Where Is The Antiwar Movement?
- The Antiwar Movement Isn't Where You Think It Is
By Dave Stratman
November 21, 2005
On October 29 of this year there was an antiwar rally on Boston
Common. My wife and I and our daughter and two young granddaughters
took part. After a few speakers one of the rally organizers announced
to loud cheers that a contingent of antiwar demonstrators had gone to
join gay activists who had been since 8 a.m. two blocks away outside
the Tremont Temple Baptist Church. Later many other antiwar
demonstrators plus the rally sound truck reportedly joined the gay
activists outside the Temple, screaming and chanting their anger at
what was going on within. The focus of their rage? A conference
entitled "Love Won Out," organized by Focus on the Family, on
recovering from homosexuality.
Whatever else they did that day, the antiwar rally organizers
certainly made clear who is welcome in their antiwar movement, and it
doesn't include anyone who is unenthusiastic about homosexuality or
The curse of the real antiwar movement is that it is largely
invisible. It may show glimpses of itself in polls or in heartfelt
letters from military families or interviews with bereaved mothers
like Cindy Sheehan. But for the most part the profound antiwar
sentiment of the majority of Americans is more likely to register only
as a few words exchanged between friends at a local bakery or dry
cleaner or a conversation over coffee at a diner. The real antiwar
movement is not on the radar screen of the corporate media and appears
to be just as invisible to the official Left-wing antiwar movementthe
one that organizes periodic demonstrations in Washington, DC and which
organized the demonstration on Boston Commonand also to its
Libertarian Right-wing counterpart on the Internet.
The invisibility of the real antiwar movement to those involved in the
visible ones struck me once again when reading a new by John Walsh, "A
Fractured Antiwar Movement," posted on Counterpunch and Antiwar.com.
Walsh proposes that the Left and Right wings of the antiwar movement
unite. It seems to me, however, that he has completely missed the real
problem of the visible wings of the antiwar movement and has thereby
come up with a strategy that has no chance of working.
The American people are overwhelmingly opposed to the war in Iraq and
want an immediate end to it, and yet these millions of ordinary people
remain invisible and unwelcome to the Left wing of the antiwar
movement, represented by such organizations as United for Peace and
Justice (UFPJ) and Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R).
Whatever their conflicting views of the Democratic Party and the
timing of withdrawal, the Left organizations are united in their
contempt for people who do not pass the Left's litmus tests of civic
virtue: support for gay marriage, gun control, affirmative action, and
unlimited abortion rights. The Left wing of the antiwar movement
remains united in the conscious exclusion from its movement of the
great majority of Americans who oppose the war.
Unfortunately ordinary Americans are also absent from Walsh's article.
While Walsh acknowledges the overwhelming antiwar sentiment among
Americans, he doesn't propose that the Left overcome its contemptuous
and exclusionary approach to ordinary people. Instead he proposes that
two self-isolated groups come together: the gay-marriage-loving Left
should unite with the unfettered-capitalism-loving,
Social-Security-and-Medicare-hating Libertarian Right. Surely that
will solve the problem.
Walsh apparently believes a powerful antiwar movement can be built by
wrenching the war free from its social context, thereby allowing Left
and Right to bury their disagreementsas if these two puny groups have
the power to overcome the Great American War-Making Machine without
engaging and effectively mobilizing the majority of Americans against
it. This is sheer fantasy.
The war in Iraq is part of the class war being waged not only against
Iraqis but also against American working people and workers
everywhere, and it can be successfully opposed only on this basis. The
war in Iraq and the war on terror are meant to frighten us and drive
us into the arms of our leaders while they steal our pensions, cut our
wages, out-source our jobs, test our children into despair at school,
and construct a police state around us. As Steve Lopez wrote in the
"There's a dirty secret [behind this war] no one has told you, and
here it is: This war is not about changing Iraq, it's about changing
America....The whole idea is to train you to expect less and to feel
patriotic about it."
Ordinary American workersthe people who build our cars, teach our
children, nurse our sick, build our houses, harvest our crops, keep
our offices and hospitals and airlines runningare under attack as
never before. They are opposed to this warit is, after all, their
sons and daughters who are being "poverty-drafted" or "stop-lossed" to
fight itbut the sheer ferocity of the assault on them at work and
their children at school and their elderly parents in their homes is
distracting and debilitating. People are under assault from so many
different directions that they find it hard just to keep running in
The only strategy to oppose the war-makers that can succeed is one
that makes the connections between the many-sided corporate and
government assaults on people's lives and the savage assault of the
war-makers on the people of Iraq. Our analysis of the war and our
strategy for mobilizing against it must be firmly rooted in the class
war. The strategy must have as its goal not merely to stop this war or
even to dismantle the war-making machine. The strategy must have as
its goal the overthrow of the class of war-makers and exploiters here
and abroadthe capitalist (and, in China, communist) ruling elite, the
Wall Street financiers, the masters of great wealthand the rebuilding
of society on a new and democratic basis.
The only people who can accomplish these things are working people
who, for the most part, fail the litmus tests of Left and Right. They
largely oppose gay marriage and gun control, and they support Social
Security and Medicare and reject any attempt to dismantle them. And
yet they are deeply opposed to the war.
What needs to be done is not to join marginal Left and Right groups
together in splendid isolation but to organize the movement on a new
and revolutionary basis, rooted in the lives and decency of ordinary
working Americans. This movement should reach out to the silent
majority of people who oppose the war and help them find their voice.
It should have as its goal to win the class war.
In reference to the opening paragraphs: one cannot help wondering if
the decision for anti war demonstrators to join gay activists hadn't
been made by some undercover elements among those leading the
demonstration. The anti-war movement itself has been heavily
infiltrated with the intention of undermining legitimate protests and
leading the movement astray. Some are just low-level operatives out to
sow confusion and discord among protestors, but some are quite
prominent (see below). Moreover, associating with gay activists and
anti-gun campaigners will naturally alienate ordinary folk. But maybe
that was the intention: to create dissension among protestors so that
they don't coalesce into a cohesive, broad based, and hence more
powerful movement. In essence, the principle of divide and rule is
being extended to fragment and neutralise potential opposition. Ed.
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