19 February ‘Rage Against the War Machine’ Protest in D.C.

Why socialists should attend

On 19 February a “Rage Against the War Machine” (RAWM) demonstration is being co-sponsored by the left-liberal “People’s Party” comprised of disgruntled former supporters of Bernie Sanders and the bourgeois conservative “Libertarian Party” in Washington, D.C. A number of prominent left-leaning critics of U.S. foreign policy, including the Green Party’s Jill Stein and Chris Hedges, are scheduled to speak at the event, alongside former Joe Biden supporter Tulsi Gabbard, various Libertarians, including Ron Paul, representatives of the right-wing Mises Institute think tank, as well as Scott Horton of antiwar.com. This unusual political configuration has come about because of the near unanimity with which both Democrats and Republicans routinely back U.S. military interventions, including those in Serbia, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Libya. Many of the projected speakers have also criticized Washington’s increasingly aggressive posture toward the Chinese deformed workers’ state. The focus of the upcoming demonstration is the current conflict in Ukraine where the U.S. and its NATO allies and vassals are engaged in a proxy war with Russia (see our statement: “Russia reacts to imperialist encroachment”).

Scott Ritter, an influential critic of NATO’s role in Ukraine, had been scheduled to speak at the rally but recently withdrew, citing “personal reasons.” Ritter, who has a criminal record resulting from a deep state sting, is regarded with particular animus by pro-fascist Ukrainians in the U.S. as we discovered when we attended a recent event where he spoke in Albany, New York.

The Bolshevik Tendency does not endorse the 19 February protest because the program it is organized around include various utopian/pacifist illusions about the possibility of reforming U.S. imperialism. But we plan to attend in order to talk to participants who agree (as we do) with many of its slogans, including “Not One More Penny for War in Ukraine,” “Disband NATO,” “Abolish the CIA,” “Close all US military bases abroad,” “repeal the Patriot Act, and restore the right to privacy and habeas corpus” and “Free Julian Assange.” None of the demands raised by the organizers can possibly be construed as racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise reactionary, although such views of course can be found among many supporters of the Libertarian Party. The Libertarians are a right-wing bourgeois formation—but unlike fascists, who must be physically suppressed, Marxists regard them as ideological opponents with whom we are prepared to debate.

Some on the left have adopted a different attitude. Socialist Action (SA) has denounced the 19 February protest as a “reactionary” event. Jeff Mackler, who penned the SA statement, declared that “In the unlikely event that this effort meets with even a modicum of success, it will represent a serious defeat for antiwar, anti-racist, anti-sexist, LGBTQI and social justice activists….” We are not sure exactly how comrade Mackler would define “a modicum of success,” but we will be very surprised if the upcoming demonstration in D.C. does not attract at least five or ten times as many participants as recent events called by the United National Anti-war Coalition (UNAC) in which SA is active. In fact, UNAC’s demands are strikingly similar to those put forward by the People’s Party/Libertarian bloc. For example, both UNAC and RAWM call for freeing Julian Assange. We would be happy to participate in a demonstration to “Free Julian Assange!” alongside Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and others. Would Socialist Action, or would they insist that such an event was “reactionary” because of Libertarian participation?

Many ordinary Americans who voted for Donald Trump as an expression of distress at falling living standards and lack of confidence in the Democrat/Republican duopoly also oppose foreign military adventures. As rising inflation makes it ever more difficult for tens of millions to make ends meet and the economy teeters on the brink of a severe downturn, mainstream propaganda promoting NATO’s proxy war against Russia and the provision of massive military and financial support for Ukraine’s fascist-riddled regime is losing traction. This discontent is not reflected in the corporate media with the sole exception of right-wing Fox News where Tucker Carlson, a cynical populist demagogue, is occasionally willing to flirt with leftist critiques of the deep state Washington consensus. On 2 February Carlson interviewed Jimmy Dore, a leftist comedian/podcaster known for his sometimes insightful criticism of the U.S. ruling class and its foreign policy. Dore, who is scheduled to speak on 19 February, regretted failing to plug the demo, but did manage to sharply denounce American bellicosity toward Russia and China. In the unlikely event that Carlson were to offer Jeff Mackler or some other UNAC representative air time on his show, would they turn down the offer because of all the unsavory people who have appeared on the program over the years?

During the 1960s, at a time when America was wracked with massive protests against Washington’s attempt to crush the Vietnamese social revolution, Mackler and his co-thinkers in the National Peace Action Coalition (NPAC—a “single issue” anti-war organization) eagerly provided a platform for various Democratic Party politicians who opposed the Pentagon’s military campaign. Our revolutionary forebears in the Spartacist League were critical of the NPAC mobilizations of the 1970s, which routinely featured Democratic politicians and pacifist muddleheads and never posed the issues in class terms nor invited any speakers prepared to advocate military support for the heroic struggle of the embattled Vietnamese. Yet despite important differences with the organizers, Marxists routinely attended NPAC demonstrations and peace crawls in order to introduce some of the participants to anti-imperialist, revolutionary socialist ideas.

Comrade Mackler considers the 19 February demonstration to be a “reactionary” event, which Socialist Action will presumably be boycotting, because various right-wing bourgeois elements (including Ron Paul and adherents of Lyndon Larouche) have endorsed it. It is a safe bet, however, that SA would jump at the chance to provide a platform for anti-war liberal politicians at UNAC’s events if they could find any—but, alas, the Democrats all fervently support the U.S./NATO proxy war in Ukraine.

Mackler’s hostility toward the 19 February event is probably at least partly motivated by a fear that UNAC, which SA had hoped to see grow into a nationally significant formation, may be eclipsed by the “isolationist” lash-up of former Sanders supporters and Libertarians. If the demonstration on the 19th is successful, it may help ignite broader resistance to the dangerous provocations of U.S. imperialism in Ukraine and elsewhere.

We look forward to the opportunity to engage politically with disgruntled working people who, while recognizing that the whole system is rigged for the benefit of the billionaire elite, may have fallen for the pseudo anti-imperialism of the Libertarians or the social-democratic reformism of the People’s Party.

Russia has a right to resist imperialist encroachment!

Down with U.S./NATO proxy war in Ukraine!

Free Julian Assange!

Hands Off China!