[Marxism] RE:Good news! UFPJ also calls antiwar protest for DC 9/24 (reply to Joaquin)

ffeldman at verizon.net ffeldman at verizon.net
Thu May 26 03:08:51 MDT 2005

Joaquin quoted me:
"In my opinion, the fact that two important coalitions have called for protests against the US war in and occupation of Iraq is a great step forward and a great opportunity for all of us who want to have a massive action this fall."

Joaquin comments:
I'm afraid I can't bring myself to view this as positively as Fred Feldman does. The good news is that UfPJ *might* refocus on the Iraq war, and might be willing to try to have a large demonstration. I say "might" because this has not been their orientation, and one press release, issued under pressure from forces to their left, does not necessarily translate into a change of approach. We will have to see. 

However, it is very clear from the UfPJ statement that there is no desire on their part to have a truly united action. On the contrary, theirs is a take-it-or-leave-it offer even more clearly than ANSWER's, which at least bothered to lay down a smokescreen of "unity" appeals. So their choosing the same city and date as ANSWER not at all a step towards unity, but its opposite. 

These groups need to stop their bickering and maneuvering and unite around a common action centered on opposing the War in Iraq. 

Fred responds to Joaquin:
Joaquin's comment puts the priority exactly wrong, in my opinion. What is needed now is not "to see," but to do. 

Not to ponder whether UFPJ and ANSWER "might be willing to have a large demonstration" on Iraq but to sieze on the fact that both have called for this, and starting working to create this.  

We should not await developments, but do what we can -- which may be quite considerable in these circumstances -- to shape them.  

Will there be a mass antiwar demonstration in Washington September 24?  Will there be unity between the coalitions (a question which I subordinate to the first one)? Can the basis for a broader, more effective movement be created? Will GIs in Iraq, military families, soldiers elsewhere be given more confidence and inspiration to speak and act?  Will the people of Iraq feel the support of a growing segment of the US policy for asserting their independence and demanding that the occupation end NOW?

Fortunately, the answers to these questions does not depend solely on those bad boys and girls in ANSWER and UFPJ. It depends partly on our capacity to sieze this opening and run with it.

Joaquin is right that the two coalitions should unite on a common action, although he is wrong if he is suggesting that this is a precondition for antiwar forces to jump into building the biggest possbile turnout on September 24.  But such unity will clearly not come immediately and more irritating and troublesome clashes lie ahead. But this does not change the completely positive character of the opening we now confront.

It is a good thing that UFPJ decided to call on its forces to come to Washington on September 24, even though it could not accept the framework set by ANSWER for the event that it had called.  From the standpoint of the broadest, most massive possible mobilization against the war, what UFPJ has done is vastly preferable to abstention, or to its past practice of waiting till the last days to weakly endorse an ANSWER action. This step creates the basis for a more real unity on a broader, more massive basis.  

What happens depends, in part, on what we do to build a spirit of united action against the war at the base, a spirit of building this as one mobilization, no matter which rally or march people choose to attend or just end up at.

Genuine unity requires that neither side be required to surrender their political views unless they are convinced politically by the other.  What is needed is a common platform based on genuinely common demands, not for UFPJ or ANSWER to simply accept the platform and speakers platform that the other establishes.  We do not call on either side to do this, even on issues where our views are similar to ANSWER's such as support to the unconditional right of return of the Palestinian people, or opposition to US intervention EVERYWHERE it occurs.

If ANSWER insists that its political platform must be maintained as a matter of principle (and I don't know whether it is doing this or not), then there is no basis for unity in action that day.  Rather there is a political necessity for separate actions since UFPJ is based in part on including pro-Israel, pro-Democratic Party, and other forces who cannot today accept some key elements of ANSWER'S platform for the action.  Nor can ANSWER criticize UFPJ for holding a separate action, since what is legitimately a matter of principle for ANSWER is legitimately a matter of principle, from a different political direction, for the UFPJ as well. And, from the standpoint of the needs of the struggle, it is preferable that all the opponents of the war -- whatever their serious differences on other questions -- be brought to Washington that day.

Of course, we know that there are plenty of common demands that both coalitions hold on Iraq and even on other issues, and that there is no principled reason for not calling a common action based on the points, centering on Iraq, where they are agreed.  That plus non-exclusion from top to bottom and across the board would guarantee a broad and united action with a broad speakers platform starting from the points of agreement to bring in various other concerns.

What is involved is not primarily sectarian principles -- liberal or leftist -- but also narrow-minded organizational rivalries.  Our criticisms of the division on this basis can be useful, but only if we start from the positive character of the calls to broad forces to gather against the Iraq war in Washington, D.C. on September 24.  Without that as the heart of our response, our criticisms are just another form of sectarian carping against those who are, after all, trying to do something about the war by their lights.

We need to put forward the most important basis for what really will be, in spirit, a united show of opposition to the war.  This must be our starting points regardless of complications about which rally to go to, which coalition to participate in, whether broader united coalitions for both actions are possible in some circumstances and so on.

That basis of unity is simply this:

Fred Feldman

More information about the Marxism mailing list