UNITE TO FIGHT THE WARMAKERS
Unable to contend with the historic and constitutional right of the people to control their own government and the direction of their country, the Bush Administration has now launched an assault on the anti-war movement. As the clock ticks down and the administration rushes to wage war against Iraq, it is starting another war here at home against the people of the United States.
On January 18 half a million people marched in Washington, D.C. in a true democratic expression of their opposition to an illegal and immoral war of aggression being driven by a tiny few who hold the reigns of military and economic might. Another 200,000 marched in San Francisco. Around the world people in over 35 countries held solidarity demonstrations. Now we are all mobilizing for the February 15/16 mass actions against the war that have been initiated by the European peace movement. The people of conscience who are taking to the streets represent the sentiments of so many millions more. This is a powerful rejection of the Bush administration's attempt to drag us all into war and global conflagration.
On January 30, the New York Daily News published the Bush administration's latest smear -- a purportedly leaked intelligence report from his Homeland Security department claiming that "Iraqi spies" came to the U.S. from Canada to carry out the anti-war demonstrations.
This first act for Bush's Homeland Security department -- which had officially opened a mere six days earlier -- speaks volumes about what Bush's view of "homeland security" is: using the power of the government to lie, to discredit, to disrupt and to try to shut down the opposition of the people of the U.S. to his program of violent domination and empire.
The Center for Security Policy is a group funded by arms manufacturers and big business who are being given the U.S. taxpayer's money looted from programs that would otherwise fund education, healthcare and jobs in America. The Free Congress Foundation is a haven for extremists so out of step with social justice that they pay staff members who have written that we in the U.S. might be better off if the confederacy had won the civil war, who advocate that the racist Trent Lott should have remained in his leadership position, who push anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and who spoke at a neo-Nazi conference last summer. These groups both work with and are received by the Bush Administration.
We call on all people of conscience to rally together and defend our movement for justice and peace. The red-baiting and demonization of certain leading anti-war organizations has one purpose -- to weaken the whole peace movement.
PURPOSE OF RED-BAITING: TO STOP COLLECTIVE ACTION AND SILENCE DISSENT
The point of the associational red-baiting and smear campaign is to warn all of us who are coming out into the streets, many who have found public voice for the first time and are empowered by the strength of their actions, that what we think we experienced is tainted, that we are dupes of some hidden hand and should go back inside. These are the identical mechanisms that were used by the government to try to destroy the labor movement of the thirties and forties and the civil rights and anti-war movements of the fifties, sixties and seventies. (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was labeled a "communist sympathizer.")
All of us who have been involved with the Coalition have been subjected to an intensive associational red-baiting attack that emanates from pro-war supporters. It often gets carried by others who claim to be from the progressive community but who unfortunately are more focused on engaging in sectarian factionalization than, on the eve of war, stopping a needless slaughter. Fortunately, the thousands of people organizing around the country to stop this war drive have been rejecting these efforts, as is evidenced from the success of the mobilizations and the outpouring of support received by A.N.S.W.E.R. at the grassroots level.
THE JANUARY 18 DEMONSTRATION AND THE RED-BAITING TACTICS
The demonstrations have been supported by, organized by, and attended by persons from all walks of life. For January 18, hundreds of thousands of people traveled all night by bus and car from communities around the country with their children, their grandparents, their friends and neighbors, many attending their first demonstration and not knowing fully what to expect. Once arriving in the freezing cold of D.C. or the streets of San Francisco they met others from different backgrounds who shared a simple and heartfelt demand: that there be no war of aggression launched by the government of the U.S. on the people of Iraq. We have heard stories of the veteran from Pennsylvania who spent the day with the family from Alabama, the mother and her son from Mississippi who made new friends with the students from Wisconsin. We all listened as speakers representing veterans, labor and working people, youth and students, communities of faith, members of Congress, artists and writers, and fighters for social justice from different struggles all brought messages of solidarity in opposition to a war on Iraq. And then we all marched together.
Those who seek to diminish and divide this growing movement often dishonestly claim that A.N.S.W.E.R. is a "front" group in order to diminish the Coalition and all the people from different backgrounds and organizations that are part of it, including on its Steering Committee, and who have their own honorable independent histories in the anti-war and social justice movements. The red-baiters have focused on singling out the presence of socialists and Marxists, in particular members of the Workers World Party (a socialist party in the U.S.), because some people in that party have been prominent in supporting the anti-war movement and the work of A.N.S.W.E.R. and their political positions have been routinely caricatured.
