Biden refuses to say ‘antifa’
What is the political road forward for workers in 2020 – The Militant
How left responded to '84 elections
Socialist Workers Party called for break with capitalist politics
BY PETER THIERJUNG
A significant feature of the 1984 presidential elections was the fact that most organizations and publications that consider themselves socialist or communist backed capitalist candidate Walter Mondale. Some groups did so openly, while others did so under the slogan "Defeat Reagan." The Socialist Workers Party ran the only campaign calling for independent working-class political action in the elections, putting forward the socialist perspective of struggle to replace the capitalist U.S. government with a workers and farmers government.
A review of the positions put forward by some left groups on the elections is useful in highlighting a few key lessons of this campaign.
The Guardian, a radical newsweekly published in New York, departed from past practice and for the first time in a presidential campaign openly urged a vote for the Democrats. In endorsing Mondale, the August 8 Guardian argued that, "A defeat for the reactionaries in November can offer" an important breathing space to the left and progressive forces in the U.S. and, perhaps more importantly, to the liberation movements and anti-imperialist countries around the world."
When Mondale came out just a few weeks later endorsing the U.S. invasion of Grenada and threatening to "quarantine" Nicaragua, the Guardian squirmed a bit, but didn't back down one inch from urging a big vote for Mondale .
Workers World Party
The Workers World Party campaigned vigorously for capitalist candidate Jesse Jackson. When Jackson lost the Democratic Party nomination to Mondale, Workers World decided to step up its own campaign of Larry Holmes for president and Gloria La Riva for vice-president, rather than endorse Mondale.
This represented no break from capitalist politics, however. The September 6 issue of the party's paper Workers World, reporting on Jackson's endorsement of Mondale, insisted that it had been correct to support Jackson's Democratic Party campaign and that the task was now to "build an even stronger independent working class movement to carry on the legacy of the Rainbow Coalition." According to the paper, "The candidacy of Jesse Jackson, particularly during the Democratic primaries, was objectively an independent campaign that exposed and challenged the racist structure and rules of the anti-poor, anti-worker bourgeois Democratic Party."
The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has always supported Democratic candidates. This is in line with its outlook of accepting the framework of U.S. imperialism and seeking merely to reform it.
Declaring that ''We are Americans and democratic socialists and Democrats," the DSA endorsed the Mondale-Ferraro ticket saying, "They.... have the potential to create a liberal and humane administration infinitely superior to Ronald Reagan's on every count."
Advising the Democratic Party on how to win the election, Michael Harrington, a central leader of the DSA, pointed to the example of Harry Truman, who as Democratic president ordered the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Writing in the May-June issue of Democratic Left, the DSA newsletter, Harrington said: "Think of Truman again. He is not my hero ... but we can sure learn from him. He talked tough facts in 1948. He talked to workers and blacks and farmers; he mobilized . . . . And he won. And we can win in 1984, but only if we are at least as much a bunch of hell raisers as he and his friends."
The Communist Party (CP) ran its own candidates, Gus Hall and Angela Davis, for president and vice-president. While not formally endorsing the Democratic ticket, the clear message of the Hall-Davis campaign was to defeat Reagan by electing Mondale. This is not a new position for the CP; it has backed liberal capitalist candidates for half a century.
"For the period of the 1984 elections," Gus Hall told a CP central committee meeting last June, "all our creative energies must be focused on defeating Reaganism." "The reality," Hall was quoted as saying in the June 21 Daily World, the CP paper, "is that the electable candidate against Reagan is the lesser evil." He explained that the CP should only criticize Mondale if it would help strengthen the Democratic campaign. "Our party will express its differences and criticisms of the Democratic candidate when we think that will add to the struggle against Reaganism."
As the polls began to more and more confirm that Reagan had a strong lead over Mondale, the CP campaign took on a shrill pitch. It argued that U.S. capitalism is rapidly moving toward fascism under Reagan and that unity of all "anti-Reagan" forces was desperately needed to prevent another Republican term in office.
An editorial titled "Fascist odor" in the October 6 issue of the People's World, the CP's West Coast weekly, conveyed this view: "We do not use the term 'fascism' lightly. It is not just the normal, oppressive, exploitative, and brutal rule of capital that has characterized this system since its advent 200 years ago. It is rule by a special sector of that capital, the very sector which put Ronald Reagan in the White House and in whose interests he presently serves. It can happen here. It is a clear and present danger, and good reason to make sure the Oval Office has a new resident after Nov. 6."
The U.S. capitalist class will certainly prove capable of attempting to impose fascist rule, but that is not what is happening today.
The CP portrays Reagan as representing a "fascist" wing in order to cover up the fact that there is bipartisan support for the employers' policies of war, racism, and attacks on democratic rights. Mondale would have driven this antilabor offensive forward had he been elected, just as Reagan has done. Both represent the same fundamental class interests - the opposite of the interests of workers and working farmers. The U.S. rulers will step up their assault on working people here and abroad. Big class battles are going to erupt. But the best way to prepare working people for these battles is to tell them the unvarnished truth about the Republican and Democratic parties. The CP candidates have done the opposite. Let's take a few examples.
Fight against imperialist war
Throughout the campaign, Hall and Davis argued that nuclear war could well be the result of another four years of Reagan, while the world would be safer with Mondale in office.
As part of prettifying the imperialist policies of the
Democrats, the CP- endorsed their call for a bilateral freeze on nuclear
weapons production in the United States and the Soviet Union. This stance blurs
the real source of war - U.S. imperialism and its twin parties - and implies
the Soviet Union shares some responsibility for the nuclear arms buildup, for
which Washington alone is to blame.
The CP's support for Mondale led it to downplay the current war against Nicaragua and El Salvador being carried out with the support of Democrats and Republicans alike . It is precisely in such shooting wars that the danger of Washington using its nuclear arsenal is posed. But rather than expose the bipartisan character of the war drive, the CP told working people that voting Reagan out of office was the best way to guarantee peace. As Davis put it in an interview in the July 12 Daily World, "the most immediate priority of all in the peace movement, of all who are threatened by nuclear conflagration, is the defeat of Reagan and his pathologically anti-Communist Administration."
