Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.
 

How the Reformists attempt to liquidate the anti-war movement

Expand Messages
  • Ben Seattle
    ... --New York Times, March 29 ... --Well known Seattle activist Geov Parrish, March 27 Hi everyone, This recent New York Times article (see appendix 1 below)
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 30, 2003
      > The procession was so orderly, a large group of
      > police officers having breakfast outside a nearby
      > bagel shop did not even budge as it passed.
      --New York Times, March 29

      > I guarantee that a thousand people registering
      > new anti-war voters would get far more attention
      > and respect, with more lasting impact, than last
      > week's protests.
      --Well known Seattle activist Geov Parrish, March 27

      Hi everyone,

      This recent New York Times article (see appendix 1 below)
      outlines a well-organized, massive and concerted effort by the
      reformist wing of the antiwar movement to derail the antiwar
      movement and turn activists into election fodder for the
      Democratic Party.

      This is the same Democratic Party (motto: "We are proudly owned
      by the same corporations which own the Republican Party") that
      has just given rubber-stamp aproval and a blank check to Bush's
      imperialist adventure in Iraq.

      This attempt to liquidate the antiwar movement is not unexpected.
      On the contrary, it is the nature of the society we live in that
      a section of progressive-minded activists will work their hearts
      out in order to undermine any protest movement that shows a spark
      of life and independence.

      The reformists will always act like this at critical moments.
      "Politics stop when the shooting begins" goes the catch-phrase
      currently being repeated endlessly.

      Translation: "Hey, hey, ho, ho, the antiwar movement has got to
      go!"

      The current efforts by the reformists to lead the antiwar
      movement in the direction of being election fodder for
      liberal-labor politicians serve two aims:

      (1) it serves the career ambitions of a strata of politicians
      and institutions that are within (or in orbit around)
      the left wing of the Democratic Party, and
      (2) it serves the interests of the bourgeoisie in liquidating
      the antiwar movement.

      These two aims, of course, are not independent of one another but
      are bound up together with the entire history of the development
      of the reformist (ie: liberal and social-democratic) political
      trends as _instruments_ by which the bourgeoisie undermines
      opposition to its rule. In particular, these trends exist (and
      have _influence_, and are powerful in society) by virtue of their
      alliance (a highly subservient alliance) with the bourgeoisie.
      There is a "quid pro quo" here: "Do your job in undermining
      opposition to our rule and you will receive a share of the spoils
      as compensation". These spoils are frequently dispersed in the
      form of jobs at institutions (labor, church, charity, journalism,
      etc) with an agenda that is progressive--but subservient.

      Of course, the progressive-minded activists who advocate the
      liquidation of the antiwar movement do not see matters in such
      stark terms. On the contrary they believe that they are simply
      being "realistic". An excellent example of such "realism" is the
      liquidation manifesto recently written by Seattle activist Geov
      Parrish (see appendix 2 below).

      Parrish compares the antiwar movement to a dog that cannot learn
      and says he will "guarantee" that activists who register
      voters--and work to elect a Democratic president in 2004 will
      receive "far more attention and respect with more lasting impact"
      than the recent week of protests in downtown Seattle (in which
      Seattle police adopted the recent New York tactic of surrounding
      hundreds of peaceful protesters and refusing to let them either
      march or leave).

      Translation: We should get down on our knees and beg for peace
      from the gods of war.

      This liquidation of the antiwar movement is, above all, aimed at
      reducing the extent to which the antiwar movement is
      _independent_ of bourgeois interests. The militancy of the
      antiwar movement is a reflection of this independent character.

      There is no escaping or resolving this fundamental conflict of
      interest within the antiwar movement: The features of the
      antiwar movement which the reformists most want to
      liquidate are precisely those features of it which _threaten_
      bourgeois interests.

      This is why the reformists don't want our protests to be angry.
      Their opposition to anger is a reflection of the bourgeois fear
      that anger is contagious and will lead to the awakening of a
      class that has, it must be said, a good deal to be angry about.

