featured (not even debated with) at a CISPES press conference, given a workshop to address and was named one of the “keynote speakers” at the post-conference rally. He claimed to speak not for the FDR but for a “broad sector” of Salvadoreans – professionals and small businessmen. He resigned, he said, not because he opposed what the junta had tried to do but because under Reagan its “reforms” would no longer be carried out. “There is no guarantee for the Salvadoran people that the reforms will be maintained” – this slimy endorsement of the junta’s policies was printed in a CISPES press release distributed at the conference!
It was an outrage that such a figure be displayed at a conference supposedly in solidarity with the people of El Salvador, not their oppressors. Yet only the League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP) protested Paredes’ role. Subsequently, Paredes was quoted without criticism in the pages of several left publications, including Workers World, the Militant and Workers Vanguard. (Other left papers like the Guardian saw fit not to mention the presence of this criminal at all.)
Secondly, the conference goon squad (bolstered by Socialist Workers Party heavies) evicted from the conference members of the Spartacist League and the LRP because we “disagreed with the purposes of the conference” – that is, called for the military defeat of the junta. The LRP, as our headline in Socialist Voice stated, stands for the victory of the masses in El Salvador through socialist revolution, while the Spartacists in contrast urged the victory of the “left-wing insurgents,” that is, the FDR. Our slogan was for proletarian victory, but even the Spartacists’ call for an FDR victory was banned by the supposedly pro-FDR CISPES. CISPES and its backers thereby proved beyond doubt that what they stand for is not solidarity with the struggle of the Salvadorean workers and peasants, but the FDR’s defeatist policy of a negotiated settlement with imperialism. This is not the solidarity which the thousands of activists in the movement believe they are fighting for, but rather its betrayal.
The hypocrisy of this criminal position was best exemplified by the CISPES slogan, “No U.S. Intervention.” In fact, the conference’s tacit position for negotiations with the U.S. was a blatant call for U.S. intervention. The slogan, in the mouths of such a leadership, is a total fraud.
After the LRP and the Spartacist League were expelled from the conference, the SL asked us to join it in a protest picket to call for a boycott of the rally. We agreed, not simply because of the expulsion (the SL’s reason) but because of the conference’s politics. Paredes’ starring role plus our expulsion on political grounds proved that it stood not just for the usual combination of solidarity and sellout but for building a platform to uphold a policy of betrayal.
Just before the rally began, however, the SL backed down. The rally claimed to be against imperialism and so should not be boycotted, the SL argued. This is hardly the whole reason. The SL, like ourselves, had seen enough evidence that the “anti-imperialist” line was being used to wheedle a settlement with the U.S.; more likely, the Spartacists were impressed with the size of the conference (over 1500 people attended) and did not want to be left out of the snowballing class-collaborationist bloc of which the conference was a part. Boycotting the conference would have been used by CISPES and the SWP to cover their own goon tactics by claiming that the SL had read itself out of the movement. So the SL retreated, and thereby acted no differently from the rest of the opportunity left.
Interestingly enough, the Spartacist press in its several accounts of the conference and the expulsions never mentioned that the LRP was excluded along with the SL. Had it done so, it would have had to mention the boycott it proposed, a subject the SL now seeks to avoid.
The Spartacist League’s vacillating opportunism towards the rally is linked to its political program. It claims to support only the military victory of the pro-capitalist FDR, not its political victory; but, at a time when the FDR is fighting not to overthrow the junta but to make a deal for a coalition regime, the “military victory” slogan is in fact a political call for an FDR government independent of the junta. The Spartacists can make such a call because of their pseudo-Trotskyist theory that petty-bourgeois nationalists like Castro, the Sandinistas and now the FDR can create workers’ states (albeit deformed).
Furthermore, the SL’s central slogan, “Defense of Cuba and the USSR Begins in El Salvador,” amounts to a capitulation to imperialism. The U.S. and the USSR are jockeying for a trade-off: Russia will accept U.S. hegemony over Central America and the U.S. will return the favor in Poland. It is obvious that Washington fears the outbreak of revolution throughout the Central American tinderbox and is using the “Russian menace” as an excuse to smash the class struggle. The SL accepts half of the superpower deal: it has continually refused to condemn the threat of a Russian invasion of Poland to crush the Polish workers. As for the other half, its Salvador slogan again subordinates the class struggle to the “defense” of Russia. But Russia is happy to sacrifice El Salvador for its own imperialist needs. Thus “defense of the USSR” plays into the hands of imperialism and is treason to the workers of both Poland and El Salvador.
The Spartacist League, more than the rest of the pseudo-left, nominally opposes class-collaboration. But when push comes to shove it waveringly joins the tailist chorus – critically and nastily, of course, in order to preserve its left pose. Like all the other middle-class left groups, the SL is salivating over the reformist political blocs now being fashioned to seize hegemony over the developing movement against war, racism and capitalist oppression.
