Redbaiters oppose our unconditional 'no' to war: a letter to antiwar lists

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Jan 25 16:25:18 MST 2003


(The following letter has been sent to a wide range of antiwar lists and
individuals)
The red-baiting of our movement, taking the form of attacks on the ANSWER
coalition that initiated and largely organized the October 26 and January 18
protests, which the whole movement eventually supported and helped turn into
truly massive antiwar protests, is taking place in a coordinated, nationwide
way.  I have received reports about this from Seattle and the Vancouver
area, and I am sure there are many more.

The publicists carry on about the Workers World Party's position on
Yugoslavia or Hungary. (If they have ever held an unusual opinion about the
Ottoman Empire or the Easter Island statues, I expect to be fully informed
of it soon.)

But it is becoming ever clearer that the target of the attack is not a
position on this or that "other issue" but the stance on Iraq that our whole
movement is increasingly united around -- unconditional opposition to the
U.S. war.  The redbaiters insist that the movement should be fighting for
the U.S. to wage the right kind of war against Iraq with the right
combination of international support at the right time.  To oppose the war
outright -- that's extremism!.  That's what needs to be driven out  of
"legitimate" antiwar protests.

Those of us who say no to an invasion of Iraq regardless of whose backing
Washington gets, regardless of what Hans Blix reports, and regardless of
how the Security Council votes --  the overwhelming majority of the
participants in the protests and the coalitions today-- are supposed to back
off when the ANSWER label is pinned to us.  The demonization of  the ANSWER
coalition  and the Workers World Party (which is the most prominent
political party in ANSWER) is aimed at all of us, and we must all publicly
and loudly reject it shoulder to shoulder with the ANSWER coalition and
Workers World.

Jose Perez, an antiwar activist from Atlanta,  reports in a letter I
received yesterday that "Terry Gross of  NPR's Fresh Air gave 1/2 hour of
air time yesterday to one
Todd Gitlin, who was described as having been president of SDS in 1963-1964
and is now a college professor."   Gitlin devoted much of his talk to
presenting the supposedly horrific litany of the political positions of  the
Workers World Party,  and arguing  that for this reason  they should be
barred from playing a leading role in the antiwar struggle.

"The most significant thing to note about Gitlin and his ilk,"  Perez points
out,  "is that they are not AGAINST a war with Iraq."

Perez continues: "Typical is his column dated October 14, published in
Mother Jones magazine's
web site:
http:://www.motherjones.com/commentary/gitlin/2002/42/we_175_01.html.
Two weeks before the big antiwar march, was he building it? Of course not!!!
He was running it down.

"He came out strongly against people who carried placards at an earlier UN
protest with slogans like 'NO SANCTIONS! NO BOMBINGS!'" Perez notes.  Gitlin
called them "cynics of the hard left" and identified these positions
accurately  with the ANSWER coalition and Workers World..

But hold on, that's MY position.  That's Leslie Cagan's position.  That's
David McReynolds' position.  In fact, I would lay a bet that was the
position of  just about every (and maybe literally every) single one of the
160 people who attended the NY meeting Thursday called by United For Peace
to build the February 15 action. All "cynics of the hard left" who oppose
bombings and sanctions that have killed a million people.

"Now," Gitlin continued, "those same cynics of the hard left have moved to
the front of the
current anti-war movement."    "This will not play in Peoria. It does not
deserve to play in Washington,"  he proclaimed. This was shortly before the
October 26 demonstration.

Perez points out: "Much to Mr. Gitlin's displeasure, I'm sure, it did play
in Peoria, and in
Washington, and even more massively all over the country in the protests
just held a week ago.

"So yesterday Mr. Gitlin was back on the attack, urging a 'nuanced' view
that
opposes only 'unilateral' war, but devoting most of his time to deriding the
antiwar movement and people participating in it." ANSWER's steering
committee, he claimed, is made up of  "very far left-wing factions that
probably total 100 members in America.'"  An utter falsehood, of course.

"Behind Gitlin's red-baiting is SUPPORT to the US War against Iraq, albeit
with some doleful grimaces," Perez concludes.

He quotes  Gitlin as saying, "The international sanctions against Iraq have
been a humanitarian disaster for the country's civilians," he admits in the
October column, laying out
the sucker-bait. "But," he adds, "doesn't Saddam Hussein bear some
responsibility for that disaster?"  Saddam has done many things I disagre
with , but he did not impose the criminal sanctions on Iraq, or order them
continued, or use naval fleets to enforce them. Unlike Gitlin, Saddam has
been unconditionally opposed to the sanctions from the beginning.  You have
to give him that.

Gitlin  also apologizes for  the current U.S. bombing of Iraq: : "The
bombing -- US and UK attacks in the no-fly zones of northern and southern
Iraq -- are taking place under the auspices of a
mission to protect Iraqi Kurds in the north and Iraqi Shiites in the south.
[ What a prettification of  Washington's policy!-- FF}Again, the Iraqi
leader bears responsibility; Washington and London have  made a credible
case for the no-fly-zone sorties because and only because
Saddam Hussein has trampled these long-suffering people in more ways than
there is room to describe in this space."  Does anyone in this movement
today believe that the U.S. bombings are helping the Iraqi people, that they
are better off because U.S. bombings are devastating large parts of their
country. Todd Gitlin, who portrays himself as an opponent only of ANSWER,
does.

(By the way, does Gitlin believe that the U.S should have the right to bomb
any country where parts or even most of the population are oppressed? What
about Spain, where the Basque nation is still oppressed?  Or the United
Kingdom, which still occupies part of Ireland -- well, I guess Blair might
not go along with the bombing in that instance. Canada where the Quebecois
are still striving for independence:? What about Israel?  Not to mention
scores of other countries on every continent.)

Gitlin's  singling out of the ANSWER coalition and Workers World may be
clever tactics, but only if we are all much stupider than my experience with
people in this movement has led me to believe.

"So when you get right down to it," Perez argues, correctly in my opinion,
"Gitlin 'supports' the sanctions, 'supports' the bombing, and --although he
is too clever or embarrassed to
say so openly on Fresh Air, laying it instead between the lines, he
'supports' the war against Iraq and his differences with Bush are strictly
tactical over HOW to wage that war, not WHETHER to do so."

So don't be conned by the ANSWER baiters!  They are baiting YOU and me and,
of course, the ANSWER coalition and Workers World, too, as part of  US.  We
have to fight back with a united, unyielding public and visible defense of
the WHOLE movement, including the ANSWER coalition as an important component
of our increasingly united movement.
Fred Feldman


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