THE CHALLENGE FACING THE ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT

During September, Michael Thorburn, a leader of the Workers Party, gave several talks at anti-war rallies and smaller meetings of activists. He zeroed in on how to advance the struggle against war and imperialism. Below, we summarize portions of these talks.

Carrying on a sustained and serious struggle against the war requires that we clarify the character of the war and the balance of forces involved. We must look into the social forces which caused the war. We must be clear about who is for the war - which classes and political parties - and what they are fighting for. We must see what classes and strata are opposed to the war, what is their state of organization, the level of their struggle, etc.

The U.S. government has made it clear that it will continue and escalate the war. The Bush administration insists it will stay in Iraq for "as long as it takes" which according to the Pentagon's official plans will be, at least, several years. Similarly the Democratic Party is determined to "win the war" at all costs and insists on deploying even more U.S. troops.

We can begin to see the character of the war by looking at the methods and tactics used by the U.S. government. Today in Tal Afar, Samarra and throughout Iraq, the U.S. continues to rely on such tactics as the saturation bombings of cities and other populated areas - a tactic which has already killed some 130,000 Iraqis. Other preferred methods of the U.S. occupationist army include mass round-ups, collective punishment, torture, cutting off supplies of food, electricity, water, etc.

These methods are not mistakes. They are purposeful methods employed by the Pentagon with definite aims. These methods aim at terrorizing the Iraqi people, at asserting that the U.S. imperialists are the masters of the country and that the Iraqis are a conquered people. All the propaganda about "terrorism," "Islamic fundamentalism" or "jihadism," as the Democrats call it, attempts to justify this fascism but only proves that racism is the official ideology of the U.S. government.

Aims of the War

These barbaric methods reflect the aims of the war.

The government and the monopoly-controlled media are simply spitting in our faces when they claim that this fascism is bringing "democracy to Iraq" - that the Iraqi people are being slaughtered for their own good; or that by bombing cities and torturing families, the U.S. military is "fighting terrorism;" or that the biggest arsenal in the history of humanity has been unleashed on the Iraqi people because the U.S. is looking for weapons of mass destruction.

We do not have to dwell on these lies, all of which have been exposed by the warmakers themselves. Bush smirks and does comedy routines looking for "weapons of mass destruction." What he is really saying is that big business - the fat cats - are going to keep letting the good times roll, while the people of Iraq are slaughtered. He keeps preaching patriotism while using the sons and daughters of the people as cannon fodder.

Since everyone knows that the government lies and lies again, the question that must be answered is: "what are the real reasons behind the war?" Not to seriously take up this question is to, at best, oppose the war in a half-hearted way. Only by answering the question can we know what must be done to stop the war.

In fact, we all know the answer. The government and monopoly-controlled media may pretend to be oblivious; they pretend that all their motives are pure and that they "hear no evil and see no evil." But we all know that, in this case, evil begins with OIL.

The government and media do not want this word even mentioned because it lets the cat out of the bag, because then the entire hysteria about September 2001 is punctured and it is clear that the motives and strategy of the U.S. go back well before 2001, before the Saddam Hussein government. Once the word "oil" is spelled out, the government has to account for a 60-plus year history of aggression and colonialism in the Middle East.

And when we talk about oil, it is not just the oil companies that are involved but the entire monopoly capitalist class. The struggle for control of this resource, which is at the very foundation of the modern capitalist economies and war machines, is a fundamental and constant part of the strategic aims of U.S. capitalism.

This has been true for every U.S. administration since the end of WW II. When the Truman Doctrine was formulated, the Joint Chiefs of Staff referred to Middle Eastern oil as "one of the greatest material prizes in world history," just as in 2001, the Cheney Commission on National Energy Policy declared that access the Middle Eastern oil is a vital issue of "national security" and charged the government with the mission to "remove political, economic, legal and logistical obstacles" to the U.S.

When the real economic and strategic interests behinds the war are brought out, it is crystal clear who is fighting the war and what they are fighting for.

It is the U.S. monopoly capitalist class, U.S. imperialism, which started this war and wages it for the sake of profit and empire. It is a war of the rich against the people - a war to enslave the Iraqi people, a war in which the American people are nothing but cannon fodder for the rich.

When we bring out the class interests of the capitalists which are the real reason behind the war, we see that the war is not a mistake, or the result of the evil of George Bush alone. We see that the war in Iraq is only one link in a world-wide chain of U.S. aggression and that this war program is carried out by both the Republicans and Democrats, the political parties of monopoly capital.

In fact, the Republican and Democratic Party politicians themselves tell us that the war in Iraq is only one front in a "war on terrorism" which will last for decades and includes at least 60 countries. For example, Will Marshall, a leader of the Democratic Leadership Council, writes: "The U.S. has no choice but to wage total war on terror. . . by taking the fight to our enemies . . . the moment demands the vigorous exercise of American power to buttress the global community of liberal democracies and to extend the fruits of modernity - economic opportunity, individual freedom, respect for human rights - to the world's breeding grounds of discontent and terror." This includes waging war in Iraq and "also to ratchet up the pressure on Syria, Iran, Sudan and other regimes known to sanction terror . . ."

