Only the Peoples Can Stop Imperialism's War Program!

February 4, 2003

The following article summarizes several of the main points presented by Michael Thorburn at a forum sponsored by the Anti-Imperialist News Service (AINS) on January 19, 2003 in Chicago. The summary has been reviewed by the author.

War Against Terrorism -- Program for World Domination by Force of Arms

Even as we work to bring the widest sections of people out in opposition to the government's plan to invade Iraq, even as we fight to stay the hand of the warmakers, we must keep in mind the full challenge that is facing us.

The problem is not when, or if, the U.S. government will go to war. The war is already on.

Why do I say this?

Well, for one thing, the U.S. government openly says that it's at war. Government officials have repeatedly told us that the so-called "war against terrorism" will last for decades. The government has officially adopted the strategic doctrine of preemptive strikes - declaring that it will launch first-strike, preemptive military action against any country at any time that it wants. In September of last year the U.S. Congress passed a resolution ceding to George Bush the authority to use the full force of the U.S. military against any and every country Bush deems necessary.

And already, within the last 18 months, the U.S. has invaded and occupied Afghanistan and today is preparing an all-out invasion of Iraq with the goal of installing a U.S. military government there. In addition, the U.S. has organized its client regime in Israel to reoccupy Palestine and wage war against the entire Palestinian nation, deployed hundreds of U.S. military advisers in Colombia to wage a fullscale counter-insurgency war, dispatched hundreds of advisers to the Philippines where the U.S. is preparing another all-out counter-insurgency war. The U.S. is also threatening war on the Korean peninsula and elsewhere.

At the same time, the Bush administration is carrying out the most massive military buildup, including the development of a whole generation of new nuclear and strategic weapons of mass destruction.

In other words, the impeding invasion of Iraq is one front in a war which is already being waged across the entire globe.

War Arises from the Crisis of Imperialism

This war program is the product of the all-sided crisis of the capitalist-imperialist system.

Violence and war are at the very foundations of this system because capitalist-imperialism imposes social relations of domination, suppression and exploitation on whole nations and peoples.

The very social existence of the U.S. monopoly capital class - the big banks and multinational corporations which dominate economic life - is completely bound up with not only exploitation of U.S. working class but also with the super-exploitation and domination of countries the world over - 1/3 to 50% of the profits of the U.S.-based multinationals comes from overseas investments. Under this system, the mineral wealth, the land and other natural resources of whole countries and even continents is owned by the U.S. capitalists. And because the productive forces -the very means of life - are owned by the foreign companies, the laboring classes have no choice but to toil for these monopolies - the wealth of other countries and the labor of the peoples goes to enrich the U.S. monopolies. So too, the governmental budgets and economic policies in the dependent countries are dictated by the U.S. and other international bankers.

To police this system of economic domination and privilege - of dependence, colonialism and neo-colonialism - U.S. imperialism has established a network of 500 military bases in other countries. U.S. nuclear submarines and warships span the globe and U.S. weapons fill the skies and outer space. Hundreds of times, the U.S. has waged aggressive wars to "protect" and expand this empire.

For years, the U.S. imperialists have been shifting the burden of their economic crisis onto other countries. But every day this becomes harder. It becomes harder because other imperialist powers keep gaining economic strength and contending with the U.S. for spheres of economic territory and influence, for profits and empire. It becomes harder because everywhere the countries and peoples who toil under the yoke of imperialism are trying to take the path of independence and liberation.

In other words, social development itself keeps undermining the morbid dream of U.S. imperialism to be the world's sole superpower and to impose its dictate everywhere. This is why, the U.S. capitalists want and need war as their last option. They are trying to hold back the laws of social development by force of arms.

This need for war is expressed in Bush's new strategic doctrine of "preemptive war," according to which the U.S. will strike anytime against any country in order to prevent it from rivaling U.S. power in the future. Military might will be used to insure that nothing stands in way of U.S. empire.

