Censorship: no way to build an anti-war movement

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In July 2010, 800 antiwar activists from across the country met in Albany, N.Y. at the United National Antiwar Conference. The purpose was to democratically vote on an action plan about U.S. war-making and how to stop it. The conference is organizing demonstrations for April 9 in New York City and April 10 in San Francisco, which FSP supports.

Unfortunately, the coordinating committee overruled a vote that identified capitalism as the cause of war and poverty. Below is the FSP protest of this undemocratic maneuver and explanation of why it is important to correct this action.

To: Jerry Gordon, Marilyn Levin and Joe Lombardo, United National Antiwar Conference

From: Doug Barnes, FSP National Secretary

Date: Nov. 2010

I am writing to you on behalf of the Freedom Socialist Party to protest the fact that the Preface to the Action plan, adopted by the July 2010 United National Antiwar Conference, has been widely distributed without an important amendment approved by the con-ference as a whole. We respectfully and strongly request that the Preface be corrected immediately and re-issued with this amendment included. At a bare minimum, we ask that you publicly acknowledge that the amendment — “capitalism breeds war abroad and poverty at home” — was inappropriately deleted and that it is officially included. A letter from you to this effect is requested.

A little background

The party’s representative at the conference moved that the Preface be amended to include the above statement. After some clarification of the procedure for handling a contested amendment — and four votes — the amendment was adopted on a standing count, 95 in favor and 86 against. When we realized there was a dispute about whether the amendment had passed, a member of FSP’s Secretariat spoke with Jeff Mackler who chaired this session. He agreed with us that it had indeed been adopted.

What’s at stake

Overall, there was a refreshingly high level of democracy and discussion at this conference and we hope that it is the beginning of a new approach to organizing the antiwar movement. However, if you insist on re-writing history by denying that the amendment was adopted, you corrode your credibility as UNAC Secretary and undermine our shared goal of building a united antiwar movement in this country.

The FSP delegation as well as many other attendees from all over the country spent considerable time, money and effort to attend the UNAC conference. We came for the purpose of having a collective say on the direction of the national antiwar movement. Shouldn’t all participants be assured that whatever decisions were taken by the conference are reported accurately if you want contin-ued participation?

Undoubtedly the opposition to identifying capitalism as a root cause of the current wars and economic crisis, including from a number of left groups, is not based on disagreement with the accuracy of the statement. Rather, people are afraid that its inclusion might scare some people away.

However, in our experience, what frequently turns people away from progressive organizations is the lack of actual democratic decision-making by the people in the room. In its place are behind-the-scenes cliques which insist on watered-down, self-censored poli-tics. This is what kills our movements.

What’s wrong with naming the problem?

Actually there is growing recognition among many working people that our economic system is broken and that it has a name: capitalism. Disagreements arise over whether it can be fixed or needs to be replaced altogether. The amendment at issue doesn’t require unanimity on the answer to that question. Its adoption by a majority of participants was simply a vote for being upfront about the role of capitalism in perpetuating the wars in the Middle East and the assault on workers at home.

FSP believes that understanding that capitalism is our common enemy can help to bring us together and overcome our divisions. Without that analysis, the antiwar movement has nowhere to go politically, except to continue to be held back by a self-defeating reliance on the pro-capitalist, pro-war Democratic Party.

In closing, the Freedom Socialist Party remains committed to carrying out the decisions of the conference and moving forward with plans to organize mass resistance to the war next spring. At the same time, we will continue to advocate for a principled, democratic multi-issue working class unity in the antiwar movement.


Back to the Streets! Rally against the Wars at Home and Abroad

April 9 — New York City, noon, Union Square

April 10 — San Francisco, 11:00 am, Dolores Park

• Money for jobs & education, not war

• No to racism, attacks on Muslims, immigrants & unions

• End FBI raids

• Bring U.S. troops, mercenaries, and war contractors home now!

Sponsored by the United National Antiwar Committee. For more information, or to get involved, visit www.unacpeace.org.

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