Perhaps the most catastrophic consequence of our Party leadership’s loss of its working-class and Marxist-Leninist bearings has been its de facto acquiescence to the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
This failure of political leadership invites comparison to the betrayal of the Socialist parties of the Second International on the eve of World War I, when, in an about-face from their prior solemn antiwar declarations, their deputies voted for military appropriations to wage war against workers in neighboring countries.
The failing by our Party’s present leadership to discharge i ts anti-imperialist duty was glaring under George W. Bush and continues to this day. It’s had a profoundly destabilizing effect on the U.S. antiwar movement, and has no doubt played a role in the severe weakening of at least one major antiwar coalition.
Almost immediately after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Party leadership abandoned the antiwar movement’s call for immediate withdrawal from that country.
The source of our leadership’s abandonment of an anti-imperialist position was (1) the intense pressure put on the U.S. population by the ruling, capitalist class to go along with this criminal adventure, (2) the poor class composition of our leading collectives (very few industrial workers), and (3) the longtime neglect of Marxist-Leninist education.
Instead of maintaining a resolute stand against the war, our Party’s leadership caved in to the pressure and parroted conservative, liberal and State Department arguments that the U.S. presence was helping to establish democracy there, or that it was preventing the takeover by the country by former Baathists or religious fanatics, or that it was forestalling civil war. It branded any and all armed Iraqi resistance to the U.S. occupation as illegitimate.
Later, as the war dragged on and U.S. atrocities (Abu Ghraib, Fallujah) against the Iraqis mounted, instead of advocating for the immediate U.S. withdrawal and the paying of reparations to the Iraqi people for the loss of life and the devastation, CPUSA leaders resorted to the argument that it would be irresponsible to leave Iraq quickly, given that "we" had destroyed so much of it. That remains their chief argument today.
These rationalizations have a long history. They basically boil down to the "white man’s burden" argument of the European colonialists of over a century ago. They are saturated with racism. They also echo the social-chauvinist arguments of many Socialist parties upon the outbreak of World War I.
This pro-imperialist position has been fought by rank-and-file Party members in a variety of ways. Despite the poor leadership from our Party’s center, many individuals and clubs have doggedly tried to advance antiwar work in their own locales.
In the run-up to the CPUSA convention in 2005, the Illinois convention unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq.
The resolution stated that the war had been launched by the Bush administration for the purpose of controlling Iraq’s and the region’s resources, particularly oil, and to elbow out U.S. imperialism’s rivals; that it was sold to the U.S. people and the world on the basis of lies; that it had taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of U.S. troops; that companies like Halliburton had made obscene profits from the war; that the cost of waging this war and occupation had led to the starving of badly needed social and education programs in the U.S.; and that therefore the CPUSA "calls for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq," the payment of reparations to the Iraqi people and the prosecution of the responsible U.S. officials for war crimes.
The Illinois Party, after taking this action, also forwarded it on to the national convention for adoption.
Although efforts were subsequently made by a clearly uncomfortable national Party leadership to have the maker of the motion change it ("to reflect the security interests of the Iraqi people" – i.e. to acknowledge the legitimacy of the U.S. occupiers), the maker refused, pointing out that even if he had wanted to do so (which he did not), it was already out of his hands. The resolution ultimately came before the national convention in a bundle of resolutions approved by the resolutions committee. That bundle was adopted unanimously.
So what’s the problem, you might ask.
The problem is that the resolution was willfully disregarded by the Party’s leadership and editors. Its content was never reflected in the Party’s own newspaper. Efforts to have this position reflected in the Party’s publications were repeatedly quashed. Nor was the resolution implemented in the Party’s mass work, particularly on the national level. It remains a dead letter to this day.
The justification for this willful neglect was that comrade Sam Webb, in his report to the convention, suggested a "different approach" – one of calling for a "timetable" or an "exit strategy" from Iraq. This approach was and essentially remains a stalling tactic, an indefinite postponement of U.S. withdrawal that has resulted in many thousands of additional Iraqi and U.S. deaths and the continued presence of over 100,000 U.S. troops (and a similar number of "contractors") in Iraq up to this very day.
Webb’s report, which was presented without any opportunity for substantive amendment, was perfunctorily adopted. It was then used to invalidate the clear antiwar resolution. And this from a Party leadership that purports to champion democracy!
But that is not all. When over 60 Communist and Workers’ parties circulated a statement calling for worldwide demonstrations on the war’s third anniversary and for "the immediate withdrawal of all occupation forces as a prerequisite for a democratic and sovereign Iraq," our Party’s leadership refused to sign. Its absence from the list stood out like a sore thumb.
The problem continues: only a few months ago the CPUSA’s national board overwhelmingly rejected a similar resolution calling for the immediate U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Our Party’s antiwar work has come to a virtual standstill. National and local antiwar marches are ignored or in some instances consciously boycotted, the March 20 antiwar demonstrations being a recent case in point. Party leaders argue that "it’s not a time to mobilize" antiwar sentiment. Even the call to cut the military budget has been termed "a lefty demand" by some in the Party leadership.
One could cite numerous other failings to meet our Party’s internationalist obligations, e.g. our leadership’s lackluster expressions of solidarity with the Palestinian people, the Colombian people, or Cuban people and the Cuban Five.
One of the primary tasks of our national convention should be to break with this shameful lapse and to redirect our Party back on to the path of working-class internationalism. We need to resuscitate the Peace and Solidarity Commission and make concrete assignments of Party members across the country to antiwar work.
We must demand an immediate end these criminal wars, the swift closing of the hundreds of U.S. military bases that ring the planet, and the slashing of the Pentagon budget so as to fund human needs like jobs, housing, food programs, education and health care.