[R-G] The SWP today: a self-centered sect adjusting to benefits of "success" of US imperialism
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu Jan 1 09:42:43 MST 2004
In Nestor Gorojovsky's recent article on the Marxmail list, he quotes
Jose Perez: "Nestor's point is that when you're in the colonial and
semicolonial world, you're quite unlikely to forget this point: the
pressure of theimperialist boot on your neck reminds you of it
"Yes, José, but that is only a part of my point. The other part is
that the pressure of the imperialist boot often uses to assume the
shape of anti-nationalist leftism from the First World. This pressure
hammers into many of our best young people an ideology which, in the
end, ranks them with imperialists. Thus, though it would seem
impossible NOT to see imperialism in Argentina, you would be
astonished at the enormous mass of 'leftists' who actually do not."
Nestor and Jose are both absolutely right -- which doesn't mean that
it is illegal for people who hold imperialist citizenship to notice
that Saddamism is an obstacle to a united national fight against the
occupation of Iraq or that Milosevic's wars furthered every outcome,
including subordination to US imperialism, that he claimed they were
aimed at preventing.
Their remarks struck me particularly forcefully reading the article
from the latest issue of the Militant that follows these comments.
In broad politics, the article is striking for its insistence on
irreconcilable opposition to every imperialism but their own, which is
portrayed as the kinder, gentler, "soft-protectorate" imperialism.
Would-be US revolutionists hail their British counterparts putting
forward slogans which demand British but not US troops, out of Iraq --
which oppose the British, but not the US, war in that country.
Apparently, for British people to demand US withdrawal would violate
"revolutionary defeatism" according to the unique SWP interpretation
of the concept. Nowhere in the issue does the demand for immediate US
withdrawal from Iraq -- or even from Yugoslavia or anywhere else--
This tends to confirm my judgment that the call for "unconditional
withdrawal" in a recent issue was not and was not intended to be a
call for immediate withdrawal (even the British version does not say
now, although it cannot be excluded as a possibility that they
intended to express that). I am becoming convinced that the SWP in
practice accepts the US "soft protectorate" today as a lesser evil to
the loss of "civic space" for the Iraqis that the SWP leadership fears
would result from a too-hasty US withdrawal, and the establishment of
a Baathist, Islamic, or other bourgeois-nationalist regime. The SWP's
truly new-fangled interpretation of revolutionary defeatism suggests
that the defeat of all the other imperialisms except its own is the
lesser evil, and that its task is to make sure that the "communist
leagues" in each country toe this "revolutionary defeatist" line.
Another side of the picture is the stance that since bourgeois
nationalist regimes are reactionary in many respects and cannot
effectively defend against imperialism, there is nothing to be gained
by defending them against imperialism. Note the article on Libya from
that standpoint. In my opinion, the fire is not on the imperialists,
but on Qaddafi for surrendering to the threats. There is no line of
defending Libya in this article. In conflicts between bourgeois
nationalists and US imperialism, the fire is now to be centered on the
imperialists but on the incapacity of the bourgeois nationalists.
Indeed anyone demanding "US out" now anywhere in the world,including
Iraq, is part of the bipartisan war party! They are either
anti-American, pro-Democrat, or backing the interests of rival
imperialists against Washington, The Militant, a newspaper published
in the United States by an organization based in the US but which
regards itself apparently as a simon-pure "world" or
"internationalist" and therefore without any special obligation to
oppose US imperialism, is determined to smash any "softness" toward
After all, aren't those demanding US out almost certain to speak ill
of the current head of the US executive committee of the ruling
class -- one George W. Bush, a sacred cow in the pages of the Militant
for the last several months? If they are in the US, aren't they more
likely than not to vote a Dean or Kucinich against Bush next year?
