UFPJ Leadership Divides the Anti-War Movement
from Workers World
It was with deep concern that we read a recent communication from United for Peace and Justice, sent out on Dec. 12 by its national coordinator, Leslie Cagan. It stated that the coalition had voted by a two-thirds majority to no longer collaborate with the ANSWER coalition in the anti-war movement.
We salute the one third of the member groups who put the need for principled unity of the anti-war movement first. They had the courage to stand up and resist the pressure to support what is a totally unprincipled measure, which can severely injure the unity of the movement at a critical time when there are new openings to escalate the anti-war struggle.
The UFPJ document is filled with organizational complaints about ANSWER. We believe that these organizational complaints are merely a cover behind which the UFPJ leadership is readying an open shift to the right, orienting to the so-called “anti-war” elements in the capitalist establishment and preparing to use the anti-war movement as a platform for promoting the Democratic Party in the 2006 elections. We think that beyond being an attack on ANSWER, this document was a reflection of the aversion of the UFPJ leadership to anti-imperialist politics of international solidarity and to the orientation that rejects support for the Democratic Party.
But some things must be reviewed for the record. In the preamble to UFPJ’s declaration it referred to how they originally “did not believe it would be productive to make coordination with ANSWER a centerpiece of our September 24 efforts” and then went on to make a convoluted explanation of why they had changed their minds.
The truth about UFPJ and Sept. 24
This is completely disingenuous. The facts are that UFPJ, after having called for a demonstration in New York City on Sept. 10, 2005, switched it to Sept. 24 in Washington, D.C.—the same day and the same city where ANSWER had already called for a demonstration. This precipitated a crisis of disunity and confusion in the movement.
It had the effect of forcing people to choose between going to a demonstration organized by anti-imperialist forces, who defended the Palestinian and Arab cause, or going to one called by the more moderate anti-war forces. This, in spite of the fact that there was a strong political basis among the rank-and-file, new and old, for unity around the question of bringing the troops home now, ending occupations, and using money for human needs, not war.
Fortunately, the progressive activists in the movement prevailed and forced UFPJ to retract its plans for a separate demonstration.
This hard-fought unity resulted in a major revival of the anti-war movement in which 300,000 people came out and marched together. There were, of course, many shortcomings of the demonstration, including the fact that it was predominantly white and that the working class was not a strong force in the demonstration. But those are major historical problems that the movement must fight to overcome. These are matters outside the framework of this dispute and do not diminish the success of Sept. 24, such as it was.
The UFPJ communication ostensibly based its decision on three grounds, arising from the Sept. 24 demonstration: that ANSWER went beyond its agreed-upon time slot and thereby got more coverage on C-SPAN, putting forth a political message that was skewed; that ANSWER began the march an hour later than agreed upon; and that ANSWER did not turn out enough volunteers, thereby putting an added burden on UFPJ.
ANSWER has given a detailed refutation of these charges. But whether some or none of them are true is beside the point. Whatever difficulties were experienced by UFPJ, actual or perceived, they pale in comparison to the need to unite the broadest possible forces who are devoted to the immediate, unconditional and complete withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq.
All organizations in the anti-war struggle owe it to the Iraqi people, the people of the Middle East, and the workers and oppressed people right here at home to subordinate their own particular organizational interests to maximizing mass mobilization, so long as it is on a principled basis.
The Iraqi people are suffering death and destruction every day from the onslaught of the U.S. military machine. According to Johns Hopkins University, the Iraqi death toll now stands at upwards of 119,000. Tens of thousands are in jails. Families are separated. Cities and towns are in ruins from repeated U.S. military raids and air bombardments. The Iraqi resistance fighters are giving their lives daily to expel the colonial occupiers.
The suffering and sacrifice of the Iraqi people in the daily struggle are of such monumental magnitude in human terms that the UFPJ leaders should be ashamed to even bring up their relatively minuscule organizational complaints as a reason for breaking the unity of the struggle against the war.
But UFPJ’s motivation is not organizational. It is political. The leadership of UFPJ has always been against the left and has always oriented towards the Democratic Party. Those who constitute the leadership today were in organizations that tried to isolate and undermine the anti-imperialist forces and all militancy going back to the Vietnam-War era. These leaders were in favor of “sanctions, not war” during the Gulf War of 1991.
