[sixties-l] Left apologists for US imperialism red-bait the anti-war movement (fwd)

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Date: Tue Feb 18 2003 - 16:52:17 EST

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    Date: Wed, 05 Feb 2003 11:33:23 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Left apologists for US imperialism red-bait the anti-war movement

    Left apologists for US imperialism red-bait the anti-war movement


    By David Walsh and Barry Grey
    5 February 2003

    The emergence of a broad-based movement of opposition to the Bush
    administration's war against Iraq caught the American political and media
    establishment unawares. In the response of the various factions of the
    ruling elite there has been one common theme: the need to purge the anti-war
    movement of its left-wing elements and render it politically harmless.

    The instinctive response of the extreme right is to red-bait, denouncing the
    demonstrations as the organizational work of "communists" and other outside
    agitators. The establishment "liberals" of the New York Times variety
    intervene more subtly in an effort to isolate and discredit socialist
    tendencies and bring the protests under the control of a section of the
    Democratic Party.

    Both factions have singled out for attack the Workers World Party, which
    plays a leading role in ANSWER, a coalition of anti-war groups that has
    organized large demonstrations in Washington and elsewhere.

    These efforts are aided and abetted by another group-ex-radicals and former
    anti-war liberals centered around the Nation magazine. Three articles in
    particular, appearing at about the time of the first significant US
    protests, held last October, marked the beginning of this group's
    intervention. The articles are: "A Smart Peace Movement is MIA," by Marc
    Cooper, which appeared in the Los Angeles Times of September 29, 2002; "Who
    Will Lead?" by Todd Gitlin (Mother Jones magazine, October 14, 2002); and
    "Behind the Placards: The odd and troubling origins of today's anti-war
    movement," by David Corn (LA Weekly, November 1, 2002).

    Cooper, a contributing editor of the Nation, went to Chile in 1971 to
    volunteer his services to the Salvador Allende Popular Front regime and was
    serving as Allende's translator at the time of the military coup. Gitlin was
    the president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1963-64. After
    16 years at the University of California at Berkeley, he now is a professor
    of journalism and sociology at Columbia University in New York. Corn, the
    Washington editor of the Nation, formerly worked for Ralph Nader's Center
    for Study of Responsive Law.

    The three pieces in question constitute a type of "left" gutter journalism.
    Their authors are unable to muster serious arguments, resorting instead to
    distortions, amalgams and ad hominem attacks.

    In their attacks on left-wing elements, they echo the professional
    red-baiters. One telling episode speaks volumes about the political and
    moral character of this political layer. On November 19, David Corn appeared
    on the "O'Reilly Factor"-a talk-show on Fox News hosted by the extreme-right
    demagogue Bill O'Reilly. Corn carried out his assignment for O'Reilly,
    witch-hunting the Workers World group and smearing the anti-war movement.

    O'Reilly introduced Corn by saying, "And you say that the Workers World
    Party, a hardcore communist organization in the USA, is putting together
    these peace rallies, is that true?" Corn replied, "To call them an
    organization is perhaps giving them too much credit. I doubt they have
    enough people to fill a telephone booth. They're a very small sectarian
    political outfit based in New York City."

    O'Reilly, a figure in the tradition of Joseph McCarthy, aptly characterized
    Corn's appearance, saying, "[Y]ou finger a guy who is on the board of ANSWER
    ... you finger him as being really the driver behind all this, right?"

    Gitlin and Cooper belong to the generation of former anti-war protesters and
    radicals who have undergone a dramatic transformation over the past two
    decades, shifting further and further to the right. They long ago made their
    peace with the existing social order and seek at every critical moment to
    demonstrate their loyalty to the powers that be.

    This social layer never accepted the Marxist analysis that imperialist wars
    such as the Vietnam conflict were rooted in the contradictions of capitalism
    and were inevitable products of that system. Their skepticism about the
    revolutionary capacities of the working class has only deepened over the
    past quarter century. More than a few of the "generation of 1968" have found
    lucrative positions within the media, academia, liberal think tanks, unions
    and assorted institutions.

    A watershed in the evolution of this layer was the civil war in Yugoslavia
    in the early 1990s and the US-led bombing campaign against Serbia in 1998. A
    host of former leftists became enthusiastic supporters of imperialist
    intervention and uncritically accepted the war propaganda doled out by the
    media, which portrayed the NATO war as a crusade against "ethnic cleansing."