Adaptation to the Democrats on the war question has led the CP to bend also to the chauvinist propaganda campaigns of both capitalist parties. For example, the October 24 Daily World gave favorable coverage to AFL-CIO Pres. Lane Kirkland's recent tour to garner votes for Mondale. The paper quoted uncritically Kirkland's anti-imports patriotic line, reporting that the AFL-CIO bureaucrat attacked Reagan as "a man who appeals to patriotism for the benefit of those business and banking interests who would sell their own country out - people who don't care what flag flies over their plants or shops or ships." The CP has even gone so far as to print issues of the Daily World in red, white, and blue.
Over the last few months, women's right to legal abortion has come under attack from right-wing groups, the Catholic Church hierarchy, and Democratic and Republican politicians; While claiming she will uphold legal abortion as long as it is the law of the land, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro has emphasized her personal and religious view that abortion is murder. Explaining why she has voted for some Medicaid funding for abortions, Ferraro said, "The cost of putting an unwanted child through the system far outweighs the cost of funding an abortion on demand." This is the line of the racist, population-control forces.
What has been the CP's response to Ferraro's reactionary views on abortion rights? A September 21 column in the Daily World rushed to defend her! "Ms. Ferraro's position on abortions is a principled, democratic position," it said.
The Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialist Alliance approached the 1984 elections from a completely different standpoint than the other groups on the U.S. left.
The SWP ran 56 candidates for local office in 26 states. Its candidate for president was Mel Mason; for vice-president, Andrea Gonzalez.
The fight against imperialist war was at the center of the Mason-Gonzalez campaign as they visited plant gates, union halls, picket lines, farming areas, and working-class, Black, and Latino neighborhoods across the country. They talked to working people about the gains workers and peasants have won in Nicaragua and Cuba, and stressed the important role the labor movement must play in opposing U.S. intervention in Central· America and the Caribbean.
The socialists called for international working-class solidarity with others fighting for their rights, from the striking British coal miners, to Puerto Ricans demanding independence, to Blacks struggling against South Africa's apartheid, to the workers and farmers of Vietnam and Kampuchea .
Mason and Gonzalez opposed the reactionary anti-imports, protectionist schemes used to falsely label workers in other countries as the source of unemployment in the United States, rather than the U.S, employers ..
The SWP ticket was the only one that consistently defended abortion rights. Mason and Gonzalez demanded repeal of all laws restricting the right to safe, legal abortion. They called for restoring- and expanding - government funds for women who want abortions and cannot afford them.
The socialists explained that the problems of war, attacks on Black and women's rights, farm foreclosures, and union-busting cannot be solved at the ballot box. They explained the need for working people to reject the Democratic and Republican parties- the twin parties of war, exploitation, racism, and sexism. What ·is needed, they said, is independent working-class political action that can organize and mobilize the victims of class exploitation to overturn capitalist rule and establish a workers and farmers government.
Mason and Gonzalez called for a labor party based on a fighting, democratic trade union movement that will champion the interests of workers, farmers, Blacks, Latinos, women, and other ' victims of capitalism. They also called for the formation of an independent Black political party, which would not only be an advance for Blacks, but also help inspire and hasten the development of a labor party. The goal of the labor party, they explained, will be to lead the struggle for a workers and farmers government in the United States that will use the vast resources and technology of this country to aid in eliminating hunger, poverty and disease all over the globe. This government will abolish capitalism in the United States and join the worldwide struggle for socialism.
Peter Thierjung is national secretary of the Young Socialist Alliance and was a youth coordinator of the Mason/Gonzalez campaign .
November 16, 1984
The FSLN is named for liberation fighter Augusto César Sandino, who was murdered by U.S. Marines in 1933. In 1979, guerrilla fighters from the front overthrew the hated, U.S.-backed dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza. A five-member "junta" that included Ortega took over leadership. In 1984 Ortega was elected president.
From 1981 to 1990 the U.S. engaged in economic sabotage against Nicaragua and financed the "contras," counterrevolutionaries who waged a war of terror that cost 40,000 to 50,000 lives. In 1990, Ortega lost to opposition candidate Violeta Chamorro, whose campaign was heavily funded by the U.S.
Ortega sought to rationalize this position by pointing to the U.S.-sponsored counterrevolutionary war and its impact on Nicaragua's small population. "The ones fighting in the front lines against this aggression are young men," he said. "One way of depleting our youth is to promote the sterilization of women in Nicaragua—just imagine what would happen then—or to promote a policy of abortion."
"The problem is that the woman is the one who reproduces. The man can't play that role," Ortega continued. Some women, he said, "aspiring to be liberated," decide not to bear children. "A woman who does so negates her own continuity, the continuity of the human species."
This stance was one registration of the FSLN leadership's growing abandonment of the revolutionary government's proletarian course in the early years following the overthrow of Somoza. The workers and farmers government had begun to take far-reaching measures in the interests of the producing majority. By the mid-1980s, however, the FSLN leadership began retreating from mobilizing working people to fight for their interests. Instead, it relied more and more on alliances with sections of the capitalist class. The current FSLN leadership has sought to carve out for itself a place in capitalist ruling circles, and to use its political influence to expand lucrative business interests as well.
All the ALBA window-dressing in the world cannot rechristen a capitalist electoral party like the FSLN as a revolutionary organization. Marxists judge individuals, groups, and political parties by their actions, not their campaign slogans or Tammany Hall-style perspicacity.
In a communist newspaper today, we are given not our own line of march, but this by Grevatt:
The FSLN-led government favors redistribution of wealth. It gives assistance to small farmers and thousands of worker-owned and -run cooperatives, not to big agribusiness as in the U.S. Under the FSLN, the cost of living for an average family has gone down while minimum salaries have doubled.
Quoting the press releases and public statements of Ortega flunkies like Dr. Paul Oquist will not suffice.
One should not leave the impression that the FSLN alone has a monopoly on shamelessly "dining-out" with the working class solely on the basis of past victories now explicitly rejected. Nationalist movements in the semicolonial world that never posed or achieved the clarity or mass mobilization of the FSLN in its heroic [i.e. communist] period, are likewise acting today on the fact that they are unfit for anything but ballot-mongering:
....exhaustion of revolutionary content marks the political evolution of petty-bourgeois and aspiring bourgeois leaderships of national liberation movements today: from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and other Palestinian organizations such as Hamas, to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA).
