Workers Vanguard No. 1109
7 April 2017
From the Camp of Fight the Right Liberalism
IG Big Liars Smear ICL on Immigration
The modern technique of the Big Lie was developed by Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels and given currency on the left by Joseph Stalin. The point of the lie is not so much that it is believed, but that it is repeated often enough to be accepted as an excuse for a witchhunt and worse. In that vein, and not for the first time, the Internationalist Group (IG) is smearing the International Communist League as anti-immigrant racists. Thus, last August the Internationalist ran two articles—“Strange Encounters with the ICL” and “Italy: The Refugee Crisis and Capitalist Barbarism”—charging that the ICL is “lining up with the most retrograde elements of the bourgeoisie, including fascists and racists” and is “taking on the role of border guards of the EU [European Union] and within the EU” (emphasis in original).
The charge of racism, like the charge of cop (and the IG slanders us with both), is the dirtiest mud that can be slung on the left. To remain silent is taken as evidence of guilt. But to respond implies that the charges are widespread and perhaps even justified. To give a modern-day equivalent, it would be kind of like responding to Donald Trump’s tweets. A skillful practitioner of the Big Lie, Trump was tutored by Roy Cohn, the legal ghoul of Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist witchhunt who hounded the heroic Rosenbergs to their deaths in the electric chair in 1953. The IG’s latest smear, titled “Spartacist League vs. Refugees” (internationalist.org, 27 February), could be summarized in the tweet “ICL calls for full citizenship rights for all immigrants. Fake News!”
Denouncing us for “capitulation to the racist Trump,” the IG takes aim at the front-page article of Workers Vanguard No. 1105 (10 February) headlined, “Trump Escalates Obama’s War on Immigrants.” Pointing to our demands for “Full citizenship rights for all immigrants!” and “Down with the anti-Muslim ban!” the IG argues that these are merely an elaborate cover for our “chauvinist line of opposing calls for asylum for those fleeing the depredation wrought by U.S. and European imperialism” (emphasis in original). In fact, the IG’s lies against us are a not-very-elaborate cover for their own capitulation to “fight the right” liberalism—that is, the idea that the U.S. imperialist rulers (particularly as represented by the Democratic Party) and their counterparts in the European Union can be pressured to provide freedom and economic well-being for the peoples of the world.
The depredations wrought by the imperialist powers, with the U.S. leading the pack, encompass the globe. With their systematic looting of wide swaths of the planet and their devastating wars, or proxy wars, the advanced capitalist countries impose inhuman conditions on the vast majority of mankind. The United Nations estimates that there are now some 60 million people worldwide displaced by war and persecution, the highest number since World War II. Many millions more migrate to escape the grinding poverty inflicted by capitalist imperialism.
As communists, we do not look to the good graces of the very authors of this devastation to provide refuge for their victims. Our purpose is to forge internationalist revolutionary workers parties that can lead the world proletariat in the struggle to smash this system of brutal exploitation, racial and colonial/neocolonial oppression and war. The IG walks the other side of the street.
Touching Faith in “Humanitarian” Imperialism
The photo accompanying the “Spartacist League vs. Refugees” article shows the IG’s placards at a protest against Trump’s anti-Muslim ban at JFK airport on January 28. The only difference between their slogans and those we raised in the article they denounce as “chauvinist” is a sign demanding “Let Syrian Refugees In.” Besides Syrians, there are millions more fleeing U.S. wars and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq and the imperialist devastation of Libya, to name but a few, as well as others trying to escape horrific civil wars in South Sudan, Congo and elsewhere.
The IG focuses on the desperate plight of Syrian refugees because this has become a cause célèbre among liberals and others trying to promote further “humanitarian” intervention by the U.S. and other imperialist powers into the civil war wracking that country. Few such tears are shed for the countless refugees from the barbaric war in Yemen being waged by the theocratic monarchy of Saudi Arabia, backed by the U.S., that has killed thousands. One cannot find a single article on the IG website on that war and the plight of the refugees it has produced.
The IG lyingly proclaims that we “oppose calls for asylum for Syrian refugees.” No. What we oppose, and have always opposed, is the delusion that the imperialists are going to open their doors to all those seeking refuge. Contrary to the IG, this stance is not counterposed in the least to our history of fighting, for example, for asylum for refugees fleeing state-sponsored reactionary terror in their homelands—from Pinochet’s Chilean junta in the 1970s to the murderous death squads in Central America in the 1980s to the Sri Lankan government-orchestrated Sinhala pogroms against Tamils. More recently, we demanded that desperate Haitian refugees who had the door slammed in their faces by the Obama administration be let in (see WV No. 1099, 4 November 2016).