During the last 4 years, the U.S. has occupied Afghanistan and Haiti and stepped the U.S.-Israeli war against Palestine. Every day the government issues new threats against Iran, Syria, Korea, etc.

The "war on terrorism" is U.S. imperialism's blueprint for creating a unipolar world with itself as the sole superpower. And make no mistake about what this U.S.-dominated world will be like. It will be a world without any international law, in which the might of U.S. imperialism rules. It will be a return to open colonialism under which U.S. imperialism determines which countries are "civilized enough" to enjoy sovereignty. It will a world in which the U.S. relies on the doctrine of preemption, including even nuclear first strikes, to maintain its superiority.

Only the Peoples

Political opportunism objects to the fact that the Workers Party exposes the class interests behind the war. Opportunism objects to the fact that we hold both the Democrats and Republicans, the parties of the capitalist warmakers, responsible for the war. Opportunism tries to hide its own treachery by claiming that these truth are "too much for people to accept."

The reality, of course is that this anti-imperialist politics is a great liberating truth. It is liberating not only because it punctures all illusions in the warmakers but also because it shows that the American and world's peoples have no stake, no interest in this war. The motive force of the anti-war struggle is the strength of billions of people throughout the world - the billions of the downtrodden and oppressed, the locked out and excluded, the people, who do not live by overseas investments or oppressing other countries, but rather aspire only to a world of peace and friendship.

In discussing the recent history of the anti-war struggles in the U.S., Michael Thorburn said that the struggle was entering a new phase.

Over the last 4 years, it can be said that the American people, on the whole, have made up their mind about the government's "war on terrorism" and are irreconcilably opposed to it.

Activists must continually work to further extend this movement to all sectors of the population. At the same time, one of the key tasks is to stand up and initiate actions, in accord with actual local and national conditions, to galvanize people into the struggle. It may be as simple an action as wearing a button. It may mean creating a regular "town meeting" space in which people speak out and organize themselves against war. It may mean organizing small pickets or large demonstrations. The issue is to bring the demand "Out, Now!" to the forefront and inspire people with confidence in their own strength and the determination to act.

To create this new space and initiate broad actions, we must build up independent, anti-imperialist organizations. Because people largely lack political leadership and their own organizations, millions of people find it extremely difficult to join in the struggle or sustain their participation.

The truth is that even though the people are creating the movement, they are not at the head of it. Instead, the politics and apparatus of the Democratic Party and its so-called "left-wing" are continually disorganizing and diverting our struggle.

Everyone knows, for example, how so much of the energy and organization of the struggle was diverted during last year's election. And the same problems still exist. Political opportunism used the September 24 demonstration to lie to the people about the deeds of the Democrats and again try to tie the movement to the Democrats. While the Democrats vote for every dime needed by Bush to wage the war, while the Democratic leadership calls for sending more troops to Iraq, the "left-wing" Democrats hope to fool people with a few words about "the need to think about beginning to withdraw some troops from Iraq, starting in maybe a year, if the Iraqi puppet government is capable of carrying on the war with the American troops remaining as advisers."

Furthermore, the Democrats and opportunism promote a lot of confusion and disorientation in the movement by promoting the idea that: "now that the U.S. is in Iraq, it can't leave . . ."

This slogan has been developed by the capitalists in the hopes stopping the politicalization of the people. The capitalists know that the atrocities of the war, the exposures of Abu Ghraib, the exposures of the government's lies, the growth the anti-war movement has reached tens of millions of people who formerly were not much involved in the country's affairs. They want to reassure the public that although "some mistakes may have been made," all is well and the U.S. government is and will continue to "fight for democracy."

The slogan "now that we're there. . ." hides the continuing savagery of the U.S. war and covers over the real aggressive, colonial program which always remains the basis of U.S. imperialism's involvement in Iraq.

The evil of this politics is that it seeks to buy time for the warmakers as well as thwart the growing consciousness of the people, to choke the will to find out which is inspiring millions of people to come into new political life. Instead of trying to suppress this new awakening, we must nourish it and build up the only reliable weapons of the anti-war struggle - the consciousness and organization of the people themselves.

The immediate aim of independent, anti-imperialist organizations is to maximize popular participation and mobilization to force the government to end the war in Iraq. The goal of this work must be to replace the war government of the Republicans and Democrats with a genuine peace government, a government of and by the people.

Again the experience of the anti-war struggle brings sharply home that the problem facing the American people is who holds political power - who are the decision-makers in the country.

Over the last few years, tens of millions of Americans have come out against the war but the government has only spit in our faces. This teaches us that the war will only be stopped by politically defeating the warmakers, by forcing U.S. imperialism out of Iraq.

Again, political opportunism claims that it is "asking too much" to call on people to build their independent movement and prepare to take power into their hands.

Our party, the Workers Party, insists that the question of political independence is the fundamental, relentless political issue of the day.

We say that the anti-war movement is precisely about people asserting their humanity and their right to determine the kind of society they live in. We say that the anti-war movement is precisely about the American people declaring that the militarism, the savagery, the racism, the war program of the capitalist class is not what our country is about; the anti-war movement is about not tolerating imperialist war and militarism, about stopping the warmakers, and creating an America at peace and in friendship with the peoples of the world.

No, we do not think it is "too much" to ask people, to join with people, to fight for nothing less than their humanity.