Monthly Archives: November 2002

No War in Iraq — Mass Demonstration (January 18-19, 2003)


Tens of thousands will converge in Washington D.C. on January 18-19, 2003 (Saturday and Sunday) for a MASS DEMONSTRATION and the Convening of the GRASSROOTS PEACE CONGRESS

As momentum builds for the upcoming January 18-19 mass demonstration and People’s Peace Congress to oppose a new U.S. war on Iraq, the urgency to take massive action has never been greater.  Today, Nov. 21, the Financial Times quoted former Secretary of State George Shultz as saying “there will be military action. I would be surprised if we have not acted by the end of January.”  Yesterday Nov. 20, top Bush security advisor Richard Perle told a meeting of Labour Party MP’s in England that the administration was determined to go to war.  MP Peter Kilfoyle, based on Perle’s comments, reported: “President Bush intends to go to war even if inspectors find nothing” (Mirror/UK, 11/21).

We do not accept the logic of these war-mongerers that a war against Iraq must happen. In fact, the people of the world oppose this war.  Each and every person must take action now to prevent this catastrophe.  We will not be passive observers while the Bush administration attempts to carry out a war for Big Oil and the domination over the people, land and resources of the Middle East.

Join the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, Ramsey Clark, Cynthia McKinney, New York City Labor Against the War, Dr. Hans Christof von Sponeck, Rev. Graylan Hagler, the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Rev. Herbert Daughtry, Global Exchange, Rev. John Dear, Patti Smith, Charles Barron, and almost 1,500 more who have endorsed the January 18-19 “Call to Action.”  There are now buses being organized from 100+ cities to be in Washington DC or San Francisco on those days. Please read the following email to find out how you can get involved!


To ENDORSE the January 18-19 Mass Actions in DC, fill out  the easy-to-use form at:
(if this link does not take you directly to the form,  please scroll down)


If you plan to ORGANIZE TRANSPORTATION from your area to  be in DC January 18-19, fill out the form at:
(if this link does not take you directly to the form,  please scroll down)


(updated 11/21/02):

– A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
– Ramsey Clark, former U.S. attorney general
– Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, Dem. Georgia
– New York City Labor Against the War
– Dr. Hans Christof von Sponeck, former director of the UN Oil for Food Program
– Rev. Graylan Hagler, Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational Church
– Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation
– Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Auxillary Bishop, Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit
– Rev. Herbert Daughtry, National Pastor, House of the Lord Pentecostal Church
– Global Exchange
– Rev. John Dear
– Patti Smith
– National Lawyers Guild
– Brenda Stokely, President, District Council 1707 AFSCME; Co-Convener, New York City Labor Against the War
– Charles Barron, NYC City Councilmember
– IFCO/Pastors for Peace
– Free Palestine Alliance
– Partnership for Civil Justice – LDEF
– Nicaragua Network
– Muslim Student Association of the US/Canada
– Korea Truth Commission
– International Action Center
– Kensington Welfare Rights Union
– Middle East Children’s Alliance
– Bayan USA-International
– Mexico Solidarity Network
– Howard Zinn, Peoples’ Historian
– Michael Letwin, Co-Convener, New York City Labor Against the War
– Michael Tarif Warren, attorney
– Chuck Turner, City Councilor, Boston, MA
– Ron Kovic, author (including “Born on the 4th of July”)
– Michel Chossudovsky, Professor
– National Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression
– Dr. James Tate, Executive Director, National Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression
– Cleveland Peace Action
– Committee in Support of the Iraqi People
– Strategic Pastoral Action Network (SPAN)
– Green Party USA
– SALAAM – South Asian League of Artists in America
– The Vanguard Coalition, Pace University
– Texas A&M University Campus Greens
– Coalition for Peace and Justice, Charlotte, NC
– Students Taking Opposition Peacefully
– Sag Harbor Coalition Against the War
– High Country Citizens for Peace and Justice
– College Voice, College of Staten Island – City University of New York (CSI/CUNY)
– Terre Haute Stop War on Iraq
– Student Voices for Peace, New Mexico State University
– Alaska Action Center
– Brown County Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
– – National Arab American Event Directory
– Southwest Washington Institute for Peace and Social Justice
– Central Vermont Coalition for PEACE
– Vietnam Veterans Against The War Anti-Imperialist
– Citizens for a Peaceful Response (CPR) Detroit
– Student Coalition for Peace and Equality, University of Maryland at Baltimore School of Social Work
– St. Stephen Catholic Student Center, University of Northern Iowa
– Metro DC Committee of Correspondence
– Women in Black – Salem, Oregon
– Women in Black – Gulfcoast, Florida
– Office of the Americas
– No Blood For Oil
– Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America
– United Church Of Christ/National Office
– Centre for Research on Globalisation
– Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists’ Social Justice Committee
– CLASP (Caribbean & Latin America Support Project)
– Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement
– International Association of Democratic Lawyers, India
– Islamic Society at TCNJ
– Al-Qalam, Institute of Islamic Scienses
– Modesto (Ca) Committee for Peace in the Middle East
– CGIL University and Research Trade Union (Florence)
– West Virginia Peace
– Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Mary Wood branch, Springfield IL
– Campaign Against War at the University of Iowa
– North Texas Coalition for a Just Peace
– West Virginia University Students for Economic Justice
– West Virginia Antiwar Coalition
– Ohio Fair Trade Campaign Network
– Conscience International
– Students’ Administrative Council – University of Toronto
– Radical Student Union of UMass Amherst
– Filipino Workers Action Center, Seattle
– Northeast Wisconsin Peace Network
– Coalition Against War & Racism (Toronto)
– Anti-War Committee
– Students for Peace & Humanity – SUNY at Stony Brook
– Stony Brook Coalition Against War – SUNY at Stony Brook
– Women Against War
– NO WAR South Australia – Network Opposing War and Racism
– Peace Coalition of Southern Illinois/Fellowship of Reconciliation
– Kansas City Iraq Task Force
– Global Coalition for Peace
– Committee for Peace and Human Rights – Boston, MA
– Bay Area Iranians for Peace & Social Justice
– Hoboken Food Not Bombs
– Coalition for Peace and Justice
– South Jersey Campaign for Peace and Justice
– Justice for Palestinians
– Reno Anti-War Coalition & many more!

