To Fred Feldman on the 'agreement'

LouPaulsen LouPaulsen at
Thu Feb 13 21:32:05 MST 2003

I think you're missing a couple points.  Nobody is doing a better job of
"driving Lerner out of the anti-war movement" than Lerner is.  In the course
of four days he has attacked ANSWER as anti-semites, attacked UFPJ as
unprincipled accomplices of anti-semites, mailed these attacks all over the
country, and gotten them posted on David Horowitz's awful site and on the
op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal, with headlines and artwork that
pillory the whole Feb. 16 demonstration as a pogrom.

If I were any ordinary person in Bay Area UFPJ at the moment, I would be
white-hot with rage right now against Lerner.  The San Francisco Chronicle
is writing that there is a "rift in the movement".  There IS no rift among
the four coalitions.  Any rift there is, is attributable to Lerner's own
actions.  The Tikkun article doesn't tell people to e-mail ANSWER, it tells
people to e-mail Leslie Cagan!!  What do you imagine Leslie Cagan thinks of
Lerner at this point as she tries to clean out her mailbox?

So let me ask you this question:

If you were in a UFPJ meeting RIGHT NOW and were coming up with people to
nominate to the podium, would you feel obliged to vote for Lerner, in the
name of his 'right to free criticism' or whatever?

About this 'agreement': everyone is treating it as if each of the four
coalitions DEMANDED to be PROTECTED against having its opponents on the
platform.  But approach it another way.  (The following is entirely
speculation, and not based on any "inside info", which means it's no worse
than a lot of the other speculation that's going around.)

Suppose you are in United for Peace.  You are trying to make this joint
action actually work.  You know there have been differences between you and
the three other partners, and you know that there are forces out there that
are trying to split you up, AS EVIDENCED in the New York Times article after
J18, which used quotes from Lerner to smear ANSWER and paint UFPJ as the
'good' coalition, something which was probably not even desirable in UFPJ's
eyes at that point.

If you were in UFPJ you might be saying, "I don't want any part of anyone
who is trying to pick a fight between us and ANSWER at this particular
time."  In fact, you might OFFER the other coalition partners a GUARANTEE
that you are going to maintain unity and not put speakers on the podium who
will make the other coalition's organizers bristle and the other coalition's
supporters boo and hiss.  In fact you might have no prior intention whatever
of putting on divisive people.  The 'agreement' might be just a matter of
all four coalitions making their non-divisive intentions clear.

Thus, many people are writing as if UFPJ made -concessions- to the other
coalition partners by acceding to an agreement not to nominate their
enemies.  Hasn't anyone considered that it was in UFPJ's OWN LEGITIMATE
INTEREST not to nominate people who have 'publicly attacked' and 'worked to
discredit' the people whom UFPJ had to work with daily in building the
thing?  And doesn't the same thing go for the other coalitions?  The four
coalitions are being portrayed as thin-skinned cowards, afraid of being
attacked; wouldn't it be more charitable, or optimistic, to portray them as
being unity-minded, each desirous of showing respect for its partners and
avoiding provocations?

Unity and breadth in the antiwar movement are not just a matter of putting
people on the podium who reflect all the different views and currents.  They
are also a matter of putting people on the podium who actually BELIEVE in a
united and broad antiwar movement.  Every time you organize a coalition
there are really two bases of unity, a programmatic basis and a
political/organizational basis.  The programmatic basis is 'Stop the War on
Iraq!', say.  The political/organizational basis is the belief that it is
legitimate to have this particular coalition, that there really is unity
among the organizers at some level, that it is not (for example) a rotten
compromise between anti-semites and people who are soft on anti-semitism.
If someone doesn't believe in this second basis of unity, why MUST he be
nominated to speak?

Just my opinion,
Lou Paulsen

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