YS/LJS Anti-War Resolution (1969)
Draft Anti-War Resolution submitted by the Central Executive Council of the Young Socialists / Ligue des Jeunes Socialistes to the 1969 Convention of the YS/LJS. Published in YS/LJS Discussion Bulletin, Vol. 5 No. 2
The war in Vietnam stands today as the central focus of the world confrontation between socialism and imperialism. The Vietnamese people have shown that the mighty imperialist military machine can be stopped in its tracks and thrown back by the struggle of a determined people. This fact has underlined the revolutionary character of this decade and has been the central factor behind the wave of youth radicalization sweeping the world. Defense of the Vietnamese revolution stands as the paramount duty of every revolutionary today. Since the Vietnamese are struggling and defeating our common enemy, imperialism, proletarian internationalism demands that we do everything we can to aid them. It is this fundamental understanding that motivates our consistent defense of the Vietnamese revolution.
The war in Vietnam has not lessened in intensity and ferocity. The much heralded "withdrawal" of troops by the Nixon administration is nothing but a fraud intended to cut across popular opposition to the war. The imperialists cannot withdraw substantial numbers of troops without losing the war—and Nixon has not given up his long term objective of rolling back the Vietnamese revolution and carrying counter-revolution into China. At the same time, however, each of Nixon’s maneuvers whets the appetite of the American people and the troops for more withdrawals. The feeling of distrust of Americans towards the government has increased, as has the determination of the Vietnamese to carry the struggle forward to victory,
The Vietnam war has given rise to an international movement against the war on every continent. This development has been particularly profound in the heartland of imperialism, the United States, where the first mass movement against a war in progress has grown up. This movement is now being joined by growing numbers of GI’s who are organizing against the war and demanding their civil rights in doing so. The international anti-war movement has been second only to the heroic efforts of the Vietnamese in thwarting the designs of imperialism. This international movement has also reflected the world wide radicalization around the question of Vietnam and has had the effect of deepening and broadening this radicalization, particularly among the youth.
Arms continue to flow from Canadian manufacturers to the American military. Canadian diplomats act as spies and apologists for the Pentagon on the International Control Commission. Canadian scientists are helping to develop chemical and biological weapons for the arsenals of world imperialism. Canadian troops are now being trained in anti-riot and counter-insurgency techniques—with the intent to use them to crush revolutions throughout the world. The Canadian military is being groomed to play and important role internationally—that of "peace-keeper" or undercover agent, running interference for American imperialism when the going gets rough.
The basic slogan of the anti-war movement internationally is ‘Withdraw U.S. Troops Now". This slogan is based on the fundamental right of nations to self-determination. The withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops from Vietnam is essential to guarantee the Vietnamese this right. The revolutionary socialists have gone through a long struggle to establish this slogan as the main slogan of the anti-war movement. Conservative forces in the anti-war movement have attempted to steer the movement behind demands such as "negotiations" " stop the bombing" "recognition of the NLF" etc. These slogans have been counterposed to the withdrawal demand as the basis for building the anti-war movement. Such slogans, however, by omitting the essential anti-imperialist thrust of the withdrawal position, have not and can not be the basis for effective action. They do not call for, explicitly or otherwise, the self-determination of the Vietnamese, and leave the anti-war movement open to disorientation by minor concessions from the ruling class. The bankruptcy of the negotiations slogan has become quite evident, especially to the GI’s who are fighting and dying in Vietnam while the negotiations in Paris drag on.
The ultra-lefts have attacked the withdrawal slogan as a "liberal" demand which does not openly denounce imperialism. They tell us that what is needed is an openly anti-imperialist movement with slogans like "Smash Imperialism" or "Victory to the NLF." They make a serious error in not understanding that "Withdraw U.S. Troops Now" would mean a smashing defeat for U.S. imperialism—a victory for the NLF. "Smash Imperialism" and "Victory to the NLF," while commendable sentiments, do not offer a programmatic basis for building a mass movement, in concrete opposition to the war. Such slogans are not directed at making demands of the American and Canadian governments, and counterposing a solution to the war policy, as the withdrawal slogan does. The great strength of our slogan is that at a time when the majority of people, including students, are not consciously anti-imperialist, it can mobilize masses of people against an imperialist war, and in the process many will become conscious of the nature of imperialism.
A specific test of the correctness of our slogan occurred in Toronto on October 26, 1968 and in Vancouver on April 5, 1969 when the ultra-lefts, organized in opposition to the anti-war movement with their own slogans, were able to mobilize only 1/6 to 1/10 of those on the Withdrawal demonstrations. It is interesting to note that the Canadians for the NLF, which was dominated by a Maoist sect, no longer exists since they came to the conclusion that the NLF has "sold out" and become "revisionist."