UFPJ was actually created in reaction to and in opposition to ANSWER after Sept. 11, 2001, when ANSWER became the central force resisting the Bush campaign of “permanent war.” From the moment UFPJ was created, its leadership resisted any united front and had to be dragged by the movement, including its own member organizations, into united activity. This happened on April 20, 2002; Oct. 25, 2003; March 20, 2004; and this past Sept. 24.
UFPJ and the Democrats
Up until now, however, the UFPJ leaders have handled their splitting activities one demonstration at a time, without openly elevating their opposition to ANSWER and, in reality, the whole anti-imperialist left, to the level of firm policy. What has changed? It’s the combination of the beginning of a split in the ruling class and the approach of the 2006 elections.
John Murtha, the militarist Democratic Party Congress member from Pennsylvania who is close to the Pentagon, declared that “It is time to bring the troops home”—when “practical,” hopefully in six months. He is for leaving a strike force “over the horizon.” Murtha’s position reveals a growing split among the generals and in the ruling class over the war.
Murtha, Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic Party leaders did not shed one tear for the Iraqi people. On the contrary, they represent the forces that want to find a way to salvage the interests of U.S. imperialism, which has sunk into a quagmire with the colonial adventure in Iraq. At the same time, they want to utilize the growing anti-war sentiment, not to get the U.S. out of Iraq, but to get themselves into office, where they will pursue a “multilateral” approach to securing the interests of Washington, Wall Street and the Penta gon in Iraq and everywhere.
Leslie Cagan and the social democratic leaders of UFPJ took this as their cue to put up a firewall between themselves and the anti-imperialist left and stretch out their arms to what they hope will be a bourgeois opposition. At the same time, they see Bush’s poll numbers dropping, the Republicans beset by corruption scandals, and the Demo cratic Party salivating in expectation of taking back the Congress in 2006.
Up until now, the UFPJ leadership had been forced to unite with the anti-imperialist forces because the capitalist politicians were nowhere to be found in the fight against Bush to stop the war. Their criticisms were restricted to what happened before the war—the lies about WMDs, about Iraqi links to al-Qaeda, etc.—and how badly the war was going. John Kerry was still calling for more troops until only recently. Hillary Clinton was also a hawk. But now that the odor of a bourgeois opposition has arisen from the halls of Congress, the UFPJ leadership is anticipating new alliances to the right.
This is not only a matter of speculation. Communications from U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW) reveal that before the UFPJ leadership issued its attack on ANSWER, it was already in discussions about an April action with the moderate and bourgeois forces, including USLAW, Win Without War, NOW, PUSH and other moderate, social-patriotic forces, all of whom are oriented to the Democratic Party.
Democrats: a war party
The Democratic Party leadership is firmly under the control of the imperialist establishment. The Democratic Party, on the whole, is a war party. Virtually every Democratic president in the last hundred years has carried out imperialist wars and interventions. Just in the last half century, John F. Kennedy invaded Cuba and began the Vietnam War, which Lyndon Johnson continued; Carter tried to invade Iran and started a clandestine war against what was then a progressive government in Afghan istan; Clinton carried out air wars against Yugoslavia and Iraq and imposed genocidal sanctions on Iraq. The Repub licans, of course, were part of all this.
The social democratic, liberal and pacifist forces that the UFPJ leadership is looking to form a bloc with, as opposed to anti-imperialist forces, see the ascendancy of the Democrats as the solution to the Bush reaction. But the only real way to push back the reactionary forces of capitalism so as to end the war and benefit the workers and the oppressed at home is to build an independent, militant movement on the ground that is willing to fight.
Winning Congress for the Democrats won’t end the war. Congress is a talk shop. If it were more than that, at any given moment it could use any one of a hundred reasons to impeach Bush, to cut off funds for the war and occupation, to bring up Cheney on charges of being the “torture vice president,” and many other things.
Getting the Democrats in the White House, where they will be administering the aggressive, repressive capitalist state against the people at home and abroad, is no answer either.
The pages of this newspaper have advocated and encouraged anti-war unity with ANSWER and all other progressive and anti-imperialist forces, and will continue to do so where appropriate in the interests of the struggle. Organ izational questions must be subordinated to the task of ending the occupation.
In that regard, we encourage the movement to call to task the leadership of UFPJ and force them to reverse this divisive policy. The solemn duty to get U.S. imperialism off the back of the Iraqi people, to bring the troops home, and to defeat U.S. schemes to impose an “Iraqization” of the occupation requires the strongest unity, independent of the parties of the war makers.
55 West 17th Street
New York, NY 10011 USA