What did the Brecht Forum on the Anti-War Movement Promise?
Assessing the Antiwar Movement: Where To From Here? July 10 (Thurs.), 7:30 pm, at the Brecht Forum, 451 West St.; a panel of organizers will discuss the constraints the peace and antiwar movement faces, the openings, and how to build a more multiracial, cross-class and broad-based movement – followed by open discussion. The panelists are among 90 organizers who were interviewed for a special assessment report on the antiwar movement, recently released by the WRL. Panelists include: Monami Maulik of Desis Rising Up & Moving, Jose Vasquez of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Judith Leblanc of United for Peace & Justice, Greg Payton of U.S. Labor Against the War, Matthew Smucker of WRL. It was moderated by a young woman, Francesca, who is a WRL activist and former editor of their magazine WIN.
What Did the Brecht Forum Do??? Notes From A Rouge Forum Activist
About 50 people came to this event of which more than half were 65 years or older and everyone was white except 1 young black woman who was a student.
Matt began by explaining that 93 organizers had been interviewed across the country and that about half the interviews were in the current issue of WIN and more would follow on their web page shortly. Half of the interviews published deal with foreign policy and the other half with labor, feminism, environmental and community issues.
He said that the movement was predominantly middle class, white and aging and the question was how to change this to reflect that 70% of the people are against the war but that the movement appears to be quite small. And he emphasized the continuing commitment to non-violence.
The first question asked of the panel…..”What’s lacking in the anti-war movement?
Judith: movement is basically spontaneous grassroots upsurge lacks skills and a long haul outlook
Greg: media is not much help and too much reliance on the internet. There’s a problem getting info to grassroots people. He took literature to a library and they thought it was “communist” and threw it away.
Jose: lack of fulltime organizers, fund-raising problems
Monami: problems of groups working together.
Matt: large volunteer base but no resources to teach these people skills in writing press releases, in organizing etc……without the $ these organizers will go elsewhere.
Question: The issue of national coordination and links to local groups.
Jose: Vets are organized by chapters but they are in need of training, conflict resolution and need mentoring.
Judith: can’t rely on internet…need 1 on 1 organizing in community. Need a movement that comes from its local origins…..labor, community etc. The anti-war movment is much larger than what we see but how do we show that in our rallys and demos etc.
Monami: there will always be a conflict between national and local issues….we need solid local organizing but coordinated nationally. She works with immigrant groups that are very much against the war but see their local issues as primary and it takes a a lot of work over time to connect the two.
Greg: there are some problems with leadership being all white and involving minorites in these activities.
Question: Unity ……but a laundry list of demands…..how do we work through this?
Monami: Race, sex, class issues always enter into organizing……in the long road will come together
Judith: Big shift in country….new wave of consciousness……elections provide us with opportunities but we need to have a vision.
Question:….linking issues, linking constituents….ie how to get Vets for Peace to support other issues. Quoted Max Elbaum in WIN interview who said that Iraq issue key to lots of other issues
Matt: We need to effect Policy and that does require strange bedfellows…..there’s a problem with leftists and anti-war movement and working with where people are at.
Jose: most GI’s are conservative and when working with them you can’t throw everything at them like racism, imperialism etc……it’s a long process of getting them to understand what’s happening.
Judith: On the issue of making the movement multi-racial…….we have SEIU leadership that is a mostly black working class membership that is anti-war and who gave United for Peace and Justice help for 2 years so they are very much part of the movement.
Analysis from A Rouge Forum Activist:
Nowhere in this almost 2 hours of back and forth discussion among the panelists did you ever really know what any of them really believes in or what they are really fighting for and fighting against. There was no mention of class analysis, no understanding of the nature of capitalism, the nature of the state, what does power mean, how does change really come about……….they appear somewhat critical of but also very tied to the system i.e. references to policy, strange bedfellows, elections and their total commitment to non-violence so they praise the huge demo at the RNC a couple of years ago but fail to mention that it all fizzled out when they weren’t allowed to march to Central Park and have a rally there………it only showed their impotence not their strength. They talk all about minor, secondary, maybe small tactical questions but nothing about strategy, nothing about ideology, nothing about the need for a party or any kind of organization etc. etc………….and now I can understand how they have taken a movement with millions in the streets at one time to a “movement” today that can’t muster even a few thousand people…………I can only await their support for Obama’s troops marching all over the world to support our great democracy…………..
What follows is from James Petras’, Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire:
(A different view of “the movement”……”Ninety-one percent of US private sector workers are unorganized and totally subject to the commands of their employers. The nine percent of US private sector workers organized into trade unions are led by six-digit salaried bureaucrats who specialize in giving back workers’ rights to employers and remain captive to the pro-business Democratic Party. Given these conditions there is no reason to expect any serious challenge to the status quo. As is likely to happen with a turn in the business cycle, when the economy slows or even goes into recession and profit margins decrease, capitalism will simply turn the screw even tighter on working class and salaried workers’ wages, impose more of the costs of recovery on their backs, and pressure the Democrats and Republicans for greater Federal handouts, tax rebates and cuts in their pursuit of recovery.
Only if new social and political movements, leaders and activists stop pandering to the soothsayers of a coming ‘collapse of capitalism’ and a future ‘systemic decline’ and start engaging in a deeper and more profound analysis of Marx’s “dirty secret” and Adam Smith’s source of the ‘wealth of all nations’ as lying in the exploitation of labor and the class struggle can a beginning be made toward detonating the foundations of capitalism and bringing about its collapse and replacement.”……..
By BA July 14 2008
For those looking for the kind of analysis missing at Brecht, see here..... http://www.richgibson.com/rouge_forum/2008/lambsamongwolves.htm