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QUESTIONS
AND ANSWER

Howard Blume’s recent essay on Michael Lerner’s dispute with ANSWER over anti-war organizing [“Furor in Frisco,” February 14–20] concludes by saying, “The risk is that these attempts to shove ANSWER to the sidelines also could provide the right wing with another round of ammunition.” It’s hard to see how this follows from the rest of his article — or, for that matter, from the events of the past week. The logic here is pernicious: ANSWER gets to decide who the unacceptable speakers are (i.e., anyone who has publicly criticized them), and everyone else opposed to war in Iraq should keep quiet lest we divide the movement and give ammunition to the right? How exactly does this make sense?

Let’s be clear about one thing: The right wing has no better ammunition than ANSWER itself. Not even The Wall Street Journal and National Review could have dreamed up a coalition more likely to divide the left and de-legitimate the anti-war mainstream. ANSWER now says that this is not the time for infighting among anti-war protesters. But they weren’t able to put their sectarianism aside even this once in the interests of the greater good — namely, appealing to anti-war Americans of all kinds.

—Michael Bérubé
State College, Pennsylvania

I think Howard Blume got shellacked and bamboozled by pros when he set out to find the truth behind the controversy over Michael Lerner and ANSWER. One fact is plain and undeniable: Lerner, proposed as a speaker at the antiwar rally, was refused by ANSWER on the grounds that those who have criticized a member of their coalition may not speak. This is the nub of the problem: How can those who claim to believe in democracy close ranks to deny public debate? Those are the tactics of despotism, and they should be challenged wherever they arise. Having sat through hundreds of sectarian meetings in my time, I instantly recognize that when someone says they did not wish to pursue a matter further, as Lerner's lieutenants say in Blume's article, they are really saying, "We surrendered. It wasn't worth the fight. We were going to lose, so why bother?" In other words, the matter was crushed in committee before it could hit the airwaves — which it didn't until Lerner's side finally put up a stink.

Greg Goldin
Los Angeles

HOWARD BLUME REPLIES: The spin on this issue was coming from all directions. I stand by the story.

 

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THE LEGEND
CONTINUES

In the Weekly’s election endorsements [February 14–20], the editors gush about Martin Ludlow being a “legendary organizer at 38 years of age” and a descendant of a very progressive family. Thus, you say, he will “fight the entrenched business political establishments on behalf of the more socially responsible investment.” PUH-LEEZ. The Martin Ludlows of the progressive movement are the problem besetting and holding back progressives and the labor movement. Labor endorsed Nate Holden for the 10th Council District and is now endorsing Martin Ludlow for the same seat. With the same level of opportunism and shortsightedness, labor is endorsing a candidate with no true connections to the district. In fact, Ludlow filed in three other races before carpetbagging his way into the 10th. (He originally filed in the 8th District, but did not have the stomach to take on Chief Parks.) You claim that Ludlow will fight the anti-ethnocentric fight in L.A., yet this “legendary organizer,” when faced with challenging the most ethnocentric of candidates, courageously backed out. I guess what they say is true: Love is blind. Or, in this case, myopic.

—Jane Kim
Westminster

THE DAYS AFTER

Marc Cooper’s column “What’s Proof Got To Do With It?” [Dissonance, February 14–20] furnished a solid analysis of the dynamics leading to the launching of an unjustified attack against Iraq. I have problems, however, with the conclusion of his piece, in which he suggests that if war does come and the United States occupies Iraq, progressives should not necessarily call for the ending of the occupation. Instead, U.S. troops and money should be used to construct “something better” for the people of Iraq.

Perhaps what is at stake is that we start from different assumptions. I believe that convincing evidence exists that the Bush administration aims at nothing less than imperialistic world domination. Their arrogance has reached the point where they scarcely seek to disguise it. It is important to recognize that U.S. occupation of Iraq will seek to make Iraq a compliant occupation client state and in no way will be aimed at achieving any good for the people of Iraq. In these circumstances it will be necessary for progressives to oppose that occupation and, even more importantly, to oppose future projected aggressions.

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