NY Times redbaiting attack

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jan 24 07:40:33 MST 2003


NY Times, Jan. 24, 2003
DISSENT
Some War Protesters Uneasy With Others
By LYNETTE CLEMETSON

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 — After a weekend of antiwar protests that many 
participants say signaled an expansion of public opposition to military 
action against Iraq, some organizers are facing criticism, much of it 
from within the movement, about the role played by their group, 
International Answer.

Attendance at rallies in Washington and San Francisco last Saturday was 
in the tens of thousands, and reflected a mix of views that spanned the 
social and political spectrums. Many protest organizers say the presence 
of labor unions, religious groups, business people and soccer moms 
showed a growing mainstream opposition to the war.

But behind the scenes, some of the protesters have questioned whether 
the message of opposing war with Iraq is being tainted or at least 
diluted by other causes of International Answer, which sponsored both 
the Washington and San Francisco rallies.

Answer, whose name stands for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, was 
formed a few days after Sept. 11, 2001, by activists who had already 
begun coming together to protest policies of the International Monetary 
Fund and the World Bank. Some of the group's chief organizers are active 
in the Workers World Party, a radical Socialist group with roots in the 
Stalin-era Soviet Union. The party has taken positions that include 
defense of the Iraqi and North Korean governments and support for 
Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugolav president being tried on war 
crimes charges.

The positions of some of Answer's members have caused rifts in past 
antiwar movements as well. In January 1991, at the onset of the Persian 
Gulf war, two coalitions of protesters marched separately, on 
consecutive weekends, because one refused to align itself with the 
other, whose members included current Answer officers who would not 
criticize the Iraqi government or support economic sanctions against it.

In an interview today, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a spokeswoman for 
Answer, said questions raised about the group's role were "classic 
McCarthy-era Red-baiting."

"When you select out the Socialists or Marxists," she said, "the point 
is to demonize and divide and diminish a massive, growing movement."

But Answer's critics say they simply wish that when it sponsors antiwar 
rallies, it would confine its message to opposition to war. At the rally 
in Washington, the group's speakers advocated causes like better 
treatment of American Indians and release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the 
radical activist long imprisoned for killing a Philadelphia police officer.

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the Jewish magazine Tikkun, which sent 
protesters to the rally despite concerns about pro-Palestinian speeches 
planned there, said: "There are good reasons to oppose the war, and 
Saddam. Still, it feels that we are being manipulated when subjected to 
mindless speeches and slogans whose knee-jerk anti-imperialism rarely 
articulates the deep reasons we should oppose corporate globalization."

Karen Guberman helped organize a small protest in her neighborhood in 
Northwest Washington last weekend, in part to provide an outlet for 
those who felt uncomfortable attending the Answer-sponsored rally.

"I felt like it was important just to go and be counted," Ms. Guberman 
said, "but many of my friends felt they couldn't count on what was going 
to be said, and so we did this very specific thing."

In fact, some of the newer antiwar coalitions were formed precisely to 
create a forum for protesters with views different from Answer's. 
Leaders of those groups have carefully avoided criticizing Answer, for 
fear that doing so would undercut their movement.

Still, the more mainstream voices in the antiwar movement may be trying 
to focus the message. The next national rally is scheduled for Feb. 15 
in New York, and it is being sponsored by United for Peace, a coalition 
of more than 120 groups, most of them less radical than Answer.

Answer has signed on as a supporter of the New York rally, but it is not 
yet clear what role it will play in shaping the tone. Leslie Cogan, a 
coordinator with United for Peace, said her organization would welcome a 
wide variety of perspectives. But she added, "We want our speakers 
making a clear link to the issue."

-- 

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