The "pro-imperialism" of the Alliance for Workers Liberty

Submitted by AWL on 22 April, 2009 - 11:55 Author: Sean Matgamna
AWL

Continuing a series on misunderstandings, misrepresentations and lies about the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.


Click here for the first article in the series
The AWL is pro-imperialist!

No, we’re not. If you look at the “imperialist” issues through all the time AWL and its predecessors have existed — back as far as the wars in Indochina of the 1960s and 70s — AWL has been more consistently and comprehensively anti-imperialist than any other organisation with its roots in post-Trotsky “orthodox” Trotskyism (including the SWP, which, despite its view that Stalinist Russia was state-capitalist, has its roots in “orthodox” Trotskyism).

Some political trainspotter has observed that AWL is the only revolutionary socialist organisation in the world not to have the slogan “Troops out of Iraq”. I don’t know if that is true. It may well be so. But it wasn’t yesterday that we first found ourselves out of step with most of the extant left — with what we call the “kitsch left”. (I intend to explain later why we call it that).

We were also the only “orthodox” Trotskyist organisation to call for Russian troops out of Afghanistan after the invasion at Christmas 1979 and all through Russia’s savage decade-long “Vietnam war”.

We opposed, and advocated that the working class should oppose, the Iraq war, just as we opposed the first Gulf War in 1991. We opposed the Falkands war in 1982. We opposed the bombing and invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. We oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and we advocate a fully independent Palestinian state in contiguous territory alongside Israel.

To define Israel’s relations to the Middle East as simply “imperialist”, or “colonial-imperialist” is to miss most of what is specific to it. For example, to equate Israel-Iran relations with routine rivalry between competing imperialisms, as a document at last year’s AWL conference did when no-one was paying proper attention, was simply stupid, and led to some political confusion for a while.

Israel and Iran are both regional imperialisms, but for different regions. Iran’s hostility to Israel is rooted in the regime’s Islamism: the Iranian regime before the clerical-fascist revolution of 1979 had friendly relations with Israel, as Turkey does.

But, as for our stance being pro-imperialist... Israel’s relationship to the Palestinians, despite all the special circumstances, is a form of imperialism, and a particularly nasty and primitive “ethno-imperialism” at that. We oppose every “imperialist” aspect of it!

“More consistently and comprehensively anti-imperialist than the rest”? Surely not!

Most of AWL’s reputation on the kitsch-left arises not from AWL’s peculiarities but (when it is not a matter of self-defensive incomprehension or straight lying about our positions) from the peculiarities of that kitsch-left, as measured against what the genuine left has been and should be historically.

For instance, the dominant idea on the kitsch-left over the last five years has been that opposition to imperialism in Iraq demanded support for the Sunni-supremacist and clerical-fascist “resistance”. To be properly anti-imperialist, socialists had to be indifferent to what political system or regime would exist after US and British troops withdrew and to the struggle in Iraq between the political forces of reaction and those of progress — in fact, indifferent to the fate of the Iraqi labour movement.

That is where we parted company with those with whom we shared opposition to the 2003 war. That is where our difference with the kitsch-left is located. Is it permissible for “anti-imperialists” to take such things as the fate of the Iraqi labour movement into account? We say yes — and that it is imperative to do so.

On Israel, the difference is on whether anti-imperialism demands conquering and abolishing the Jewish state. The same conflict between the thoughtless demagogy of the kitsch left and responsible working-class politics also expresses itself in such arguments as whether or not we should advocate a boycott of Israel, indifferent to the fact that a serious boycott-Israel movement would inescapably become a Jew-hunt.

In relation to imperialism and imperialistic manifestations, we base ourselves on “consistent democracy”. We are for democratic self-determination for all nations and fragments of nations who want it, subject only to practical possibilities. (Some peoples and fragments of peoples are interlaced inseparably with other groups; there we favour maximum local autonomy as well as full equality of individual rights).

With the Bolsheviks and the Comintern, we hold that existing state boundaries should be a matter of indifference to consistent democrats when they cut across or imprison peoples, or otherwise inhibit their right to self-determination. (That attitude to existing state boundaries, a central element in Lenin’s approach to the national question, is now half-forgotten on the left. But that is an issue in itself).

That is the positive principle for revolutionary socialists, and it is more or less an absolute one.

