‘Troops Out Now’ holds unity meeting
By Workers World New York bureau
Published Jun 16, 2005 8:01 PM
Activists from across the U.S. representing many antiwar, progressive and labor organizations assembled here June 11 for a discussion of strategy and unity in the antiwar movement.
The gathering at the Lang Center of New School University, called by the Troops Out Now Coalition (TONC), showed a growing momentum among activists for a united front against the war in Iraq.
As TONC pointed out in a statement, polls indicate that “the majority of people in the U.S. now oppose the occupation, recruit ing numbers are at an all-time low, and Bush’s approval ratings are falling. This growing opposition can have tremendous impact when it is manifested in the streets.”
On May 26, TONC had issued a call for massive, unified action to stop the war. This call has gathered nearly 1,000 endor sers in the days since it was circulated. The coalition believes this reflects “a widespread recognition that the antiwar movement needs to enter a new phase of struggle,” and that this recognition was evident in the June 11 meeting, where over 200 representatives gathered to discuss the next steps in the antiwar struggle.
“Those taking part in the discussion were enthusiastic, serious and respectful of each other,” says TONC.
At the first session, some of the TONC leaders outlined the coalition’s approach to the struggle for a united front demonstration on Sept. 24. Speaking were Larry Holmes of the International Action Center (IAC), Brenda Stokely of the New York City Labor Against the War and the Million Worker March, Dustin Langley of No Draft No Way, and Berna Ellorin of BAYAN USA.
TONC’s positions affirmed
The issues raised were discussed in workshops and then brought back to another plenary meeting for discussion. In one of those reports, Teresa Gutierrez of NY Committee to Free the Five told of her recent trip to Cuba and the need for the U.S. movement to act in solidarity with Cuba and Venezuela and to defend all of Latin America against U.S. intervention.
The gathering affirmed TONC’s proposals and positions, including:
* The vital importance of building a united front against the war. TONC emphasized building a large, militant antiwar movement that is capable of stopping the war. It renewed its appeal to the forces in the antiwar movement who have refused to work together for the fall and beyond to “reverse their positions and help unleash the full mass potential of the struggle to shut the war down.”
* That building a united movement means including, not excluding, the struggles of oppressed people. It affirmed support for the right of all Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their original homes and property in all of historic Palestine.
* That unity means “much more than organizational unity. It means, more importantly, that the antiwar movement reach out to and embrace the struggles of oppressed people here and internationally. It means solidarity with the struggle of communities of color, with LGBT communities, with immigrants, and with struggles against racism, sexism and all forms of oppression. It means solidarity with the people of Iraq, Palestine, Haiti, the Philip pines, and everywhere that people are struggling against U.S. colonial occupation.”
* That the antiwar movement needs to look to new and more effective tactics to stop the war. Activists raised the slogan “Troops home now, or we’ll shut it down!” and discussed the idea of declaring a moratorium against the war, including walkouts, civil disobedience and other direct actions to bring the cities to a stop until the war is ended.
* That the struggle to end the war will be won by mobilizing a massive movement in the streets. The conference concluded that “Counting on elections and pro-war politicians to end the war is, at best, a mis direction of time, energy and resources. Only the people will stop the war. To that end, it is important to im mediately begin planning and mobili zing now for the Sept. 24 march in Wash ing ton, D.C., the Millions More Move ment events on the weekend of Oct. 14-16, and the Moratorium Against the War.”
Other speakers and participants in the discussion, representing many different struggles and organizations, included:
Nana Soul of Artists & Activists United for Peace; Charlotte Kates of Al-Awda NY & NJ Solidarity-Activists for the Liber ation of Palestine; Jesse Lokahi Heiwa of Queers for Peace & Justice &Queers for Palestine; Lee Siu Hin, an organizer with ActionLA; Sara Flounders of the IAC; Carl Webb, a member of the Army National Guard who refused to deploy to Iraq; Nellie Bailey of Harlem Tenants Council; LeiLani Dowell of Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST) and Queers for Peace & Justice; Paul Zulkowitz of Green Party Peace Action Committee; and Hadas Their of Cam pus Antiwar Network, who was arrested earlier this year for protesting against military recruiters at the CUNY.