Trotskyist Bulletin No. 8





Document 1.4
Appendix No. 1

The Fire Last Time…
ICL: ‘Save Our Boys’ Socialists

The following statement was published by the IBT as an appendix to “Where is the ICL Going?” and reprinted in 1917 No. 24, 2002.

One of the reasons that the 1983 call to save the Marines presents such a problem for the SL is that it flatly contradicted both the historical tradition it claims to stand on, and the image it likes to cultivate as a fearlessly revolutionary organization. In 1982, during the Falklands/Malvinas conflict, WV ran an article sneeringly entitled “’Save Our Boys’ Socialists” which excoriated Sean Matgamna’s Socialist Organiser for running a sympathetic interview with Reg Race, a Labour Party “left”:

“Never has Lenin’s characterization of social democrats as ‘social imperialists’ been more fitting. Race calls for withdrawing the fleet and sparing the precious blood of Britain’s elite forces because he has another program to bring Argentina to its knees....”
WV No. 306, 28 May 1982, emphasis added

Even after WV revealed that “sparing the precious blood” of the U.S. Marines had somehow suddenly become an important Leninist tactic the same criterion was not applied in Britain. The December 1983/January 1984 issue of Spartacist Britain published an auto-critique by A. Gilchrist, a senior cadre of the SL’s British group, in which he confessed:

“The position of ‘Withdraw the Fleet’ was a position of defending the imperialist armed forces from destruction by another anti-Soviet military. The Falklands war tested every tendency on the British left in the clearest way, because war is the period of greatest nationalist pressures. This Bennite [left Labourite] position was a clear capitulation to the ‘socialist’ chauvinism of the Labour Party....”
—emphasis in original

In the 9 November issue of WV, the SL attempts to get out from under its “Marines Alive” position by claiming that, “to this day it is still not clear who blew up the Marine barracks.” The truth is that it is pretty clear to everyone except the SL (and, presumably, the IG). For example, in the Spring 1993 issue of Foreign Policy, the editor, Charles W. Maynes, wrote the following:

“The United States, in the hubris of the Reagan administration, forgot the fundamental nature of peacekeeping. It deployed U.S. Marines in Lebanon without understanding that it was essential for their safety that the United States not take sides in the Lebanese civil war. The Reagan administration decided to back the Christians and soon found its troops under attack by the Muslims and finally driven from Lebanon after the disastrous bombing of the marine barracks in Beirut.”

Every serious observer of the Middle East agrees that the suicide truck-bombing of the Marine barracks, carried out by a group calling itself “Islamic Jihad,” was a response to U.S. military intervention on the side of the Christian Phalange. The New York Times blames Hezbollah, the Lebanese “Party of God,” for the attack:

“In recent years the Islamic group has grafted a new image as an above-ground political force onto its 1980’s past. Back then, Hezbollah, or groups to which it was closely linked, was notorious for brutal terrorist operations, including destroying the American Embassy in Beirut in 1983 and killing 241 Americans at a Marine compound later the same year.”
New York Times, 14 February 2001

If another truck bomb were to go off this week outside the Marine encampment near Kandahar, would the SL try to hide behind the pretence that the precise identity of the perpetrators was unknown? We rather doubt it.