ICL Backpeddles on Support for U.S. Troops in Haiti

On Saturday 20 March, the Trotskyist League (TL—Canadian affiliate of James Robertson’s Spartacist League/U.S.) held a forum on Haiti in Toronto where they announced that they no longer support the presence of U.S. occupation forces in Haiti. In a rambling and listless talk, comrade Arthur Llewellyn interspersed general observations on various aspects of Haitian history and social relations with comments on Cuba, Quebec, Afghanistan and East Europe. TL supporters at the event seemed a bit on edge, and their mood did not improve as most of the handful of new people in attendance walked out during the presentation.

Llewellyn discussed the positions of different left groups on Haiti, in particular singling out the Internationalist Group (which has yet to appear publicly in Toronto) and the IBT. He only obliquely addressed the central issue in dispute, i.e., the denunciation in the 29 January issue of Workers Vanguard [WV] No. 951 of those who demanded the immediate removal of U.S. occupation troops as “cynically toying with rhetoric, blithely unconcerned with the fact that, in the real world, if the policies they advocate were implemented, they would result in mass death through starvation.” Llewellyn dodged the question of whether or not revolutionaries should have called for the removal of imperialist forces by posing the issue as simply one of whether or not to support the delivery of aid. Lumping the IG together with IBT supporters “in the room,” he denounced us for accusing the ICL of “capitulat[ing] to imperialism” because they were “not opposing aid to [Haiti’s] desperate masses.”

In the discussion round that followed an IBT supporter responded to the TL’s politically cowardly dive:

“In case anyone missed the significance of what Arthur was saying, the Trotskyist League supported the presence of imperialist troops in Haiti. They recognized all of the terrible things that the imperialists have done in the country yet condemned those of us who called for the immediate and unconditional departure of U.S./UN/Canadian armed thugs.

“In defending the indefensible, Workers Vanguard [29 January] alibied the occupation by falsely asserting that ‘[t]he U.S. military is the only force on the ground with the capacity...to organize the transport of what food, water, medical and other supplies are getting to Haiti’s population.’ Yet relief agencies—even those, like the Red Cross, that have historic ties to imperialist governments—were publicly complaining about the obstructionist role of the troops.

“Tonight we are told that the ICL [International Communist League—headed by the Spartacist League/U.S.] is now also calling for troops out because there is a changed ‘conjuncture’! The only thing that has changed is that the initial military ‘surge’ stabilized the situation for the imperialists. Now that Obama judges things ‘secure’ enough to pull some troops out (to be sent to Iraq, Afghanistan or wherever) the ICL chimes in to ‘demand’ they leave, and proclaim its (completely meaningless) ‘opposition’ to imperialist occupation.

“Marxists understood from the beginning that the imperialists’ goal was not to relieve the suffering of the Haitian masses. Lt. Col. Gary Keim told USA Today that the U.S. Marines ‘were required to reread’ the history of the occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934. Today, the humanitarian crisis is far from over, but the military objective of ‘security’ has been achieved. When the troops were going in (jamming up the airport, diverting relief flights, abusing so-called ‘looters,’ etc.)—i.e., when it mattered the most—the ICL provided political cover for the imperialists.

“The Trotskyist League is teaching people that there is nothing wrong in principle with supporting imperialist troops in neocolonies. Programmatic revisionism can spring from different sources—an unhealthy internal regime, bowing to pressure from bourgeois ‘public opinion,’ etc.—but it always ends up moving further and further away from revolutionary Marxism as your social-imperialist position on Haiti vividly illustrates.”

Instead of responding to the question of whether opposition to imperialist occupation forces in neocolonies is a principled question, or merely a tactical one, the TL called on a friendly ingénue who said that we must be mistaken as she had read articles from Workers Vanguard as far back as 2004 which clearly called for the removal of imperialist troops. This was greeted with applause by the ICLers, who throughout the rest of the meeting refused to frankly acknowledge their own position.

We were surprised by this uncharacteristic behavior. In the past—however appalling the position—the Spartacists have tended to brazen it out, aggressively defending the line advanced in their public press. It is difficult to interpret their refusal to engage on this question as anything but an admission that they are relieved that they can now begin sweeping their “conjunctural” support for imperialist occupation forces in Haiti under the carpet.

Posted: 22 March 2010