Setting the Record Straight On Revolutionaries in the Antiwar Movement by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Revolutionary Worker #1178, December 8, 2002, posted at rwor.org
As the drumbeats of U.S. war on Iraq grow louder and more imminent; as new government measures threaten Muslim and Arab immigrants; as sweeping new big brother programs threaten massive surveillance on the entire population and the denial of political rights--it is more and more urgent to unite all who can be united against the whole U.S. government agenda that we in the Revolutionary Communist Party have called a juggernaut of war and repression.
Friend and foe alike acknowledge that a new movement is on the rise to meet this challenge. We see it taking shape in the powerful "Not In Our Name" Statement of Conscience, in the tens of thousands who took the Pledge of Resistance in cities around the country on October 6, in the massive turnout to the October 26 demonstrations in Washington, DC and San Francisco, in the determined youth who took the streets on November 20. Our party is proud to be part of these efforts, uniting with people from a wide range of views to bring an urgently needed movement of resistance into being.
In this context, journalist Michelle Goldberg of Salon.com (and a variety of other voices in the media) have warned that the involvement of revolutionary communists and radicals will harm the newly emerging anti-war movement.
But will the anti-war movement be more powerful if radicals and communists are driven from the leadership and something Goldberg and others consider "a more rational group" moves to the forefront? Will our movement build the kind of resistance that needs to be built? Will it unite millions to oppose the terrible injustices being carried out in our name by the U.S. government? Will it give scope to the deep debate that needs to go on throughout society on the nature of this juggernaut? Will it stop the war?
In fact, the movement will not be more powerful, it will not be broader, and it will not be more effective. It will be divided and weak. It will not reach out to include the "change the world" youth and people for whom life under this system is intolerable. It won't unite all the people who can and must be united to stop this juggernaut. And it is really important for people to understand this.
On one level, there is a certain absurdity to Goldberg's charge: from the Paris Commune to World War 1 to the French War in Algeria to the Vietnam War, radicals and communists have played an important, and at times decisive, role in every movement against an unjust war by great powers. And these movements have derived their strength, determination and breadth from the participation of the most committed opponents of the status quo. But we will deal with the charges of today, in the spirit of doing all that we can at this historic juncture to build the kind of movement that is needed now.
>From the days after September 11--when it became clear that the U.S.
government was using these events to embark on a whole program to forcibly recast the power relations on the planet--our Party began a serious effort to unite with others to build the kind of movement that could rise to these historic and unprecedented challenges. We recognized the need for new alliances, drawing on the creativity and commitment of people from many different political perspectives. And we put forward our ideas on what we thought this movement needed to be.
In December 2001, in the Revolutionary Worker (RW) newspaper, RCP Chairman Bob Avakian spoke of the need to bring forward the "vision of a movement against the war acts and repression of `our own' U.S. government that is so powerful that it cannot be hidden from the masses of people all over the world--including in the countries and areas that are targets of U.S. imperialist aggression and are, justifiably, `hotbeds' of hatred `against America.'
"Imagine the inspiration it will provide and the potential realignment it will contribute to--with ordinary people worldwide finding common cause against the oppressors and bullies of the world, first and above all the rulers of America--who, it will be more and more clear, do not speak and act in the interests, or in the name of large, and growing, numbers of American people themselves."
In editorials in our newspaper and discussions with many organizations and individuals, we talked about the need for a movement of resistance that could unite people very, very broadly--from different perspectives, walks of life and regions of the country--to stand up and say: "not in our name."
Many people brought their creative thinking and contributions into the mix--and a common vision and a common basis of unity emerged. This took concrete form in a powerful statement of conscience, which opened up space for people all across the country to voice their opposition; a pledge of resistance which has captured the imagination and determination of hundreds of thousands; and a day of resistance which signaled a serious Not In Our Name movement.
Our party also supported the October 26 actions in Washington, DC led by the ANSWER Coalition, urging all those opposed to the war to be counted in the streets--and it was heartening that so many people turned out. While our party has significant differences with the Workers World Party, which is involved in the ANSWER Coalition, we are firmly opposed to the kind of unprincipled attacks that have also come down against WWP in an attempt to divide the mass movement against the war.
Goldberg's Salon.com articles, and other distorted accounts, paint a picture of manipulative "leftists" with hidden agendas in the anti-war movement. This has nothing to do with reality.
Our party has a strategic approach to uniting with others who do not share our Maoist politics and ideology. The Not In Our Name initiatives represent real united front efforts, where people of different perspectives strategize together and act together to oppose the great injustices that are coming down. We recognize this united front as a place where we come together with others to make something new.It is not " ours ," it is not a so-called "front group," and it certainly does not concentrate our whole revolutionary line or analysis or program. But our vision of the importance of such united front efforts does flow from our understanding of the need to change the political climate and alliances in society. We are open and aboveboard about putting forward our views on the dividing lines and directions of these united front efforts, and we seek to learn from others.
