Wars Will Cease When We Refuse to Fight
Log Cabin Republicans vs. United States—How do socialists make the case for peace?
Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips in California decided in the case of Log Cabin Republicans v. United States that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) military policy was unconstitutional and should cease being enforced. A few days later, the Obama administration appealed the judge’s order, claiming more time and study are needed to retire the policy. The Log Cabin Club is, of course, a group of gay Republicans who are hawking many of their party’s most conservative positions, including conventional militarism.
Open Letter is the name of a political e-mail list whose members get a collection of excerpts, Web links and my own commentary from time to time. I decided to forward to Truthdig this Open Letter. Generally, I am reluctant to use the personal pronoun in political writing, but I used it here, sparingly, because I want to register my moral and personal discontent with the way this issue has played out in public life.
WARS WILL CEASE WHEN WE REFUSE TO FIGHT
Readers of Open Letter,
The first political group I ever joined was the War Resisters League. I was also drawn early to the tradition of anti-militarism among socialists.
So I believe the issue of anti-gay discrimination within the military is not ideal for people who may share my political views. We could take a purely pacifist position and say no one should ever take up weapons, much less serve in uniform at the command of any state. Or we could take the position that armed struggle is legitimate only in the cause of revolutionary socialism. Either one of those positions rules out serving in the armed forces under a capitalist ruling class. The pacifist position goes further and would rule out taking military commands from any socialist regime as well.
On both moral and political grounds, I incline toward a pragmatic form of pacifism. Under direct assault, many people (myself included) might fight back by any means necessary. But in that case the resort to violence would be truly defensive.
I do not regard gay and lesbian soldiers seeking elementary legal equality as political heroes. It takes much greater courage for soldiers and veterans of all sexual persuasions to renounce war and imperial adventures.
I would hope that this issue of legal equality in military ranks can be resolved with due speed, so we can remove it from the public agenda. Like it or not, equality within the military has pushed forward other forms of civic equality in this country. This was certainly the case when the military became one institutional model of desegregation, by no means perfect.
If politics is simply a version of team sports, then rabid cheering for “the lesser of two evils” rules out defending open and fair elections. As the mid-term elections approach, many Democratic Party loyalists will view the Log Cabin Republicans v. United States in purely partisan terms. And surely the Log Cabin Republican members themselves hoped to score decisive political points by making this case in court.
The fact remains that the Log Cabin Republicans have made the better case for speedy abolition of “don’t ask, don’t tell” than the triangulating apparatchiks within the Democratic Party. Ugly, but there it is. I see no advantage in obscuring the history of this issue, or the real actions of groups seeking to gain or hold power by playing gay people as pawns. In this case, gay people in uniform.
The Democratic Party now owns these wars as much as the Republican Party. Anyone who claims I am seeking an opportunist coalition with gay Republicans is simply refusing to face brutal facts. One of those facts is that Obama raised hopes for change, including repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Another brutal fact is that DADT was signed into federal law by a previous Democrat in the White House, namely, Bill Clinton.
The class struggle must be waged beyond election days, which are presently organized to keep capitalist politicians in power. But that does not mean we should not bother to contest elections. On the contrary, vote for the Green Party of the United States. And for any socialist party truly committed to democracy, including the Socialist Party of the United States.
To fight the corporate state we must also fight the bipartisan lockdown of the electoral system. At present, imperial wars are conducted under the general justification of national security, spreading democracy and fighting terrorism. Terrorist networks are of course a real threat. But they can only be fought with old-fashioned detective work, good communications technology, and limited police actions under international law.
If we are socialists, we also say openly that the roots of terrorism dry and wither only when the seeds of workplace democracy and justice have been sown. Certainly religious fundamentalism has its own drive and momentum, but it would have more competition for hearts and minds if a humane class struggle was waged across borders.
Not one vote and not one cent for the parties of war and empire.
For peace, democracy and socialism.
Scott Tucker is a democratic socialist living in Los Angeles.
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