      Hence when we read phrases about angry protests that "alienate
      the American public" we should always translate this highly
      political phrase into its real meaning:

      translation:
      . piss-off the bribed strata of liberal-labor politicians
      . trade union bureaucrats, church officials,
      . poverty pimps, media personalities and
      . progressive 501(c)(3) organizations
      . who are given the task (by the bourgeoisie)
      . of keeping all protest movements "under control"
      . (ie: small, passive, demoralized and disoriented)

      One well-known antiwar activist, Chuck0, summed it up well:
      > If we conducted our activism in a way that pleased
      > the most vociferous anti-activism people, we would
      > be reduced to writing letters to politicians and voting.

      That is really the whole idea. The social-democrats want us to
      confine our tactics and activity to those actions which are
      "respectible". And what is "respectible" always turns out to
      be--whatever is _ineffective_.

      So what do we do?

      I have never been particularly enthusiastic about civil
      disobediance. I have never been--and may never be--arrested.
      But if I ever am arrested it is not my intention that it be while
      I am sitting down.

      Nor do I make a fetish out of blocking traffic. I have helped to
      organize unpermitted marches in the street--but that is not
      necessarily the same thing as focusing on disrupting people who
      are driving to work.

      There is a large universe of tactics and actions that are
      possible. A certain amount of experimentation will be necessary
      to make clear to serious activists what kinds of actions are most
      effective.

      But aside from individual actions we also must give thought to
      longer term matters. Sooner or later a section of serious
      activists will recognize that there are only two fundamental
      paths forward:

      (1) becoming election fodder for the Democratic Party
      (or pseudo-independent parties, like Nader, the
      Greens, or the "Labor Party") and
      (2) creating a revolutionary mass movement that is
      directed at eliminating the system of bourgeois rule

      The 2nd path is difficult for many reasons. It is difficult even
      to talk about or to think about. The low level of political
      experience of many activists and the current existing _crisis of
      theory_ makes it difficult for the most serious and militant
      activists to even imagine what a revolutionary mass movement
      would look like--much less how society will function when it is
      no longer ruled by the bourgeoisie.

      But we have many factors in our favor--not least of which is the
      revolution in communications--still in its infancy and full of
      immense potential to help activists link up with one another and
      create revolutionary channels to and for and by the masses.

      I support the call made by Chuck0 for an antiwar organization
      that isn't interested in cutting deals with the liberals. But I
      hope that if such an organization comes into existence--it will
      be focused on more than blocking traffic or on actions aimed at
      attention from the bourgeois press.

      We must do more than create actions and provide examples of
      militancy. We must participate in the coming period of
      "information war" (defined not as stupid hacking tricks--but as
      an organized struggle for ideas on a mass scale). The masses in
      this country are being bombarded by the corporate media with
      waves of stupid jingo nonsense and will have an interest
      (particularly as Bush's excellent little war turns sour) in an
      explanation of events that makes sense.

      We must build our own press, both on the streets (in the forms of
      leaflets which give ordinary people an understanding in _depth_
      of what is going on in the world--and here at home) and on the
      internet (in the form of news sites with articles, comments and
      questions that are rated and filtered by readers).

      We must create an organization that is politically transparent
      (ie: political differences within the organization must be
      public) democratic and accountable for its actions. If such an
      organization makes efforts to be deserving of the respect of
      serious militant activists--it could help to bring into existence
      a mass movement that is independent of bourgeois influence. Such
      a movement, here in the US, could and would cause more nightmares
      for the bourgeoisie than the armies of Saddam Hussein.

      Sincerely and with revolutionary regards,
      Ben Seattle
      ----//-// 30.Mar.2003
      http://struggle.net/Ben (my elists / theory / infrastructure)

      ------------------------------------------------------------
      Share your ideas, criticisms and questions
      in the public forum at: http://struggle.net/antiwar

      "Which way forward for the development
      of a powerful antiwar movement?"

