Out Now or Out Some Day
Stan Goff vs. Tom Hayden


Earlier we posted on the Labor Standard web site a link to Stan Goff’s article “Joint Demo, Sheehan, MoveOn, Hayden.” Democrat party politician Tom Hayden sent a reply to Stan Goff, who posted it on his web site among the comments to his original article (as the 34th comment) and gave this hard-hitting reply to Hayden. For the original, click here.

I just received an email from Tom Hayden. Here is his letter, and my reply:

LETTER:

Stan, I thought you might support this proposal, or at least understand it. The proposal is offered as a way to implement the meaning of “out now” in a way that will draw more support. It’s not offered as an alternative to the agenda of the movement, but a complement.

You say we don’t need an exit strategy, that our military commanders can order it done in thirty days. And you call my suggestion unrealistic. Have you tried your argument on the undecided public?

Look, I used to say we made up a lie to invade so we can make up a lie to withdraw. I found the listeners wanted a little more substance.

I am not arguing that we should rely on the Democratic Party. I am arguing that we should become a complicating factor for hawks in congressional districts, and that we need a vocal peace faction in Congress. Why are thousands of people descending on Washington to protest if they don’t intend to move the politicians?

My strategy is people power against the pillars of the policy: undercut Bush in public opinion, funding, troop recruitment, alliances, etc. The work is carried out at the grass roots level, as the protests in Idaho and Utah have shown. But hearings in Congress like Conyers’ on Downing Street and Woolsey on exit strategy are useful steps.

The tone of your article concerns me most. It is full of rage. We shouldn’t be turning on each other. I support and admire what you’ve written before, and the work you do. I hope you will take another look at the proposal.

TOM


REPLY:

Tom,

I appreciate you writing on this, but my argument still stands. I appreciate you laudatory remarks about me. I love to be loved, Tom. But I oppose you on this.

My anger is with the patronizing tone that you have taken toward us for our “unrealism.” I’ve seen this movie before. As for sounding this message out, I have received around 300 emails in the last two days on this, and all but about 4 of them were supportive. They aren’t mad at you. They are rightfully fed up with parliamentarianism…which as a student of history you know has never accomplished a single radical transformation until a mass movement has threatened to destabilze the whole shithouse.

My son just came back from his second hitch over there, and they are telling him he will go back again by January. So I might be attracted to the notion of some Congressional fix that will stop this one, now, and let everything return to normal, except for a couple of things.

First, normal is why we are seeing a generation that includes my son being done to what I and others were done to in Vietnam. We ended one war, but we did not end the system that breeds war. Second, normal that ends the Iraq war (in however many years) through some plan that fails to also destabilize the whole system here in the imperial core means that Jaydin, my grandson of 32 months now, and who I love more than any creature who draws breath on this planet, will be part of the next generation to go. I didn’t manage to keep Jessie out of uniform, but I goddamn well intend to try and keep Jaydin out.

So it’s not rage you are hearing when you psychologize my writing, Tom. It’s love. My own experience as part of that last generation to get thrown into the charnel house of capital alomost rendered me incapable of experiencing love…but circumstances offered me a measure of redemption, and I intend to use it to my very last breath to fight alongside millions of others for the utter destruction of this system, root and branch. Stopping this predation and plunder in Iraq is just the first step for some of us.

And the reality is that this quick-fix you are advocating will not shorten the war itself. It will prolong it. It is, right this minute.

Tom, if you offer a plan that is genuinely unilateral, I’m there. I’ll camp on David Price’s Congressional porch until they drag me off in handcuffs to fight for it, and I’ll call you a national hero. But this “plan” is no such thing. Neither you nor the Democrats nor the whole U.S. government has the slightest right to negotiate anything with a single Iraqi. The U.S. invaded THEM. The authority of the U.S. is completely illegitimate, and any claim to it is racist to its very core. Making a policy proposal palatable, while ignoring (1) the imperial nature of the U.S. government and the class to whom it belongs and (2) the anti-Arab racism that underwrites liberal “concern” for post-occupation Iraq, is unacceptable. There is one and only one moral alternative here. Leave.