These organizations arose (or re-arose) during the closing decades of the twentieth century on the basis of powerful opposition to national oppression among the Palestinian, Irish, and Basque peoples. Over the past four decades, however, the leaderships of these organizations have relied on spectacular armed actions, in combination (especially as such operations not only produced no gains but met intensified repression) with diplomatic and political maneuvers to reach a negotiated accommodation with the oppressors. Mobilizations organized by them were more and more used solely as pressure to better realize such an accommodation.
None of these leaderships ever proved capable of mobilizing and leading the workers and peasants as the backbone of a revolutionary democratic movement capable of fighting effectively for national liberation, freedom from imperialist domination, land to the tillers, the right to armed self-defense, and the organization of the working class to act in the interests of the producing classes. None developed a leadership of the revolutionary caliber and political capacity of the July 26 Movement and Rebel Army in Cuba, the National Liberation Front of Algeria, Sandinista National Liberation Front of Nicaragua, New Jewel Movement of Grenada, or the revolutionary movement in Burkina Faso. [*]
Petty bourgeois leaderships like the FSLN today are an impediment. Telling workers in any part of the Americas that their electoral victory is a breakthrough for our class simply prepares the next generation for demoralization. We need a new levy of Carlos Fonsecas, and that will not be accomplished by a new electoral mandate for the FSLN's policies.
I will close with one more quotation of the programmatic basis today of these squalid, anti-worker policies:
....A brief declaration issued by the FSLN delegation to the Nicaraguan National Assembly Aug. 16, 2006, echoed this position.
"We are a party in favor of life," it said. "Therefore we reaffirm our respect, promotion, development, and protection of the lives of Nicaraguan men and women… and consequently we stand against abortion."
According to Ipas, a U.S.-based reproductive rights groups, only 24 authorized abortions have been performed in Nicaragua in the last three years, while some 32,000 illegal abortions are performed in the country each year. Maternal and infant mortality rates in Nicaragua are among the highest in the region, with abortions contributing to 16 percent of all maternal deaths.
How SWP opposed 1964 election 'lesser-evil' scam
In some respects the current presidential campaign has a good deal in common with the one in 1964. Then, as now, the Democrats were running a candidate who projected a liberal image, while the Republicans had nominated an outspoken right-winger.While there was little popular enthusiasm for the Democratic nominee, Lyndon Johnson, many people mistakenly believed they had to vote for him to prevent the right-winger, 'Barry Goldwater, from assuming the presidency.
Some radical groups already committed to the Democrats exploited the fear of Goldwater as justification for supporting a capitalist party.
Then, as now, the Communist Party was a prime example of this.The Socialist Workers Party firmly opposed the lesser evilism of those who pointed to Goldwater to justify supporting Johnson.The party's ticket- Clifton DeBerry for president and Edward Shaw for vice-president - campaigned against both capitalist parties.
In September 1964, Shaw participated in a New York Militant Forum election symposium in which he argued against other radical figures who favored a lesser-evil vote for the Democratic ticket. The following is an abridged version of Shaw's remarks.
* * *
We should not support Goldwater because he has the same basic interests and goals as does Johnson. The aims of both parties can be summed up, perhaps, in one phrase- we must have law and order.
We have to have law and order in the streets of Harlem, in the cotton fields of Mississippi, in the industrial plants of Detroit, in the coal fields of Kentucky, and also in the cane fields of Cuba or the copper mines of Chile,the rubber plantations or the rice plantations of the FarEast . . .
Law and order in Mississippi is the law and order of the semifeudal gentry. Law and order in Harlem is the law and order of the tenement landlords. Law and order in Kentucky is the law and order of the coal barons. InDetroit it's the law and order of the manufacturing corporations.And abroad, in Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia,the law and order they speak of is the law and order of that almighty that has its finger in every other pie - the law and order of finance capital of the imperialist United States.
The great and overwhelming unity of the two major parties in this election campaign in the service of that master overcomes all small differences of tactics or personality.These two parties compete in the electoral field. They compete for the right to run the store for the ruling class.They compete for the right to put into practice a program already clearly mapped out.
They needn't make any new programs on this score. Defeat the colonial revolution is first on the agenda right now. Save Asia. Keep it from going further out of thecapitalist orbit. Africa must be made safe.
At home, there's not much trouble right now. But the program is, and has been, as we can see through the past Democratic and Republican administrations, more and more repressive laws aimed at the labor movement. Keep the union power down is part of the program. Prevent therise of any independent formation and above all, rightnow, keep the Negro struggle in its place.
But there are superficial differences. Goldwater has proposed even harsher measures both at home and abroad to carry out this bipartisan program. He proposed a measure and Johnson moved in that direction. ·We at first were presented with, it seemed, a slight difference in approach over the war in Vietnam. The question was going to be asked of us, Do you want a continuation of this costly, inhuman stalemate in the war in Vietnam, or do you want to extend it? Before we even had a chance to vote in that referendum, Johnson removed the difference and attacked North Vietnam. He removed that point from the agenda.The lesser-evil policy, regardless of what you call it, in the name of social progress has resulted only in social regression.
Truman was worse than FDR. Eisenhower was worse than Truman. Kennedy was worse than Eisenhower. Johnson was worse than Kennedy. And now, however, Johnson is better than Goldwater.
I propose, my party proposes, that a vote against the war in Vietnam will weigh against it. But a vote for it will not. And we do not see how you can vote for either one of the two parties without voting for war. I propose a vote for socialism.
No, I am not saying the world is the same today as it was in 1984 (or 2004, or 1964).
The same liberal and middle class left electoral rationalizations do persist. (I support the U.S. Socialist Workers Party campaign.)