      Calm, thoughtful and sober discussion is needed.
      ------------------------------------------------------------

      (Appendices are long--you may want to print this out)

      -----------------------------------------------------------------
      -- Appendix 1 --
      New York Times encourages liquidation of antiwar movement
      -----------------------------------------------------------------

      March 29, 2003
      Antiwar Effort Emphasizes Civility Over Confrontation
      By Kate Zernike and Dean E. Murphy
      http://nytimes.com/2003/03/29/international/worldspecial/29PROT.html

      With the war against Iraq in its second week, the most
      influential antiwar coalitions have shifted away from large-scale
      disruptive tactics and stepped up efforts to appeal to mainstream
      Americans.

      One of the largest groups, Win Without War, is encouraging the
      two million people on its e-mail list to send supportive letters
      to soldiers. Other groups have redoubled their fund-raising for
      billboards that declare "Peace is Patriotic" and include the
      giant image of an unfurling American flag.

      The changed tone comes after a week of street protests marking
      the start of the war that reduced San Francisco to anarchy,
      turned Chicago's Lakeshore Drive into a parking lot and paralyzed
      major roads in Atlanta, Boston and other cities.

      This week, the nation's largest antiwar coalitions said they were
      abandoning their plan to disrupt everyday life. Instead, they
      said, they would direct protests at federal institutions,
      corporations and media conglomerates that "profit from war" in an
      effort to attract attention but not offend most Americans.

      The shift reflects a tension that has existed within the nation's
      antiwar movement for months.

      Radical groups like those weaned on the antiglobalization
      protests that disrupted Seattle four years ago sought more civil
      disobedience. More mainstream groups like the National Council of
      Churches were afraid that confrontational tactics would only
      alienate the American public.

      At least for now, the more mainstream groups have gained the
      upper hand. They have sought to cast their movement as the loyal
      opposition, embracing the troops but condemning the war. Within
      the movement, which includes everything from small groups in
      small towns to a large alliance of more than 200 organizations,
      radical elements still exist. But the larger and more influential
      groups have sought over time to sideline them, deliberately
      excluding certain speakers, dismissing certain tactics,
      marginalizing certain protests, in a determined effort to avoid
      being dismissed as career malcontents.

      The week before the war began, another major coalition, United
      for Peace and Justice, declined to join in sponsoring a rally put
      on by International Answer, a group whose names stands for Act
      Now to Stop War and End Racism, saying its message was too
      left-wing and alienating.

      And even the umbrella organization that helped shut down San
      Francisco's financial district last week began its more mundane
      protests this week with an announcement that demonstrators
      interested in thuggery should keep their distance.

      "If we're going to be a force that needs to be listened to by our
      elected officials, by the media, by power, our movement needs to
      reflect the population," said Leslie Cagan, co-chairwoman of
      United for Peace and Justice, and a career political organizer.

      "It needs to be diverse," Ms. Cagan went on, "it needs to be
      large, it needs to include the people who could be described as
      mainstream — but that doesn't exclude the people who are
      sometimes thought of as the fringes."

      Even the more mainstream groups are full of people who have spent
      large stretches of their lives on the front lines of protest
      movements, from the civil rights struggles to antiglobalization
      campaigns. But they say they have learned from their own
      mistakes. So while attacking corporate America for driving this
      war, antiwar groups have co-opted corporate strategies, rolling
      out media campaigns as if opposition to war were a new kind of
      cola.

      For weeks, public relations firms have sent news organizations
      daily suggestions for interviews and "great visuals" that feature
      protesters. Groups practicing civil disobedience make sure their
      designated publicity person avoids arrest, to remain available to
      television cameras. One organization even "embedded" reporters
      among protesters the way the Pentagon did with its troops.

      "The great lesson from Madison Avenue is repetition," Ms. Cagan
      said. "If you get the same message out in different ways, you
      begin to break into people's consciousness."

      The New Era
      Rallying Round the E-Mail Lists

      The last time a vast antiwar movement took American streets was
      during the Vietnam War, so comparisons between this movement and
      that one are inevitable.

      The new antiwar groups take pride in the size of the crowds they
      have been able to mobilize. They have grown a protest movement
      the size of which it took Vietnam-era organizers four years to
      build — this time, without a draft and even before the first body
      bags might shock people into the streets.

