Which Way for the Antiwar Movement?
by Renee Tanner
On November 20 antiwar activists from around Connecticut and nearby states converged at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) in New Britain to hear antiwar leaders from around the country make presentations, followed by workshops and a plenary session aimed at determining “Where Do We Go from Here?”
The session to discuss strategies and perspectives was held as part of a daylong, statewide forum hosted by the Peace Studies Department and sponsored by Connecticut United for Peace, a coalition of antiwar groups in the state. Approximately 225 antiwar activists from around the state and region attended. Most of the attendees were older activists from the 1960s and ’70s, but about 10% of the attendees were students representing a significant number of campus antiwar groups in the state. There were also representatives from labor, including AFSCME District Council 4, military family members, and young Latinos from Latinos Contra La Guerra. The conference was endorsed and built by AFSC, CCSU Progressive Student Alliance, CT Green Party, CT Peace Coalition New Haven, CT Coalition for Peace and Justice, CT Social Forum, We Refuse to be Enemies, Greater New Haven Peace Council, Hartford Bring the Troops Home Now, International Socialist Organization, Labor Art and Mural Project, Latinos Contra La Guerra, Middle East Crisis Committee, Middletown Alliance for Peace, Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) Antiwar Coalition, and Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) Youth for Justice.
The conference was opened by Meg Scata, one of the central coordinators, who gave the opening
remarks. The opening session panelists were Bill Fletcher, of Trans Africa
Forum, and Mazin Qumsiyeh,
a Palestinian author. Bill Fletcher is president of Trans Africa Forum, a
nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the general public on the social,
political, and economic ramifications of
Fletcher made the point that both the war on Iraq and the war on terrorism “represent significant steps on the part of the U.S. to ensure its hegemony over the reorganization of global capitalism...both efforts also share in common the basic notion of crushing resistance.” Fletcher argued that the election was not a landslide for Bush, but that the right wing out-organized the liberals and progressives and that a section of the electorate voted for empire. He also made the point that close to half the electorate voted for a different agenda. However, he never discussed that agenda, Kerry, or the progressive dilemma of supporting the lesser evil (but still pro-war) candidacy. He called the current administration authoritarian/theocratic capitalism, not fascistic. He made the important point that the election strengthened racism in this country by playing on the backwardness and anxieties of white Americans.
Although Fletcher has held the positions of education director and assistant to the president of the AFL-CIO, organizer for the UAW, and organizational secretary for the National Mail Handlers union and is currently affiliated with U.S. Labor Against the War, he unfortunately addressed little attention to the growing antiwar sentiment and organizing in the labor movement or how to further broaden its scope. He seemed unclear on the direction the antiwar movement should take and somewhat unfamiliar with the history of the development of the anti-Vietnam war movement.
calling for unity and further mass united antiwar actions, he seemed to
unnecessarily counterpose building local actions and
coalitions to national actions and coalitions; he dismissed the nationally
coordinated mass actions as “sometimes great; other times they are a drag. In
either case people are exhausted by them.” He ended his speech by speaking out
against the ethnic cleansing in western
He said that
a weakness in the pro-Palestinian movement has been a lack of international
outreach along the lines organized by the African National Congress (ANC)
against apartheid in
authored the new book Sharing the Land of
Qumsiyeh suggested that a way to strengthen the peace movement is to speak to groups like churches and synagogues, which are among the most organized groups out there. He agreed with Fletcher that there is more work that needs to be done to defend the Palestinians internationally, but qualified his remark by saying that the ANC did not have to contend with a hostile force comparable to international Zionism, which the Palestinians face, and that factor has hurt their attempts to organize international support.
This session was followed by a panel of leaders consisting of Leslie Cagan, chairwoman of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ); Brian Becker representing the International ANSWER Coalition; Peter Knowlton from U.S. Labor Against the War; Rob Sarra, an Iraq veteran representing Iraq Veterans Against the War; Tanya Mayo from the Not in Our Name Coalition; and a representative from the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN). This panel was refreshingly upbeat and nonfactional. The panelists and the participants in the discussion that followed seemed neither fazed nor discouraged by Bush’s victory in the election. They all called on activists to continue and deepen the struggle against the war. Both Peter Knowlton and Rob Sarra gave inspiring talks on the growing antiwar sentiment within the labor movement and among the troops and military families. They projected concrete organizing campaigns to further these developments.