Will vote for Mondale slow down U.S. war in Central America? 'Guardian' ignores lesson of Vietnam
BY GEOFF MIRELOWITZ
Should socialists, radical-minded workers, and opponents of the U.S. war in Central America and the Caribbean support Democrat Walter Mondale in the November elections to get rid of Ronald Reagan? Would this slow the war and austerity drive of the U.S. ruling class? In an August 8 front-page editorial the Guardian newspaper, a nationally circulated radical weekly, answers yes. "Reagan must go," proclaims the headline. Dumping Reagan "is crucial," argues the Guardian, "to prevent consolidation of power by the right. This includes voting against him - and for his Democratic Party opponent Walter Mondale."
This view is widespread throughout the U.S. left, including among many, like the editors of the Guardian, who consider themselves Marxists. The Daily World, newspaper of the Communist Party, for instance, promotes a "dump Reagan" perspective in page after page of its every issue. The Communist Workers Party, which four years ago campaigned to "crash the Democratic Party convention," seems to have found its way through the front door and today urges support for Mondale.
The Guardian's stand, its editors acknowledge, "represents a change from previous positions." It is the first time the Weekly has openly urged a vote for a candidate of one of the two big capitalist parties in a presidential election.
Those who have not caved in to the considerable pressure to back the "lesser evil" among the capitalist candidates and who support independent working class political action, including supporters of Socialist Workers presidential and vice-presidential candidates Mel Mason and Andrea Gonzalez, will find much to disagree with in the Guardian editorial. This includes the support it gave to the procapitalis Democratic Party election campaign waged by Jesse Jackson.
Chief argument of 'Guardian'
This article will not attempt to dispute the Guardian point by point. Rather it will consider the editorial's chief argument in favor of a vote for former vice-president Mandale·- that it is an effective means to slow the U.S. war in Central America. This mistaken view is shared by others beyond the Guardian, including many committed antiwar fighters and Central America solidarity activists.
"We should not expect the Democrats to be peaceful," the Guardian concedes, "either toward revolutionary peoples around the world or working people and minorities in the U.S." But, it continues, "the worst the Democrats are likely to do is continue what the Republicans are doing."
A Mondale victory however, opens another possibility, Guardian editors contend. "The best that could happen," they say, "is that the strangulation of the Nicaraguan revolution might ease up somewhat,. some pressure might be put on the fascist South African government, some human rights demands be made on the Salvadoran government and the assault on labor unions, women, and minorities at home might be eased."
At the heart of the Guardian's position is the opinion that "A defeat of the reactionaries in November can offer an important breathing space to the left and progressive forces in the U.S. and, perhaps more importantly ' to liberation movements and anti-imperialist countries around the world."
This is wishful thinking. Organizing to win workers to solidarize with the Central American revolutions and oppose the U. S. war there is a vital responsibility of all socialists today. A vote for Mondale, however, will not slow the war drive nor gain breathing room for Nicaraguan and Salvadoran working people fighting U.S. intervention. It does nothing to help advance the process of building a mass working-class antiwar movement. It is an obstacle to educating working people to rely on their own independent action to fight the war. The Guardian, however, has no confidence in independent working-class political action. It looks to a capitalist politician for relief instead.
The Guardian admits that "the current war buildup began in the Democratic Carter administration." (A designation the editors evidently find more convenient for their current purposes than the more accurate "Carter-Mondale administration.") But it also points out that the Reagan administration has been steadily escalating the war over the past four years. It fears that as soon as the elections are over, Reagan, "unrestrained by the considerations of having to face the electorate again," will send U.S. combat troops into. the region and a full scale, Vietnam-style war will develop. Thus its call for a vote for Mondale.
The Guardian is not wrong to point to the danger of a U.S. invasion of Nicaragua El Salvador. A sharp escalation of the U.S. war is sure to come - but it does not hinge on a Reagan victory in November. The employing class cannot tolerate the advance of the socialist revolution- especially in what they arrogantly consider their own backyard. They recognize that the Nicaraguan revolution, like the Cuban revolution, wrenched a section of the Americas out from under their political and economic domination. The Salvadoran revolution threatens to do the same. The U.S. rulers have decided they must put an end to these powerful examples. That is why they aim to overthrow Nicaragua's workers and farmers government and why they are fiercely resisting Salvadoran working people fighting to overturn imperialist domination. Both capitalist parties in the United States support these goals.
That's why the U.S. invasion of Grenada last October won virtually unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats. Today neither Mondale, Ferraro, Jackson, nor other leading Democratic Party figures criticize that invasion or oppose the continuing U.S. military occupation of the island. What if the Carter-Mondale team had won the 1980 presidential contest? In. April1980 they did not hesitate to launch a U.S. commando raid on Iran. Do the Guardian's editors seriously believe that Carter and Mondale, presented with the same opportunity for imperialism offered by the counterrevolutionary overthrow of the Maurice Bishop-led government in Grenada, would not have ordered an invasion? And a Mondale-Ferraro administration? Wouldn't it have done the same? What evidence indicates the contrary? The decision to invade Grenada did not represent the views of just one section, a right wing, of the U.S. ruling class represented by Reagan. The overwhelming support of capitalist politicians for the invasion was further proof of the fundamental agreement on U.S. foreign policy goals that has existed in ruling-class circles for many years.
What differences do exist on U.S. government policy in Central America are tactical. They concern pace, timing, and how to minimize the political price the U.S. government will have to pay for an invasion.
But this does not change the fundamental agreement on the purpose of U.S. intervention. This is spelled out in a recent article titled "Mondale's G.O.P. Latin Policy," authored by Alan Tonelson, associate editor of Foreign Policy, a magazine published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a liberal "think tank." "The Democrats' ….decision to accept Ronald Reagan's bottom line in Central America," Tonelson explains, "could make deeper United States military involvement inevitable no matter who wins in November.
"[T]he Democrats," Tonelson observes correctly, "essentially accept Mr. Reagan's estimation of the stakes for the United States in the Central American conflict." He quotes the Democratic platform which states, "the strategic importance of Central America is not in doubt, nor is the fact that the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Nicaragua have all encouraged instability and supported revolution in the region." "The result," says Tonelson of the policy Mondale could be expected to implement in Central America, "would be Reaganism without Ronald Reagan."
