Bush ignites global war — Radical challenge to U.S. death dealers can stop the carnage

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Twenty-four hours before D-day the world antiwar movement detonated. Hundreds of thousands of people marched, chanted, rallied, spoke out, and fought cops on January 14 in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle, the Bay Area, and in Berlin, Turin, and Amman. Thousands took over San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in the morning. Another thousand rallied in downtown Oakland at noon. In Chicago, 6,000 closed the Loop, burned U.S. flags, and battled police.

Six thousand in Turin. Ten thousand in the Jordanian capital. In Berlin, protesters fought riot police outside U.S. military headquarters shouting “U.S. — international genocide agency!”

Are you listening, Washington? Everyone knows the U.S. has unilaterally opted for slaughter in Saudi Arabia — to control the goddamned oil, to reassert hegemony over the Mideast and Third World, arid for war profits galore.

How to build an antiwar movement. Bush, given carte blanche by Congress, went to war. How do we stop him?

By bringing home to all the U.S. people that the Mideast war is no less a war against them; that their children will die for Exxon and war profiteers; that war deficits will speed economic collapse, unemployment, homelessness, and gutting of health, education and welfare; that capitalism, powered by profits sucked out of oil wells, is the cause of this war, and that it must be sent to the wrecking yard and junked.

We need a democratic antiwar movement. All ideas, opinions and programs, radical and not-so-radical, must be openly discussed and voted on. This collective process will produce the deepest understanding of what our tasks are and, on that basis, what plan of attack is best suited to end the war.

The aim? To stop this war and the system that profits from militarization and carnage, and replace it with a system of workers’ control of industry and shared wealth. In short, socialism.

Takes two to screw it up. It wouldn’t be hard to build a viable antiwar movement. Just add democracy and stir. People are ready to see the good sense of radical solutions. Yet anyone interested in making things easy for Bush as he drives into war could steal a leaf from the current antiwar leadership.

They’ve split into two factions nationally, and local organizing in major cities reflects this split. The first faction runs the Coalition to Stop U.S. Intervention in the Middle East. This group, formed in August after Iraq’s invasion, is headed by Workers World Party (WWP), and co-led/decorated by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. The Coalition launched the first major national antiwar protest last October 20.

The second faction heads the National Campaign for Peace in the Middle East, which includes such groups as the National Mobilization for Survival, CISPES, International Jewish Peace Union, Women Strike for Peace, the Rainbow Coalition, and Left groups such as Socialist Action who can’t get along with WWP.

Two factions, divided movement. The Coalition scheduled a national march in Washington, D.C., January 19. The Campaign heads for the capital January 26.

Grassroots activists are puzzled and angry at the split. They reason correctly that a unified march would be far more effective. Why the two different dates?

There are political differences between the Campaign and the Coalition. The Campaign condemns Iraq equally with the U.S. in this conflict and supports United Nations sanctions against Iraq as the alternative to war. The Coalition refuses to take a position on the invasion and opposes sanctions, saying that the U.S. incursion is the overriding evil and that sanctions are but war by other means. The Coalition’s Pontius-Pilate-like refusal to condemn the invasion is inexcusable, though they’re correct about the sanctions and in identifying the main evil.

Still, say the grass roots, the demand that the U.S. stay out of the war is the basis for movement unity. Since both the Campaign and Coalition agree on this point, there should be room under one banner for all other differences. Such issues as sanctions are precisely what should be democratically thrashed out and clarified, making for deeper, more clear-eyed unity.

Turf wars surely enter into the division. But the political differences provide clues to understanding the basic orientation of each faction and the methods of each in maintaining control.

Two clues right off: both groups are adamantly opposed to open socialist participation in the movement (closet socialists are OK), and both censor free discussion to try to ensure that socialist ideas are locked out.

Sleight-of-hand. The Campaign condemns Iraq along with the U.S. and supports the sanctions — positions at odds with antiwar objectives.

This plague-on-both-the-U.S.-and-Iraq stance can and is being used by Washington’s warmakers as back-door justification for going in. After all, if the invasion is to be condemned, it must be reversed. The Campaign proposes no alternative to Bush’s solution except UN peace efforts. This is the same UN that “authorized” U.S. force after January 15, that was bribed and bludgeoned by Bush into calling for sanctions, that is the fig leaf for U.S. war efforts. What “peace” would the UN offer the Mideast that wouldn’t maintain the U.S. grip, deepen the tensions, and lead to deadlier U.S. incursions while giving them cover?

