Let veterans lead, keep movement independent of Democrats, activists say :: David Goodner
June 17th, 2007 :: 12:51 AM
Mass struggle opens up space for new ideas to be proposed, debated, and implemented, and the anti-war movement should constantly be re-assessing and re-evaluating itself, according to a roundtable discussion of peace activists.
Melida Arredondo, Gold Star Families For Peace; Charles Jenks, TapRock Peace Center; Michael Letwin, US Labor Against the War; and Chris Jenks, Campus Anti-war Network spoke at a forum at the Socialism 2007 conference Saturday titled “Which Way Forward for the Anti-war Movement?”
All four panelists, in addition to the capacity crowd audience, agreed that peacemakers should remain independent of the Democratic Party and that members of Iraq Veterans Against the War and other war resisters should lead the movement.
“The relationship between the movement and the Democratic Party is like Charlie Brown kicking that football,” Jenks said. “The Lucy Democrats keep pulling it away.”
“The Democrats who voted against the spending bill were the same ones who voted for the procedure to advance the bill to the floor for a vote.”
Letwin criticized mainstream, national anti-war organizations like United For Peace and Justice for deviciveness in the movement. UFPJ is a top-down, moderate organization that often refuses to work with the more radical ANSWER Coalition.
Letwin also said that UFPJ has no credibility among Arab Muslims because the group divorces the Iraq issue from the question of Palestine.
“We can expect UFPJ to support whoever wins the Democratic nomination for president, just like they did for John Kerry in 2004,” Letwin said.
Letwin argued for a multi-issue, working-class movement led by veterans.
“Mass movements and direct actions played an important role in ending the Vietnam War, but they didn’t end it.”
“The Vietnamese resistance, and I think the Black Power movement, helped spark off a massive G.I. resistance that did lead to an end to the war.”
Melida Arredondo said that the anti-war movement does itself a disservice by not looking for nontraditional peace activities. In particular, she emphasized domestic issues like inner-city gang and youth violence.
“There is another peace movement going on and I have to say its separate,” Arredondo said. “There is the inner-city peace movement.”
“Violence is very real in urban communities.”
Arredondo also said she wanted to use “procedural delays” to end the war by Labor Day. She advocated a new wave of sit-ins and occupations at Congressional offices, with a demand that Congress use the filibuster and other procedural moves to block the next spending bill from being voted on at all.
Chris Dols, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a coordinating committee member of the Campus Antiwar Network, argued that the movement needs to articulate the difference between a “strategic opposition” to the way the occupation is being handled and a “principled opposition” to the occupation itself.
“Ideas change through struggle,” he said.
“If you want to know the way forward, follow the vets.”