      United for Peace and Justice, for example, says it took only six
      weeks to get 350,000 people to a rally in New York in February,
      and Win Without War says it took four days to set up 6,800
      candlelight vigils the week the war began.

      "I am rather pleased with the way things have gone," said Michael
      N. Nagler, the founder and former chairman of the Peace and
      Conflict Studies Department at the University of California at
      Berkeley. "I have been monitoring the peace movement for almost
      four decades, and often wringing my hands in despair for its lack
      of savvy and lack of organization."

      Still, it is a different era now.

      Protest has become routine, no longer seen as an assault on the
      country's values and culture the way it was when demonstrators
      descended on Washington in the 1960's.

      The Internet makes it far easier to organize swiftly and draw out
      crowds.

      In fact, some might say this movement — which unlike the one
      during Vietnam began before the start of the Iraq conflict —
      failed in its most important goal: to stop the war before it
      commenced. Certainly the protesters say they have learned that
      they need a long-term strategy.

      "It's tremendously saddening," said Eli Pariser, international
      campaigns director of MoveOn.org, a member of the Win Without War
      coalition, said of the start of the war.

      "At the same time, there still is optimism that in terms of our
      larger goal, which is to end this foreign policy that is so
      dangerous, there's still hope, and quite a lot of it."

      The Mobilization
      In Diversity There Is Strength

      The antiwar movement is a set of diverse groups that often
      overlap, swapping staff, money, and office space, acting in
      concert and alone.

      Some are offshoots of well-known national groups with
      multimillion-dollar budgets, large paid staffs and other agendas:
      The Sierra Club and the National Council of Churches, the
      National Organization for Women and the N.A.A.C.P.

      Others are more obscure or formed explicitly in the context of
      the war: Code Pink, September 11 Families For Peaceful Tomorrows,
      People for a Gasoline-Free Day. And many cities have their own
      organizations with their own distinct local flavor.

      Direct Action to Stop the War, with no paid staff, no offices and
      no formal fund-raising efforts, dominates the protest scene in
      San Francisco.

      One of its leaders, Patrick Reinsborough, had led an effort to
      pressure Home Depot to discontinue the sale of products made with
      old-growth trees. Another, Mary Bull, is the coordinator of the
      Save the Redwoods/Boycott the Gap Campaign. She was once
      arrested, dressed as a tree, outside the World Bank and
      International Monetary Fund in Washington.

      The coalitions against the war have drawn on the budgets and
      staffs of the larger national groups that have joined in.

      Many of the newer organizations are too fresh to have reported
      finances to government regulators. But they say they have also
      gotten money from various other sources, including the Barbra
      Streisand Foundation; Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry's; and Paulette
      Cole of ABC Carpet and Home in New York City.

      They say they have also raised significant amounts of money in
      smaller increments online. Win Without War says it raised
      $400,000 online in 48 hours, with an average donation of $35.

      The Mainstream Shift
      Opposing the War, but Still Patriotic

      When the antiwar protests began to gather steam in the fall, the
      large-scale rallies were being run by International Answer.

      Answer brought together an amalgam of demonstrators, including
      antiglobalization protesters and longtime Socialists. Some of its
      chief organizers were members of the Workers World Party, a
      radical Socialist group that has defended Slobodan Milosevic and
      the North Korean and Iraqi governments.

      In the protest community, the group was especially known for good
      organization: in some cities, Answer would go early in the year
      and snap up protest permits for the largest public places on the
      best dates. Last fall, many smaller groups opposed to the war
      were planning to attend the rally Answer had organized for Oct.
      26 in Washington.

      But the afternoon before the event, representatives of about 50
      groups gathered at the Washington office of People for the
      American Way, a liberal group that is known for causes like
      opposition to conservative judges.

      It was a diverse set, including Black Voices for Peace; the
      Institute for Policy Studies, which is a left-leaning research
      center; and the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker
      group. Many in attendance knew each other from past protests.

