Open Letter to the Anti-War Movement

From the National Steering Committee of the World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime!

As all the latest polls show (even amongst soldiers), this country now stands increasingly opposed to the war on Iraq. This is a testament to the work of the anti war-movement, as well as the real difficulties the Bush Administration is having in prosecuting the war, and the desire of the people of Iraq and the surrounding region to end the occupation. In this context, World Can’t Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime! is mobilizing for and joining others in making the urgent demand to end the war now at protests across the country.

At the same time, in order to effectively oppose the war, it has to be understood and acted on as part of the whole direction the Bush Regime is taking society and the world. We are calling on both ANSWER and United For Peace & Justice (UFPJ) to bring their efforts to bear on driving this hated regime from office – without which, our actions will not be commensurate with the enormity of the situation we face.

What We’re Facing

After 9/11, the Bush regime launched an endless war targeting first Afghanistan, and then Iraq (with Iran and other countries now in their sights), with a doctrine of "pre-emptive" attacks. The conduct of this war says much about the character of this regime: systematic torture made legal, a brutal occupation of chemical warfare, bombing of innocent people, and blitzkrieg attacks on whole cities, all based on blatant lies.

While casting out on this "crusade on the world," US society is being radically remade. Police state measures (like the Patriot Act or NSA spying) are made permanent and legal, and dissent is increasingly suppressed; immigrants are demonized, subject to round-ups and detention without due process, and even hunted down by right-wing vigilantes; a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism increasingly determines government policy, with moves to ban abortion and birth control, legal and extra-legal attacks on LGBT people; and science itself is suppressed, with the outright denial of the very real threat of global warming, and evolution brought under attack while the bible is brought into public schools.

Taken as a whole, the Bush program constitutes a fascist remaking of society and a permanent state of war. While each of its crimes must be resisted and stopped in their own right, there is an urgent need to confront the full scope of this trajectory and mobilize people to reverse this whole direction. After a year of things people thought could never happen here – from abortion being banned in South Dakota, warrantless wiretapping made legal, to plans for nuking Iran – the recognition of this fascist remaking of society by much of the anti-war movement is stubbornly absent. While a massive mobilization of opposition to the war is more important than ever right now, going through the motions of protest as usual while the whole society is being remade underneath our feet is to abandon our responsibility to the future of humanity.

What Does Our Opposition Need to be Based On?

While UFPJ’s call for April 29th contains an expanded list of demands beyond the war, the nature and danger of the radical remaking of society going on before our eyes is starkly absent. This is clearly illustrated by what has been left out of this expanded list of demands. To take one example: despite the fact that one of the rally's main organizers is the National Organization for Women, the call for April 29th fails to even mention the attacks on a woman's right to choose. These attacks are in fact pushing closer each day to overturn Roe v. Wade entirely (with no intention of stopping there). The point here isn't to add the right to abortion (or other issues) to a laundry list of demands, but that we must confront the full reality of what this regime is doing, or in the course of focusing on “less controversial” outrages, we will be swallowed up by the coming onslaught.

Moreover, what's disturbing about the failure to include abortion in UFPJ's demands for this demonstration is not only that it is an urgent and necessary demand - which it is - but that the failure to include this seems already to indicate a direction of tailoring and shaping protest to the political terms being set by the Bush regime and the Democratic Party leadership complicity and/or lack of opposition, or at least by the dubious and dangerous proposition that the politics of mobilization and protest should be determined by what's deemed "elect-able politics" under the current political order. To sacrifice the right to abortion based on some calculation of political expediency will only take us further down the deadly path of allowing new outrages to become the new normalcy without even an attempt to stop them. (In this respect, it worth asking whether it would have been okay to stay silent about segregation because it would alienate southern voters.)

Instead, it's essential to base our opposition on the understanding that, as the World Can’t Wait Call puts it, "That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn - or be forced - to accept." If your aim is to really address the situation, including if you see influencing the upcoming election as an important part of that, you are far better off not adopting the terms of these "official politics," but instead basing your protest on facing the full reality, bringing forward demands that reflect this, and getting all of society to respond to your demands and program. Otherwise, we risk turning demonstrations, no matter how large, not only into ritualized affairs, but still worse into mobilizations that end up channeling people’s main energies into an election that does not express their interests and desires. This leaves people, in the end, demoralized, demobilized, and even pacified by having adapted themselves to stifling political terms.

2004: What Did This Lead To?

Haven't we seen this often enough already? What happened in the 2004 election? The massive opposition to Bush and the war, which we saw manifested in powerful demonstrations in 2003, was funneled to support for candidates like Kucinich and Dean (who claimed to be opposed to Bush and the war), to the more "elect-able" candidate, Kerry, who openly supported the war (and the Patriot Act, and most of Bush's program). Millions were searching for a way to stop this war, and poured their energy and resources into the presidential elections, even traveling to different states and quitting their jobs. But despite the desire of the people, the Democratic Party leadership ruled out any candidates who were even critical of the war. What people were handed was a pro-war, pro-Patriot Act candidate, and an "official politics" in which any real challenges to the Bush regime did not belong.

Not surprisingly, in a contest over who would be "tough on terror," Bush won (fairly or fraudulently). This was a defeat in two ways: the Bush regime stayed in power to further their program, and the massive opposition (which manifested itself in hundreds of thousands protesting the Republican National Convention just two months before the election) accepted the political terms set by this regime and was left demoralized and demobilized.

What would be the consequences of seeing a protest movement hemmed into these politics now – and this regime pushing even further down its truly extreme path? This would only make people accommodate to new outrages and feel powerless in the face of a vicious onslaught.

2006: Where’s This Headed?