Thus, since international law prohibits the use of force to resolve problems between states, international law must be torn up and throw out.

If the U.N. or any country refuses to embrace U.S. war plans, it is "irrelevant."

Since the elected, constitutional government of Venezuela stands in the way of U.S. oil monopolies, the CIA is deployed to try to organize a coup d'etat.

Since the Afghan people are in the way of U.S. global ambitions - the needs of U.S. capital - they are considered just so much "collateral damage."

What does George Bush mean by the "axis of evil?" Who are the terrorists, the "evil ones," he is hunting?

- The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea is part of this "axis of evil" and has been put on the nuclear "hit list" because for 50 years, it has built up an independent country outside the orbit of U.S. domination.

- Iraq is part of the "axis of evil" because the Iraqi government chafes under U.S. dictate and would like to assert its own interests.

- Iran is part of the "axis of evil" because it too is taking a path of development outside the orbit of U.S. imperialism.

- Cuba is a "terrorist country" because it is a Latin American country, in the "backyard" of U.S. imperialism, which threw out the U.S. exploiters, which "dares" to live independently, on its own feet and speak its own mind on world affairs.

- Not only the Palestinian Authority but the Palestinian people are "terrorists" because they are fighting for their national liberation against the occupation and colonial yoke of the U.S. surrogate, Israel.

- Colombian trade unionists, peasants, students and others are "terrorists" because they fighting against a fascist oligarchy and against U.S. domination of their country.

In other words, any country or people who for whatever reason oppose

U. S. dictate, who become an impediment to the drive of the U.S. multinationals to grab more economic territory, to exploit more people are condemned as "terrorists," "evil," etc.

In sum, the so-called "war against terrorism" is U.S. imperialism blueprint for global domination by force of arms.

U.S. imperialism wants and needs war in order to beat down its imperialist rivals remain the number one exploiter and oppressor.

U.S. imperialism wants and needs war in order to stop the peoples drive for independence, liberation and social progress.

U.S. imperialism wants and needs war for profit and empire.

This is the problem, the challenge that we must face up to.

It means that in course of fighting against every aggressive step taken by U.S. imperialism and working to stay the hands of the warmakers, we must organize ourselves into a force capable of countering, of politically defeating, the organized force of monopoly capital - the organized parties of war and imperialism.

Organize the Opposition!

In the second part of this speech, Michael Thorburn talked about the new anti-war movement which has emerged and is becoming broader and deeper everyday. He showed how this movement reflects the fundamental interests and profound aspirations of the American people.

Michael Thorburn outlined four vital practical tasks for advancing this movement - 1) standing up against war and imperialism; 2) politicizing our movement; 3) organizing ourselves independent of and in struggle against the parties of war; and 4) building a proactive movement. Michael Thorburn emphasized that these 4 tasks all center around the need to develop anti-imperialist politics and organization.

Standing Up

In reviewing the anti-war struggle over the last 18 months, Michael Thorburn gave many examples of how small groups - by standing up in opposition have helped galvanize millions into the struggle.

Michael Thorburn extended the heartfelt thanks of the Workers Party to all the comrades and friends and to the tens of thousands of activists across the country who, from day one and on every day, have stood up against the chauvinism and militarism of the government and assisted the people to take the path of anti-war struggle. Michael Thorburn said that this kind of courage and conviction is another testament to the profound aspirations of the American people and another sign that the people will carry the struggle against war through to victory.

The issue of standing up does not reduce itself to simply joining an "action" or taking up a particular tactic. Standing up means taking a principled position against war and imperialism and taking it in full view - in the midst of one's peers and in the public arena.

For example, many people took the simple, straightforward action of wearing anti-war buttons to work and this principled action lead to widescale discussion and mobilization. On the campuses and in the communities, such actions as setting up literature tables, distributing anti-war leaflets and newspapers have become starting point for involving hundreds and thousands of people.