      For nearly a month in private conversations, they say they had
      been sharing their concerns that Answer's oratory was too
      anti-Israel, too angry. They worried that its rallies were not
      focused enough on the war: banners in the crowd were as much
      about "Free Palestine" and "Free Mumia" — a reference to Mumia
      Abu-Jamal, imprisoned for killing a Philadelphia police officer —
      as they were "No Blood For Oil."

      "Answer is a radical left group and not very mainstream in terms
      of its image," said David Cortright, a veteran of the Vietnam War
      and the protests against it, who attended the meeting as head of
      the Fourth Freedom Forum, a research center promoting peaceful
      resolution of international conflicts. "It was not the kind of
      movement I thought would be able to attract the kind of
      mainstream support I thought was out there."

      They decided that afternoon to form a new coalition that would
      operate apart from Answer. They named it United for Peace and
      Justice. It immediately began planning small actions for December
      and January in various cities, and a large rally in New York City
      on Feb. 15, where speakers would be told that their remarks had
      to be about the war and nothing else.

      Later that same October day, eight people from the meeting went
      out for dinner, worried, some of them say, that even their new
      alternative to Answer would not get the support of important mass
      constituency groups like labor, veterans and churches.

      Over Chinese food, those eight agreed to create another group,
      calling this one Win Without War. To join, said Mr. Pariser of
      MoveOn, one of those attending, organizations had to explicitly
      sign on to the notion of being patriotic and taking a
      "reasonable" stance toward a conflict with Iraq, which at that
      time meant the continuation of weapons inspections.

      "Right from the beginning we tried to frame it as a message that
      would go down well in broader communities than just the antiwar
      crowd," said Mr. Cortright, another of the eight. "The average
      labor guy out there wants to be seen in that mainstream,
      patriotic light."

      Win Without War announced itself in December with a news
      conference and a Web site identifying itself as the "mainstream"
      voice against the war. Doing so allowed it to win members like
      the N.A.A.C.P., the National Organization for Women, the Sierra
      Club and the National Council of Churches and gain access to
      their mailing lists and memberships.

      "Affiliating with other organizations that don't normally get
      involved in peace movements gave us a way to appeal to middle
      America," said Bob Edgar, general secretary of the council of
      churches.

      Answer itself continued to organize rallies. Mara
      Verheyden-Hilliard, a steering committee member, said her group
      took the "most progressive stand." She said the other coalitions
      included elements "far more to the right."

      And other smaller groups would spawn, local groups in various
      cities and towns, national groups like Code Pink, which appealed
      to women, and the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, which signed people
      up in advance to commit nonviolent civil disobedience the day the
      war began.

      But most of those groups affiliated in some way with one of the
      two large national groups — if only to list their events on the
      national Web site.

      As time went on, United for Peace and Justice took on the job of
      organizing rallies. Win Without War's task focused on the news
      media. It took as its national director a former Democratic
      congressman from Maine, Tom Andrews, who had been working with a
      public relations firm hired by the coalition.

      The Internet would prove crucial to both organizing and media.
      United for Peace and Justice said 40,000 people signed up for
      e-mail bulletins about actions against the war. Win Without War
      says its e-mail list includes more than two million addresses.
      Earlier this month, Win Without War created a worldwide
      candlelight vigil online, allowing people to enter their ZIP
      codes to find the nearest one.

      A crucial player in Win Without War's campaigns has been MoveOn,
      an organization originally started by two Silicon Valley
      entrepreneurs to provide a way for voters to go online to express
      their opposition to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

      In January, Mr. Pariser sent out an e-mail message saying that
      the organization wanted to buy a newspaper advertisement, and
      could raise $27,000 privately if it could raise the same amount
      online.

      The Debate
      Civil Disobedience Is Toned Down

      Within two days, Mr. Pariser said, online donors pledged
      $400,000, and the group bought several newspaper advertisements,
      a radio commercial, and ultimately, several television spots.
      One, in which a scene of a small girl plucking daisy petals
      morphs into military images and a mushroom cloud, borrowed
      heavily from the "daisy" commercial that Lyndon B. Johnson's
      campaign used against Barry Goldwater in 1964 to stir fears about
      nuclear Armageddon.