I agree we have to move politicians. Where we diverge is on the question of how. But that is a very big divergence and goes to the heart of where we want this movement to go. I do not believe in lobbying…at least not the lobbying that involves respectfully approaching elected officials and asking them to support this and that. This leaves the power relation between pols and proles exactly the same. But when we are leveraging their inseucurity and making demands, and they are FORCED by the situation WE create to move, then that relation has changed. This is Direct Action Organizing 101.

Every time one of these elected officials (or you) comes back with one of these dithering proposals that says we will leave when this or that condition prevails (over which “we” have no control), we (the “we” in which I include myself) are going to chant the same naive-by-your-account mantra…NOW. Leave NOW. Your proposal says we have to create certain conditions in Iraq first. This is the point where I rely on scatological remarks as part of my critique. Neither you nor the entire United States government has the ability to make these conditions appear. Moreover, the reality—since you are so wedded to what is “realistic”—is that the U.S. state has a distinctive class character that is unmentionable in polite political discourse that renders it genetically incapable of (1) promoting anything resembling popular democracy anywhere (in fact, quite the contrary, it has to stamp it our wherever it finds it) and (2) being responsive to the real needs of people here in the U.S.

Now for some realism of my own. Mass times velocity equals momentum. There was a point not that long ago when over 90% of the American public had been stampeded by the lies of our ruling class into supporting the notion that we had to attack Iraq. Those lies were propagated by Republican and Democrat alike. Lately, over 60% of that same polity says this is a very bad idea, and over 30% have come to share our position of Out NOW—that is, unilateral and unconditional withdrawal. Cut and run; the faster the better. That’s why Walter (of Freedom Fries fame) Jones here in Jesse Helms country is wavering.

So if the momentum is heading to the left (the NOW position), why in the world would we choose this particular moment to introduce a more equivocal position to become a new point of reference? Your proposal does NOT draw more support to the “out now” position. First, and this is no mere technicality, your proposal is not an “out now” position. Second, we are already drawing more support every day…as the polls show. Your proposal only draws more support from one quarter. Nervous Democratic Party officials. And why—when Congress is reacting on its own to catch up with this momentum—would we try to turn the initiative over to them now by diverting an increasingly militant and mobilized antiwar movement into parliamentary horse-trading? I can only think of one reason. To blunt that momentum.

Here is my love-and-rage response: Fuck that!

I have no idea how this war will end, and I have no doubt that the actual end will be overdetermined in bafflingly complex ways. But I am an activist in the Bring Them Home Now! campaign, and you know what? When we were plodding along, beating our brains out to push this campaign along on pennies, duct tape, and baling wire, building MFSO and VFP, and midwifing GSFP and IVAW, Moveon and their ilk found us to be anathema. But we stuck to our position, through a lot of struggle with people who are articulating the same thing you are now—which is NOT an “out now” position—and our patient persuasion along with the breakdown of the cover-story and the dreadful progress of the war started people moving our way. They just needed someone to catalyze them, then Cindy encamped in Crawford, the media reacted, and suddenly they, you, and everyone else shows up with a bunch of NGO-whiteboy “strategies” (and most dangerous of all, money) to instruct us all in the virtues of parliamentary pluralism.

And it will work, Tom, and that’s the most fucked-up thing about it. These appeals will take advantage of people’s undying hopefulness about a mythical “America” of which they are yet to be disabused, and their anxieties about mass movements, and you and others will succeed in draining some of the militancy and focus out of this movement. As a result, not only will you preserve the whole wicked system for a bit longer, but more immediately you will end up prolonging the war itself.

I don’t have the power to stop that. The only power I have right now is to name it. So I am.

Yours for a new future,

Stan

Comment by Stan — 8/25/2005 @ 5:17 pm