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.


Andrew said...

Thanks for mentioning this... I had no idea. You can find my comments on my blog, as I find that the critique was somewhat unnecessary, but at the same time, it seems some criticism was definitely necessary. I don't know if "addressing" the issue of A.N.S.W.E.R. is really necessary? But again, I'm young to this world of activism...

francesca said...

While this article may seem basic to folks who know about ANSWER's poor behavior in the movement--and often questionable politics--to have a truly transparent and a more democratic antiwar movement, we've got to keep disseminating these critiques and personal accounts. It's especially for people who are new to the antiwar movement to hear them. While it often feels non-constructive and tiresome to keep calling out the sectarians, there's really no other choice and many (I being one of them) are thankful for having been clued into the front-groups and reactionary politics...

I guess the most interesting point Weinberg makes is the need for a radical (pro-palestinian, anti-racist) critique of ANSWER versus a liberal ("This isn't about Mumia or Palestine") critique. And so my question is, if ANSWER were not ANSWER, what do folks think of their sloganeering? Meaning, the i nclusion of issues like Palestine in the broader antiwar message?

I don't think that the antiwar movement (broadly defined) should be policed in terms of which issues they do or do not include based on how mainstream they are, but I do resist the un-nuanced throwing in of different issues into the mix (or the slogan.)

I'm not sure if Palestine can be thrown into the antiwar message so simply... Not that I am not against the occupation or don't believe that it deeply affects the entire middle east and influences american foreign policy...but I think it cannot be as easily lumped and deserves specific attention. Thoughts?

I wonder what the relationship of Palestinian solidarity groups who don't work with ANSWER or Troops Out Now has been to the antiwar movement, and their thoughts on the hesitance of UFPJ to include Palestine in their headlining demands...

It's hard to separate the importance of Palestine from the fact that ANSWER uses it as a political wedge issue to push coalitions in an unprincipled and sometimes destructive way...

the burningman said...

This article is not "basic." It's riddled with half-truths and distortions, and totally ignores the actual functioning of UFPJ's politics by relying on crude anti-communist stereotypes. It's a disservice to its reader because it seems to be an expose, but is in fact just another "sectarian" hatchet job.

Here's a wedge issue:

Are we building a movement in the USA that is part of the international movement for a world worth living in, or do we fundamentally accept the imperialist conceits of the acceptable domestic political spectrum?

That's a lot of what the underpinning of this dispute is about.


Let's get real:

UFPJ is no more "democratic" than ANSWER. They are slicker, and have "mainstream respectability" exactly because they boil the whole movement down to a vague and intentionally ill-defined "anti-war" stance. What that actually means... who knows?

The opportunism of ANSWER is only obvious because their positions do not neatly dovetail with what the Democratic Party tolerates. They also don't try to hide their leadership nearly as much as the Cagan/LeBlanc crew at the UFPJ national office.

Here's what UFPJ doesn't tolerate:

1) anti-imperialism.

The best example of this is Leslie Cagan's leadership in the first Gulf War. She, and the same CP/CoC-directed coalition that now calls itself UFPJ, argued that we had to "support the troops" and they actively promoted the yellow ribbon campaigns. But it got WORSE. They then demanded sanctions against Iraq because that was the Democratic Party's fallback position. These sanctions led to over 500,000 dead children.

Where is the self-criticism of that? I've never heard it, and in fact their method continues to be the same.

WWP/ANSWER are game to "unite" with various unsavories around the world because they do not accept the right of imperialist powers to hypocritically sit in judgement. They do this in a backwards and opportunist way, no doubt -- but do not confuse the issue. They don't support Saddam Hussein. They just don't think a puppet regime backed by the US/UK has ANY right to try him. Do you?

And if we're discussing international connections, the CP has been pushing the labor left to support the Iraqi Communist Party and their various appendages. The ICP supports the occupation because they are complicit with it. But Weinberg has little to say about that either.