Advancing the anti-war struggle means that we must keep initiating such actions and finding the ways to keep this struggle in the forefront amongst our peers and in society as a whole.

Politicizing Our Movement

A second practical task is to continually politicize ourselves and our movement. In other words, we need to know where our movement is going and help show others how and why they should join with us on the path of struggle.

One of the most precious and fundamental things about the new anti-war movement is that it is a deep-going movement for enlightenment; it is people looking into things and finding out. It is people exposing the lies of the monopoly-controlled media, denouncing the hypocrisy and chauvinism of the government. It is people learning the history that has been hidden from us - the real history of the struggles of other countries and peoples. It is people learning about the true aspirations of their neighbors and peers and beginning to feel the strength of the people when they act in their own interests.

In elaborating on the irreplaceable practical role of the work of politicalization, Michael Thorburn gave the example of the Party's work on the question of Palestine. Last year, when this news hit the front pages, many people already active in the struggle against the war in Afghanistan felt unsure of their stand. By bringing people information and analysis about the history of Palestine, about the role of U.S. imperialism as the sponsor of Israel aggression, the Party helped large numbers of people see the justness of the Palestinian liberation struggle and become active in the struggle. Today, a similar thing is going on in relation to Korea -a whole new generation of activists is learning the real history of Korea and coming out to demand an end to U.S. occupation of South Korea.

Politicizing ourselves is not simply a question of finding out some facts, some history. For one thing, no matter how many lies we expose and no matter how many times we expose them, the imperialists will keep telling the same lies and keep inventing new one. To see through the lies, to develop their own independent stand and program, people need to get at the root of the problem. We need to see that the entire U.S. foreign policy is driven by the class aims of monopoly capital and that these aims and this policy are necessarily aggressive because they arise from the capitalist-imperialist relations of exploitation and domination.

Similarly how can we simultaneously do justice to the countless struggles which are already going on against U.S. imperialism

- struggles in every corner of the globe? We can do so by merging together the manifold anti-war, anti-militarist struggles into a mighty torrent which targets the common source, the capitalist class and the imperialist system.

In fact, it really is a "no-brainer" to be for peace. The real issue is: "what is required to bring peace into being?" And the answer begins with zeroing in on the cause of war - the imperialist system and the parties that wield power on behalf of those interests. We must build the movement on this basis - on the basis of anti-imperialism. In fact, we must demand that every "somebody" who tries to come to the fore of our movement speak plainly and tell us what are our political tasks. Who are the forces and parties of war? Who are the forces and parties opposed to war and what is required to strengthen that force?

Politicizing ourselves also means linking up with all the forces who are fighting. For the last hundred years and more the working classes have been coming out against aggressive, imperialist wars. For the last hundred years, the colonial peoples have been fighting and have put the issues of sovereignty and national liberation on the agenda. Politicizing ourselves means embracing these and other struggles and taking up for solution the problems which humanity has already put and is putting on the agenda.

In my opinion, nothing can be more harmful than the attempts to de-politicize people coming forward to struggle against the war program.

Many activists here can tell stories about going to anti-war meetings in which political discussion is literally outlawed, in which people are, at best, allowed only to talk about times and dates and bus routes. Such meetings, in turn, demobilize the activists who are "trained" to not politicize others but instead to only sell buttons or bus tickets, get signatures, etc.

This de-politicalization is active suppression. Time and again, activists are told "you can't talk about 'imperialism' or criticize the Democratic Party." And it is usually the so-called "leftists" who insist on "watering down" the message. Such "leftists" are quick to claim that they themselves oppose imperialism but that the rest of the people are at "too low a level to understand." In plain language, opportunism lies to the people.

In my opinion, the basic fact of American political life is that the majority of people are excluded from politics, and they are excluded precisely because all the political "somebodies" gang up to try to silence the people and prevent them from creating new space in which to politicize themselves and organize themselves. People are not going to join or stay with a movement that treats them with contempt and suppresses them. Only a movement which is broad-minded and enlightened, which is based on advanced political theory, will be able to release the initiative of the masses of people who must make the necessary changes to win the peace.

