A Message to New Jersey Antiwar Activists
by Tom Barrett
following message was sent to the members of the Northwest New Jersey Peace
Fellowship, an antiwar network based in rural
What follows are some of my thoughts about the just-concluded election and how we need to proceed in the next few weeks and months.
people chose to devote their energies defeating Bush’s re-election effort.
Though that effort was not successful, no one need engage in hand-wringing or
recriminations. In terms of conventional politics, the antiwar activists who
worked for the election of John Kerry did everything right. They chose a
candidate who had appeal to a broad spectrum of opinion, a decorated
supporters worked tirelessly, and delivered all the states where trade unions
and peace and justice coalitions are strong: the entire Northeast, West Coast,
and all the upper Midwest except
is ironic is that polling data throughout the country shows dissatisfaction
with Bush’s policies. People feel that
the war is going badly; they fear that they may lose their jobs, and they see
the costs of health care and college tuition far outpacing the rate of
inflation. And they are paying in many areas over $2/gallon for gasoline. But
in election periods it is emotions
which rule, not reason — on both sides. And just as many of us had an emotional
gut reaction of hatred and disgust just to hear
And let’s forget about any notion that this election — or any of the recent elections — is about a conflict between “liberal” and “conservative.” Those words have been stripped of any kind of serious meaning and have become nothing but empty epithets. I read Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative in 1964. The goals it promoted, however falsely, were individual liberties and fiscal responsibility. If Goldwater’s ideas were conservatism, the Republican party today is one place where there is no conservatism! The notions of individual responsibility are gone, especially in this administration. We have a president who expects others to clean up his messes for him, who expects to keep his job now matter how badly he does it, and who genuinely believes that the rules don’t apply to him. This administration thinks it has the right and duty to amend the Constitution so that the government can involve itself in our personal relationships, and to use a fraudulent “war on terrorism” to intimidate those who would speak out against its policies. And it has run up hundreds of billions of dollars in government deficits, all the while accusing its opponents of being “tax-and-spend liberals.” This isn’t conservatism. This is radical reaction, and it is dishonest to the core. Its only purpose is to make the world safe for the multinational corporations, and if they have to do things that are patently illegal (let alone immoral and wrong) to do it, they will not hesitate.
Ralph Nader was not a factor in this election. He did not draw enough votes in any state to change the result.
this means, it must be said, is that working to make progressive change through
the twin-party electoral system does not
work. Those among us who worked for Kerry in order to get Bush out made
every necessary compromise: supporting a candidate who did not favor withdrawal
we have all recovered from the nearly sleepless election night and the “Blue
State Blues,” we need to get back to work. Many good ideas are being suggested,
and we need to start talking about them and making decisions. One place to
start, in my opinion: International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism)
is beginning work on a Counter-Inaugural demonstration in
weekly peace vigils need to start filling up the town squares. Instead of three
or four people, imagine twenty-five or thirty people each Friday, letting
everyone who passes know that Bush’s re-election does not intimidate us, and
that we are going to resist every attempt to impose his agenda on the people.
Bush will be president for another four years (unless a major scandal forces
him from office as it did Nixon); it doesn’t make sense any more to carry
placards about “Dump Bush.” Let’s
concentrate our attention on demanding the withdrawal of
Many of us are concerned about defending women’s right to choose abortion and basic human rights for gays and lesbians, both of which are in danger. We may need to organize ourselves to stand outside family planning clinics to defend them from “right-to-life” terrorists. Just as large street demonstrations and vigils are demanding an end to this war, similar tactics have worked in the past to win and defend a woman’s right to choose. And when this administration attempts to use judicial appointments to reverse legal decisions such as Roe v. Wade, the information needs to be circulated far and wide, so that people can make the appropriate demands on those who have the authority to confirm or reject.
Besides working in a political way to put an end to discrimination against gays and lesbians, we need to work on the individual and community level to bringing about acceptance. That means the schools, the religious institutions, and even within our extended families. Are there people in your church spreading intolerance towards homosexuals? Speak out. Are gay high school students being subjected to bullying and social ostracism? It’s everyone’s responsibility to help put a stop to it.
trade unions have a special responsibility now, because labor alone has the
power to stop production and thus the flow of profits to the multinational
corporations. Make no mistake: the “red states” are in large measure
“right-to-work” states, where the union shop is against the law. Bush’s foreign
policy, which many in his administration are openly and proudly calling
“imperialistic,” is designed to allow worldwide labor costs to fall to the
level of the poorest
have been noticing over the past nearly two years that people have grown tired
of retreating. Being well behaved little citizens hasn’t worked. Hiding who we
are hasn’t worked. Trying to fit in hasn’t worked. I won’t be traveling to
No retreat! No surrender!