In the wake of the deaths in Nice, Jeffrey St. Clair points out:
“One of the primary elements missing from the world polity the past nine years—especially in the United States—is the antiwar movement.”
It’s maddening to be an anti-war activist in an era where the election of Barack Obama, who continued Dubya’s imperial wars, led to the shriveling up of the movement that had been millions strong from 2001-2008. There’s good research done by political scientists Heaney and Rojas that while the hard core of anti-war, anti-imperial activists were protesting US militarism, most of the protesters were simply Democrats upset that Bush was carrying out a war under a Republican banner.
A strong anti-war movement would serve as an ideological counterweight to the rising tide of right-wing nationalism across Europe and the United States. Injecting historical context and contemporary criticism of European and US imperial policies in the Middle East and North Africa is no small matter when millions who know nothing about this are groping around for answers and finding little but neo-authoritarian groups who provide them.
It would also provide a bulwark and breeding ground for domestic left-wing politics especially during times of great class struggle. Is it any wonder that a revolution was born in 1917 from the anti-war movement in Russia, and the rise of the 1960s anti-war movement paralleled those for civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights? Being able to see an holistic picture of how the state and ruling class order the world for their profit can only help the left’s growth.
It’s also a litmus test for how far the left has gone and has to go; not being able to criticize the imperialism of your own government – of the global hegemon – points to the immaturity of left forces. As a Marxist and Green, it was always clear that Bernie’s entry into the Democratic party would end with his capitulation, but it was especially so given his milquetoast critique of US foreign policy and refusal to define himself as robustly anti-imperial against the former Secretary of State. If you can’t do that against the living embodiment of US imperial power, your “left-wing”campaign for president is not serious.
We are reaching – I think – a point where the illusions of the old politics are being stripped away. Building a new mass anti-war movement is not only possible, it’s probable. Unlike last time, there cannot be any wavering on the need to put a fundamental critique of US hegemony at the center of the movement. To sacrifice this is to compromise the integrity of the movement itself in the hopes attracting only moderately committed members, something that was done in 2004. We cannot let it happen again or the left will continue to wander in a wilderness of its own making.