    The Yugoslav tragedy, including its dismemberment in 1991 and the ensuing
    communalist strife in Bosnia and Kosovo, was the product of a concerted
    campaign of destabilization carried out by the US and the European powers.
    The ex-radicals ignored this process and lent their "left" credentials to
    the demonization of Slobodan Milosevic, the former Stalinist turned Serb
    nationalist. Marxists, notwithstanding their opposition to the Milosevic
    regime and its treatment of the Albanian Kosovars, recognized that the
    US-NATO assault on Serbia was an imperialist war and the prelude to greater,
    bloodier wars.

    Given this background, it is noteworthy that in all three above-cited
    articles, the authors make great play of the presence of former US attorney
    general Ramsey Clark (a leading spokesman for ANSWER) on the International
    Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic. Corn observes that the "WWP [Workers
    World Party] has campaigned against the war-crimes trial of former Yugoslav
    President Slobodan Milosevic" and that Clark has called the tribunal "a tool
    of the West to crush those who stand in the way of US imperialism."

    Corn, Gitlin and Cooper all take for granted that only an ultra-left fanatic
    could hold such a position. That the Milosevic tribunal is a politically
    motivated travesty of justice, staged in large part to justify the US-NATO
    aggression against Yugoslavia, is now widely acknowledged. The former
    Serbian president has been able to turn the tables on his accusers and
    expose numerous distortions, exaggerations and fabrications.

    For our three authors, support for the US-NATO war against Serbia was only
    the beginning of a new political career: that of "left" defender of US
    militarism. All three embraced the Bush administration's "war on terror" and
    the US invasion of Afghanistan. Cooper writes in his LA Times piece that "a
    proportionate American military response to Al Qaeda was not only justified
    but absolutely necessary" and paints the present abysmal situation in
    Afghanistan in glowing colors.

    Now, however, Cooper, Gitlin and Corn claim to be opponents of a war against
    Iraq. Why they choose to oppose this particular war, while defending its
    precursors, they do not explain. In fact, as we shall see, they do not
    really oppose war against Iraq.

    On the contrary, they accept uncritically all of the basic premises of the
    American establishment, echoing the line of the New York Times, which has
    criticized Bush's anti-Iraq war drive on purely tactical, rather than
    principled, grounds.

    The hallmark of all three is a lack of any serious analysis-historical,
    political or social. In their haste to smear socialist and anti-imperialist
    critics of Bush's war policy, they cannot be bothered with such matters as
    the driving forces of the coming war, the history of US intervention in the
    Persian Gulf and the Middle East, the policies and political character of
    the Bush administration, the social situation in the US, or the economic
    context within which the war drive is unfolding.

    Significantly, the word "oil" does not appear in any of these articles.

    All three writers presume to speak as political authorities offering the
    benefit of their insight to "save" the anti-war movement from
    self-destruction. But even apart from the reactionary content of their
    politics, the dearth of substantive analysis brands them as charlatans and i

    The "good" side of US imperialism

    Cooper, in his article, denounces the "knee-jerk faction of the left" who
    opposed the US war on Afghanistan: "Steeped in four decades' worth of a
    crude anti-Americanism, it believed that the use of any American military
    power was and would always be immoral." Returning to this theme later in his
    article, Cooper calls on what he refers to as "more mature segments of the
    left" to "step into the forefront of the peace movement and displace those
    who can only see evil in America."

    Cooper's modus operandi is that of all demagogues: setting up a straw man
    "who can only see evil in America" in order to knock it down. Socialists do
    not see "only evil" in America. They make a fundamental distinction between
    the ruling elite, its political representatives and military command, on the
    one hand, and its working population, on the other.

    In any event, Cooper is not defending the American people from crude
    attempts to lump them together with the US ruling elite. He is defending
    American imperialism against those who fail to see its "positive" side.

    Cooper goes on to argue that "the full dimensions of the standoff with Iraq
    must be honestly acknowledged." He writes: "Yes, Bush is exploiting war
    fever for domestic political purposes. But it's also true that Hussein is a
    bloody tyrant and that the Iraqi people would be much better off without
    him; he has violated many UN resolutions; he continues to try to develop
    horrific weapons of mass destruction; he cynically manipulated the UN
    weapons inspection program and might again attempt to do so if its is

    These are accusations taken directly from the stockpile of US war
    propaganda, repeated as if they were indisputably true. Cooper has no more
    proof of Iraq's "horrific weapons of mass destruction" than George Bush,
    Donald Rumsfeld or Colin Powell.