The exception would be a situation where, say, the British working class had taken power, and the USA proposed to land troops in a bourgeois Ireland as a prelude to invading working-class Britain. The history of the two countries means that support for Irish self-determination is an important issue of principle in Britain. But in this case, plainly, a more important principle would dominate the attitude of socialists. We would assert that the right of the British working class to override Irish self-determination, even if that meant supporting a pre-emptive working-class British invasion of Ireland.

In real history something like that happened in 1920, when the Bolshevik Red Army beat back a Polish invasion backed by Britain and France and then — though self-determination for Poland had been a major plank in Russian Marxist policy — invaded Poland. Whether or not the invasion was the right choice — it was probably a mistake — is separable from whether it was in principle permissible. Yes, it was!

What about the Balkans war of 1999? AWL was pro-imperialist on that!

There was a NATO war on Serbia to force it to stop its big “ethnic cleansing” drive against the Albanians of Kosova (who are about 93% of the population there), and to withdraw the Serbian army from Kosova, which is a long-time colony of Serbia. (When Serbia first took control of Kosova in 1913, Marxists like Leon Trotsky rightly wrote of “Serbian imperialism”).

Forcing Serbia to desist was the sole purpose of the war. The bombing of Serbia stopped, and the war ended, when Serbia began to withdraw its army from Kosova.

If there was ever in the 20th century a case for supporting an advanced capitalist power in “imperialist” war, then this was surely it: a war for stopping “ethnic cleansing”, or outright genocide, and only for that.

AWL didn’t support NATO. Why not? Because NATO and the powers that make it up remain what they are, capitalist predators and tools of capitalist predators; because it is not the business of socialists to take political or moral responsibility for what NATO does; because we could not give NATO political credit in advance to do what in the event they did in Kosova. (The NATO powers had already made a bloody mess of things in Bosnia; and they had supported or condoned Serbia’s tightening oppression of Kosova for eleven years before 1999).

But did we then side for “anti-imperialist” reasons with the smaller and more primitive imperialism (ethno-imperialism) of the Serbs? Or do that implicitly by way of exclusive focus on denouncing and opposing NATO?

Socialist anti-imperialists can only do that if they make a principle of negation of everything “imperialism” does — no matter who or what the immediate alternatives are to what the “imperialists” are doing. Only if they make a fetish, outside of politics and history, of slogans that sometimes (or most times) give proper expression to our support for self-determination and opposition to those who for predatory imperialist reasons deny it. In other words, only if they do not think at all about the actual issues and the concrete situation.

It remains the cardinal principle of Marxist analysis that “the truth is always concrete”. The truth can be known only in its concrete reality, and in the evolution of that reality and its context.

Opposition to one thing — advanced-capitalist imperialism — does not necessarily imply support for its opponents, or commitment to an opposite development to the one the imperialists want. To accept that implication would be to make a negative fetish of “imperialism”, to make ourselves a negative imprint of it, as the kitsch-left so often does. It would be the opposite of independent working-class politics. We would be surrendering working-class political independence to the imperialists by way of letting them determine what we say according to a mechanical rule: where they say yes, we must say no; where they say no, we must say yes.

We fumbled a little at the start of the 1999 Kosova war with the slogan “Stop the Bombing”, but then realised that all such slogans translated on the ground, in Kosova, into the demand: “Leave Serbia’s Milosevic regime to get on with its genocidal drive in Kosova without outside interference”.

Many of those who went through that war with the slogan “stop the war, stop the bombing” would have demurred from that translation. Yet that is what the slogan they used did amount to.

Some socialists — in Britain, the predominant organisations and individuals — made themselves into outright supporters of the Serbian side in the war, and thus, in substance, of Serbia’s war on the Kosova Albanians. Others tried to square the circle by combining “Stop the bombing” with the demand for self-determination for the Kosovars. That was what Leninists call “phrasemongering” — the use of words that are emotionally evocative and satisfying, but which are so only so long as they remain abstractions and are not analysed for their concrete meaning.

The entity for which self-determination was demanded, the Albanian population of Kosova, was being massacred and driven out of the territory. It was being destroyed, wiped out, dispersed, rendered incapable of ever having self-determination in Kosova.

The first slogan, “NATO out”, or “Stop the bombing”, meant in practice, let the Serbian regime get on with destroying the Kosovar entity for which self-determination was simultaneously advocated. The first slogan, “stop NATO”, had an immediate practical meaning. The second, “self-determination”, was more general and distant, and could never gain immediate practical meaning if the first one were to win out.

The combination was oxymoronic — a contradiction in terms — as this sort of phrasemongering so often is.