Workers Against War (YCL)

Workers Against War
Author: Christopher Lee Gray
Publishing date: 19.11.2002 14:08

What if there was a war and no one showed up? Imagine that working class Americans refused to fight to advance President Bush’s imperialist objectives. Imagine that those who keep America running refused to make or ship the implements of war. Imagine workers stopping business as usual to halt the US war machine. Imagine if a coalition of left and center forces could be organized into a mass peace movement. Bringing organized labor into the movement can help make this a reality.

What if there was a war and no one showed up? Imagine that working class Americans refused to fight to advance President Bush’s imperialist objectives. Imagine that those who keep America running refused to make or ship the implements of war. Imagine workers stopping business as usual to halt the US war machine. Imagine if a coalition of left and center forces could be organized into a mass peace movement. Bringing organized labor into the movement can help make this a reality.

Organized labor has the potential to be one of the most powerful voices in the movement for peace and justice in America. President Bush’s “War on Terrorism,” demands working class men and women make dire sacrifices, such as healthcare, education, and for soldiers overseas, even their lives. This gives Labor the strategic power and position to make or break Bush’s war.

But why would the workers of America want to be part of the peace movement? Polls taken soon after the events of September 11th revealed overwhelming support for military action in Afghanistan and beyond, and workers were no exception. But as the weeks and months go by, support for the “endless war” has slowly waned. The war on terrorism has fallen short, failing to deliver physical and economic security. New assaults on the poor and working class are being pushed along with the renewed jingoism. Because workers bear the brunt of militarism, they should play a critical role in the peace movement. Of these attacks, the threat to our children’s education is one of the most difficult to accept. Even before 9/11, advocates of public education were fighting a constant battle against cuts and privatization. Today, Many states are finding themselves in a budget crisis. Billions of dollars are being diverted to the military, and states will shift the burden to our public schools and the poor. In New York City, where the effects of 9/11 have taken a devastating economic impact, proposed cuts to the education system are approaching $1 billion.

With the looming budget crisis, more crucial social services are also under threat of the chopping block. That is not organized labor’s only concern. The chilling and widespread violation of our civil liberties, such as the USA PATRIOT Act also represents an assault on the working class. As a reactionary response to terrorism, the government swept hundreds of immigrants into detainment camps, a chilling throwback to the World War Two era internment of Japanese Americans. The expansion of law enforcement powers to include interception of email messages, search and seizures, and more are all troubling.

Though pointing to the effects of the war at home is an important way to illustrate the need for peace, we must not ignore the horrendous effects of the war abroad. Thousands of Afghans have died in the bombing, and thousands more are expected to succumb to disease and famine. The war has destabilized the entire region, helping to bring India and Pakistan to the brink of nuclear war. The war has given Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister of Israel, the precedent to undertake terrifying acts of state terrorism against the Palestinian people.

Working people have paid billions of dollars in taxes in order to gain security, but thus far, the war has been a complete failure. None of the alleged perpetuators of the September 11 hijackings have been apprehended. Osama Bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the attacks, has slipped away. In fact, no evidence has ever been presented to the American Public that Al-Queda was even responsible for the crimes committed on 9/11, or that war will eliminate the threat of terrorism. Despite a massive military mobilization, Americans are still daily bombarded with vague terrorist warnings.

Despite all the reasons that labor should be for peace, in the past, organized labor has been unable or unwilling to work with the peace movement. According to Scott Marshall, Labor Secretary of the Communist Party, USA, organized labor had little interest in building the peace movement during the war in Vietnam. “Even though many workers opposed the war in Vietnam,” Marshall said, “Leadership often trashed those who disagreed with their official position.”

Marshall was a youth activist during the war, and strove for an alliance between labor and students. He expressed his disappointment saying,” Top level leadership was not oriented toward the youth movement. These issues were just not considered in the leadership of unions.”

While rebellion didn’t occur within the rank and file, there was resistance among the working class men and women serving in the armed forces. In the jungles of Vietnam, hundreds of soldiers refused to go on patrol. In the streets of America, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a group of recently returned soldiers, protested America’s military occupation.