2) Vagueness on the war itself

Weinberg is NOT against the occupation. This is a fact. He has written broadly about how the occupation may be necessary with all sorts of justifications that neatly mirror the current Bush talking points.

That WRL would print him is shocking to me. I guess his utility as a freelance attack dog is just too great to dig into what his underlying politics actualy are.

This is why this recycled attack piece on ANSWER, that he has re-written every few months for years, makes no mention of the actual points of political contention.

Think I'm making this up?

If you want to engage polemics, why don't you try to find (or write) some that actually engage the full range of discussion, or that don't cariacture the object of discussion?

3) Palestine

This is not just a trick. Or, better put, who is the real "opportunist" around this question?

UFPJ's primary leadership comes from Leslie Cagan, co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence, and Judith LeBlanc, a leading member of the Communist Party. These groups set the agenda on Palestine -- which means that no position will be taken that isn't acceptable to the Democratic Party, Israel's closest ally in the US.

In other words, racism is acceptable when it's politically convenient. This is the same way that Working Families Party backs rabidly Zionist politicians and doesn't see it as an issue. This is why Israel is a litmus test, and further why solidarity work among the (actual) left is so key to not just Palestinians enduring the murderous occupation, but the great masses of Arab people who need to know that there are millions of Americans who view them as brothers and sisters.

But I guess that's "sectarian," too.

To recognize the centrality of Zionism in this conflict is part and parcel of a principled anti-imperialist stance, which is why the Democrats can't break with it, why the CP can't break with the Democrats, and, ultimately, why UFPJ can't break with the CP-style "stalinist" popular front method they've used for literally decades to resounding failure.

Note that Weinberg's article makes no mention of EXACTLY which groups inside UFPJ black-ball the question of Palestine. When the people of color caucuse tried to bring the issue up for vote at the very first UFPJ conference, it was killed in committee. By who?

4) Stalinism

UFPJ is exactly as "Stalinist" as ANSWER -- they are just the right-wing version of it that sees the left's alliance with the "democratic sector" of the bourgeoisie against the "ultra-right."

Judith LeBlanc's speech to the last CP convention is text-book Stalinism of the Popular Front variety. It's online at the CP's website, go listen to it.


Also of note: check out who is actually in the ANSWER coalition. WWP is no longer a part of it. There was a split that Weinberg can't even be bothered to explain.

Major national Muslim groups are, in fact, a leading part of it -- and issued a statement about the racist opportunism of UFPJ on the question. This is dismissed as a mere ANSWER debating trick -- but it is a fact.


All this is to say that ya'll are getting played by the mavuevering of leftish bureaucracies that attempt to "lead" movements through institutional control not OPEN poltics.

I am not a supporter of WWP/ANSWER. But I do care about building a movement about changing the system, not particular policies. And insofar as WWP/ANSWER have kept anti-imperialist demands and issues as fundamental to this antiwar movement, I'll note it and support THAT. This is all the more true when critics like Weinberg support the occupation and have promoted that position in print.

5) Race

UFPJ is a predominantly white group under the leadership of white Stalinists and liberals. WWP/ANSWER are two groups, with the former made up of predominantly non-white Stalinists.


No doubt they all use sleazy and unltimately uninteresting debating tactics -- but my question is why should we even care?

The real action is elsewhere, in arising movements that are focused outward on people yet to become involved -- NOT among the dueling bureaucracies of the NYC permaleft.

And, one last thing: the WRL has a history of acting exactly as "sectarian" as the rest.

If the word means anything at all, Dave McReynold's rank hostility towards groups he doesn't hold truck with is legendary, as is the WRL's really funky and hypocritical positions on race, armed struggle and the means of change.

Let me put it another way: can either of you name a national organization with revolutionary politics that you DON'T think is sectarian? Or are those two things somehow joined at the hip so that a pejorative can stand in for a principled debate?

Why debate real politics at all?

the burningman said...

My favorite typo in Max's assessment of this piece is this:

"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."

