*Musings On The Struggle Against Imperialist War- On The Question Of How To Call For The Defeat Of U.S. Imperialism Today
Click On Title To Link To V.I. Lenin's late 1914 Article "The Position And Tasks Of The Socialist International" For A "First Draft" Of Leninism On The Question Of Opposition To Imperialist War In The Throes Of The Opening Salvos Of World War I. This Entry Is Merely A First Look At What Should Be An On-Going Appraisal Of His Work On Revolutionary Defeatism.
The following is a response to the blogger Trotskyist’s comments (posted immediately below) on another entry on July 17, 2009, "Once Again, The Slogan Is...", and reflects, perhaps, better than the unwieldy headline of this entry some thoughts in what should be an on-going struggle to find a way to effectively battle the Obama Iraq/Afghan war policies.
Markin: What is the difference between your slogan now and "Out Now" from the reformist SWP during the Vietnam war (or the anti-war popular front today)?
Didn't Lenin insist that revolutionaries must call for the defeat of their own imperialist ruling class in a war?
Renegade Eye said...
Revolutionary defeatism was a slogan, for a particular audience, at a particular time. It was not a principle. In addition Trotsky opposed that slogan.
Trotskyist in his comment posted above from the July 17, 2009 entry mentioned above is actually right, in a formal sense. There is no qualitative difference between the Socialist Workers Party’s (SWP) slogan (and that of others, many others during that time) “Out Now” raised in the 1960s during various phases of the Vietnam War and my formulation now of “Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S. /Allied Troops From Iraq’ (or, for that matter, Afghanistan).
Nevertheless that old SWP slogan was a supportable one, if barely, as an anti-imperialist slogan. When, toward the middle of that war every even mildly leftist (and some not so leftist) bourgeois politician on the make was calling for some variation of that very slogan it was hard to differentiate the SWP’s position. However, the SWP’s (and those same bourgeois politicians on the make) equally prevalent social-patriotic slogan “Bring The Boys Home” (and its variants) on the other hand was not supportable at all. Except for my slightly more algebraic formulation on withdrawal from Iraq then what makes me any more than another run-of-the mill reformist of the SWP ilk posing as a revolutionary? The not inconsiderable one of context.
The SWP raised their slogan, in fair weather or foul, all throughout their anti-war work as they pursued the main chance-staying chummy with bourgeois politicians and suburban housewives (okay, and househusbands too). They raised it in 1965 when it was just barely acceptable to the anti-communist liberal/ labor left that dominated the early anti-war struggle. They raised in 1969 when many of us were calling for “Victory To The NLF (National Liberation Front Of South Vietnam)” in the aftermath of Tet 1968 and they raised it in 1975 as the helicopters were lifting the remnants off the Americans personal off the United States Embassy in Ho Chi Minh City (then Saigon) with the advances of the DNV/NLF forces entering the city.
I believe that today , as an anti-imperialist militant standing in opposition to the escalating Obama-driven American military presence in Afghanistan (and previously during the height of the long and continuing American presence in Iraq that was the focus of Trotskyist’s comment), my slogan represents ONE of the tasks that we have to fight around. In an America that has thus far, except a few malcontents on the left-wing of the Democratic Party and those few, too few, of us to the left of that organization, significantly backed off from the anti-war opposition that drove the initial period of opposition to the Bush portion of the Iraq War this slogan creates an axis to struggle around. A little class struggle in America around this issue (and for that matter any issue given the current economic circumstances) would go a long way toward breaking through on this problem of the Obama “honeymoon”.
As for the question of revolutionary defeatism, an important concept to those who stand in the Leninist anti-war tradition, let me make my position clear. Since somewhere about the middle of the Vietnam War I have, on more occasions that I care to count, called for the defeat of the American imperialist in whatever military adventure they were up to at the moment. That is my policy in regard to the American military presence in the world under any and all foreseeable circumstances while this country remains in the hands of the imperialists.
In practice, in Iraq and Afghanistan, that has meant calling for, in the best Leninist tradition, the military defense of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and Hussein’s regime in Iraq when confronted with the American onslaught. Naturally this precluded any political support to those wretched regimes. Thus, an additional slogan is the call for the Iraqi and Afghan peoples to overthrow those regimes (while we are committed to do likewise with our own). I have raised those points many times in this space, including a call to form soldiers and sailors committees in the U.S. military in order to end the Iraq war. What I do not believe is appropriate for today (meaning in the short term) is to make that policy the center of our anti-war work. In practice today such an approach would mean something like raising a slogan of “Military Victory To The Taliban”, or some such thing. To state the proposition that starkly tells the tale. Sometimes in politics, especially left-wing politics, one finds oneself between a rock and a hard place. That, my friends, is the case here.
That situation is also where things today are different from Vietnam where we did have a side, the DRV/NLF forces, we wanted to see win. There were some forces I did want to see win in Afghanistan- the Soviet Union and their Afghan governmental allies before 1989. Of course then many Western leftists were screaming their version of “Out Now”, anti-Soviet-style. But a review of that fight is for another time. This is hardly the last word on this issue but I’ll be damned if I will take a back seat to anyone on my adult life time of opposition to American imperialism just because today I want to line up forces behind a variation of the “out now” axis of opposition to imperialist war.
Note: I slightly disagree with Renegade on the weight of the policy of revolutionary defeatism. It is not merely a question of its being a tactic but is rather an important strand in the anti-imperialist struggle especially here in the heartland of world imperialism, although the practical application now may take a variety of forms.