TB #2: A Loss of Nerve and a Loss of Will
[ET Statement of 12 November 1983]
We condemn the slogan “Marines Out of Lebanon, Now, Alive” as a cowardly, social-patriotic betrayal of the Trotskyist tradition of the iSt. The acid test of a communist leadership occurs at times of revolutionary opportunity or crisis. The demolition of the U.S. Marine and French Foreign Legion barracks in Beirut last month was just such a crisis. Trotskyists take a side in a military confrontation between the imperialist hit-men and the oppressed Muslim population of Lebanon. After weeks of U.S. Navy warships pounding defenseless Muslim villagers, while the “peacekeeping” Marines launched increasingly aggressive attacks on Muslim militiamen, a few hundred of these professional killers were given a richly deserved one-way ticket to hell. We say: Good riddance! Two, Three, Many Defeats for Imperialism!
But this is not what the SL/US leadership says. They solidarize with the desire of the remaining Marines to save their skins. “Marines interviewed in Beirut wanted out, now, alive. We can support that.” The tearful laments of the families of the deceased thugs are quoted without comment: “Those poor boys dying, and I’m sure they don’t know what they’re dying for.”
Further on in the article the SL leadership explains that it raises its shameful slogan for saving the lives of the “poor boys” of the Marine Corps to evoke “the widespread anti-government outrage felt by the American masses at Reagan’s squandering of life in the Lebanon ‘quagmire’”! It both saddens and sickens us to read this social-patriotic crap in the paper which for over a decade has been the world’s leading exponent of revolutionary Marxism. We say that every lifer “squandered” in Lebanon is one less who will be wading ashore in the upcoming Battle of Managua. Two, Three, Many “Quagmires” for Imperialism!
U.S. Marines: Live Like Pigs–Die Like Pigs!
Who are these Marines (and French Foreign Legionnaires[?]) whose lives Robertson wants to save?
“They are the world’s most notorious imperialist butchers. They have the blood of millions of toilers on their hands, from Indochina to North Africa. The very words are synonymous with the bloody suppression of colonial revolt…”
(Workers Vanguard, No. 312, 3 September 1982)
The parallel between the call for rescuing the Marines and the SWP’s “Bring Our Boys Home” slogan from the Vietnam era is so striking that the leadership feels they have to address it. You see, Vietnam was a social revolution, Lebanon is not. In Vietnam, “the defeat of the U.S. expeditionary force … was key to victory of the social revolution.” But in Lebanon, “no side is fighting imperialism. On the contrary, from the PLO to Jumblatt to Gemayel, all sides are jockeying for sponsorship from one imperialist power or another.” Who is going to be fooled by this logic-chopping? Everybody knows that the “peacekeepers” are in Lebanon to prop up Gemayel. If “no side is fighting imperialism” then who blew up the barracks? Of course revolutionists don’t support any of the sides in the vicious inter-communal bloodletting. But military attacks on imperialist targets are something else.
Workers Vanguard is right about one thing though: Lebanon is not like Vietnam. It’s like Northern Ireland. When the Provos engage in criminal acts of terror against the Protestant population, we denounce them. But when they blow away a couple of hundred crack imperialist “peacekeepers” we defend that action. In Lebanon Trotskyists have the same attitude.
The sleazy attempt to sign Trotsky’s name to this capitulation by tacking on a couple of quotes from the Transitional Program to the end of the article is right out of the Wohlforth school of politics. It is a new low for WV. In the quotations cited, Trotsky talks about intersecting the muddled, inchoate opposition of the masses to imperialist war which they express by support to bourgeois pacifism. He doesn’t propose that revolutionists should raisesocial-patriotic slogans themselves! For the SL leadership to try to prostitute the Transitional Program in order to justify the call to save the lives of Reagan’s killers is repugnant, as well as dishonest.
“The American masses do not want to die in Beirut” says WV. But that’s not the issue. The pro-imperialist “American masses” don’t want the U.S. Marines to die in Beirut, and neither does the SL leadership. We say: “Marines: Live Like Pigs, Die Like Pigs!”
“The Main Enemy Is At Home, Sometimes”
Last year when the Israeli conscript army invaded Lebanon, Robertson et al were not so concerned about their well-being. When we raised calls for the Israeli workers to strike against the war and for the Israeli soldiers to turn their guns around, in addition to the main focus of defense of the PLO, the SL leadership slandered us as “Zionists.” Throughout the invasion and to this day, the SL leadership, despairing of the fact that there are no Israeli Bolsheviks to implement such calls, refused to raise them. Instead WV argued that “opposition to the war right now depends, above all, on how many Israeli soldiers come home in coffins” (Workers Vanguard, No. 309, 9 July 1982).
Robertson & Co. hoped that in the absence of revolutionary cadres (the subjective factor in history), the objective effects of a lot of casualties would somehow produce a roughly correct response from within the Israeli working class.
But now when it is Americans in Lebanon, the leadership has suddenly developed a humanitarian concern for their safety. To the correct slogan of “U.S. Out of Lebanon, Now,” Robertson et al tack on the hope that they will be brought out “alive.” From “Kill-`Em-All” hysteria to “Save-`Em-All” social-patriotism. The SL leadership is politically adrift.
Eventually a lot of U.S. casualties in Lebanon would have the same effect as in Israel–enough of them will produce war weariness. However, in lieu of any mass opposition to the U.S. presence in Lebanon, rather than intersecting pacifist sentiments, the SL’s call intersects the deployment debate being carried on by the U.S. bourgeoisie.
John Stennis, the reactionary Dixiecrat from Mississippi and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has the same line on what to do with the Marines in Lebanon as the SL. He wants them out, now, alive. He motivated his position in a speech to the Senate:
“Without luck–I will put it this way–we can quickly get into a spot just like we were in Vietnam mighty easy.
…The real concern and meaning to our people is that, by and large, they are the ones that are going to have to put up the boys and the blood and the members of their families to fight a war if we get into it now or later.”
Bad politics gives you some pretty bad bedfellows. Not only has WV taken up the slogans of a wing of the capitalist class, but it scandalously refuses to defend the anti-imperialist attacks. For Robertson et al: “The main enemy is at home, sometimes.” In “Facing the Reagan Years,” the observation was made that:
“We’re expecting a rotten time with Reagan and the social climate in the country. So you’re going to see political dives… We’re going to see some other stuff too, mainly a loss of nerve and a loss of will.”
(Workers Vanguard, No. 273, 30 January 1981)
Well we’re seeing it. And in the SL/US it’s starting at the top.
The flinching over the Soviet’s bringing down the KAL 007 spy plane (WV No. 337 said that if the Soviets knew it was a passenger plane, then shooting it down would have been “worse than a barbaric atrocity,” “despite the potential military damage of such an apparent spying mission”) showed the erosion of revolutionary determination in the leadership of the SL. And now it’s “save the Marines!”
The U.S. Marines and the French Legionnaires are the same outfits that lost big in Indochina. And we want to see them lose again in Lebanon. “Marines Out of Lebanon, Now, Alive” is the most shockingly rightist betrayal of Trotskyism yet from the Robertson claque. Any iSt member with an ounce of proletarian class instinct should be disgusted by it. Those who adhere to the Trotskyist program must stand up and fight the leadership’s social-patriotic drift. The precious cadre of the iSt must be saved for Trotskyism! It is desperately necessary to fight for Trotskyism, now, in the iSt!
“Imperialists Out of Lebanon–By Any Means Necessary!