      When the war started last week, United for Peace and Justice and
      Win Without War were split over civil disobedience, the tool that
      many in the antiwar movement had been saving for the start of
      hostilities.

      United for Peace said it supported nonviolent civil disobedience,
      while Win Without War said it did not. But as the general shift
      in strategy swept the peace movement over last weekend, United
      for Peace and Justice scaled back its advocacy of civil
      disobedience. Its Web site now encourages those against the war
      to light a candle for peace, to wear a black armband, to display
      a yellow ribbon. Smaller regional groups seemed to take the cue,
      trading sit-ins for bike rides for peace.

      In New York, antiwar groups called for mass civil disobedience on
      Thursday. There were more than 200 arrests but most protesters
      remained orderly. They specifically fixed on Rockefeller Center,
      because it is the home of General Electric, its NBC subsidiary
      and The Associated Press.

      Organizers say news media companies and companies like G.E. will
      profit from the war, whether from high ratings, newspaper sales,
      military contracts or payments to rebuild Iraq after the war. The
      most notable example of the new tone came in San Francisco, which
      had emerged early on as a hotbed of the antiwar movement.

      Last week, the goal of the San Francisco umbrella organization,
      Direct Action to Stop the War, had been to disrupt the city's
      everyday life. Twenty intersections and thoroughfares were picked
      as places to stop traffic, with demonstrators sitting on the
      asphalt and refusing to budge.

      More than 2,300 people were arrested in three days, the largest
      number of arrests in such a short time period in decades, the
      police said.

      The civil disobedience achieved its main goal of attracting
      attention around the world.

      But it also annoyed a good number of San Franciscans, most
      notably Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr., a Democrat who is sympathetic
      to the antiwar cause. At one point he urged the demonstrators to
      leave San Francisco and converge on Crawford, Tex., where
      President Bush has a ranch.

      So at a meeting Sunday night at San Francisco's St. Boniface
      Church, some of Direct Action's most active supporters, joined by
      members from many other groups, including United For Peace and
      Justice, decided to accommodate the mood of a city — and
      country — at war.

      "We agreed to a change in tactics," said Renee Sharp, who when
      not protesting the war works as an analyst for an environmental
      advocacy group in Oakland.

      "We no longer need to disrupt business as usual; we've made that
      point. Our goal isn't to make life difficult for everybody living
      here."

      The shift was swift.

      At a training session for protesters early Monday morning near
      the San Francisco waterfront, a young woman in a knit cap took
      the microphone. As had been the routine at other gatherings, she
      led the crowd of 300 or so in a recitation. "Repeat after me,"
      she said. "I do not want to answer questions. I want to talk with
      my lawyer."

      But the script then deviated markedly from that of the weeks
      before. After people pored over a poster board map and got their
      assignments — most were told to block entrances to the
      Transamerica Pyramid building — they were sent marching in a
      fairly obedient form of disobedience.

      They headed down the sidewalk alongside the streets that last
      week they had mobbed. This time they were in neat double file led
      by a Franciscan priest holding two church candles. The procession
      was so orderly, a large group of police officers having breakfast
      outside a nearby bagel shop did not even budge as it passed.

      -----------------------------------------------------------------
      Appendix 2 -- Geov Parrish's Liquidation Manifesto
      -----------------------------------------------------------------

      > I guarantee that a thousand people registering
      > new anti-war voters would get far more attention
      > and respect, with more lasting impact, than last
      > week's protests.
      --Well known Seattle activist Geov Parrish, March 27, 2003

      http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?ItemID=14739

      -----------------------------------------------
      Post D-Day depression
      -----------------------------------------------
      Antiwar movement marginalized by its own over
      the top rhetoric; activists need to speak with
      audience, not each other
      -----------------------------------------------

      This week is when it really hits.