Another key demand on which the anti-war movement has been built has been "End Canadian Complicity." This demand directly indicts the Canadian government for its aid in the imperialist assault on Vietnam. It mobilizes opposition to this aid and educates people about the nature of the Canadian government. We must tear the mask away from the so-called "peace-keeping" being contemplated by the Trudeau government and expose its imperialist character. "No Canadian troops for foreign wars of aggression!" We must continue to make opposition to Canada’s complicity in the war the focal point for opposition to the entire foreign policy of the Trudeau government, including its participation in the imperialist war alliances, NATO and NORAD. Opposition to Canadian complicity, organized by the anti-war movement, has played a role in preventing more overt support for American imperialism by the government and has already played a role in raising the level of consciousness about the character of the Canadian imperialist government.
The anti-war movement has been built around the single issue of Vietnam through Committees to End the War in Vietnam and united front committees. This single-issue approach has proven itself, but we have had to fight hard to establish the principle. Other tendencies in the anti-war movement (New Left, C.P., Maoists, Liberal pacifists) have tried at various times to turn the movement into a multi-issue appendage of their own movement. We know that the imposition of a multi-issue political program would tend to limit the size and effectiveness of the movement.
We have consistently attempted to bring all the forces opposed to the war together on a united front basis around the principled demands of withdrawal and ending complicity. Mobilization or coordinating committees which unite or attempt to unite all forces against the war are now the basic vehicle for anti-war organizing across the country. At this time, the Vietnam Mobilization Committee in Toronto, founded March 2, 1968, is the leading anti-war committee in Canada. It is a coalition of revolutionary socialists, NDPers, independent activists, and on a somewhat less stable basis, CPers and pacifists. It was the first committee to establish a full time office and staffer.
There have been many attempts to exclude other tendencies from the anti-war movement, most often the Trotskyists. We have always opposed this strongly. We have defended and won the right of all tendencies to take part in the movement, to distribute their literature freely, and to be able to carry their own slogans on demonstrations.
The withdrawal tendency was excluded from coordinating committees in Toronto and Vancouver in the summer of 1966, on the grounds that it supported a single issue movement and wanted to link it up with the American and world wide anti-war movement. It was not until after the successful Student Day of Protest on November 11, 1966, organized by the withdrawal tendency, that the coalition came back together again. Another split occurred in Toronto after October 21, 1967, when the CPers and pacifists of the Toronto Coordinating Committee pulled out because a spokesman for the withdrawal student wing of the movement insisted on his right to speak at the demonstration.
Revolutionary socialists have consistently carried the position that it is necessary to go out into the streets and organize mass demonstrations. This position ran counter to the orientation of the right wing to make reformist appeals to the government, and the tendency of the ultralefts towards individual heroic confrontations with the police. We have pointed out that the only effective action is mass action, that can force a change in government policy and raise the level of consciousness of Canadian workers.
The growth of the anti-war movement has largely been a result of the conscious intervention of the revolutionary socialists in influencing its direction. The movement has taken great steps forward both in terms of its politics and its numbers since it was initiated in the latter half of 1965. The movement is now based firmly on the demand for immediate withdrawal and ending Canada’s complicity. There is wide rejection of any peace-keeping role for the Canadian government. The movement is now able to mobilize thousands in the major cities (10,000 in Toronto on April 6, 1969). It has played an important role in the international antiwar movement by making the Canadian government's aid to imperialist aggression very difficult.
On the other hand, while the majority of Canadians undoubtedly oppose the war, only a small minority have been mobilized. The bulk of the demonstrations have been student youth with little representation from the unions. While there has been formal endorsation by the NDP and some important unions, this has resulted in little rank and file participation. Formal endorsation is of course very important, but we must continue to challenge the NDP and the unions to give some muscle into the anti-war movement by mobilizing their rank and file.
To date the government has had some success in hiding its real intentions in that Canada is somewhat removed from the war. However, with the increasing crisis of world imperialism, we can expect that:
The prospects are for a growing anti-war movement, broadening its support among students and workers. The November 15 International Day of Protest will be an important landmark in this process.