The voice in the streets brought an end to the brutality of the Vietnam era, despite labor’s indifference. Now, a new movement in labor may be able to raise the resistance necessary to avoid another human tragedy.

John Sweeney’s defeat of Lane Kirkland, in the first ever contested presidential election in the AFL-CIO’s history, may prove to be a turning point. During Kirkland’s presidency, the AFL-CIO bowed to the State Department’s cold war, anti-communist foreign policy. This policy cost the union much of its respect in the international labor movement, and was coupled with a sharp downturn in domestic organizing.

Taking office in 1995, Sweeny’s administration began to move labor in a progressive left-center direction. Scott Marshall believes that this change is due to a broader understanding of international affairs saying, “Individual unions, as well were pressed to a more internationalist outlook as they faced the reality of globalization.”

This is also reflected in the dismantling of three AFL-CIO’s institutions that had shown complicity with U.S. imperialism. The Free Trade Union Institute, African American Labor Center, and the Asian American Free Labor Institute were all replaced by the American center for International Labor Solidarity. Popularly known as Solidarity Center, this arm of the union acts without government funding or manipulation. Many see this as a new age in the AFL-CIO’s international relations; free from the heavy handed influence of the State Department.

This new understanding has led to the building of powerful anti-globalization coalitions at home. Organized labor participated in the protests in Seattle, and recently rallied against the World Economic Forum in New York City. The AFL-CIO has stopped short of passing a resolution against the war, but as Scott Marshall said, the climate is much warmer than that of the Vietnam Era.

Marshall reported on the AFL-CIO’s Biennial Convention in Las Vegas, December 6, 2001. A resolution was presented to support the war. During the debate about the specific language to be used, an addition was suggested so that Bush was not given a “blank check” for the conflict. Though the suggestion failed to pass, Scott Marshall saw hope, saying, “There was none of the trashing that happened during Vietnam. I think a lot of union members are cautious about giving Bush a blank check.”

While the AFL-CIO officially supports the Bush’s war, they have been vocal on the injustice of the war at home. A statement released on April 5, 2002 takes a clear stance on the undemocratic USA/PATRIOT act, condemning its assault on our civil liberties. The language of the statement is remarkably clear. “Our love of liberty compels us to also speak forcefully in opposition to a range of measures the administration has taken, or reportedly is contemplating, that threaten civil liberties, breach constitutional rights and with tragic irony, hand our adversaries a partial victory by degrading the essential guarantees upon which our nation is founded.” The statement goes on to criticize the detainment of thousands of immigrants, and John Ashcroft’s anti-terror legislation.

Under this new leadership, the AFL-CIO has demonstrated a new commitment to international solidarity. A resolution, adopted by a unanimous decision by the convention, takes a strong position on Palestine. Again, the language is clear and powerful, saying, “We urge Israel to withdraw its forces from Palestinian cities and we call upon Palestinian and Arab leaders to act to end the terror bombings.”

The statement continues, drawing a connection between the conflict and working people saying, “when violence escalates, it is working people who pay the price, in loved ones lost, homes destroyed, and dreams crushed.” At a time when many Americans sympathize with Israel, forgetting the struggle of the Palestinians, the AFL-CIO has made a profound statement.

It’s not just the AFL-CIO that is leading the labor movement toward left-center unity. Cynthia Rodriguez, Vice President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, representing of more than 22,000 public sector workers, recently spoke at an anti-war panel in Chicago. “This war was a gift for the Bush Administration. They came in with an agenda to attack Social Security and worker’s rights, and now they’re on a roll.”

Dolores Huerta, who founded the United Farm Workers Union alongside Cesar Chavez, recently spoke to War Times, a national anti-war newspaper. She pinpointed the connection between the war and working class people, saying “Instead of monies going to our children, they?re going towards war. + It?s affecting the entire world. Also, the anti-immigrant policies that are related to the anti-terrorist laws affect many immigrants. It?s going to be much more difficult to immigrate to the U.S. All this has produced more racism against people of color.” She said. “It?s a step backwards.”

Many trade unionists are uniting to stop the attacks on the working class, and some unions, like the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, District Council 1707 (AFSCME DC 1707), New York’s District Council, have even come out in direct opposition to the conflict. 1707 has gone so far as to ally themselves with organizations like New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW).

NYCLAW is just one of the many labor-based peace organizations springing up all over the country. It was formed in the first few days after 9/11 by a small group of local union officers and union members. Like other organizations of its kind, NYCLAW is dedicated to organizing the rank and file at the grass roots.

Michael Letwin, Co-Convener of NYCLAW told Dynamic, “We want to be both an anti-war pole within labor and a labor pole in the anti-war movement. “Letwin continues saying, “The war has been presented as the only solution to what happened on September 11. We argue that war only perpetuates the ultimate causes of 9/11 in the first place.”

As a symbol of labor’s resistance to the war, NYCLAW has issued a statement, to be signed by union members. To date, more than 1,100 trade unionists have signed the statement, including more than 15 former and present union presidents, and it has received the official endorsement of AFSCME DC 1707.