Don't they criminally hope that their protests can have an effect on
the imperialists' warmakers? Aren't they likely to support Blair's
critics in the Labor Party who are at least as bad as he is, but in
fact even worse for are they not, unlike Blair, guilty of
"anti-American chauvinism"? Isn't it social patriotic for US antiwar
activists to want the troops to come "home" right now -- especially
when they are inadvertently performing the revolutionary
internationalist task of preserving the civic space they won in
passing for the masses of Iraq?
In the customary closing "revolutionary" peroration, party National
Secretary and corporation CEO Jack Barnes declares: "Washingtons
current course will create new opportunities to recarve revolutionary
leadership in many countries around the world that can lead working
people to put an end once and for all to the imperialist system, its
plunder, and its wars." Is it an accident of wording that this phrase,
which credits "Washington's current course" with creating "new
opportunities to create revolutionary leadership in many countries,"
never suggests any need to combat this productive course today?
Okay, I am someone who was frequently called on to help edit articles
and party publications (including the Militant for about a year in
1980) and I have learned what may be a nit-picking attitude toward
words and phrases. But I simply do not believe that it is a verbal
technicality that has led to the virtual disappearance of
anti-US-imperialist themes from the pages of the Militant.
I also want to note the comfortable and ingrown character of party
tasks,. The centrality of the three or four-times yearly construction
projects, the periodic "Jack-raps" that set out the current articles
of faith, the routine raising of large sums of money, the centrality
and grandiosity of the campaign for the new bookstore, the political
line that can seal them off from any movement that raises troubling
political questions. If they are consistent, for example, how can
they deny that immigrant rights' protests are as much "part of the
bipartisan war party" as antiwar protests? Certainly all the ones I
have attended have had platforms dominated by liberal and Democratic
Party politics. How can they deny that every strike in the United
States today, still takes place in the broad political framework set
by the bipartisan war party, and imposed through the union
I an not raising any issues of personal corruption -- the burden of
proof on that has to be on those who make the charges and they have
not met it at all -- but of broader and deeper adaptation to
political circumstances which the party leadership cannot be blamed
for creating but which they have proved incapable of resisting).
Lenin used to say that the economists were wront to "focus the
attention of the working class primarily on itself" rather than broad
political struggles at home and abroad that it alone could lead to a
revolutionary conclusion. The SWP has gone the economists one better.
It it taking a tiny number of would-be vanguard proletarian fighters
and focussing their attention entirely on themselves -- effectively
taking them not only out of the political struggle, but increasingly
out of the class struggle and towards the exit door of the workers
This will be my last comment on this till some new fundamental shift
takes place. The ones we have been discussing recently are now
established line and "continuity." But so far, what I have seen
confirms my earlier estimates. They are opposed to the bipartisan war
party, but within the bipartisan war party, they are much more opposed
to the liberals, left, and Democrats than to President Bush, the
Republican party, neoconservatives, and other mainstream
conservatives. The SWP is opposed to imperialism but, among the
imperialists, they are more hostile to French and German imperialism,
in particular, and to the European imperialisms in general than they
are to US imperialism. And , as of now, the SWP does not call for
immediate, unconditional US withdrawal from Iraq (or, as far as I can
see, anywhere else).
The SWP has every right at any moment-- maybe, for example, the next
issue in two weeks will present a fuller picture of what the top SWP
leader said or others said -- to prove me wrong by words or deeds.
But so far, there has been no such luck, and I am afraid, no hint of
any to come.
The war party, working-class resistance,
and building the communist movement
Public meeting launches new premises
of New York Pathfinder Books
BY PATRICK ONEILL
NEW YORKNearly 300 people attended a public meeting held here
December 14 to launch the work of building a new and expanded
Pathfinder bookstore and distribution center in New York City. More
than a third of those who attended the gatheringtitled The War
Party, Working-Class Resistance, and Building the Communist
Movementhad joined work crews over the previous day and a half of
the Red Weekend to do initial construction work on the new premises.
(See article in last weeks issue.)
