Some reflections on the left and the Falklands war

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

By Sean Matgamna

The two month "Falklands War" between Britain and Argentina in 1982 was a freak event. It was part of no larger conflict; no issue other than possession of the islands was involved.

Both Argentina and Britain were bourgeois states. Neither of them oppressed, and neither of them was trying to conquer the other, or likely to, as a result of the war.

The Falklands Islands were not a base from which Britain oppressed others in the region, and never had been. The only issue between Britain and Argentina, the cause of the war, was the fate of the Falklands Islands and their inhabitants.

Living 400 miles across the South Atlantic from Argentina, the Falkland Islanders were British. In identity, desired international affiliation, language and culture, they were British. The islands had been British since the 1830s, when the modern Argentine state had not yet emerged.

Argentina's claim to the Falklands rested on a few years of formal possession by Argentina's predecessor state, a century and a half in the past, and on their comparative geographical proximity to it.

Against that stood the wishes of the inhabitants to remain British and their no less strong desire not to be subjected to Argentine rule.

In addition to that, Argentina's rulers were then, under General Galtieri, a murderous, unpopular military junta. By invading the islands, they sought to make themselves less unpopular at home and rally the forces of Argentine chauvinism behind them.

Margaret Thatcher and her government, though their political standing in Britain would improve greatly as a result of the war, were at that point very unpopular at home too.

On the merits of the issue, right lay with Britain, defending the Falklanders. To recognise that did not imply support for Thatcher's war, and we did not support it: indeed, we ran the slogan "The Enemy is At Home" above the masthead of the weekly paper, Socialist Organiser, throughout the war.

On the other side, nothing but Argentine chauvinism could lead socialists, if they were capable of registering what was happening in the world around them, to support Galtieri's invasion and occupation.

In fact a fantasy "let's pretend" "anti-imperialism" could and did lead many not only (rightly) to oppose Thatcher's war but also (wrongly) positively to back the fascistic Galtieri junta. Many socialists, and not only the "revolutionaries", became honorary Argentine chauvinists for the duration of the war. Why? How?

On the grounds that its opponent was Britain, sections of the left cast Argentina as the hero in a drama that was going on nowhere else except in their own heads. They lost themselves in a delirium of "anti-Imperialist" political fantasising.

The fact that there was nothing "anti-imperialist" in the Argentine seizure of territory 400 miles from Argentina, inhabited for generations by people who did not want to be part of Argentina and had done Argentina no harm, did not faze them at all. Your "Anti-Imperialist", when desperate for a "fix", tends to be impervious to reason and arguement.

All the activist left opposed Thatcher's war. Beyond that, the left divided into two groups. That time round the SWP was on the side of sanity and rational politics. Along with "Socialist Organiser" (what is now AWL), it refused to support Argentina, its military rulers, or the occupation of the Falkland islands.

(Militant (now the Socialist Party/ Socialist Appeal) had a bizarre approach all of its own, declaring that the alternative to the war was "a Socialist Federation of Britain, the Falkland Islands, and Argentina".)

The other main group in the left consisted of a large part of the softer Labourite left, around Labour Briefing (The Argentinians were fighting Thatcher, weren't they? What more did we want?); the Mandelite Fourth International, then a sizeable organisation, the International Marxist Group; the Workers Revolutionary Party, crazy as a bed-bug; Workers' Power; and the other half of the organisation to which the tendency which is now AWL then belonged, the Workers' Socialist League.

The pro-Argentine part of the WSL was led by Alan Thornett (now of the ISG).

The story of what happened in the WSL, and how Thornett's section made themselves the pioneers of what today is the "anti-Imperialist" politics of the kitsch-left in Britain, including the SWP, has a lot of light to shed on the current dispute between the "anti-Imperialists" and ourselves.

(Some of the documents of that dispute can be found in Workers' Liberty 2/3.)

The WSL of 1982 was the result of the fusion, in July 1981, of the forerunner of the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, Socialist Organiser, and a group that had separated from the WRP seven years earlier, called the WSL. In the fusion, we took the name Socialist Organiser for the joint paper and WSL for the joint organisation.

After nine months, the unification began to break down around the Falklands war. The organisation divided into warring and, as it proved, irreconcilable, factions.

We all agreed on opposing the war, and at the start all of us had rejected positive support for Argentina and declared ourselves in principle for the right of self-determination for the Falkland Islanders.

Six weeks after the British fleet set sail, the Thornett group decided that we should back the Argentine military junta against Britain. Soon they claimed that backing Argentina was a principle of "anti-imperialism".

First, without any prior warning, they tried a small coup, changing our position by a vote of five to three on an Executive Committee whose full membership was 12. After the National Committee majority rejected and overturned that, they started to reconstitute the old WSL and counterpose it to the rest of the organisation.

From then on, the new WSL unravelled, and within it the Thornett section itself unravelled even faster, scattering their supporters out of the organisation in all directions.

The late Alan Clinton, a Thornetteite who would become Labour Leader of Islington Council some years later, coined what then became the response of the Thornettites to all talk of the rights of the Falkland Islanders: "The Falkland Islanders? They wouldn't populate two streets in Islington!" That disposed of their rights!

They denounced us as "pro-imperialists" because our attitude, "defeatist on both sides" implied that we wanted the fascistic military government of Argentina overthrown by the Argentinian workers during the war. They insisted it was the duty of "anti-imperialists" to support the Argentinian military forces against Britain, to be "revolutionary defencists" for "anti-imperialist" Argentina and its military dictators.

I responded to their bizarre solicitude for the Argentine military with the statement that I'd be happy to see the whole military apparatus of the Argentine state, whose sole function in history — apart from extirpating the native Amerindian population of the country — has been internal policing, sunk to the bottom of the South Atlantic. They went into shock; and when they came out of it some of them denounced me as "an agent of British imperialism".

We on our side of the common organisation, thought of the Thornettites as hopelessly disoriented people, politically drunk on foolish, self-indulgent fantasy politics; and as people who were shamefully ignorant of the Trotskyist political tradition in which they claimed to stand.

"Revolutionary defencism" for Argentina was political nonsense; but leave that aside. They understood it to mean that socialists should "subordinate" class struggle within Argentina to the potential good effects of an Argentine victory, "even if it strengthens Galtieri", on "the international balance of forces". That had nothing to do with Trotskyist politics or the Trotskyist tradition.

Trotsky, for instance, being entirely on China's side against the Japanese invaders in the 1930s, advocated a war of national defense. Nonetheless, he advocated a working class revolution against the Chaing Government, during that war.

Their joke-shop, buffoon-fantasy "anti-imperialism" was no harmless bit of inconsequential nonsense, though: it led them to an all too real support of the foul Argentine regime and its mini-imperialism in the Falklands.

Today the biggest forces on the left, in the first place the SWP, have the politics, or very close to them, that the Thornettites had then. Their "anti-Imperialism" is no less empty.(Alan Thornett can rightly claim to have been the Copernicus of this sort of anti-imperialism", and for all I know, he does!)

They don't just oppose our own government - they back some of the foulest regimes on Earth, on the sole criterion that they oppose the British and US governments.

The SWP's descent into such politics did not start with Iraq. It started with their switch in 1987 to support Iran in the Iran/ Iraq war, on the grounds that the USA was backing Iraq. (It had been doing that for the previous seven years.) Until then, the SWP had opposed the Iran/ Iraq war on both sides.

The SWP's descent from Marxist-socialist politics first reached its present level of political dementia in the Balkans War of 1999. They tried to build an "anti-war movement" in support of a Serbia which was engaged in attempted genocide against the people of its "internal colony", Kosova. Serbia's activity in Kosova was the sole issue in the war, which stopped when the Serb Army withdrew from Kosova.

The SWP learned nothing from that experience. Then came 9/11.

The New Anti-Imperialism identified itself, so to speak, to the kitsch left by Bin Laden's great blows for human liberation in New York and Washington.

There was a new and vigorous "anti-Imperialism loose in the world.

But this was a comprehensively reactionary "anti-Imperialism"? It was not "anti-Imperialism" in any sense in which socialsits and consistent liberals are anti-Imperialist? Don't be silly, comrade!

Nothing is or ever could be more reactionary than America, Britain and their allies and stooges. History moves in strange and unexpected ways. The Islamic clerical fascists are against America, and that's all that matters now.

This was a stark change for the SWP in more ways than one. In the mid-1990s, when Muslims in Bosnia were being butchered, the SWP kept strictly aloof from any hint of supporting them, or denouncing the international arms embargo which hindered them in defending themselves.

They were still remiss in their Islamismophilia during the Balkans war, when they sided with Serbia, which was slaughtering and driving out Muslim Albanians.

Then came 9/11. In the Afghan war the SWP jumped "on board" — and with all the shamelessness of old-time Stalinists shuffling when their "line" switched.

In the Afghan war, Socialist Worker went so far in "supporting" the enemy of our British and American enemies as to attempt to explain away the horrendous treatment of women by the Taliban regime (Socialist Worker, 6 October 2001).

At the heart of all such thinking is the syndrome where the left defines itself largely in negative terms - by what we are against, not what we are for.

The moral, political and intellectual crisis of the left today takes the form of a comprehensive collapse of positive norms. But it is cumulative. It has been going on a long time. The Falkland War is now a quarter of a century in the past.

You can trace the present state of the left back to the attitudes which the once-very influential Stalinists, and some of the "orthodox Trotskyists", cultivated towards the USSR and other Stalinist regimes. They were unconditionally on the side of those regimes against "Imperialism", by which they meant the advanced capitalist countries of the west.

I was shocked into the awareness of something qualitatively new during the Balkans war of 1999. We did not support NATO, but we emphatically refused to do or say anything which implied support for or complaisance towards the primitive ethno-imperialism of the Serbian regime. Serbia had launched a genocidal drive in Kosova which NATO - in its own way, for its own interests, and after over a decade of complaisance towards Serbian imperialism - was attempting to check for the sake of regional stability. (See the dossier on Kosova in Workers' Liberty 2/3).

Yet the kitsch-left and in the first place the SWP created a one-sided "anti-war" campaign which in fact was so designed as to give maximum support to Serbian imperialism.

"Anti-war"? The Serbian government could at will have "stopped the war" by withdrawing from Kosova (as eventually they did). If NATO had abandoned its action without Serbia withdrawing, then war would have continued - one-sided war by Serbia against the Kosovars.

The SWP indulged in a fantasy of anti-imperialism as bizarre as, and greatly more irresponsible than, that of poor old Alan Thornett when he passionately championed the anti-imperialism of the murderous Argentine junta in the Falklands war.

Or take another measuring rod. Repeatedly in articles and speeches over many, many years, I have used an incident in the history of the French Communist Party to illustrate the moral and political degeneracy of Stalinism.

In 1938, the leader of French Stalinism, Maurice Thorez, publicly proposed that the catchment-area of the "Popular Front" should be extended to include "patriotic", that is anti-German, French fascists.

I can still recall how shocked I was when, young and naïve, I first read about this.

The PCF never achieved a popular front with patriotic fascists. I have lived to see people who say they stand in Trotsky's political tradition realise something very like it - the SWP's "popular front" in the "anti-war" movement with the obscurantist authoritarians of the Muslim Brotherhood - MAB - who advocate the creation of Islamic dictatorships all across the Muslim world.

You could quibble that they are not quite fascists, but it would be only a quibble.

They rightly opposed the 2003 war, but did it by lining up squarely with the Saddam Hussein Regime. They used Saddam's long-time British Stooge, George Galloway, as the face and voice of the pro-Saddam "Anti- war" movement.

They have given abject and uncritical support to the Sunni supremacist and Jihadist "resistance" in Iraq against the bourgeois-democratic — more or less — forces in Iraq.

This "Left", this kitsch-left, is far gone in political corruption, disintegration and decay.

In this situation, the first responsibility of honest socialists is to tell the truth. Describe things as they are. Only in that way can socialists prepare the future.

Click here for more notes on the old Workers' Socialist League

Comments

oppressed nation

Why is the categorisation of the nation critical?
It is quite clear from Lenin's quote, that the key distinguishing characteristic that determines our support for a nation in a war is whether or not it is oppressed.
1. If Britain was an oppressor nation, and the Falklanders wanted to remain part of Britain, it was not possible to support the Falklanders "right of self determination" in the Malvinas conflict, as the exercise of that right was identical with support for an oppressor nation.
The only outstanding this is was Argentina an oppressor nation? i.e. an imperialist nation. Clearly not on the basis of an assessment of its economy, the only decisive criterion for a Marxist.
So if the exercise of the Falkland islanders "self determination" was effectively support for an oppressor "Great Power" Britain - and Argentina was oppressed, Socialists had to support Argentina in the Malvinas war. Or be chauvinist. Simple as that.
2. Again if the US/UK are oppressor nations and the Iraqi's are an oppressed nation, clearly socialists must support the Iraqi's "right to self determination" or be categorised as chauvinists.
As the AWL not only refuse to support the Iraqi's but actually support the continued occupation of Iraq by UK/US troops - then the AWL are something worse than chauvinist.

3. Israel is an oppressor nation, the Palestinians are oppressed, clearly every socialist should support the Palestinian right of self determination, the AWL not only refuse to support the Palestinian right to self determination, but support the rights of the oppressor Israelis.
Again according to Lenin's categorisation, you are something worse than chauvinists.

In every instance it is revealed that the AWL's denegration of anti-imperialism as "kitsch" "silly", etc. is simply a feeble diversion from their chauvinist pro-imperialism.

Why would PR (or anyone?) want to debate a load of pro-imperialist chauvinists? Really what is there to discuss?

Confused

Bill,

If you don't want to debate the AWL, what are doing here?

Actually I've seen Bill do his stuff for Workers Power on Ireland vs the AWL and believe me, he's made the right choice to decline.

a few things

> In what sense is Britain an oppressed nation?

Where did anyone claim it was?

> Yet,the AWL are neutral between Britain and Argentina, when any objective assessment of the relationship between Argentina and imperialism, would conclude that Argentina is an imperialised nation, dominated and oppressed by imperialism.

I don't know what "imperialised" means? Could you explain? "Dominated and oppressed by imperialism" is pretty vague. Do you mean Argentina was denied its national rights? In what sense? By who? And when you say "relationship between Argentina and imperialism" what do you mean? British imperialism?

Clive describes what you seem to be trying to do in terms of blurring concepts pretty well.

Part of the problem seems to be that you think any nation not near the top of the hierarchy of capitalist states is a semi-colony. So eg India is a semi-colony, Iran is a semi-colony, Argentina is a semi-colony. Brazil? But clearly this is just nonsense.

> In what sense are the USA and UK oppressed nations? Yet the AWL refuse to call for the withdrawal of occupying forces from Iraq.

Where did we ever say that the US and UK were oppressed nations?

We don't raise a demand whose immediate consequences would be a disaster for the Iraqi working class, that's true. We pose our opposition to the occupation in a particular way.

> And if Iraq isn't an oppressed nation, I don't know what is.

We're for Iraq's national rights, against the occupation etc. But there are a number of factors at play in Iraq. The denial of Iraqi national rights isn't the only one. Given the sectarian civil war going on, balancing the different slogans is quite difficult.

> Maybe that's the reason you don't see the AWL on troops out demos.

Yes, I'd noticed that was the new Permanent Revolution line. Regardless of whether you saw us, but we were there. In fact, I remember clear talking to one of your comrades, Dan, on the last big Stop the War demo. We were there to show opposition to US/UK imperialism in Iraq, even though we pose it differently from many other demonstrators.

> They disagree with the essential demand of the movement.

It's not clear to me that most people who demonstrate are saying "Out now"! as opposed to general opposition to what the US and UK are doing in Iraq.

> In fact I would hope that they wouldn't attend anti-war protests, given that they support the occupation.

Except that we don't.

> And of course you support the oppressor nation of Israel above the rights of the Palestinians.

No, we agree Israel is an oppressor nation which is why we call for it to get out of the occupied territories, stop oppressing the Palestinians etc, let them form an independent state. Your comment is just gibberish.

Sacha Ismail

Formal invitation to Permanent Revolution to debate these issues

Dear comrades from Permanent Revolution,

Further to these discussions, we would like to formally invite you to debate these issues at a session of our Ideas for Freedom event (30 June-1 July). The exact title and format of the meeting are up for discussion, but the basic themes would be the revolutionary left's understanding of what "imperialism" and "anti-imperialism" mean.

When we asked Workers Power to debate in the past, they invariably shied away from the fight. We hope that you will not do so. Since you are evidently keen to debate us online, you will surely agree on the usefulness of a properly organised public debate?