The stage is already being set for this to happen in 2006. Candidates are being picked by the Democratic leadership who go along with the war, oppose abortion, and support new police state measures, all under the rubric of what they deem "elect-able." When candidates emerge who oppose the war and don't hold back from a scathing critique of the Bush administration, they are pressured to drop out of the race and lose their funding (just look at what happened to Paul Hackett). And as for Iraq, what the Democratic leadership offers is not an end to the war, but "strategic redeployment" (moving many troops to permanent military bases in the Middle East and stepping up aerial assaults, thereby increasing civilian casualties). And as plans for attacking Iran are being drawn up, Congress seems to be playing a rerun – despite widespread opposition, there are no prominent voices among the Democrats speaking up against a war on Iran. Russ Feingold's resolution for censure went nowhere because it was opposed by virtually everyone in his own Party. And while support for impeachment increases with each new outrage, no one in Congress is calling for it (Rep. Conyers' attempt to get a special committee to investigate whether Bush committed impeachable offenses, for instance, has gotten no where in Congress).

Excuse after excuse is made for capitulation to this regime, from the notion that “if we move to impeach now, it will hurt our chances in November” (hurt our chances to do what exactly? - and why with public opinion mounting against Bush would this “hurt our chances”?); “we have to be tough on national security issues” (where does that put you in relation to torture, unjust war, and new police state measures?); and “we can’t talk about the culture wars because that will just embolden the Republicans - in fact, we have to show that we can pander to religious fanatics too” (does anyone really think that the theocrats who want to ban abortion and birth control, teach the bible instead of evolution in school, and shove gays back into the closet or worse will just go away if we ignore them?). Taken together, all this points to an election in which the terms are being set by those who support the war and the Bush program, and in any event don't want the millions of people who oppose this rocking the boat.

Many people are refusing to support candidates who are for the war, including by withholding contributions from candidates who are not calling for an immediate end to the war, and such a principled stand is a good thing. But where will our opposition be in the 2006 elections and by 2008 if and when the candidates in the running are supporting the war if we have demobilized what is and has been our greatest strength and best way to impact public opinion and change the direction of society? As the New York Times pointed out in an April 12th editorial on the impact of the immigrant rights protests, “the immigrants and their allies have carried off an amazing achievement in mass political action, even though many of them are here illegally and have no right to vote. Whether the rallies leave you inspired or unnerved, they are impossible to ignore.”

If the movements opposing this war do not stick to principle, but instead end up supporting candidates who oppose their demands, this will only make things worse. If the thousands mobilized out in the streets to demand an end to the war are hemmed back into an official politics in which such a demand is beyond the pale, this will in fact work against the efforts to stop the war. As it says in World Can't Wait's Call, "This whole idea of putting our hopes and energies into 'leaders' who tell us to seek common ground with fascists and religious fanatics is proving every day to be a disaster, and actually serves to demobilize people."

The Bush Regime IS Taking Things to New Extremes

We must also point out that channeling opposition toward candidates who support the war is not the only problem confronting the anti-war movement. There is also a stubborn refusal to confront the full scope and scale of what the Bush regime is doing, and its implications for the not-so-distant future.

ANSWER's call for action on the 3rd anniversary of the war says that singling out the Bush administration for protest is an "exercise in misleadership". While we would be the first to point out the complicity of the Democratic Party leadership in the war, at the same time a failure to recognize the fascist remaking of society and bring this understanding to the people we are seeking to mobilize against the war will only consign people to ignore and be crushed by this onslaught.

In fact, those who believe that injustice and oppression are systemic to this country should grasp even more readily how a regime could emerge that would take all this to new extremes. When you take a sober look at what the Bush regime is cementing into place, from a doctrine of pre-emptive war, open and legalized torture, new police state laws, and the moves towards theocracy, and the whole package all this is part of (as described above), this nightmare is not simply a continuation of previous injustices but marks a whole "new normalcy" with horrible consequences for the planet and its people. And it is hard to conceive of making any progressive changes without stopping this deadly trajectory.

The fact is, even with the complicity of the Democratic leadership, the Bush regime is the driving force in and power presiding over all this. Without driving the Bush regime from power and repudiating its whole program, we cannot derail the juggernaut barreling down on us. Such an approach does not imply relying on the Democrats, but uniting and mobilizing the millions of people disgusted by the current direction of society to take independent political action outside of the killing confines of the "official politics". The success of such a movement will not only mean the removal from power of the most pressing danger to the world, but would also usher in whole new possibilities for progressive social change, with the emergence of a movement of people that has driven out a monstrous clique and are newly energized and organized and ready to take society in a much, much better direction.

Our Responsibility to the World

Within World Can't Wait, there are many different views about what should replace the Bush regime, from reforming the Democratic Party, to building a 3rd party, to revolution, and more. What has brought this movement together is people from diverse perspectives and backgrounds seeing the urgent need to change the whole direction of society. And it is our hope that major anti-war organizations like ANSWER and UFPJ will join this movement to drive out the Bush regime while continuing their efforts to end the war.

As we enter the 4th year of this unjust war and new threats of war on Iran, people around the world are looking to see if the people in this country are just going along, or if there is a growing resistance that will not allow this disastrous course to continue. A movement that sticks to principle and mobilizes people based on what's true and what’s right can "join with and give support and heart to people all over the globe who so urgently need and want this regime to be stopped" (World Can't Wait Call).

To close with the following from our Call:

The point is this: history is full of examples where people who had right on their side fought against tremendous odds and were victorious. And it is also full of examples of people passively hoping to wait it out, only to get swallowed up by a horror beyond what they ever imagined. The future is unwritten. WHICH ONE WE GET IS UP TO US.

worldcantwait.org

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UNITED FOR PEACE & JUSTICE | 212-868-5545


Informant: C. Clark Kissinger


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