We believe these are very crucial efforts for the people--they are serious beginning steps on a path we need to walk together to stop this juggernaut. Our party has contributed a lot to this process, and we are committed to give our all to working with those who want to stop this juggernaut.
At the same time, we all need a great debate and discussion, throughout society--wrangling over the world situation and what to do about it.
Our party has a revolutionary agenda--a vision of a radically different world without classes and class distinctions. But it is hardly a hidden agenda.
Our party believes that this juggernaut of war and repression is a product of a political, economic and social system that will keep on causing enormous suffering for people all over the world until a real revolution brings a whole new social order into being--a revolution involving the emergence of a revolutionary people, where millions see this system for what it is and a huge crisis in society creates conditions for people to rise up. And from many different angles, we will continue to share our "independent line" on this and many other questions, in the great debates within the anti-war movement and throughout society.
But those we have united in the anti-war movement are not responsible for our whole revolutionary line and program--and we are not responsible for all of their ideological positions. This is another tack by Goldberg and others--attempting to divide the movement by forcing people to take responsibility for all the revolutionary views of our party, which they may or may not agree with. And this cannot be allowed to go down.
What we are all responsible for is to unite all who can be united to resist and stop this juggernaut.
>From the beginning, we asked: how can we build the kind of movement that
can speak to millions and unite all those who oppose this war and repression--and bring out the truth?
And the irony is that the anti-war movement that we have been part of building is speaking to millions . It is resonating with people who are not activists, but who are being drawn into opposition to the actions of the government. So it is curious that Michelle Goldberg, on one hand, describes the Not In Our Name statement as a "beautifully written declaration of conscience whose sentiments would be shared by a great many liberals"--i.e., a statement that is actually giving voice to the sentiments of millions--and on the other hand, Goldberg demands that the movement take distance from Maoists like C. Clark Kissinger, who has been an important organizer for the statement, because his participation will alienate the masses.
A more logical conclusion would be that these communists and all the people involved in these efforts are doing something right. If people like Goldberg are so concerned about the anti-war movement and they think the statement is "beautiful," then why not urge others to sign it? Why focus on attacking revolutionaries in the mix?
Goldberg claims to be fulfilling her journalistic responsibility by calling attention to Kissinger's politics in her articles. But we have to say quite frankly that there are serious problems with Goldberg's journalism.
First, she has attributed completely false statements to Clark Kissinger--relying on hearsay that Clark has previously refuted--without even bothering to ask Clark about it.
In characterizing Kissinger's political beliefs, the Salon article makes this outrageous distortion: "In an article for WorkingForChange.com, Seattle Times journalist Geov Parris writes about Not in Our Name statement coordinator Clark Kissinger, who he identifies as a `core member' of the RCP [Revolutionary Communist Party], `I still have vivid memories of Kissinger explaining calmly to me once why, when the RCP took over, it would be necessary to shoot everyone who didn't agree with them.' "
In response to this charge, Clark Kissinger writes: "Let me say clearly: Geov Parrish is lying and Michelle Goldberg is repeating the lie. It is unconscionable to resort to hearsay and gossip to characterize my views when I have written many articles on a range of political questions, from the death penalty to the experience of China during Mao's leadership. These manufactured comments are totally antithetical to my revolutionary politics. The truth is that for decades I have identified with the Maoist movement that has summed up the experience, both positive and negative, of all previous socialist societies, including the importance of dissent in any new socialist society."
A passage from the RCP Draft Programme speaks to the importance of having a wrangling atmosphere with "air to breathe" for different views: "Dissent can play an important role in sparking debate and struggle over the unresolved contradictions and problems facing socialist society in moving toward classless, communist society. But unless it is clear that there is `space' for such dissent in society, unless people feel that they have room to disagree with those in authority, unless an atmosphere is created in which the masses actually grasp not only the possibility but the importance of their debate and wrangling over all the questions of the day--then any dissenting views and sentiments will be forced underground, the vigorous debate and struggle necessary to actually move society forward to communism will not flower, and the atmosphere in society will become lifeless and boring."
This discussion of the RCP's view of dissent after the revolution is available on the rwor.org website, along with extensive writings by RCP Chairman Bob Avakian on dissent and intellectual life before and after the revolution.
And if Goldberg were seriously concerned to share the truth with her readers, she might have taken the trouble to find out what Kissinger and the RCP actually think.
In a similar vein, Goldberg claims to reveal to her readers information on the political positions of the RCP and assigns herself to set standards for the leadership of the anti-war movement.
