Ted Glick on ANSWER and Washington demo

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Sat Jan 25 13:16:07 MST 2003


On Leftist Parties



By Ted Glick



There’s been a fair amount of back-and-forth recently on several email 
lists I’m on regarding Workers World Party. WWP is the group without which 
there would be no International ANSWER, the coalition which organized the 
hugely successful January 18th peace demonstrations in Washington, D.C. and 
San Francisco, Ca.



Some people whom I respect have no use for WWP. On a conference call I was 
on a couple of days ago, one such person described them, to paraphrase, as 
an “ultra-left, sectarian, marginal group.” Others are critical of them for 
their unwillingness, going back many years, to be publicly critical of the 
Soviet Union, China, Saddam Hussein, Milosevic, North Korea, Hamas or just 
about any country or Third World leader or movement in opposition to the 
United States government.



Up until last year, I’ve had very few direct dealings with WWP since a very 
negative experience working with them in a coalition that organized a major 
national demonstration in D.C. in the spring of 1981. I was not unhappy 
that for over 20 years our paths rarely crossed, except for an occasional 
“hi, how ya’ doing” contact at a meeting or a demonstration.



The interactions last year were in connection with the April 20th 
demonstration in Washington, D.C. There was a lot of “déjà vu-ness” to the 
experience, harkening back to the spring of 1981. Among the problems coming 
from ANSWER:



-publicly announcing to the world via email a “unity agrement” between 
ANSWER and the coalition I was part of, the April 20th United We March 
Mobilization (A20UWMM), when there wasn’t one, in no way at all, totally 
short-circuiting and undercutting a process of discussion that was just 
beginning;

-disregarding a decision that was agreed to, once an overall unity 
agreement was finally reached, that the youth/student groups from within 
both the A20UWMM and ANSWER would head up a unified march down Pennsylvania 
Avenue. Instead of ANSWER youth and students at the front of their side of 
the march, Palestinians and Arabs were at the front. Most likely, since 
there had been agreement to prioritize the Palestinian issue given what was 
happening at the time on the West Bank, if ANSWER had proposed this it 
would have been agreed to in the negotiations in the last week leading up 
to the march, but they didn’t do so.

-disregarding decisions that had been painstakingly arrived at regarding 
the speakers at the joint rally held on the Mall in front of the Capitol. 
The Palestinian woman proposed by ANSWER who had been agreed to as a 
co-chair brought to the microphone speakers who had not been agreed to, one 
of whom said something to the effect of, “we will drive the Jews into the sea.”

-following April 20th, Brian Becker, key WWP/ANSWER leader, wrote an 
analysis of what happened in which he essentially labeled A20MUWM as a 
front group for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, a completely 
distorted and inaccurate charge. As I said in a response to Becker at the 
time, “There are any number of participating organizations, mine among 
them, which are forthright and clear in our rejection of both the 
Republican and Democratic parties, which are consciously building an 
independent political movement outside the control or influence of either 
one. I am aware of no organized discussions ever taking place. . . along 
the lines of Becker’s description.”



I went on to say that, “Narrow approaches are a dead-end for our movement. 
. . What is needed is an approach that can appeal to millions of people, 
that connects with and draws strength from the deep-seated traditions of 
struggle for justice among the peoples who make up this country. This is 
what we need to fight against the sham ‘war on terrorism,’ U.S. support of 
Israeli occupation, attacks on our civil liberties and civil rights, racism 
in all its forms, and the economic terrorism experienced by people from 
Watts to the Mississippi Delta to Harlem to Colombia, Africa, Argentina, 
Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world.”



Now, as we face the urgent threat of a bloody, destructive and dangerous 
war of aggression against Iraq by the U.S. government, there are still two, 
primary, national peace coalitions, International ANSWER and United for 
Peace and Justice. UFPJ is in many ways an outgrowth of the A20UWMM. And 
the question still is, can and should these two efforts find ways to 
interact with a minimum of friction or, as at least a few people are 
arguing, should we, in the words of one of them, refuse to “capitulate to, 
endorse and work with ANSWER” and, instead, “break from them,” “refuse 
their endorsement,” and “refuse (a) false unity with ANSWER and their 
unprincipled tactics and message?”



My view is similar to what is was back during the difficult days of 
interaction leading up to April 20th.



First, I do not believe that International ANSWER is THE answer. But any 
objective observer can see that they are PART OF the answer. Any group 
which can pull together the types of actions held on January 18th cannot be 
discounted as “marginal” or “fringe.”