The use of demagogic, thoughtless phrasemongering, on one side, and the rigorous rejection of it on the other, defines one of the perennial differences between pretend, verbal, petty-bourgeois “Marxism” on one hand and authentic revolutionary working-class Marxism on the other.

In Britain AWL found itself faced with an “anti-war” campaign dominated by the SWP which was wholeheartedly on the side of the Serbs and rigidly excluded even acknowledgement that there was a problem with Serbia’s continued occupation of Kosova. They were for practical purposes backed by the “oxymoronists”, the Mandelites and others.

If you like, AWL was distinguished then by the fact that hostility to NATO and its imperialism (as distinct from the more localised, more primitive ethno-imperialism of Serbia) was not for us all-shaping, all-colouring, all-defining. We rejected the notion that there could be nothing more repugnant than NATO power-brandishing, nothing worse than NATO’s “police action” (that is what it was) in Kosova.

Marxists have to look at the real world, the real alternatives, at the concrete meaning of slogans and postures as they translate on the ground. We are impregnably contemptuous of the “phrasemongering” of socialists who comfort themselves with nonsensical combinations of words that serve only to shield them from the realities of what they presume to comment on — of “revolutionaries” and “anti-imperialists” who can only remain revolutionaries and anti-imperialists by keeping their eyes closed to the realities.

But NATO used the crude tool of bombing from the air! Some of those who differentiated themselves from the self-blinded pro-Milosevic “anti-imperialists” at least had the decency to advocate NATO ground troops instead of bombing. Red Pepper, for example.

For sure bombings of Serbian installations would not have been our first choice of method to stop the Serbian drive to genocide. But do we then say, in effect: let Milosevic get on with the ethnic cleansing of Kosova Albanians because it is just too horrible to see Serbian installations bombed from the air? (It was bombing of Serbian installations, not, as in some other wars, primarily bombing of civilians).

Such a choice would be absurd. If you compare the human cost of letting the genocide go on and that of bombing Serbian installations, there is no question but that the bombing was far and away — far and away! — the cheaper in human life and net destruction.

We did not support NATO; we refused to become basically pro-NATO people who could then reasonably advise or chide NATO on tactics; we did not collapse into endorsing the lesser evil. In fact, however, a ground invasion would probably have been far more costly in human lives — on both sides, not to speak of the Albanians — than the bombing.

“Stop the Bombing” was inescapably pro-Milosevic, and one-sided pacifism. (“Stop the war” meant stop NATO’s war, let Serbia’s war continue unchecked.) There is a lot of incoherent pacifism on the left — pacifist attitudes often deployed against only one side in the war, and on behalf of the other side.

We have seen a lot of that in relation to Iraq. In Kosova, it was a matter of the proverbial straining at the gnat (in humanitarian terms) of NATO bombings and swallowing the camel of Serbian ethnic cleansing.

The peculiar thing here, in terms of longstanding socialist and democratic values, was not AWL’s position. We did not fall down to worship NATO, nor forget what its component powers are, because of one “good” police action in Kosova. We did not, even for the duration of the war, “go over” to NATO.

The kitsch left, however, did “go over” to backing a brutal regime at exactly the point at which it was trying to wipe out — expel or kill — the majority population of its colony. The peculiarity lay entirely with the kitsch-left.

And I don’t know of any of those who backed Milosevic and his war in Kosova who have since criticised themselves, or so much as hinted that the reality might have been a little too complex, the roles being playing a little too far from the stereotypes, to be covered by a single-minded negativism towards NATO.

The SWP in its pro-Islamist phase criticised itself in retrospect (gently, but unmistakably: SW 11 February 2006) for having backed the author Salman Rushdie against those Muslims who said he should be killed for criticising the prophet Muhammad. In effect, it endorsed in retrospect the right of the religious bigots to impose their code, by force, on people who reject it.

The SWP has not, to my knowledge, criticised their own support for the Serbian regime that was trying to destroy the Albanian Muslim population of Kosova.

The AWL didn’t even support the slogan “Troops out of Ireland”!

It depends what period of the Provisionals’ Long War you are talking about. In 1969 we opposed the deployment of British troops to an active, and soon central, role in Northern Ireland. Some of the most blinkered kitsch “anti-imperialists” of today — the SWP — did not (www.workersliberty.org/node/ 10009).

