Socialist Action: ‘Always for the Defeat of Imperialism’?

The following is a lightly edited transcript of remarks made by an International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT) supporter at a Toronto Socialist Action (SA) meeting on “Mali, Libya and the Imperial Scramble for Africa” on 11 May. Adam Shils, a leading SA member from Chicago, was one of the speakers.

I am sure comrade Adam would agree that Marxists, unlike social democrats, unconditionally defend oppressed countries against imperialist military intervention. This applies to the French invasion of Mali as well as to NATO’s attack on Libya in 2011.

Socialist Action initially hailed the Libyan “revolution.” When the CIA-connected TNC [Transitional National Council] quislings began demanding imperialist intervention, SA became uncomfortable, but continued, at least until late April [2011], to call for victory of the TNC’s “revolution” against the Qaddafi regime.

SA never explicitly admitted that it had changed its line, but it was pretty obvious to anyone reading the following passage in an article by SA leader Jeff Mackler dated 2 Sept 2011 (just after Tripoli had fallen to TNC/NATO forces):

“Imperialism’s defeat in any confrontation with oppressed nations weakens its capacity for future interventions and opens the door wider for others to follow suit. While revolutionary socialists have every right and obligation to criticize and oppose dictatorships everywhere, these criticisms are subordinate to the defeat of imperialist intervention and war. Revolutionaries are not neutral in such confrontations. We are always for the defeat of the imperialist intervener and would-be colonizer.
—“Imperialist Victory Is No Gain for Libyan People” [emphasis added]

Comrade Mackler was quite right—although he stopped short of explicitly stating that socialists should have militarily supported Qaddafi’s forces against the imperialists and their TNC proxies. But that is clearly implied. Another implication is that it was a mistake to have been pretending that a revolution was unfolding. Mackler did, however, note that with the TNC’s ascension to power, “we are compelled to recognize the tragic truth that a severe defeat has been inflicted on the Libyan people.”

Unfortunately this left turn seems to have been short lived and, as far as I know, in neither Syria nor Mali has SA taken a clearly defeatist position toward imperialist intervention, nor has it come out for military support to the indigenous forces in the event of future interventions—whether Syria’s Assad regime or the Islamist reactionaries in Mali.

I’d like to conclude by reminding SA comrades of two questions posed by Ken Heibert, a long-time supporter of the United Secretariat in Vancouver, which have not been answered:

1. If March 2011 marked the beginning of “a six-month imperialist-led onslaught that wrought death and destruction on the Libyan people” why was SA “still calling for Victory to the Uprising!” as late as April 28, 2011?
2. Heibert also asked if SA was prepared to admit those groups that wanted to see a military victory by Qaddafi’s forces against NATO (which would include the IBT) had been “more far-sighted than the leadership of SA”?

These are good questions that I think need to be answered.

No answers were forthcoming to Heibert’s questions. Some SA representatives suggested that going over questions from the past was not a fruitful activity, while others responded that their positions on issues change according to circumstances.