The Language of US Workers Re: Antiwar Effort...

Craig Brozefsky craig at red-bean.com
Sun Mar 30 23:35:38 MST 2003


Yoshie Furuhashi <furuhashi.1 at osu.edu> writes:

> At 9:10 PM -0600 3/29/03, Craig Brozefsky wrote:
> > However, I feel compelled to bring this up because of the failure of
> > many marxist parties in the US to communicate well with
> > workers. Part of that failure, IMO, is rooted in a refusal to listen
> > to the language and concepts the workers are using themselves.
>
> I agree with you, but I have a question.  Why are superficial
> symbolic protestations of patriotism -- flags, anthems, the pledge
> of allegiance, statements that our country is "the greatest nation,"
> etc. -- more important to US workers than Japanese workers?

In the US, relative geographic isolation, racism, and focused
propaganda from an early age about the Founding Fathers and the
destiny of "our great nation."  It's attached to a naive notion of
borgeois rights which is wrapped up in a nostalgia for a "high"
standard of living.  For others it is immigrant pride in a new home
and an attempt to assume a new identity.

But, I think that their use amongst protestors is different, in that
it is defensive, rhetorical, an attempt to reclaim an identity and
understanding of what it means to live here.  That new identity can
range from a simple "more polite" imperialism, to a newly developing
internationalist perspective.

The attack on anti-war protestors as unpatriotic is not just
rhetorical.  It manifests in police stopping people with anti-war
bumper stickers and bring told that the time to protest is over, and
in severe constraints on anti-war viewpoints in day to day
conversation in many workplaces.  In order to create a space for their
dissent, some feel a need to directly refute this "patriot" attack.

Sometimes they are directly addressing international viewers.  They
feel a need to reform the ugly american identity.  It could be simply
in the hopes of convincing terrorists not to bomb american civilians
because they are not all bad.

The common tie here is that it is the flag used as a symbol, not the
flag as a fetish object.  The Federal Plaza here in Chicago on M22
when a "Rally For America" and an anti-war rally occured
simultaneously in a rather small space was an opportunity to see this
difference in the way flags were used.

My response to this is not to attack the flag.  Why should I fault
these people for using the symbol in an oppositional manner to those
who use it as a fetish object for ultra-nationalist terrorism?  This
is a way to disarm one of the more reactionary symbols.

Other times it is simply detournment, an anti-patriotic statement in
itself.  Sarcasm, or irony.

I have no illusion about the deep revolutionary un-soundness of this
use of the flag fetish, and I do not direct any of my resources to
this attempt to detourn or reclaim it.  However, I will not turn to
the person marching down the street with me, between a row of riot
cops in the face of the recent police brutality and arrests, and give
him an earful about petit-bourgeois nationalism and soft-imperialism
just because he has an American flag.

--
Sincerely, Craig Brozefsky <craig at red-bean.com>
No war! No racist scapegoating! No attacks on civil liberties!
Chicago Coalition Against War & Racism: www.chicagoantiwar.org
Free Scheme/Lisp Software:  http://www.red-bean.com/~craig



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