Anyway... I just wrote up my own thoughts, a little more developed than the rant above for the Red Flags blog:


max said...

Well needless to say i completely disagree with Burningman's assessment of the situation.

His main arguments seem to center on two premises:

1. Leslie Cagan is not anti-imperialist and runs UFPJ single handidly (w/ I guess some input from Judith Leblanc)

2. UFPJ only moves forward as much as the democratic party allows them to.

Like every argument, there are in Burningman's some half-truths on which his polemic relies (ie Cagan's decisions during Gulf War I, the ideological framework which the CP/COC crew brings to the table, the fact that UFPJ moved towards doing electoral work and got away from their consistant anti-war work in 2004 etc.

But characterizations of one or two key players cannot pass for serious critique of a coalition with a 40 person steering committee. Unlike Burningman (who seems to prefer online battles to actual anti-war organizing meetings where you have to deal with that annoying problem of actually 'doing something') I have been at the UFPJ national meetings, I have seen first hand the openings and limitations and a (radical activist) coming off the street trying to influence the direction of their work.

To say that UFPJ is just as democratic as ANSWER is just completely not true. Its not a debate, its just not true. If you are part of a group (ie have some sort of real base which in turn is active in anti-war work) you can come to the table and be a part of the coalition in a way that ANSWER does not allow. Now that doesnt mean that you can walk in and expect to have any influence until you show yourself committed to UFPJ as a coalition and not operating in a sectarian manner.

Burningman has a problem with people calling groups like ANSWER sectarian, saying instead that this amounts to 'anti-communism' and basically taking a liberal position against radicals in the movement but again I think this thinking is completely off. Its fine to put out anti-imperialist politics and argue the need for them, but its another to actually try and go in and fight for them to be at the forfront.

There are some unpleasant realities that we (radicals) have to deal with, starting with the fact that lots of people in the anti-war movement are not yet anti-imperialists. Do we stand on the sidelines and chastise them or try and build with them in ways that develop both of our politics? If there was a wide-spread, militant, anti-imperialist movement out there in the streets every day then you could argue that 'The UFPJ leadership is rejecting those politics and playing a gate-keeper role' but this just is not the case.

In terms of Palestine, why dont we look at what UFPJ's actual position is (from their website):

---- -------


The lesson of Abu Ghraib isn’t that a few bad apples went awry, as Rumsfeld and Bush want us to believe. It’s that occupying other people’s countries inevitably requires brutal and dehumanizing means to try to make the occupied accept foreign control of their land and resources.

It is a fact that more than 3 million Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation have known for 37 years.

June 2004 marked the 37th anniversary of Israel’s illegal military occupation of Palestine’s West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. This occupation denies the Palestinian people the right to self-determination, fuels bloodshed, and prevents the establishment of a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians whereby both peoples can live in freedom, dignity, and security

----- ------

Doesnt sound like the democratic party leadership to me... maybe I missed something. Anyway to sum up (i know this is kind of incoherent so i will be posting something more organized next week) -

1. Leslie Cagan does not control UFPJ. She is without doubt the biggest player in terms of bringing the resources to the group but dont confuse this with a simplistic understanding of how real coalitions function.

2. UFPJ is not directly democratic, but it is much more democratic then any other major anti-war group (and there are only a few obviously). Major decisions are made in the membership assemblies that take place every 18 months and at the steering committee meetings in between where there is wide representation in the room from various social justice organizations. Having been there i can tell you that people do struggle with each other and disagree. As always there are people with more influence then others but dont mistake this for something its not.

3. UFPJ's membership (to which its ultimately accountable) is made up of several groups who do consider themselves (on some level) as being 'progressive democrats' or working on some level in 'the electoral arena'. There are plenty of other groups and individuals who have nothing to do with electoral politics and despise the Democratic party leadership. Again its completely unfair to characterize them as 'democratic party dupes'.

