The US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq has been a complete military, economic, and political failure. It is no surprise therefore that millions of Americans' patience with the endless spilling blood and gold (with no real end in sight) is reaching its limits. Bush's insistence on continuing even more aggressively with the war is spurring a resurging of the anti-war movement nationally.
From the beginning we have patiently explained that this adventure could end only in a humiliating defeat for imperialism, and that the effects at home would eventually cause a reaction against these policies. Massive increases in military expenditure and corporate handouts, combined with dramatic cuts in social spending, attacks on wages and conditions, and even on our most basic democratic rights – all while corporate profits soar and inflation rises can only be tolerated for so long. This perspective has taken some time to become generalized, but it is clear that the majority has now adopted this outlook, with two-thirds of the country opposed to the war.
Although the movement has yet to find a focused political expression, anger against the war is once again spilling onto the streets. While the Democrats contemplate non-binding resolutions that "protest" Bush "the decider's" policies from the Senate floor, tens of thousands of American workers and youth are once again organizing in their communities, universities and high schools to oppose the war. There is an entire generation that has grown up in the post-9/11 world, a generation whose entire political consciousness is shaped by war, terrorism, revolution, and counter-revolution, instinctively searching for a way out of the impasse of the system. Though still far from the massive demos that preceded the war, it is clear that a certain sector of the movement is re-energized, as could be seen on January 27, as an estimated 200,000 or more descended on Washington DC, with tens of thousands more rallying across the country.
The Workers International League participated in several of these demos. Here are some comments and images from the participants (see also the leaflet we issued for this intervention here):
The largest and most notable demonstration was the national anti-war march which took place in Washington, DC. While there seems to be a wide variance in the reported numbers of people attending the march, one thing is clear: it was massive, with the higher estimates upwards of 500,000. The mood at this event was very optimistic, which is a change from the past few years, where Bush and his cronies seemed to many to be unstoppable, and pessimism infected the anti-war movement. This led many to hold their noses and support the Democrats, in what they saw as an utterly hopeless situation. This new mood, which was clearly palpable, was strongest among the youth: that the war is directly linked to the social and economic system of capitalism, and that both must end. This is an important first grasping at the reality of the situation. Many of the people we spoke to had drawn the conclusion that neither of the two political parties in this country would simply stop the war, and that both are in the pockets of big businesses. This advanced view among so many is a relatively new development, at least in our years of attending these national demos.
The general mood of the participants – that something drastic has to change – conflicted with most of what was said from the stage, as most of the speakers kept their demands within the narrow confines of the capitalist system, calling for "responsibility in government" and "a president who can be respected" and other such bland phrases. Many of the speakers were members of the Democratic Party who are now attempting to sell the party as anti-war and anti-Bush.
The many rank and file trade unionist we spoke to had also come to the conclusion that something has to change, which expresses the tremendous potential if the unions were to mobilize against the war, calling also on unorganized workers to support the effort. A concerted effort by the labor movement would have the power to practically shut down the war overnight.
A high number of Socialist Appeals were sold along with books, booklets, stickers, etc., and we handed out hundreds of copies of our new anti-war flier, which explains the inverse interests workers of and capitalists when it comes to the war.
In San Francisco somewhere between 7 to 10 thousand participated in the march which started downtown and then marched to the docks to link up with the Longshore Union picketers. The SF branch of the WIL had a speaker during the rally at the docks, which raised the issue of this war being a part of the class war of capitalist society.
Here is the text of the speech:
"Hello everybody my name is Jessica Sanchez and I am with the Workers International League.
"This is a call to all the Workers and students and everyone here today who is against this imperialist war being waged in our name.
"We have no interest in killing and exploiting workers and youth in other countries. We have the same hopes and aspirations as they do: to have decent jobs, universal access to healthcare, housing, education and safety for our families and loved ones.
Due to our conditions of life, we have far more in common with them than we do with the billionaires of our "own" country who wanted this war in the first place.
