In late August, Veterans for Peace (VFP) and Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will have their national conventions with military families participating. These groups’ leaders put their hopes on politicians to end the war in Iraq. But all politicians represent the interests of capitalism — profit wars, racism, and sexism. The Progressive Labor Party is organizing to fight the ruler’s agenda, not with false hopes of change from elections, but by building an international communist movement to smash imperialism and its racist, sexist warmakers.
While some activists honestly feel fighting racism is a distraction to the goal of ending the war, anti-racist unity helped anti-war troops contribute to the collapse of U.S. ground forces in Vietnam. A majority of Vietnam-era GI rebellions centered on fighting the racism against black and Latin soldiers along with fighting against the war. Fighting the military’s anti-Asian racism was also vital to building solidarity with “the enemy” which led to US troops fragging — killing — gung ho patriotic officers, rather than killing and dying for U.S. imperialism.
Today, fighting racism is still crucial to fighting imperialism. Limiting the argument to the Iraqi War being bad because U.S. troops are being killed supports U.S. rulers’ racist agenda of having troops see Asian, Arab, and Muslim workers as subhuman. The wars, in both Afghanistan and Iraq, are wrong because they’re killing our class brothers and sisters, not just U.S. troops. Liberal “anti-war” politicians, like the 13 congressional democrats who wrote a support statement to anti-Iraq war troops, condone the racist anti-Muslim lies and support the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
Even though many in the U.S. military honestly believe in the ideas of national honor and pride in the US constitution, the history of US ruler’s racist terror — from slavery and the Indian wars to recent police murders, raids against immigrant workers, and the murder of millions in Iraq and many thousands in Afghanistan—contradicts these “patriotic” ideals and proves they are a lie. But instead of winning and developing anti-racist activists through education and action, some IVAW leaders want to appeal to a patriotism that makes unity with the ruler’s politicians more important than unity with workers worldwide.
Many anti-racists aren’t duped. Black youth are resisting enlistment and black troops are opting for support jobs in part because of the memory of Vietnam-era racism, which led to disproportionate higher casualties among black and Latin soldiers.
Within IVAW, members have raised and led fights against the racist nature of imperialism. But some IVAW leaders say they don’t want to alienate “middle America” by talking about racism. The leadership dropped a planned panel on “racism within the military” during the group’s Winter Soldier testimonies. IVAW’s active membership, like other military peace groups, remains mostly white. This poses no problems, however, if you want to capture the spotlight of the racist media and reach racist politicians, instead of building a multi-racial movement to fight imperialism.
Like racism, sexism aids imperialism. Capitalists win male troops to kill and die for profits using a sexist macho warrior role. The U.S. military’s tolerance of sexism within the ranks leads male troops to direct anger and lack of control over deployments into seeing female troops as “walking mattresses” or sexually attacking fellow troops instead of the bosses. Sexism within IVAW led, in part, to the formation of the Service Women’s Action Network, a liberal feminist veterans organization. Uniting working-class men and women to fight sexism is among PLP goals.
The unity of multi-racial male and female working-class troops against the military’s racism and sexism will lead to a stronger movement that can land a powerful blow to imperialism and recruit to PLP.