Labor Advocate Online
Don't Take the Bait!
by Bill Onasch
In my view the movement against the imminent danger of war on Iraq must be all-inclusive. We have an obligation to those under the gun of “our” government to unite all opponents of this war—regardless of where we may stand on other important issues.
That doesn't mean we have to like one another. It doesn't mean that we can't fight like dogs and cats in other arenas. But we have to put aside all this when we come together to try to stop this war. Democrats and Republicans; Palestinians and Zionists; Pacifists and NRA members; Pro-Choice and Pro-Life; Anarchists, Libertarians, Stalinists and Trotskyists—all of us strange bedfellows can and must work together on this issue of war.
Of course there are going to be tactical questions that need debate and resolution. As long as we keep focused on the interests of the movement as a whole such disputes will work themselves out.
Unfortunately, sectarianism—a disorder not easily cured or contained—sometimes intrudes. There has been some particularly nasty in-fighting surrounding one of the antiwar coalitions, ANSWER, and The Tikkun Community—a current of progressive Zionists.
Michael Lerner, a co-chair of Tikkun, made some strong criticisms of ANSWER's tactics and behavior. Critical discussion is permissible, even necessary, and I think many of his complaints had merit.
Unfortunately, Lerner at the same time joined some others around the movement in red-baiting the leadership of ANSWER. There was no need to bring in the name of a radical sect. That didn't advance discussion about tactical differences. On the contrary it diverted attention from what we need to talk about.
No matter how innocent minded practitioners may be red-baiting is wrong. It is a divisive trap long nourished by bosses, bosses' politicians, and jingoists. We need to stick to issues and avoid pejorative labels.
ANSWER was right to defend itself against red-baiting. But, instead of trying to educate people about the pitfalls of that approach they have campaigned to make Lerner person non grata in the antiwar movement. They, in effect, vetoed Lerner's invitation to speak at the February 15 rally in San Francisco. That too is wrong.
Despite their mistakes we need both ANSWER and Tikkun in our movement. We should reject red-baiting, Zionist-baiting, or any kind of label-baiting. We owe the people of Iraq, and the young men and women in U.S. and British uniforms, the best united movement we can possibly build. Let's save the vitriol for the warmongers and have some peace among the peace movement.
February 11, 2003