This movement is also alive on the West Coast. The San Francisco Labor Council (SFLC), an AFL-CIO union has declared its official opposition to the war on terrorism. A statement released days after 9/11 read, “The tragic attacks of September 11 should be treated as a heinous crime rather than an act of war.” In later press releases SFLC continues to expresses concern that the wartime atmosphere will be used to justify attacks on worker’s living standards and other rights.

Brian McWilliams, of the International Longshore and Warehouse Workers Union (ILWU) and a member of the SFLC executive board, speaking in Seattle, Washington reflected that concern, “If we can’t, as a nation, see the wisdom in following the road to peace, the first victim of a heightened militarism will be our civil liberties.”

The Labor Committee for Peace and Justice is another West Coast organization, formed by local leaders from 35 separate labor and peace groups. Their stated goals are to build an anti-war majority on work sites, and among union members and working class neighborhoods. They are conducting anti-war demonstrations, teach ins, and other local events in order to rally working class resistance.

If we want a successful movement for peace and justice, Labor should play a critical role. As Letwin pointed out, “There was a lot of grassroots organizing before 9/11, and its still happening.” This can be seen by the massive success of the March Against the War at Home and Abroad on April 20, in Washington DC. Labor and working class were well represented. Farmers, working families, and trade unionists marched among the usual crowd of radical youth and students through the streets of Washington DC. Together, we were able to send a much more powerful message than we’d be able to alone.

We still need to expand this understanding, but exciting progress has already been made. To build a real progressive movement we must continue to reach out to labor unions. Together, we can win the fight for peace and justice, at home and abroad.

Thousands Join Peace Protest in San Francisco

Thousands join peace protest in San FranciscoCampus Times
November 1, 2002
by Oscar de León
Staff Writer

“Not in our name.” “No more blood for oil.” “Money for jobs, not for war.” These were just a few of the slogans inscribed across banners and placards carried by as many as 80,000 people at an anti-war demonstration staged Saturday in San Francisco.

Two buses and multiple passenger vehicles left the Claremont Colleges at 11:30 p.m. on Friday, transporting participants from La Verne, Claremont and surrounding areas to the San Francisco event site.

Protesters gathered at the base of Market Street near Pier 5 along the ocean around 6 a.m. Buses traveled from as far away as Arizona and Washington State and dropped off protesters of all ages and nationalities determined to make their dissent heard against a war with Iraq.

“I feel disappointed at congress for rushing to grant this barely elected president war powers, especially after the experience of the Vietnam war,” said Claremont resident Mike Raugh, professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College.

“We are building a movement,” said ANSWER volunteer organizer Susan Campist, who promoted the protest and organized 16 of the many buses that carried participants from Los Angeles.

“We’ve got to stop the United States from bombing [the people of Iraq],” she said. “We’ve got to stop U.S. militarism.”

Claremont resident Vicki Johnson, said she “came to experience the energy of a large protest.

“I wanted to meet people who feel the same way I do about the United State’s poor foreign policy,” she said.

During the march, which began at 11 a.m. and continued past 4 p.m., thousands of people raised their voices in song and protest. “One, two, three, four, we don’t want your racist war! Five, six, seven, eight, no more blood and no more hate!” rang out as the march wound down the street.

Unlike images of the protests of the 1960s against the Vietnam war, students did not monopolize this anti-war gathering. “We are here once again protesting against war,” said Madeline Duckles, who came from Berkley with two veterans who were supporting the demonstration. “We’ve been working for peace since before the Vietnam War,” Duckles said.

Among the speakers was Dolores Huertas, co-founder with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers of America. In a brief interview, Huertas said she encouraged citizens to
“send telegrams, emails and letters to the White House,” letting President Bush know how many people are against the possible war.

Over a loudspeaker looking on to a mall just off Market Street, speaking to a crowd of about 10,000 protesters, Huertas chanted, “Viva la Paz (Let peace reign),” and “Si Se Puede (It can be done).”

A dance troupe of six women, Dance Reggae, performed at the event.

“There should not be a war,” performer Tina Branchero said. “We all have to speak up to encourage peace and to resist what’s happening to our country.

“We do it through art,” she said of her dance troupe.

Other speakers at the event included John Parker from the International Answer Organization, Mahdi Bray from the Muslim American Freedom Foundation, Michael Letwin from the organization New York City Labor Against War and Daniel Ellsberg who gained notoriety in 1971 by releasing the Pentagon Papers that revealed covert American interests in Vietnam.

The papers revealed that the U.S. government had misled the American people about the escalation of the war. In the case New York Times Co. V. United States (1971), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the papers were allowed to be publicized.

Barbara Lee, congresswoman who was the lone vote against President Bush’s proposal, which would allow unilateral use of force against Iraq, was the keynote speaker at the protest.

A companion march took place simultaneously in Washington, D.C. with organizers ANSWER International estimating more than 100,000 in attendance. The protest featured speakers including actress Susan Sarandon, Al Sharpton, and congress member Cinthia McKinney.

Speaking out on October 26 (Socialist Worker)

Speaking out on October 26
“It was time to add our voice”

November 1, 2002 | Pages 6 and 7

NO TO Bush’s war on Iraq! That message rang out at huge protests at both ends of the country last weekend–and in smaller demonstrations across the U.S. More than 100,000 people turned out October 26 in Washington, D.C., for the first national demonstration against the Bush gang’s drive for a new war on Iraq. As many as 75,000 gathered in San Francisco that same day. And in other cities–from Augusta, Maine, to Denver to Seattle–dozens and hundreds and thousands came together for protests.