The war has been a crucial test, for the left tendencies. Only the revolutionary socialists have consistently defended the Vietnamese revolution, and consequently have been able to recruit from the thousands of youth radicalized on that issue. The Communist Party has broken away from the anti-war movement a number of times over the withdrawal demand, and has consistently tried to introduce exclusionism into the movement. The reformists have shown no desire to mobilize the forces of the NDP and the labour movement, and have even offered justification for Canada’s complicity by accenting the idea that the government can "peace-keep." The ultra-lefts—both the spontaneist and Maoist varieties—have refused to participate in the anti-war movement on the grounds that Vietnam is not an issue, or that the movement is not anti-imperialist, or that the NLF has sold out.
We can safely say that without the work of the Trotskyists there would be no anti-war movement as it exists today. Of course we cannot rest on our laurels—we have to continue to build the movement until every soldier is brought home.
Vietnam has been a key radicalizing factor in Quebec and a great inspiration to the Quebec struggle, but it has not found the same response as in English Canada in terms of mass demonstrations or a widespread development of conscious internationalism. A more immediate question has been the national oppression which the Quebecois feel every day of their lives.
This has found its reflection also in the role or various left tendencies which have sprung to life around the national question. They feel little obligation to work consistently on the Vietnam question. When the Union Generale des Etudiants du Quebec (UGEQ) called demonstrations on November 18, 1967, more than 5000 students responded, but this has been the exception to the general lack of participation in the anti-war movement.
This makes the role of revolutionary socialists even more important. We are the only ones who understand the importance of the Vietnamese revolution, and the contribution an anti-war movement can make to the development of political consciousness. Past actions have shown the possibilities of an anti-war movement in Quebec. In the future we shall continue to mobilize the largest possible participation in anti-war activities. Consistent work around the Vietnam issue is bound to bear fruit as the deepening of national consciousness leads to solidarity with other national struggles.
The student anti-war movement has played the key role in building the movement across Canada. Students have been represented on demonstrations far out of proportion to their numbers. Particularly impressive have been the high school contingents. Students have done the bulk of the work for the mass mobilizations. Single-issue, non-exclusionist membership committees have been vital in building the student anti-war movement. Initially these committees functioned on a day-to-day basis with regular educational and business meetings. With the widespread dissemination of information on Vietnam and the rise of other campus struggles, they have lost this character. They have become instead mobilization committees, bringing together anti-war forces around the major demonstrations.
The Student Association to End the War In Vietnam (SAEWV) played a key role in coordinating anti-war activities of students from its foundation in March 1967. It was able to gather together the only cross-Canada assemblies of anti-war activists during its period of existence. Early in 1968 its role of coordinating the cross-country movement was taken over by the Vietnam Mobilization Committee, and it passed from the political scene.
It is far more effective to mobilize students as students both in terms of their response and in terms of making long-term contacts for the anti-war movement. It is thus important to maintain and strengthen the student committees as the bulwark of the withdrawal tendency of the anti-war movement.
Opposition to campus complicity has great potential both in terms of bringing the war issue home to students, but also in raising the broader question of the role of the university in capitalist society. We demand an end to war company recruitment, an end to all military financed research including that of the Canadian government, an end to campus recruitment by the Canadian army, and the removal of directors of war companies from the campus. All these demands are part of a strategy to free the university from the hold of the capitalist class so that it can serve the workers.
In carrying such a campaign, we have to be very careful to pose the issues so that students can understand them. What is in question is the right to use campus facilities for recruitment—something that should be under the control of the students. No one is being denied the right of free speech or the right to get a job. We must call on the administration to stop the recruiters—they are complicit in the war, not the students. In certain conditions we should call for a referendum on the question. Above all, we must be sensitive to the engineers. They are being affected by the general student radicalization. We never pose that an individual working for a war company is a criminal or that individual acts such as refusing to work for such companies are effective. We pose to engineers that they join us in opposition to the war and campus complicity in it.
Solidarity actions by Canadian students with the November 14 American Student Strike against the war will demonstrate the depth of anti-war feeling on the campuses, as will student participation in the mass demonstrations on Nov. 15.
The slogans and perspective advanced since the beginning by revolutionary socialists, have been carried out in the Canadian anti-war movement. The task before us is the broadening of the movement. The radicalization of students means that there is a wider audience than ever before. We must rise to this challenge. While more people support the right of the Vietnamese to self-determination, we should attempt to develop this basic understanding info an anti-capitalist consciousness. We must try to win anti-war activists to the fight against all wars—to the fight against capitalism and for socialism.
The anti-war movement has been a tremendous example of mass action. It has shown many people the effectiveness of mass struggle and the possibility of making a real impact on the course of history. It has also been a great training ground for revolutionary leaders who will play a key role in the future mass struggles. But, above all, the anti-war movement throughout the world has been tremendous and effective defense of the Vietnamese revolution.
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