On Whose Shoulders Do We Build the Anti-War Movement

February 10, 2004

During the last few weeks, Michael Thorburn, editor of "The Worker" participated in a number of discussions with anti-war activists on the need for anti-imperialist politics. The following article summarizes some of the main points from these discussions.


The entire orientation and program of the Workers Party in the struggle for peace is based on the great truth that: Only the People Can Stop the Wars.

This issue - the issue of identifying the real motive forces in the struggle against war - is the first and decisive issue facing all who ardently desire a world of peace.

Today, all the propaganda about "Anybody but Bush," about the so-called "split in the ruling class" and the need to elect "more moderate" capitalist politicians, about the need for more big power "diplomacy" and negotiations over the fate of the Iraqi people - all this propaganda aims at diverting the people from the fundamental truth that only the people can stop the wars.

This propaganda is a variant of the biggest lie of all - that the history of the world is the deeds of the Kings and "Great Men." Its corollary is that the masses of people have no independent role to play in shaping their lives and their world, that the working and oppressed classes are only the object of history, that the most we can do is wait with folded arms while the movers and shakers - the exploiters and warmakers - decide where, when and how many of us will be sent to the slaughter in their wars for profit and empire.

What History Teaches

The ruling class in our country was born dripping with the blood of war. The primitive accumulation of capital came about through the kidnapping and enslavement of the African peoples, through genocide against the Native peoples, by ripping the Southwest from Mexico through war.

With the dawn of the 20th century, U.S. capitalism entered the stage of monopoly capitalism, forcing the U.S. ruling class to export its capital to the four ends of the earth, continually seeking new markets, new sources of raw materials, new economic territory to exploit. Thus U.S. imperialism joined the other "great powers" in wars of colonial conquest, imposing its dictate in Latin America with gunboat diplomacy, waging war against the Filipino people, etc. In the 20th century, U.S. and world imperialism imposed the horror of two world wars on the peoples, slaughtering tens of millions.

With the end of WW II, U.S. imperialism asserted itself as the number one imperialist power and since then waged hundreds of counter-insurgency wars against the liberation struggles of the peoples - in Korea and Vietnam, in El Salvador and Nicaragua, in Palestine and Iraq, etc., etc. Today, the so-called "war on terrorism" is U.S. imperialism's battlecry to create a unipolar world through force of arms.

But this has never been the vision or aspiration of the working and oppressed classes of our country. From the very beginning the laboring people sought to build this country as a refuge for all the exploited and oppressed and throughout our history, we - the people - have fought against the aggressive wars of our "own" government and supported the just liberation struggles of the peoples everywhere.

In this century alone, millions of Americans came out to oppose WW I, to take up the struggle against the nazi-fascist aggressors and force the U.S. government to join that fight. We came out in tens of millions against the war in Vietnam, against the counter-insurgency wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua, just as today tens of millions of Americans are rallying against the war in Iraq and the entire "war against terrorism."

Thus the first great motive force in the struggle against war and imperialism is the working class and people's movements in the U.S. and every country.

Side-by-side with this struggle, over the last 100 years, the nations and peoples oppressed by imperialism have brought their anti-colonial, liberation movements to centerstage. This is the second great motive force in the struggle for peace and against imperialism.

The oppressed peoples - in China and India, in the Congo and throughout Africa, in Latin America - who were called "backward" and "uncivilized," whose sovereignty and freedom were trampled on, who were subjected to the most brutal oppression and exploitation by the colonial powers rose, in their hundreds of millions, to fight for their liberation.

The unity of these 2 movements - the working class and popular movement in every country and the liberation struggles of the oppressed and dependent countries - is the key to winning the peace and defeating imperialism.

This unity is based on common struggle against the common enemy.

When people in Iraq or Palestine stand and fight against U.S. occupation and U.S. colonialism, they strike hammer blows against imperialism and undermine its war plans. When the colonized people win liberation and defend it, they deny imperialism another base from which to launch wars and oppress others. When Cuba and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea defend their sovereignty, they expose the pressure, blackmail and demagogy of imperialism. Every people who rise in the struggle for liberation inspire others to stand against the forces of oppression, racism, capitalism and domination, to fight for freedom and emancipation.

These movements arise from the very social being of the working and oppressed peoples. Racism, chauvinism, colonialism and war come from the capitalist class because this is a class which lives by the exploitation and domination of the peoples. But the peoples, who live and work and aspire to a better life and better world, ardently desire a world of peace and friendship, a world which recognizes the sovereignty and rights of all. This is our nature, our aspirations, our struggle.

Anti-Imperialist Politics

Within the last 2 years, tens of millions of Americans have spoken out against the government's war program. We have rallied and demonstrated. And the government has only escalated its wars. Anyone who has breathed in the new spirit arising amongst our people, who is part of the new awakening, feels and knows that the people are again coming onto the scene. The burning question - in fact, the only real question facing us - is giving an independent political expression to these aspirations and this program for peace. This is the politics of anti-imperialism.

Anti-imperialist politics is the politics of opposition to and struggle against the parties and government of war.

Anti-imperialist politics is the politics of empowering and organizing the masses of people as the only reliable force for peace.

Anti-imperialist politics aims, through the continuous mobilization and activation of the people, at fighting the war program every step of the way and staying the hand of the warmakers. Its most immediate demands include the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The goal of anti-imperialist politics is to bring to power an anti-war, anti-imperialist government - a government of the people. Such a government will implement a genuinely democratic foreign policy which:

- ends U.S. intervention and aggression in all its forms;

- withdraws all U.S. troops stationed abroad;

- ends U.S. participation in aggressive military alliances and support for reactionary regimes;

- ends the militarization of our country;

- recognizes the sovereign equality of all nations.

Intense Pressure

The current political set-up exerts tremendous pressure against the people to suppress their anti-imperialist politics.

Right now, one concentrated expression of this pressure is the election circus which demands that the people give up their own convictions and give up their independent movement in order to vote for the "most electable, lesser evil."

Another form of this pressure is the continuous attempt to keep the working people and anti-war activists under the thumb of the Democratic Party through "coalitions" based on the "lowest common denominator." Such coalitions demand that in order to cater to the prejudices of the capitalist politicians, in order to not scare them away, people must renounce their anti-imperialist demands and program.

The Workers Party works to mobilize the widest sections of people against each and every aggressive step taken by U.S. imperialism. We work for the broadest unity in action of everyone opposed to the war program of the U.S. government.

And we recognize that in the course of these struggles, the only reliable basis upon which to consolidate and advance our movement is the ever-growing consciousness and organization of the people themselves. Thus we call on everyone to:

1) seriously look into what are the social forces - the classes - behind the war program and to take up the political struggle against the parties and government of war; and

2) to take up the fundamental question of strengthening the independent organizations of the people themselves - the real motive force in the struggle against war and imperialism.