Re: Australian Anti Bush Demonstrations
DSP Leaderships Triumphalism About Australian Anti BushA "heated response"? Accusations of "slandering the DSP"?
Demonstrations is not Politically Useful for Socialists
In my careful overview of the events in Canberra recently,
entitled: "Australia's occult capital city welcomes George Bush" I
included the light hearted but reasonably accurate observation:
"There was a certain amount of rebellious competition between the
different socialist groups, with their red flags and their generals
and colonels directing operations."
This triggered off an extremely heated response from DSP leader,
Peter Boyle, who in part accused me of slandering the DSP by the
observation (which doesn't appear a reasonable take on it at all,
unless your mental universe is one in which all observations must
focus on you, because you are the centre of the world).
Here is what I wrote in relation to Gould in that post:
Subject: [GreenLeft_discussion] Australian Anti Bush Demonstrations
Date: Thu, 06 Nov 2003 04:42:23 -0000
From: "bob_gould1" <ggouldsb@...>
There is one point of correction to Bob Gould's report of the Canberra protest. He writes in a dismissive tone:
"There was a certain amount of rebellious competition between the different socialist groups, with their red flags and their generals and colonels directing operations."
This gives the reader the impression that all the socialist groups were up to silly business and narrow self-promotion. I don't suggest that there is anything wrong with socialists trying to win people to their politics but the question is how best to do this.
Actually it was only particular socialist groups whose interventions on the day were primarily about red-flag waving narrow self-promotion.
So who is off the planet here?
As to the charge that several Green Left articles had a go at the ALP politicians' performance during the Bush visit, myself and other writers of those articles can only plead "guilty". But we were reporting the rtuth and this perspective probably has agreement of nearly everyone who joined the protests, and many more beyond.
As to the observation that the DSP does not follow the old CPA's "realism" in its systematic tail-ending of the ALP in the trade unions and outside since the 1950s, Gould is also correct. That policy failed the socialist movement and the working class. It led to the CPA championing and giving birth to the Accord politics that has done massive damage to the trade union movement in this country.
I'd say we have drawn the correct lessons and militant trade unionists today increasingly share these conclusions.
I think it is a travesty to blame the vicious raid-baiting of the Doug Cameron national leadership of the AMWU against Workers First in Victoria and the Workers Unity rank and file ticket in Queensland on the victims of these attacks and on Green Left Weekly. Lay low and you won't be hit only "works" if you give up in the fight for militant leadership. Doffing one's cap to the Labor bureaucrats, putting the the brightest light on their occasional left posturings, won't fool them. But it helps the bureaucrats fool the ranks and ensures that any socialist practicing such schmooz 'n sleaze tactics will earn no respect from the more militant activists in the trade unions.
4. Despite the ambiguous motivation behind the ALP parliamentarians'
letter presented to Condoleeza Rice, the guarded opposition to the
war in Iraq expressed in the letter, and by the Labor opposition
leader Simon Crean in his speech to Bush, also were contributing
factors, properly assessed, to the possibility of building a broad
mass movement in Australia for the withdrawal of imperialist troops
Socialists in Australia need to go forward to build a broadly based
antiwar movement in the above spirit without sectarianism. The kind
of triumphalism we have seen in the aftermath of the Bush
mobilisations can only be a barrier to such an endeavor. In
particular we need to use the relative success of the Sydney and
Canberra mobilisations to exert pressure on the more conservative
forces in the labor movement to rebuild the unity of the antiwar
movement across the political spectrum of the labor movement.
A broadly-based anti-war movement behind Crean? So how do you do this (leave aside for now, whether the anti-war movement should be built this way)?
The Sydney Peace & Justice Coalition Coordinating Committee (which split the Sydney Walk Against War Coalition) this assessment of the prospects for the anti-war movement after the Bush visit at a meeting on November 3, attended by D Barrington, B Cornwell, D McElrea, J O'Leary, H Middleton, A Peters, P Murphy, D Faddoul:
"Attendance [at the SP&JC organised Bushwhacked concert] was about 3,000, and was about the same size as the Oct 22 rally organised by the Stop the War Coalition, with some people attendign both. "
"a.. It is uncertain what is unfolding in Iraq, but the issues of lying and going along with the USA bullying are likely to be the main issues for us.
"b.. How to replace the occupation with a democratic regime is the majro challenge. The armed resistance is not helping on this point. The UN should be the main option to the US occupation.
"c.. The Howard government is relying a lot on fear and scaring the public, with the Brigitte case being the latest example, and now the call for even more detention powers for ASIO.
"d.. The deaths of US soldiers and Iraqi civilians in Iraq are a tragedy. We cannot identify with the resistance. A kind of 'culture jamming' guerrilla campaign against Howard and bush is our best way. Catchy stickers etc.
"e.. While Oct 19 was a success, it shows there is not the basis for more mass mobilisations, and we should only commit to Palm Sunday next year, April 4, 2004.