The Campaign begs the question of who is primarily responsible for this conflict. It ignores the significance of the history of imperialist intervention in the Mideast: the splintering of the region into pro-capitalist states and the throttling of Pan-Arab revolution thereby; the playing off of one state against another to ensure the West’s control of the oil; the forced impoverishment of states such as Iraq; the endowing of privilege on the Kuwaitis and Saudis; the arming of one state against another by the U.S., British, and French; and the resulting tensions that made the Iraqi invasion only a matter of time.

Ignoring these issues, the Campaign defaults to crude Western slurs against Arabs as “violence-prone, undemocratic … Saddam is a Hitler,” etc. — racist slanders that help propel the war.

A big part of the U.S. antiwar movement’s job is to unite with the Arab peoples against Washington. How can we do that if we don’t refute the racism — through understanding the imperialist roots of the violence?

Imperialism caused this conflict. We condemn Iraq’s invasion — but as the logical outgrowth of Western capitalist control of the region. It’s not Bush’s dictate that can or will make things right, but the action of the Pan-Arab masses — and their anti-imperialist supporters worldwide — who would surely use the U.S. pullout to settle accounts with all bourgeois influence, including Saddam’s, in the Mideast.

The Dems again. Look who runs the Campaign: people from the National Mobilization for Survival, CISPES, et al. — the crowd that spent the ’80s telling people that congressional Democrats would somehow end the U.S. war on Nicaragua and El Salvador.

These leaders still hope to pressure Congress to stop this war as well-and this has consequences, first and foremost the shutting out of radicals from policymaking and debate and, in turn, excising all free speech.

Democrats are capitalists. The Campaign doesn’t want to offend them by giving radicals a platform or by plumbing the capitalist cause of this war. The Dems are pro-Israel, and this directly accounts for the Campaign’s intransigence in co-equally condemning Iraq, which is perceived by Zionists as the main threat to Israel’s existence.

The Campaign won’t admit the influence. How could they explain what amounts to covert support for Israel, the U.S. Mideast proxy state? Also, the question of Israel would tend to focus scrutiny on congressional-capitalist-sway over the antiwar movement.

Campaign leaders would rather ax discussion. Redbaiting remains the weapon of choice for putting discussion on hold. Witness Paul Zilsel, co-founder of the Campaign-affiliated Seattle Coalition for Peace in the Mideast, and leader of Seattle’s International Jewish Peace Union, who blames “the sectarian Left.. .now plaguing us” for movement divisions.

That’s almost funny. This writer was present at a Seattle antiwar meeting last August when Zilsel stormed out because attendees refused to rubber-stamp his condemnation of Iraq.

“Popular” Stalinism. If the Campaign’s inadequacies stem from their pro-Democrat, pro-Israeli politics, those of the Coalition to Stop U.S. Intervention are rooted in the blinkered Stalinism of the Workers World Party.

The Coalition’s refusal to address Iraq’s invasion is an outgrowth of the notion, Stalin’s own, that any Third World state is definitively “anti-imperialist,” hence beyond reproach. But open support for Iraq is verboten; Saddam is a dictator, after all, and were WWP to openly proclaim support, they would lose in the popularity polls. WWP lusts for popularity.

Popularity has its price in the Coalition — democracy and effectiveness. Shutdown of this particular discussion precludes examination of what caused the invasion, preventing full understanding of imperialism’s seminal role.

Why would WWP want to prevent this understanding? Because debate over issues might radicalize people-not the road WWP has chosen to win friends and influence people.

In the Bay Area Coalition WWP has stiff-armed proposals by Freedom Socialist Party and other radicals to include socialist speakers at rallies, saying they would” alienate popular forces.

WWP claims the Coalition itself is radical — “We reach out to people of color.” So what? So do the Democratic Party and the tobacco industry. The point is a radical program, which the Coalition ain’t got. The war is a disaster for people of color — and everyone else. But why? Capitalism? To say that would “alienate popular forces.

So where does that leave people of color and youth and women and others outside the “popular” mainstream, whose concerns demand radical solutions (as indeed do the mainstream’s)?

Upset and rebellious, that’s where. Perhaps that’s why the Coalition’s national steering committee hands down fiats for local groups to obey.

