In the latest chapter in the 20-year bicker fest between the dueling bureaucracies of Workers World Party and the Communist Party/Committees of Correspondence group behind United for Peace and Justice, UFPJ now rejects future work with ANSWER.
ANSWER has just released their own statement in response, Our Position On Unity In The Antiwar Movement. While their degree of wrong-headedness can't be overestimated, at least they know how to write a political position paper that isn't a list of petty process complaints devoid of content. Compare it to UFPJ's whining about stage management.
It all gets a little complicated, but only if you don't know the players behind the scenes. Both groups follow variations of the Stalin-era Popular Front methodology, articulated by Georgi Dimitrov for the Comintern. The difference today lies in which kind of opportunism they embrace.
ANSWER, Troops Out Now, Workers World and the Party for Socialism and Liberation
Workers World, and their recent (incomprehensible) splinter led by ANSWER leader Brian Becker that formed the Party for Socialism and Liberation, are followers of Sam Marcy's Global Class War theory. This argues, essentially, that anything opposed to US imperialism is ipso facto "revolutionary" and that oppressed nations (including the capitalists of such nations), in the era of imperialism, stand in for the "proletariat." Instead of class struggle, we are to ally ourselves with even the most reactionary third world regimes and movements against the "common enemy" that is US imperialism. The more grotesque implications of this theory has been upholding the Tienanmen Square massacre, defending the autocratic monarchy of "socialist" North Korea and pretending that Slobodan Milosevic is anything but a racist thug. The good side of it is their consistent opposition to ALL manifestations of US imperialism, even when the victims are none too sympathetic, or vilified, as in the case of Muslim and Arab organizations.
In the Workers World split, Brian Becker retained control over ANSWER leading WW to form a new coalition called Troops Out Now! Workers World still retains primary influence within the International Action Center. Their politics are exactly the same, and there has been much consternation among analysts on the left who cannot figure out why there was a split. From cursory interviews with members of both factions, I can't figure it out either.
United for Peace and Justice, the CPUSA, Comm. of Correspondence, War Resisters League
On the other hand, UFPJ plays itself off as a more "democratic" coalition -- when in fact they are just more Democratic. The two key players in the UFPJ national office are the CoC co-chair Leslie Cagan and Judith LeBlanc, a ranking member of the Communist Party, USA. While they are comfortable letting WW get baited for "Stalinism," it is no secret that the CPUSA not only took direction directly from the Soviet state well past its glory years, but they were the most enthusiastic defenders of every Soviet crime. Today, as Red Flags has noted before, the CP's leader Sam Webb upholds not just the current police state of China as a literal model (a position even worse than WW's if that were possible), but advocates that parties out of power follow the path of Salvador Allende... because we all know how great that turned out. Today the CP backs organizations such as the Iraqi Communist Party, a pro-occupation grouplet that has actively connived with the occupation authority and opposes resistance on principle.
For her part, Leslie Cagan will forever be infamous for upholding the sanctions against Iraq during the first Gulf War that went on to kill over 500,000 children. Her logic was simple: whatever the Democratic Party's imperial leadership demanded, the left is supposed to tow. She also urged the left to embrace the yellow ribbon "support the troops" nonsense -- while those very troops were killing tens of thousands of Arabs. ANSWER notes this history in their response. They shouldn't be the only ones to condemn that position and understand why it was so bad.
UFPJ tends not to engage in open polemics, but lets proxy authors such as right-wing liberal Marc Cooper, plain-old liberal David Corn and the indefatigable Bill Weinberg (2002, 2003, 2005) pen attacks on their behalf. Weinberg has his most recently recycled attack piece shamefully printed as the lead article in the Non-Violent Activist, publication of the pacifist War Resisters League.
Following the Argument
Others such as Jeff Mackler and, separately, the RCP have responded to the red-baiting that the right wing of the left has been deploying for years. Ed Herman takes Weinberg's sleazy and dishonest writing to task on Znet, and reams what he calls the Cruise Missle Left in a must-read essay. Hell, I might as well throw in the Nation's 2002 tempest-in-a-teapot threeway between Corn, Cooper and Alexander Cockburn. This shit's been flying for years.