"Agreed: That Palm Sunday April 4, 2004, be the next mass action organised by the Coalition. "
"Agreed: That the Public Meeting origianlly proposed for November 2003 be put off until June 2004, and that the ideas about this event in previous minutes be circulated. "
So that's SP&J's take: "there is not the basis for more mass mobilisations". No more action until the traditional Palm Sunday peace march.
The Stop the War Coalition can and should continue bowling up proposals for united work with SP&J (as it did around the Bush protests in Sydney and Canberra) but I don't like their chances. Murphy and Co and quite firm in their opinion that the peace movement is better off with the activist left kept out. He repeated that to Socialist Alliance member Gordon Adler at the October 22 Sydney rally and march against Bush.
The prospects for future mobilisations depends on political developments in Iraq, the US, Europe and here in Australia over the next few months.
In Iraq, the US is in serious trouble, by most accounts and at home the pressure is to work out an exit strategy (see <http://www.csmonitor.com/specials/sept11/dailyUpdate.html>). For the first time Bush is in a minority over Iraq in the US according to a Washington Post poll.
Below is an (by Jack Smith, an ex-US SWP member active in the movement) assessment of the US anti-war movement after the 70-120,000 (combined Washington & SF numbers) October 25 anti-occupation demonstrations.
And the media reports seem to indicate a hot reception for Bush when he visits the UK (see <http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/1103-03.htm>).
But it is also true that there are some significant differences affecting the prospects for mobilising large numbers of people in Australia against the occupation of Iraq. One of them is clearly the small number of Australian armed forces personnel in Iraq, and their away-from-the-frontline role -- so far.
But as David Spratt, recently resigned ALP member of 20-years and VPN activist, wrote in Margo Kingston's web diary, October 2 (see: <http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/10/21/1066631424417.h>) there is another factor dampening the movement here: the ALP!
"Simon Crean is completely dead in the water, seemingly surrounded by little more than flotsam and jetsam", wrote Spratt.
"The most significant factor was the weakness of the ALP. In Europe, parties of the left and
the right had been swayed by public opinion, but in Australia Labor under your leadership
simply went missing. For six months Labor sat on its hands and gave no support to the
anti-war movement. You and Kevin Rudd prevaricated and squirmed this way and that,
and did not say this war was always going to be wrong, with or without the UN Security
Council. There was a roar of silence from the Labor State premiers. And then at the last
moment, Simon, you said you were against the war, and became mute. At a Brisbane
rally, you were booed from the stage; your opposition's weakness had given John Howard
free rein. "
Until this changed (and can anyone see this after Crean said in federal Parliament
<http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/reps/dailys/dr231003.pdf> on October 23 during the grovel session before Emperor of the World Bush:
"Your presence here today reminds us all that the partnership between Australia and the United States is broad, deep, many-sided, long-standing and, in its fundamentals, bipartisan."
Leave aside his grovelling and focus on the fact of the essential pro-imperialist bi-partisanship Crean has expressed (as did Hawke, Keating and Beazley before his). He's saying in no uncertain terms to Bush: we are on the same side, our differences on the invasion and occupation of Iraq are differences between mates (one that can strengthen the "mateship" Crean said).
Essentially the diffrence between Labor and Coalition and Bush were this: Labore said get UN Security Council go ahead and the invasion is fine by us. Well the Bush admin did not get the go ahead. But since then the UN Security Council has endorsed the occupation of Iraq so the Crean has no problem with it.
Now Bob Gould proposed a broad anti-war movement coming behind Crean's position. That's impossible. Any anti-war movement today must be built AGAINST Crean Labor's line.
Of course this is not to say that the anti-war movement shouldn't welcome ALP members and even ALP branches into its ranks. The Stop The War Coalition has reached our very warmly to Labor MPs Harry Quick and Carmen Lawrence. They've been put on every platform possible and encouraged in any defiance of Crean's standing-ovation-for-Bush and bi-partisanship on the "war on terrorism". As well the Stop The War Coalition has welcomed Greens and Democrat MPs who have spoken out against war and occupation.
In the conditions prevailing, and against the sabotage from Peter Murphy, the NSW Labor Council and certain bureaucratic Labor "left" trade union leaderships, the anti-Bash demonstrations were a success. To say so is not "sectarian" or "triumphalist". Only a chronic apologist for the ALP could construe the coverage in Green Left Weekly of these protests that way.
In my opinion the anti-war movement should be considering organising mass protests either around February 15 or around the anniversary of the invasion in March, or around any global day of action called by the movement in the US. This stage of the anti-war movement is going to take its lead from the US movement, which is now more united after the success of October 25.
THE ANTIWAR MOVEMENT STRIKES BACK
By Jack A. Smith
The U.S. antiwar movement was united and reenergized in Washington Oct. 25 as demonstrators rallied and marched behind the banner, "End the Occupation, Bring the Troops Home Now!"
Police Chief Charles Ramsey estimated the crowd at 50,000. Organizes posited that it was twice that number. Regardless, this was the largest protest against U.S. aggression in Iraq since President Bush prematurely declared victory from the deck of an aircraft carrier on May 1.