All told, these were some of the largest antiwar demonstrations in the U.S. since Vietnam. ELIZABETH SCHULTE and TODD CHRETIEN report on this milestone for the antiwar movement.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

“I’M OVERWHELMED.” Those were the words of a longtime activist who organized for the protest in San Francisco last weekend. “I went to my union meeting last week, and the two shop stewards who usually aren’t very political were already discussing if we should march as a group wearing our union jackets.”

On the other side of the continent, Josh Greene helped to organize a group of people from Boone, N.C., to come to their first antiwar protest. “I’ve done stuff in my hometown, but never something on the international front,” he said. “Internationally, there’s a feeling that this is wrong. In the mountains of North Carolina and the Greater Appalachian area, it was our time to come down and add our voice to it.”

The new antiwar movement showed its full breadth at the October 26 demonstrations in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and across the country. Speaking from the podium at the rally in Washington–called by the antiwar group ANSWER–were civil rights leaders Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and actor Susan Sarandon.

“I am here because I am tired of being frightened to speak out,” Sarandon told the crowd. “Bush says you’re either for us or against us…I say to you Mr. Bush, this is what democracy looks like.”

Sharpton challenged the politicians in Washington to heed protesters’ demands. “There may have been some that folded in the Senate, but there are those of us that will not bend, will not buckle, will not bow and will not in any way defer to a war machine built on profits at the expense of people,” he said. Why do we march? Marching is how Blacks got the right to vote…Marching took Lyndon Johnson out of Vietnam and sent him back to Texas, where we’re going to send George Bush.”

Clarence Thomas, secretary-treasurer of the Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10–whose members were forced back to work when Bush invoked the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act–was on hand to connect Bush’s war on workers with the war drive against Iraq.

Several veterans also took the podium to speak out against the war. Charles Sheehan-Miles of Veterans for Common Sense served in the first Gulf War–and decided to become a conscientious objector. “We killed a lot of people in the Gulf,” he said. “You probably saw the picture of people standing up and surrendering. I never saw that. I was in a combat unit on the front lines. For me, [becoming a conscientious objector] was the only way I could keep my sanity and live with myself afterwards. I’ll be fighting, too, for the people who are in service today to make sure they get taken care of. For the Gulf War veterans of 1991, that didn’t happen.”

Later, protesters took the streets of D.C.–led by the ILWU drill team–in an electrifying march around the White House. Chants of “Black, Latino, Arab, Asian and white. Stop this war, no more, no more. Defend our civil rights!” and “Exxon, Mobil, BP, Shell, take your war and go to hell” rang out. The march was so large that at one point, cheering marchers winding back to the original rally site had to stop and wait for protesters who had just begun marching.

Protesters ranged from veterans of the movement against past U.S. wars to people who had just started organizing antiwar groups in their hometowns. Sylvia Carter Denny’s last protest was against Vietnam. Today, she was in Washington with almost 100 others from Yellow Springs, Ohio, including a busload of high school students. “The president wasn’t really even elected,” she said. “And now this war could launch our whole world into chaos.”

Protesters voiced their demands with homemade signs–such as “Fight hunger, not Iraq.” John Hallock from Philadelphia wore a large photo of the cousin that he lost in the September 11 attacks. “Protest is very important, because our leaders aren’t carrying out the will of the people,” he said. “The will of the people is peace.” But perhaps the most popular slogans was “No blood for oil.”

Unfortunately, some rally speakers, while voicing their opposition to a war on Iraq, gave their support for Bush’s “war on terrorism.” Jesse Jackson said in his rally speech that the U.S. had “unfinished business” with al-Qaeda–and even listed the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq as a U.S. war worth fighting.

But Jackson’s arguments were by no means unanimous among protesters. Indeed, among those who may have supported the “war on terrorism” in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, there was real questioning of Bush’s motives all along.

Michael Letwin of New York Labor Against the War talked about why people’s ideas were shifting. “We may have been a small antiwar labor minority in the days after 9/11, but as the Bush administration threatens war not only in Iraq but Colombia, the Philippines, and just about everywhere in the world, we’re not so alone anymore,” Letwin said.

Now activists are home from the protests–and setting their sights on spreading the antiwar message in their neighborhoods, schools and unions. “About 75 students met up early in the morning to go over to the protest together from our campus,” Ed Hernandez of the San Francisco State Students Against War group said at the Bay Area demonstration. “The protest has really energized people to go back to campus and plaster the place with flyers for our next antiwar meeting.”

After the rally in D.C., some 250 students came out for a networking meeting sponsored by Students Against the War in Iraq at George Washington University–to make connections for the struggle ahead.

The October 26 protests were an inspiring first step in the task of standing up to the Bush gang’s drive to war.

“Bush wants to send a message”

CLARENCE THOMAS is secretary-treasurer of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 in San Francisco, the West Coast dockworkers’ union. ILWU members are working under a federal judge’s supervision after George W. Bush last month invoked the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act during a bosses’ lockout.