It is not "Reaganism," however, that is out to stop the Central American revolution, it is imperialism. Reagan is simply the current "commander-in-chief' of U.S. foreign policy. Mondale is campaigning to take over both the title and the job that comes with it, as Tonelson admits.
Lessons of 1964
The Guardian acknowledges that this may be the case - but it outlines a political course based on the hope that it is not. A similar error was made by many on the U.S. left in 1964.
In that year's presidential election many argued that Republican candidate Barry Goldwater represented the extreme rightwing in U.S. politics as the Guardian says of Reagan. Goldwater, said most radicals then, had to be defeated at all costs, even if that meant voting for the Texas Dixiecrat Lyndon Johnson. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) tried to show that it recognized some of Johnson's "weaknesses" - as the Guardian claims to recognize Mondale's today - by putting out a button that read, "Part of the way with LBJ."
It was certainly true that Goldwater, like Reagan today, openly voiced many reactionary and right-wing ideas which, while shared by most in the ruling class, are not always publicly advanced. But voting for Johnson proved to be worse than useless as a strategy to either prevent prowar policies from being implemented, or "offer important breathing space" to Vietnamese liberation fighters. After winning the election by a gigantic landslide, Johnson quickly tossed aside his vote-getting promises, and within weeks of his inauguration, ordered a major escalation of the U.S. war in Vietnam. And het ook this course without regard for whether it jeopardized his chances in the 1968 presidential race (as it turned out that it did). Antiwar forces were left unprepared and disarmed by the "vote LBJ" stand (both the "part of the way" and "all the way" varieties). Many felt betrayed and cried that Johnson was implementing Goldwater's foreign policy. In this they were mistaken.
With the campaign rhetoric successfully behind him, Johnson simply set out to do the job the U.S. ruling class selected him to do - implement imperialist foreign policy. The Guardian editors ignore the lessons of 1964 and argue that antiwar forces can pressure Mondale by voting for him. This they suggest, can slow the escalation of the war and thus give the workers and peasants of Central America more time to prepare. Buying time for the Nicaraguan and Salvadoran revolutions is a worthy goal. Our difference with the Guardian is over how to do this. But behind that difference is a much deeper one over what strategy can effectively oppose imperialist war.
Strategy to fight war
The Socialist Workers campaign puts forward a perspective of educating and organizing the working class to lead the fight to end the U.S. war in Central America and the Caribbean. That is because the working class is the only force in U.S. society with the power to do so - other than the ruling class which is waging the war.
The Guardian however is speaking in a completely different tongue. It does not aim to map a strategy of opposition to the war based on the working class. It is not even speaking to workers. Instead it has opted for the most unrealistic course of all- hoping the leader of an imperialist party will slow down an imperialist war.
Supporters of the SWP election campaign begin with telling the truth about what is coming in Central America and the Caribbean. It means following the example set by revolutionary fighters in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Cuba who are working for peace by preparing for war.
This approach was captured by Sandinista Commander Tomas Borge a year ago when he told a group of Canadian unionists visiting Nicaragua, "I am not optimistic in regards to peace. But I am absolutely optimistic in terms of victory. "Like the Sandinista leaders, antiwar forces here, especially those who consider themselves socialists, should tell the truth to working people: an invasion of Central America is being prepared. We cannot predict the timing or the exact circumstances, but U.S. combat troops will be sent. We cannot stop this any more than we could stop the invasion of Vietnam, but we can be confident that sending the GIs will generate widespread opposition and lay the basis for a much bigger struggle against the imperialist warmakers.
Along with the struggle of working people in Central America and the Caribbean, the fight by U.S. workers against Washington's intervention can make imperialism pay a high price for its actions. This can lead, over time, to a defeat for the U.S. government as it did in Vietnam. The firm determination of the Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Salvadoran fighters in the face of U.S. threats, and the organized mobilization and expression of antiwar sentiment among U.S. working people has already given the rulers pause in their war drive.
But it has not ended it. Nor can it. Imperialism will not give up in Central America without a much bigger fight than it has put up so far. That is why a further escalation of the war is inevitable. Today opponents of the war should do everything possible to educate U.S. workers about the real situation in Central America and the Caribbean, including the aims and accomplishments of the revolutions there, and the anti-workingclass goals of the U.S . government's war.
Important opportunities exist to do this, a fact the Guardian seems to ignore. Its editorial refers to "the masses of alienated and apathetic citizens." Nowhere is there any mention of the noteworthy accomplishments made by opponents of the war in the unions or the important differences in this respect from the early years of the fight against the Vietnam war.
Today, even before U.S. combat troops are on the battlefields in large numbers, several U.S. trade unions have taken an antiwar stand. Scores of local unions have heard antiwar presentations by visiting Salvadoran and Nicaraguan unionists and revolutionary leaders. Thousands of U.S. workers have travelled to Nicaragua to see the revolution firsthand.
Supporters of the SWP campaign who are active in the U.S. labor movement seek to build on these accomplishments. These socialist workers are organizing other trips by unionists to Central America and the Caribbean as an aid to the fight against the U.S. war.
At the same time, supporters of the SWP campaign have joined in other efforts to mobilize opposition to the war that originate outside the labor movement, such as the June 9 demonstration of 5,000 held in New York City. SWP campaign supporters participate in such efforts with the goal of orienting them to the unions and other organizations of U.S. working people and the oppressed nationalities, drawing them into the fight against the war.
Socialist campaign supporters use the SWP campaign as a tool to take the fight against imperialist war into the working class. While SWP candidates educate about the war, they also tell the truth about the . elections themselves. Unlike the editors of the Guardian, SWP candidates do not tell working people that voting on election day can stop, or slow, the U.S. war.
Instead they explain why workers must rely on their own independent action to fight the war, as they must rely on independent class action to oppose union-busting and other ruling-class attacks. They point to the necessary task of building a mass working-class party that can fight to overtum the imperialist warrnakers once and for all.
The Guardian editorial denigrates this modest example of independent working-class political action as "symbolic" but "unrealistic."
But what is really unrealistic in advancing the fight against war is urging a course based on the hope that the Democratic Party is not as completely committed to imperialist foreign policy as the Republicans, and on the idea that elections actually decide how that policy is implemented .