The ANSWER coalition
projected the January counter-inaugural demonstrations in
Leslie Cagan said she was not sure what UFPJ would project for the spring and did not call for support to the action dates proposed by the ANSWER coalition. She raised the possibility of widely distributing the new UFPJ yellow ribbons that have the message “Bring the Troops Home Now” and of the antiwar movement running its own antiwar candidates sometime in the future. When participants asked why there seemed to be problems with forging unity among the various national antiwar coalitions Leslie Cagan remarked that ANSWER was “difficult to work with.” Unfortunately there was no time to develop this discussion or to have ANSWER respond to her remarks.
In the afternoon
several well-attended workshops were held on the following topics: High School
Counter-Recruitment; Labor, Veterans, and Military Families; Campus Organizing;
Civil Disobedience as a Strategy; Connecting the Dots:
A welcome to the plenary session, and a summary of resolutions for it to consider, was given by Chris Gauvreau, another central organizer of the statewide conference. Workshop information was given by Marie Salvaggi of CT United for Peace.
The plenary session
passed seven resolutions that set a clear focus for continued activity and mass
action. (1) The first resolution, submitted by Connecticut United for Peace,
endorsed the Counter-Inaugural March in
second resolution was also submitted by Connecticut United for Peace and
endorsed a statewide antiwar demonstration on
(3) Further, Steve Krevitsky, who is active in the local antiwar movement, submitted a resolution to hold a Connecticut statewide antiwar conference in the fall of 2005 for activists and groups to get together, assess where the movement is going, and discuss and vote on resolutions and organizational matters; the resolution also called for a committee to be formed to carry this out. This too was adopted.
conference also passed a resolution submitted by the Greater New Haven Peace
Council supporting and endorsing the Global Campaign for the Total Abolition of
Nuclear Weapons and a demonstration called for
(5 & 6) Two
resolutions were introduced by Linda Lancz, another
The second resolution Lancz submitted was in support of an open letter to labor and antiwar activists from Carol Seligman of Bay Area United Against the War (BAUAW). It further resolved that the two national coalitions should be encouraged to collaborate on dates, unify their actions, and cut down on the number of events that organizers are called on to respond to. They should be encouraged to call for a large national conference of the antiwar movement in 2005 where strategy can be developed to build a massive outreach campaign to those who are not yet clear on what the issues are. The resolution, which was passed, further encouraged the two antiwar coalitions to attempt to set united actions when warmer weather can optimize massive turnouts. It was noted that many of the national actions have been called in extremely cold weather in January and March on the East Coast, making it less likely that the largest possible number will attend.
(7) A resolution with a vague call for more militant actions to express the anger of the electorate was defeated.
(8) A resolution submitted by Stan Heller of the Middle East Crisis Committee called for united support to resolutions against the war scheduled to come before the New Haven City Council. This was passed.
National Significance of the
statewide conference set an excellent example for other states to follow in
that it was broadly endorsed, democratically organized and run (every participant
had a vote), and clearly expressed the sentiment of the grassroots for nationally
coordinated and united actions against the war. The message should not be lost
on UFPJ and ANSWER that they should make every attempt to put their differences
aside and collaborate on united actions and dates.
This, plus the optimism and dedication of the activists to continuing the fight
against the war, is the significance of the
conference, UFPJ has endorsed the January counter-inaugural demonstrations, but
without mentioning the ANSWER coalition, which holds the permits for the march.
Following are the two calls from ANSWER for January 20 and March 19–20 and the
UFPJ calls for the counter- inaugural and their latest call for a march in
March 20 action in
Texts of National Calls to Action
ANSWER: October Call for January 20 Counter-Inaugural
and progressive movement that is fighting against imperialist war and
occupation abroad and the assault against people’s rights at home has reached a
critical juncture. The progressive movement has grown at a dynamic rate all
around the world in the last two years primarily in response to the Bush administration’s
global assault on people’s rights. This movement has shown powerful collective
action on a global scale as all of us have stood together across the
movement in the
Both Bush and
Kerry support and will extend the occupation of
The next phase in the antiwar movement must include an Action Plan and specific tactics that help the movement grow as a strong and powerful force independent of the two parties of the corporate war machine.
activists who have been fighting to end the war and occupation of
Update: January 20 Counter-Inaugural Protest
A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition in the
On the first
anniversary of the “Shock and Awe” invasion, March 20, 2004, the A.N.S.W.E.R.
