Beyond September 24
by Richard Hugus
August 4, 2005
In various articles recently a number of different organizations have come out in support of the US antiwar coalition, ANSWER, on the issue of a demonstration in Washington D.C. scheduled to take place September 24. Most of the organizations are affiliates, offshoots, or members of this coalition; a few are independent. The argument coming from them is that United For Peace and Justice or UFPJ, a second antiwar coalition, has excluded Palestine, while the ANSWER has not, and that people who support Palestine should therefore come to the ANSWER demonstration on September 24.
Critics who claim UFPJ is weak are absolutely right. It is an organization more or less tied to the Democratic party, to reform, to working within the system. Its leadership won't support the liberation of Palestine because it is either made up of or beholden to Zionists. The people who make up UFPJ belong to groups who have betrayed Palestine for at least the 58 years since the Zionist state was declared. The entire left in the US has taken part in this betrayal. It isn't new, and no one is innocent - a good reason to be cautious about anyone suddenly taking up the cause.
But the fact that ANSWER has a better position than UFPJ on Palestine doesn't mean that it is therefore the best group to lead the antiwar movement. If the central question is how many people will come to D.C. September 24, and whose demonstration will they attend, we've already lost the battle. The issue is Palestine and Iraq, not competing antiwar coalitions and their claims to solidarity with the struggle in Palestine. It may be that neither one is worth following. What, afterall, has been accomplished for Palestine or Iraq by the national demonstrations held by either group over the past several years? Thousands of people have certainly heard long lists of passionate speakers on numerous Saturday afternoons in the Washington Mall. But Bush and the people behind him who need to be stopped from committing genocide in Iraq and Palestine aren't listening. The demonstrations and "marches" - permitted and totally controlled by the police - have done nothing whatsoever to upset business as usual. The war machine grinds on as if nothing has happened. How many of these demonstrations do we have to go to before we realize they aren't making any difference, that it's time to consider new messages and new tactics?
For instance, what about ANSWER changing its central demand of "Troops out now" with a declaration of support for the Iraqi Resistance? These are, afterall, the people most successfully fighting imperialism today. If fighting imperialism is what we want, why aren't we vocally and materially supporting the people who are laying their lives on the line doing it? Why are we concentrating on bringing "home" and showing sympathy for the racist invaders who are fighting the people we support?
Why aren't we demonstrating on Monday in downtown Washington, or in the downtowns where we live, where we might at least impede the normal flow of business so that people would pay attention?
Get on the bus if you will, but this war will not be stopped by another collection of speeches and holding signs in Washington, D.C. on September 24. The only opposition that has meant anything so far to Uncle Sam is the direct resistance he is facing in Iraq. The same was true in Vietnam. The US antiwar movement did not stop the Vietnam War. The least we can do to stop the Iraq War is show our support for the people fighting it. We might also learn some humility -wars against practically the entire world have been launched from US soil for a lifetime without antiwar forces from the aggressor state making any appreciable difference.
Methods of centralized political leadership are known to us. They are used by the people we oppose, and they may also be used by those among us. They are opportunist; rather than lead they get out in front of emerging popular movements in order to accrue power, and then they compete with other groups in familiar ways to further that power. Iraqis and Palestinians do not pour their resources into going to a national center every few months for nonviolent protests. If they did, they'd be decimated. They fight where they are every day, by whatever means they have. We need to do the same. Costs must be exacted from many places by many people at the same time, and all the time.
This is not the kind of thing that is accomplished or taught by an antiwar movement which relies on mass protests that begin and end in one day, use up great amounts of energy, and end up challenging nothing. Wait and see: no sooner will September 24 be over than a call will come for an even bigger mobilization a few months later, and planning will then go into that, and so on, and so on. This cycle isn't getting us anywhere.