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Open Letter to the Anti-War Movement

By World Can't Wait Steering Committee  Posted by RJ Schinner (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   No comments
Message RJ Schinner
As all the latest polls show (even amongst soldiers), this country now stands increasingly opposed to the war on Iraq. This is a testament to the work of the anti war-movement, as well as the real difficulties the Bush Administration is having in prosecuting the war, and the desire of the people of Iraq and the surrounding region to end the occupation. In this context, World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime! is mobilizing for and joining others in making the urgent demand to end the war now at protests across the country.

At the same time, in order to effectively oppose the war, it has to be understood and acted on as part of the whole direction the Bush Regime is taking society and the world. We are calling on both ANSWER and United For Peace & Justice (UFPJ) to bring their efforts to bear on driving this hated regime from office - without which, our actions will not be commensurate with the enormity of the situation we face.

What We're Facing

After 9/11, the Bush regime launched an endless war targeting first Afghanistan, and then Iraq (with Iran and other countries now in their sights), with a doctrine of "pre-emptive" attacks. The conduct of this war says much about the character of this regime: systematic torture made legal, a brutal occupation of chemical warfare, bombing of innocent people, and blitzkrieg attacks on whole cities, all based on blatant lies.

While casting out on this "crusade on the world," US society is being radically remade. Police state measures (like the Patriot Act or NSA spying) are made permanent and legal, and dissent is increasingly suppressed; immigrants are demonized, subject to round-ups and detention without due process, and even hunted down by right-wing vigilantes; a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism increasingly determines government policy, with moves to ban abortion and birth control, legal and extra-legal attacks on LGBT people; and science itself is suppressed, with the outright denial of the very real threat of global warming, and evolution brought under attack while the bible is brought into public schools.

Taken as a whole, the Bush program constitutes a fascist remaking of society and a permanent state of war. While each of its crimes must be resisted and stopped in their own right, there is an urgent need to confront the full scope of this trajectory and mobilize people to reverse this whole direction. After a year of things people thought could never happen here - from abortion being banned in South Dakota, warrantless wiretapping made legal, to plans for nuking Iran - the recognition of this fascist remaking of society by much of the anti-war movement is stubbornly absent. While a massive mobilization of opposition to the war is more important than ever right now, going through the motions of protest as usual while the whole society is being remade underneath our feet is to abandon our responsibility to the future of humanity.

What Does Our Opposition Need to be Based On?

While UFPJ's call for April 29th contains an expanded list of demands beyond the war, the nature and danger of the radical remaking of society going on before our eyes is starkly absent. This is clearly illustrated by what has been left out of this expanded list of demands. To take one example: despite the fact that one of the rally's main organizers is the National Organization for Women, the call for April 29th fails to even mention the attacks on a woman's right to choose. These attacks are in fact pushing closer each day to overturn Roe v. Wade entirely (with no intention of stopping there). The point here isn't to add the right to abortion (or other issues) to a laundry list of demands, but that we must confront the full reality of what this regime is doing, or in the course of focusing on "less controversial" outrages, we will be swallowed up by the coming onslaught.

Moreover, what's disturbing about the failure to include abortion in UFPJ's demands for this demonstration is not only that it is an urgent and necessary demand - which it is - but that the failure to include this seems already to indicate a direction of tailoring and shaping protest to the political terms being set by the Bush regime and the Democratic Party leadership complicity and/or lack of opposition, or at least by the dubious and dangerous proposition that the politics of mobilization and protest should be determined by what's deemed "elect-able politics" under the current political order. To sacrifice the right to abortion based on some calculation of political expediency will only take us further down the deadly path of allowing new outrages to become the new normalcy without even an attempt to stop them. (In this respect, it worth asking whether it would have been okay to stay silent about segregation because it would alienate southern voters.)

Instead, it's essential to base our opposition on the understanding that, as the World Can't Wait Call puts it, "That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn - or be forced - to accept." If your aim is to really address the situation, including if you see influencing the upcoming election as an important part of that, you are far better off not adopting the terms of these "official politics," but instead basing your protest on facing the full reality, bringing forward demands that reflect this, and getting all of society to respond to your demands and program. Otherwise, we risk turning demonstrations, no matter how large, not only into ritualized affairs, but still worse into mobilizations that end up channeling people's main energies into an election that does not express their interests and desires. This leaves people, in the end, demoralized, demobilized, and even pacified by having adapted themselves to stifling political terms.

2004: What Did This Lead To?

Haven't we seen this often enough already? What happened in the 2004 election? The massive opposition to Bush and the war, which we saw manifested in powerful demonstrations in 2003, was funneled to support for candidates like Kucinich and Dean (who claimed to be opposed to Bush and the war), to the more "elect-able" candidate, Kerry, who openly supported the war (and the Patriot Act, and most of Bush's program). Millions were searching for a way to stop this war, and poured their energy and resources into the presidential elections, even traveling to different states and quitting their jobs. But despite the desire of the people, the Democratic Party leadership ruled out any candidates who were even critical of the war. What people were handed was a pro-war, pro-Patriot Act candidate, and an "official politics" in which any real challenges to the Bush regime did not belong.

Not surprisingly, in a contest over who would be "tough on terror," Bush won (fairly or fraudulently). This was a defeat in two ways: the Bush regime stayed in power to further their program, and the massive opposition (which manifested itself in hundreds of thousands protesting the Republican National Convention just two months before the election) accepted the political terms set by this regime and was left demoralized and demobilized.

What would be the consequences of seeing a protest movement hemmed into these politics now - and this regime pushing even further down its truly extreme path? This would only make people accommodate to new outrages and feel powerless in the face of a vicious onslaught.

2006: Where's This Headed?

The stage is already being set for this to happen in 2006. Candidates are being picked by the Democratic leadership who go along with the war, oppose abortion, and support new police state measures, all under the rubric of what they deem "elect-able." When candidates emerge who oppose the war and don't hold back from a scathing critique of the Bush administration, they are pressured to drop out of the race and lose their funding (just look at what happened to Paul Hackett). And as for Iraq, what the Democratic leadership offers is not an end to the war, but "strategic redeployment" (moving many troops to permanent military bases in the Middle East and stepping up aerial assaults, thereby increasing civilian casualties). And as plans for attacking Iran are being drawn up, Congress seems to be playing a rerun - despite widespread opposition, there are no prominent voices among the Democrats speaking up against a war on Iran. Russ Feingold's resolution for censure went nowhere because it was opposed by virtually everyone in his own Party. And while support for impeachment increases with each new outrage, no one in Congress is calling for it (Rep. Conyers' attempt to get a special committee to investigate whether Bush committed impeachable offenses, for instance, has gotten no where in Congress).

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RJ Schinner is an organizer with The World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime
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