"The RCP's ideology isn't just harmless campus Marxism," she writes. She then goes on to criticize the RCP for supporting the efforts of people around the world to liberate themselves from oppression. Her writing is full of buzz words and distortions. She resorts to crude characterizations of serious revolutionary movements that echo the lies of the media--describing the Communist Party of Peru as " `fanatically brutal' terrorists" and the people's war in Nepal as a "bloody insurgency."
Goldberg crudely dismisses a series of articles in the RW that go deeply into the line and practice of revolutionaries in Tibet, during the revolutionary days of Mao--articles that delve into the truth of this situation, including the unbearable poverty and oppression suffered by the Tibetan people under the old Dalai Lama.
She describes a 1997 article in the RW as an "impassioned defense" of Pol Pot. She has not done her homework. In fact, that article was a call for a real revolutionary investigation of what went wrong in Cambodia, and why. It made clear that the policies of Pol Pot in Cambodia were very different than Maoism. The RW article pointed out that any serious analysis of what happened in Cambodia had to proceed from an understanding that the Cambodian people have a right to liberate themselves from U.S. domination. But Goldberg mocks the idea that traditional Cambodia was a brutal feudal society that needed a revolution. And nowhere does Goldberg mention the massive secret bombing of Cambodia by the U.S.--which subjected the Cambodian people to mass murder from the skies and touched off a huge wage of protest in the early 1970s. (People who are interested in subsequent Maoist analysis of what went wrong with the Pol Pot regime could read an article in the London-based Maoist journal A World to Win , issue #25, 1999.)
Goldberg apparently moves in a journalistic world where it is acceptable to throw around facile denunciations of anyone who attempts to throw off semi-feudal oppression and big power domination by rising up and taking up arms. This is a world where facile verdicts on what actually happened in Tibet, or China during the Cultural Revolution, pass for progressive politics--a world where no distinction is made between revolutionary society in Maoist China and the actions of the pro-capitalist regime that carried out the Tiananmen Square massacre; a world where no one asks why the Dalai Lama worked with the CIA; a world where TINA (There Is No Alternative) rules.
It is all too fashionable for cynical verdicts about how "revolution is worse than the social ills it attempts to cure" to cover for lack of any serious discussion about real problems confronting oppressed classes taking history into their hands. How convenient that such claims coincide with the prevailing verdicts of the official ideology of the very people who profit from global sweatshops and send arms to disgusting regimes all over the planet.
But we live in a world where millions and millions of people are suffering from oppressive regimes backed by the U.S. government who condemn the peasantry to poverty, drive them off the land into vast urban shantytowns, sell their daughters in the sex trade and work their fingers to the bone in factories.
Our party's political support for the people's wars in Peru and Nepal stems from the experience and analysis of our Maoist movement--that the only way the masses of people in the oppressed countries of the third world can get free of this oppression is to rise up in a new democratic revolution, wage a people's war, and build a new society. These movements and other movements now under attack--like the people's war in the Philippines--are genuine struggles for national and social liberation and they are based on mobilizing the masses of people.
We know that many people involved in the anti-war movement do not share our perspective on these problems. And, again, they are not responsible for our positions.
But in a situation where the U.S. power structure is attempting to brand as terrorists any movement that dares to challenge their domination--or rises up against a regime they support--thinking people really need to insist on more rigorous standards of debate and discussion about the rights of the people of the world to make revolution.
And, while we continue to have healthy debate and struggle about the direction of the anti-war movement, we cannot allow those who actually stand opposed to the movement to tell us what we should say and who should be involved. Part of their political objective is really to get us to water down the message so that it means nothing. And to those people we have to say: Don't tell us you have to cut off our arms and legs to make our movement more powerful .
>From the beginning, we have shared this concern with people: How can we
build a movement of resistance capable of withstanding repression--and a government implementing fascistic measures in the name of safety?
Goldberg and others who are playing the game of "outing" communists and radicals in the movement appear unconcerned about the whole history of political witchhunts in this country, as well as the current political climate. For anyone familiar with the period of the 1950s, there is a feeling of McCarthyism about all this--where government committees called people to testify about their communist membership and people were branded by affiliation.
For instance, C. Clark Kissinger is well known as a correspondent for the Revolutionary Worker newspaper, but in one article Goldberg quotes a political opponent saying that Kissinger is a "core member" of the RCP. In her next article Goldberg claims to have "learned" that Kissinger "leads" the party. This sort of gossip only plays into the hands of those who want to crush the anti-war movement.
Political discussion and criticism in the movement is welcome and necessary. But it is really crucial in the land of Ashcroftian madness to fight for and respect the rights of people involved in all the resistance movements to protect themselves from the prying eyes of the state.
Together we need to take the anti-war movement to a whole new level. And we confront formidable challenges. As always, we welcome the wrangling, the serious discussion, the comradeship, the creative solutions, and the courageous actions that come from people daring to take history into our own hands.
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