Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Anti-War Movement (Part II - ANSWER)
If my first run-ins with left sectarian groupings as a young activist was with the ISO (they tend to concentrate on college campuses as part of their recruitment strategy), my second would definitely have to be with ANSWER. For those not familiar with ANSWER and their politics there are two places where you can get more info. First, there is this spoof website (though the facts are all too real) which details ANSWER's connections back to the IAC (International Action Center) and finally to the WWP (Workers World Party). Then just recently journalist Bill Weinberg wrote an incitefull piece for the War Resisters League publication 'The Non-Violent Activist' called: "The politics of the anti-war movement" which outlines what effect a coalition (series of front groups really) like ANSWER has on the larger anti-war movement.
Besides the Stalinist politics, the support of various brutal regimes all over the world (Ramsey Clark, the founder of the IAC is currently on display defending Saddam Hussein), and the way that they undercut other coalitions (like UFPJ) by claiming to speak 'for all muslims and Arabs' -- on an interpersonal level they are also a nightmare to deal with. My two personal experiences involved two of their cadre (several years ago) trying to convince a young student who had come to our teach-in that he should take the bus with them (ANSWER) instead buying a ticket at the event for one of our student buses that we were using as a way to build stronger relationships with local anti-war activists in and around the NYU campus. The second example was several months later (October, 2005) when we reserved (and sold tickets) for 6 busses that ANSWER had rented to go down to a large demo in DC. When we showed up that morning, we realized they did not have the amount of busses that we had paid for. When we went up to their offices to see if more busses were on their way or what the deal was with the 80+ students that were out on the street at 6am with no where to go, they basically shrugged us off and said that we 'should be able to get a refund from them in a few days'. Besides the obvious demoralization this caused for many young activists who worked for over a month to fill up those buses, when i talked to one of our drivers (I boarded a bus because I had signed up as a bus captain) he told me that there were no shortage of busses at his company and that if ANSWER needed more busses they could have easily ordered more as they had several on stand-by.
I encourage folks to read the Weinberg article, which is especially good at pointing out how ANSWER uses 'the race issue' (which we all know is all too real in the mainstream liberal, prodominatly white anti-war movement) and the 'Palestine issue' (also a traditional weakness of the liberal left) as wedge issues that confuse sectors of the larger movement into supporting some of ANSWER's divisive maneuverings. Although some say that the issue of pointing out 'ANSWER's flaws' isnt needed anymore because 'everyone knows', I think its a mistake to assume that. Even if it is just for the historical record this is an article that activists can use in the future for discussions on a variety of topics.