Sacha Ismail
On behalf of the AWL

left, debate and insults

Arthur, what is the point of all the insults?
Where does 'kitcsh', 'idiot' , 'inability to understand' get us?
There's no point at all.

You say we should start from a concrete assesment of reality not mantras- couldn't agree more.

In much of the world the imperialised world or semi-colonies ('the third world' or 'developing countries') the working class is dominated by the local bourgeois acting on behalf of the ruling class from US, Britain, France, Germany etc.imperialist nations ('the West', 'the developed world').

That means that the stuggle for working class emancipation in those countries will immediately come up against the arms and almost immediately the armies of imperialism. That is why in those countries we must stand for the military defeat of imperialism and organise here for all action that hastens that end- a direcxt action mass movement and movement in the trade unions to build strike action, blockades and refusal to handle/ transport armaments.

In Palestine it means supporting the Palestinian working class democratic rights not just in West Bank and the occupied territories but throughout 'Israel' supporting the right of immigration and armed resistance to Israeli and settler agression. We should be for maximum unity with the Jewish working class who recognise and support these things whilst recognising that the main support is likely to come from the wider Arab working class. Of course the working class should be for complete political and social equality between Jew and Arab (and other ethnic groups such as Ethiopian, Fillipino, Rumanian and other migrant workers in the region)

In Iraq it means arguing for the working class to come to the fore of the resistance movement, supporting workers in struggle such as the Basra oil workers and fighting here for troops out now and solidarity in the British trade union movement with these objectives.

In Argentina it meant being for the military defeat of imperialism. Actually this case which started tthis debate clearly shows that the victory of 'our' bourgeois led directly to the major defeats on the working class from the defeat of the miners.

Finally, on debate with the AWL- I see no problem with debates such as this online etc. However, in terms of priorities in the working class movement here we should be both for building rank and file actions in workplaces and communities that strengthen the working class- unity in action (if the awl join or are active in such campaigns then good) and re-elaborating socialist theory - I'm afraid I don't see specially seeking out debate with the awl (pleasant though it is) as a major route forward to this goal. However, where it should arise I'm all for it. And if there is a wider debate on the left bringing in all sorts of currents including ourselves and the awl as part of a movement committed to action as well as theoretical reformulation then again excellent.

national oppression political and economic

According to Arthur among other things "there is nothing in Lenin that asserts that socialists MUST support the right to self-determination."
Quite simply Arthur is wrong - according to Lenin socialists must support the right of oppressed nations to self determination.
Therefore the question comes back to the original starting point.
In each instance we need to ask whether the nation we support is an oppressor or an oppressed nation. That is the essential criteria of our support.
The AWL have a similar method but with the opposite result - rather than support the oppressed - they always support the oppressor. That's why the AWL are a pro-imperialist chauvinist group.

some quick responses

Arthur, you say using the term 'semi-colony' is a mantra. Actually it's not but it is a technical term not in common use which is why, if you read what I wrote, I also used neo-colony 'Third world' and 'developing world' the last two though are inadequate particularly the last as it obscures the way in which capitalism forcbly under-develops.

You ignore the lived experience of hundreds of millions of workers and small farmers in the underdevloped world. You ask:

"What is a semi-colony? Is it like being half pregnant? In what way was the Argentine local bouregoisie acting on behalf of Britain??? If they were then surely the British ruloing class would have welcomed them invading the Falklands wouldn’t they. Haven’t you put yourself in a clear logical contradiction. The fact is that very few states in the world have comprador bouregoisies that act on behalf of some foreign imperialist power. Some, the more undeveloped do, but the majority of states in the world, particularly those with developed economies such as that of Argentine do not fall into that category. Nor do most of the states in the Middle East. The local ruling class does not exploit its working class on behalf of foreign Capital, it exploits its working class on behalf of itself. That is why socialists should oppose them rather than attempt to form Popular Fronts with them."

Basically, the bourgeois anywhere tries to maximise profits, itw own self-interest. If it can it will do so at the expense of anyone else, primarily the workers it exploits but will certainly act in its own interests not on the instructions of others.

Of course the local bourgeois don't directly follow orders for the sake of it.So how does my argument add up?

Because international trade agreements enforced at gunpoint mean that through Stuctural Adjustment Programs, through debt relief, through aid from the IMF and World Bank, through having their economies forcibly opened to mulitnationals sometimes with accompanying armies and miltia (e.g. Congo) it becomes in th eimmediate self-interest of the local bourgeois to comly. If they don't there's always gunboat diplomacy- assasinations, economic sanctions, funding and arming of militia and rebel armies, aerial bombardment and direct invasion. This system is pretty monolithic and most of the time the threats work- the West turns a blind eye as workers' organisations are smashed as long as its interests are served-but on occassions of course military force is used.

We don't at all advocate a 'popular front' with the bourgeois but the independent action of the working class against imperialism which may at times include temporary military alliances with bourgeoisw or petit-bourgeois forces fighting imperialism.

So in Iraq we recognise that Sadr is a threat so that is why the working class must come to the fore of the resistance to win workers and small farmers away from the reactionary forces and be armed against them. Why don't you read our piece on Iran on the front page of the website or just do a simple search?

The truth is always concrete- there may be times, the Taliban for example, where even a temporary military alliance is not possible.

But read what we write - in no way should the reactionary politics of Hisbullah etc be supported but independent working class action against imperialism.

You ask for specific examples:
“That means that the stuggle for working class emancipation in those countries will immediately come up against the arms and almost immediately the armies of imperialism. That is why in those countries we must stand for the military defeat of imperialism and organise here for all action that hastens that end- a direcxt action mass movement and movement in the trade unions to build strike action, blockades and refusal to handle/ transport armaments.”

Could you give some examples. In Chile its true the CIA helped the coup against Allende, but by and large it was the forces of the Chilean state that suppressed the working class."

Examples? The DR Congo - over 100 British multinationals with their won militia in many cases, Ethiopia- the strikes and protests last year put down by soldiers firing from British donated vehicles, Venezuala the failed coup immeidately recognised by the US, sierra Leone, Britain invading a few years back, Chad a whole village massacred by French forces last month: corrupt dictatorships all over the world bank-rolled and feted by governments and companies from US, Britain, France, Germany.

It's not a big conspiracy- it is the global operation of the capitlaist market. It requires a gloabl working class response- support armed resistance and organsiation by the working class, for the military defeat of imperialism. It is on that that you and the AWL are on the wrong side- because sitting on the fence and refusing to actively campaign for and organsie for the military defeat of imperailism is playing into their hands and is part of a rightward trend in the working class and tremendously damaging.

You have begun to see the problems with the AWL on Impeiralism. There are good militants on bread and butter issues in the AWL but they are seriously misled and reactionary in refusing to stand with workers in the underdeveloped world (call it what you will) against imperialism.

Workers in the underdeveloped world

Of course the AWL 'stands with workers in the underdeveloped world' against imperialism - in the struggle for equality, social justice, trade union rights, and so on - and, of course, beyond that in the struggle for socialist - that is, international - revolution. What we do *not* stand with is the self-aggrandising posturing of local bourgeoisies - like military adventures to impose their will on small groups of people who don't speak the same language, etc - or nationalist mythologies they tell their workers to obscure the truth of the international system.

'Argentina' - as some classless entity - is not 'oppressed by imperialism.' Fighting for 'independence' for Argentina is pure mystification. Workers' rights, not to mention socialism, require a struggle against the international social and economic system, not 'independence'. 'Indpendence' can only mean, in practice, some sort of disconnection from the world economy (Argentina's had enough of that!). And *no* kind of independence is meaningfully expressed by the military seizure of islands in the middle of the sea where no Argentines even live.

The term 'semi-colony' (about which there has been enormous, critical Marxist literature since at least the late 1970s) is a confusing one in this context. There are meaningful contexts - for one example, Egypt from the 1930s to the fall of the monarchy, when it was a formally independent country with a huge - direct - amount of control from Britain.

But to define a country as a semi-colony by virtue only of the relative weakness of its bourgeois state and capital to other, bigger, states and capitals, is to collapse Marxist categories into populist ones. Your operational theory is 'dependency theory', developed by bourgeois economists to explain Latin American subordination to US capital, and then adopted by a certain type of radical anti-imperialist in the 1960s.

imperialism

Arthur, you seem to be denying that imperialism meaningfully exists. Is this what is behind your views?

But imperialism is first and foremost not to do with military hardware- it is to do with the scarcity of capital, the imposition of favourable terms for foreign capitalist investment, the ripping up of tariffs, the prevention of the formation of cartels- in short the imposition of the market on the underdeveloped world. This is then backed up by military intervention- from blockades, assasinations, funding of one side of the bourgeois, right through to aerial bombardment and miltary invasion.

You seem very dismissive of my examples- for example-
"Ethiopia – troops firing from British donated vehicles, come on please. "

What do you mean 'please'? That this is too small an example to consider? Yes it's a detail- a detail chosen as an evocative one by an Ethiopian Teachers' Association activist we interview in our current magazine. Imperialism in Ethiopia is to do with the way that there is comparitively very little domestic capital in Ethiopia, with coffee prices collapsing, and what capital there is is completely tied into to the world market. The government is largely dependant on aid, and meanwhile the fact that Britain and the US have supplied help, material and funds to the Meles regime- which recently sent Ethiopian soldiers to Somalia- is far from irrelevant. The ETA correspondant sees Ethiopia as being in effect a cleint state of the US.

In this context firing on demonstrators and trade unionists with US and British support and even hardware is not something to be met with your dismissive 'please' as if this is utterly irrelevant.

I lived in Ethiopia for two years and the majority of people I came into contact with from fellow workers to students ad small farmers understood imperialism- the majority for example supporting Iraq against the US.

When we as communists seek to intervene in the class struggle we must recognise that the military defeat of the imperialist troops is a good thing- in the semicolonies or underdeveloped world that would mean arms to the workers who or may not enter into a tactical alliance with anti-imperialist bourgeois or petit-bourgeois forces (as you acknowledge it';s a tactcal question)but to withdraw from the antiwar movement here is damaging and therefore it is not a 'lie' to say that the AWL is a rightward and damaging trend in the labour movement on these issues (actually it's an opinion so could hardly be a'lie'- that just seems designed to malign- but it is an opinion based on reasons).

Clive you may or may not be right about the term underdeveloped coming from dependency theory and you may also be right it is a flawed theory. I don't know the theory- but I was using it simply in terms of meaning that capitalism now by imposing terms of trade favourable to the multinationals operating out of the industrialised countries and backed up by the military might of those countries does in fact underdevelop large parts of the world.

As for Argentina- a miltary defeat for Britain and a victory for Argentina would have damaged British imperialism and the ruling class in Britain at the time. Similarly in Iraq now- the working class and small farmers are not served at all by the US-led occupation and puppet government and therefore they should organise and fight against the occupation and if class conscious workers and communists could come to the fore they could both lead Iraqi workers and small farmers away from the poisonous reaction of the petit-bourgeois (clothed in the garb of radical islam) and organise and arm themselves against clerical reaction.
This from over here though can only be sketchy- we should seek to find out more and lend practical assistance e.g. to Basra oil workers.

However, what is concrete and definite is the AWL's refusal to even participate in the antiwar movement and the blocking of motions calling for it- this is in practice pro-imperialist whatever your subjective intentions.

Trotskyism and Petty Bouregois Deviationism

I have criticised Trotskyist organisations for a petty bourgeois deviation. The intention is not to use that as an insult, but to do so on the same historical materialist grounds that Marx, Lenin and Trotsky themselves did so.

Trotskyism and Petit-Bourgeois Deviations

Trotsky as a Marxist and historical materialist was keen to analyse the politics of various tendencies as flowing from material conditions, from the sociological make-up of the organisation. He was aware of this problem for the Fourth International, and recognised the need for Trotskyist organisations to immerse themselves in the workers movement, proposing measures such as that members from petit-bourgeois backgrounds such as students should only have a provisional membership, that such members had to be given the task of working in and recruiting workers within a given period, or else be reduced to a provisional membership.

In the case of various tendencies, most notably of course his criticism of the Burnham-Shachtman group he defined clearly on the basis of their method, social composition, and politics the petit-bourgeois nature of these groups – See his attack on Shachtman for example in “A Petty Bourgeois Deviation in the Socialist Workers Party”.

But this tendency goes far deeper. It goes back to the very beginning and nature of Trotskyism, and its roots in Leninism. Under the social pressures created by the problems after the Russian Revolution Leninism split in two on the one hand Trotskyism, on the other Stalinism. But the nature of this split is not what it is often portrayed in Trotskyist mythology. A clue is given by Trotsky himself. In “The Comintern and the GPU” (Writings 1939-40 p350) Trotsky himself admits that it was to him that the Soviet bureaucracy first looked as their saviour not Stalin. There were very good sociological and political reasons why they should do so, and at first they must have thought that they would be right.

Critique 2 published in 1973 on the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of the 46 carried an article by David Law entitled “The left Opposition in 1923”. Law was Lecturer in Soviet History at Keele University when I was there. He could not be described as a Stalinophile, indeed contributing to Critique that almost goes without saying. The article gives an account of how the Opposition developed during that time. As Law points out although the Declaration of the 46 brought together supporters of Trotsky and members of the former Democratic centralist opposition, Trotsky himself did not sign it. Trotsky did write to the Central Committee raising concerns, but at this time his emphasis was on trying to achieve a compromise with Stalin, and the leadership.

Trotskyist mythology presents the history effectively being one of the rise of the bureaucracy with Stalin as its titular head, with the Left Opposition being the representative of the rank and file workers in the Party, but as law points out this was not the case. Not only do we have Trotsky’s own testimony above about how things first stacked up, but the actual votes within Party organisations presented by Law give a different picture from the usual story.

“Besides considerable strength in Moscow, perhaps even an actual majority, the Opposition had managed to capture Party organisations in Ryazan, Penza, Kaluga, Simbirsk and Chelyabinsk. The Opposition’s strength in these provincial towns was plausibly attributed to there being, in those centres, a predominance of Party officials transferred as a reprisal for their dissident opinions. In Moscow the strength of the Opposition lay in the State administration (particularly in economic bodies), and student cells. The opposition was comparatively weak amongst the working class. No doubt this was partly a result of the past record of various members of the Opposition on questions of industrial management, and also partly because questions of immediate working class interest, such as wages, were not given any prominence. Whatever the reasons, in Moscow, at a time when it was gaining majorities among the students, the Opposition could only win 67 out of 346 cells of industrial workers.” (p47)

What Law has in mind here in particular is probably Trotsky’s position. The most advanced workers in Russia were the railway workers, but even after the Revolution it was the Mensheviks that maintained a majority amongst them, not the Bolsheviks. In order to get round this problem Trotsky had introduced the militarization of labour into the railways, and he was to argue for a similar militarization of labour in the rest of industry. He argued that the Trade Unions needed to be incorporated in order to act as a conduit for State, and therefore Bolshevik policy and ideas into the working class, and this led to a fairly fierce debate with Lenin who argued against Trotsky’s position, and for the need to maintain the independence of the Trade Unions precisely because of the danger of bureaucratism. It is then perhaps, no wonder, that the bureaucratic strata, and state officials saw initially in Trotsky their natural ally.

Its true as Law points out that the workers in the Party were newly recruited, and perhaps had no real understanding of the issues – though such a view is somewhat elitist, and we have no grounds for believing that – but such was the problem with the tradition of Bolshevism in respect of democracy. Lenin himself had relied on the mass of new workers that joined the Party in 1917 to win a majority for his April Theses, with the majority of the Old Bolsheviks opposing him. The same attitude was taken in respect of democracy in a wider context. At several times when Lenin believed the Bolsheviks could not win a majority in the Soviets he argued that the Bolsheviks should simply by-pass the Soviets and base themselves on the Factory Committees where they did have a majority, as Trotsky points out in his “History of the Russian Revolution”. If you are going to have such an approach to democracy whereby you pick and choose what is and what isn’t democratic to suit your own purpose based on where at any one time you have a majority, then such things are bound to happen.

But this division of Leninism into Stalinism and Trotskyism saw this split not just in Russia. On the one hand Trotskyism developed as a more healthy, ideologically pure form of Leninism, but was largely a trend composed of people that were concerned with the niceties of this ideological debate, i.e. student and petty-bourgeois intellectuals, whereas Stalinism developed largely as a tendency still based on the working class, but which because of the nature of the Soviet bureaucracy was forced to mangle Marxism in order to justify its actions, but it was precisely because it rested and depended upon that working class base that it had to do that. Had it been a new class as the Bureaucratic Collectivists and State Capitalists argue, it would have had no need to do that, it would have developed its own ideology with no need to seek acceptance for it within the working class, just as had it been a new class its privileges and wealth would have been automatically reproduced through the functioning of the economic system, rather than relying upon special treatment, the use of special shops etc.