    His parroting of the US line on Iraq raises the obvious question: if the US
    military is capable of waging "just" wars for democracy and human rights, as
    in Kosovo and Afghanistan, why not support its latest humanitarian effort?
    In reality, Cooper does not oppose a military strike on Iraq, he merely
    opposes "the administration's rush to war." (Gitlin repeats the same phrase
    in his piece, calling on the "left" to weigh in "usefully ... against the
    rush to war.")

    Cooper asks rhetorically, "If the left is for containment instead of
    invasion, then isn't it the US armed forces that must do the containing?...
    If, at the end of the day, Hussein does foil weapons inspections, what is to
    be done then? What are the responsibilities of the international community
    in countenancing or confronting a long-standing and dangerous dictator like
    Hussein?" Cooper chooses not to reply to his own question. He doesn't have
    to. His answer is obvious.

    Cooper speaks for a section of the ruling elite that seeks a more prudent
    and deliberate buildup to war, fearing that Bush's recklessness might have
    politically disastrous consequences. His argument that "The fight against
    Bin Laden's gang is necessary, and going to war against Iraq can only
    detract from it," is the line of a section of the Congressional Democrats,
    some of whom voted to give Bush the authority to attack Iraq.

    Gitlin: the "patriotic anti-warrior"

    Gitlin postures as a friend to anti-war protesters, someone who wishes the
    movement only the best. In his piece he calls the emergence of protest "an
    overdue fact and a necessary one." He quickly turns his fire, however, on
    the "leadership of the current antiwar movement"-presumably Workers
    World-which is "building a firebreak around itself, turning the movement
    toward the bitter-end orthodoxy of the Old Left and away from the millions
    of Americans whose honest concerns and ambivalence might fuel it."

    What this "bitter-end orthodoxy" might be is never spelled out. Its essence,
    however, is clear: opposition to capitalism. The "unorthodox" Gitlin long
    ago made his peace with the existing social order and has enjoyed a
    comfortable academic life as a result.

    With horror, Gitlin reports on speaking to a rally outside the UN and
    glimpsing placards that read "NO SANCTIONS, NO BOMBING." Fairly frothing,
    Gitlin denounces this slogan as "emblematic of a refusal to face a grotesque
    world." He rebukes the "left-wing sectarians who promote 'NO SANCTIONS, NO
    BOMBING' for "a near-total unwillingness to rebuke Saddam Hussein" and
    "rejection of any conceivable rationale for using force."

    This hysterical reaction to the most elementary demands places Gitlin,
    politically speaking, squarely within the ranks of the Congressional
    Democrats, Clinton, and the rest of the "liberal" establishment that has
    played a decisive role in facilitating the Bush administration's war drive.

    Describing left-wing opponents of the administration's war policy as
    "morally tainted," Gitlin asserts that "Liberal-left anti-warriors need to
    be out-front patriots if they expect to draw the attention and the support
    of Americans at large." Here the former Vietnam War protester projects his
    own cowardice and prostration before US imperialism onto the broad mass of
    working people. As with all his ilk, he can only conceive of the American
    working class as a reactionary force.

    The irony is that Gitlin's frenzy is a fearful reaction to signs of a
    radicalization within the working class, reflected in the first instance in
    the emergence of a broad-based anti-war movement.

    Gitlin asks rhetorically: "Doesn't Saddam Hussein bear some responsibility
    for the disaster? Must that not be noted?" This insistence on the
    culpability of the Hussein regime and the crimes committed by the various
    regimes targeted by the US, some of which are real, some exaggerated, is a
    common feature of the three writers' articles.

    It becomes the pretext for justifying imperialist intervention and painting
    it in democratic and humanitarian colors. Here, as in everything else,
    Gitlin and company are merely parroting the ruling elite itself.

    For Marxists, the depredations of these regimes are, at bottom, expressions
    of their class character: they are regimes of the national bourgeoisie.
    Their essentially reactionary character is bound up with their inability to
    establish any genuine independence from imperialism. Indeed, at one time or
    another, all of them, including that of Saddam Hussein, have enjoyed the
    sponsorship of the US or some other imperialist power.

