Jon Flanders' comments on January 18 demonstration

LouPaulsen LouPaulsen at
Fri Jan 3 06:24:41 MST 2003

They say that "hindsight is 20/20", but I'm not convinced that it is.

Flanders' substantive point was made in his Jan. 1 post:

"Two national marches in less than a month. My two cents worth is that
we would have been better off with one, preferably on February 15, which
is the date for Europe-wide protests. The MLK holiday is ideal for local

  "This is where the problem lies in the decision-making process with
ANSWER et al. We have no satisfactory mechanism for deciding these
things, and I fear that it is going to hurt us this time, if turnout

Flanders' argument, then, has two parts: (a) that February 15 would be a
better date for the national demonstration than January 18, and (b) that
ANSWER's "decision-making process" has put us in another "two-demonstration"
scenario, with low turnout on Jan. 18, whereas a broader process would have
given us a single demonstration on Feb. 15.

Well, let's look at point (a).  Speaking in my capacity as a bus organizer,
if I could remake the world according to my desires, I would very much like
to have another 4 weeks here, rather than the chaotic rush to sell tickets
and arrange for buses that I expect to take place over the next 14 days.
However, I ALSO think it's important to have the demonstration BEFORE
BAGHDAD IS OBLITERATED.  The idea of the demonstration is to have it BEFORE
THE WAR INTENSIFIES, before the bombing raids, before the invasion, before
the occupation government is established.  The idea is to, if possible,
FORESTALL the attack, not to have a memorial service after the fact.

Our desire for lead time, as bus organizers, really has to be balanced
against the actual timetable of events, which is largely being established
by the Bush administration and its response to other imperialist and
anti-imperialist forces on a global scale.  I am talking about forestalling
the attack, "stopping the war before it starts", a slogan launched by ANSWER
and since adopted by other forces.  I hope we all realize that the war MAY
be well under way even before Jan. 18.  In fact, if you look at the sharply
increased intensity of the bombing raids in the so-called "no-fly zones", we
may have to say that it is under way already.  They might just continually
ratchet up the intensity of the air war over the next several weeks, rather
than launching the war on a specific date.  But in any case, could I see the
show of hands of people who are certain that the war will NOT be fully under
way by February 15?  ... anyone?  Doesn't it seem rather that they are
gearing up to do it pretty much on the timetable of 1991?  So, if we want to
"stop the war before it starts", hadn't we better have the demonstration
before it starts?

Now, about the whole issue of stopping the war.  We are living under the
dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and of course we all know that it would be
crazy to talk about a non-violent demonstration stopping their war
plans, -considered in isolation.-  But we can't consider it that way.  While
it is rather obvious that the Bush administration is completely committed to
its war plans regardless of considerations of public opinion in the U.S.,
that doesn't mean that they are certain to be able to actually do it.  There
is enough ferment on a global scale that the outcome is in doubt.
 Things -can- happen which would prevent them from acting just as they
please.  Anyone who stands up to US imperialism NOW is materially aiding the
Iraqi people.  Look at Venezuela, for example.  At the moment, the Bolivaran
Circles of Venezuela have done as much as anyone in the world to forestall
the invasion of Iraq.  The same can be said of the DPRK.  Who would have
predicted these developments three months ago?  Look at the Cairo
conference.  Who knows what might happen in Palestine, or Egypt, or
Pakistan, or Turkey, or anywhere else which might throw another weight onto
the balance.  Furthermore, anyone who does anything anywhere by way of
resistance to US imperialism is encouraging and supporting everyone to take
further resistance everywhere.  This is the global class war in the age of
telecommunications.  Everyone can see every part of the battlefield, if we
care to look.  This applies to us as well: everyone can see what WE are
doing.  Therefore, if we would LIKE to see revolutionary developments and
mass upsurges elsewhere on the globe, it is our duty to help them along, not
in the "traditional" US-left way, by giving them strategic and tactical
advice, pointing out their mistakes, criticizing them, etc., but by actually
doing something here which would amount to concrete encouragement and

Therefore, it is absolutely necessary for people in the US to throw OUR
weight visibly onto the balance NOW, whatever the difficulties.

This is not to dis the February 15 actions.  The European left has been
successfully mobilizing for months and had important demonstrations in
December.  And I hope that people will turn out for the NY action in
February.  If we are going to focus on narrow considerations of turnout,
though, I have to point out that, IF the Bush administration were successful
in actually launching all-out war, and IF Iraq and the rest of the world
were not able to effectively resist, the immediate effect of this would be
to dampen the spirits of the movement here.  The spectacle of massive
slaughter, conducted without any possibility of effective resistance by the
victimized population, and for that matter without any obvious immediate
prospect of our being able to overthrow our murderers' government and save
the victims, would have a tendency to horrify and depress and paralyze the
will of the movement, to cause a great sense of grief and failure.   This is
why in 1991 there were large demonstrations on Jan. 19, before the bombing
started, and on Jan. 26, a week into the bombing, but nothing comparable
thereafter.  This is all the more reason to act NOW, and to throw our hearts
and minds and bodies entirely into the struggle over the next 14 days to
build the Jan. 18 action.

Therefore, with respect to Flanders' point (a), if I could go back in time
with 20/20 hindsight and sit in on the planning meetings and make
recommendations as to dates, I would absolutely argue for the Jan. 18 date
and not for a February date.  I think that Flanders is just wrong in his
opinion that we (the world, that is, and the Iraqis) would be better off
with no national demonstration on the U.S. schedule between now and

This of course weakens his point (b), since his whole basis for criticizing
ANSWER's "decision-making" is that it he believes the January 18 date is
premature.  To go a little farther with this: the January 18 demonstration
was actually scheduled back in August, if I recall, and was put forward in a
big way at the October 26 demonstration.  If we go back mentally to October,
2002, and try to reconstruct what information was available to us then, I
think we have to realize that the war looked imminent at that time, and
nobody would have bet very heavily that it would not be under way in
January, let alone in February.  If anyone had come along in October and put
out a call for a demonstration in February, most people would have said
something like "But isn't the war likely to be over by then??"  In
retrospect, the Bush administration has had some problems with their
timetable.  In October, neither they nor we would have predicted those

Anyway, this is all the time I can allow myself for this response now.

Lou Paulsen

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