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Principles, Strategy and Tactics For the Antiwar Movement
by Bill Onasch
The Bush/Blair war has ignited outrage throughout the world. Especially encouraging is widespread protest in Britain and the United States against “their own” governments. This global blaze has even set off some brush fires in America's “Heartland” in Kansas City.
Response by those in America wanting peace is varied. Many are praying. Some are blocking traffic. Others are holding rallies or organizing teach-ins. Still others are writing congress.
Undoubtedly all such activity is better than silent acceptance of the war. But not all are of equal value, not all are appropriate at all times. It's a challenge to sort it all out, to come up with the most effective focus for our collective rage. In this article I will give my opinion and also provide some links to divergent views.
Principles, by their very nature, are nonnegotiable. They should be few and simple.
War Is Unjust
It wouldn't be right even if a majority of the UN Security Council Endorse It
Should Be Ended Immediately, Unconditionally
Stop the Bombing—Bring Our Soldiers and Sailors Home Now
Antiwar Movement Should Focus Primarily On This War On Iraq
The movement should be independent of political parties, religious denominations, or other issue movements
Movement Should Be Democratic and All-Inclusive
Respect for both minority views and majority decisions; no red, race, or any other kind of baiting
For me acceptance (not necessarily complete agreement) of these points would be a principled basis for antiwar unity.
Educate, Agitate, and Organize public opinion to make the political cost of the Bush Doctrine a higher price than the Establishment is willing to pay.
That means appealing to “ordinary” workers and students—and even GIs—who may not all agree on anything else except opposition to this war.
Some tactics are valid pretty much anytime.
Public Meetings (forums, teach-ins)
Peaceful, Legal, Orderly Marches and Rallies
Proposing Resolutions To Mass Membership Organizations
Distributing Informational Leaflets To the Public
Sending Messages to Public Officials
Writing Letters to the Editor and Calling In On Radio Talk Shows
Other tactics, both potentially powerful—and dangerous, should be reserved for certain rare conditions.
Refusal of Troops to Fight
Somewhat in between these clear categories is the question of Civil Disobedience. Undoubtedly, at times, CD can be a useful tactic. There can also be occasions when it is more of a disruptive obstacle to building a mass antiwar movement than it is to the war machine. We have to evaluate the effectiveness of this tactic on a case-by-case basis.
In general I would say
We should unconditionally support the democratic right of civil disobedience against any unjust war.
Massive CD—such as happened in San Francisco and Chicago on Day One—can be effective.
On the other hand, small disruptive actions can be counterproductive, shifting public discussion away from the issues of war to the behavior of CD activists.
CD actions should be organized separately in time and place from legal, orderly protests. Everyone should be a willing volunteer, not trapped, either physically or through political association, with “break away” actions.
CD is a legitimate tactic for consideration but is not a substitute for our strategy.
In the spirit of fairness and full discussion here are some other, somewhat differing viewpoints:
Antiwar Movement Divided by Thoughts on Civil Disobedience
Iraq Pledge of Resistance
Kansas City Direct Action Network
Our purpose is not primarily to give individual witness against war, not mainly an outlet for our fury about the war. Our mission must be to build a mass movement that can help stop this war and cause our rulers to think twice before starting a similar one in the future.
March 21, 2003
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