    The liberation of the people from such regimes is the task of the working
    masses themselves, and is inseparably bound up with the anti-imperialist and
    anti-capitalist struggles of the international working class.

    Red-baiting, "liberal"-style

    Corn begins his article by referring scornfully to issues raised at the
    October 26 rally in Washington: "Free Mumia [Abu-Jamal]. Free the Cuban 5.
    Free Jamil Al-Amin (that's H. Rap Brown, the former Black Panther convicted
    in March of killing a sheriff's deputy in 2000). And free Leonard Peltier.
    Also, defeat Zionism. And, while we're at it, let's bring the capitalist
    system to a halt."

    Corn's sarcasm is directed against any conception that a connection exists
    between the Bush administration's warmongering abroad and its policies of
    repression and social reaction at home, as well as its support for the
    Sharon regime in Israel. This brings to the fore the second thread that runs
    throughout the arguments of Cooper, Gitlin and Corn.

    In addition to isolating and purging left-wing elements from the anti-war
    movement, they seek to separate the issue of war from the social and
    political issues (social inequality, the attack on democratic rights, the
    disenfranchisement of the working class within the two-party system) with
    which it is organically linked. These two themes are driven by the same
    political motivation: to prevent the emergence of a popular movement against
    war based on the working class and animated by a socialist perspective.

    In any event, like Cooper and Gitlin, Corn is not really opposed to war
    against Iraq. He merely differs with the Bush administration's tactics,
    writing: "In a telling sign of the organizers' priorities, the cause of
    Mumia Abu-Jamal ... drew greater attention than the idea that revived and
    unfettered weapons inspections should occur in Iraq before George W. Bush
    launches a war."

    An "anti-war" movement dedicated to "revived and unfettered weapons
    inspections" as the prelude to possible military aggression! Such is Doctor
    Corn's prescription.With such friends, genuine opponents of the Iraq war
    have no need of enemies.

    Corn is the most explicit red-baiter and anticommunist of the three, as his
    appearance on the O'Reilly program demonstrated. He denies, in one passage,
    that it is "red-baiting to note the WWP's [Workers World Party's]
    not-too-hidden hand" in the anti-war movement, and then writes a few
    paragraphs later: "Sure, the commies can rent buses and obtain parade
    permits, but if they have a say in the message, as they have had, the
    anti-war movement is going to have a tough time signing up non-lefties."

    Not accidentally, Corn is also the most explicit advocate of the AFL-CIO
    trade union bureaucracy. The Washington editor of the Nation writes: "The
    anti-war movement won't have a chance of applying pressure on the political
    system unless it becomes much larger and able to squeeze elected officials
    at home and in Washington. To reach that stage, the new peace movement will
    need the involvement of labor unions and churches."

    This would mean, in practice, an anti-war movement subordinate to the union
    bureaucracy and the Democratic Party. Corn demands to know, moreover,
    whether it is "appropriate for groups and churches that care about human
    rights and worker rights abroad and at home to make common cause with those
    who champion socialist tyrants?" referring to the Workers World Party's
    support for North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

    Calling Kim a "socialist" is a gross distortion of reality, but then so too
    is the reference to the AFL-CIO as a fighter for worker rights "abroad and
    home." The US trade union apparatus has for years been a conduit of CIA
    funds and vehicle for American imperialist operations throughout Latin
    America, Africa and Asia. "At home" it has collaborated directly over the
    past 20 years in the destruction of living standards, jobs, working
    conditions and pensions.

    Cooper, Gitlin and Corn are hardened and conscious enemies of any mass
    movement opposed to American capitalism. This makes it impossible for them
    to oppose the war on Iraq, which it rooted in the imperialist world system
    and its contradictions. The frenzied character of the attacks by these three
    and others of their ilk on radical elements in the anti-war movement is the
    product of the objective situation itself, their resulting fear of a
    radicalized population and their own sense of isolation.

    Events, meanwhile, are brilliantly confirming the Marxist critique of
    imperialism, which is reemerging politically and militarily in its purest
    and most violent form. The more this critique is vindicated, the more these
    essentially right-wing elements scramble to lend "their own" imperialist
    power a democratic and progressive coloration. The pathetic and transparent
    character of their sweatings is a measure of the impossibility of their

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