Finally, we should be clear that people like Burningman offer NO alternative. The situation in Iraq grows worse by the day, and he is out there supporting forces like the RCP and The 'World Cant Wait Campaign' (which of course has done nothing since it held a few rallies of a few hundred people each on November 2nd of this year).

How do they provide that alternative? Because their slogan is more 'militant'?

kazembe said...

What are the qualities of a democratic antiwar movement? Is it simply a question of process? Or do we judge a movement's viality according to its ability to incite and build popular agency among broad numbers of people?

In the latter regard, both UFPJ and ANSWER fail miserably. The current debate over these organizations is mired in ego-tripping and shotcallerism, rather than a principled discuss on how to sharpen the debate around issues of empire abroad and racism and repression at home.
What's sad is that both orgs have no plans or consideration for building people's fighting capacity.

Both don't have functioning youth networks to take the debate on college campuses; both are not engaging in work among teachers, artists or other opinion makers to create countercultural formations; both have not produced the infrastructure to train people in media work, political education, etc. This is despite the fact that both orgs have hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars.

I think for many radicals, the question of a mass movement goes beyond the cattle herd protests to DC. At the core, we have to look at the possibilities of slowly building networks of resistance among people on multiple levels, with clear political objectives.

In this regard I think that Max's snide and unprincipled comment towards Burning Man ("Finally, we should be clear that people like Burningman offer NO alternative. .. he is out there supporting forces like the RCP and The 'World Cant Wait Campaign' (which of course has done nothing since it held a few rallies of a few hundred people each on November 2nd of this year)."
reveals the core problem.

That is to say, we can't judge a political movement simply by numbers alone, rather by its political objectives. In this case, WCW has done more in terms of moblizing cores of high school students and sharpen debates on campus than much of the antiwar movement so far.

max said...

Just for the record - my snide comments (which i do try to hold in, because i hate internet drama) were because of Burningmans snide comments. Im sorry but he is completely condescending to everyone who disagrees with his politics, and frankly I think he is completely off the mark and is arguing a 'radical position' without anything to back it up (ie. no one's in the room). I could spit some next more radical then though political 'line' but despite what any well trained maoist cadre will tell you, its not all about political line. Remember that this purity of politics led to some of the most sectarian infighting and unhealthy movement behavior in the 70s and 80s.

In terms of the RCP newest initiative (I guess Not in Our Name wasnt quite moving the masses like they told me it would a few years back) the WCW campaign is a whole other argument. To me, it is another attempt at the same thing, but hey i could be wrong right? The only thing is - if your going to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a day of action (like they did on Novemeber 2nd), at least bring out a few more then a couple of hundred people. Its not about numbers i know, the politics are important, but the fact that there were high school kids there covering themselves with shiney green stickers does not have me convinced.

They will have to show me a little more then that... Beyond the rhetoric and the flashy t-shirts.

Apologies if you got offended at my comments Kaz.


the burningman said...

I'll avoid the temptation to return Max's smug, self-satisfied attitude about what "people like burningman" think, or investigate who he thinks "we" are.

Petty, superficial and dismissive of others in struggle... There's nothing much to Max's reply but attitude, and not the best of that either.

It's sprinkled with semi-analysis, but doesn't dig into how decisions are made, or why Cagan is the permanent "leader" of this same "coalition" -- and has been for over two decades. Or what the content of that leadership is.

He doesn't dig into why anti-imperialism, the question of Palestine, the Democratic Party and domestic issues are so deeply intertwined -- and what the unified field theory is of those such as Cagan and Leblanc that always leans in the wrong direction. In fact, he gets irritated when I do.

It's so much easier when all that is left unsaid. Then "we" can just rely on the various (anti) party lines that make up the wasteland of contemporary leftoid theory, where few challenge the codewords and implicit dogmas of the "activist community."

The use of pejoratives to stand in for analysis is always a let down, even when its not a surprise.


