Comments on Dave McReynolds' observations about Jan.18

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Tue Jan 21 08:54:31 MST 2003

A couple days ago I sent out some comments on the Jan. 18 demo in DC by
David McReynolods.
I sent it out mostly because I saw Dave's observations of the demonstration
as complementary to my own in some important ways, since hardly anybody who
was not in a helicopter or on a rooftop really got a total picture of the
thing, it was that large.

As far as ANSWER goes, the things that caught me were: (1) Despite his
antagonims to ANSWER he was there with enthusiasm.  In other words, his
priorities were right and (2) he recognized the progressive character of the
work ANSWER put into building the demonstration.

In my opinion, there is no question that ANSWER has played, warts and all, a
clearly PROGRESSIVE role in this struggle so far.  I consider that a fact
that is established beyond dispute for anyone who supports a fight against
the war and who is not blinded by historical antagonisms or oganziational

Is ANSWER "controlled" by Workers World?  Well, Workers World is the
initiator and the dominant political tendency in ANSWER -- that is a fact,
just like ANSWER's progressive role overall so far is a fact.  It follows
that ANSWER's positive role devolves in part to the credit of Workers World.
This is fact, not opinion.

But it is also a fact that ANSWER has broadened out significantly in the
past period, I have observed tht the members of the relatively recently
formed Student ANSWER who attend coalition meetings (and the very fact that
ANSWER representative more and more often attend these meetigs is a sign of
progress) are pretty representative in their outlook, politics, and
organizational role of  the student activists who are associated with
student coalitions sponsored by the International Socialist Organization, or
Refuse and Resist or student groups that have no political-tendency
sponsorship at all.

I have certainly never heard one of these students get up and make a speech
against the Hungarian revolution or in favor of the anti-Gorbachev coup.  Do
they already have firm opinions on these questions?  Frankly, I have my

I don't see much point arguing over the question of "control."  As an
organization, ANSWER has a right to be controlled or not controlled as it
pleases.  I will say that I haven't met any ANSWER people who struck me as
having been sentenced to a slave labor camp rather than exercising their
poltical free will.

I don't think Dave gives enough weight to the fact that ANSWER has already
joined those building the February 15 mobilizations initiated by United for
Peace and Justice.  This is a step forward for and by the whole movement.
It seems to me that that step forward should be our starting point today,
not disagreements or resentments built up in early stages of the movement or
before the movement existed.

My impressionof the political origins of Workers World is basically the same
as Dave's, but so what?

Whatever your views of the Hungarian revolution, the fact is that it is
history today -- important class-struggle history, but still  history.  I
don't think that ANSWER activists should be required to study or debate the
Hungarian revolution in order to determine their opinion of their
organization or any other in this fight today.

My political origins and training came in the Socialist Workers Party and
there's no doubt in my mind that many of my views and many aspects of how I
try to function in the movement -- for instance, very firmly advocating my
own views while collaborating with others who disagree to carry out common
action -- has roots in that training and experience.

But, frankly, I would be irritated and I think rightly so by anyone who
tried to criticize my opinions about what is happening today by dragging in
the history of the SWP, about which there are bound to be many opinions as
well as many people who don't see any need to have an opinion.

The past is important, the future lies ahead, but all politics and all
struggle takes place and can only take place in the present.  And I think
the debates over the outlooks we have formed should take place primarily in
terms of and around their relevance and practical effects in today's

I suggest starting from today, and in particular from the fact that we have
before us the building of the first genuinely, fully united action in the
young history of this movement -- and not forcing the ancient history to the
fore today.  I'm not going to forget ancient history anymore than Dave is --
its a big part of the reason why I am who I am and why I do what I do -- but
let's start from here and now. There really is no other place in the real
world from which we can start.

Fred Feldman

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