[Marxism] just back from the national assembly conference....,

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Mon Jun 30 14:30:25 MDT 2008


Here is Paul LeBlanc's evaluation of the Cleveland antiwar conference. It
seems pretty positive to me, and avoided the temptation of trying to call a
national antiwar action on its own. A gathering of a kind of "mass action"
wing, that can reach out to the rest in a nonfictional spirit. The
assessment is from the Trotsky Conference list:


Here are some of my thoughts on the National Assembly against the Iraq war
that just took place in Cleveland, that drew about 400 anti-war activists
from around the country to discuss the state of the anti-war movement.  I've
shared this with Pittsburgh anti-war activists but think it might be of
interest for those interested in the Trotsky Legacy Conference as well.
Please feel free to share this with others.

The conference was a genuine success.  The result is -- in my opinion -- a
bit "lumpy" (some amendments that passed add complications to what the
National Assembly is trying to accomplish, although this is manageable and
perhaps can be transformed into additional strengths).  The result is also
an entity that is vibrant and has some genuine potential for accomplishing
its goal -- a democratic, unified anti-war movement that is politically
independent, that can mobilize millions of people around the demand that
U.S. troops will be immediately withdrawn from Iraq.

Pittsburgh had about 16 activists in Cleveland, mostly from the Anti-War
Committee of the Thomas Merton Center.  We threw ourselves into the
discussions and the nitty-gritty work of the conference and have come away
feeling energized and more committed than ever to push forward on the basis
of the conference's results.  I think that is the case with others as well. 

The conference was an important test for a number of groups and individuals.
It was possible to hear them and see them in action, and it is easier to
evaluate some of their strengths and weaknesses.  Some of us affiliated with
UFPJ have a deepened sense, I think, of the need for us to strengthen and
better orient our wing of the anti-war movement.  The presence of a variety
of socialist organizations (much maligned and baited by all-too-many inside
and outside of the anti-war movement) helped us to determine that there are
significant differences among them -- some being mired in destructive and
sectarian dynamics, some capable of playing an incredibly positive and
effective and unifying role.  It was also instructive to see what groups and
forces were barely present or not present at all -- there is more work to be
done to draw them in and encourage them to play a role in such efforts.

Passing the test with flying colors, in my opinion, was the leadership of
the National Assembly.  This was reflected in the functioning of the
conference's presiding committee: Jerry Gordon (a longtime and
nationally-known progressive labor and peace activist from Cleveland), Jeff
Mackler (not only well-known for anti-war, civil liberties and other efforts
on the West Coast, but also a leader of Socialist Action), Marilyn Levin (a
prominent leader of a very broad anti-war coalition spanning the New England
states), Colia Clark (a seasoned veteran of SNCC who continues to lead
anti-racism and social justice efforts in Philadelphia), and Greg Coleridge
(a thoughtful, highly principled and capable leader of the American Friends
Service Committee in Ohio).

The balance they were able to strike -- putting forward procedures that
helped to conference avoid chaos and incoherence while scrupulously adhering
to democratic functioning -- made all the difference in the National
Assembly being able to realize its goal (a genuinely, broad, wide-ranging,
democratic discussion on the war, the anti-war movement, and future
perspectives) and to bring into being a national network of activists who
can continue to be a force for the unity of anti-war forces around a
commitment to mass actions capable of limiting the options of the war
=-makers and bringing the troops home from Iraq and the Middle East region.

It was also incredibly valuable for us to be able to hear such stunningly
articulate and informative speakers as Jeremy Scahill (exposing the dark
realities represented by the private military forces of Blackwater) and Iraq
war veteran Jonathan Hutto.  No less valuable was the opportunity for us to
network with activists from many other parts of the country, establishing
links and relationships that will stand us in good stead as we work in our
localities to build effective opposition to the war.


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