Some E-Mail Responses to An Open Letter to the Kansas City Peace Movement
Judy Ancel is director of the Institute for Labor Studies, and active in a number of labor movement and cross border solidarity projects. She has not had an opportunity to review or edit this e-mail reply.
Discussing the nature of the antiwar movement and its rallies is a useful thing, but I would caution you against jumping to any conclusions about the nature of the KC movement on the basis of attending only one rally. I wasn't at Sunday's rally, as I was out of town, but I have been to a number of others through the fall, and while many speakers have been pacifists, the range of issues discussed has been rather broad and the length of speeches has been short. The nature of Sunday's rally because it was Martin Luther King Day was probably not typical.
I'm not sure I completely understand what you are saying. At one point it seems like you're advocating broadening the issues and then you seem to say they should be narrowed. Personally I think the movement and these rallies should function as forums to broaden the issues and make connections between the war and other related social phenomena. To insist on a single focus of being against the war, limits both the education it can accomplish and the chances that this movement can deal with expansionist U.S. foreign policy that underlays the Iraq War proposal. I too was involved in the movement against the War in Vietnam and think it was precisely because that movement accomodated many people with different interpretations of the war from pacifists to anti-imperialists, to draft opponents, to those who only opposed that particular war and allowed them to express their views, that it was not only successful but that elements of it survived the end of the war. It was also very educational and deepened participants' understanding of the nature of the system.
There was a proposal by Fred Slough that went out last week that advocated turning the Sunday rallies into an open forum, giving people 5 minutes max each to share their views. I think that might be worth trying and think it would not drive off people but would attract them because there could be some really healthy and informative debate about what it is we're fighting and what the solutions may be.
I watched the CSPAN coverage of the Washington demonstration and was really struck by how radical the analysis presented was, how integrally it was tied into racism, and how much it depicted Bush's war policy in the context of his pro-corporate priorities. I've read that the group ANSWER has preempted more conservative or middle-of-the-road opponents to the war. While I'm sure some people were turned off by the politics, I would venture a guess that many more gained precious understanding of the interconnections between the war and other issues.
On Fresh Air Thursday, Terry Gross interviewed Todd Gitlin, former SDS head turned professor, who bashed both ANSWER and Ramsey Clark for left wing communist connections, for supporting Mumia, Clark was accused of supporting Slobodon Milosovec and Sadaam Hussein. It was quite a performance. Also they were criticized for criticizing Israel and being pro-Palestinian. I suppose Mumia and the Palestinians are the wedge issues to divide the antiwar movement. I note that it's Gitlin who is spreading this, not ANSWER. I thought his performance was worthy of HUAC. There was also an interview with a rep from ANSWER who asked whether when a religious group sponsors a rally it means that everyone who comes must agree with their religion. She said their coalition sees racism as intrinsic in US policy. There was a Methodist activist also who said he had some disagreements with ANSWER but that their politics didn't bother him. He would have liked more religious speakers, however. You can listen to it if you go to www.npr.org and click on Fresh Air and go to Thursday's show.