It is the need to remain within the confines of Leninism, which simply reproduces this division. Trotsky himself largely avoided the problem because he was aware of it, and because his whole political life had been one where he had been immersed in the workers movement, and remained rooted in it. That was probably why he was so aware of the problem, and made the proposals he did, why he came down so hard on the petit-bourgeois deviationists such as Shachtman and Burnham, but Shachtman and Burnham really just were advanced guards for the future direction of Trotskyism if it could not overcome its isolation from the working class, and thereby change its sociological composition. But almost by definition the requirement to remain attached to the Leninist concept of building a revolutionary party precluded such a development.

In the end Trotskyism as much as Stalinism was an historical dead-end, and it is openly by Marxists recognising the roots of that in Leninism that the Marxist movement can get back on track.

Arthur Bough

Arthur Bough and chauvinism

For all of Arthur's thousands of words, there remains an induitable truth, all this writing is simply a mask for chauvinism.
In every instance without exception he supports the oppressors over the oppressed.
He supports Israel over the Palestinians - and then adds the insult that after the Palestinians have had their land stolen - they are now a landless "non-historic" people. Talk about blame the victims.
He supports the Falkland Islander British over the Argentinians - and then tries to pretend that Argentina is an imperialist power.
He supports the British/US occupation over the Iraqis.

That's why Arthur is a pro-imperialist.

Very Short

I can reply to your piece here in very few words. "Its bollocks."

1. I support the right of the Palestinians not to be oppressed by Israel or anyone else, including the reactionaries of Hamas that apprently you support.

2.Show us where the Falkland Islanders oppressed the Argentinians.

3.I call for Troops Out of Iraq and the whole of the Middle East Now. Unlike you I call on the working class to bring that about not some bunch of reactionary clerical-fascists who will be a worse hangman for the working class even than imperialsm.

If you are going to lie about someone's position, at least try to do it intelligently.

Arthur Bough

also short

Arthur you don't even seem to try to read what I wrote- I clearly wrote relative weakness of domestic capital which is perfectly consistent with the presences of surplus capital from the imperialist heartlands.

On th resistance in Iraq we have claerly said from the start we advocate the working class coming to the fore of the movement- arming the working class to defeat imnperialism and to defeat the local bourgeois. Do we though support Iraqis who whatever their politics fight directly against the US or British occupation forces? Yes we do- directly against imperialism (not in sectarian killings or anything else that plays into the hands of imperialism and is anti-working class). The question is do you?

Here do we support a militant direct action antiwar movement to organise in the workplaces and on the streets, to organise mass protests, strikes etc in order to directly impede the imperialist war effort? Yes. Arthur claims he also calls for Troops Out of Iraq and the whole of the Middle East (presumably he means imperialist troops or US/British). Good. He also claims the AWL are in the antiwar movement. I don't know Arthur- may be he does take an active part in his local antiwar group. I do know the AWL- they don't play any role in the antiwar movement in Manchester and their position on the war means they don't call for troops out now or mobilise around that. If any member of the AWL can point to an article where they do call for that then fine we'll debate it from there.

"Economic criteria"

Go back a few posts, and we find this key thought:

"The only outstanding [issue?] is was Argentina an oppressor nation? i.e. an imperialist nation. Clearly not on the basis of an assessment of its economy, the only decisive criterion for a Marxist".

So from some measure of Argentina's economy - GNP per head, percentage of foreign ownership, size of foreign debt, I don't know - it follows that Argentina is an "oppressed nation" and therefore in any conflict with Britain, about anything, we must positively support Argentina...?

How was the settler community of Argentina oppressed by another settler community of different European origins living on small islands about two thousand miles away from Argentina's main population centres? In Galtieri's conquest of the Falklands, wasn't the actual "oppressed" community the islanders subjected to foreign conquest? No need to puzzle about that. Just get out the yearbooks of economic statistics, and the case is proven!

On such measures, Tsarist Russia and the Ottoman Empire were not imperialist. Trotsky was dead wrong when he described Serbia's conquest of Kosova in 1913 as "Serbian imperialism". When Trotsky, on the eve of World War 2, described Czechoslovakia as "imperialist" because of the subject nationalities within its borders, he was in error in not instead consulting its yearbook of economic statistics. Etc.

Obviously, all other things being equal, richer nations are more likely to be able to dominate and conquer than poorer nations. But you can't read off politics directly from economic statistics.

Especially not in the post-colonial era. Since 1975 the rich countries of North America and western Europe have had no colonies beyond insignificant specks. They have the clout and the confidence to exert their world power through economic mechanisms, backed up (mostly in the case of the USA) by episodic military actions.

Weaker powers do not. They are more likely to resort to attempts at outright colonial-type conquest: Serbia in Kosova; Russia in Afghanistan and Chechnya; Saddam's Iraq in Iran, Kurdistan, and Kuwait, etc.

The "Marxism means you take everything from the economic statistics" approach here means that you see all these drives for colonial-type conquest as... anti-imperialism, provided only that the would-be paleo-imperialist (or call it what you will) comes into conflict with the USA.

Anti-imperialism comes to mean support for primitive imperialism against more sophisticated imperialism (covered up, of course, by wild talk about those like AWL who stand against all imperialism being "pro-imperialist").

Martin Thomas

The results of either side winning

If Galtieri had won the Falklands war, it would have been a blow to Thatcher? Undoubtedly.

However, since 1945 the British state has survived several defeats in struggles to keep territory. Defeat in the Falklands war would not have shattered the state. At most it would have led to Thatcher losing the next general election (and even that is not certain).

A Labour, or Labour/ Liberal/ SDP coalition, government in 1983 would have allowed some respite to the British labour movement? Yes. But you have to be very optimistic about the Labour Party to suppose that it would have fundamentally changed the whole pattern of development in Britain - that the Labour, or Labour/ Liberal/ SDP government, would have been something radically different from France's SP administrations of the 1980s, or Australia's Labor governments of 1983-96.

About Argentina, we do not have to speculate about the consequences of defeat. They were highly positive. The military dictatorship fell, and remains fallen.

Best, of course, if we could have managed it, the defeat of both sides by working-class uprisings. But on what other than narrow British-nationalist criteria do the possible positive results for the British working class from Thatcher losing outweigh the positive results for the Argentine working class of Galtieri losing so much that we should have positively favoured Galtieri's victory?

Martin Thomas

Debate, but only online?

Do I understand correctly that the Permanent Revolution group is quite happy to debate such issues with us online, but not "live" and face-to-face? They must know that "live", face-to-face debates dig deeper: I don't suppose they have scrapped all their own internal face-to-face meetings in favour of exchanges over the Internet. So, comrades, why is it that you're happy with a superficial debate but shy away from face-to-face exchanges?

Martin Thomas

The record...

Here, re-posted for convenience, is our actual 1982 resolution on the South Atlantic war (from www.workersliberty.org/node/8068.) Judge for yourself whether it is "pro-imperialist"!

Class politics versus bloc politics

Resolution for the Workers’ Socialist League (WSL, a forerunner of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty), 1982, later sections reworked in 1984

1. Marxism and war
A Marxist attitude to a war must start from an assessment of which classes are waging the war and for what objectives. On the basis of that assessment we determine our line not as supervisors of the historic process but as militant advocates of class struggle.
Where a war, even under bourgeois leadership, is about an issue like self-determination for an oppressed nation — an issue which is a necessary part of the liberation struggle of the working class — the working class should support the war while maintaining complete independence and fighting to overthrow the bourgeoisie.
Where a war between bourgeoisies has no progressive content on either side, we must fight for the defeat of both sides — i.e., against the war and for the defeat of both bourgeoisies by working class action.
In all cases we fight for working class fraternisation. We do not casually disrupt the international unity of the working class, setting one national section to slaughter another out of deference to the right of the bourgeoisie to rule as it likes. Where a war has a progressive content, we fight for working class unity on the basis of support for the progressive demands of the progressive side.
As the 1920 Theses of the Comintern on the National and Colonial Question, a basic document of our movement, put it: “...the entire policy of the Communist International on the national and colonial question must be based primarily on bringing together the proletariat and working classes of all nations and countries for the common revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of the landowners and the bourgeoisie. For only such united action will ensure victory over capitalism, without which it is impossible to abolish national oppression and inequality of rights.”

2. Our enemy is at home
Britain’s war over the Falklands/Malvinas was designed only to preserve a relic of empire and shore up the prestige of British imperialism. A defeatist stand towards Britain’s war was therefore the no. 1 campaigning priority for Marxists in Britain.
Instead of assisting the Tories in their crisis by “patriotic” support for the government, the British labour movement should have used the crisis to hasten Thatcher’s overthrow in the interests of the working class, and given all material and political support to the Argentine workers in the struggle for democratic and trade union rights and for the establishment of a genuine anti-imperialist workers’ government in Argentina.
We repudiate any legitimacy of British territorial claims in the Falklands or any legitimacy in related British claims to resources in Antarctica.

3. Argentina’s war aims
But the pretext on which the Argentine junta embarked upon the invasion of the Falklands/Malvinas was equally contrived. In taking its action, the junta acted not against imperialism, but in a populist ploy designed to divert and unite the Argentine masses behind the Generals’ own repressive rule.
In doing so the Argentine dictators trampled upon the rights of the Falkland inhabitants, who in themselves oppress and threaten no-one and should have the right to decide their own future. Such action did nothing to build anti-imperialist consciousness in the Argentine working class, but rather sought to generate chauvinism and “national unity”. We did not support this action, and called for the withdrawal of Argentine troops.
In its seizure of the Falklands/Malvinas, designed to boost its position at home and in the region, the Argentine regime miscalculated about the British reaction, and the US response to the British reaction.
This miscalculation could not however make the seizure, or the war to maintain the seizure, progressive.
Galtieri’s invasion did not liberate anyone from colonialism or imperialism. It did not lessen the burden of imperialist exploitation, or improve the conditions for the fight against it, for a single Argentine worker.
It embroiled the Argentine people in a war in which they could hope to win nothing of significance, a disastrous war in a false and reactionary cause.

4. Reactionary on both sides
On both sides therefore the war was reactionary. The job of Marxists in both Britain and Argentina was to oppose the war, to counterpose international working-class unity, to continue the class struggle for the overthrow of both the Tories and the military regime.

5. Self-determination for Falklanders
Support for the right of the Falkland Islanders — a distinct historical, ethnic, linguistic, economic and geographic community 400 miles from Argentina — to determine their own future is axiomatic for Leninists in the given conditions, where that community exploited no other community, threatened no other community, and was not used as, or likely to be used as, a base for imperialist control of another community.
The Falklanders’ right to self-determination cannot be invalidated by their desire to adhere to the now-imperialist state that spawned the Falklands community. That desire to adhere to Britain would invalidate their right to self-determination only if adherence had direct imperialist/colonialist consequences for Argentina or some other country, whose right to resist those consequences would (because of their size, etc.) outweigh the rights of the islanders. Only then would the “pro-imperialist” views of the islanders lead to them playing an imperialist role. Nothing like that was actually involved. The agency for imperialist domination in Argentina is the Argentine state, not the islands or any base on the islands.
To use a definition of the islanders as “pro-imperialist” against their right to self-determination is to introduce inappropriate political categories and criteria, different from those which properly apply. The Falkland Islanders are British. That is what determines their attitudes, not any pro-imperialist views they may have. The WSL is not in favour of the subjugation of a population because it has such views, or because of their origins. The ethnic tidying-up of the globe is no part of the international socialist revolution.
Support for the Falklanders’ rights plainly does not necessarily mean support for military action to enforce those rights. In the actual situation, with Britain an imperialist power, we rejected and opposed the British military action. We look to the international working class, and especially the Argentine labour movement, to secure the Falklanders’ rights.
Such a consistent democratic policy is the only basis for international working class unity, and specifically for the unity of the British and Argentine working class (which had to be our central concern) in this dispute.

6. “Against Britain” does not mean “for Argentina”
The WSL conducted itself as an internationalist and revolutionary proletarian organisation during the British/Argentine war. We raised a variant of the famous slogan of Liebknecht and Luxemburg, “The enemy is at home”, and called on the working class to actively hinder the British ruling class’s prosecution of the war by industrial action. We conducted internationalist working class propaganda against the social-chauvinist Labour leaders, while attempting to maintain a dialogue with the pacifistic Labour Left (that is, with those in the working class who listen to the Left leaders) on the question.
It is no necessary part of proletarian internationalist opposition to the war of an imperialist government to side with their opponents. Our response to the fact that it was for the British ruling class a war for authority and prestige was our defeatism; positive support for Argentina could, for communists, only be grounded in positive working-class reasons for such support.
Marxists reject the primitive rebels’ approach that puts a plus everywhere that the bourgeoisie puts a minus. We must judge events from an independent working class viewpoint.
We side with our ruling-class enemies in particular conflicts if the struggle serves our politics — e.g. in a national liberation struggle, even under the leadership of a Chiang Kai-Shek.
But in no way could the policy of the Argentine proletariat be deduced as a mere negative imprint of the policy of the British bourgeoisie.
The tendency justifies the pro-Argentine position with the view that “a victory [for Argentina] would quite likely mean the downfall of Thatcher... [And] the British have a far more important international role [than Argentina] as a primary carrier and protector of imperialism. This means that the nature of the British regime is a question of immediate international importance...” (second tendency document, p. 16); conversely, “[Argentine] withdrawal... would result in another Tory government with a massive majority... it would be an event of world significance...” (first tendency document, Workers’ Socialist Review 2 p.29).
The idea here that Argentine workers’ policy should be decided by what is worst for the British bourgeoisie — that the British revolution has priority, and the Argentine revolution should be subordinated to it — is British nationalist and utterly to be rejected as a basis for determining proletarian politics in Argentina.

7. Argentina is not a semi-colony
Argentina is far more developed than most non-imperialist countries; it is a fully bourgeois state; and it possesses political independence. It also occupies a subordinate rank within the imperialist world economy. This subordination, however, in no way gives any progressive character to the Argentine bourgeoisie.
The Argentine bourgeoisie is not a progressive force, but the major agency for imperialist domination of the Argentine working class and an assistant for imperialist domination throughout Latin America. It has moreover its own predatory ambitions. For the Argentine working class it is “the main enemy at home”. Quite apart from its foreign connections, it is the class that directly exploits them.
We reject as un-Marxist assessments of Argentina’s situation such as this:
Argentina is economically, militarily and politically dominated by imperialism — not by its own national bourgeoisie — but in particular by US interests. The whole basis of its economy is subject to the international market over which Argentina has no influence, let alone control and dominance” (second tendency document, page 2).
We reject the counterposition of the Argentine bourgeoisie to imperialism, and the measuring of Argentina’s situation by comparison with a situation where the country would escape the international market (which in a capitalist world it can never do).
Every country is more or less dominated by the world economy. No country has control over it — now not even the US colossus which was supreme after World War Two. This situation cannot be changed by war between the weaker bourgeoisies and the stronger. Not such wars, but the international workers’ revolution, can change it.
The communist answer to colonial, semi-colonial and military domination is national liberation struggle; to the domination of the weaker by the strong in the world market (as to the domination of the weak by the strong, and the pauperisation of particular regions, within capitalist nations) our answer is the proletarian revolution.
We reject the notion of an anti-imperialist united front for Argentina (a version of the bloc of classes central to Menshevism and then Stalinism, motivated on the grounds that the Argentine bourgeoisie is an oppressed class in relation to imperialism). We reject the notion that the Argentine bourgeoisie can play any progressive role either within Argentina, where it is our mortal class enemy, or against imperialism, into which it is completely integrated.
[Sections 8 and 9 omitted; section 10 abridged].

10. The theory of “enclaves”
... Today, imperialism operates overwhelmingly through economic mechanisms (backed up, of course, sometimes, by military intervention). Residual mini-colonies like the Falklands — and various other tiny British, French and Spanish colonies — have no strategic role for imperialism. They are essentially anachronistic loose ends of the period of European settler expansion over the globe.