It so happened that an AWL member — the present writer — was a member of the Derry Citizens’ Defence Committee, the council that ran Catholic Derry for two months behind barricades on the other side of which were British soldiers. When, in October 1969, the vote was taken to dismantle the barricades, liquidate “Free Derry”, and let the British in, I moved the motion against that. Both the future Provos and the leaders of the left in Derry backed peacefully letting the troops in.

Throughout the 1970s we campaigned loudly in Britain against the British troops. We would not have “voted for” the Provisionals’ war, if we had had a vote, but we felt obliged to back them against the British state. In that we followed the 1920 resolution of the Communist International that communists should back “revolutionary nationalists”, those who really fight against imperialism.

While doing so we avoided the delirious nonsense that predominated in the left then — the idea that the Provisionals’ war was the start of a “process of permanent revolution” that would evolve into working-class power. We took account of the realities of Northern Ireland by advocating regional “autonomy” in a united Ireland for the Protestant majority area in the north-east of the present Six-Counties entity.

In the mid-1980s we changed our position. We said that we could support “troops out” only when linked to a “political settlement” in Ireland. We had belatedly focused on the fact (which we had always apprehended to some degree) that it was grossly inadequate to see Northern Ireland as simply a matter of imperialism and anti-imperialism, or a continuation of Catholic-nationalist Ireland’s long struggle against British oppression. It was fundamentally a matter of the conflict between two distinct Irish identities, Protestant-Unionist and Catholic-nationalist.

We argued that troops out without a political settlement did not mean what most of its advocates thought it meant, a united Ireland, but civil war and bloody repartition.

We did not thereby turn ourselves into supporters of the British state in Northern Ireland, or of its Dublin partners. Not at all! Here too, the peculiarities, as measured by old-established socialist and democratic values and contemporary working-class interests, are not ours but those of the kitsch-left.

Those you call the “kitsch-left” opposed British imperialism in Ireland consistently.

Some of the kitsch-left, notably the SWP, had in reality no coherent policy on Ireland. AWL — then the Trotskyist Tendency of IS (forerunner of the SWP) — opposed the IS leadership’s refusal to oppose British troop deployment in August 1969, fought a long campaign inside IS on the issue, and finally got “the line” changed (on a motion by this writer to the IS NC) in May 1970.

In fact, however, IS’s approach to Ireland after that was shamelessly opportunistic. They raised or dropped slogans to “catch the mood” on the left. They were pseudo-militant. In one and the same article they would combine a upfront demand for “troops out” with small print explaining that the precondition was that British army also “disarm” the Protestant community — i.e. start a war with that Protestant community that would have meant the deployment of far more British troops in Northern Ireland.

In a notably silly little book, by Chris Bambery, entitled Ireland’s Permanent Revolution (1986), they embraced the idiocy that the Provisionals’ war could lead, via “permanent revolution”, to socialism.

Logically, those who backed the Provisionals’ war because they believed in “anti-imperialism” leading through “permanent revolution” to “socialism” should have denounced the Provisionals’ leaders, Adams and McGuinness, as sell-outs and traitors. (As some serious-minded Republicans have done — www.workersliberty.org/node/3899.) The kitsch left has not done that.

But has there, ever or anywhere, been a political balance-sheet drawn on the kitsch left’s politics? Not that I know of. The experience has gone down the memory hole.

The AWL stands on a slippery slope. It may make all sorts of qualifications now, when it rejects “troops out” slogans, but its trajectory will soon lead it into open pro-imperialism.

The kitsch left does not operate by drawing balance-sheets of its experiences and criticising itself where appropriate. That is one reason why it has been, for so long, incapable of learning from its mistakes and its frequent exhibitions of plain political foolishness.

We have tried to learn from experience. We have openly criticised our past positions when we think they were wrong, and defended them when we think they were right. Ireland is one of the main experiences we have learned from. We had a prolonged discussion on Ireland in the first half of the 1980s, much of it published in the paper we produced then, Socialist Organiser, and later reprinted in a pamphlet, Workers’ Liberty no.5.

Back then too, the air was thick with denunciations of our “renegacy”, our inadequate “anti-imperialism” if not outright “pro-imperialism”, and our “Unionism”. Our sidelining of the “troops out” slogan would, we were told, lead us to a wholesale repudiation of revolutionary socialist politics. We have heard similar comments on our position on Iraq, from 2003 onwards.

Our abandonment of the “troops out” slogan for Ireland did not lead to any such consequences. Neither has our refusal to make the formula “troops out” central to our response on Iraq.