A WWP leader admits "....the two major bourgeois parties.... will do and say anything to occupy the White House, Congress and other capitalist institutions that administer class rule."
But, in the same article, she goes above and beyond in promoting:
....these four congresspeople [Reps. Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib] symbolically represent the global working class, despite their political affiliation and loyalty to the Democratic Party. The fact that their respective nationalities — Somali, Puerto Rican, Black and Palestinian — represent millions of oppressed peoples globally is an inspiration to the movement for revolutionary change....
WWP and the US left in general may say they understand there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans, but in the breach they fall all over themselves for the Democrats as soon as a new brand of the party's snake oil is introduced.
....These congresspeople defend the rights of migrants, including calling for abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement and closing down the detention centers, uplifting the rights of the Palestinian people to return to their homeland, supporting Medicare for all, deploring Trump's attempts to cut over 3 million more people off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and generally support Black Lives Matter and more.
Supporting or deploring different policies of the big business parties and promoting pipe-dreams like "abolishing" ICE in no way differentiates "the Squad" or WWP and their ilk on the middle class left from the mainstream of US bourgeois politics.
21 August 2020
BY ARGIRIS MALAPANIS
In a letter printed on page 15, reader Steve Craine raises questions and disagreements with the column "Why Yugoslavia is not yet `former' " in the January 22 Militant. Hasn't the class unity Yugoslav workers won through their revolution, he asks, "been lost or is well on the way to being buried for a long time?" That is the heart of the matter.
The working class in Yugoslavia has been facing deteriorating conditions of life and work for nearly two decades because of the Stalinist bureaucratic and anti- working-class methods of planning and management by the petty- bourgeois layer that controlled state power. The resulting crisis was worsened by the economic stagnation world capitalism has experienced since the mid-1970s, and the depression conditions the entire imperialist system has been mired in since the opening of the 1990s. Yugoslavia was particularly vulnerable since the regime of Josip Tito had opened up its economy to foreign investment and loans from imperialist institutions much earlier than other workers states in Eastern Europe.
The assault on the Yugoslav working class took a qualitative turn for the worse when the competing regimes in the different republics - primarily in Serbia and Croatia - launched their bloody war in 1991 in the attempt to control land, factories, and other economic resources, with the goal of maintaining or improving the parasitic and privileged way of life of the castes they represent.
Since then, the working class in Yugoslavia has been embroiled in a fight to resist this onslaught - much like workers in Russia, France, the United States, Argentina, and elsewhere. Granted, the conditions, challenges, and immediate tasks workers and farmers face in these countries vary widely. But in each of these confrontations communists and all proletarian fighters must never give up what has not been wrested from our class by the enemy class in battle. One of these conquests is the Yugoslav workers state.
The rival gangs of wanna-be capitalists in Serbia, Croatia, and other Yugoslav republics - all originating from the break- up of the formerly centralized Stalinist regime - and the invading imperialist powers would like to declare the Yugoslav federation over. But for some reason they are having a hell of a time making that stick. I will give my reasons.
First is the relentless resistance by millions of Yugoslav working people to the attempt to force them to no longer live with, work alongside, and intermarry with those of different national origins as they have done for decades since the triumph of the Yugoslav revolution in the 1940s. This resistance has permeated five years of the slaughter, butchery initiated by the rival bureaucratic regimes and aided by the intervening imperialist powers - first Bonn and then increasingly Paris, London, and Washington.
Beyond obfuscation of capitalist media
To support his argument that most working people in Yugoslavia have been swept up on the side of one or another of the competing bureaucratic gangs, Craine points to "the mass exodus of Serbs from areas surrounding Sarajevo (taking with them even the exhumed bodies of deceased family members)."
According to United Nations figures, some 12,000 of the 70,000 people of Serb origin who live in the suburbs of Sarajevo such as Ilizda and Vogosca had left by early February for other areas controlled by pro-Belgrade forces. Since December a few dozen graves of relatives have been exhumed by some of these departing Serbs, many of whom do not like the prospect of living under the rule of the Bosnian government.
This story of grave removals, like much of what passes as "news" reports, is part of the ruling-class propaganda to justify the imperialist war drive against Yugoslavia. The television scenes and newspaper headlines and photos gave the impression that virtually every Serb in Sarajevo was digging up graves. But buried in the middle of the New York Times story, for example, was the fact that only 50 graves had been exhumed. Sorting out propaganda from fact is an essential part of any class-struggle fighter's task in confronting NATO's war drive.
What all the bourgeois media also carefully hide every day is that that an equal or greater number of Serbs have stayed inside Sarajevo.
In July 1992, when I visited Sarajevo reporting for the Militant, there were 100,000 Yugoslavs of Serbian origin inside the city under siege along with another 200,000 Muslims and Croats. I met some of the Serbs who fought as part of the Bosnian army against the troops of Bosnian Serb chauvinist leader Radovan Karadzic. "These Serbian extremists are terrorists," mechanic Nenad Colic, himself a Serb, told me, referring to Karadzic's army. "I don't know how long we can hold against them."
Ramiz Beshlija, a Muslim shepherd living on the Trebevic mountain in the outskirts of the city, offered to take me to the front line where one of his Serbian neighbors, among several Serbs in the Bosnian defense forces in that end of town alone, was in the trenches with a platoon of the Bosnian army. "Before Sarajevo was attacked he went and fought in Vukovar against the Yugoslav army," Beshlija said of his neighbor. He was referring to the 1991 assault by the army of Serbia's president Slobodan Milosevic on the town of Vukovar in eastern Slavonia, a sliver of Croatian territory now occupied by Belgrade.
Most of these Serbs inside Sarajevo stayed in the city during the four years of relentless bombardment, many giving their lives in battle along with their Muslim brothers and sisters, holding up against the chauvinst forces that often had clear military superiority.
This military resistance to Karadzic's troops in Bosnia has been based on the political resistance by big sections of the Yugoslav working class to the chauvinist offensive right up to today. It has been prevalent not only among Muslims, Serbs, and others inside Sarajevo, but throughout Bosnia and other Yugoslav republics.
