In our previous issue we published a polemic against the Spartacist League/International Communist League’s (SL/ICL) endorsement of the U.S. military intervention in Haiti. Subsequently, Workers Vanguard ([WV] 7 May 2010) printed a retraction entitled, “A Capitulation to U.S. Imperialism,” which compared their original position to “August 4, 1914, when the German Social Democrats voted war credits to the German imperialist rulers at the outset of the First World War.” The statement also repudiated the arguments put forward in polemics against the IBT and the Internationalist Group. What was missing, as we pointed out in our statement, “Sclerotic Spartacists Unravel,” was any serious explanation of how such a blatantly pro-imperialist position could have been adopted in the first place, and why it was not met with immediate, furious internal opposition.
We were not entirely surprised at the acquiescence of the ICL membership, as this flinch was not a unique occurrence. A similar impulse was evident in the initial failure of the SL Political Bureau to distinguish between the Pentagon and the World Trade Center as targets of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. Only after we challenged them did the SL leadership acknowledge that the Pentagon, unlike the World Trade Center, was indeed a “genuine military target, representing the brutal attacks of U.S. imperialism on the world’s working class and oppressed.” The SL had also refused to adopt a defeatist position toward U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2001, and following the imperialists’ early success against the Taliban, declared that “the call for a U.S. military defeat is, at this time, illusory and the purest hot air and ‘revolutionary’ phrasemongering” (WV, 9 November 2001). A decade later, as defeatist sentiments are expressed even within the top echelons of the American military, it is clear that this position was simply historical pessimism masquerading as realism.
However, the roots of the SL’s Haiti deviation go back considerably further. In 1983, when an Islamic Jihad truck bomb leveled the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, WV scandalously called for “Marines Out of Lebanon, Now, Alive!,” i.e., for saving the survivors. This social-patriotic flinch contradicted the SL’s entire prior record as well as the image it sought to project of itself as a fearlessly revolutionary organization, and set off a series of sharp polemics between our two tendencies (see Trotskyist Bulletin No.2, “Marxism vs. Social Patriotism”).