There is no universal “right to asylum,” as the IG would have it, under capitalist imperialism. The refugee policies of the bourgeoisie are determined by their political interests. That is why, for example, Miami became a haven for gusanos who fled the Cuban Revolution, and defeated counterrevolutionaries from Vietnam were welcomed with open arms. Our demands for asylum have always been determined by the class interests of the working class.
Our aim is to build the unity, solidarity and fighting capacity of the working class both at home and internationally. That means a fight to mobilize the social power of labor in defense of those who have made it here, by championing the call for full citizenship rights for all immigrants and opposing all deportations and anti-immigrant roundups. Against the racist, chauvinist poison whipped up by the bourgeoisie to divide and conquer its wage slaves and echoed in the protectionist “save American jobs” cries of the trade-union bureaucracy, we say that the unions must bring foreign-born workers into their ranks with full rights and protections.
If one is to believe the IG, this is all a ruse to provide cover for our purported anti-immigrant “chauvinism.” They write, “When the Spartacist League stood for revolutionary Trotskyism, its statements that all those here should have the rights of citizens, no matter how they got here, underlined that this meant all immigrants.” Now, the IG sputters, “When WV mouths the call for full citizenship rights for all immigrants, it pointedly restricts it to those who have ‘made it to this country’.” The observant (or not-so-observant) reader might notice that there is no difference between calling for full citizenship rights for “all those here” and for all those who “made it to this country.” The IG’s position amounts to calling for full citizenship rights in the U.S. or the EU for anyone who wants it, wherever they may live.
The idea that all should be able to go wherever they desire might strike some as really radical, a veritable heaven on earth. But on the real planet Earth, it has no small measure of reactionary consequences. The development of modern imperialism was based on the greater capitalist powers forcing weaker and economically backward countries to open their borders to colonial plunder and the flow of finance capital.
Although the IG denies it, their position is but a species of the “open the borders” call raised by many on the reformist left from Europe to the U.S. As we wrote more than 40 years ago in “The Leninist Policy Toward Immigration/Emigration” (WV No. 36, 18 January 1974), this demand is “tantamount to advocating the abolition of nation states under capitalism.” Together with private ownership of the means of production, the nation-state is the very foundation of the capitalist order. Why not call for the abolition of the border police? How about the military and the cops as well? After all, policing borders is just as vital to the very existence of capitalism as the racist, strikebreaking cops and the armed forces that rampage the world in defense of the interests of the U.S. and other imperialist rulers. For that matter, why bother with the fight for socialist revolution?
The EU Fraud of
“Free Movement of People”
The notion of “open borders” has particular currency among liberals and reformists in Europe, where the fraud of “free movement of people” is a key ideological underpinning for maintaining the European Union. A reactionary bloc between European imperialist powers, with the German bourgeoisie in the driver’s seat, the EU from its inception has been a vehicle for increasing the exploitation of workers throughout Europe and the domination of weaker EU countries, like Greece, by the imperialist overlords. Contrary to liberal illusions that all who set foot in an EU country have the right to travel wherever they want under the terms of the Schengen Agreement, the overriding concern of the EU has always been the free movement of capital among member states. Within that framework, the movement of people is manipulated to facilitate the exploitation of low-wage labor according to the needs of capital.
The Schengen Agreement has never prevented the deportation of “undesirable people” like the Roma, many of whom are citizens of EU states. Nor has it stopped the proliferation of barbed-wire fences, walls and detention camps, or the deployment of armed forces to police European state borders. Horrifying scenes of desperate refugees drowning in the Mediterranean make a searing mockery of the “free movement of people.” But this remains the central argument of those dedicated to preserving the EU capitalist consortium, with the IG joining the chorus. The IG’s genuflection to the EU is seen in its refusal to support Brexit in last year’s referendum and to call for a “no” vote on EU-dictated austerity in a referendum in Greece the year before.
In “Italy: The Refugee Crisis and Capitalist Barbarism,” the IG takes up the cudgels for the Partito Comunista dei Lavoratori (PCL) against a polemic in Spartaco, newspaper of our Italian section. The PCL called for “a dignified welcoming plan for migrants, starting with refugees, on a European level. For freedom of travel for immigrants within Europe. Cancellation of the anti-immigrant laws in every country and on a European level.” In response, our Italian comrades argued that such demands feed “the illusion that the imperialist EU can be forced to act on the basis of humanitarian principles.” Weighing in on the side of the PCL, the IG argues:
“The idea that imperialist Europe is going to give a ‘dignified welcome’ to refugees is certainly a reformist illusion. But claiming that calls for freedom of movement of immigrants within Europe and for abolition of anti-immigrant laws amount to prettifying imperialism is another matter altogether. Before saying goodbye to revolutionary Trotskyism…the ICL always opposed all racist, anti-immigrant laws, while explaining that there can be no equitable immigration policy under capitalism.”
We still do. It’s the IG who said farewell to revolutionary Trotskyism when their founding leaders defected from our organization two decades ago.
