Should Support a Mass Movement Against the
by Bill Onasch
This is a slightly edited version of my article as first posted June 23 on the kclabor.org site.
Recent polls show that a
substantial majority of the American population want out of
It would seem logical for the antiwar movement to be reaching out to this mass sentiment, drawing new, broader, and more powerful forces into a united struggle. It should be high time to clearly articulate this yearning for peace and to make it unmistakably visible—as was done with considerable success during the Vietnam war.
Unfortunately, this is not
yet happening. First we had a long detour as antiwar forces were sucked into
the Anybody But Bush fiasco during the 2004 election
season. Today sectarian turf-fighting, and much “anti-imperialist” posturing,
is frittering away valuable opportunities for helping both the victimized
Two separate antiwar
demonstrations in the same city on the same day? That is absurd and
unthinkable. We should all be marching together as one, giving expression to
the 60 percent of the population who, according to recent polls, want some or
all troops brought home from
One wing of the movement
has reacted to the growing opposition to the
Of course, the Palestinian
question is important. People are being killed in conflict almost daily there,
and there is a big population of unjustly dispossessed who
have long endured poverty and degradation. Most American Jews have some
In an article about the 2003 National Labor Assembly for Peace, sponsored by U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), I wrote:
“There are many who think Americans have an obligation to oppose our government’s complicity in supporting the brutal methods of the Israeli regime in suppressing Palestinians. Personally I agree with that general sentiment.
“However, I believe we
need an independent movement around this issue. It would be a serious mistake
to demand that the movement against the war/occupation in
“First of all, this is a
hot button issue that could drive a mortal wedge among us. Undoubtedly a
majority of the unions and union officials supporting USLAW could not and would
not support it if it was perceived to have an ‘anti-Israel’ position. Splitting
“Secondly, there is by no means complete unity among those who oppose Israeli repression. Some condemn the suicide bombers as terrorists while others consider them heroes. Some favor a ‘two-state solution’ while others, including myself, support Arab Muslims, Arab Christians, practicing Jews, and nonreligious Jews, coming together on a basis of equality in a single democratic, secular state.
“These are important
questions but they can’t and won’t be resolved within the
I continue to stand with
this position. Certainly there is room to include Palestinian speakers in
antiwar rallies. Of course, there should be no restriction on banners or
But attaching a
formulation that most will view as a call to expel the Jews as a central,
co-equal demand of a demonstration against the
Let’s look at one crucial
example—U.S. Labor Against the War. USLAW has done a
good job in educating within organized labor about the war, has raised material
support for Iraqi unions, and has succeeded in getting antiwar resolutions
passed in unions representing millions of workers. (At the upcoming AFL-CIO
convention, beginning July 25, USLAW is working to have a resolution adopted
putting the entire federation of 13 million American workers on record against
“anti-imperialists” are contemptuous of such problems. They are preoccupied
with witnessing rather than mass work. They are exhilarated by identifying with
heroic fighters everywhere and seek to bask in the reflected glory of the
sacrifices of others.
I too consider myself an anti-imperialist. There is no more important task than building solidarity and collaboration between workers of all lands against our common enemy of global capitalism.
But real solidarity is not an attitude. It is more than resolutions, slogans, or gestures. It is not always glorious. It sometimes means setting aside other differences to build a unified effort to assist those under fire. It means hard work, patience, and respect for all who come together on specific common projects.
The 46 percent of
Americans who want immediate withdrawal have come to that conclusion for
various reasons and through varied experiences. Few even understand the term “imperialism,”
much less consider themselves anti-imperialist. But, in the course of building
a nonexclusionary mass movement around the limited issue of the war in
A powerful, united mass movement, visible in the streets, and in the labor movement, can save some Iraqi and American lives. It can also advance understanding of, and opposition to imperialism in the stage of globalization.
It’s time to put aside turf brawls and one-upmanship posturing and build that movement.