Special Edition

Only the People Can Stop the Wars!

March 25, 2004

The keynote speech at the Chicago Conference Against War and Imperialism was given by Michael Thorburn on behalf of the Workers Party. Below we provide a short summary of some of the main points.

In welcoming the activists, Michael Thorburn underlined the importance of the Conference as a forum in which to sum up experience, to realistically look at the balance of forces in the struggle against war and work out the political program and guidelines for advancing the struggle. He emphasized that the Conference and other forums like it are an essential part of transforming the anti-war struggle into a conscious, systematic and organized movement.

Balance of Forces

In looking at the balance of forces, Michael Thorburn focused on 4 main points.

Firstly, U.S. imperialism, the monopoly capitalist class, is and will remain at war against the peoples. In particular, the "war on terrorism" marks a new phase in the U.S. government's aggressive foreign policy, a phase which is tantamount to a declaration of war on the world.

Secondly, the American people have already given rise to a new, nationwide anti-war movement. This movement is part of a growing international front against war and imperialism which includes the liberation struggles of the oppressed peoples, the anti-war movement and popular struggles in every country as well as various governments and countries which are defending their independence and sovereignty and resisting the pressures and war program of imperialism.

The third thing that must be faced up to is that the anti-war movement is tremendously hindered by the fact that it is, to a large extent, still spontaneous and unorganized and large sections remain under the tutelage of the Democratic Party, which is a party of war and imperialism. Political opportunism works within the anti-war movement to keep it under the domination of the Democrats.

Despite these political pressures, the anti-war movement keeps gaining experience and is straining more and more towards genuine independence, towards becoming a mass, oppositional movement.

Thus the decisive practical question is for the organized, independent forces, despite their small size, to bring anti-imperialist politics to centerstage. We have a principled, clear-cut political program and all the tools necessary to assist the consciousness and independence of the movement and, within the next period of time, build a genuinely mass independent, proactive anti-war movement.

Logic of Imperialism

In analyzing the war program of U.S. imperialism, Michael Thorburn began by showing how U.S. imperialism, utilizing the most brutal methods, continues to wage and escalate the war in Iraq despite the massive opposition of the peoples in Iraq, the U.S. and the world.

Amongst other things, Michael Thorburn exploded the line which insists that the "U.S. must stay and finish the job." He underlined that the only "job" which U.S. imperialism has taken up is to colonize Iraq and suppress the Iraqi people.

While keeping the struggle against the U.S. war in Iraq sharp, we must, at the same time, never forget that this is only one front in a so-called "war on terrorism." Both Bush and Kerry openly proclaim that this war will last for years and that the U.S. already has at least 60 countries in its gunsights.

Just within the last two and one-half years, U.S. imperialism has invaded and occupied Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia and Haiti. In each of these countries, the U.S. is using the slogan of "nation-building" to prepare public opinion for its permanent military occupation and the setting up of full-blown colonial administrations. So too, U.S. imperialism has ordered the Israeli aggressors to wage all-out war against the Palestinian national liberation movement and prepare for the permanent annexation of most of Palestine.

In addition the U.S. government is escalating counter-insurgency wars in Colombia and the Philippines. It has imposed sanctions and threatened war against Syria, is planning an embargo against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and publicly threatening nuclear strikes against the country. U.S. imperialism is also carrying out a destabilization campaign against Venezuela and the constitutional government headed by Chavez, pressuring Iran, etc., etc.

Michael Thorburn summarized the "war on terrorism" as U.S. imperialism's battleplan for world domination through force of arms. He emphasized that reliance on militarism and the logic of military escalation are the inevitable result of the crisis of U.S. capitalism.

While the U.S. monopoly capitalists picture themselves as the world's sole superpower and while the inherent laws of the capitalist-imperialist system demand that they expand their empire of exploitation and plunder, all the objective developments of the contemporary world undermine the positions of U.S. imperialism.

The very character of the imperialism system pits it in opposition to the people's struggles for independence and social progress. In addition the rivalry and competition of other imperialist powers continually undercuts the positions of the U.S. The response of U.S. imperialism both to the people's liberation struggles and to the growing inter-imperialist contradictions is to go to war.

New Awakening

But in the face of the government's war program, the American people have created a new, nationwide anti-war movement, embracing tens of millions of people.

This movement has already exposed the lies of the Bush administration and brought the agenda for peace into the public arena. The strength of the people's movement can not only be seen in the massive anti-war demonstrations but also in the struggles to defend the immigrant communities, in the growing resistance inside the army and in many other struggles which are developing in every corner of our country.

And the anti-war movement is not simply a single-issue, protest movement; it is a deep-going ideological and social movement - a new starting point in the struggle of the American people for peace and progress.

It is a movement for enlightenment in which people are awakening not only to the history of U.S. imperialist aggression but also to the hidden history of the peoples all over the world who, through earth-shaking struggles, have put the questions of national liberation and social emancipation on the agenda. People are learning that the Cuban people, the Korean people, the Palestinian people, etc., as well as their own friends and neighbors, are calling to them to stand in the struggle for progress and emancipation.

The anti-war struggle is a profound movement for political empowerment in which the people have no choice but to address the fact that the government keeps waging war despite the people's demand for peace. People are learning in real life that the Democratic party must be judged not by its empty peace slogans but by its warmongering deeds and the fact that, just like the Republicans, it serves the exploiting, colonial aims of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class.

Most importantly the anti-movement is a movement in which people are beginning to organize themselves.

Obstacles Facing the Movement

Michael Thorburn emphasized that the experience of the anti-war activists continually brings home the relentless question: that there is tremendous anti-war sentiment and activity but that the people need and are demanding more information, more organization, more direction. This is the question which must be addressed.

And as the anti-war movement grows, the warmakers themselves are not passive but are stepping up their efforts to sidetrack the movement.

Today, as in the past, the warmakers rely on the Democratic Party and its so-called "left-wing" to divert the anti-war struggles.

The Democrats use such slogans as "let the weapons inspections work" or "expand the multilateral military force and UN role in Iraq," or "nation-building" in Afghanistan, etc., etc. to cover over the war program. Michael Thorburn quoted extensively from the record of the Democrat Party as well as from the election platform of Kerry and the Democrats to show that their program is precisely the same as the Bush program. The role of the Democrats' phony peace talk is only to infiltrate chauvinism into the anti-war movement, prevent people from taking things into their own hands, and hide the colonial aims of

U. S. capitalism under the banner of democracy.

Michael Thorburn emphasized that in the current elections the line of the "lesser evil" or "anybody but Bush" not only covers over the source of the Bush program and the grave dangers facing us but is especially aimed at preventing the growth of a genuinely independent movement of the people.

Anti-Imperialist Politics

But it is precisely the independent organization of the people which is the burning and decisive question. The slogan "Only the People Can Stop the Wars" is not something for the future. It means that right from the beginning, people must take the issue of peace into their own hands. We must face up to the government's war program in all its barbarity and we must see its source in the capitalist-imperialist system. We must envision and fight for a fundamental solution - a genuinely democratic foreign policy which ends U.S. intervention and aggression, withdraws all U.S. troops stationed abroad and recognizes the sovereignty of every country. We must expose the Republicans and Democrats as parties of war and unite ourselves as the force for peace. We must build our own organizations and work out all the questions of strategy and tactics.

This is the program of anti-imperialist politics.