The Antiwar Movement Today
Presentation by Michael Letwin, New York City Labor Against the War
ISO Summer School
June 16, 2007 (31st Anniversary of Mass Uprising in Soweto 566 died)
This is a very strange political moment.
On the one hand, the U.S. can’t win in Iraq, and that’s why, in November, people elected Democrats to end that war.
On the other hand, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the ground and air war has sharply escalated; the U.S. has openly promoted civil war in Palestine; continued to arm the Lebanese state against the Palestinians and Hezbollah; sponsored an invasion of Somalia; and ratcheted-up threats of war on Iran.
Rather than end the war in Iraq, the Democrats have given Bush every penny he’s asked for — without even the pretense of phoney timetables — and signed on to the demand for oil privatization in Iraq. Overall, the leading Democratic presidential contenders are at least as belligerent militarists as the Republicans.
Even Murtha-esque proposals for “speedy withdrawal,” “timetables,” and “redeployment” are designed to more effectively maintain U.S. control over
Iraq. They effectively call for continued U.S. support for the puppet Iraqi regime, including ground offensives, the air war, death squads, or mass detention; they do not even pretend to oppose other fronts of U.S. war in the Middle East, such as Afghanistan and Palestine.
None of this is surprising, since both parties support U.S. domination around the world, particularly over Middle Eastern oil and strategic location.
Despite all this, the U.S. antiwar movement is in crisis. To varying degrees, the
“mainstream” Peaceocracy has compromised opposition to war funding. A few months ago, MoveOn openly supported the Democrats vote for war funding with timetables. UFPJ — whose leadership is dominated primarily by the Communist Party and Committee for Correspondence — disagreed with MoveOn, but watered down its already-weak support for immediate withdrawal.
In fact, UFPJ co-chair Judith LeBlanc recently declared that “the Democrats are using the politics of reality,” and CPUSA publications call not for immediate withdrawal, but for Congress to “Set the Date.” We should expect that UPFJ and Co. will support whoever wins the Democratic nomination in 2008, just as it did behind prowar John Kerry in 2004.
Meanwhile, UFPJ and US Labor Against the War are currently sponsoring an “Iraq Labor Tour” that includes a representative from the General Federation of Iraqi Workers, which openly supports the Iraq puppet regime, supports Bush’s “surge,” and opposes immediate withdrawal.
Under pressure from the Arab-Muslim community and parts of the left, UFPJ has felt compelled to say something about Palestine, an example of which was its June 10 event in D.C. But it has absolutely no credibility among Arab Muslims because it keeps Palestine completely segregated from Iraq — which is why there was virtually no reference to the issue at its January 27 mass rally in D.C.
It refused to support ANSWER’s August 2006 protest in D.C. against the Israeli-US invasion of Lebanon. And it defines the “Israeli occupation” as something that dates only to 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan, rather than the all of historic Palestine, which has been occupied since the Israeli apartheid state was created in 1948.
Of course, the antiwar movement is far larger than MoveOn, UFPJ or USLAW.
Thousands of people are involved in grassroots antiwar action, such as that against military recruiters. ANSWER, CAN, Troops Out Now Coalition, New York City Labor Against the War, Al-Awda and other formations are important alternatives. Still, at critical moments the Peaceocracy has enough influence to lead much of the movement rightwards.
In part, this is because UFPJ et al have funding and organization. But it is also because those of us in the antiwar left have not had a clear enough alternative for how to actually end the war.
Discussion of those alternative strategies usually focus on more frequent mass
demonstrations, counter-recruitment, and/or direct action. While these are all valid tactics, the Vietnam antiwar movement suggests that this war will end only when workers — particularly those in uniform – take action.
In fact, recognition of the need for a bottom-up, working class, multi-issue antiwar movement, independent of the Democratic Party, for immediate and unconditional withdrawal, is what defined the position of the International Socialists, the ISO’s predecessor, during the Vietnam war.
And it was largely that position which recruited groups like the Red Tide (a revolutionary high school group in California, which became the IS youth organization) and the Socialist Collective (a Black Marxist organization in Los Angeles).
The IS emphasized working class antiwar resistance for the same reason it emphasized working class revolution: only workers have both the objective need and the power to end the war. For what is more powerful than workers in uniform fighting their officers rather than the “enemy,” or civilian workers undermining production? Vietnamese resistance generated these
developments, which ultimately defeated the U.S. war machine.
This same logic applies today. Resistance in Iraq and throughout the Middle East has brought about overwhelming opposition to the war — at least in Iraq — among U.S. workers, uniformed and civilian, who have unique power to end the war.
How do we build more effective antiwar movement? There are no guarantees of success. But to end the war, we need to argue for:
1. Firm and consistent antiwar positions rooted in independence from Democratic Party.
2. Immediate withdrawal of U.S. empire from entire Middle East: U.S. forces out of Iraq, Afghanistan — No timetable, advisers, redeployment, air war or puppet states.
3. No war on Iran.
4. End all aid to the Israeli apartheid state — Freedom for Palestine
means the Right of Return.
5. U.S. hands off the Philippines, Colombia, Haiti, Venezuela, Cuba — and the rest of the world.
6. Connect with War at Home.
7. End the attack on Arab/Muslim rights.
8. No human being is “illegal” – Full amnesty for undocumented
immigrants; no guest worker program.
9. Reconstruction and the right of return for Katrina victims.
10. Defend labor rights.
And we must reflect these positions through bottom-up mobilization and alliances, especially among those with the power to end the war: workers.
Our strategy must prominently include:
• Counter-recruitment (CAN).
• GI resistance (IVAW, GI Special).
• Immigrant rights movement.
• Other labor resistance, e.g., TWU strike.