In his speech to the October 26 rally in Washington, Thomas told the crowd about how the ILWU took solidarity action for South African workers during apartheid and in support of death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal–and he appealed for solidarity.

After leading demonstrators in a chant of “Hands off the docks, stay out of Iraq,” Thomas spoke to Socialist Worker about the connections between the dockworkers’ struggle and the antiwar movement.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

IT WAS important for us to come out to this rally because there’s a relationship between Bush’s “war against terrorism” and the war that’s occurring against working people here in America–in particular, the attack on labor unions. Because Bush perceives collective bargaining as an impediment to national security.

One of the things that has to be very clear is that this is the first time that the government has rewarded an employer with Taft-Hartley after it has locked out its workers. We think that the whole thing was a setup. The Bush administration is weighing in on the side of the employer because it wants to send a message that if you don’t toe the line, we will destroy you.

The ILWU has a long, progressive history. If you know anything about our union, you know that [longtime president] Harry Bridges was prosecuted four times by the U.S. government on the charge of being a communist.

But they were really prosecuting Harry because he was a man who understood the class struggle, who understood international labor solidarity, and who understood that discrimination was a tool of the bosses.

The Antiwar Movement: A Great Beginning (Socialist Review)

International Socialist Review
Issue 26, November–December 2002

The antiwar movement: A great beginning

THE OCTOBER 26 protests in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. against war with Iraq, called by International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), marked a major step forward for the antiwar movement. One hundred fifty thousand people turned out in Washington, and half as many in San Francisco—with tens of thousands more joining demonstrations in cities across the U.S. These protests came on the heels of the October 6 day of action called by Not in Our Name (NION), that drew out tens of thousands across the country, including 25,000 in New York’s Central Park. These numbers prove that a growing minority of people in the U.S. not only object to Bush’s war on Iraq, but are ready to do something about it. The size and breadth of the emerging antiwar movement reflect the widespread unease about Bush’s war plans across broad sectors of the population. The demonstrations have involved people from all walks of society—including students who have already begun organizing on the campuses, but also trade unionists, church members, veterans of the Vietnam antiwar movement, and many others who have never before attended a demonstration.

The size of the new movement already far surpasses that of the movement against the war in Afghanistan, which—after an initial spurt of peace activism immediately after September 11—retreated in the face of Bush’s quick victory over the Taliban. The difference this time around is that many people who believed that Bush was fighting terrorism in Afghanistan are not taken in by the claims of an imminent Iraqi threat. Many more are alarmed by the new Bush Doctrine, with its talk of preemptive wars and regime changes.

Politically, the movement reflects the involvement of broad forces, spilling into the mainstream for the first time since Vietnam. The movement includes opponents of U.S. imperialism, but is dominated by liberal opposition to the war—illustrated on October 26 by the large number of activists who carried placards that read, “Peace is Patriotic.” It includes a wide array of individuals and organizations on the left, but they are outnumbered by those remaining loyal to the Democratic Party. Some in the new movement view a new UN Security Council resolution as a fig leaf for the U.S. to wage another war on Iraq, but many more harbor the hope that UN inspectors can avert war. Similarly, some oppose attacking Iraq as a key element of the “war on terrorism,” while others oppose a war on Iraq as a distraction from the war on terrorism. On October 26, Reverend Jesse Jackson criticized the current plans for Iraq as an “unnecessary war,” but he defended the 1991 Gulf War as a “necessary war.”

Some who are understandably impatient for a mass radicalization in U.S. society might be frustrated by the fact that the new movement is dominated by liberal ideas. To be sure, the movement as a whole as yet lacks a clear framework for building opposition to the coming war on Iraq, and—formally, at least—is politically to the right of last year’s movement. This is not, however, a step backward. It represents a major—and necessary—step toward the building of a mass movement, involving a much wider layer of activists than in the past. It is, in other words, a development we should welcome. Recent protests have mobilized people well beyond existing antiwar and radical networks. Though there has been no organized labor presence in the demonstrations, the Washington State Federation of Labor, the California Teachers Association and the largest United Parcel Service Teamster local in the U.S. (Local 705 in Chicago), among others, have all passed antiwar resolutions. Representatives of New York City Labor Against War (NYCLAW) spoke from the platform on October 26 and thousands of individual union members attended the rally. A representative from the West Coast International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) was cheered when he led a chant against the Bush administration’s attacks on the dockworkers and on Iraqis.

Organizationally, the antiwar movement is still in formation. None of the existing national antiwar organizations, whether ANSWER, NION, or the various pacifist groupings yet has the legs to carry a truly national movement. Various liberal and left-liberal forces have begun to organize an alternative national coalition to ANSWER, which they criticize as an undemocratic front for the Workers World Party. Leslie Cagan, an activist during the Vietnam antiwar movement and spokesperson for the National Campaign for Peace in the Middle East, the main liberal coalition formed during the 1991 Gulf War, has already taken “the very initial steps toward bringing greater coordination and cohesion to this antiwar movement.Ö Representatives from NOW, the National Council of Churches, Global Exchange, and a who’s who of progressive Beltway advocates were present at the launch of a new national antiwar network. ëA broader effort,’ Cagan called it, ëthat could finally tap into churches, trade unions, and campuses—where we could really get the numbers,’” the Village Voice reported. Cagan seems not to have noticed—though October 26 made it abundantly clear—that campuses, trade unions, and churches are already mobilizing. In fact, more than 300 students from 40 campuses gathered after the march at George Washington University to take the initial steps to pull together a network of campus-based antiwar groups.