Those who claim that A.N.S.W.E.R. is a "front" demonstrate their own racist and elitist perception of reality. Oddly invisible to them is the role of the various communities and organizations, including Arab Americans, African Americans, Korean Americans, Filipino Americans, Latinos, faith-based and solidarity groups who clearly have a central leadership role in organizing A.N.S.W.E.R. and carrying out the actions of the past year.
That there are socialists or Marxists in the peace movement is neither a shock, nor a matter for repudiation. There are also Democrats, Republicans, Greens, anarchists, independents, and people with no party affiliation, and everyone is welcome. This is a united front of opposition that is becoming a big problem for the administration -- hence the stepped up demonization and red-baiting, particularly after successful mass actions.
WHAT IS "MAINSTREAM" AMERICA: THE POWER OF REAL DEMOCRACY
While thousands of grassroots activists have worked tirelessly organizing their communities, holding teach-ins, handing out leaflets, putting up posters, and doing all the other necessary tasks to build a movement to stop Bush's war against Iraq, it is sad that a few on the sidelines claiming to speak for the liberal and progressive community have so willingly been partners with the right wing and pro-war supporters in their efforts to disrupt the growing peace movement. Much of the red-baiting and disinformation campaign emanated first from the pages of the Nation magazine and its columnists, which is now approvingly cited by the new Joe McCarthys in the conservative establishment. Some writers who have done nothing to organize against the war -- Todd Gitlin, Marc Cooper, Christopher Hitchens, David Corn and a few others -- have been feverishly exposing "reds" in the anti-war movement and demanding purges for months.
A handful of people who claim to be leaders of the peace movement have also supported these attacks and demurred that they are not red-baiting but only trying to look out for the best interests of the movement.
They state that the anti-war movement must appeal to "mainstream America" and that A.N.S.W.E.R.'s leadership and organizing, despite the turnout of hundreds of thousands of people in the streets, is a barrier to reaching that "mainstream" America. They wrongly insist that A.N.S.W.E.R.'s linking issues of war, racism and economic justice -- inclusion of the struggle against the death penalty, or presenting a taped anti-war message to the demonstration from political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, or supporting Palestinian self-determination -- that this bringing together unity of different social justice struggles to oppose war on Iraq can only "limit" the anti-war movement.
A.N.S.W.E.R. has mobilized the largest demonstrations against the Bush administration's policies that have been filled not only by radical activists but by broad sections of the population reaching across ethnicities, races, genders, economic status and many political divides to include many who are participating for the first time in political protests.
"Mainstream," when used by those who wish to narrow the movement and its outreach, is however, a code word in the political lexicon that refers to upper middle-class white America. A.N.S.W.E.R. wants to and has reached and included all sectors of the society. When we use the term mainstream we mean not only the middle class, but the broad, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-national working population in the United States. History proves that the most powerful mass movements are those that give voice to sectors of society that are traditionally disenfranchised or ignored or demonized. Together we are building demonstrations and a movement that reflects the real mainstream America -- all of us. This has been echoed by the thousands of people from all backgrounds who have written about their experiences standing shoulder-to-shoulder with people they would never otherwise have met, who are from different communities, and how for the first time they have felt the power of democracy in America.
"Mainstream" is also used as code for something else. It means opposing some tactics of Bush's war while embracing the government rationale for its twelve-year quiet war against Iraq, including genocidal sanctions that the UN admits has killed over one million Iraqi civilians, and accepting the fundamental assumption of the Bush administration that the U.S. must "do something about Iraq." The entirely false characterization and spin provided by these pundits, and those who parrot them, is that those who oppose the imperial ambitions of the U.S. in the Middle East are necessarily political apologists for Saddam Hussein. Simply put, if the people in Iraq want to carry out regime change, that is one thing. When the Pentagon and the CIA attempt to use sanctions and military invasion to create a puppet regime, that is something altogether different. Counterposed to Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive war and forcible regime change, A.N.S.W.E.R. supports the right of Iraqi people to determine their own destiny. The same can be said about the U.S. conflict with North Korea, Cuba or any other Third World country that attempts to retain its sovereignty in the face of U.S. military aggression and economic blockade.