Participants had two things to celebrate, said Mary-Alice Waters,
editor of the Marxist magazine New International and one of the
speakers. In addition to officially launching the construction
project, she said, We have come to celebrate what is represented by
these four titlesmany months of labor by volunteers in the Pathfinder
Printing Project. She was referring to four new Pathfinder books
scheduled for publication in January. Blow-ups of the covers of these
books hung above the stage. They were Aldabonazo: Inside the Cuban
Revolutionary Underground, 1952-58 by Armando Hart, in both English-
and Spanish-language editions; Rebelión Teamster, the first edition in
Spanish of Teamster Rebellion by Farrell Dobbs; and Leur Trotsky et le
nôtre by Jack Barnesthe first French-language edition of Their
Trotsky and Ours.
Waters and Jack Barnes, the Socialist Workers Party national
secretary, were the featured speakers. Martín Koppel, organizer of the
executive committee of the New York SWP, and Arrin Hawkins of the New
York Young Socialists co-chaired the event.
The first speaker, SWP National Committee member Norton Sandler, told
the meeting that voluntary construction teams would rapidly turn the
space into the flagship Pathfinder bookshop in the United States. The
address307 West 36th Street, 10th Floor North, New York, NY
10018would be listed on the data page of each Pathfinder book that
comes off the press, he said, just as 47 The Cut, the address of the
publishers London distributor, has appeared in every Pathfinder book
Pathfinder supporters in the United Kingdom organized their own Red
Weekend and public meeting in mid-November to spruce up the London
bookshop and celebrate its 15th anniversary, said Pete Connors of the
Communist League (CL) in the United Kingdom. Extended shop hours have
already helped increase off-the-street traffic and sales.
Volunteers fill orders on the premises for customers in Africa and
much of Europe, and deliver books to buyers within London, Connors
said. Just in the last week an outlet in Italy used Pathfinders web
site to order about $900 worth of books.
New CL branch in Scotland
Connors announced the formation of a new CL branch in Edinburgh,
Scotland. Well be opening a new bookstore and Militant Labour Forum
hall there, he said. This step is a product of a couple of years
work reaching out to farmers and workers in Scotland. Socialist
workers have also seen firsthand how Scottish national pride and
desire for self-determination are living elements in the class
struggle, Connors said.
Bill Schmitt of the Twin Cities Young Socialists said that during a
recent political visit to the United Kingdom, Iceland, and Sweden, he
had joined CL members at the 100,000-strong demonstration in London
November 20, held to protest the visit of U.S. president George Bush.
The Stop Bush line of the organizers did nothing to advance the
fight against British imperialism, which is a key player in the
assault on Iraq, he said. By contrast, CL members carried a banner
that put the heat on London. It read: British troops out of Iraq,
Northern Ireland, the Balkans, and Sierra Leone. The banner drew
interest from many, but also criticism from a wider range of
protesters, Schmitt said, who agreed with the troops out of Iraq
part but argued that We cant leave the Balkans or Ireland.
Schmitt and other speakers said that this banner was likely the only
anti-imperialist banner in that London demonstration. Despite their
antiwar pronouncements, the main organizers of the action are in
fact part of the imperialist war party by calling actions with a
British nationalist tone.
In her presentation, Waters noted that production of the four new
Pathfinder titles, from formatting to indexing, had been undertaken by
volunteers in the Pathfinder Printing Projectone side of the
expanding responsibilities undertaken by supporters of the communist
movement. All four will be part of Pathfinders booth at the Havana
International Book Fair in February.
Armando Harts Aldabonazo: Inside the Cuban Revolutionary Underground,
1952-58 will fill an important place in Pathfinders growing arsenal
of books by leaders of the Cuban Revolution, Waters said. This part
of the publishing program began with the production in the mid-1990s
of the Bolivian Diary of Ernesto Che Guevara and Ches Episodes of the
Cuban Revolutionary War, 1956-58.
Through this series of books, Cuban revolutionary leaders speak in
their own words, from those who started out as anti-Batista army
officers within the military to the women fighters in the Rebel Army.
These accounts help to fill in the picture of how the Cuban Revolution
was actually made, she said.