      After the initial wave of 24/7 news coverage and
      demonstrations in the streets, the reality
      remains. The Bush Administration defied logic,
      international law, and the wishes of virtually
      all humanity, and launched an unprovoked and
      unnecessary military invasion of a country
      halfway around the world. The shock, horror,
      grief, rage, sputtering impotence all finally
      echo away into silence. And still the pundits
      chatter and the bombs fall.

      What to do?

      For me, in many ways, the U.S. street
      demonstrations of the last week have been nearly
      as depressing as the invasion itself. They have
      been primal screams, by definition
      unsustainable, when what is desperately needed
      is sustainable responses. They have been
      expressions of what protesters have felt they
      need to say, rather that what protesters felt
      other Americans needed to see or hear. They have
      been reactions to what has been done, rather
      than demands for what should be done now. They
      have used the shopworn tactics, iconography, and
      slogans of 40 years of left street protest,
      which by definition are going to seem knee-jerk
      and irrelevant when what is being undertaken is
      in many ways so new and so dangerous we don't
      have words to do that danger justice.

      And, by this conduct, they have turned their
      backs on the far broader segment of Americans
      who have in recent months also been alarmed by
      this government's direction, but who have over a
      matter of decades expressed quite clearly that
      they find the activist left's tactics,
      iconography, and slogans to be profoundly
      unappealing.

      This past week's protests were nowhere near a
      scale needed to have an impact through (to use
      the more extreme rhetoric) "shutting down the
      country." Any remotely thoughtful organizer knew
      this, yet still, the tactic persists. My dog
      does the same thing; she'll leave my home office
      ahead of me, and then look over her shoulder to
      make sure I'm coming where she wants me to
      (i.e., to take her for a walk). She does it
      every time, even though, when working, I never
      follow her. She never learns.

      This is what powerlessness does. Primal screams
      (or canine begging) happen when there is nothing
      else left, when citizens feel not only that they
      have not been heard, but that by definition they
      will never be heard. It's barely removed from
      simply giving up and tuning out -- which is what
      more people in America than in any other Western
      democracy choose to do, and what many current
      activists, in this war as in past ones, will
      also choose to do.

      The thing is, I don't want to be heard. I want
      the policies to change, the killing to stop, the
      living to start. If going mute would do that,
      I'd happily go mute. Policy change isn't simply
      a function of decibel level or of number of
      heads counted at a march; it's also a function
      of having clear policy alternatives, and putting
      into power people willing to enact those
      alternatives. Chanting "no justice, no peace!
      (Until we go home in an hour)" is easy; building
      long-term change is much harder. And "The
      People" know it.

      Until two weeks ago, there was a clear
      alternative to war: the inspection process,
      which at minimum bought time, at best was a path
      out of an artificially induced, but nonetheless
      real, crisis. When that was lost, so too were
      many members of the new anti-war movement,
      because there was no "next step," no contingency
      plans in the peace movement's demands beyond
      lame and hypocritical calls to "support the
      troops." Possibilities abound, from a movement
      to have the U.N., rather than United States,
      take part or all of the post-invasion
      administration of Iraq, to a concerted push to
      unseat Bush in 2004. Yet at the moment more
      protesters are trying to impeach Bush (which is
      not, repeat not, repeat NOT going to happen)
      than to elect a Democratic president in less
      than 20 months.

      This isn't simply a matter of pragmatism; it's
      also earning, in the public's eyes, the
      legitimacy to make moral as well as pragmatic
      demands. In modern American politics, the
      messenger is as important as the message, and
      one does not gain moral legitimacy simply by
      having one's policy preferences ignored. I
      guarantee, for example, that a thousand people
      registering new anti-war voters would get far
      more attention and respect, with more lasting
      impact, than last week's protests -- from the
      public, from decision-makers, and from those
      numbers opposed to the war and to freeway
      blockades.

