Letter to Rahul Mahajan


posted to www.marxmail.org on December 5, 2003


Dear Rahul,


I am sorry that you thought I was slandering you and United for Peace and Justice. When I said that the wing of the antiwar movement you were associated with would be funneling people into support for Dean, I didn't mean that this in a direct and literal sense. I am positive that when people come into the UPJ offices in NYC over the next few months that they will not be sent over to the Dean campaign offices, etc.


I was instead referring to indirect support for the Democratic Party of the kind that is manifested in the UPJ call for a demonstration in New York City in August of 2004 against Bush:




On February 15, 2003, millions of people all over the world took to the streets in protest with the message, "The World Says No to War." On August 29, 2004, we will come together in New York City and in cities throughout the world to declare, The World Says No to Bush!


We are also organizing a protest for Thursday, Sept. 2, 2004, the day of Bush's official selection as the presidential candidate of the Republican Party.


full: http://www.unitedforpeace.org/article.php?id=1810


In my opinion, this action will function objectively as a pro-Democratic Party rally. When you demonstrate at the Republican Party convention around slogans like "The world says no to Bush", it will be interpreted widely as a pro-Democratic Party action. There were demonstrations like this all through the sixties and seventies, mostly organized by the Communist Party and/or Maoists plus their various front groups during Presidential election years and always against the Republicans. Despite rhetoric about stopping the warmakers or the fascists, they always amounted to backhanded support for the Democratic Party.


People in the Communist Party or trained in their electoral strategy are past masters at this. Instead of calling for a vote for FDR, for example, they would raise slogans like stopping Landon or Wilkie. In 1964, the entire left, except for the Trotskyists, were united around the slogan of "stopping Goldwater". Today it is "Anybody but Bush". The CP is heavily committed to a Democratic Party candidate, as is the Committees of Correspondence. Leslie Cagan, a key figure in both the UPJ and CofC, has signed a petition urging an "anybody but Bush" position. Both organizations are represented on the UPJ steering committee.


This pressure to line up behind the "lesser evil" does not solely affect people trained in the CPUSA. It has also had an effect on Green Party activists, including perhaps Medea Benjamin, who is a leader of both UPJ and Code Pink. Even though the California recall campaign was focused on stopping Schwarzenegger as opposed to Bush, there were clear implications that the two tasks were related to each other. This outlook prompted Peter Camejo to say the following:


"There is a web site called MoveOn.org that presents itself as progressive. I believe it is nothing more than a Democratic Party organizing center, allowing Democrats to keep progressive minded people co-opted to the Democrats. They launched a campaign, as did Code Pink, against Arnold Schwarzenegger’s attacks on women. But this campaign was directly linked to a 'Vote Democratic' campaign and therefore would not mention anything negative about Democrats, specifically allegations that Gray Davis intimidated and attacked women he worked with. The truth is that the real purpose of both of these campaigns was to help the Democrats, no matter how sincere many of the people were in their disgust with Schwarzenegger."




Illusions in Howard Dean are so widespread that they were even on display at today's conference on imperialism. NLR contributor and erstwhile Trotskyist Peter Gowans, who spent over 20 minutes explaining how war and the capitalist economy were deeply intertwined, said in his conclusion that the only alternative to imperialist aggression was electing either Dean or Kucinich. Unbelievable!


This leads me to raise another question that relates to class alliances, imperialism, etc. You spent over 20 minutes criticizing the antiwar movement for having an underdeveloped understanding of imperialism. You were very disappointed that it did not continue to mobilize during the summer and you were also at a loss to understand why it has not taken up the cause of Hugo Chavez.


In my opinion, it is much more important that the antiwar movement have a clear position on the question of the "international community" taking over for the USA in Iraq. To give David Harvey credit at least for being candid, he admitted that he was worried about raising a slogan like "Bring the troops home now". What if we just left Iraq, he pondered aloud--wouldn't that risk throwing Iraq into civil war? I am reminded of what Tariq Ali said at Barnard just 2 nights ago when this question came up: there is no way that Iraq can be worse off than it is right now. I also appreciated David Harvey's open admission that he did not want to be associated with the position "taken by Tariq Ali".


This brings me to the question of your own attitude toward this matter. The Nov. 30 Green Left Weekly reported the following:


"Also high on the agenda [at the European Social Forum] were discussions on the anti-war movement. Rahul Mahjane [sic] from United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition in the United States spoke at a plenary on November 13 on 'Iraq: neo-liberal globalisation, occupation and the new colonialism'. He argued that it would be difficult to achieve self-determination for the Iraqi people without a carefully controlled UN peacekeeping force using non-US troops."


Rahul, this is a contradiction in terms. A UN peacekeeping force and self-determination are mutually exclusive. Anti-imperialists should oppose all outside attempts to impose "law and order" in Iraq, particularly the UN whose sanctions left hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children dead.


There might come a time when UN troops are in Iraq as part of some negotiated settlement between the resistance and US imperialism, just as was the case in Namibia for a brief time, but it miseducates the left to put that forward as some kind of solution for Iraq's problems. Now it is entirely possible that the DSP did not report your remarks accurately, but if so it seems to me that you are in a poor position to lecture the left on anti-imperialist principles.