In other words, over the last 42 years, what has been the "opportunity cost" of how we've worked for peace?
To address that question, I'll assume the movement's primary task is to change the values of society, from the bottom up, to eliminate war and militarism from our culture. This assumption is significant. It means we understand that change comes from the people. It acknowledges the strength of the grassroots.
Unfortunately, our strategies have not kept pace. We still devote the vast majority of our thinking, time, energy and money to reacting against a succession of various evils.
Without a conscious strategy "to change the values of society from the bottom up," we will forever be reacting to the latest, most disgusting manifestation of Empire's will. Yes, there is educational value in opposing drones or depleted uranium or sending Special Forces into XYZ-land. Maybe, over time, many of these "one night stands" might change society's values. If so, we should consider ourselves more lucky than smart. And it's not the best we can do.
To abolish war and militarism we need a conscious, coherent strategy and accompanying tactics that will allow us to work with the forces in society that the mostly white, middle class peace movement talks about working with but rarely does. Specifically, I mean go beyond our typical confines to build solid relationships across lines of race and class.
That requires local grassroots organizing, not just activism.
Activism is what we do year after year, war after war, one evil after another. We work long and hard with our usual circle to put together a rally, a talk or a conference. For "outreach" we might send a few emails to churches or neighborhood groups asking them to "send somebody" to our event. On a good day we might also make a few phone calls.
Organizing looks more like:
- Methodically call and set up appointments and meetings with a wide swath of allied constituencies
- Meet with the leaders and members, listen carefully to their goals and aspirations, explain ours, be open to working together on some issue beyond our usual horizon
- Form an organizing or coordinating committee to determine the whole universe of people and groups to approach locally on some issue or campaign -- say the local impact of the war economy.
- Who might that involve? Some obvious constituencies like education and health care organizations, unions and churches. And some not so obvious like cities, counties, libraries, park districts etc. etc.
- Dig up the readily-available numbers from groups like the National Priorities Project
- Ask local public officials how state and federal cutbacks have pauperized their institutions, ask others how the war economy is working for them
- Involve representatives from all the above to demand a local public hearing at which all testify, ordering the city or county to take specific action