      You're an anarchist and hate electoral politics?
      Fine. Don't just sit down in front of cars
      because we're waging a war to feed our SUVs and
      everyone should abandon theirs, and then wonder
      why people who could be on your side but need to
      get to work are angry at you and vote for Bush
      next year. Teach tax resistance (and
      redirection); start some alternative community
      institutions that meet a need other than your
      own. The socialist and anarchist movements of a
      century ago had some traction because they
      started with the community's needs, not their
      own ideas. Take some risks that mean something
      to other people, not just to you and your
      friends. For goodness sakes, even take some time
      to study something about political science,
      military science, communication, mass
      psychology, something, anything more
      goal-oriented than what most of the protest left
      has over the past 30 years ossified as.

      Long-term or even short-term organizing is not
      as much fun as marching on a freeway, but then,
      the people on the front lines waging this war
      probably aren't having much fun, either. A lot
      of them probably don't want to be there; some
      probably don't even like the orders they're
      getting. But they signed on to do what was
      necessary, up to and possibly including death,
      for a larger cause. That's a major reason why
      virtually every segment of American society
      gives them respect. Religious figures, until
      proven otherwise, command the same respect for
      much the same reason.

      In the public's eyes, the average demonstrator,
      and the theoretically moral movement he or she
      represents, has done nothing within light-years
      of that level of moral legitimacy. Protesters
      may disagree, but if you want to change policy
      in this country, whose opinion is more important
      -- that of the advocate, or the advocate's
      audience?

      The United States, at the moment, is careening
      away wildly from all but one country -- Israel
      -- in terms of how its public views the world.

      Israel is for many reasons a special case; born
      of the Holocaust, surrounded by countries that
      for decades were intent on its destruction, it's
      easy to see (though not to condone) how the
      Israeli public could embrace its current
      fortress mentality, and its attendant abuses.
      America has no such claim; 9/11 was not the
      Holocaust, and this country, far from being
      threatened, has lived an existence of remarkable
      isolation and ease. Before the Cold War, it
      hadn't faced any meaningful external threat in
      over a century; even after a planet's worth of
      abuses inflicted in the name of that Cold War,
      it took another half-century before anyone
      caused harm on U.S. soil, and even then, it was
      a single act (so far) by an illegal private
      organization, not the army of a nation-state. To
      many around George Bush (and probably Bush
      himself), America's charmed history is a sign of
      America's unique partnership with Providence.

      That sort of talk, and the power abuses now
      accompanying it, scare and enrage even
      traditional U.S. allies, who see it as evidence
      not of the moral authority of democracy and
      freedom, but the "might makes right" attitude of
      a bully. Among allies and around the world,
      people wonder why so few Americans seem willing
      to challenge this mindset from within, using a
      different type of moral claim.

      For those of us who do want to challenge it,
      there's much we can't control. Barriers to such
      changes in U.S. public perception are
      formidable. The military complex in this country
      has enormous money behind it, enough to employ
      millions of people earning (except for the
      soldiers) a comfortable living building pieces
      of a repugnantly deployed whole. Mass media is
      currently dominated by a range of political
      opinion that makes Genghis Khan a centrist, and
      that acknowledges dissent usually only in the
      course of ridiculing it. Both major political
      parties are corrupted by corporate money almost
      beyond redemption.

      But what we can control is what we say (and
      hear), how we act, who we appeal to and work
      with, and to what ends. Much of the political
      rhetoric in this country -- with or without a
      war in progress -- is so over the top and
      intolerant as to be anathema to a secular
      democracy, and many Americans know that, too.

      What is lacking is a coherent, appealing
      alternative. Times of crisis and maximum dissent
      are precisely when those alternatives should be
      on display -- not when they should be abandoned
      for the protest equivalent of comfort food.

      Many of us who have opposed this war feel
      frustrated and powerless; it is an emotionally
      charged time. Remember this sensation. Remember
      how unpleasant it is. Then resolve to do what
      you can to ensure that neither you nor future
      generations of people who care about their world
      will be put in this place again. And start
      working to do something about it.

      -----------------------------------------------
      Geov Parrish is a Seattle-based columnist and
      reporter for Seattle Weekly, In These Times and
      Eat the State! He writes the daily Straight Shot
      for WorkingForChange.
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.