By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
But anarchist networks that took key roles in anti-globalization efforts say ridiculous is bad enough. They criticize the International Action Center (IAC), which is associated with the WWP and gave birth to ANSWER, for its authoritarianism and warn that it could easily co-opt the peace movement — just like it tried to co-opt the anti-globalization effort.
“The IAC are like the ‘Borg’ of the left,” states an article on the anarchist-oriented site Infoshop.org. “They always want to be friends with you, and they want you to sign onto their projects. They get the momentum going for their projects by creating deceptive lists of endorsers, and then they use this to manipulate other groups to sign on. A critical mass develops behind their event, which ends up being big enough to give the IAC the credibility that it is really interested in.”
Becker said he and his organization, and the peace movement generally, were becoming the victims of redbaiting.
“There are political differences in the movement,” Becker said. “But there is a commonality of opposition to the war. People didn’t care if ANSWER were communists or people from Mars. They were just so angry.”
You won’t find an overload of doctrine at ANSWER’s L.A. chapter meetings, which take place every Tuesday night in an office building in Hollywood. At one recent program I was surprised to see, on two women who joined the group of about 20, blue “Kerry for President” buttons. The speakers that evening weren’t exactly Bush backers, but they hardly seemed to be revolutionaries, either. A soldier spoke of his experience in the Army, and a soldier’s wife talked about how her husband had changed since joining the fighting in Iraq. There was a presentation about a memorial staged near the Santa Monica Pier, and requests for leafleteers, and for marchers at a coming protest.
The speakers interested me, but not as much as the Kerry buttons. On the way down the stairs at the end of the evening, I asked one of the women about her button. She seemed surprised by the question.
“Well, Bush is the problem,” she said. “He has to go.”
But how did she feel about ANSWER’s hands-off attitude toward the election?
“I don’t know anything about that,” she said. “I protested here and I’m going to march in New York, and I’m going to vote against Bush. I don’t know if it’s ANSWER or whoever organizing the protests. And you know, I don’t really care.”
Progressive Democrats who supported Howard Dean for president formed the New Democratic Majority after their candidate admitted defeat and dropped out of the race, and they are one of hundreds of groups planning to participate in peace protests in New York.
But the group’s political director, Tim Paulson, said there was no way a group like New Democratic Majority could organize massive peace protests on the scale that is expected to hit Manhattan during the Republican convention. For that kind of thing, he said, marchers will join protests organized by groups like ANSWER.
“We have a different agenda,” Paulson said. “And there are plenty of people, of course, who will say that ANSWER implies too much involvement in the Communist Party. But it seems late in the game for a new march organization. If you think about it logically, you would really have to be muzzling yourself if you didn’t go. You would be giving up your right to join your voice with a million other people. And I’m sorry, but the guy with the Caterpillar hat I stood on line with, he doesn’t believe Tian An Men Square didn’t happen. He’s there to protest the war.”
It’s tempting to blame Democrats and their establishment allies for not wresting the peace movement from the commies, especially after the Lerner incident. But mainstream liberals always have been slow to pick up on movements started by activists much further to the left. Jim Lafferty, director of the local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and a member of the ANSWER steering committee, led anti-war protests during the Vietnam era and said even then, many of the protesters were unaware that they were participating in marches organized by Communists. And, he added, so what if they were?
“There’s a certain amount of redbaiting,” he said. “Always has been.”
Still, he said, labor has come out against the war, and speakers from SEIU, HERE and other unions speak at ANSWER rallies. But they are not leading the marches.
Are the relative quiet from labor and from Democrats, and the authoritarianism of groups like ANSWER, to blame for the peace movement not yet achieving the critical mass that the anti– Vietnam War marches did in the early 1970s?
Perhaps, in part. But here are some key differences between today and the ’70s that have to be kept in mind.
First, unlike in the ’60s and ’70s, the United States has been attacked, directly and viciously, on its own soil. No matter how deeply many Americans may feel that invading Iraq had little if anything to do with the war on terrorism, they legitimately feel threatened, at home, in a way they did not during the Vietnam era. That threat may well take some of the zeal out of the anti-war feeling among residents of middle-class suburbia.
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