coalition and others in a larger March 20 National Coalition promoted the
building of a united front under the slogan: Bring the Troops Home Now, End
Rather than excluding the Arab-American and Muslim community, it is imperative that the antiwar movement deepen its solidarity. Struggling against all vestiges of national chauvinism and racism is essential if the new global movement is to realize its full potential. Bush and the ultra-right are using divide and conquer tactics as they target everyone’s rights. The antiwar movement can defeat the tactics of Bush and the right wing by demonstrating in practice that the people can build unity and solidarity among all peoples and all communities.
demonstration comes at a particularly crucial time. The crimes against humanity
inflicted on the people of Fallujah have become a
metaphor for the entire criminal enterprise. Destroying a city and its people
in the name of “democracy” barely masks Bush and Wall Street’s real agenda. As
the Bush administration attempts to redraw the geopolitical map of the Middle
East, a corresponding parallel policy targeting the Arab-American and Muslim
communities is being rapidly imposed in the
humanitarian and community organizations, from
Clearly, the Bush administration, aided by its allies and ideological neo-conservative underpinning, is attempting to silence dissent using the likes of the Patriot Act, criminalize criticism of Israeli policies (as in the case of House Resolution 3077), and fully marginalize Arab-Americans and Muslims.
has been so normalized that hate mongers from Daniel Pipes to Michael Savage
and Rush Limbaugh are filling all sorts of media outlets with outright racism
and bigotry with impunity. In the face of this multifaceted assault, the clear
linkages made thus far within the antiwar movement between the defense of civil
liberties at home and the opposition to colonial occupations and conquest, from
We urge all antiwar and people’s rights organizations to join together in this important day of action and global solidarity.
United for Peace and Justice Call
ACTION ALERT • UNITED FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE
January 20, 2005: Our Resistance Continues!
Protest the Inauguration of George W. Bush
United for Peace
and Justice urges everyone who can to converge in
We also urge
groups around the country to organize local protest and/or educational events
on January 20, to provide opportunities for all those who can’t make it to
UFPJ also encourages everyone to wear a white
ribbon on January 20, no matter where you are or what you are doing. In many
cultures, white is the traditional color of mourning. We will wear white to
honor the tens of thousands of civilians and more than 1,200
In their own words, here is what the organizers of the counter-inaugural activities supported by UFPJ have to say:
From DC Anti-War Network:
RISE Against Bush, SHINE For A Peaceful Tomorrow: Every morning, the sun rises up, penetrating and overcoming the darkness of night. What once was dark becomes bright, changed by the force of the sun’s rays. Our world is in darkness tonight, plagued with war, poverty, environmental destruction, and attacks on many of the liberties that so many of us hold dear. The darkness over our world has grown yet darker with the election of George W. Bush to another four years in office. In the dark of the night, we need only wait for the sun. However, in the dark of our world, we cannot wait. If we are to see a new dawn, we must take action now. The DC Anti-War Network (DAWN) calls on the people of the world to RISE Against Bush and SHINE For A Peaceful Tomorrow.
DAWN calls for
people all over the nation and world to converge on
From Turn Your Back on Bush:
Back on Bush is a new kind of event in an old tradition: direct nonviolent
action. In the past four years, Bush has made it clear that dissent is unwelcome
“On inauguration day, we will gather as citizens for the public events of the day and join the rest of the crowd. At a given signal, we will turn our backs. Until the moment we turn around, there will be nothing to distinguish us from the rest of the crowd. By leaving our signs and buttons at home, we will avoid all of the obstacles that Bush and his supporters have used to keep anyone who disagrees with him out of sight. For this one moment we will speak as one and show Bush that winning an election does not mean he has the support of all Americans.”
For more information, visit http://www.turnyourbackonbush.org
December 4 Emergency Antiwar Conference Calls for United March on Central Park to End the Occupation
“Central Park Belongs to the People—March on
This call for
a united effort of antiwar forces came from organizers and activists at the
December 4 Emergency Antiwar Conference in
The conference, called by the International Action Center, was supported by a wide variety of progressive organizations including: New York City Labor Against the War; the Haiti Support Network; the New York Million Worker March Committee; the Korea Truth Commission; New Jersey Solidarity Activists for the Liberation of Palestine; New School Graduate Program in International Affairs Human Rights Group; International Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, AMAT—the Association of Mexican American Workers; FIST—Fight Imperialism, Stand Together; Queers for Peace and Justice; Democratic Palestine; the No Draft No Way Campaign; PeopleJudgeBush.org, and more.
