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Submitted by Daniel_Randall on Fri, 12/03/2004 - 23:32

Alan's articles in New Politics last year were great. They were extremely useful to me as a third-campist in debates with second-campists and first-campists alike. I'm sorry he's resigned from the editorial board - (why is that, Alan?) and I'm even more sorry that he's now moved to the position outlined in this article - that is, ascribing a progressive role to an imperialist occupation. (Alan's comments about terrorism in general and the left's response to it are interesting but I will not respond to them here. I will reply specifically to his comments about the occupation of Iraq.)

Alan qualifies his ascription of a progressive role to the occupation by saying it's not really progressive, but when you hold it up against the likely alternatives - return to Ba'athism, or sectarian civil war - it's the best option on the table and the one which will most likely allow democratic working-class forces to develop. Aren't these the arguments Shachtman initially used to justify his political suicide? Besides - we are revolutionary socialists, not lesser evilists. We advocate a strategy for the working-class to assert itself as an independent political force against all its enemies - we not advocate that is should - however grudgingly - accept the imperialist, occupying rule of its class enemies because they * might * bring democracy and they * might * keep the Islamists and the Ba'athists quiet. If we cannot formulate such a strategy or if no such strategy exist then socialism is impossible.

I agree; it is time to "move on." The focus for 'the anti-war movement' must now be radical, class-based solidarity with the Iraqi workers' movement. Maybe Alan doesn't like the word, but the Iraqi workers' and women's movements are a 'resistance' and it's a 'resistance' that third-campists MUST support. If our support of the working-class resistance is not intended to help develop it, galvanise it and sharpen its political ideas to such a stage where it is ready to challenge for power, what is it for?

We may choose to reject the slogan 'troops out now' because of the ideas and methods associated with those who shout it loudest - namely the 'second campist' left. But if we reject any notion of calling for the troops' withdrawal on this basis, we define ourselves politically only as against the SWP et al and not by clearly advocating what we positively believe in. The AWL has raised the slogan "no to US/UK occupation," but several leading comrades - including Alan here - have rejected *any* formulation of 'troops out.' To my mind there is no point in saying "no" to an occupation if you're not prepared to oppose the presence of the physical manifestation - the troops - of the occupation you're saying "no" to.

When Saddam Hussein was captured, elation should have been the first instinct reaction of any socialist, just as it should have been when his regime fell. But despite this, while I felt not an ounce of sympathy for him, I personally did not feel the sheer elation Alan describes, because while I advocate and agitate for the removal of fascistic governments and the capture of their leaders, when these actions are carried out by the American and British bourgeoisie, socialists cannot divorce them from the broader project or the class interests in which they were carried out. If we could, we would have supported the war. In other words, we cannot consider them in abstraction from the broader imperialist project of which they were a part. If you read the comments of the WCPI after the fall of Saddam you will find that they largely echo my sentiment.

Alan's asserts that the occupation of Iraq will be conducive to some sort of democratic state (he concedes that it may be 'flawed'). I also get the impression that he thinks the Coalition troops are providing some sort 'bulwark' against the reactionary 'resistance.'

To answer these two points, the sort of 'democracy' the occupation looks like overseeing isn't any kind of democracy socialists would deem worthy of the name, and it is entirely possible that the occupiers may postpone and postpone and postpone their deadline for handing over 'control' if they don't like the look of what's on the horizon.

Secondly, there is this argument that the occupiers play some sort of 'bulwark' role against Ba'athists and Islamists. I am not convinced of the efficaciousness of this role - it didn't stop the recent horrific attacks - and also, as socialists, how can we leave the task of fighting terroristic reactionaries to an imperialist occupying power? Shouldn't we be advocating a strategy for working-class self-defence against such forces to cut the roots of the Ba'athist and Islamist terrorists that exist inside Iraq? The WCPI's analysis that the rise of Islamist forces in Iraq has been massively aided by the prominence of Islamist forces on the IGC is, I think, informative. They analyse the imperialist occupation and the reactionary 'resistance' as 'two poles of the same terrorism.' I think this analysis is somewhat crude but its logic is closer, I feel, to revolutionary third-camp socialist politics on this matter than Alan's, which appears to amount to very, very, very critical support for the Occupation as it exists, even though he undoubtedly opposes the principle of imperialist invasion and occupation.

The AWL has always - rightly - prided itself on its consistent democracy and its passionate advocacy of the right of nations to self-determination. This advocacy is incompatible with any species of support for an imperialist occupation. I am not prepared to give up one of the AWL's best political tenets in the hope that the imperialists *might* deliver a stable, functioning democracy at some time in the future and that they *might* keep down the Ba'athists and Islamists for us while the workers' movement grows.

Our job as revolutionary third-campists with regards to the anti-war milieu that holds illusions in the reactionary 'resistance' is not to denounce the idea of resistance but to clearly show that two 'resistances' exist in Iraq; one reactionary - that of the Ba'athists and Islamists - with reactionary aims - the establishment of a dictatorship, and one progressive - that of the workers' and women's movements - with progressive aims - secular democracy, workers' control and an end to the occupation.

The last issue of Solidarity featured the headline 'Laws, repression, unemployment; Help Iraqi workers beat these blows.' I think a better encapsulation of a third-camp socialist position on this question would be 'Help Iraqi workers beat the Occupation.' If this is not what third-camp politics amount to on this question then no doubt a more knowledgeable and experienced comrade than I will put me right.


Daniel Randall

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