11. Natural resources
There is no sense in which the conflict had an economic anti-imperialist dimension. British property in Argentina, not to speak of the property of other imperialist powers, was left alone during the war. The Argentine state did not even propose to take the Falkland Islands Company from Coalite.
Better Argentine claims on Antarctica from the Falklands would most likely have led to US exploitation of the Antarctic, with Argentina as a conduit. That is the concrete meaning of the subordinate position of Argentina vis-à-vis the US and imperialism.
Conversely, one of the major reasons why Britain had been trying to give the Falklands to Argentina is that a stable political settlement is a precondition for the viability of the big investments necessary for the capitalist exploitation of the area’s resources.
The exploitation would have to be joint exploitation, on one set of terms or another. The war was not about whether the resources should belong to imperialism or not.
The Argentine bourgeoisie is not counterposed to imperialism. And imperialism cannot be identified solely with Britain (conversely, anti-imperialism cannot necessarily be identified with an anti-British stance). The British-Argentine war was a war within the network of imperialism and its clients.
The Argentine regime went to war, not for anti-imperialist reasons, but to strengthen its political position at home. They did not wait to win the Falklands by negotiation because of their domestic crisis. And thus they aborted the process of reaching agreement with Britain.

12. “World balance of forces”
The Argentine working class should never subordinate its own class struggle to estimates of the “international balance of forces” between different bourgeoisies. The view that “whatever the implications of that for the Argentinian or British proletariat, we have to base our position on the implications for the international struggle against imperialism first” (second tendency document, p.7), is anti-Marxist.
The assessment according to which British victory was a major blow for imperialism is incomplete. The British bourgeoisie certainly was strengthened politically and in its prestige by victory. But these gains may well prove shallow and temporary (indeed, the continued class struggle has already proved them shallow and temporary), and the British bourgeoisie has gained nothing material — like new military strength, new spheres of influence or new possessions.
The Argentine regime, on the other hand, has certainly been weakened by defeat. The result is a blow against imperialist and capitalist control in Latin America.
Workers in each country can act as internationalists only by fighting their own bourgeoisies, not by acting as makeweights for international bloc politics. For Argentine socialists to support their rulers’ predatory war on the basis of the estimate that the British bourgeoisie’s predatory war was worse, would violate that principle.

13. Class politics vs. bloc politics
We emphatically reject the notion that the socialist working class can orientate in world politics, and particularly in relation to conflicts among politically independent capitalist states like Britain and Argentina, by constructing a view of the world in terms of two camps, modelled on the division of the world between the degenerated and deformed workers’ states and the capitalist states: “We have to determine our position according to the basic class camps, not on conjunctural events... the class camp into which Argentina fits in a war against imperialism...” (second tendency document, p.4).
Between the USSR and similar states, and the capitalist states, there is a basic historical class distinction, despite the savage anti working class rule of the totalitarian-bureaucratic elites. No such gap exists between capitalist states.
The bourgeois foreign policy of the rulers of Argentina, even when it is expressed in acts of war, can in no sense change their class camp. Even should the bourgeoisie of such a state be in alliance with a healthy workers’ state, the task of overthrowing the bourgeoisie would be the central task of the proletariat in the capitalist state — a task never to be subordinated to international diplomatic, military, or balance-of-forces considerations.
This was a central teaching of the Communist International, and it was not formally repudiated even by the Stalinists until 1935. Thereafter the notion that bourgeois forces which allied with the USSR thereby crossed the historic class divide and joined the camp of progress was the ideological basis of Stalinism to legitimise policies of class betrayal and popular frontism.
We reject as un-Marxist, and brand as “international popular frontism”, the view that the Argentine bourgeoisie and their state became part of the “class camp” of the international working class because of their conflict with Britain or during their war with Britain for possession of the Falkland Islands.

14. The regime and imperialism
We reject the notion (implicit in point 7 of the September 1982 resolution [from the Thornett grouping] and explicit elsewhere) that military dictatorships in the Third World are simply the creatures of imperialism: they are strengthened when imperialism is strengthened, weakened when imperialism is weakened.
Military dictatorships are as common in Third World countries which are relatively alienated from the big capitalist powers — Libya, Algeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Syria, etc. — as in those closely linked to the big capitalist powers (Chile, El Salvador, Nigeria, etc.).
The political regime is fundamentally a product of internal class relations. Frequently, of course, imperialist powers do intervene to prop up or install dictatorships when that suits their purpose. But dictatorial regimes in the Third World are quite capable of pursuing policies hostile to the big capitalist powers without thereby becoming progressive or unleashing a progressive “process”. Iran is a clear example.

15. The politics of wishful thinking
Support for Argentina’s chauvinist war could not be justified on the basis that it could be the first stage in a development towards militant anti-imperialist struggle. Nor could the war be defined as anti-imperialist by reading an assessment backwards from the scenario of a hoped-for anti-imperialist development.
The scenarios lack the first link: a real national liberation content to the war. A Marxist policy must be based on the realities of the actual war, not on hypothetical speculations or wishful thinking about strategic outcomes.
Argentine workers had no interest in the armed occupation of the Falklands against the wishes of the population; they should have pursued the class struggle regardless of the effects of such struggle on their rulers’ ability to maintain the occupation; and it was none of their concern to protect the Argentine bourgeois state against the humiliation it would suffer from being unable to maintain the occupation. These points should have been the basis of Marxist policy in Argentina.
The tactical ways of expressing this principled position could of course be very flexible (following the method according to which Trotskyists developed the “proletarian military policy” as a tactical expression of the defeatist policy in World War Two).
It would be the job of Marxists in Argentina to seek to develop the genuine anti-imperialist elements in the confused nationalist reaction of Argentine workers, with demands such as arming of the workers, expropriation of imperialist property and seizure of the factories. While making their own views on the war clear, they should have sought to develop common class actions with workers who confusedly saw Argentina’s war as “anti-imperialist” but wanted to go further in anti-imperialism.

16. A change of line?
A change in our fundamental attitude to the war could only be justified by a change in the fundamental political content of the war — i.e., so that it was no longer a war restricted to the Falklands/Malvinas issue. If Britain’s objectives had shifted so that the war became fundamentally one about an attempt by Britain to make Argentina a colony or a semi-colony, then Marxists should have sided with Argentina’s national independence. But that did not happen. It was always very unlikely that it would happen.

17. Trotskyism and the war
The great majority of would-be Trotskyists world-wide took an Argentine nationalist position on the conflict.
The Morenists — the biggest would-be Trotskyist organisation in Argentina itself — called for national unity in the war, and demanded that the trade unions set up recruiting offices for Galtieri’s army.
They themselves summarise their position as follows: “To beat imperialism, let us strike in a united way. The war must be won. The socialists, who at no moment have hidden and will not hide their irreducible opposition to the military and bosses’ regime, are the fervent advocates of the participation in the framework of this national anti-imperialist mobilisation of all sectors, in or out of uniform, workers or bosses, on only one condition: that they should be to defeat the aggressor and to mobilise the people for that end. That is why the socialists call on the CGT, the CNT (the unions), the Multipartidaria (the bourgeois opposition), all political parties and all sectors who are in agreement to resolutely confront the aggressors, to push forward all the mobilisations and actions possible so that the Argentine people can strike with one fist and smash the aggressor.’” (From their pamphlet, Malouines, les revolutionnaires et la guerre, p. 9. See the same source for the demand for army recruiting offices.)
Politica Obrera — the second would-be Trotskyist organisation in Argentina — was more restrained, but also supported the mini-colonial war and called for an “anti-imperialist united front” (supposed to include workers and the middle class, but not the big bourgeoisie).
The SWP-USA applauded the speech of Argentine foreign minister Costa Mendes to the Non-Aligned Conference, and reprinted it.
The Mandel and Lambertist currents were more circumspect (the French and West German Mandelite organisations indeed initially took an internationalist position), but still sided with Galtieri’s war. The whole USFI press, both SWP-USA and Mandelite, carried an article on Argentina’s relation with imperialism which reproduced the crudest notions of middle-class nationalist “Third Worldism” (“Argentina — a semi-colonial economy”, by Will Reissner, Intercontinental Press, 3 May 1982).
A similar position to that we took during the war was taken — for varying reasons — only by some groups separate from the Trotskyist mainstream: Lutte Ouvrière, the SWP (Britain) and the RWP Sri Lanka; and by the non-Trotskyist, but important, Workers’ Party of Brazil.
This experience sheds further light on the politically degenerate condition of would-be Trotskyism, and the need for ideological regeneration.
The roots of the problem go back to the political crisis which shook the Trotskyist movement in the late 1940s.
In that period the Trotskyist movement declined drastically. (The French section, for example, which was central, suffered an almost complete halt in activity in summer 1948, and by 1952 was only 150 strong, probably less than one-tenth of its peak numbers.) At the same time, gigantic revolutionary events unfolded on a world scale.
Striving to understand this, the leaders of the movement essentially lost faith in the centrality of Trotskyism and the working class to revolutionary politics. In the aftermath of Tito’s surprise “break” with Stalin and populist measures designed to rally mass support against any Kremlin moves to oppose him, and in the midst of the drive to power by Mao’s Stalinist forces in China, Pablo and the Fourth International leaders increasingly looked to some “objective process” which would repeat such political developments and take them further.
The outbreak of the Korean war and the conviction that World War Three was imminent lent fuel to their fire, and the schema of the “War-Revolution” which would automatically line up the forces of Stalinism in the “camp” of the revolution made its appearance.
The independent role of the working class and Trotskyists was submerged in a conception of global “class camps” in which the Stalinist bureaucracy, petty bourgeois leaders and sections of reformism were included in the “proletarian” class camp, in which the Trotskyists merely became respectful advisers and camp followers.
Some Trotskyists took on the role of blustering denouncers of the “bad leaders” of the “Revolution” instead of advisers. But their view of the camps and the issues remained the same.
The two sides of tailist “objectivism” and sectarian arbitrariness into which Trotskyism was thus decomposed were present, in various combinations, in all the currents after 1948-50.
For all the “mainstream” currents, world politics is fundamentally not so much a story of class struggle as a story of the struggle of two forces — Imperialism and “Revolution” — deemed to operate behind and beneath class movements. While Marxists seek to analyse events as interactions of class forces, they analyse them fundamentally as interactions of Imperialism and “Revolution”. Imperialism, for them, is not a system, but a homogeneous force; “Revolution” is not an event, but a continuous process.
They are, of course, concerned for working class action. They see such action as a desirable feature of the Revolution, even an essential feature for the process to be fully healthy. But for them the (same) revolutionary process goes on, working class action or no working class action. The difference between revolutions is not a class difference, but a difference between more or less healthy and developed manifestations of the same process.
This framework is common to them all: it was common, for example, to those who applauded the Vietnamese Communist Party as good leaders of the Revolution and those who denounced the Vietnamese Communist Party as trying to sell out to US imperialism. Because of their common view of the camps and the issues, none of them could conceive that the VCP was making a revolution, but not our revolution.
There is here a mistaken view of the Stalinist states and the Stalinist-led revolutions, and of the relation of the Stalinist camp to imperialism and to the workers’ revolution. The notion that embraced Galtieri as in our “class camp” was an extrapolation from a campist attitude to the Stalinist bloc — an attitude completely alien to Trotskyism, and which appears within would-be Trotskyism as a direct reflection of the pressure of Stalinism on the weak and mainly petty-bourgeois would-be Trotskyist movement.
Central to the problems of post-war Trotskyism is the refusal to register in any stable way the fact — attested to by repeated experience in China, Vietnam, etc. — that Stalinist forces can be both revolutionary against capitalism and simultaneously counter-revolutionary against the working class. Stalinism is always counter-revolutionary against the working class, including in the process in which capitalism is overthrown to be replaced not by workers’ power but by bureaucratic dictatorship on the basis of collectivised property and the repression of the working class.
The campists operate with a concept of revolution in which such key facts as the bureaucratic counter-revolution within every Stalinist-led, anti-capitalist revolution are ignored, treated as mere details, or denied. The “Revolution” they embrace is nameless and classless, defined negatively by what it is against more than positively by what it is.
This framework led most of the would-be Trotskyists to see the South Atlantic war as a conflict — however refracted and distorted — between Imperialism and “Revolution”. Since Galtieri was fighting British imperialism, and since Imperialism was seen as one homogeneous force, therefore Galtieri’s war was against Imperialism, and must be a distorted, underdeveloped form of Revolution — even if Galtieri was a bad, sell-out leader of the Revolution.
Thus the concrete class forces were obscured and most of the would-be Trotskyists tied themselves to a crude “Third Worldist” view of imperialism and anti-imperialism. This view increasingly obscures reality given the increasing differentiation in the Third World, with the emergence there of major industrial powers, capital-exporters and regional big powers, and the increasing friction between the big imperialist powers.
Source URL:
http://www.workersliberty.org/node/8068

Martin Thomas

"Lies"

Why would I lie Arthur? If I made a mistake about your position people can judge for themselves, frankly in all your words I must have missed it.

Do you "support the right of the Palestinians not to be oppressed by Israel or anyone else, including the reactionaries of Hamas that apprently you support."
Clearly you don't, as Lenin made explained, support for an oppressed nation means above support for their right to self determination - which you oppose. Your support falls short of the very thing that can end the Palestinians oppression - therefore you support their oppression. In Lenin's sense your position is that of a chauvinist and pro-imperialist.

Do the Falkland islanders oppress the Argentinians? The Falkland Islanders have no separate interest from that of British imperialism, as was demonstrated 25 years ago. The Falkland Islanders wish to remain part of the British empire, an empire which currently occupies the Falkland Islands with thousands of British troops, this denies Argentina - an oppressed imperialised nation - its right to self determination. So yes the Falkland Islanders, as defenders of British interests abroad, oppress the Argentines.

Indeed the resolution above precludes a Marxist analysis it says; "We reject the counterposition of the Argentine bourgeoisie to imperialism..." In other words it rejects the scientific basis by which Marxists analyse the national question, in favour of its own chauvinist and pro-imperialist method.

I could go on, but I won't.

A waste of time

Arthur,

I'm afraid I've seen Bill and his mates routinely adopt this method of argument, going back 20 years.

It's very depressing, entirely predictable and will never change.

keep an open mind

The point is that the Socialist Organiser position from 1982 seriously distorts the Marxist position, falsely equating support for Argentina against British imperialism with support for Galtieri.

Supporting Argentina or Iraq against imperialism is not at all to do with supporting their brutal regimes (e.g. Galtieri or Saddam) but saying that workers attacked by imperialism (in Iraq) have the right to fight back; the working class needs to be armed to resist the imperialist attack and through this overthrow the bourgeois. If SO in 1982 were revolutionary defeatist on both sides but took an active part in the antiwar movement here then it is a mistaken position (not supporting Argentina) but not pro-imperialist. By the way, British possession of Malvinas did become important for British imperialism not only in giving a new lease of life to a section of the ruling class around Thatcher but sending out a message that Britain and the US (ruling class) would ruthlessly defend its interests.

In the current Iraq occupation though as far as I can tell AWL are absent from the antiwar movement. I was told at one point (in person) by an AWLer that he may support troops out now in theory but it wasn't a priority- so in practice it ends up being a pro-imperialist position by refusing to engage in the antiwar movement. If the AWL threw themselves into the antiwar movement arguing for troops out now and class struggle tactics to dirsupt the war effort then that would be a different matter and then perhaps in a united front around common action there would be some point in having public debates between our two tendencies on these points.

However, the AWL's position on imperialism has seemingly led them into an impasse where they withdraw from the movement. Of course we can chat and discuss matters hopefully in an open manner (not disfigured by accusations of lying or they're never change etc.) whether in person or online but for the tendencies to prioritise debate when - on this - we're not even in the same movement seems rather impractical.

Of course where we are in united fronts around common action for example in the unions or other working class campaigns we will work and debate with the AWL.

In the meanwhile keep an open mind and remember that though opinions can and do change through debate real changes normally come through action and undertaking a common set of tasks within the working class. Whilst trying to enact those common tasks, differences will arise and need to be debated as they have practical consequences. We need to win workers to socialism, including revitalising the antiwar movement which, despite some 60% opposing the current occupation, is not able at the moment to mount a serious challenge to British imperialism.

Permanent Revolution: scared to debate?

> Why would PR (or anyone?) want to debate a load of pro-imperialist chauvinists? Really what is there to discuss?

You seem to be spending quite a bit of time and energy debating our position - both on our website and on yours. Why is this worthwhile, but not a formal debate which would, minimally, involve one of your comrades coming to speak at a meeting for an hour and a half? (Obviously, it would be better if there were numbers from both sides present.)

It seems to me the real reason you don't want to debate is that you don't want to have to defend your position in a public forum. You're scared. In this respect, you've continued a particularly laughable aspect of the Workers Power tradition, namely the combination of revolutionary bluster and bravado with refusing to actually debate other revolutionaries. (I remember in 2003, for instance, Workers Power refusing, without explanation, an invitation to debate us on your "Victory to Iraq" slogan.)

