April 12, 2003
What Next?
The war on Iraq is winding down. The antiwar
movement will wind down with it--until the next
imperialist war--on Syria, Iran, Colombia, etc.

What do we do now?
Do we get down on our knees and beg
the Democratic Party to oppose imperialism?
Or do we build a mass movement that is
independent of bourgeois politics and influence?

Even before the Saddam regime collapsed this week the antiwar movement witnessed a huge decline in the size of mass protests. The reason was simple. Once the bombs started to fall the liberal political establishment went all out to "flip the switch" and turn the antiwar movement into election fodder for the Democratic Party.

This is the same Democratic Party (motto: "We are proudly owned by the same corporations which own the Republican Party") that has just given rubber-stamp approval and a blank check to Bush's imperialist adventure in Iraq.

For the liberals, the attempt to hijack the antiwar movement is simply politics as usual. It is the nature of the society we live in that a section of progressive-minded activists will work their hearts out in order to undermine any protest movement that shows a spark of life and independence. A local example of this is a March 27 column by well known Seattle activist Geov Parrish:

I guarantee that a thousand people registering new anti-war voters would get far more attention and respect, with more lasting impact, than last week's protests.
-- Geov Parrish, March 27

Translation: "Hey, hey, ho, ho, the antiwar movement has got to go!"

The current efforts by the reformists to lead the antiwar movement in the direction of being election fodder for liberal-labor politicians serve two aims:

(1) it serves the career ambitions of a strata of politicians and institutions that are within (or in orbit around) the left wing of the Democratic Party, and

(2) it serves the interests of the bourgeoisie in liquidating the antiwar movement.

These two aims, of course, are not independent of one another but are bound up together with the entire history of the development of the reformist (ie: liberal and social-democratic) political trends as instruments by which the bourgeoisie undermines opposition to its rule. In particular, these trends exist (and have influence, and are powerful in society) by virtue of their alliance (a highly subservient alliance) with the bourgeoisie. There is a "quid pro quo" here: "Do your job in undermining opposition to our rule and you will receive a share of the spoils as compensation". These spoils are frequently dispersed in the form of jobs at institutions (labor, church, charity, journalism, etc) with an agenda that is progressive--but subservient.

Of course, the progressive-minded activists who advocate the liquidation of the antiwar movement do not see matters in such stark terms. On the contrary they believe that they are simply being "realistic". An excellent example of such "realism" is the Geov's March 27 column.

Parrish compares the antiwar movement to a dog that cannot learn and says he will "guarantee" that activists who register voters--and work to elect a Democratic president in 2004 will receive "far more attention and respect with more lasting impact" than the recent week of protests in downtown Seattle (in which Seattle police adopted the recent New York tactic of surrounding hundreds of peaceful protesters and refusing to let them either march or leave)

Translation: We should get down on our knees and beg for peace from the gods of war.

This liquidation of the antiwar movement is, above all, aimed at reducing the extent to which the antiwar movement is independent of bourgeois interests. The militancy of the antiwar movement is a reflection of this independent character.

There is no escaping or resolving this fundamental conflict of interest within the antiwar movement: The features of the antiwar movement which the reformists most want to liquidate are precisely those features of it which threaten bourgeois interests.

This is why the reformists don't want our protests to be angry. Their opposition to anger is a reflection of the bourgeois fear that anger is contagious and will lead to the awakening of a class that has, it must be said, a good deal to be angry about.

Hence when we read phrases about angry protests that "alienate the American public" we should always translate this highly political phrase into its real meaning:

Translation: piss-off the bribed strata of liberal-labor politicians, trade union bureaucrats, church officials, poverty pimps, media personalities and progressive 501(c)(3) organizations who are given the task (by the bourgeoisie) of keeping all protest movements "under control" (ie: small, passive, demoralized and disoriented)

The social-democrats want us to confine our tactics and activity to those actions which are "respectible". And what is "respectible" always turns out to be--whatever is ineffective.

So what do we do?

We must give thought to longer term matters. Sooner or later a section of serious activists will recognize that there are only two fundamental paths forward:

(1) becoming election fodder for the Democratic Party (or pseudo-independent parties, like Nader, the Greens, or the "Labor Party") -- or --

(2) creating a revolutionary mass movement that is directed at eliminating the system of bourgeois rule

The 2nd path is difficult for many reasons. It is difficult even to talk about or to think about. The low level of political experience of many activists and the current existing _crisis of theory_ makes it difficult for the most serious and militant activists to even imagine what a revolutionary mass movement would look like--much less how society will function when it is no longer ruled by the bourgeoisie.

But we have many factors in our favor--not least of which is the revolution in communications--still in its infancy and full of immense potential to help activists link up with one another and create revolutionary channels to and for and by the masses.

We must participate in the coming period of "information war" (defined not as stupid hacking tricks--but as an organized struggle for ideas on a mass scale). The masses in this country are being bombarded by the corporate media with waves of stupid jingo nonsense and will have an interest in an explanation of events that makes sense.

We must build our own press, both on the streets (in the forms of leaflets which give ordinary people an understanding in depth of what is going on in the world--and here at home) and on the internet (in the form of news sites with articles, comments and questions that are rated and filtered by readers).

We must create an organization that is politically transparent (ie: political differences within the organization must be public) democratic and accountable for its actions. If such an organization makes efforts to be deserving of the respect of serious militant activists--it could help to bring into existence a mass movement that is independent of bourgeois influence. Such a movement, here in the US, could and would cause more nightmares for the bourgeoisie than the armies of Saddam Hussein.

Ben Seattle ----//-// 12.April.2003
http://struggle.net/Ben (my elists / theory / infrastructure)

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