Resistance throughout Yugoslavia
A Feb. 1, 1996, article in the Toronto daily Globe and Mail, for example, lifted the curtain a little from this well- kept secret by the big-business media.
"There were Serbs who secretly helped the Muslims in attempting to ease the suffering caused by Serb extremists," Ibrahim Halilovic, a Muslim cleric for the northwest Bosnia region around Banja Luka, told the Globe. "We are very grateful for that." Banja Luka houses the headquarters of Karadzic's gangs. Since 1992 Halilovic has lived under virtual house arrest there, says the Globe article, "presiding over a Muslim community that was the target of expulsions and violence." Halilovic described how an underground network of Banja Luka residents of Serb origin - smack at the center of the chauvinist Serb stronghold, where many of the "ethnic cleansing" assaults were planned - have opened their homes and given other help to persecuted fellow Yugoslavs of Muslim and Croat origin from 1992 until today.
A few similar stories can occasionally be distilled from items in U.S. dailies amid countless lines always ascribing the roots of the conflict to centuries-old animosity between Serbs, Muslims, and Croats; lines of type shaped by gallons of ink that the bourgeois editors never allow to form the word "Yugoslav" when describing the people of Yugoslavia.
An item in the January 18 New York Times, for example, quoted several Serbs in the rural town of Ljubinje in southeastern Bosnia, in an area under Karadzic's control. Referring to the war he described as senseless, Zeljko Berberovic told the Times reporter, "I got out alive, and now the only thing I want is to leave the Serbian republic [that is the area Karadzic's ilk want to break off from Bosnia and preserve just for Serbs]. I'll go almost anywhere else." Thousands of other Serbs in these "ethnically pure" areas feel the same disgust toward the chauvinist offensive and are ready to act on their beliefs.
Desertions from `Yugoslav' army
As many as 50 percent of those called up for the draft under Belgrade's rule to fight in the "Yugoslav" army against fellow working people in Slovenia and Croatia in 1991 refused. (The Yugoslav army came under the complete control of Milosevic's regime by 1991.) And thousands more youth, many of Serbian origin, deserted the same army when Belgrade launched its war against Bosnia. The desertions have continued, though on a smaller scale.
Even among many of the Serbs who fought in the Yugoslav army there is little identification with the course ordered by Belgrade and its lackeys in Bosnia. Miroljub Torbica, a Serb who spent four years in a Bosnian government jail as a prisoner of war and was released recently in an inmate exchange, told the New York Times January 27, "I was part of the Yugoslav army. It was my job, but I am not a Chetnik." Chetnik is the derogatory term widely used by citizens of Sarajevo to describe Karadzic's forces.
The Chetniks were a guerrilla group in the early 1940s set up with London's backing by people loyal to the Serbian monarchy that ruled Yugoslavia before the 1945 revolution. They were a Serbian chauvinist group that fought some battles in the mountains against the occupying German troops at the time. But their main role was to counter the domination of the liberation movement by the Partisans, led by the Yugoslav Communist Party.
Torbica told the Times he would like to stay in Sarajevo, his hometown, where he has many friends.
Similar reactions are found among many of the more than two million refugees displaced by the war. At least a dozen Militant readers who are industrial workers have described to me discussions with a number of co-workers from Yugoslavia who have immigrated to the United States as a result of the war. One common thread among these stories is that the big majority of these workers consider themselves Yugoslavs. Some take it as an insult to be called "Serbs," "Muslims," or "Croats" regardless of their national origin.
These are a few of the countless examples that prove working people throughout Yugoslavia have continued to defend one of the fundamental gains of the revolution: class unity that cut across national lines.
It is this Yugoslav working class that in its millions remains the obstacle to the aims of the competing gangs of bureaucrats and above all to the invading imperialist armies.
Why many buy nationalist demagogy
During the early 1940s, workers and peasants of varied national origins and beliefs in Yugoslavia organized an armed movement, led by the Partisans, to throw off the German imperialist occupation during World War II. In the process they launched a powerful social revolution. Working people took the power out of the hands of the landlords and capitalists. By the end of the 1940s they had carried out a radical land reform and expropriated the bourgeoisie's factories, mines, warehouses, and banks. They had established a workers state.
The gains of the revolution extended well into the 1960s. They included the progressive narrowing of the gap in living standards and working conditions between the highly industrialized republics such as Slovenia and the less developed like Macedonia. Such affirmative action programs, along with respect for different languages and cultures, cemented the bonds of working-class unity.
But the Tito leadership acted to break the forward motion of the revolution and hasten its bureaucratic degeneration. Belgrade carried out a policy of conciliation toward imperialism, backing Washington in the Korean War and taking a "neutral" stance during the U.S. assault on Vietnam. Capitalist methods of competition among enterprises and profitability were institutionalized in industry, packaged as "workers' self-management." Market mechanisms were extolled, encouraging eventual competition between different republics. The state monopoly of foreign trade was allowed to erode.
As a result, the direction of the early measures of the revolution was halted and began to be reversed, a process that accelerated in the 1970s. Social differentiation began to widen. It was amplified by the impact of the first capitalist world recession in 1974-75.
At the opening of the 1990s, the Stalinist regime and Communist Party that dominated the Yugoslav workers state begun to crumble, as was happening in the workers states throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. When members of the petty-bourgeois layer that dominated the state apparatus in Yugoslavia organized along nationalist lines to justify the grabbing of territory and resources, they did find some support among the population in each republic.
Because of decades of Stalinist misleadership, the class consciousness of workers and farmers had been eroded. The regime in Belgrade, the main culprit for the slaughter, also played on the fact that millions of working people opposed imperialist intervention - either in the form of German tanks and military advisers first sent by Bonn to the Croatian regime of Franjo Tudjman in Zagreb, or the subse-quent sanctions slapped on Serbia and Montenegro by the United Nations. For these combined reasons many working people bought into the nationalist demagogy of Milosevic, Tudjman, and company and supported or did not resist the formal break-up of the Yugoslav federation.
