By John Beacham – Jan. 11, 2020
No thanks to the war criminal Trump regime and its unprovoked assassination of General Qassim Soleimani, we seem to have averted a major war. For now.
Make no mistake. The stakes are high. They include the possibility of World War 3 breaking out. As socialists, revolutionaries, progressives, workers and oppressed people, we have very important matters of a strategic and tactical nature to think over regarding the Iran crisis.
Iran is not our enemy
The people of the world must thank Iran for its measured action.
We must also unconditionally defend the right of Iran to defend itself from U.S. aggression. The fate of the planet rests on the people’s opposition to imperialist war. Activists in the United States must – through tireless, confident and patient agitation – help workers and oppressed people break through the lies and smoke screens and see imperialism clearly.
When Trump assassinates a beloved leader with a drone in the middle of the night, threatens to bomb some of the world’s treasured cultural sites and paints Iranians as savages, it may be outside of normal diplo speak, but it is not “un-american.” It is proof positive for all to see that the U.S. is an imperialist country.
We must hammer away at any sign of U.S. empire like the refusal to leave Iraq when asked or the illegal intervention in Syria carried out without the approval of the internationally recognized government of that country. The survival of an empire is in no one’s interest. Period.
Considering all the sanctions, the attacks and the dangerous lies of the U.S. media and state that seek to justify these crimes, Iran is justified in carrying out whatever acts it feels it must in order to maintain its sovereignty – whether or not we agree with all of the actions Iran takes.
The U.S. anti-war movement
We must also thank the thousands upon thousands of people who joined the energetic protests to stop the war on Iran.
The nationwide actions surely played an important role in terms of the real pressure they brought to bear on the establishment. Combined with a palpable mass anti-war sentiment, the democratic front runner Sanders opposition to the war and the ruling elites fear of a Trump led war with Iran and its repercussions, Trump and those in his regime who are angling for a war were forced to pause and re-orient their disgusting jingoism.
Once again, we learn the lesson: mass action and state actions are the determining actors at this point in history. When you don’t have the state, you need a mass movement if you want to be a significant part of the equation.
Without decades of organized mass opposition in the streets to war and a fairly consistent street opposition to any new war threat, it is very doubtful that the twin parties of war and profit would stay their hands and back off as often as they have.
We should not underestimate or exaggerate our impact. The U.S. War machine remains powerful and dangerous. We alone cannot stop a U.S. war. Opposition to imperialism must be international to be truly effective.
But … when we mobilized against a full-scale war on Syria, it did not happen. When there was a lesser mobilization against the war on Libya, the results were much worse for the people of Libya.
When we mobilized in massive numbers against the war on Iraq, the war did happen, that’s true. But those mobilizations greatly strengthened the domestic anti-war sentiment until this day. The mobilizations also played a part in the U.S. withdrawal from the country in 2011.
Of course, the people of the assaulted and harangued countries are on the front lines and always lead the movement against any U.S. war. At the end of the day, it was the people of Iraq – en masse and organized – who were primarily responsible for forcing a U.S. withdrawal from the country in 2011.
Our three main tasks
Whenever there is a progressive mass outpouring we must not just move onto the next action or actions – the next struggle. We must not just move on to put out the next fire. We must also seek to catch the arsonists and make them pay for their crimes. We must use the ordeals we go through – whether or not we win – to establish a long-term fire prevention apparatus of as much magnitude as possible so we can build a new society without war, racism and capitalist rule.
Every time we mobilize, every time we mobilize and get results, it ought to remind us of the dynamics of power we are dealing with. We should have power. But we don’t have power.
It was not a leader of the anti-war movement who made the decision not to escalate the war further. No, that was the suits and the generals in suits in Washington who were being influenced by and in conversation with big-business and the big-business media.
We, the people, are only part of the discussion to the extent that we can take to the streets in sufficient numbers. Additionally, we can only make a real and profound difference under militant and independent leadership that consciously intends to empower people.
Small scale action, though laudable and sometimes necessary, is not the key to anything. The tasks we face – saving the planet, ending white supremacy and stopping world war 3 – are epochal and require us to think in terms of changing the entire course of history in a few decades.
Likewise, service provision and building community programs – though very commendable and supported by all genuinely progressive people – are not keys to changing the predicament we are in. Workers and oppressed people, at the end of the day, need power, not handouts and recreational activities, etc.
Workers and oppressed people must be the subjects of their own liberation, not supplicants or passive recipients of goods and services.
To the extent that the elections, union organizing or other parts of the struggle carry mass potential, we should find a temporary or sustained way to engage organically, of course. But the growing trend to “serve the people” or “build a base” or “be in the community” is helpful only to the ruling class. The rulers of this planet would absolutely love it if all those who envision a new world of justice, cooperation and sustainability spent their time doing community work.
How will we save the planet by building a community garden? How will we end white supremacy by teaching self-defense classes to people of color? How will we stop World War 3 by building a community center in a poverty-stricken part of the city? How do you defeat the most powerful empire in history with a winter coat drive? The questions answer themselves!
We must be clear about the times we are living in. We do not have time for amateurism of any kind.
Progressives, Socialists, Revolutionaries, we have three main tasks in this period: Build Organization, Build an United and Independent Mass Movement and Educate the Masses to truly empower ourselves. We need a revolution. All energy and effort must be directed around these three pillars or the people of the U.S. will not play the crucial role that is required of us – to bring an end to imperialism and capitalism before imperialism and capitalism end us all.
John Beacham is a college teacher, a union member and an anti-war/social justice activist. He was the Midwest coordinator of the PSL campaigns for president in 2008 and 2012. He is currently the founder of MASS ACTION Podcast & Publication. http://mass-action.org