I've spoken to your comrade Jason about this, and in order to justify your refusal to debate he repeatedly counterposed joint work on issues where we agree to political discussion. So you can work with us pro-imperialists on immigration controls, women's liberation, the Labour Party etc, but there's no point debating us on imperialism? This simply doesn't make sense. Hence your substitution of abuse about social chauvinism for a rational explanation of your cowardice.

Lastly, I note you haven't bothered to formally reply. So much for democratic openness before the working class.

Please try reading what I said

Hi Sacha
It's Jason here. As far as I am aware you approached PR through an e-mail to me and I have given you a reply. We don't have full-timers so that may account for the lack of a written reply from an official of the organisation but I did send you an e-mail and talk to you on the phone.

As I explained we are more than happy to debate, defend and extend our positions in a variety of forums but it is felt that our organisations on the issue of imperialism (and for example its relation to the current occupation of Iraq and Palestine) are sufficiently large to prirotise joint work to debate out our differences formally is not something we feel able to do at the moment. You have said joint work and debate are not counter-posed and that is of course true in general but in practice an organisation with activists already over-committed does have to make priorities. I hope that makes it clear.

I have tried not to use insults or invective as tools of argument and I have been at pains to acknowledge that subjectively I am not accusing any one in the AWL of being chauvinist. However, it is fair, I'd suggest, to argue that the end result of having politics which lead you to to all practical extents leave the antiwar movement in terms of building opposition to the occupation of Iraq is objectively pro-imperialist.

Your paper also recently had this formulation about Sudan:
"A UN force — if it happens — may help stem the bloodshed. If it succeeded only partially that would be a good thing. Even so we can have no confidence in UN interventions (remember Srebrenica!)"

This seems to imply that foreign intervention, possible of imperialist troops, may be 'a good thing' but we should have 'no confidence' in them. This is quite far from a marxist position and may reasonably without insult be described as 'pro-imperialist'.

Also comrade Mark who is a member of the steering committee did answer you on permanentrevolution.net which I see you have seen
"While a member of Workers Power I publicly debated the AWL on the Labour Party, Eastern Europe, Ireland and Afghanistan (this last in ULU at the onset of the most recent imperialist invasion). That hardly counts as shying away from debate. But following these debates with your organisation I concluded that it is utterly futile to debate with your thoroughly pro-imperialist organisation. My view is that PR should not give you the time of day let alone take part in your events.That's not shying away - an accusation that sounds like the political equivalent of "come and have a go if you think you're hard enough". It's just recognising the simple fact that our views are so far apart a debate at your summer school or anywhere else for that matter is a total waste of our time.
Mark H"

As for time and energy- I probably will leave the debate for now and get on with other tasks in the class struggle. It seems slightly bizarre to be berated about spending time and energy on debating though. I don't think there's anything wrong with chatting- which I suppose I include this as- but we should prioritise building united fronts in the working class to actually get things done. If debate organically flows out of that then all well and good. Ideas can change through discussion but they're far more likely and more usefully to change through being applied in practice as well as discussed.

Finally, just to point out this has more or less been said before:
"Of course we can chat and discuss matters hopefully in an open manner (not disfigured by accusations of lying or they're never change etc.) whether in person or online but for the tendencies to prioritise debate when - on this - we're not even in the same movement seems rather impractical.

Of course where we are in united fronts around common action for example in the unions or other working class campaigns we will work and debate with the AWL.

In the meanwhile keep an open mind and remember that though opinions can and do change through debate real changes normally come through action and undertaking a common set of tasks within the working class. Whilst trying to enact those common tasks, differences will arise and need to be debated as they have practical consequences. We need to win workers to socialism..."

Jason, How does sending one

Jason,

How does sending one person to a meeting in London to debate for an hour and a half (which is what, minimally, we're talking about) constitute a drain on the resources of your organisation?

Comradely,

Sacha

Confused -- You Will Be

Bill I have to say your post here is even more confused than the first.

“It is quite clear from Lenin's quote, that the key distinguishing characteristic that determines our support for a nation in a war is whether or not it is oppressed.”

But its first necessary to define what oppression means. Lenin in the quote you have given, and in most of his writings for exampkle on the National and Colonial Question is talking about POLITICAL oppression i.e. the denial of basic national and democratic rights. Was Argentina denied those rights by Britain? No. Indeed Argentina was not denied those rights by any nation. Had the war been a war by Britain to deny such rights to Argentina then clearly socialists would have supported Argentina – though even then such support would have been framed in such a way as to give no credibility to Galtieri or the Argentine ruling class. We would have argued for the revolutionary mobilisation of the Argentine working class to lead the war effort, and to continue it to overthrow capitalism in Argentina. But Britain DID NOT invade Argentina, it did not even undertake air attacks on the Argentine mainland. This clearly was not a war of conquest against Argentina. To pretend otherwise is to create illusions in order to justify a wacky position that has nothing to do with Marxism, but which is an ultra-left, petit-bourgeois subjective lashing out at “Imperialism” on the basis that it is “bad”. Its moralism not Marxism.

“If Britain was an oppressor nation, and the Falklanders wanted to remain part of Britain, it was not possible to support the Falklanders "right of self determination" in the Malvinas conflict, as the exercise of that right was identical with support for an oppressor nation.”

That is complete bullshit. The Falklanders had lived their life for a couple hundred years without that in any way affecting Argentina let alone being oppressive towards it. Most Argentinains probably had not even heard about the Malvinas until the Argentine junta began to use it as a populist diversion from workers struggles. Had Argentian not invaded their existence would probably have continued unnotticed both by Argentinians and British people.

“The only outstanding this is was Argentina an oppressor nation? i.e. an imperialist nation. Clearly not on the basis of an assessment of its economy, the only decisive criterion for a Marxist.”

What? There is a clear distinction between “oppressor nation” and “imperialism”. There were oppressor nations that had Empires, and politically oppressed other nations long before capitalism, let alone Imperialism. Imperialism in its Marxist definition is the necessity of Moneoply Capitalism to expand its operation overseas in order to counteract the falling rate of profit. Based on the existence of contending imerialist nations at the beginning of the last century Lenin believed that the logic of this was necessarily an attempt to carve up the world by these imperialist states, leading to continual conflict. In fact history proved lenin to be largely wrong, at least for the time being. Not only did capitalism find ways of dealing with these conflicts – basically due to the hegemony of US Capital – but it also proceeded to dismantle (often udner pressure from nationalist and Stalinist movements) the system of political domination that was characteristic of the period in which lenin was writing. But within that context what does an objective assessment of the Argebntine economy tell us? It tells us that this was a developed capitalist economy that itself exported Capital within its region, and which had ambitions within that Region to be a regional power. In short it had all the characteristics of an “imperialist” power, whatever that really means in the present context i.e. one in which the type of “imperialist” political oppression that Lenin described has largely become a thing of the past – even in Iraq its unlikely that either Britain or the US want to turn it into a colony. More imnportantly, in relation to the specific event under discussion then clearly yes Argentina DID act as an imperialist agressor – it attacked an island whose inhabitants had had self-determination for a couple of hundred years unhindered, for the sole purpose of expanding its territory and sphere of influence.

“So if the exercise of the Falkland islanders "self determination" was effectively support for an oppressor "Great Power" Britain - and Argentina was oppressed, Socialists had to support Argentina in the Malvinas war. Or be chauvinist. Simple as that.”

But Argentina WAS NOT oppressed by Britain, it was a sovereign state as much as Britain.

“Again if the US/UK are oppressor nations and the Iraqi's are an oppressed nation, clearly socialists must support the Iraqi's "right to self determination" or be categorised as chauvinists.

As the AWL not only refuse to support the Iraqi's but actually support the continued occupation of Iraq by UK/US troops - then the AWL are something worse than chauvinist.”

I disagree with the AWL’s position on Iraq, but quite honestly what you say here is a complete travesty of the truth. First of all the AWL DO support Iraq’s right to self determination. What they do argue against is support for the reactionary clerical-fascists that make up the “insurgency”. In so doing their position is fully consistent with Lenin’s. The AWL do not call for the immediate withdrawal of foreign troops, but also do not call for them to stay for their stated reason that if the troops leave the clerical-fascists will take over and destroy the Labour Movement more quickly than they are doing already. Whilst I can understand the argument for that, I believe its wrong because it does inevitably lead to the conclusion that democratic imperialism can act progressively, and provide a breathing space for a weak labour Movement. It was the line taken by Max Shachtman in relation to Vietnam, though in his case more explicitly. An independent working class position starts from the perspective of mobilising the working class inside and outside of Iraq to kick out the Occupation as soon as possible, and at the same time to organise defence against the clerical-fascists. It is impossible to do that on the basis of the current politics of Stop The War which gives support to those same clerical-fascists that will be the hangmen of the Iraqi workers. But nor can it be done by giving even implicit succour to the idea that the Occupation are fulfilling a progressive function in holding the ring.

“Israel is an oppressor nation, the Palestinians are oppressed, clearly every socialist should support the Palestinian right of self determination, the AWL not only refuse to support the Palestinian right to self determination, but support the rights of the oppressor Israelis.”

Actually, there is nothing in Lenin that asserts that socialists MUST support the right to self-determination. Marx and Engels explicitly argued against self-determination for a number of Slavic nationalities during the 19th century. Marxists defend the right of nations to demand self-determination, and oppose any attempt by an oppressor nation to prevent such a nation from expressing that demand, but we have no duty to call for self-determination or support such a call where it is divisive, or reactionary for the class struggle. The AWL actually do call for self-determination for the Palestinians, and the establishment of a Palestinian state. You simply lie in saying they don’t. Personally, I disagree with that call because I believe the Palestinans are in Engels terms a nationality, but not a nation. I support the extension of democratic rights for Palestinains both inside Israel, and in Gaza and the West Bank, but quite honestly I believe that any Palestinain mini-state would be an abortion from the beginning, a reactionary entity beholden to even more reactionary elements outside, and a knife held at the throat of Israeli workers. It would bring about the reverse of what is needed to resolve the conflict in the Region – the unity of the Jewish and Arab working classes.

“In every instance it is revealed that the AWL's denegration of anti-imperialism as "kitsch" "silly", etc. is simply a feeble diversion from their chauvinist pro-imperialism.”

Actually, I think it is your inability to understand the arguments which reflects the state to which marxism has been distorted and decayed within the Labour Movement.

“Why would PR (or anyone?) want to debate a load of pro-imperialist chauvinists? Really what is there to discuss?”

Well for one thing you might learn some basics of marxist theory, and how to apply it in a conscious manner rather than simply parroting half understood phrases.

Arthur Bough

Sticking With The Facts

Jason,

“Arthur, what is the point of all the insults?
Where does 'kitcsh', 'idiot' , 'inability to understand' get us?
There's no point at all.”

Actually, the terms “idiot-anti-imperialism” and Kitsch Left are the AWL’s not mine. But the terms are intended to refer to a trend not to be insults against individuals. As far as inability to understand, quite honestly I think a look at the debates shows that those that want to align with all kinds of reactionary forces against the working class simply on the basis that these forces are supposedly fighting imperialism demonstrates that such people clearly do not understand the ABC of marxism. Its not an insult it’s a statement of fact. Certainly, it pales into insignificance compared with the charges you have levelled against the AWL without factual support.

“In much of the world the imperialised world or semi-colonies ('the third world' or 'developing countries') the working class is dominated by the local bourgeois acting on behalf of the ruling class from US, Britain, France, Germany etc.imperialist nations ('the West', 'the developed world').”

But this is precisely the kind of nonsense which is the repetition of mantras rather than an objective assessment. What does “imperialised” mean? What is a semi-colony? Is it like being half pregnant? In what way was the Argentine local bouregoisie acting on behalf of Britain??? If they were then surely the British ruloing class would have welcomed them invading the Falklands wouldn’t they. Haven’t you put yourself in a clear logical contradiction. The fact is that very few states in the world have comprador bouregoisies that act on behalf of some foreign imperialist power. Some, the more undeveloped do, but the majority of states in the world, particularly those with developed economies such as that of Argentine do not fall into that category. Nor do most of the states in the Middle East. The local ruling class does not exploit its working class on behalf of foreign Capital, it exploits its working class on behalf of itself. That is why socialists should oppose them rather than attempt to form Popular Fronts with them.

“That means that the stuggle for working class emancipation in those countries will immediately come up against the arms and almost immediately the armies of imperialism. That is why in those countries we must stand for the military defeat of imperialism and organise here for all action that hastens that end- a direcxt action mass movement and movement in the trade unions to build strike action, blockades and refusal to handle/ transport armaments.”

Could you give some examples. In Chile its true the CIA helped the coup against Allende, but by and large it was the forces of the Chilean state that suppressed the working class. In Argentina it was not British or US or any other imperialist forces that fought the workers it was the forces of Galtieri, the same forces you want to lend support to. But if workers in Britain seriously attempted to overthrow capitalism do you seriously believe that Capitalist powers outside Britain would stand idly by any more so, just because Britain is an imperialist country. Of course they wouldn’t so why make this distinction?

“In Palestine it means supporting the Palestinian working class democratic rights not just in West Bank and the occupied territories but throughout 'Israel' supporting the right of immigration and armed resistance to Israeli and settler agression. We should be for maximum unity with the Jewish working class who recognise and support these things whilst recognising that the main support is likely to come from the wider Arab working class. Of course the working class should be for complete political and social equality between Jew and Arab (and other ethnic groups such as Ethiopian, Fillipino, Rumanian and other migrant workers in the region)”

Of course socialists are in favour of the maximium democratic rights of Palestinians inside and outside of Israel – though it would be nice to see some of those that use this argument, fight for it against the reactionaries of Hamas, and Hezbollah that deny those rights to socialists, Trade Unionists, women and gays in those areas where they hold sway. In fact I said so above. The AWL argue for that too. Yes I am in favour of the removal of Immigration Controls etc., but no socialist argues that Britain is not a legitimate state because it has Immigration Controls, so why do you apply that criteria to Israel. Socialists are in favour of building working class unity, and ultimately that requires the removal of Immigration controls, but the Israeli state has the same democratic right as any other bouregois state to impose them if it feels it requires them for its security. The fact is that given the size of the Israeli population an unlimited right of return would mean that the Jewish majority would be overwhelmed. If I were a Jewish worker and looked across the border at Gaza, and the reactionary clerical-fascist politics of Hamas, I too would not be keen to cut my own throat. That is especially true given the vicious anti-semitic poison that these organisations, and the Arab nationalist regimes put out, including on their official media. The way to get rid of the Immigration Controls in Israel is to build unity between the Jewish and Palestinian workers to crreate the kind of working class force that will give confidence to workers on both sides of the border that their interests would be protected.

“In Iraq it means arguing for the working class to come to the fore of the resistance movement, supporting workers in struggle such as the Basra oil workers and fighting here for troops out now and solidarity in the British trade union movement with these objectives.”

This sounds innoccuous, but in reality when you speak of workers coming to the fore of the “Resistance Movement” you imply that workers can have comon cause with the reactionary clerical-fascists which dominate that movement, the same clerical-fascists that day in and day out are murdering those workers on the streets of Iraq. A working class solution in Iraq means following the course set out by Lenin in the Theses on the National and Colonial Question. It means building working class revolutionary organisations to fight not just the Occupation, but also those that you describe as “The resistance”. It means building factory committees, peasant committees as alternative forms of power to the bouregois forms – to the extent that they exist – that are dominated by the Iraqi bourgeoisie mostly in its clerical-fascist garb. It means the building of workers Defence Squads and militia accountable to these organs of workers democracy. It means fighting against the Occupation alongside the day to day economic and politcal struggle of workers, and making the connection in workers minds between the two.

Yes we should call for workers here to mobilise against our own bourgeoisie and Government to defeat them, and force them to bring the troops home. But if such is not to simply be a means of giving support to the clerical-fascists – which is what Stop the War means by Troops Out Now, it is necessary for that to be done on a clear working class platform of giving direct support for Iraqi workers against the clerical-fascists. You and Stop the War cannot do that simple socuialist task because your position gives uncritical support to those clerical-fascist forces.

“In Argentina it meant being for the military defeat of imperialism. Actually this case which started tthis debate clearly shows that the victory of 'our' bourgeois led directly to the major defeats on the working class from the defeat of the miners.”

But what would have prevented that would not have been the military victory of Galtieri, which might well have caused an even worse reactionary backlash in Britain, but would have been the political defeat of Thatcher by the British working class. That was precisely what Socialist Organiser called for at the time. And blinded by your moralistic approach to imperialism you seem to lose sight of the fact that a military vistory for Galtieri would undoubtedly have strengthened him against the Argentine working class. In fact his defeat had the opposite effect. But you seem more interested in lining up in Popular Fronts with such reactionaries in order to “fight imnperialism” than you are with the needs and interests of the working class whether in Britain or in Argentina, or in Iraq, or in Israel or Palestine.