But even among the hundreds of thousands of Yugoslavs who turned out and applauded the nationalist tirades by Milosevic at rallies in Belgrade and elsewhere, a majority opposed the terror of ethnic cleansing. The Serbian regime often had to blatantly lie to rally working people behind its military offensives. When the Yugoslav army, for example, was called out of the barracks to halt the independence of Slovenia, troops were told by officers that Yugoslavia was being assaulted by Austria and Italy. As soon as most soldiers discovered the truth, fraternization of the troops of different nationalities took place and a bloodletting was averted in that republic.
The Yugoslav working class has been pushed back but has not lost the battle. The important fact is the widespread resistance to the course of Milosevic and his rival bureaucrats described earlier. The dictatorship of the proletariat may not be well but is still alive throughout Yugoslavia.
Hitler triumphed in Germany in the 1930s and established a fascist regime after the working class in that country had been dealt a crushing defeat. The Nazis won popular support for their openly stated aims of exterminating the Jews and other non-Aryans based on the smashing of the labor movement.
In Yugoslavia, neither Tito nor his heirs have been able to crush the working class to the point of returning the country to the prison house of nations it was prior to the 1945 revolution.
If the working class in Yugoslavia had been smashed and the workers state there torn to pieces already, imperialism would not need to be sending in its armies, using the opening provided by the war that the Serb and Croat regimes initiated. Such a blow would also be registered by a qualitative shift in the relationship of forces in favor of imperialism worldwide - from Cuba to China to capitalist Europe.
As is the case in Yugoslavia, the toilers throughout the workers states of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union keep surprising the imperialists by their resistance to attempts to integrate those countries in the world capitalist market. The recent miners' strikes in Russia and Ukraine are one such example. (In a similar way workers from Seattle to Peoria, Illinois, keep surprising the capitalist employers and their government by fighting and continuing to prove that even a declining and bureaucratized union is not the same as no union whatsoever.)
A union of soviet republics
"If `the Yugoslav workers state has not been dismembered into little pieces,' how is it that at least five separate states exist, each with its own government, constitutions, army, and international relations," asks Craine.
The formal break-up of the Yugoslav federation is not synonymous with the splintering of the workers state into five pieces being picked up one at a time into the fold of the imperialist system. (By the way, that's what Stalinist groups such as the Workers World Party and the Communist Party USA argue: that Serbia and Montenegro remain the only socialist republics and the rest such as Croatia and Slovenia are already ruled by capitalist regimes.)
What the Yugoslav revolution put in place was not a state akin the bourgeois democracies in western Europe, albeit with nationalized property forms. It was a union of soviet republics - a social dictatorship of the majority, the producers - kept together through the class unity of Yugoslav workers and farmers, conquered on the basis of a common struggle against capitalist exploitation and all forms of national oppression.
It is these social relations, along with the property forms put together by the revolution, that have not been destroyed. That's why it's not useful to use Craine's yardstick.
In addition, the internal borders of each of the Yugoslav republics are very porous with constant movements of populations largely caused by the war. You can also hardly argue that Macedonia, for example, has its own full-fledged army with a few rusty tanks and minimal weaponry. Not to mention the situation in Bosnia, where borders and controlling armies are fluid, changing month by month. The economic infrastructures of the different republics are still totally interlinked, with power plants and other factories producing for neighboring or distant republics, for example. And the invading imperialist powers are nowhere close to establishing capitalism in any piece of Yugoslavia.
Several articles in the big-business press make similar observations from the capitalists' point of view.
"Just over a month after the suspension of United Nations sanctions imposed for its role in the Bosnian war, Serbia is fast retreating into the closed economy of its Communist past," complained an article in the February 6 Wall Street Journal.
"This is bad news not just for potential investors, but also for the U.S.-led effort to bring peace and economic stability to neighboring Bosnia. Prying open this key Balkan nation," the Journal article continued, "is viewed by many experts as crucial to the success of the Bosnian peace process, since so many of the region's industries are intertwined. A closed Serbian economy also could hurt countries such as Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria, which desperately want to reopen roads and trade links through Serbia to northern Europe."
Task of reestablishing capitalism `overwhelming'
As for Bosnia, the task of pouring in massive investments and establishing a market economy seemed daunting to the Journal.
In an accompanying article in the same issue reporter Mark Nelson said "the task at times seems overwhelming." He was referring to efforts by foreign engineering and other firms to capture contracts for power plant repairs and other construction projects, each of which have received pledges from imperialist institutions adding up to a few billion dollars.
"After World War II," Nelson continued, "it took the Western allies more than three years to do in Germany all the things that the Dayton Accord aims to do during the next six months: organize elections, create a democratic, free-market society, and start rebuilding a functioning economy. And the allies enjoyed some advantages in Germany: That country was completely occupied and already had a tradition of efficient companies and bureaucracies.
"Here the economic inheritance from old Yugoslavia offers little comfort."
Indeed, the capitalist powers and their mouthpieces are not in for a comfortable ride to capitalism in Yugoslavia. They do not occupy the entire country - at least not yet - and even in the portions they do control they have to confront militarily the inheritance of the Yugoslav revolution: a working class that will resist any shock therapy measures and any attempts to return to capitalist social relations.
Despite the efforts of Milosevic, Tudjman, and other bureaucrats, the social and economic foundations of the Yugoslav workers state have not been torn apart.
No stable capitalist ruling class exists with the accompanying system of bourgeois values; stable legal and contractual relations; and the dominance of privately owned industrial, banking, financial, and commercial capital. The fight is not settled over any of these questions. That's why Yugoslavia is not yet former.
This is what NATO's war drive is all about: putting the imperialist powers in place to smash the working class there directly through military violence in order to reestablish capitalism. Youth and working people in North America and throughout the world can make this task of the competing imperialist sharks even more monumental.
We can do so by telling the truth about NATO's war drive, explaining the Yugoslav revolution and its accomplishments, and joining other fighters in all defensive struggles and asking them to add to their demands getting the U.S. and other imperialist troops out of Yugoslavia now.
Above all, winning fighters today to a communist party capable of leading workers and farmers to take state power and defend it arms in hand is the biggest aid we can give to working people in Yugoslavia.
Giving to the capitalist exploiters what they haven't already taken from our class would hurt our embattled brothers and sisters in the Balkans.