It’s worth remembering a development during the last Gulf War in 1991 that we may see repeated again. Then, two national antiwar coalitions emerged, one controlled by the International Action Center (IAC)—the precursor to ANSWER; the other, the liberal-controlled National Campaign for Peace in the Middle East. The two rival groups called competing national demonstrations just one week apart in January 1991, with the start of the war only weeks away. The Workers World-led protest called for U.S. troops out of the Gulf. The Campaign also supported withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Gulf. But in the name of building the “broadest” movement, the Campaign insisted on demanding an Iraqi pullout from Kuwait, and pandered to organizations such as Sane-Freeze (the predecessor of today’s Peace Action) that supported UN sanctions against Iraq as an “alternative” to war. (Twelve years later, with more than a million Iraqis killed by the sanctions, it is now clear how wrong-headed support for sanctions turned out to be.)

Our position then—shared by many on the left—was for a united march, not sectarian wrangling. But we also argued that, while the movement should not condone Saddam Hussein’s actions, making Iraq’s expulsion from Kuwait a condition of unity conceded the right of the U.S. to intervene, and therefore weakened the movement.

“We must not lock ourselves into demanding Iraq’s withdrawal, a position that, if taken to its logical conclusion, will have us justifying a horrendous war,” wrote Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights in 1990.

The same logic applies today to those who insist that the antiwar movement advance the “positive” notion of supporting UN weapons inspectors in Iraq. Again, this concedes the right of the U.S. to position its plans to attack Iraq as “disarmament” when UN weapons inspections inevitably fail. The U.S. and British “Desert Fox” bombing of Iraq in December 1998 showed that the U.S. is quite capable of staging a confrontation over inspectors as an excuse for war.

We favor the building of coalitions that genuinely reflect the full spectrum of organizations and politics in the movement rather than the machinations of generals without forces. In this respect, there is no doubt that ANSWER is inadequate to the task. Its top-down approach to organizing a coalition in which a handful of self-selected individuals makes all political and tactical decisions is an obstacle to building a democratic, broad-based movement. We hope that future demonstrations will be supported and organized by all forces opposing a U.S. invasion of Iraq.

But the key question facing our movement right now is how to build the movement’s base in each locality. This will be the driving force behind the movement, and will ultimately decide its political character on the ground.

Activists in cities and on campuses across the country are now building a broad antiwar movement, united around a simple set of demands—no war, no sanctions. They must continue to build using debates, teach-ins, rallies, and days of action to attract and challenge their peers to take a stand and to get involved. These committees should be able to embrace anyone who supports these demands, whether they are socialists who oppose U.S. imperialism in principle or Democratic Party sympathizers who believe that the UN can be a force for peace.

Building a movement based upon uniting disparate forces does not mean burying differences, but arguing them through, as allies in a common struggle. In such an environment, there is ample room to both debate differences and measure the success of various strategies and political views. By definition, therefore, the movement must be open to all opponents of the war, and it must be genuinely democratic—representing all the forces involved in building it. As in all past wars, while both the war and the movement against it progress, many activists will move leftward, shedding various illusions as they go along. The political framework and organizational forms will emerge only as the movement develops—and these will change as the character of the movement changes and grows. The antiwar movement is still in its early stages—as is the “war without end” that Bush and Co. have pledged to carry out against the rest of the world. The war on terrorism—and the movement against it—may well end up defining this generation.


Renegades, false friends, and mistaken allies

IN THE more than one year since the September 11 attacks, the left has faced one of its greatest challenges in decades. While it is still recovering from the hard right turn in mainstream politics that Bush and Co. engineered, the emerging antiwar movement has helped to give the left an opportunity to regain its voice.

No doubt that’s bad news to the likes of Christopher Hitchens, the ex-socialist columnist for the Nation who announced his secession from the magazine and left in October.

For anyone who followed Christopher Hitchens’ “Minority Report” column in the Nation over the last year, Hitchens’ decision to quit the magazine shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Since last September 11, Hitchens devoted a number of columns cheering on Bush’s “war on terrorism” and denouncing those on the left who didn’t.

Not wanting to go quietly, Hitchens spent most of his last column building the case for war against Iraq—insisting that arms inspections are a waste of time, that Iraq can’t be “contained,” and asserting a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq. As his parting shot, he even denounced the Nation as “the voice and echo chamber of those who truly believe that John Ashcroft is a greater menace than Osama bin Laden.”

It takes quite a leap to accuse the Nation of being soft on Osama bin Laden. Last year, it became the main liberal magazine touting the war on terrorism as a “just war.” These facts mean little to the likes of Hitchens, who will find much more fame and fortune parading as an ex-leftist on the talk show circuit than standing up against Bush’s war.