We oppose all racist, nationally discriminatory immigration laws, regulations, quotas, etc. At the same time, we understand that there can be no “progressive” immigration policy under capitalism. Nor is it our business to propose policy alternatives for the class enemy or to suggest that the imperialist rulers will be moved to provide refuge for all those seeking it.
We explained in our 1974 article, when IG líder máximo Jan Norden was managing editor of WV (going on to become editor for 20-plus years):
“What communists have to say to the impoverished masses of the backward countries is that the answer to their desperate social conditions does not lie in an individual ticket to the U.S. or Western Europe, but rather in an internationalist socialist revolution which is the necessary precondition to the economic reorganization of human society through freeing the productive forces from the fetter of private ownership.”
It will take a series of workers revolutions and the establishment of an international planned economy to lay the basis for eliminating material scarcity through a vast increase in the productive forces. This alone can provide a decent life for those now living in the teeming slums and rural villages of the Third World and redress the carnage wrought by the imperialist mass murderers. Only then will there be a world without borders.
Closer to home, the IG is peddling its wares to anti-Trump “fight the right” liberals and reformists. Railing against our exposure of its support to the “sanctuary cities” scam, the IG fulminates in its most recent diatribe that the SL “doesn’t give a damn whether it is easier or harder for the I.C.E. to deport immigrants” (emphasis in original). On the contrary, we welcome any measure that might impede the immigration cops. But we warn that the “sanctuary cities” notion, which the IG promotes, is a ruse by Democratic Party mayors to present themselves and their killer cops as the “friends” of immigrants. As we wrote in the article the IG finds so offensive: “It is downright delusional to believe that local agents of the capitalist state will establish oases of refuge for immigrants. The cops who gun down black and minority youth with impunity will not protect immigrants from the Feds.” This statement is based on the elementary Marxist understanding of the capitalist state and the armed bodies of men at its core, which is no different on the municipal level than it is federally—unless one subscribes to the myth of municipal “socialism” (otherwise known as “sewer socialism”).
You don’t even have to be a Marxist to see “The False Promise of Sanctuary Cities,” as an article in Slate (17 February) was headlined. The article pointed out:
“It’s not just tough-on-crime Republicans that preside over a criminal justice system that today serves as the front door for a massive deportation pipeline. Every day, police and prosecutors in Democratic Party-controlled cities fuel mass incarceration by arresting and charging people for low-level nonviolent offenses.... For undocumented immigrants, an arrest can trigger detention and deportation by ICE. And that’s true even if a self-described sanctuary city refuses to detain someone upon federal request.”
Indeed, insofar as some local police forces have objected to serving as adjuncts to I.C.E., it is because this detracts from what they consider more important priorities, like the racist “wars” on crime, drugs and gangs, which particularly target black and Latino youth.
The IG’s purpose, which has been the case since they defected from our organization, is to cater to the sensibilities of various Third World nationalists and sundry reformists and radical liberals. Some years back, IG members screamed that our comrades were “anti-Latino” chauvinists. The purported proof of this slander was our article “South Chicago: Snapshots of Latino and Black Life” (WV No. 786, 6 September 2002), which was devoted to combating anti-black racism among Latino immigrants and anti-immigrant bigotry among black workers.
According to the IG, it is “chauvinist” to acknowledge the reality that anti-black racism is inculcated among immigrants by the U.S. capitalist rulers. On the other hand, the IG had no objection to our observation of anti-immigrant sentiment among black people, many of whom resent the fact that the lighter one’s skin color, the more potential opportunities there are for economic advancement. Despite having won citizenship rights following the defeat of the slavocracy in the Civil War, black people in the mass remain forcibly segregated at the bottom of this society.
In a January article titled “The Myth of a ‘White Working Class’,” the IG manages to write not one word about how the race-color caste oppression of black people is the bedrock of American capitalism. On the contrary, the IG simply disappears the racial divide in the working class, a fundamental underpinning of capitalist exploitation and oppression in this country. Burying the centrality of the fight for black freedom to the socialist liberation of the working class as a whole, the article even neglects to mention the need for labor to champion the defense of immigrants. Here is a true measure of the IG’s bombast about organizing “active working-class resistance” against the escalating war on immigrants and refugees.
The purpose of a Leninist vanguard party is to arm the working class with revolutionary consciousness. Key to this task is the understanding that the cause of liberation of all the oppressed is inseparable from the struggle for workers’ emancipation from wage slavery. Having thrown in the towel on any such perspective two decades ago, the IG resorts to slinging slanders of ICL “racism.” This is no mere polemical excess: its purpose is to incite and justify violence against us. But we don’t intend to be got by these apologists for petty-bourgeois liberalism. Although our forces are currently small, our party and our program are vital to the fight for proletarian socialist victory.