Independent Organization

Already many activists who are coming forward against the war program, recognize the need to build an ongoing movement, to unite their ranks and to develop the struggle in more and more of a planned way in order to advance towards their goal.

Yet still, organizations keep getting liquidated, unprincipled splits take place and again and again people have to start from scratch in order to get organized.

To overcome these problems people need to build their own independent organizations. By independent organizations, I mean organizations based on the people themselves, organizations in which the people have the initiative and make the decisions, in which the politics - the aim, program, strategy, tactics and organization - are all in the hands of those who are doing the work and building the movement.

Often, instead of building organizations on this basis, people are pushed into relying on so-called "coalitions." Of course, coalitions (organizations which bring together various parties, groups, classes, etc. for particular common goals) are a necessary part of the anti-war struggle. But they cannot be the starting point or the primary means of organizing the masses of people. Why? Because in order for the people to be active participants in a coalition they must first have organizations of their own to solidify their ranks, organizations in which they can sum up their experience and sort out their politics and plans.

In the absence of their own independent organizations, people find that the "coalitions" are continually being manipulated by various organized factions and parties. The typical "anti-war coalition" of today is really a hodgepodge of liberal and leftists factions which, while competing with each other remain united on the basis of the lowest common denominator - namely the politics of the Democratic Party. Thus, not only do the people find their demands, experience, politics sidelined, they also find that such coalitions are mired in never-ending intrigues and factionalism.

Of course, people enter the anti-war movement from many different starting points and various points of view and all are welcome. But, if in the course of the struggle, the people are not organized on the basis of their own interests and their own politics, they will inevitably come under the domination of Democratic Party politics which will suppress their initiative and liquidate their struggles and organizations.

The key to developing and strengthening the independent organizations of the people is to build them on the basis of anti-imperialist politics. This means simply to build organizations that are in opposition to and struggle against the parties of war and imperialism. Just as workers would not be wise to put the company vice-president at the head of their union, so too, the classes and stratum opposed to war cannot put military generals and capitalist politicians at the head of the anti-war movement.

Being Proactive

Organizing ourselves independently and in struggle against the parties of war and imperialism, organizing on the basis of anti-imperialist politics empowers people to develop a pro-active movement.

And, we really have no choice but to be proactive.

Our goal is not simply to stop one war in order to sit by while imperialism starts another. Our goal is nothing less than a world of peace.

The fact is that we will have no right to be surprised if in 2 months or 6 months, U.S. imperialism dramatically escalates its counter-insurgency war in Colombia or dispatches troops to Venezuela, etc. We know from long experience that U.S. imperialism lives by militarism and war and the government is telling us it will start more wars.

No, we cannot simply wait and react. We must take the initiative into our own hands and fight to bring about a fundamental change in our country's foreign policy. We must implement a genuinely democratic foreign policy which includes:

- Withdrawal of all U.S. troops stationed abroad;

- Ending U.S. intervention and aggression in all its forms;

- Ending the militarization of our country;

- Respecting the sovereignty and rights of all.

Such a program will indeed rally and inspire the broadest sections of American people and help bring them into independent political life on the basis of their own aims and deep aspirations. Such a program will be fully put into practice when the government and parties of war are replaced by a government of the people.

By way of conclusion, let me say that I hope this forum can be a new space which assists us all to go evermore widely amongst the people and together take new initiatives to STAND UP in opposition to and struggle against war and imperialism, that this forum can help us arm ourselves to carry through the continuous work of politicalization which is so decisive in empowering people to build up their own independent, anti-imperialist organizations.

And in all this work, let us aim for and settle for nothing less than our most ardent desire for a world of peace and friendship, a world without colonialism and domination, a world which recognizes and defends the sovereignty and rights of all.