I’m sorry that the pressure of events has delayed my making any response to this post – now two weeks old. (referring to an ad by ANSWER for a Peace Action)
Please understand I do NOT want to start any “political faction fight” by email, but there are some points that I think do need to be made.
ANSWER is run by a small group of unusually orthodox Marxist/Leninsts called the Workers World Party. (Their origins are Trotskyist – they were formed in 1956 by a small group within the US Trotskyist movement which supported the Soviet invasion of Hungary). They have been very successful in pulling off major demonstrations here because while their membership is under 500, they are very hard working, and filled a vacuum caused by the failure of the other range of groups to get their act together sooner. They have also been able to use Ramsey Clark as their public figure (he doesn’t belong to WWP but is not critical of them – sometimes I think he may even be unaware of their politics).
Another tiny group (RCP – the Revolutionary Communist Party, whose politics are Maoist, and are enthusiastic supporters of the “Shining Path” in Peru) has also been successful in setting up NION (Not in Our Name), but somewhat to their credit, they have let “NION be captured” – RCP keeps their own politics very much in the background so that NION comes much closer to being a broad movement where the more sectarian elements are “submerged”.
In the rallies which ANSWER has pulled together, the speakers reflect the narrower, more militant elements of the left in the US. The broader outreach, including trade unions, church groups, etc., has occured under the new grouping United for Peace and Justice, (UPJ)
Please understand that I am not suggesting that because RCP or WWP are small that they don’t deserve a lot of credit for the work they have done. None of us are that large and I’m not trying to “trash” these groups. Only to make it clear that the American anti-war movement is much broader and I hope makes an early point of reaching out to the international peace movement. In short, ANSWER is not able to represent “the American movement” in any international coaliton – only to represent itself.
I am reporting this because I don’t know that UPF has had the money or even the awareness of the need to reach out to the international community – it would be very easy for any of your groups to mistake ANSWER for “the real American movement”. It is not – it is a PART of the US oppsition to Bush’s policy. They have done a good job but are not eager to embrace groups they feel are too moderate, while some of us (myself included) feel that the danger posed the world by those around Bush is so great that very broad coalitions must be formed. That “radicals and moderates” must work together – even conservatives should be deeply alarmed by the dangerously radical right wing direction in which the Bush group is taking us.
The good news is that yesterdays’ march in New York – Saturday the 22 – had over 200,000 people. This was organized by United for Peace and Justice and also supported by a range of other groups including ANSWER. The last event ANSWER called on their own – in Washington DC on March 15th – was not terribly large – perhaps 100,000 people, perhaps less.
(active in the pacifist and democratic socialist communities)
Note from Paul: There have also been charges by some people engaged in civil disobedience that ANSWER tries to manipulate the movement by informing police of these actrions in advance so as to make themselves appear more respectable. Everything must be
taken with a grain of salt, since the last time I heard these charges they were made by activists in Boston who also accused the police there of brutality when, in reality and in comparison to what I have heard about in New York or even Tokyo, was very low key and in response to an attempt by a very few to lead a very peaceful and tolerated breakaway march
onto a highway. I have also heard reports that 40 percent of the Boston police are anti-war which could account for the relatively mild behaviour on their part. So while clearly there are good arguments for carefully planned civil disobedience and ANSWER has often been accused of trying to get on the good side of the police by taking the moral high road and condemning such actions, it is not automatically true that “anti-ANSWER” propaganda is true. We saw a few weeks ago how NATION columnists, among others, tried to make the whole anti-war movement look bad and the “leadership” anti-semitic by distorting the treatment of Michael Lerner, presumably at the hands of ANSWER. Look for further media/government attempts to paint the anti-war movement as crazy, sectarian, inconsistent, etc. as the war machine goes into high gear and the movement responds accordingly. Be aware that while these distortions are just that, and part of a vicious propaganda campaign by the war mongers, that -as David McReynolds points out- the real anti-war movement is diverse and is not simply synonymous with the philosophy or actions of some of its smaller components, like ANSWER.