What is most shocking about all this is that Weinberg (and Cooper) actually support the occupation. Here's what Weinberg has to say about the continuing occupation of Iraq -- the current hot-button issue for the antiwar movement:
Sound-bite pseudo-analysis is an inherent danger of activism, which must be guarded against at all times. Slogans like "Bring the troops home" and "US out of Iraq" are handy for fitting on a placard, but they inevitably dodge the really tough questions. Having now plunged Iraq into social entropy, destroyed the country's infrastructure and brought to a boil myriad ethnic and religious conflicts which had been simmering under the Saddam dictatorship, it might be the height of irresponsibility for the US to just unilaterally withdraw. It would, in fact, be a violation of the responsibilities of an occupying power under international law.
We must be clear that US imperialism will never act in the interests of the Iraqi people, whatever rhetoric about "freedom" and "democracy" is cynically employed. Empires act in the interests of empire: they always have and always will. But a unilateral withdrawal which allows genuinely freedom-hating jihadis to take power would not be in the interests of the Iraqi people either. "US out of Iraq" only works as a demand if we have some kind alternative to offer. [read]
No, no it doesn't. What a load of imperial chauvinist crap, which must be "guarded against at all times." If anyone is "supporting" Islamic fundamentalists, it's the Saudis and Gulf emirates -- with a long history of CIA assistance. But apparently Kuwaiti elections will have to wait...
Weinberg stated Saturday evening on NYC Indymedia that he is against the occupation and identifies as an anti-imperialist. He also continues to play "devil's advocate" on the issue. The following mea culpa is so disengenous at face that it can only be called dissembling. Weinberg consistently seeks out various "third forces." Not just in Iraq. It's something of a vocation. Sometimes he hits, as in Mexico. More often he misses.
I am anti-imperialist and anti-ocupation. I have soought over the past two years to loan vigorous solidarity to the forces in Iraq which are are opposed to the occupation, the collaborationist regime and the jihadi "resistance" alike: the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, the Federation of Worker Councils and Unions in Iraq, the Iraqi Freedom Congress and the Worker Communist Party of Iraq. I have put their representatives on WBAI, and run the interviews in my online newsletter World War 4 Report. Would that my critics would devote a fraction of the time they expend bashing those who tell unconvenient truths to actually providing some solidarity to the Iraqi secular anti-imperialist left.
In their weakness, my critics inevitably turn to comments I wrote over two years ago in which I was taking a Devil's Advocate position to show up the inconsistencies in the left's position. Do you really think it is kosher, after our government has unleashed the jihadis on Iraq, for us (meaning the anti-war forces) to merely wash out hands like Pilate and walk away? We owe vigorous solidarity to Iraq's secular left. This is what I argued: no more and no less.
Those who wish to approach the question honestly (and not merely for scoring points) are directed to original essay which my opponents have quoted out of context here.
I can't speak for Pilate because I don't identify with Caesar. From what I know of old Bible days, the Zealots didn't read Thomas Jefferson. They didn't turn the other cheek. They fought Rome.
What does all this mean for the antiwar movement?
This might be provocative, but I don't think it means a damn thing. Neither of these bureaucracies has much to offer besides getting permits for marches in DC. Both are as bereft of ideas as they have been for decades. While it was good when they could unite for protest in DC, mass marches aren't going to end the war. And 40s-vintage Popular Frontism in either variety won't stop the war any more than it will usher in socialism. It destroyed the left for a generation when Stalin first imposed it on the international left, and after decades of defeat it's amazing anyone still believes it (even if most don't know where it comes from!).
Now that the majority of Americans are against the war, at least the losing part of it, more radical and direct-action oriented forces need to pick up direct opposition to the Bush regime, building the student movment and counter-recruiting to sap the ability of the armed forces to wage war.
It's going to take everything that is -- including the supreme lameness of UFPJ and ANSWER -- plus a whole lot more to stop the real enemy. For those who don't like the current trends available -- show us how it's done!
Also of note: Ron Jacobs wrote The Antiwar Movement, the Democrats, and the Delusions of Bushworld