A feature of Aldabonazo is the rich trove of primary sources it
contains, said Watersincluding letters, articles, and statements by
revolutionary leaders. Along with Harts narrative, they show the
complexities of the struggle in the cities, and its place in the
anti-Batista struggle alongside the Rebel Army, which was built in the
mountains of the Sierra Maestra.
The revolutionary leadership team around Fidel Castro was constructed
in the Sierra, said Waters, and the struggle for a proletarian party
went through the Sierra as well. But the Sierra would have been wiped
out in a week without the work of the cadres in the cities.
Collapse of EU negotiations a fiasco
We heard some very big news today, said Jack Barnes in the gathering
s main presentation, referring to Saddam Husseins capture by
imperialist forces the previous day. But the most important story of
the day was the fiasco of the European Unions effort to agree to a
new constitution. The collapse of the EU summit in Brussels amid deep
divisions among the member states shows that the term Europe is a
myth in any political sense, he said.
By contrast, Barnes said, Old Europe and New Europe, the terms
used by U.S. secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, do have functional
meaning. They reflect real political alignments. New Europe includes
the governments that Washington includes in its coalition of the
willing. Old Europe is the bloc of imperialist powers led by Paris
and Berlin, which includes most of the original members of the Common
Market, the EUs forerunner.
The crisis of the European Union, said Barnes, was not prepared by
the U.S. government but by the French and German imperialists
themselves. Their approach to weaker European countries, from Spain
to Poland, as subordinate vassals laid the basis for the latter to
line up on Washingtons side, the biggest power, which wont squeeze
them so directly.
In the past, the French and German governments pushed aggressively for
rules codified in the 1996 Stability and Growth Pact that put more
pressure on weaker capitalist countries in the EU. Then, as capitalist
depression conditions deepened, Paris and Berlin violated these
regulations themselves and used their weight to brush off sanctions
after arrogantly insisting that less powerful countries had to abide
by the very same rules.
Washingtons expanding use of its military power is tearing apart the
entire relationship between Europe and America that was shaped by the
Cold War, Barnes said. Throughout that period, Washingtons military
policy was built around its standoff with the massive armed forces of
the Soviet Union. At the same time, the Stalinist regimes and the
privileged social layers on which they rested served as transmission
belts for imperialisms interests and capitalist values into the
workers states, the semicolonial countries, and parts of the
imperialist world. This arrangement took place under the banner of
peaceful coexistence, invented by Moscow to justify its
The service that Moscow offered as the misleader and often as assassin
of revolutionary struggles gave it value in the imperialists eyes.
With the collapse of the Stalinist regimes, Barnes said, the Russian
rulers are as eager as ever to wheel and deal with Washington, but no
one listens to Moscow anymore, the transmission belt is shattered.
U.S. imperialism now has to confront working people in the workers
states and throughout the world directly.
It took the U.S. rulers a decade to absorb and begin acting on this
reality, the SWP leader noted.
Iraq contracts, interimperialist conflicts
Barnes described in detail the memo by U.S. deputy defense secretary
Paul Wolfowitz, made public December 9, through which Washington first
announced its policy of shutting out French, German, Russian, and
other companies from the $18.6 billion worth of contracts that the
U.S. occupation authorities in Iraq are going to award for the
reconstruction of the country. (See U.S. govt bars old Europe from
lucrative contracts in last weeks issue.)
Washingtons coalition of the willing is not about Iraq, Barnes
said. Its a permanent wartime coalition, he stated, through which
the U.S. rulers aim to remake the world in their image by force,
country after country, in order to extend the life of their empire. It
s a practical and pragmatic coalition that Washington will use to go
after its main capitalist competitors and others in the world. It is
being supplemented with the construction of new missile defense
programs, Barnes said, aimed at putting a moat around Washington and
its allies, while using the U.S. military to go after the holders and
potential holders of weapons of mass destruction. With the advance
of technology, such weapons are increasingly within the grasp of a
range of governments, including those in the semicolonial world.