Arthur Bough

Wrong Again

Bill you are wrong again.

“According to Arthur among other things "there is nothing in Lenin that asserts that socialists MUST support the right to self-determination."
Quite simply Arthur is wrong - according to Lenin socialists must support the right of oppressed nations to self determination.”

No you are wrong. Socialists have a duty to support the right of nations to demand self-determination. They have no duty to support the demand for self-determination itself where it is reactionary. There is no duty for socialists to argue for self-determination for Scotland for instance, because it is divisive for the working class in Britain. We have a duty to defend the right of Scots to raise that demand, and if say in a referendum they vote to separate we defend their right to do so, but we retain the right to continue to argue that such a course of action is wrong, and reactionary.

“In each instance we need to ask whether the nation we support is an oppressor or an oppressed nation.”

How from what you say above this brings us back to this I don’t know, but setting that aside the fact remains that Britain was NOT oppressing Argentina. If we wee to objectively identify an opressor nation here we would have to conlude that it was Argentina that sought by military means to oppress the Falkland Islanders.

Arthur Bough

Methodology, Fences and facts

“Arthur, you say using the term 'semi-colony' is a mantra. Actually it's not but it is a technical term not in common use which is why, if you read what I wrote, I also used neo-colony 'Third world' and 'developing world' the last two though are inadequate particularly the last as it obscures the way in which capitalism forcbly under-develops.”

I think the term semi-colony has problems in total. But at least when Lenin used it in relation to China there was some rationale to it i.e. a country that was formally independent, but within which large chunks were under the control of foreign powers. But that does not apply to Argentina even remotely does it?

I also think the idea of “the development of underdevelopment” has now largely been dismissed in Marxist economics. To the extent that certain countries economies are underdeveloped there seems little basis for believing that this is due to a deliberate policy of capitalism. On the contrary, capitalism has an interest in Capital accumulation no matter where.

“Because international trade agreements enforced at gunpoint mean that through Stuctural Adjustment Programs, through debt relief, through aid from the IMF and World Bank, through having their economies forcibly opened to mulitnationals sometimes with accompanying armies and miltia (e.g. Congo) it becomes in th eimmediate self-interest of the local bourgeois to comly. If they don't there's always gunboat diplomacy- assasinations, economic sanctions, funding and arming of militia and rebel armies, aerial bombardment and direct invasion. This system is pretty monolithic and most of the time the threats work- the West turns a blind eye as workers' organisations are smashed as long as its interests are served-but on occassions of course military force is used.”

I accepted that there are some exceptions, and that there are cases usually in pretty backward lawless states where imperialism is directly involved, and acts through local Bonapartist or militarist regimes, but in the main this is the exception, and increasingly so. Certainly, this did not apply to Argentina. Yes, capitalism internationally now operates through various global macro-economic institutions, just as it operates through similar institutions on a natoinal scale, but it makes no more sense to claim that weaker capitalist states are exploited or oppressed by say the World Bank than it does to say that small back street businesses in the UK are similarly oppressed by the policies of the Bank of England which tend to be drawn up to meet the needs of big rather than small capitalists. What you are descring is not the operation of imperialism, but the operation of capitalism as a global economic system. In fact some countries like Ireland have done very well out of the arrangements that system has introduced. The same is true for many countries that not long ago would have been described as semi-colonies – Singapore, Malaysia and so on, which now export Capital and exploit foreign labour on a large scale.

“We don't at all advocate a 'popular front' with the bourgeois but the independent action of the working class against imperialism which may at times include temporary military alliances with bourgeoisw or petit-bourgeois forces fighting imperialism.”

Good, but calling for a military defeat of Britain against Argentina could have been understood in no other way than a military victory for Galtieri, and had the working class been leading the struggle in Argentina its first task would have been to have brought back its troops from the Falklands, and concentrated its attention where it needed to be – defeating its own bouregoisie, the main enemy at home.

And calling for a military victory in Iraq now means a victory for the clerical-fascists. I am in favour of demanding Troops Out of Iraq Now, but only on the basis of the principal that such a demand is for the mobilisation of the working class inside Iraq, and out to bring it about.

“So in Iraq we recognise that Sadr is a threat so that is why the working class must come to the fore of the resistance to win workers and small farmers away from the reactionary forces and be armed against them. Why don't you read our piece on Iran on the front page of the website or just do a simple search?”

But you repeat here the form you put forward initially which implies that the Resistance can be some unified movement stretching from Al Qaeda through Sadr to Sistani to the Working Class. It cannot, and therefore, it is impossible for the working class to come to the fore of this impossible movement. The working class and peasantry in Iraq must organise separately both organisationally and politically from these other forces. It is possible that it may be able to enter tactical military arrangements with other social forces – just as Trotsky argued the Chinese CP could do in entering a bloc with the Kuomintang – but that is a tactical question, and quite honestly I think the possibility of such actions with the clerical-fascists are non-existent.

“But read what we write - in no way should the reactionary politics of Hisbullah etc be supported but independent working class action against imperialism.”

But this is the same kind of duplicitous position that Trotskyist organisations have had in the past. Workers Action used to argue something similar in relation to the Provos. “We don’t support their politics, but we support their struggle.”

No, we support the struggle against oppression, whether it be Britain in Ireland or Israel in Gaza and the West Bank, but we do not support the struggle of this or that organisation where those organisations are in fact reactionary, or bouregois or petit-bourgeois forces hostile to socialism and the working class.

“Examples? The DR Congo - over 100 British multinationals with their won militia in many cases, Ethiopia- the strikes and protests last year put down by soldiers firing from British donated vehicles, Venezuala the failed coup immeidately recognised by the US, sierra Leone, Britain invading a few years back, Chad a whole village massacred by French forces last month: corrupt dictatorships all over the world bank-rolled and feted by governments and companies from US, Britain, France, Germany.”

But your own examples defeat you here. Of the examples perhaps the Congo is valid. Ethiopia – troops firing from British donated vehicles, come on please. Venezuela the US immediately recognised the coup. Come on, the coup was a wholly Venezuelan affair organised by a section of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie, and oppsed by other sections that recognise the populist regime of Chavez as an inconvenience, but a useful escape valve.

“It's not a big conspiracy- it is the global operation of the capitlaist market. It requires a gloabl working class response- support armed resistance and organsiation by the working class, for the military defeat of imperialism. It is on that that you and the AWL are on the wrong side- because sitting on the fence and refusing to actively campaign for and organsie for the military defeat of imperailism is playing into their hands and is part of a rightward trend in the working class and tremendously damaging.”

But I do openly call for the arming of workers, the establishment of workers militia, and even the establishment of an International Brigade to intervene in circumstances such as Kosova and Iraq. But that is a far cry from simply calling for the military defeat of imperialism without that qualification, and in circumstances where no such workers organisations exist, and which therefore can only mean the military victory of those forces which currently are engaged in such military conflict – forces which without exception are hostile to the working class, and everything any socialist or even decent democrat should support.

“You have begun to see the problems with the AWL on Impeiralism. There are good militants on bread and butter issues in the AWL but they are seriously misled and reactionary in refusing to stand with workers in the underdeveloped world (call it what you will) against imperialism.”

I have a number of disagreements with the AWL, but I would not accuse them of what you do here, which is quite honestly just a lie. Unfortunately, the AWL in trying to maintain its Leninist politics in the face of an attempt to review the history of Marxism critically has found itself switching its allegiance from one mistaken strand of Trotskyism to another petit-bouregois, anti-Trotsky Trotskyism. It is the petit-bouregois emthodolgy of that trend which has led the AWL down a path which does indeed lead to accommodation with imperialism as it did with Shachtman, Burnham and others that initiated that trend. But they have not yet reached the end of that path, and I have confidence that as in the past the comrades of the AWL will self criticise their position. But your position stems from a petit-bouregois methodology in the same way. It is that fact that leads you both to sit on opposite sides of the fence, both wrong.

Arthur Bough

At Least You Gave Me a Good laugh

“Why would I lie Arthur?”

Unfortuantely, it seems a common feature of debate on the Trotskyist Left nowadays that if you are failing to answer the points raised by your opponent simply lie about their position, and make it out to be a position you can argue against. Its one of the things that worries me about the kind of society such people would create in the unlikely event they ever did carry through a succesful revolution.

“frankly in all your words I must have missed it.”

So what are you saying you do not even have the intellectual capacity to read a political argument assiduously?

“Clearly you don't, as Lenin made explained, support for an oppressed nation means above support for their right to self determination - which you oppose.”

Except as the quotes from Lenin in “The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up” that I gave above demonstrate, Lenin does not say that.

Socialists have a duty to oppose oppression, and I am in favour of that absolutely. I am in favour of the Jewish working class fighting for the maximum democratic rights of Palestinians both inside Israel and in the Occupied territories. I am in favour on that basis of seeking to build the greatest possible unity between Israeli and Palestinian workers. If in the course of that struggle the Palestinian working class, through the establsihment of democratic structures and institutions demonstrate an ability to construct their own state then I would be in favour of the establishemnt of such a state. What I am not in favour of, is what you favour, a reactionary nationalism, which seeks to address the oppression of Palestinians not by a progressive working class struggle, but by inflicting a similar oppression on Jewish workers, which would be the inevitable result of the kind of genocidal war proposed by the reactionaries of Hamas etc. were it succesful – which it is unlikely to be, and would merely result in the pouintless deaths of thousands of palestinians and Jews. Nor am I in favour of calling for a Two-States solution on the current basis as the AWL do, for the simple reason that such a call means the Palestinian working class putting their faith in external, reactionary forces to bring this about, and on a continuing dependence on those forces were it to happen.

“Your support falls short of the very thing that can end the Palestinians oppression - therefore you support their oppression. In Lenin's sense your position is that of a chauvinist and pro-imperialist.”

Actually, self-determination is not the only thing that can end the Palestinians oppression as Lenin argues in relation to small states. And for a socialist to limit their horizon to such a bourgeois solution shows that socialist has gone off the rails. Nor does self-determination guarantee an end to oppression. Far from it were that self-determiantion to be won by the forces of Hamas in the lead it would likely lead to an even greater oppression as the example of Iran demonstrates, and as the example of thousands of Gay Palestinians has demonstrated that have fled Hamas controlled Gaza for the greater freedom of Israel.

“Do the Falkland islanders oppress the Argentinians? The Falkland Islanders have no separate interest from that of British imperialism, as was demonstrated 25 years ago. The Falkland Islanders wish to remain part of the British empire, an empire which currently occupies the Falkland Islands with thousands of British troops, this denies Argentina - an oppressed imperialised nation - its right to self determination. So yes the Falkland Islanders, as defenders of British interests abroad, oppress the Argentines.”

How long did it take you to come up with that bizarre contorted logic? What a totally arrogant comment to make that the Flkland Islanders had no interest from that of British imperialism!!! A small group of people live for a couple of hundred years basically separated from Britain in all but language and culture, and you try to paint the surreal picture that these people are in some way an outpost a garrison of British imperialism. Totally, loopy. What they demonstrated 25 years ago was not that they had no interests separate from British Imperialism, but that they had an interest in not being overrun, by the troops of a fascistic regime. Most socialists that had not gone completely to cock would have some sympathy with such an interest. Thousand of British troops occupy the Falkland Islands. True. How many British troops were there on the Falkland Isles prior to the sub-imperialist adventure by Galtieri? “This denies self-determination to Argentina.” For fuck’s say how????? Does Argentina have its own elected Government – as Martin Thomas says one of the positive benefits actually of Galtieri’s defeat that brought down the fascistic regime – or does it not? Are the the Falkland Islands even with those troops in the slightest way threatening the national integrity of Argentina? No of course they aren’t.

“Indeed the resolution above precludes a Marxist analysis it says; "We reject the counterposition of the Argentine bourgeoisie to imperialism..." In other words it rejects the scientific basis by which Marxists analyse the national question, in favour of its own chauvinist and pro-imperialist method.”

Besides the fact that no argument is given to explain or justify this statement, it just simply makes no sense at all. What scientific basis of Marxism calls on Marxists to suppoprt a foreign bouregoisie, let alone a foreign boruyrgeoisie with imperialist ambitions. How does a call to defeat your own government in such a war through working class action get turned into “pro-imperialism”. Amazing.

“I could go on, but I won't.”

I’m glad you won’t because my ribs are aching from laughing.

Arthur Bough

Replying With an Open Mind

“The point is that the Socialist Organiser position from 1982 seriously distorts the Marxist position, falsely equating support for Argentina against British imperialism with support for Galtieri.
Supporting Argentina or Iraq against imperialism is not at all to do with supporting their brutal regimes (e.g. Galtieri or Saddam) but saying that workers attacked by imperialism (in Iraq) have the right to fight back; the working class needs to be armed to resist the imperialist attack and through this overthrow the bourgeois.”

But the call for a military victory of Argentina could be nothing else other than a call for support for Galtieri. It was Galtieri that started the war, it was Galtieri that was fighting Britain. But it is also support for Galtieri, and the clerical-fascists in Iraq when you simply call for a military victory on a more important level. You try to dissociate the military victory/struggle from the politics of those conducting the struggle – as I said the AWL’s predecessors tried that too over Ireland – but it is impossible to do so. War is the continuation of politics by other means. If you simply work that backwards then support for the war conducted by this or that group, class, party or whatever has to be support of the politics of that group of which the war is simply a continuation by other means. That is why Marxists do not do it, it is why in all cases Marxists base themeslves on the working class, and the interests of the working class as a whole – as Lenin says in this or that situation the interests even of the working class in one part might conflict with the interests of the working class as a whole, and in that case the interests of the whole have to predominate. Again that’s one reason I disagree with the the AWL’s placing of the interests of the Iraqi working class above the interests of the working class internationally as a whole.

As far as the last bit in Argentina - I don’t know how many times this has to be repeated – the working class were not being attacked by imperialism. Britain nor any other imperialist power came close to setting foot in Argentina – except the US (not militarily)large sections of whose ruling class including many in the State Department actually supported Galtieri – so the issue you raise simply does not arise. Of course had Britain invaded Argebntina for the purpose of subjugating it, we would have been in favour of the working class resisting it, would even have been in favour where appropriate for an armed working class to make military alliances with the class enemy – provided it retained political and organisational independence – to defeat that invasion. But you are fighting a war that never happened. The working class in Argentina were being attacked not by British Imperialism, but by Galtieri acting as a militarist regime driven to defend the interests of Argentine capital. Its enemy was Galtieri not Britain.

But in Iraq, both I and the AWL call for the working class to establish Workers Militia to defend itself against the Occupation, and against the clerical-fascists – though I don’t think the AWL raise that call loud enough, and in fact have tended to palce too much faith in the idea that elections could have created some kind of breathing space with the aid of the Occupation to allow the working class to develop. Both I and the AWL are in favour of the working class kicking out the Occupation. I believe that can only be done by raising the demand for the working class to mobilise to do that, and that requires it to be given the imminence of purpose that “Now” conveys. The AWL believe there is no purpose in adding “Now” because the working class cannot achieve it “Now”. I think not only is this tactically wrong, but the argu,ment used to back it up – “actually we don’t want the troops to leave “Now” because that would give victory to the “Resistance” and a defeat for the working class, means in actuality coming down on the side of the Occupation. Its not a consciously pro-imperialist position, but it is the inescapable logic of the argument.

“By the way, British possession of Malvinas did become important for British imperialism not only in giving a new lease of life to a section of the ruling class around Thatcher but sending out a message that Britain and the US (ruling class) would ruthlessly defend its interests.”

Possession of the Falklands did not do that, any more than possession of the Falklands before the War did that. The ability of Thatcher to wrap herself in the flag just before an election certainly strengthened her position. But the antidote to that would have been a defeat for Thatcher by the British working class, not by Galtieri. Incidentally, large sections of the US ruling class supported Galtieri, the Argentine Ambassador was feted at a banquet even after the war began by the US Government and so on. So much for the way being one of “imperialism” against an oppressed nation.

“In the current Iraq occupation though as far as I can tell AWL are absent from the antiwar movement. I was told at one point (in person) by an AWLer that he may support troops out now in theory but it wasn't a priority- so in practice it ends up being a pro-imperialist position by refusing to engage in the antiwar movement. If the AWL threw themselves into the antiwar movement arguing for troops out now and class struggle tactics to dirsupt the war effort then that would be a different matter and then perhaps in a united front around common action there would be some point in having public debates between our two tendencies on these points.”

