[Marxism] ANSWER's call for "united" action

David McDonald dbmcdonald at comcast.net
Tue May 17 11:09:40 MDT 2005


But -- since I am expressing a lot of grouch these days -- let me point
out that the call for a "united" demonstration is demagogic at best.


Grouch has nothing to do with it. This is precisely the same method adopted
by ANSWER for the March 20, 2004 demonstrations. AFAIK, in fact, it is
precisely the methodology adopted by various WWP front groupings since the
beginning of time: call an action with no consultation or negotiation with
any major forces, pretend that ANSWER is "unifying" the movement by
including ever conceivable slogan to make sure the field is clear of other,
competing leaderships, and rely on the mere existence of your action,
essentially regardless of its politics, to draw the crowd. However tiny it
may be, it is yours for the harvesting because you are the leaders.

Instead of attempting to exploit the situation to enlarge the actual
resistance to the war, ANSWER exploits the situation to attempt to enlarge
WWP. This is the very essence of sectarianism, it puts the sect above the
struggle, it sees only its own growth as positive. You would think, after
fifty years or so, they would grasp that the plan needs revising, but they
bumble on hoping for another big hit like Feb 15, rather like a blind old
sow stumbling around the barnyard that finds the occasional acorn.

None of us could care less, I hope, except for the tactical problem ANSWER
creates by using up movement space, mistraining and demoralizing new
activists not wise to their ways who think the dismal response to their
actions is a real reflection and gauge of antiwar sentiment as a whole. As
Carrol Cox has observed, there will always be an ANSWER.

So what about that Feb 15 acorn? On reflection, I have come to believe that
Feb 15, 2003 was an antiwar  "perfect storm," the chance combination of a
number of factors resulting in a cataclysmic event unlikely to recur today,
tomorrow, or the next day. Well, what factors?

1. The war had not begun. Strictly speaking, this is not chance, but it is
certainly not going to recur during this war, by definition. It seems to be
always easier to mobilize people to stop something before it starts than

2. The Democratic Party had not yet officially adopted its pro-war posture.
It was officially OK for Democrats to oppose and mobilize against war.
Contrast this for instance to Vietnam, where the Democrats voting in virtual
unanimity for the Tonkin Gulf Resolution made it necessary to pry them away
from supporting the war one by one even in the very very early days.

3. There was no immediate electoral road for the Democrats to attempt to
channel sentiment down. It was clear that there was a race, internationally,
between the US government and forces mobilizing against the war as to who
could get there "firstest with the mostest", and to put forward an electoral
road at that time would have doomed the Democrats to zero influence over a
scarily large and exponentially growing body of sentiment among the
population, US and worldwide.

4. The lack of homework and patient imperializing left the US in a position
to have to fight publicly to win the propaganda battle to pursue its war
aims, in the United Nations, in the media, and in general. At the 11th hour,
the Turkish people forced their government to say no to transit of US troops
through Turkey, stranding an entire division in the Mediterranean, with
important consequences to this very day. It appeared to many people as if
the US's ability to go to war was not a done deal. Ordinary people felt as
if their actions might actually affect the course of history. You simply did
not hear, "Oh, no, not another demonstration, I'm tired of marching" even
though Feb 15 was the fourth or fifth major demonstration in less than six

5. This existing sentiment forced a certain discipline over the official
movement, so that ANSWER, UFPJ, NION, the non-profits and others actually
sat in the same room and planned the same demonstration, albeit (in Seattle
at least) with great discomfort. Feb 15 was the last time this has happened.

I have been moved to think about this ancient history because of the
emergence in recent months of the genuine, elemental, molecular struggle
against military recruitment in the schools, led by youth. Of course
counter-recruitment was identified long ago as an arena for antiwar work,
and here in Seattle a group led by the AFSC and others has been doing
patient and valuable work for a year and a half. But I am talking about
something else. I am talking about young people rising up, in the face of
opposition and intimidation from school authorities, to say they want
recruiters off their campuses, they want to right to have tables next to the
recruiters tables, in one case to actually physically drive the recruiters
away through sheer numbers (Seattle Central Community College), for entire
schools to dump classes for an afternoon and march to a gathering downtown.
Not to disparage any of the hard work done by anybody or any group, but I
believe this is the real face of the antiwar movement -- not something WE
have led, but something that has happened "out there" that shows the gradual
coalescing of sentiment into action and mobilization. It is the sign and
substance of the re-emergence or the real emergence, however you want to see
it, of the antiwar movement.

David McDonald

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