The U.S. rulers are also pushing to transform the Atlantic imperialist
military alliance, NATO, into taking a world role and shouldering more
of the burden of imperialist military aggression, said Barnes. They
aim to restructure the forces under NATOs command along the lines of
the transformation underway in the U.S. military, he pointed out. U.S.
military bases in Europe, which encompassed virtual cities modeled on
those in America, are on the way out. These bases are being replaced
by command centers located closer to areas of battlesuch as the
Balkans, Middle East, and central Asiaand are manned by smaller, more
agile units with more lethal firepower, built around Special
Operations troops that can move within days to any theater of
Building a military alliance, however, is not the same as resolving
conflicts between imperialist powers, Barnes said. To the contrary,
these can be expected to intensify as world capitalism marches deeper
into depression. What the U.S. rulers are carrying out will decide the
entire dynamic of the conflict, he said.
This includes the real prospect of using the military to stabilize and
take control of the United States at a time of a great crisis, Barnes
noted. He pointed to an interview with Thomas Franks in the December
issue of Cigar Aficionado. Franks, now retired, is the former head of
the U.S. Central Command who commanded the U.S. invasion forces in
Afghanistan and then Iraq. Whats the worst thing that can happen in
our country? Franks asked in the interview. The potential of a
weapon of mass destruction and a terrorist, massive casualty-producing
event somewhere in the western worldit may be in the United States of
Americathat causes our population to question our own Constitution
and to begin to militarize our country.
Thats whats behind the establishment of the Northern Command, Barnes
said, the first time in U.S. history that Washington has structured
its military openly to act on the domestic front. Within the workers
movement, Barnes said, Washingtons current course will create new
opportunities to recarve revolutionary leadership in many countries
around the world that can lead working people to put an end once and
for all to the imperialist system, its plunder, and its wars.
Milestone of Rebelión Teamster
This is what Teamster Rebellion is good in preparing us for, the SWP
leader saidthe kind of battles and political preparation it will
take for the working class to develop the leadership it deserves to
end the rule of the bosses.
In Rebelión Teamster, the Spanish-language edition of the first of the
four Teamster books (see www.pathfinderpress.com), Farrell Dobbs
describes the fight in the 1930s to build and defend the Teamsters
union across the Midwest.
After referring in detail to several pictures in the books powerful
photo signature, which was included in a complimentary program given
to all those who attended the meeting, Barnes suggested that Dobbss
dedications in each of the books would in themselves make for a rich
educational for revolutionary-minded workers and youth.
The dedication for Teamster Rebellion reads: To the men and women who
gave me unshakable confidence in the working class, the rank and file
of General Drivers Local 574. Teamster Power is dedicated To the
main army of the over-the-road campaign, the rank-and-file Teamsters
of Omaha and Sioux City, and Teamster Politics To the members of
Local 544s union defense guard. The dedication in the last of the
series, Teamster Bureaucracy, reads: To the Trotskyist militants of
General Drivers Union Local 544 and to the comrades of the Socialist
Workers Party who so loyally backed them in a time of great need.
The revolutionary program of the working-class movement that is
renewed and brought to life in books such as these, said Barnes, is
the congealed blood of the historic struggles of the working class in
its line of march towards conquering political power. What we are
celebrating today, he said, is not just producing and selling these
books to working people but acting with the confidence that these
political weapons will be more and more used in todays struggles, and
that the workers involved will get a lot more out of reading them.
Barnes pointed to the striking Co-Op miners in Utah, and those around
the world organizing solidarity with their struggle for union
recognition, as examples of this potential.
The SWP leader finished his presentation by encouraging participants
to volunteer for the work crews that will undertake construction of
the new Pathfinder bookstore and distribution center. He appealed for
contributions to the one-off $150,000 fund launched at the meeting to
finance the project. Pledges and contributions totaled $97,000 by the
end of the meetingan amount that had risen to almost $103,000 by
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