Refusal to use slogans whose certain (or extremely probable) practical consequences would be hugely regressive — such as all-out sectarian civil war in Iraq and the destruction of the labour movement — does not point us towards reconciliation with the British or US bourgeoisie! Quite the opposite: by our refusal we assert that they are not just the negative imprint of the British or US leaders.

Reappraisal of Ireland was one of a whole cluster of reappraisals which we made in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I will deal with them in the course of this series, but here it is worthwhile to give an overall picture of the reappraisals.

In fact they were a re-valuation of values. We had believed that “militancy”, negativism towards everything bourgeois or imperialist, should be the all-defining revolutionary Marxist virtue. We would not have put it like that. You can trace strands in our politics which pointed in very different directions — for example, our refusal to join the great surge of militant working-class opposition to British entry to the European Union in the early 1970s. Nevertheless, that belief, or something like it, had dominated our sense of revolutionary socialist duty.

We became convinced, clearly convinced, that militancy was only of value in the service of Marxist analysis. What the working class needs above all from AWL, and from Marxist organisations in general, is not more whooping-it-up of mechanical negation of whatever the ruling class does, not more militant slogans valued for their militancy irrespective of whether or not they make sense in reality. It needs honest Marxist analysis and politics rooted in reality.

Iraq is a clear recent example of that choice. The certain consequence of troops out in the years after 2003 was sectarian civil war, the destruction of the Iraqi labour movement, probably the very bloody ripping-apart of Iraq, and the consolidation of clerical-fascist rule in at least important parts of the territory. That was not self-determination for Iraq. No sane socialist would want that. No-one who did not want that had any sane reason to focus on “troops out”, or “troops out now”, as distinct from a slogan-fetishising reason.

We did not support the US and British troops. We agitated against their misdeeds. But we insisted on linking our opposition to troops with opposition to the sectarian militias.

The peculiar position in terms of socialist and democratic basics was, again, the kitsch left’s. The kitsch left focused on troops out, or troops out now, and does so still. Most of the kitsch-left backed the Sunni-supremacist and clerical-fascist “resistance”.

For those who had, with us, opposed the 2003 invasion, to sloganise demagogically in that way came down to the demand on the imperialist powers that, having invaded Iraq and destroyed the old state, they should now behave in such a way as to ensure the worst possible consequences from the invasion and the destruction of the Ba’thist regime.

The idea that such an approach is “Marxism” is the old bourgeois caricature that Marxism is nihilism, mindless advocacy of bloodshed and social destruction. It is not!

Politically, positively to back the clerical fascists against the bourgeois-democratic forms and forces in Iraq — or against those of quasi-bourgeois-democracy, or of “some bourgeois democracy” if you prefer: nobody should have illusions about the “bourgeois-democratic” forms in Iraq — was grossly and criminally irresponsible towards the Iraqi labour movement. To do it with the claimed justification that the forces on Iraq embodying any scrap of bourgeois democracy were “stooges of imperialism” or “US puppets” made it only a little bit more stupid.

It was not to be anti-imperialist in the Marxist sense but in the nihilist, anarchist sense; and it was to transform anti-imperialism from a rational policy in favour of consistent democracy and self-determination — a rational policy regulated by assessment of realities and real consequences — into a stupid fetish. It was the political equivalent of “automatic writing”, in which the subject is gripped by “supernatural” (in fact, unconscious psychological) forces which guide what is written. It was to substitute petty-bourgeois metaphysics for working-class anti-imperialism.

The AWL attitude is craven bourgeois “realism”, bowing down to short-sighted calculations which exclude all revolutionary possibilities.

The whole Marxist approach is rooted in calculations about realities and consequences. For instance, Lenin, in World War One, argued hypothetically:

“Let us suppose that all the states interested in the observation of international treaties declared war on Germany with the demand for the liberation and indemnification of Belgium. In such a case, the sympathies of Socialists would, of course, be on the side of Germany’s enemies. But the whole point is that the... entente is waging war not over Belgium... In the present war waged by the present governments it is impossible to help Belgium without helping to strangle Austria or Turkey, etc...”

Or again: socialists should generally support independence for small nations if they want it. But: “if Norway’s secession from Sweden [in 1905] had created the certainty or probability of war between Britain and Germany, the Norwegian workers, for that reason alone, would have had to oppose secession”.

Leon Trotsky, in a discussion with Palestinian Trotskyists (http://www.workersliberty.org/node/ 7160), argued that if you could confidently expect the spread of democracy from the victory of the democratic-imperialist powers in World War Two, then you would have to back them. “If there were any grounds for believing that... then it is necessary... to do everything in our power to bring it about. Then the Anglo-French social patriots would be correct...”

