With the following pithy statement, the two monoliths of the anti-war movement in the US have agreed to cooperate on a joint demonstration in Washington next month:
The two major antiwar coalitions that have initiated and organized for a massive anti-war March on Washington for September 24 have agreed to organize a joint rally followed by a joint march. Both coalitions will organize under their own banners, slogans, and with their own literature for the September 24 demonstration. The joint rally will begin at 11:30 am at the Ellipse in the front of the White House. We urge everyone around the country to unite and come out for the largest possible anti-war demonstration on September 24.
– United for Peace and Justice
– A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition (on behalf of the September 24 National Coalition)
(Online at the National Council of Arab-Americans website)
This development, likely to be widely applauded by the uninitiated, is dangerous and demoralizing. While both UFPJ and ANSWER are top-down, bureaucratized organizations more obsessed with building their own leadership than offering any real solidarity to Iraqis, it is ANSWER which is controlled by a fascistic, cult-like, doctrinaire neo-Stalinist organization called the Workers World Party (WWP), which actively supports Slobodan Milosevic and has apologized for war crimes and atrocities from Tiananmen Square to Srebrenica. (See exposé at Infoshop.org.)
We acknowledge that WWP has recently split (see report from BellaCiao), and, reflecting the organization’s usual lack of transparency, it is unclear if the faction still calling itself Workers World remains in control of ANSWER. Ramsey Clark still seems to be with the faction that has kept the WWP name, so if he is a headliner at the DC gig, that will be a good indication of which faction now controls ANSWER. In any case, the split doesn’t seem to have been about anything substantive, but the tactical question of whether to support WWP’s presidential ticket last year or acquiesce to the left’s “anybody but Bush” (=pro-Kerry) position. Behind this question seems to be a turf war between WPP cadre in New York and San Francisco, the party’s two principal power bases. The real issue of WWP’s totalitarian agenda and twisted politics seems to have played no role in the split, alas.
A fundamental issue here is WWP’s refusal to countenance a syllable of criticism of the Iraqi “resistance,” even as they slaughter civilians, attack their ethnic and religious enemies, enforce sharia law and radically repeal womens’ basic rights in their areas of control, et cetera. In the past, UFPJ has refused to bloc with ANSWER over this question, as we have noted. That they are now doing so represents a dangerous retreat from principle.
Nor is either ANSWER or UFPJ interested in loaning a voice to Iraq’s legitimate resistance–groups such as the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, which is secular, leftist and pro-democracy, and whose spokesperson Yanar Mohammed is under threat of assassination. Offering vigorous solidarity to such groups is the anti-war movement’s most important work. Blocking with ANSWER, which supports the forces in Iraq which want to exterminate the secular left, is the most profound betrayal of this responsibility imaginable.
UFPJ and ANSWER have been playing this game of uniting and splitting repeatedly since the Iraq campaign began in the spring of 2003. This charade indicates how little core principles mean to either faction. A clearing of the air on this issue is long overdue.
We have argued before that the anti-war movement is blowing it by making unprincipled alliances. We have also argued before that there is sometimes a wisdom of disunity–e.g. in the refusal of the “anti-European” left in France to bloc with the neo-fascist Jean-Marie LePen. “Unity” is not a desireable end in itself; the question always needs to be asked of unity with whom? Sometimes it is necessary to throw the rascals overboard, and this is one of those times.
WW4 REPORT vigorously supports a split in the anti-war movement as a tactical and ethical necessity.
See our last post on the politics of the anti-war movement.