Panelists at the conference raised the need to organize against the draft and military recruiting, to support resistance inside the military, and to return to the streets in the continued struggle to stop the occupation. At the conclusion of the conference, participants broke into planning groups to begin organizing the next phase of resistance to occupation. Organizing groups included: Fighting Bush’s War Budget, Fighting the Draft and Military Recruiting, Solidarity with Resistance in the Military, and Action Plan: Counter-Inaugural and March 20.
Text of Call from December 4
· OUT NOW!*
· THE WHOLE WORLD WILL BE MARCHING AND WATCHING*
antiwar movement has called for massive demonstrations against the war on the
weekend of March 19–20—the second anniversary of the invasion of
A few months
ago, Mayor Bloomberg, the NYPD, and Bush told us that we could not march to and
We call on
all antiwar and progressive activists, organizations, and coalitions to work
toward building a massive march on Sunday March 20 to
We propose to set up an OUT NOW coalition, open to all individuals and organizations willing to work together to stop the war. The reason why we are proposing that we call this movement “OUT NOW!” is because these two simple words convey the absolute zero tolerance for the occupation
We encourage you to endorse this call.
THE CHALLENGES FACING THE ANTIWAR MOVEMENT
The following points are not submitted as the basis for unity that all must agree to before working together. They are points of discussion that merit movement-wide attention at this crucial juncture.
We need to
demand the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of all
important thing to know about the January 30 “elections” that are being organized
under the U.S.-created Allawi regime is that their
purpose is to legitimize the occupation and the objectives of the occupiers. In
the days ahead it will become more important for us to reject and expose any
excuses put forward to justify the continuation of the colonial occupation of
support politically, morally, and organizationally members of the
· We must organize to fight any attempt by the Bush Administration to reinstate the draft and prepare to support resistance if conscription returns.
· It is time for the antiwar movement to acknowledge the absolute and unconditional right of the Iraqi people to resist the occupation of their country without passing judgment on their methods of resistance. Even the founding charter of the United Nations clearly affirms the right of an occupied people to resist by force of arms.
doctrine of preemptive war, the occupation of
· We must continue to draw the connections between and build solidarity with all of the people in every part of the world that are resisting the empire—in Korea, the Philippines, Cuba, Venezuela, Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Haiti, where the people are actively resisting the “coupnapping” of President Aristide.
· There must no longer be any hesitation on the part of our movement regarding our support of the struggle of the Palestinian people to free themselves from occupation. As a movement we have made a huge step forward in this regard. There must be no turning back.
We must work
to facilitate the widest unity between all of the forces that are seriously
organizing against the war and occupation. The world demands no less of us
inside of the
· Now that the election is over, it is clear more than ever that only a people’s mass movement can stop the war. The antiwar movement should never again sacrifice its independence and demobilize itself on behalf of a political party that supports the war. The first and most immediate task of the antiwar movement is to be back in the streets.
· It is up to us to revitalize the mass struggle against the war and to ensure that it is serious, uncompromising, unrelenting, and supportive of a wide array of tactics from the mass marches to the militant tactics of the youth, to the tactics that are most effective for the inclusion of workers, labor unions, and people of color.
· One way of accomplishing greater fusion between the antiwar movement and the working class and the poor is through linking of the issues that affect the mass of the people with the struggle against the war in a much more strategic and substantive way. For example, very soon the Bush administration will ask congress to approve between $70 and $120 billion more for the war on top of the more than $200 billion that has already been allocated for it. Congress will be voting to fund the war and occupation at the same time that students, workers, single parents, the unemployed, and retirees are being hit with the most sweeping budget cuts since the Reagan years in the government programs that they depend on.
· Our challenge: Can we help galvanize those who will be outraged by the specter of their money being stolen from critical needs to pay for more death and destruction [bringing them] into a struggle against the war budget vote? The time frame for this struggle will be the period from the counter-inauguration protest in DC and around the country on Jan. 20 through the second anniversary of the start of the war on the March 19–20 weekend.
· We propose to strategize and reach out to other forces with the goal of implementing this perspective. The Million Worker March Movement has issued a call for all of the various antiwar organizations and workers struggles to unite on the weekend of March 19–20, and we endorse this call for broad unity.