Revolt in the ranks. Coalition Stalinism or Campaign liberalism — both lead down the same sinkhole of exclusivity, dictatorial bureaucratism, and divisiveness.

The grass roots are disgusted with the steady diet of arrogance. They want unity and democracy.

A host of antiwar organizing efforts have sprung up outside the aegis of either the Campaign or Coalition. Protests are daily events in the Bay Area, for example, in San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, and even in suburbs such as Concord and Walnut Creek, traditionally bastions of conservatism. Black veteran and anti-Klan activist Willie Hyman reports that the Peace Center in Chico, California called a rally on January 12, hoping 150 people would come. The turnout was 1,350!

Two days earlier, NOW led a women’s march to the Saudi consulate in New York City, demanding “No War for Gender Apartheid” in that country and “Equal Rights for Women Everywhere!” On January 14, anarchists led an antiwar rally in Tompkins Park, center of New York’s squatters’ movement.

In Seattle, “Mothers and Others for Peace” held vigils on January 11 at every community center in the city, drawing between 50 and 200 people at each. Seattle’s Black community plans discussions on Blacks and the war in conjunction with the Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday celebrations.

Youth Against War (YAW), the organization of draft-age men and women who organized the Kent, Washington high school walkout, originally tried to work in the Northwest Coalition Against U.S. Intervention, but left in disgust in November. They assail the Coalition’s bureaucratism, lack of concern with the issues of youth and other oppressed people, and its near-exclusive focus on getting the U.S. out.

Says YAW member Debbie Wong, “We need more than just a call to bring the troops home. We don’t want to come home from Saudi Arabia just to be sent to someplace like Panama. And when we come home, we want jobs and a decent life.”

She sums up the feelings of the no-longer-silenced antiwar majority.

Radicals & internationalists. Antiwar radicals aren’t waiting for the liberals to fade; they are making sure their voice gets heard.

Last September in Seattle, several groups, including Vietnam Veterans Against the War (Anti-Imperialist), FSP, Radical Women (RW), and YAW put out a call for an Internationalist Brigade. The call was issued in conjunction with a picket at Fort Lewis supporting antiwar military personnel, specifically Marines resister Jeff Patterson.

FSP and RW in both New York and the Bay Area have put out similar calls . Forty leftists and community activists came to the January 12 Bay Area meeting. New York meetings have drawn Chilean feminists, Iranian leftists, and U.S. labor and abortion rights activists, immigrants, and students.

Points of unity hammered out highlight the causes and nature of the war and are widely inclusive of the concerns of the oppressed in the U.S. and Mideast. Adopted at least in part in each of the three cities, they include: U.S. Out of the Mideast; No War for Oil Profits; Dismantle the U.S. War Machine; Stop Racism Against Arabs and Arab-Americans; End Israel’s Occupation of Palestine; Stop Reprisals Against GI Resisters; Nationalize the Energy Industry Under Workers’ Control.

The points address the question of the antiwar movement itself: For Antiwar Leadership Collaboration and Accountability; Scrap the Republicans and Democrats; For an Antiwar Movement Opposing Racism and Respecting Women, Youth, Lesbians and Gays, Immigrants, and All Antiwar Activists; For a Democratic, Global Antiwar Movement.

FSP representative Tom Boot reports that the Bay Area contingent is currently discussing an explicitly anti-capitalist stance.

These Internationalist contingents are, says Seattle Brigade member Muffy Sunde, “a way to get a message across that the movement is light years ahead of the leaders.” The Brigade, she says, has kept “groups like Youth Against War and the Stonewall Committee for Lesbian/Gay Rights, who were effectively shut out of the Northwest Coalition, working with other radicals.”

The contingents, she continues, “are an example of how antiwar democracy can and should work. We have many disagreements among us, but you can bring diverse groups together under a common banner.”

All three contingents are looking to make an impact on the January 19 and 26 marches, through leafleting the current swelling protests, discussing the issues with activists, and demanding that out-of-the-closet radicals be allowed on the speakers’ podiums. They can and will make an impact; the Seattle Brigade first marched on October 20. An estimated 500 out of 1000 or so demonstrators marched under their banner.

Now that war has begun, people are angrier than ever. It’s a radical situation; they want radical solutions.

Can an antiwar movement against capitalism be too far off?

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