About the term "sectarian:" Like Stalinism, it means entirely different things depending on who is saying it. It's a stand-in term for "those we need not acknowledge," whoever they happen to be. It works best when the those being dismissed have been pushed out of the legal political spectrum and the entire ideological machinery of the state and media is disposed to demonizing them.

Max is wrong about what people like me think, and that's okay. The shame is that he obviously doesn't care and confuses the intra-movement machinations of the permaleft with the open field of the real.

This is perhaps best illustrated by Max's advocacy of banning "sectarian" groups from the 2004 Life After Capitalism conference while turning over the keynote antiwar speech to Communist Party, USA central committee member Judith LeBlanc. Apparently she's not a sectarian, and is, Max assures us, responsible to the member groups of UFPJ (and not her party's political line and discipline).

Right... Judith LeBlanc is obviously no "Stalinist." She's just a central committee member of the fucking CP who also reps UFPJ, negotiates their legal permits and formulates their strategy with others of the same bent.

If UFPJ is such a coalition, why is their national office entirely composed of people in the CP/CoC's political orbit? Why was the RNC permit negotiating team also entirely made up of such people?

When will Cagan and LeBlanc rotate out? This year? Next?

I said nothing about the UFPJ national board that meets every 18 months, though an analysis of which of those groups are real and which are in turn staffed by members of the CP/Coc would probably best be left for another forum.

I'm more concerned with the national office that meets EVERY DAY. I'm also curious what the 2/3 vote was -- and who went which way. If you have that information, you should post it.

I am honest enough to say where I get my political inspiration. You can mock it as you will, I'm familiar with the method. It serves fools and opportunists alike.

You're pretty much established your frame of reference, what you take seriously and what lies beneath.

What you are about, who knows? I still can't tell.


For the record, since World Can't Wait organized hundreds of actions ranging from simple guerilla theater to mass walkouts from working-class high school of thousands, they've held a national youth conference here in New York with over 200 delegates. They're building a disruption campaign for Bush's State of the Union speech. WCW also took out another full page ad in the Times last week.

All the better for you to shit on and belittle. Considering how inconsequential and uncoalitiony they are, I wonder why they are so active and the best UFPJ with it gazillions of supporters is a condemnation of ANSWER for scheduling issues.

I also don't think the RCP is the beginning or end of anything. BTW. I just don't dismiss revolutionaries out of hand because the NGO/post-radical left judges organizations by their aesthetics, not their line.

Let an organization build itself up on mass agitation and radical politics while avoiding the foundation-funded mirage of "community organizations," then -- look out! -- They're sectarian!


Since advocating "NO alternative" is what people like me do, let me get back to that. Wouldn't want to argue politics online... on a blog.

PS -- Kaz's response is right on target.

the burningman said...

Didn't read your further comments before I wrote.


Clarity of politics is not purity. Remember, some of the mandatory vagueness in the activist left has led to years of confusion... like right about now.

Doctrinaire bullshit and rank immaturity caused all kinds of nonsense in the 1970s. It also backboned more than a little and produced some of the toughest and most enduring radicals of decades past. I respect that, and those who emerged from that period with clarity of purpose intact. So many were reduced to cynicism and dispair.

I'm sorry if you think doggedness is condescending. Maybe if I put some stickers over my head you can return the favor.

And I'm sorry enough, from time to time, for my big mouth. I'm sorry, too, how quickly the fetish of the new becomes the same old.

-max said...

When you say 'vague politics' - who are you talking about? Vague according to whom? You call politics vague because they are not organized in an organized party structure?

Your talking about me personally or you are 'addressing the global justice movement'? or the 'anti-athoritarian movement'? - Im afraid its you who suffers from broad generalizations, constantly trying to brush these various complex movement off with a single brush-stroke because you feel 'they are not doing what needs to be done'.

I have very *specific*, very concrete critiques of groups like ANSWER and the RCP and they have nothing to do with who back who in the 1956 invasion of Hungary. I have outlined my critiques of the RCP and their various front group formations (yes front groups are real phenonmenon and they do exist contrary to your polemic) in other places and will not repeat myself here again but its on the 'record' for people who would accuse me of simply side-stepping the issues.