In the past week, the red-baiting attacks have been picked up and intensified by corporate media such as NPR and the New York Times, who also approvingly cite the "progressive" publications and enlist other sectarians who claim to be part of the peace movement, to give credibility to their demonization of the peace movement. Below is a link to an audio piece from NPR's Fresh Air from last week, which has compelled people from all over the country to condemn NPR and send messages of support to the anti-war movement.
LESSONS OF THE MCCARTHY ERA
The historical link between the current attacks and the 1950s McCarthy era is striking. As the social justice movement emerged from the 1950s, the result of red-baiting was clear for all to see: socialists had been fired from their jobs, driven from unions, and also from "progressive" organizations who were purging their ranks. As the pressure grew, even the ACLU, which purportedly defended free speech unconditionally, capitulated and purged its ranks of communists and socialists who had played an invaluable role in the movement to defend the Bill of Rights. It even reported on activists to FBI head J. Edgar Hoover and the House Un-American Activities Committee. The attacks spread to those who were designated as "fellow travelers" and even to those who simply signed petitions against the atomic bomb. Actor Paul Robeson and renowned scientist Linus Pauling (who won two Nobel prizes, including one for peace) had their passports lifted by the U.S. government. This is recognized as a shameful period of witch-hunting in America.
The red-baiting limited the anti-war movement during the Korean War and critically weakened the labor movement in the U.S. At the start of growing opposition to the Vietnam War in the mid-1960s, the established "peace" groups demanded that socialists and Marxists also be purged from anti-war groups and organizing, just as Corn, Gitlin and their group of armchair activists are demanding now. But young people who took the leadership of the anti-war movement, the people who took to the streets, rejected these demands. Ultimately, because division efforts similar to those clamored for now failed, the mass movement was built with many voices and the progressive community played a leading and decisive role in the protracted struggle that brought an end to the Vietnam War.
This new attack is a disgraceful course of conduct, one reminiscent of loyalty oaths and one that will not be tolerated. We in the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition choose to work together and choose to stand side by side because we oppose war, racism, sexism and homophobia and share a common belief: support for the right of people to live decent non-exploited lives, in peace and with justice and self-determination. As evidenced by the mass demonstrations on September 29, 2001, April 20, 2002, October 26, 2002, and most recently January 18, 2003, so also do hundreds of thousands of people.
OUR FUTURE TOGETHER
We speak on behalf of many grassroots organizers around the country who are building a movement to stop a criminal war of aggression that will needlessly endanger the lives of U.S. service people and kill thousands of innocent Iraqis for Big Oil's interests, and that will loot the national Treasury, diverting money from healthcare, jobs and education to arms-makers and corporate war profiteers.
Constructive criticism and dialogue about political disagreements is healthy for the movement and a sign of maturity. But we categorically reject the demands for purging, factionalization, sectarianism, and red-baiting that seeks to divide people at the very moment when unity is required to stop Bush and company from waging an endless war against the people of the world.
We encourage all to join in as we continue to build a potent force of unequaled breadth and diversity, with many different voices and viewpoints, united to stop this war drive.
Otherwise the Bush Administration, its warmongering supporters, and those who would play directly into their hands for their own sectarian purposes, will be able to divide a growing movement, shut down powerful dissent and scare off and silence people just as happened in the McCarthy era to those who then opposed atomic weapons, the war in Korea, and the legal Jim Crow apartheid in the U.S. It took the progressive movement more than a decade to regain its footing. We probably don't have that kind of time right now.
Terry Gross' NPR/Fresh Air "revealing" interview with Mara Verheyden-Hilliard: http://www.npr.org/ramfiles/fa/20030123.fa.02.ram
LETTER TO THE NY TIMES FROM MEMBERS OF THE A.N.S.W.E.R. STEERING COMMITTEE THAT IT WAS UNWILLING TO PUBLISH:
To the Editor:
"Some War Protesters Uneasy With Others," about the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, the principal organizers of the massive peace marches of January 18 and October 26, really misses the point. Finding and emphasizing political differences in the movement, presenting an inaccurate caricature of the political positions of socialists, and seeking to smear a successful anti-war coalition because there are socialists in it, is not news.
This demonstration honored Dr. Martin Luther King who we remember today as a fighter for civil rights who courageously joined hands with the anti-war movement. Today as then, it may make some people uneasy to link war, racism, and self-determination. If the demonstration had been organized by or attended by people who were only mirror images of each other it would have been a very small demonstration indeed.
Email circulated by: A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition. Act Now to Stop War & End Racism
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