Letter to Workers Vanguard

By Any Means Necessary...

7 August 2004

Workers Vanguard
New York, NY

To the editor:

In reviewing Michael Moore’s political documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, you observed:

"Fahrenheit 9/11 features a number of scenes focusing on the impact of war on black people in America: Lila Lipscomb’s story, the Marine recruiters prowling a mall parking lot looking for young black recruits, and the group of young black men who all raise hands when asked who has a friend or relative fighting in Iraq. These sequences powerfully evoke the economic draft, where it is those who are most ground down by the structural poverty and racial oppression of this profit-driven society who end up on the front lines of their oppressor’s wars. Moore evokes sympathy for the plight of these working and oppressed youth sent off to do imperialism’s dirty work. Many, including Moore, take this to argue that those who oppose the war should ‘support the troops.’ But Iraq is a clear case where it is necessary to take a side, and not the side of the U.S. or those doing its fighting—every blow struck against the American occupation forces is a blow struck against the enemy of workers and the oppressed all over the world, including in the U.S."
Workers Vanguard, [WV] 9 July

Quite right. And it makes no difference for Marxists that these blows are being delivered by a reactionary mélange of Islamic fanatics and Ba’ath Party "remnants." The fact that the precise identity of those attacking the "coalition" occupiers is often unknown is also entirely irrelevant. It seems that the Spartacist League currently shares this view. Yet a couple of decades ago, when a shadowy group calling itself "Islamic Jihad" blew up the U.S. Marines’ barracks in Beirut in October 1983, the SL denied that this was a defensible "blow struck against the enemy of workers and the oppressed" and instead called for saving the survivors, raising the slogan: "Marines Out of Lebanon, Now, Alive!" (WV, 4 November 1983). At the time, Workers Vanguard (6 January 1984) responded to our criticism of this shameful social-patriotic flinch by denouncing us as "bloodthirsty," proclaiming:

"We can only despise those who call for the death of American soldiers for the crimes of their rulers. For Marxists there is all the difference between the men in the field and those who sent them there to die. We are not per se interested in the annihilation of everyone who is executing Washington’s global bloodthirsty policies. Lebanon has aroused strong opposition in the U.S. population; sending in the Marines was a stupid act which could backfire on the U.S. ruling class."
— "Marxism and Bloodthirstiness," reprinted in Trotskyist Bulletin No. 2

We replied in a 7 February 1984 letter:

"Communists no more call for the death of every American marine in Lebanon than for every British soldier in Ireland. But when one speaks of ‘defeat’ of one side of a military conflict (i.e., Grenada, Vietnam), or where one supports the military blows aimed against imperialist troops intervening in colonial and semi-colonial countries (i.e., Northern Ireland, Lebanon), it is reasonable to assume that this will entail losses on the part of the imperialist armies. We call for U.S. Marines out of Lebanon, now, by any means necessary. We’re not choosy if they go feet first or clamber back aboard their landing craft on their own—as long as they go. To refer to this as ‘bloodlust’ is simply social pacifism."
— "Marxism and Social-Patriotism," reprinted in Trotskyist Bulletin No. 2

While in the past the Spartacist League has generally made it a point of honor to defend every mistake and every political flinch by the group’s leading layer, the account of the ICL’s fourth conference in the most recent issue of Spartacist contains a list of some erroneous political positions the SL is now vacating. Many of these were subject to criticism by other leftists in the past (particularly ourselves and the Internationalist Group). We challenge the comrades of the ICL to add the flinch in Lebanon to the list of programmatic mistakes to be rectified, instead of treating it like a skeleton in the closet. Serious socialists in the ICL should find the courage to abjure centrist double-bookkeeping, repudiate the SL leadership’s scandalous call for saving the military cadres of U.S. imperialism, and come out clearly and unambiguously in defense of the right of oppressed neo-colonial peoples to resist imperialist occupations by any means necessary.

Bolshevik Greetings,
Josh Decker,
for the International Bolshevik Tendency

Posted: 8 August 2004