But in a situation where the StW coalition has effectively become cheerleaders for the clerical-fascists there is clearly validity in such a position, just as a marxist in Iraq would not simply join some clerical-fascist militia, or lend credibility or support to it. Refusal to acquiesce in the reactionary politics of StW – effectively of the SWP – is not at all not engaging in the anti-war Movement. Moreover, look at the work the AWL does in supporting the anti-war movement, in supporting the Iraqi working class practically in resisting imperialism and the clerical-fascists by building support for Iraqi Trade Unions, work which StW, and the SWP try to sabotage.

“However, the AWL's position on imperialism has seemingly led them into an impasse where they withdraw from the movement. Of course we can chat and discuss matters hopefully in an open manner (not disfigured by accusations of lying or they're never change etc.) whether in person or online but for the tendencies to prioritise debate when - on this - we're not even in the same movement seems rather impractical.”

Not being in the same organisation, or at least not prioritising work in that organisation when it’s politics are so reactionary is not the same as not being in the same Movement. Trostky’s advice to the Chinese Communists to form a bloc with the Kuomintang meant being in the same Movement to resist Japanese agression without necessarily being in the same organisation.

Actually, I believe online discussions are better than the old fashioned face to face debates. Firstly, it means people from anywhere can participate. Secondly, its more environmentally friendly, and thirdly it doesn’t rely upon who can remember the most quotes or make their quotes sound the more authoritative, because considered reference can be made to sources that everyone can check for themselves. The only problem with online discussions is you miss tone of voice, and facial, to get the nuance, which can lead to misunderstanding exactly the attitude of the person making the comment.

Arthur Bough

Marxists and war

This seems very confused. When the Argentine dictatorship took the Malvinas- a word you seem incapable of using- they were clearly not being progressive in their intentions. But talk to almost any worker from Latin America or even Africa and they would immediately recognise that the British settler state is part of a wider conflict that of the right of advanced capitalist ruling classes from ther North to control resources and territory in the forcibly underdeveloped world- in a word 'imperialism'.

We would not be indifferent to the fate of the Malvinas settelers/ Falkland islanders- they should have been gauranteed equal rights by the Argentine working class and if - as possible- they had no confidence in this be offered free passage and to any part of Britain they wished.

The Argentine working class supported the invasion and used the opportunity to begin to again organise itself on the streets. Marxists in Argentina should have argued for victory against British imperialism and no fiath in the ability of the Galtieri dictatorhsip to achieve that so using the episode as an opprtunity to rerogansie itself to overthrow the dictatorship. It would have been a long and almost struggle- unless given aid by the British working class who if socialists such as Militant and the other left had argued for a consistent anti-imperialist line- for the defeat of British imperialism, for strikes against the war and mass demonstrations. If Thatcher had been defeated in Malvinas/Falklands then the Tories would have almost certainly fell and not been able to smash the 'enemy within' the British miners which has altered the landscape of class politics in Britain for a generation.

As for the other examples- yes the SWP were chauvinist in the Balkans war- we should have supported Kosova independence but not by imperialist bombing- they didn't want kosova independence but imperialist subjugation.

We should have said Nato out of the Balkans, arms to Kosova workers.

For more on the Malvinas see www.permanentrevolution.net

http://permanentrevolution.net/?view=entry&entry=1269
http://permanentrevolution.net/?view=entry&entry=1266

(I can't understand your link system on these pages at all I'm afraid. so if anyone's interested just copy and paste into the address bar should work and may be someone can e-mail me instructions on posting links!)
Jason

Confused

Jason,

I think your argument here is confused.

1. The Falklands/Malvinas conflict was part of a wider struggle against imperialism. To an extent I agree. I would also argue that within that context sopcialists should not limit their opposition to imperialism on a global scale in the interests of some specific struggle. That is part of the argument I have against the AWL position on Iraq which refuses to call for the removal of imperialist forces because it subordimnates the struggle against imperialism to the needs of the Iraqi working class - even where this threatens say the Iranian working class.

But how does this change things in the case of the Falklands. It means that British socialists needed to oppose the role of British imperialism, and SO did. It does NOT imply giving support to Galtieri, or indeed giving cover to what was a reactionary act of a sub-imperialist power in invading the Falklands. Whether that act was supported by the Argentinian working class or not, does not change its nature as being reactionary.

2. The Falklanders should have been given equal rights, or safe passage. In one document I took this up at the time with the Thornettites. Part of the argument also applies to Israel. National self-determination - which I maintain the Falklanders had the right to - means that as a sovereign peoiple you have the right to defend your borders. One way of doing that is by Immigration Controls for instance. The Thornettites picked up on this and accused me of supporting Immigration Controls. That of course is nonsense. I do not support Immigration Controls at all, but I do defend as part of the Right of Self-Determination, the right of a sovereign state to do so. To say the Falklanders should have been guaranteed equal rights begs the question - "Who was going to guarantee these rights, and by what right would this other power have the right to dictate what these rights would be?" This only becomes a requirement if the most basoic democratic and national right of the Falklanders had already been taken away from them - the right of self-determination, including the right to defend their borders. Guaranteeing the right of safe passage hardly disguises what this is - Ethnic Cleansing.

This argument applies equally to Israel. We might not like the fact that Israel has racist Immigration Laws. We should argue against them, but the fact that it has them cannot be an argument for denying the right of self-determination for Israel, especially as almost every other nation also has racist immigration laws. That is what the SWP and others effectively do.

3.(Marxists in Argentina should have argued for victory against Britain, but pointed to the inabvility of Galtieri to accomplish it.) This is the Morenist position. Had Britain been invading Argentina I would agree. BUT THEY WEREN'T. This position can be argued for say Iraq. Marxists in Iraq shouyld have argued for a defeat of the invasion, whilst giving no credibility to Saddam, maintaining their own political and organisational independence, whilst leaving the possibility of joint military action open to tactical decision making, and used it to build their own support for the defeat of the invasion, and of the regime, and the clerical-fascists. After the victory of the invasion they should have continued that position to oppose the Occupation.

4. Yes had Thatcher been defeated by the mobilisation of the British working class that would have been a defeat for imperialism and victory for the working class. IN the same way a mobilisation by the working class to force Britain and the US out of Iraq would also be a victory against imperialism. But such a mobilisation does not require arguing for support of Galtieri, any more than now it requires support for Saddam Hussein, or the Iraqi clerical-fascists.

5. On Kosova, I am not at all sure about the question of independence. THe KLA had been carrying out terrorist attacks against the Kosovan Serbs - attacks which have been nothing compared to the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Kosova since. Independence without guarantees for the Kosovan Serbs would necessarily have led to such pogroms being even more intense. The correct position was to oppose the pogroms on all sides, and to argue for working class solidarity, including the mobilisation of the international working class to bring that about by blacking trade with Serbia, political intervention, and if possible the establishment of workes militia, and an International Brigade. Given the political and organisational weakness of the working class the possibility of bringing that about was limited. BUt that should not lead us instead to argue the wrong solution - e.g. to react to working class weakness by relying on other class forces i.e. a democratic imperialism, even if only to "hope" they will bring about some improvement. That was the slippery slope down which Shachtman tumbled.

Arthur Bough

Addendum

Although the defeat of Thatcher by the British working class would have been a defeat for imperialism, and a similar defeat for Britain and the US now by the working class would be too, a defeat for Thatcher by Galtieri would not have been a defeat for imperialism, any more than adefeat in Iraq at the hands of the "Insurgents" would be. Or more correctly, it would not be a victory for the working class.

There are conditions in which socialists could argue that case. For example, Marx and Engels argued that Tsarist Russia was such a reactionary bulwark, that its defeat by any means represented a progressive act. It was partly for that reason that they opposed self-determination for Slavic nationalities allied to the Tsarist slavist state. But such a characterisation of Imperialism is not one that is accepted in Marxist theory. I think even given the hegemonic power of US imperialism it is difficult to accept the idea that its defeat overrides class politics for Marxists, and that warrants allying with reactionary forces for that end.

Arthur Bough

And Serbia...

I'm afraid Sean's comments on the 1999 war are rather odd as well. Given that the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s were the first time NATO was ever involved in a conflict as such and that Serbia was generally seen to be a Russian client, I think one has to say that the realignment of European politics after the end of the cold war was very distinctly an issue. Furthermore, the atrocities against the Kosovar civilian population only reached (debatably) genocidal proportions during the western attack. The military actions of the previous several years hardly constitute "complaisance towards Serbian imperialism", and the fighting between the UÇK and the Serbian military was hardly "one-sided".

This is, however, of a piece with AWL's tunnel vision on Iraq. What sort of "bourgeois democracy" does a government led by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and backed up by sectarian death squads represent? This is not to say that the people gunning for them are good guys either, but it doesn't seem to me that the SWP is winning the self-deception race here.

Huh?

"The Argentine working class supported the invasion and used the opportunity to begin to again organise itself on the streets..."

Some leftist organisations supported the invasion; others did not. Some organisations which had been courageously opposing the dictatorship continued to do so. The idea that 'the working class' supported an invasion consciously organised in order to derail a general strike is false. And even if it, or sections of it, had done so, you would need to show that this was more than nationalistic backwardness on the part of those sections. Why *should* internationalist, never mind socialist, workers, support their military rulers invading islands on which live people who don't see themselves, at all, as Argentinian? If you some purely mystical 'struggle against imperialism' overrides the rights of actual people, or entails no actual political issues, I guess you can support anything.

But many of the most advanced sections of the Latin American workers' movement - for instance, the Brazilian PT (which at the time was very new and much more radical than it is now) - opposed both sides in the war.

And by the way, nobody has argued that the Iraqi government is a bourgeois democracy.

workers and war

There are several points to disentangle here.

Firstly,

"Although the defeat of Thatcher by the British working class would have been a defeat for imperialism, and a similar defeat for Britain and the US now by the working class would be too, a defeat for Thatcher by Galtieri would not have been a defeat for imperialism, any more than adefeat in Iraq at the hands of the "Insurgents" would be. Or more correctly, it would not be a victory for the working class."

If we could create a mass antiwar movement here to actually influence British policy e.g. mass demonstrations linked to strikes and occupations which helped either bring the government down or get them to withdraw troops to avert such a possibility then this would both help defeat the British government and strengthen the working class here.

This is what we should be arguing for. We are not hypothetically saying we wish for the victory of one side against another but taking active steps or arguing for the labour movement to take active steps to actually contribute to the defeat of 'our' side. In 1982 it is obvious that such a movement would have been the end of Thatcher- it was the 'Falklands effect' that led to her victory in the 1983 election.

Arthur then asks what about the working class in Argentina or Iraq? It may well depend on how the victory is won- there are several possibilities of course including a victory for fascist reaction. However, should we not oppose the war here in case reactionaries are strengthened here? No- for two reasons. The first reason is that it would suggest that imperialism or British or US intervention is somehow better than local reactionary dictatorship- no, the working class in Iraq will never have power or freedom whilst the US ruling class and its local comprador bourgeois is in power. Second- we are not indifferent to the working class there. If the British working class was strong and organised enough to actually make a difference to war - lamentably far from true at the moment- then we would of course be advocating material aid to working class organisations in Iraq- resources for trade unions, material and political. Of course none of the solutions are easy- what is really needed in Iraq is for the working class to organise and discover its own power instead of being led down the abyss of Islamism which is what happens when the left refuse to fight or offer a coherent strategy.

So we argue for the military defeat of imperialism and if possible take activce steps towards it and that does not imply supporting Sadr or Galtierieri. It does mean though arguing for the working class there to overthrow those reactionaries by coming to the head of the war against imperialism so in that sense we support the military victory of Iraq or Argentina.

Secondly, the question of Israel/Palestine.

"This argument applies equally to Israel. We might not like the fact that Israel has racist Immigration Laws. We should argue against them, but the fact that it has them cannot be an argument for denying the right of self-determination for Israel, especially as almost every other nation also has racist immigration laws. That is what the SWP and others effectively do."

I don't quite understand you here. Yes we should oppose racist immigration laws - in fact all immigration controls (rights for capital to dictate immigration) status. In terms of Palestine/Israel this means we support the right of Arabs to migrate and the right of return. How is any of this opposing the right to self-detemrnation? It is a very strange argument. Imagine of a British nationalist said we should oppose immigration as its against the right of british people to self-determination. We would rightly condemn this as racist. You though support abolition of immigration controls in Israel/Palestine but raise the argument of self-determination. If another country invaded and subjugated Palestine then that may bring arguments about self-determination into play but how so now?

Thirdly, the Malvinas settlers. It wasn't about their self-determination. They were already part of wider Argentine society- if they needed health care beyond the island's facilities etc. It was about the right of Britain's ruling class to control part of the South Atlantic- it was imperialism.

Workers, War and Socialist Principles

Jason,

“If we could create a mass antiwar movement here to actually influence British policy e.g. mass demonstrations linked to strikes and occupations which helped either bring the government down or get them to withdraw troops to avert such a possibility then this would both help defeat the British government and strengthen the working class here.”

In general I agree, but it depends on the politics on which this “mass anti-war movement” is built. After all that is the perspective of the SWP, but what they have in mind is an anti-war movement that is totally uncritical of the reactionary forces in Iraq fighting the Occupation. It is only a victory for the working class if the politics of that anti-war movement are clearly defined as forwarding the interests of the working class, both inside and outside of Iraq. The issue defeat for imperialism and military victory for the reactionary opponents of imperialism are, and have to be for socialists two completely separate things.

“Arthur then asks what about the working class in Argentina or Iraq? It may well depend on how the victory is won- there are several possibilities of course including a victory for fascist reaction. However, should we not oppose the war here in case reactionaries are strengthened here? No- for two reasons. The first reason is that it would suggest that imperialism or British or US intervention is somehow better than local reactionary dictatorship- no, the working class in Iraq will never have power or freedom whilst the US ruling class and its local comprador bourgeois is in power. Second- we are not indifferent to the working class there.”

I’m not sure I understand this. I don’t know that I did ask “what about the working class in Iraq or Argentina?” Surely, we SHOULD oppose the war here – Iraq or Falklands – precisely for the reasons you cite. We give no credibility to our own imperialism acting progressively – at least not doing so consciously/subjectively – and because we should not give the lesson to the working class here or in Iraq, Falklands, Argentina that their interests can be defended/advanced by relying upon imperialism, even a democratic imperialism compared to a domestic reactionary regime. That surely was the mistake Shachtman made in relation to Vietnam, and which the AWL have partly fallen into in Iraq by refusing to call for the removal of the Occupation on the basis that it is providing a breathing space for the Labour Movement i.e. although they are loathe to actually spell it out, that it is acting progressively.

“If the British working class was strong and organised enough to actually make a difference to war - lamentably far from true at the moment- then we would of course be advocating material aid to working class organisations in Iraq- resources for trade unions, material and political. Of course none of the solutions are easy- what is really needed in Iraq is for the working class to organise and discover its own power instead of being led down the abyss of Islamism which is what happens when the left refuse to fight or offer a coherent strategy.”

I agree entirely with your last sentence. The criticism I have had of the AWL’s position is that it basically accepts the current weakness of the Labour Movement – inside Iraq and outside – and from that has let itself rely on a hope that imperialism would defeat the insurgents, in the same way it hoped that Milosevic’s murderous attacks on the Kosovan Albanians would be stopped, and in the way Shachtman hoped that US imperialism would defeat Vietnamese Stalinism creating a bourgeois democratic space in which the working class might eventually rise from its weakness. Of course socialists can have no such perspective that imperialism can act progressively in this way, even if it is done in the manner of Pontius Pilate by trying to wash your hands of the responsibility for what imperialism actually does, rather than what you “hoped” it might have done. Nor can the weakness of the Labour Movement be overcome by such methods. I agree that only by having a perspective of struggle based upon mobilising the independent self-activity of the working class can that current weakness be reversed. That is the dialectical perspective that can never be grasped by Shachtmanite petit-bourgeois formalism.

On the other hand the perspective of other socialists is far worse than that of the AWL. The SWP take the current weakness of the working class, and rather than relying on democratic imperialism put their faith in the clerical-fascists. The consequence is also to abandon any real practical work that could be udnertaken to give material, and moral support to the Labour Movement in Iraq, a task which the AWL have done well given their tiny resources.

“So we argue for the military defeat of imperialism and if possible take activce steps towards it and that does not imply supporting Sadr or Galtierieri. It does mean though arguing for the working class there to overthrow those reactionaries by coming to the head of the war against imperialism so in that sense we support the military victory of Iraq or Argentina.”

