Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 27, 2006

The ISO and King Canute

Filed under: antiwar — louisproyect @ 6:53 pm

Today’s Counterpunch has the latest installment in an ongoing series of attacks on UFPJ written by ISO’ers. It encapsulates once again the “left opposition” mentality that characterizes their intervention in the antiwar movement from the beginning. Instead of trying to figure out ways to construct an alternative leadership, it is mostly content to wag its finger at the UFPJ misleaders and more particularly the CPUSA contingent therein.

Joe Allen, the author of the article and a name new to me, writes:

“ONE FACTOR in this strategic orientation is the influence of the Communist Party (CP) USA, which plays an important part in shaping the direction of UFPJ. One of UFPJ’s co-chairs and most active leaders is Judith LeBlanc, who is publicly identified as a member of the Communist Party.

“For the past 70 years, with few exceptions, the CP has argued that it is essential for progressive movements hoping to win social change in the U.S. to support the Democratic Party against the Republicans.”

What’s this? The CP orienting to the Democratic Party? This shocks me as much as gambling at Rick’s place shocked Inspector Reynault in “Casablanca.” Of course, the CP orients to the Democrats and uses its influence to tie the antiwar movement to the DP like a tail to a kite. That’s what they do and no amount of ink in the left press will change that. The real answer to a bad strategy, however, is building an alternative. The ISO is smart enough to build the Green Party as an alternative to the DP but I guess they are not smart enough to work with others on building an effective antiwar movement. Trying to scandalize the CP into changing its ways is about as effective as King Canute commanding to the waves: “I command you to come no further! Waves, stop your rolling!. Surf, stop your pounding! Do not dare touch my feet!”

The article concludes with a socialist bromide, namely:

“The demand for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan is the only principled and practical position that the antiwar movement can take to end the misery brought to the region by the United States. Support for the Democratic Party is pulling antiwar organizations further from this principled position–and must be rejected.”

Back in 1970, when I was in the Boston branch of the SWP, Peter Camejo was our organizer and leading out antiwar work. We were beginning to challenge SDS, which had decided that the antiwar movement was no longer relevant. Students facing the draft and horrified by the carnage in Indochina obviously felt differently. After a couple of successful rallies had left them feeling isolated, they began to use violence against us and the antiwar movement. Camejo made the point that politics is not just about words. It is about force in the streets; physical facts. We had to defend ourselves against attacks and build the movement.

Whatever stupidity existed in the SWP at the time, it did benefit from the accumulated mass movement experience of people like Fred Halstead who was a trade union veteran and who had been an organizer in the “Bring us home” GI movement in 1945. Fred brought skills into the movement that could not be reducible to a set of formulas. It involved knowing how to relate to people who don’t belong to your organization and who don’t even share your basic politics. The CP, which still has a vast resource of trade union experience to draw on, is far more skilled at this than the Workers World/Party of Liberation and Socialism sects. The Marcyites pay lip service to the idea of a united front but end up creating narrow coalitions with their own “anti-imperialist” outlook.

I really have no serious political differences with the ISO other than their analysis of Cuba. I would only hope that they begin to grapple with the problem of developing leadership skills, which in the final analysis are going to be crucial for making a revolution in the USA.

1 Comment »

  1. The SWP in that period, changed history. Without them in the antiwar movement against US in Vietnam, it would have been a Negotiate Now movement.

    Comment by Renegade Eye — September 28, 2006 @ 6:02 am

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