Second, over the long run I believe that the constellation of groups and 
the political/tactical/process approach of UFPJ holds much more promise of 
building and holding together the kind of peace and justice movement needed 
in this critical period in our history. UFPJ, despite weaknesses, has 
greater breadth and the potential to broaden out more. From what I have 
seen it is more democratic and inclusive. As distinct from ANSWER, UFPJ is 
multi-tactical. ANSWER and the WWP-connected coalitions preceeding it are 
very good at organizing demonstrations, but I am not aware of WWP ever 
being actively involved to any significant degree, for example, in lobbying 
or grassroots pressure on Congress, or work to get city or town councils to 
issue statements against the war, or nonviolent civil disobedience, or 
running peace candidates for office. All of these and other creative 
tactics must be “in the ballpark” as we build our movement.



Third, it is just plain inaccurate to believe that ANSWER is only WWP. 
ANSWER is a coalition that includes groups like the Kensington Welfare 
Rights Union, IFCO/Pastors for Peace, the Muslim Student Association of the 
U.S./Canada and the Mexico Solidarity Network. To disregard this is to 
refuse to deal in facts.



I have had several concrete experiences which have proven to me that these 
groups are not just names on paper or on a website. The clearest example is 
what happened right after 9-11-01 when, a few days after that terrible day, 
ANSWER put out a statement which said a number of things but did not 
specifically condemn the hijacking of the planes and the terrorist attacks. 
I spoke with someone on the ANSWER board about this and was told that he 
had already contacted WWP leadership to address this issue. Within a day or 
two, following this input, they revised their statement to include a 
specific condemnation.



Here’s a thought: perhaps WWP’s experiences in building ANSWER and in 
working together with the broader peace/justice movement may be having some 
positive impacts. Perhaps some individuals, at least, are seeing the need 
to work in a somewhat different way. Granted, those changes might be just 
“tactical,” driven by a desire to be seen as THE leaders of the overall 
movement, but, over time, is it out of the question that deeper, more 
substantive change could happen?



A famous man once said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” I 
think it applies here. Have the predominantly white and middle-class peace 
groups gotten it all together? No. How about the labor movement? No. All of 
us have our weaknesses and strengths. All of us are, or should be, in a 
continual process of growth and change.



A friend of mine, Jim Mohn, made an analogy recently on a Green Party 
listserve I’m part of. He referred to what happened within the labor 
movement in the late 1940’s and early ‘50s when there was an anti-communist 
purge within the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the CIO, which at 
that time was the leading and most militant group within the labor 
movement, a strong and vibrant labor movement. Eight of 10 “left-led” 
unions were destroyed as a result of this process. The labor movement was 
internally divided, stripped of the hard work, willingness to sacrifice and 
fighting spirit of the members of the Communist Party, USA, the predominant 
group on the left at that point in time. The result: a labor movement that 
began a long, slow decline from which it has still not recovered.



Jim’s point was that we should not denigrate and attempt to isolate WWP in 
a way similar to what the dominant leadership of the labor movement back 
then did to the CPUSA. He is right, and what he is saying doesn’t just 
apply to WWP.



There are other leftist (socialist, communist, Marxist) parties that are 
very active, playing important roles in the overall peace movement. Most of 
them are either affiliated with UFPJ or are not part of either ANSWER or 
UFPJ. Some of them can be legitimately criticized for some of the same 
things that ANSWER can be criticized for. The difference is that none of 
them is right now in the position that WWP is in as far as their success in 
building ANSWER. But I can see that if they were there might be similar 
problems.



We are confronting a short-term war crisis while having to also deal with 
the longer-term problem of rebuilding a strong and broadly-based, peace and 
justice movement that is internally democratic and healthy, seriously 
committed to dealing with racism, sexism, ageism, heterosexism and other 
negative isms, and, I would submit, humbled by the awareness that how we do 
our work here in the United States has tremendous ramifications for the 
entire world. Let’s be upfront and direct with our criticisms of ANSWER or 
any other group doing serious peace/justice organizing while resisting the 
impulse to paint them unfairly with a broad brush.



“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”





Ted Glick is the National Coordinator of the Independent Progressive 
Politics Network (www.ippn.org) and a recent Green Party candidate for U.S. 
Senate (www.glickforsenate.org) He can be reached at futurehopeTG at aol.com 
or P.O. Box 1132, Bloomfield, N.J.  07003.





  


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