This doesn’t follow at all. In conditions where it is Galtieri or Sadr that are the forces leading the military opposition to imperialism then calling for military defeat DOES mean calling for support of those forces. Had the working class been in a position to overthrow Galtieri then socialists in Argentina should have been arguing for the withdrawal of Argentine troops from the Falklands where they were engaged in a reactionary sub-imperialist adventure. In making the demand for British Troops Out of Iraq Now, I have been clear all the time to make clear that it is the working class that should bring this about, that I am not at all calling for a military victory for Sadr or any other bunch of reactionaries in Iraq. In other circumstances it might have been necessary for a larger, better organised working class in Iraq to have engaged in some tactical common action with the Ba’athists against the invasion – though all the time maintaining their own political and organisation independence – just as Trotsky argued it would be necessary for Fourth Internationalists to engage in similar actions alongside Stalinists and sections of the burueacracy to defend the USSR. But given the outright hostility of the clerical-fascists to socialists and the Labour Movement it seems pretty unlikely that such joint action could occur in Iraq.

“I don't quite understand you here. Yes we should oppose racist immigration laws - in fact all immigration controls (rights for capital to dictate immigration) status. In terms of Palestine/Israel this means we support the right of Arabs to migrate and the right of return. How is any of this opposing the right to self-detemrnation? It is a very strange argument. Imagine of a British nationalist said we should oppose immigration as its against the right of british people to self-determination. We would rightly condemn this as racist. You though support abolition of immigration controls in Israel/Palestine but raise the argument of self-determination. If another country invaded and subjugated Palestine then that may bring arguments about self-determination into play but how so now?”

Okay the background was the peculiar nature of the Falklands as a small community. Whilst we obviously reject the kind of statements made by Thatcher and others about British culture being “swamped” there is clearly a difference where a community comprises just a few hundred people. Argentina could have literally swamped the Falklands by deliberately settling people there – a sort of cold imperialism. Under such circumstances a community such as the Falkland Islanders may well decide that in order to defend its own sovereignty it will restrict settlement through Immigration controls. Such defence of its borders is in essence no different from defending its sovereingty against a hot imperialist invasion by military means. The right to defend your borders is a basic element of natoinal self-determination, so although we are opposed to immigation controls, we cannot logically deny the right of a sovereign state to employ them.

The same argument applies to Israel. If an unrestricted Right of Return were granted to Palestinian Arabs then the curent Jewish majority in Israel could become a minority. This is clearly different from the position of say Britain. Whatever might be our feelings about the way in which the state of Israel came into existence, it is now a historical fact, it is a legitimate state, with the same rights as any other state in the world. That includes the right to defend its borders. But the SWP and others want to deny that right. They want to argue from the understandable desire of the Jewish majority not to become a minority as a result of an unrestricted Right of Return that the measures undertaken by Israel to restrict immigration remove its legitimacy as a state. As socialists we are not just opposed to Immigation Controls we are opposed to national borders too – we are Internationalists – because they divide the working class internationally. But we seek to remove those borders as a result of working class self-activity, as a result of the working class building links across those borders, and forging a greater unity. Removing those borders cannot arise simply as some adminstrative measure, or by force, it can only be accomplished by the willing consent of workers on either side of the borders. Socialists can have no part in supporting the removal of borders or the subjugation of workers on one side of a border by forces on the other side of that border as a result of force or any other measures not agreed to by the workers on the other side. We want to go beyond bouregois democratic norms including the bourgeois nation state, but that cannot be achieved by going backwards from those basic bouregois democratic norms, it can only be achieved by superseding them, by moving to a higher not a lower level of development.

“Thirdly, the Malvinas settlers. It wasn't about their self-determination. They were already part of wider Argentine society- if they needed health care beyond the island's facilities etc. It was about the right of Britain's ruling class to control part of the South Atlantic- it was imperialism.”

I can’t accept that argument at all. Some people in Britain if they can’t get immediate healthcare in the UK go to France, or Germany, or Cuba. That doesn’t make them French, German or Cuban. The whole basis of capitalism is the international division of labour, the huge extension of trade. If a people can only be defined as deserving of the right of self-determination if they live in economic autarky and self-sufficiency then we are not moving forward to socialism, but back to pre-capitalism.

Arthur Bough

Defeats

"If we could create a mass antiwar movement here to actually influence British policy e.g. mass demonstrations linked to strikes and occupations which helped either bring the government down or get them to withdraw troops to avert such a possibility then this would both help defeat the British government and strengthen the working class here."

I don't disagree. But why insist on defining this in terms of victory and defeat in the military conflict? Of course, we fight our government. If they'd been forced to withdraw the fleet, most probably it would have brought them down, or at least provoked a major crisis. But *that* is our focus - opposition to the government and its policy, rather than 'a military defeat for Britain is the lesser evil' (compared to a military defeat for Argentina).

Immigration controls, self-determination and settlers

I'm not sure we agree at all, Arthur except on incidentals.

You say you would support a mass anti-war movement but one that is critical of the politics of forces on the other side. Socialists should argue for and where possible try to create a mass movement to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops and to end the occupation now. There are all sorts of other things we argue including revolutionary socialism but we don't make participation in the antiwar movement conditional on everyone accepting them.

We should also support strikes against the war, blockades of armaments etc. support the right of resistamnce and the military defeat of 'our' government's troops and therefore support armed resistance to the US/UK (which is completely distinct from reactionary sectarian killings which don't resist imperialism but play into its hands). If we win workers to these ideas here then all the better but to either abstain or withdraw from the antiwar movement or set up our own much smaller rival is counter-productive and takes us away from any possible influence we may have.

From your comments you are clearly not in the AWL- they are completely absent from the antiwar movement which is a disgrace whatever criticisms one might have of the SWP.
However, your arguments still seem to make concessions to a confused/confusing position particualrly on the issue of Palestine/Israel.

On immigration controls and self-determination I think this in the context you use it is utterly reactionary. The Jewish population in Palestine/Israel of course should have democratic rights, just as much as the Arabs most of whom were expelled (or the children, grand children, great grand children etc of those expelled)either by force or fear of force in the 40s- why should these people not have the right of return? It is racist- one rule for one ethnic group, another for the oppressed nationality.

The Malvinas settlers were not demanding self-determination but to be part of the British empire and therefore part of imperialism- the irght of the British ruling class to control that corridor of the Atlantic and a springboard to resources in the area.

idiot anti-imperialism

Of course its better to be an anti-imperialist (whether idiot or otherwise) than a pro-imperialist.
Certainly Marxism is about applying theory to the present reality, but let's take an example of "Leninist theory", which we anti-imperialists allegedly don't understand;

"Socialists cannot achieve their great aim without fighting against all oppression of nations. Therefore, they must without fail demand that the Social-Democratic parties of oppressing countries (especially of the so-called “great” powers) should recognise and champion the right of oppressed nations to self-determination, precisely in the political sense of the term, i.e., the tight to political secession. The Socialist of a ruling or colony-owning nation who fails to champion this right is a chauvinist."
Lenin Socialism and War

In what sense is Britain an oppressed nation? Yet,the AWL are neutral between Britain and Argentina, when any objective assessment of the relationship between Argentina and imperialism, would conclude that Argentina is an imperialised nation, dominated and oppressed by imperialism.
In what sense are the USA and UK oppressed nations? Yet the AWL refuse to call for the withdrawal of occupying forces from Iraq.
And if Iraq isn't an oppressed nation, I don't know what is.
Maybe that's the reason you don't see the AWL on troops out demos. They disagree with the essential demand of the movement. In fact I would hope that they wouldn't attend anti-war protests, given that they support the occupation.
What do you expect occupying US/UK forces to do in Iraq other than fight Iraqis? In other words oppress the Iraqis and deny them their right to self determination.
Support for which is by no means limited to fanatical Islamicists, in a recent BBC poll, (of all things!) nearly 60% of the population supported attacks on the occupation forces.
And of course you support the oppressor nation of Israel above the rights of the Palestinians.
It's not so much about idiot or kitsch anti-imperialism. Its about AWL pro-imperialism. Which is neither idiotic or kitsch. But simply chauvinist.

Oppressed nation

From the fact that Britain is not an oppressed nation, it does not follow that Argentina is.

There is a fatuous conceptual blurring here, between the vague notion of an 'imperialised' nation (presumably, one weaker and subordinate within an international system dominated by powerful imperialist states), and an *oppressed* nation - one denied national rights by a foreign power. To regard an independent bourgeois state, with a relatively powerful bourgeoisie which has regional power ambitions, as an *oppressed nation* is to mangle the meaning of words.

We were not 'neutral' between the British and Argentine bourgeoisies in 1982. We were against both.

A couple of questions.....

As it goes the STWC doesn't have a position of Troops out Now, but Troops out by October. Does the AWL support that?

If the AWL doesn't support Troops out Now, when do you want troops to leave?

And is a "breathing space" brought about by US imperialism

1) A reality. As it happens although there are some freedoms that weren't there under Saddam, on the other hand basic welfare that was available under Saddam has been dismantled. As it goes a lot of the working class is actually far worse off now in terms of living standards and that's not taking into account the estimate 600,000 deaths. Not much of a breathing space really.

2) Even if a breathing space were being provided (and I'd say all in all it isn't), what about the international working class? A defeat for imperialism is a benefit to the international working class even if it is necessarily a victory for the working class of that country (if the victory comes about through reactionary forces). I mean stalinism being victorious in Vietnam brought about an anti-working class dictatorship but it was still a victory for the working class internationally.

The trouble is with the AWLs logic is that de facto it ends up with you being pro-imperialist. You stance on Sudan being a classic example.

Also how can the AWL object to the occupation ending now when the majority of the Iraqi people support that demand!!

As for debating with the AWL, I don't see it as in any way a priority despite coming across some friendly and constructive individuals in the AWL. Also my experience of your leadership (who more often than not are on the platforms) are that they are totally unconstructive, sectarian and snipey, which would also put me off personally, as the debate would turn out to be anything but.

Debate and working together

Hi Sacha and Clive

Thank you for your invitation to debate. As you have observed whne time permits we are happy to debate and discuss issues either here, in other electronic forums, in the unions or in united front campaigns. However, in terms of your proposal for either a specifically arranged event or us attending your summer school to debate imperialism I think the answer is clear that given the different priorities of our two organisations specifically regarding imperialism that- in our opinion- such a debate is not necessarily the most fruitful way forward.

Why?

We view the priority of socialists here to oppose the imperialist annexation of Iraq and not only call for troops out now but to take active steps to begin to achieve that goal- to build for mass antiwar protests, for strike action, for blockades, for workers' action to prevent the movement of armamements- for disobedience in the army, for aid and support to Iraqi workers and small farmers resistance to the occupation. You call this position 'idiot' and 'fake' ('kitsch' I had to look it up!) Well, that's your opinion. We of course- like yourselves- are tiny and in fact rather than actively implement any of the above are trying to rebuild networks and organisatuions of working class combativity capable of beginning to actively organise such action. In our opinion, at the moment, given the scale of the task, this does not, currently, include debating on this topic with an organisation diametrically opposed to these aims.

However, let's keep a sense of proportion. On other matters- such as building a rank and file movement in the unions, opposition to privatisation, organising physical resistance to immigration snatch squads, building for worker non-compliance of immigration controls, smashing fascism, solidarity with workers' struggles in some countries, possibly even building a working class socialist revolutionary party we do have common ground and are more than happy to work together.

So let's work together on those areas and continue to fraternally debate differences in the mean time. Sounds perfectly sensible and comradely to me.

Jason

Please read the post

I'm not sure people are still reading this but just in case- Arthur I say one thing and you claim to even agree with it but then say I actually meant another and that's idiotic (even though i never said it). Sounds like a pretty weak argument to me.

We never said Victory to Galtieri

We said victory to Argentina and victory to the Iraqi resistance which means the working class coming to the fore and arming the workers. Please try not to musrepresent our position.

In Britain we argue for Troops Out Now not the pathetic call for troops out by October sent out by Stop the War, including signed by SWP member Lyndsey German.

I think there is a place for genuine debate on the left- but we need to listen to what each other say not caricature each other's position.

Jason

VIctory to the Iraqi resistance

"victory to the Iraqi resistance which means the working class coming to the fore and arming the workers."

It might mean that in your head, but I'm intrigued to know how it can actually mean that in life. Indeed the workers need to be armed. But surely a good part of what they need to be armed *for* is to defend workers and others from the sectarian crazies who constitute 'the resistance'.

If you mean you'd like a *different* 'resistance' (to imperialism) consisting of armed workers, well that would be great. Hardly 'victory to the (existing) resistance', though.

Ditto 'victory to Argentina'. If the Argentinian bourgeoisie was fighting for something democratic, something workers had an interest in, and what have fought for anyway - maybe that makes sense. But why would *workers* and *socialists* and *internationalists* and *democrats* want to impose Argentinian rule on a small group of foreigners on some islands? What democratic programme could that possibly serve?

Please Read Mine

I said that the argument for building working class opposition to imperialism, for building working class support for the Labour Movement in Iraq is not idiotic or kitsch. I said that insofar as you argue for that I agree with you, so I think would the AWL.

But it is not a matter of me accusing you of saying something different from this, but of me saying factually that you say something more than this, and in fact more loudly than this. You say "Victory to the Resistance" just as you said "Victory to Galtieri". That is what is "idiotic", "kitsch" in the approach for the reasons both I and the AWL have given. It is what means that you position in reality has to stand on one leg, because in reality military victory for "The Resistance" just as much as military victory for Galtieri actually means defeat for the working class.

Your position is a mirror image of the AWL's. Despite all of your protestations to the contrary the logic of both your arguments places you into the camp of the enemies of the working class. In your case openly and consciously in supporting the "Resistance" in the AWL's case covertly as a result of their argument that the Occupation is fulfilling a progressive role by preventing a worse Civil War, is holding the ring etc., which leads them to not call for its removal, and to oppose calls for its removal.

Arthur Bough

Agree With Clive

Clive has said exactly what I would have said.

Arthur Bough

Hi Dan (is it the Dan I

Hi Dan (is it the Dan I vaguely know),

Your comrades keep using phrases to the effect that having a debate "isn't a priority". What does this mean? How would sending an individual, or even a small group of people, to debate at a meeting conflict with other priorities, ie prevent you from doing anything else (unless of course there was a clash which meant you couldn't send anyone - but that's not what you're saying...)

As for our leadership being "unconstructive, sectarian and snipey", surely you'd agree it's not reasonable to throw accusations about without justifying/illustrating them? In any case, these aren't political categories. Even if it WERE true that many of our leading people are sectarian etc, why would that be a reason not to debate? I'd happily debate the SWP, despite all my many criticisms of them! And I suspect you would too - does that mean you think they're not unconstructive and sectarian?

Lastly, what do you mean a "the debate would turn out to be anything but"? (Are you saying a debate isn't a real debate unless we, you know, agree with each other?!!)

I think it's sad how the left's culture has declined to the point where having a debate is seen as something a bit weird...

Sacha Ismail

It is "the Dan" ;)

Hi Sacha

Yeah it is me! By the way do you mind taking out where I work, I know it's probably a tad paranoid but would rather it wasn't there.....

I guess it wouldn't take up that much of a priority and I haven't personally got that strong feeling on it either way. But a lot of people in PR are stuck into campaigns and it's hard enough getting free time to do personal stuff as it is. In such a small organisation juggling priorities is an issue unless you want to burn everyone out. And all I'm saying is that for me having a debate with the AWL isn't a big priority (debating on a web board while you're at work doesn't take up much personal time!). Having said that practical united front work is and I know PR members work with AWL members in various campaigns and in the unions and that's good.

As for your leadership it's just my personal experience. I have found your good self very amicable and enjoy speaking to you about politics, however I have found debate with the leaders of your organisation (well the ones I've come across) almost impossible and it quickly descends into snipey comments and shrill denounciations. Don't get me wrong, this isn't just the AWL, it's a trait you see across the left unfortunately. But even if those words aren't political categories as such they mean that debate is extremely difficult and often off putting to any non-aligned people who come to such meetings.

Would I want a debate with SWP despite their attitude? Probably, but that's because the SWP are much larger and have more implementation in the workers movement (if still feeble). So there would be more point to it in my view.

I don't think debate is weird and I agree with you that it is crucial. What I meant by it not being a debate, is not that we have to agree with each other, constructive disagreement is fine. But slanging matches where members of the left denounce each other often do more harm than good, especially where organisations are tiny and have no real audience in terms of the working class.

I hope this doesn't seem dismissive, that's not my intention.

Cheers

Dan

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