Time will tell whether Hitchens follows in the footsteps of David Horowitz, the one-time 1960s radical turned McCarthyite today. But we can only say “good riddance” to him.

Despite the efforts of Hitchens and other Vietnam-era radicals who’ve signed on to Bush’s war on terrorism—from Salon’s David Talbot to the New York Observer’s Ron Rosenbaum—a genuine movement against the impending war in Iraq has spread to many parts of the country. This emerging movement demonstrated its strength October 26, when hundreds of thousands turned out to protest the war in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and dozens of other cities around the country.

The size of the marches forced even the New York Times and Washington Post to admit that antiwar sentiment was much wider than Beltway pundits wanted to admit. One would think left-of-center writers might hail this. Not so.

In the November 1–7 LA Weekly, the Nation’s David Corn launched a vicious attack on the Washington protest:

In a telling sign of the organizers’ priorities, the cause of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the taxi driver/radical journalist sentenced to death two decades ago for killing a policeman, drew greater attention than the idea that revived and unfettered weapons inspections should occur in Iraq before George W. Bush launches a war. Few of the dozens of speakers, if any, bothered suggesting a policy option regarding Saddam Hussein other than a simplistic leave-Iraq-alone. Jesse Jackson may have been the only major figure to acknowledge Saddam’s brutality, noting that the Iraqi dictator “should be held accountable for his crimes.” What to do about Iraq? Most speakers had nothing to say about that. Instead, the Washington rally was a pander fest for the hard left.

Most of Corn’s blast focused on the Workers World Party, the socialist organization that forms the core of International ANSWER, the main organizer of the Washington demonstration. Liberals have attacked another antiwar umbrella, Not In Our Name, for the role that the Revolutionary Communist Party plays in it.

Radicals and socialists have every right to organize antiwar opposition. In fact, they have a duty to organize against the impending war. What’s more, there’s nothing wrong with trying to link the war with other pieces of the Bush assault—from union-busting on the West Coast docks to attacks on civil liberties. In fact, such linkages can be a way to broaden and deepen antiwar sentiment. And if liberals can’t make up their minds about whether to oppose Bush, they shouldn’t be denouncing socialists who take the lead to build an antiwar movement.

Corn’s blast was a textbook example of McCartyite redbaiting that covered for a position that can hardly be called antiwar. If Corn thinks the rally should have given more attention to “the idea that revived and unfettered weapons inspections should occur in Iraq before George W. Bush launches a war,” then it’s a wonder why he didn’t join the few dozen people attending the simultaneous prowar rally organized by the right-wing nuts from When it comes to this issue, Corn is no better than Hitchens.

Then there are liberals who oppose the war and set themselves as advisers to the movement.

Liza Featherstone, writing in the Nation, drew a distinction between last year’s opposition to the war against Afghanistan and the developing opposition to a war with Iraq:

At first, the “war on terrorism” seemed to bring out the worst in the left—sectarianism, racial tensions, dour moralism, posturing, self-marginalization, and badly muddled analysis.ÖOf course, not all the recent antiwar organizing has been this appealing and sensible. Even the smartest groups are making some questionable decisions, continually harping on the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, a fait accompli that was enthusiastically supported by most Americans.

To Featherstone, it seems as if the sins of last year’s antiwar movement can be boiled down to the fact that it actually opposed the war in Afghanistan, rather than accept it as a “just response” to the September 11 attacks. While there are certainly many people joining the antiwar movement today who supported the U.S. attack on Afghani-stan, that is no reason for the antiwar movement to treat the two wars separately. The Bush administration certainly doesn’t.

Last year, Bush and his “chickenhawk” advisers manipulated peoples’ grief and outrage at the September 11 attacks into support for an attack on one of the poorest countries in the world. After scoring a quick victory in Afghanistan, the Bush administration set its sights on Iraq. The war in Afghanistan and the planned war in Iraq are two phases of the same war. An antiwar movement does itself no favors if it pretends otherwise. It has nothing to offer to the many millions whose opposition to “regime change” in Iraq has made them question the shaky U.S.-imposed regime change in Afghanistan.

Nor can the war on terrorism be separated from a war against Iraq, as Global Exchange director and antiwar activist Medea Benjamin suggested in a USA Today op-ed: “We must also remember that our goal right now should be to break up the terrorist network that attacked us on September 11, not be a unilateral global vigilante.”

Though Global Exchange is one of the few global justice groups to have rightly called for mobilizing against the war, they are wrong to accept the Bush administration’s war on terrorism. Benjamin—who took a leading role in organizing against the war in Afghanistan last year—should know better than to encourage one form of U.S. military action while opposing another. U.S. imperialism can’t wage a “just war” in some cases and not in others. Washington is perfectly capable of concocting “evidence” to tie Iraq to the “terrorist network.” If antiwar activists fall into a trap of distinguishing between “good” and “bad” phases of the “war on terror,” they risk paralysis if the U.S. manages to tie Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda, or if they claim to find biological agents stashed away in some corner of Iraq.

Debates about these questions and others will be crucial to building a stronger and more effective movement. We need to build a movement that is open to all who want to oppose the war. But we shouldn’t make concessions to arguments that will actually undermine our ability to build a stronger and more principled opposition to Bush’s war without end.