CISPES is following in the footsteps of the anti-Vietnam War coalitions of a decade ago: it is adopting the political policies of the “dove” wing of the U.S. ruling class and policing the mass movement against proletarian politics. The earlier anti-war movement contributed to the defeat of imperialism in Southeast Asia, but it helped check any movement by the masses of American participants toward socialist conclusions; in fact, it led them into the bourgeois electoral campaigns of “Clean Gene” McCarthy, Robert Kennedy and George McGovern. Today, CISPES is far worse: it acts to prevent support for a victory of the Salvadorean masses, while it is likewise marching right into the arms of the capitalist politicians. This path was made clear by ex-Minister Paredes; he quit the Salvadorean government, he says, just when Reagan took office and it became clear that the new U.S. president did not favor a negotiated solution. “Back to the good old days of Jimmy Carter,” was Paredes’ slogan, in effect. CISPES and the left is adopting this same liberal imperialist line.
The U.S. left today is hoping to create another mass movement like the one it recalls from the days of the Vietnam War. But it has learned the wrong lessons from the past; it remembers only that the liberal politicians made the movement “respectable” and therefore swept the masses in. Liberalism is considerably discredited today, so the bigger left groups have taken it upon themselves to make sure that any new movement stays within the bounds of bourgeois respectability. Every issue will be used for this purpose: Reagan’s budget cutbacks, the draft, racism, etc., but El Salvador offers the first big opportunity. Reagan’s position on this issue is not popular. Congressional mail and Gallup polls indicate that only a tiny minority of Americans favor U.S. military intervention. Many youth of military age see the danger of a war that could force them to risk their lives for no good purpose. Mass participation in solidarity rallies over El Salvador has reached the thousands and is rising. If the pseudo-left has its way, it will impose its defeatist pro-bourgeois politics on a genuine developing movement.
Worse, the logic of the left’s position is leading not just to a capitulatory reformist program but to a rerun of the popular fronts of the 1930’s: alliances of working-class organizations with liberal politicians designed to keep the workers’ struggles from threatening capitalist property. Today, the anti-war movement is likely to have a greater working-class composition than in the 1960’s, for the material prosperity that created mass illusions in the future of capitalism has dissipated. This may well explain why groups like the SWP, which held out for a “single-issue” approach to movements in the past in order to sidestep the troublesome matter of electoral politics, are now throwing all issues into one pot. They know that unionists, Blacks and other working-class people are being propelled into action by the crisis, so they work overtime to give the movement a reformist political program on all questions. If this strategy succeeds it will build a new base for the bourgeois liberal politicians whose past strength has now all but collapsed.
A powerful movement to halt U.S. intervention is absolutely necessary, but it is vital that it break out of the class-collaborationist bounds that the middle-class left is trying to impose. A popular front would be a disaster, as is the Salvadorean FDR and its model, Allende’s ill-fated Unidad Popular in Chile. It will take a struggle to ensure that the “U.S. Out of El Salvador” movement becomes a genuine united front and not a popular frontist bloc.
We are hardly against politics in the movement, but short of building a proletarian revolutionary movement with communist politics, we are for fighting to prevent bourgeois politics from achieving hegemony. A united front of all political currents in the working class and among its allies can be built only around actions against U.S. imperialism. In these, Marxists will work alongside other currents and strive to prove our politics correct in the course of the struggle. This means no bloc in politics with CISPES and other anti-working class misleaders.
Accordingly, we fight against any compromise with the principle of no U.S. intervention, including a fight against negotiations for a political settlement with the U.S. We also oppose formally democratic slogans like “Let the Salvadorean people decide” and “No outside intervention,” which have been raised by CISPES and left union bureaucrats (see the accompanying article). Both of these slogans in fact serve imperialism. The movement must fight to keep U.S. arms and economic aid from the junta, but genuine anti-imperialists have no business demanding that the Salvadorean masses not accept arms from whatever sources they can find. Keeping all arms out of El Salvador or calling for “democratic” referendums when the Salvadorean butcher-bourgeoisie is armed to the teeth means keeping the junta in power. We, as proletarian revolutionaries, want to see the Salvadorean people genuinely decide their own fate: therefore we want to see the workers and peasants armed so they can defend and enforce their decisions. It is the only way.
Within united front actions, we will also argue for a program through which the Salvadorean working class can win state power: Military Defense of the FMLN Fighters. No Political Support to the FDR and its Betrayals. Socialist Revolution in El Salvador, For a Socialist Federation of Central America. Partisans of the Salvadorean revolution who are fed up with the left’s defeatism will find this program the only one for victory. It is the program of the future revolutionary party to be built both in El Salvador and the United States.