"Our government is fighting the war in the Middle East for oil and profits for American corporations. And in the same way, the US government and US corporations turn against us and our needs so that they can grab more profits for themselves. They have declared a WAR against our wages, working and living conditions, and even our dignity.
"They have declared a war against all immigrants in this country, calling them terrorists, and we have seen the ugly behavior of this government as it rounds up and deports thousands of workers, tearing parents from their children, and where the media uses the usual divide and conquer tactic saying that this will help Blacks in this country!
"That is why here we are gathered today to say NO MORE WAR!
"This is the class war folks- a constant war over who controls the surplus wealth produced by the labor of the working class.
"There are many who, after the November elections, have sincere hopes that the Democratic Party will be able to stop the war. Let's be realistic. Like the Republicans, the Democrats are also controlled by the corporations; the media is controlled by corporations. The Democrats in the Senate supported the invasion of Iraq in the first place and have consistently voted to fund it.
"The Democrats have proven time and again that on all fundamental issues, their interests are completely opposed to ours.
"So why should we give them another chance! It is time we take our power back as active citizens in this country!
"The hundreds of thousands of deaths, the colossal waste, the public deterioration of our public schools, factories are being closed, millions go without health care, and union contracts are torn up. And this is just the beginning….
"If we don't organize around our class interests and fight back, we will not be ready for what this stupid imperialist government will drive us to.
"We need to begin building our forces from below with the labor movement and the workers at the forefront of such party, and at the forefront of the struggle against the war - a war against workers at home and abroad."
This speech was well received, and several copies of Socialist Appeal were sold.
The comrades of the WIL in MO participated in a "Town Hall" meeting on the topic of the war on Iraq. The meeting consisted of three scheduled speakers followed by an open mic, which anyone could use from the floor of the meeting. The comrades of the WIL made use of this platform, and several comrades had the opportunity to speak, putting forward a class perspective which was very well received.
One comrade spoke on the need to link up the movement against the war with the struggle in Venezuela, as the movement of the masses there points the way forward, out of the impasse of capitalism. He pointed out that the U.S. has a strong tradition of overturning the social system when historical necessity called, as explained in the last line of his speech: "We've done it twice before – in the Revolution against the British Empire and in the Civil War." This received enthusiastic applause.
After the event many people picked up materials from the WIL such as Socialist Appeal, and said they were enthused about the content of the speeches that the comrades gave. Several people also left their contact information to get involved with the work of the WIL in the area.
As the situation in Iraq continues to worsen in the coming months, and as the effects of over $2 billion a week in war spending continue to sink in, the anti-war mood will only deepen. On the basis of their own experience, tens of thousands will be open to the ideas of Marxist internationalism and socialism, the only ideas that can lead American workers and the whole of humanity out of the dead end of capitalism. Unfortunately, the current leadership of the anti-war movement remains divided and politically unfocused, while the labor movement has not placed itself at the head of the movement where it belongs, leaving the movement itself divided and unfocused.
What is needed is a bold lead, clearly linking the war in Iraq with the war on working people here at home. We need to organize in our workplaces, communities, and schools around a program and policy of class independence that can truly address the needs of working people and the youth. Along with the demand of "Troops Out Now", we must demand quality jobs, health care, education, and housing for all. The U.S. is the richest country in the world, and we are currently going through an economic expansion. And yet we see continual cuts in our standard of living, while the rich get ever-richer.
To fight for this program, we cannot trust the representatives of either political party to defend our interests. Both in Iraq and here at home, they serve only big business and the profit system of capitalism. Ultimately, we need our own political representation in the form of a mass party of labor, of, by, and for the working class.
The WIL will also be participating across the country in the upcoming anti-war days of action in mid-March, marking the 4-year anniversary of the war. Please contact us to join us in our work in the anti-war movement and in the struggle for a better world in the U.S. and internationally!