Trotsky was arguing that nothing like that could be expected. He was surely right not to give credence in advance to that possibility. But, as it happened, he was mistaken: the victorious USA and Britain did spread bourgeois democracy. The difficulty that the Trotskyists of that time had in recognising that possibility had grievous effects on their politics.

And kitsch-leftists should not talk too loudly about “craven bourgeois realism”. The dominant kitsch left approach of simply saying no when the bourgeois says yes and yes when they say no means, as I have said, becoming the bourgeois-imperialists’ negative imprint. It means confining yourself to what the bourgeois imperialists think is realistic — only turning it inside out, putting yes for no and no for yes.

Marxist anti-imperialism, like everything else in Marxism, is based on reason, concrete assessment, real truth, not the manipulation of emotionally satisfying abstractions, or slogans reduced to fetishes or to demagogic phrase-mongering.

The revaluation of values which we made at the end of the 1970s and the start of the 80s was a rediscovery of Marxist politics and a jettisoning of slogan-mongering and attitudinising. It did not make us less militant against capitalism. It did not lead to reconciliation with bourgeois society. It did not undermine our identification with, and commitment in all circumstances to, the working class.

What it did do is help shape our working-class politics, and render them more free of bourgeois influence. It freed us from the prejudice or the half-notion that we had to let the bourgeoisie determine our political positions for us — negatively!

In the AWL’s calculations and assessments, you look for positive things from imperialism. What is that but pro-imperialism?

Imperialism dominated and shaped the 20th century. Tremendously valuable things were achieved over that century. The material preconditions for socialism were massively enhanced — at the same time, of course, as the survival of the planet as an ecosystem capable of sustaining human life has been jeopardised.

The notion that we say no to everything connected with advanced capitalism is a form of “absolute anti-capitalism” that is utterly alien to Marxism, in letter and in spirit. Marxist socialism presupposes capitalism, advanced capitalism, capitalism which has worked to develop the economy and the working class to the point where classless society becomes a real possibility. Re-read the Communist Manifesto!

The socialist charge against capitalism is not that everything it does takes humanity backwards. It is that capitalism, limited by the private ownership of the means of production, cannot allow the liberation of the potentialities which it creates.

It is all very well recognising, for example, technological progress in capitalism. But the AWL expected progress in Iraq from the invasion!

Some of us — myself, for example — hoped that the vastly powerful USA, no longer locked in competition with Stalinism, would do in Iraq something like what it did in Germany and Japan after World War Two. It was reasonable to have that in mind as a possibility. The astonishing clumsiness and destructiveness of the USA in Iraq was not foreseeable.

But none of us preached belief that the USA would do good things, or deduced from our assessment of possibilities that we should support the USA in Iraq.

And what are you saying here? That we should never calculate, reason, extrapolate from the past into the present? We should shut down our minds and make an absolute god of “anti-imperialism”, meaning negation of and opposition to whatever the advanced-capitalist governments do?

Calculation — knowing that it will sometimes be wrong — is not antagonistic to Marxism. Blind steering by the dim light of fetishised slogans is.

It would have been wrong for socialists, on Iraq, to rely on the USA and its allies to do “good”; to support them on that expectation; to abandon an independent working-class system of judging them and what they do; in other words, to do what a few long-ago members of AWL, those who ended up producing the Euston Manifesto, did from 2004-5.

We did none of those things. We opposed the war and the invasion. That we did not then join the kitsch left in calling the invaders to scuttle, leaving Iraq to the worst possible consequences of the invasion, is a separable questions.

The truth is that for the kitsch-left, anti-imperialism — which for Marxists is an irreplaceable part of democratic working-class politics — has come to replace independent working-class politics. At the time of the Falklands war in 1982, some people who were then in the same organisation as us (their remnant, Alan Thornett and others, are now in Respect) put forward a position that sums up the current real politics of the kitsch-left with a rare candour:

“The class camp into which Argentina fits in a war against imperialism cannot change... We have to determine our position according to the basic class camps... Whatever the implications of that for the Argentinian or British proletariat, we have to base our position on the implications for the international struggle against imperialism first... It is the international balance of forces which gives the struggle its real importance...”

In 1982, that stance was a product of crass ignorance and an inclination towards Stalinism. Today it is the overweening reality of the kitsch left.

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