[Marxism] Things fall apart?

Eli Stephens elishastephens at hotmail.com
Tue Jul 20 15:31:15 MDT 2004

I think too much emphasis has been placed (e.g., in Yoshie's blog) on both 
alleged failures of left leadership of the antiwar movement, and on the 
"turn of the  movement to the Democratic Party" (nor, incidentally, do I 
think the antiwar movement is "dead," suggesting that a "postmortem" is a 
bit out of place).

There are two things to think about - why were the pre-invasion marches so 
big, and why have the post-invasion marches been so much smaller?

First, to the former. During the Vietnam War protest era, many of the 
protestors had a personal stake in the matter, specifically, the draft. That 
personal factor obviously draws people to a protest. In its absence, only 
one thing can takes its place - the opportunity to "make a difference." 
Those of us who build demonstrations see a whole host of benefits in a 
demonstration even in the total absence of any press coverage or obvious 
impact - the chance to build links among various movements, reaching 
thousands or hundreds of thousands or even millions of people while building 
the demo by leafletting, placing advertisements, holding forums, and so on. 
But for the "average protestor" - the kind of person who isn't involved with 
building the demo and is one of those people who will swell the size from a 
few thousand to tens or hundreds of thousands, those benefits aren't 
apparent.  They want to see results of their using up a day of their lives, 
at a minimum with press coverage, and hopefully a lot more.

Protestations of some on the left (e.g., the SWP) to the contrary, I believe 
that there WAS a legitimate, albeit slim, chance to stop this invasion (and, 
of course, whether there was or not, most people BELIEVED there was). Public 
opinion, be it ruling class opinion  or the opinion of the masses of people, 
is like an uphill stage of the Tour de France. The peloton can be rolling 
along as a group, happily together. But let the gradient of the slope 
increase just a bit, or the pace at the front quicken ever so slightly, 
suddenly the peloton shatters as one after another rider drops off the back. 
What is the point of this analogy? In the face of strong forces, small 
things can be magnified into huge effects. Who knows how close we were to 
the ruling class peloton crackiing, and various politicians, or media 
outlets, or religious figures, or countries, seriously taking up the antiwar 
battle and sticking their finger in the dike just long enough the stem the 
tide? Was it unreasonable for people to think that they could stop the war? 
I say no, and I think that's why they turned out in HUGE numbers before the 
war. Of course they wouldn't have done so without the leadership of ANSWER 
or UfPJ, but fundamentally those groups were just harnessing an existing 
force, not creating it. Of course in harnessing it, they also magnify it, 
which is part of the point of a demo.

And after the invasion? Is it really a "turn to Democratic party politics" 
which has shattered the antiwar peloton? Not from where I sit. Virtually all 
of the key activists in the antiwar group I'm involved with are still 
active, and I feel confident the same is true in ANSWER. No, I think the 
answer lies with the masses of people. Many of THEM, of course, are looking 
(for unfathomable reasons) to the Democrats to solve the problem, but, even 
more than that, the key factor is that most of them simply do not have an 
"OUT NOW" position because they accept the "you broke it you fix it" 
philosophy which is espoused by Kerry and even Nader (who only calls for a 
pullout in six months, not now). Unlike Kerry, there were millions of people 
against the invasion, but now that the war happened and the occupation is a 
fact, they simply believe (and it is certainly an arguable position, though 
one I personally disagree with rather strongly) that now "we" have to do 
what is best for the "Iraqi people" and that pulling out will leave them at 
the mercy of "terrorists" or whatever label you or they care to use, and 
that they will be WORSE off than they are now. I don't happen to agree with 
this, and even if I did I would STILL be for an immediate pullout, but it's 
hardly surprising that most Americans are not. These are "facts on the 
ground" which present a TREMENDOUS obstacle to the antiwar movement, which 
calling for a demonstration every month or two or three just to show the 
movement is "alive" wouldn't have the SLIGHTEST effect on (in my opinion).

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