The protest was perhaps the most important of the five national peace rallies in Washington since October last year, even though it was far from the largest. Here's why:
First of all, the action was the product of unity between the country's two principal antiwar coalitions International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) and UFP (United for Peace and Justice). The two coalitions, which acted separately in the past, shared responsibilities equally, including the selection of speakers. Whether or not this important display of unity will carry over into the future is a matter of conjecture.
Second, the huge and broad antiwar movement, which is based on several hundred national and regional peace groups, began fading following the fall of Baghdad. Given the resurgence of struggle against the occupation by Iraqi resistance forces, the inability to locate Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, a serious reduction in public support for the war, and President Bush's sagging popularity, the Oct. 25 protest was an essential step in reviving the U.S. peace movement.
Third, the united political message that echoed and reechoed throughout the day was for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. During the Vietnam era, when the peace forces made a big contribution toward actually ending the war, it took several long years for the broad movements to unite around the then-radical demand to "Bring the Troops Home Now!" In this war, it took only months.
Oct. 25 turned out to be a good day for an outdoor mass demonstration for another reason as well. The weather in Washington was perfect, in the 60s and sunny. Out of town buses began arriving at 8:30 a.m. for the 11 a.m. rally, and continued arriving until 2:30 p.m. Most of them originated from ANSWER's 150 organizing centers in the eastern part of the nation.
Participants in the march and rally were multinational with a predominance of youth. Perhaps a thousand of the demonstrators were either family members of GIs presently serving in Iraq, Kuwait or Afghanistan or veterans of past wars. Some active duty GIs in civilian clothes were also in the crowd. One of the most moving of the rally speakers, Fernando Suarez del Solar of Escondido, Calif., is the father of a Marine killed in Iraq. "I am here not only in the name of my son but in the names of 350 kids who have died in this illegal war," he declared Spanish, which was translated after every phrase. "President Bushlied to the American people and to the entire world about this war. We need to make Mr. Bush understand that he is not the owner of the lives of our children. He is not the owner of America."
A large sign demanding the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops bedecked the raised stage at the rally site near the Washington Monument. Virtually every one of the dozens of speakers, each allotted only three or four minutes, repeated the "Bring the Troops Home Now" demand.
Each coalition had its own MC and speakers for alternating half hours for the duration of the rally. It worked surprisingly well and the audience enjoyed a broader variety of speakers and entertainers than was usual when one or the other coalition conducts its own rallies. Many of the speakers, not only from the more left wing ANSWER but UPJ as well, imparted an anti-imperialist as well as antiwar message.
Several speakers were exceptionally well-received, including ANSWER's former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who is campaigning to impeach President Bush for high crimes and misdemeanors. Rev. Al Sharpton, a long-shot candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, brought the house down when he declared, in reference to President Bush's demand for an additional $87 billion to defeat the Iraqi resistance, "Don't give Bush $87 billion for war, don¹t give war 87 cents; give out troops a ride home instead." He also scoffed at the demand from some quarters to withdraw only gradually in order to preserve Washington's dignity. "You cannot get out with dignity," he intoned, "because you lost it when you entered Iraq in the first place." The greatest applause appeared to be reserved for a group of older women peace activists who formed themselves into a riotously funny singing group called the "Ragin' Grannies," especially when they rendered their own satirical composition "Georgie Porgie" to the tune of "Yankee Doodle."
Two feeder marches, one organized by the Muslim-American community and the other by the African-American community reached the rally just before the big march was to begin. The two-mile march route took the demonstrators past the White House, FBI building and the Justice Department before returning to the Washington Monument. The trek ended up being about 20 blocks long, with the front of the march reaching the Justice Department before the tail end left the Monument grounds.
The Washington event was one of some 40 coinciding U.S. and international protests that took place Oct. 25. Up to 20,000 also marched in San Francisco that day.
Mass media coverage somewhat improved from earlier in the year. C-Span covered the events live and repeated the entire rally and march a second time. CNN had frequent reports. Most of the major national papers, such as the Washington Post, had satisfactory coverage. Associated Press sent out a fair account that was picked up by innumerable papers.
ANSWER set the original date for the Oct. 25 rally in June and began seeking unity between the two coalitions to work together on the event a few week later. It took over two more months of persistent effort (including pressure from an important group within UPJ) to convince the UPJ leadership to agree to unity. The outcome showed it was well worth the effort. "The movement has gotten a very big gust of wind in its sails at the very moment that the Bush administration is slipping in the polls," is how ANSWER's Brian Becker assessed the united protest.
Whether unity in action will become more frequent is another matter. There are clearly elements in the peace movement that prefer rivalry between the coalitions to unity in pursuit of a common goal. In her remarks that opened the rally, Petra Lindsay of Youth & Student ANSWER spoke of the event being the "first step toward unity." It will be interesting to see if obstacles materialize to prevent a second step.
In sum, the Washington protest clearly strengthened both coalitions as well as the broad antiwar movement as a whole at a time when an activist movement in the streets of small towns as well as large cities is needed now more than ever not just to end the occupation and bring U.S. troops home from Iraq but to disrupt Bush administration plans to extend the "war on terrorism" to a number of other countries on the right-wing hit list.