Re "Antiwar Effort Emphasizes Civility Over Confrontation"

jacdon at jacdon at
Sun Mar 30 15:21:26 MST 2003

Re "Antiwar Effort Emphasizes Civility Over Confrontation"

By Jack A. Smith

It seems to me the primary purpose of the New York Times article March
29 on the peace movement ("Antiwar Movement Morphs from Wild-Eyed to
Civil") was to  lend support to those forces with the U.S. antiwar
movement that have been seeking to isolate and weaken left-wing

The campaign began soon after the ANSWER coalition in effect assumed the
leadership of the peace movement by conducting its highly successful
Sept. 29, 2001, antiwar demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco
weeks after the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers,
when many traditional peace groups were silent in the face of right-wing
hyperpatriotism.  ANSWER followed up with a series of important rallies
and marches against the wars in Afghanistan and now Iraq.

The specter of left leadership haunts a number of liberal and
social-democratic elements within the peace movement, convincing some to
engage in a vicious red-baiting campaign,  accompanied by frantic
efforts to form opposing coalitions.  After several abortive efforts,
some competing coalitions have been formed -- but ANSWER still continues
to mobilize enormous numbers of people to attend its frequent mass
rallies in Washington and other cities.

ANSWER maintains there is room for two, three, many coalitions and
offers to unite with, build, and co-sponsor the activities of other
groups and formations.  It adopts a nonsectarian approach to the antiwar
struggle.   Once the newer coalitions were built, however, some not only
refused the suggestion of unity-in-action and continued to disparage
ANSWER's efforts but began inform the bourgeois press that that the
group was ultra-left (and in some cases a creature of "Stalinism").

The Times article was the culmination of such efforts so far.  Much of
the information in this article was supplied by adherents of two or
three of these other "mainstream" coalitions.   Who else informed the
"newspaper of record"  that United for Peace and Justice "declined to
join in sponsoring a rally put on by International Answer [in Washington
March 15]... saying its message was too left-wing and alienating"?

Unfortunately, some of the trend-spotting contained in the Times article
is correct.  A sector of the antiwar movement has been gravitating
toward the political center in recent months as such coalitions as the
UFPJ, Move-On, Win Without War gain in strength.  This fact is a
reflection of the shift in conventional American politics to the right
and center in recent decades at the expense of the left.

There is room, of course, for a wide variety of political views in the
struggle against the warmakers in Washington.  The center and
center-left now have their organizations and have set about to shift to
"mainstream civility," as the Times put it.   Interestingly, ANSWER's
protests are hardly  "wild-eyed" and the group makes a practice of
conducting legal actions which do not seek confrontations.

The new "mainstream" coalitions appear to have objectives beyond simply
establishing their own political identity.  The continuing campaign
against ANSWER is intended not only to stop the left from exercising
influence over the entire antiwar movement but to discredit and
marginalize the  left as a mere "fringe" within the struggle.

ANSWER continues to defy this new paradigm.  It holds the banner of
anti-imperialism ever higher and refuses to disassociate the campaign to
stop the war-makers and empire-builders from such related issues as
racism, colonialism, the rights of the Palestinians, support for Cuba
and so on.  It does not claim hegemony over the U.S. peace forces but
insists on the right to express its anti-imperialist  view of
Washington's machinations and to organize a serious mass fight-back,
which it has done with considerable skill.

ANSWER's successes obviously continue to discomfort the "mainstream"
groups and newspapers such as the New York Times, along with certain
"liberal" weeklies, but this is hardly new.  It's the same fight they
always wage when the left shows any strength.
The author is editor of the Mid-Hudson Activist Newsletter and is active
with an ANSWER organizing center in New York State.

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