Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 29, 2005

Dear Juan Cole

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 10:14 am

Dear Juan Cole,

In your 9/29 Salon.com article, you use the 9/24 protests as an opportunity to lecture the Democratic Party about its refusal to take a stand against the war in Iraq:

The frankly pusillanimous tactic of declining to speak out on the war will ill serve the Democratic Party, which has managed to lose both houses of Congress, the presidency and the Supreme Court. The American public is not generally antiwar, it is simply impatient with any long-term, highly expensive governmental endeavor that does not appear likely to succeed.

Full: http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2005/09/29/protests/index.html

I don’t think you are being fair to the Democratic Party leadership. Recent history would indicate a willingness to go to the mat when they are engaged with the proper issue. For example, Bill Clinton showed enormous backbone and a fighting spirit equal to Mohammad Ali’s when he pushed NAFTA through Congress. Defying his trade union supporters, he brazened it out with a sure conviction that low wages and free trade would improve the bottom line of American corporations. We haven’t seen such a profile in courage since Ronald Reagan fired the airline controllers.

You also manage to throw in a rather savvy bit of red-baiting that at first gives the appearance of rejecting it:

The permits for the protests and some sort of basic organization were provided by small far-left groups, but anyone who took the time to do an Internet search in student and local newspapers could find accounts of ordinary students, churchgoers and municipal peace groups chartering buses for the nation’s capital. Surely no one thinks that International ANSWER or the Workers World Party of Ramsey Clark has more than a handful of members. They were good for setting a date and getting a permit. Popular discontent with the war supplied the demonstrators.

To start with, the march was co-sponsored by the groups mentioned above and by United for Peace and Justice. I am sure that you are aware that it took months for them to hammer out an agreement. Whatever one wants to say about UfPJ, “far left” would be the last term to spring to mind. This is a group whose leaders have a fondness for the Democratic Party equal to your own. Even the Communists among them agree that “setting a date” for withdrawal à la Russ Feingold is a more sensible approach than a precipitous withdrawal. (Which leads me to consider agitating for a new slogan for the antiwar movement: “Precipitous Withdrawal!” Has a certain ring, doesn’t it?)

Perhaps out differences revolve around semantics in the final analysis. You write:

The potential of a strong antiwar stance striking a chord with the public has already been demonstrated by Paul Hackett. A Marine who recently served in Iraq, Hackett became a civilian and ran in August as a Democrat for Congress in Ohio’s 2nd District, traditionally heavily Republican. He lambasted George W. Bush as a chicken hawk and said he should never have begun the Iraq war. Yet Hackett is no peacenik. He says, “I love the Marine Corps. I happen to think it’s being misused in Iraq.” He only narrowly lost the election, and the Democratic leadership is seriously thinking of putting him up for an Ohio Senate seat, according to the Hill.

Now, I think that Paul Hackett has been evolving in an interesting fashion following his failed run in Ohio. I saw him on Bill Maher a couple of months ago giving support for precipitous withdrawal, bless his soul. But his campaign can only be described as “antiwar” in the sense that John Kerry ran an “antiwar” campaign in 2004. The American Prospect reported, “Hackett, who worked alongside and helped train Iraqi troops, believes U.S. forces should remain in Iraq until at least 140,000 Iraqi soldiers have been trained, and won’t put a timetable on American withdrawal.” Now I understand that this sort of Nixonian “Iraqization” approach might be interpreted as “antiwar” in some circles, it doesn’t stand up to a serious analysis.

Between the Democrats and the Republicans, there can be all sorts of disagreements about the war in Iraq, but they are united on the all-important question, namely the right of the U.S.A. to dictate what an appropriate outcome would be. Finally, I appreciate the fact that you are giving space to Gilbert Achcar on your blog to respond to you on these questions. This represents an open-minded attitude that the broader left movement should embrace. I just wish that you take his arguments to heart, since they seem far more consistent with the humanitarian and internationalist perspective you have adopted on your blog on most days.

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