We have different ways of looking at the world, different ways of looking at the movement and these will not be resolved through a debate on UFPJ or the RCP. I do critique groups that i see as sectarian, and its not because of my anti-radical, anti-communist imagination. In my post about ANSWER i actually mentioned a few personal experiences , which you ignored and instead focused on the Bill Weinberg article . I shared these experiences not because I think that isolated personal experiences can substitute for political analysis, but because the fact is that they represent a much larger set of problems with groupings who see themselves as the vanguard of the radical movement.

My politics stem from what i call a 'movement building orientation', meaning whatever organization im involved with or whatever role im playing, I do so in support of a larger movement that transcends my particular ideas or 'political line'. Obviously i think that the work i personally do is important and particularly effective but I am humble enough to know that i dont know very much in the scope of things and that i never will have it 'all figured out'. Or perhaps as you would formulate it Burningman - I never will pretend to know the answer to Lenin's question of 'What is to be done'?

This does not mean my politics are vague or that im not trying to get at the root of the problems that we all face -- that conclusion is so condescending and generally mean spirited that I cant take people seriously who make them in the name of 'pushing forward the debate'.

Just look at this thread and how it could have been different and more in the spirit of actually building together instead of posting "in the continous effort to show how stupid and non radical we all really are" which is honestly what i get almost every time i see Burningman respond in online forums.

And hey thats your method,you seem to that thats helpfull to people and that it ultimately 'clarifies politics'. I disagree, i think it builds up immense 'virtual hostility' and that these kind of online diatribes are very destructive to the radical movement. I knew obviously when setting up a blog to talk about organizing strategies that it would attract some of this kind of stuff but i really dont have the energy to struggle with people unless its in a genuine effort to build together not merely to 'win another to ones position'.

My comment earlier about the pittfalls of (certain) 70s radicals stands. The battle over 'political line' lead ultimately to ultra-left jingoism and hard feelings.

I work with people who share a movement building orientation, who dont spend hours online struggling over political line but engage with people in practice. I critique those who are only in the movement to build their own organization which by definition does happen to be many of the democratic centralist Leninist organizations. I reject that whole frame-work as i reject the notion of any kind of 'scientific socialism' that a new layer of white/male/intellectuals 'bring to the people'. Although he would never formulate it like that, Burningman still sees this as the center point of any 'radical' movement.

Im glad we disagree.

-max said...

Oh and just "for the record" when Burningman says things like:

"they've held a national youth conference here in New York with over 200 delegates"

He is just straight up lying.

This is a total distortion of the facts in an effort to build up his case. If the WCW did indeed build a Youth conference with delegates from 200 organizations (if we understand 'delegate' to mean representing more then yourself or a RCP local)that would be very impressive indeed but from people who attended i know this is not at all true.

I challenge Burningman to show me the list of these so called 200 delegates because I would love to eat my own words on this one, but im afraid we will have to chalk this one up to dishonest debate.

Comandante Gringo said...

I'm no fan of UFPJ or A.N.S.W.E.R. (but if I had to choose I'd choose A.N.S.W.E.R.), or of the RCP (I support any organizing of people along the right 'lines', even if the organizers might be, say, otherwise unprincipled -- but these NY Times ads are just a complete waste of resources, and the WCW campaign is dangerously ludicrous in targetting only the Republicans); but burningman is completely right here, and Max has demonstrated himself to be, not only an anti-communist (in essence anyway), but also someone unprincipled enuff to trot out all the usual liberal dodges over "credentialism" and "effectiveness" (how many people are in your organization, eh??)

Perhaps a big part of the problem with the liberal-Left is that they really cannot fathom why it is important to generalize a "correct line", even in the face of the need to pay attention to particulars. But one can only get confused over relating these things if one doesn't think dialectically; and if one sneers at "scientific socialism", etc.: what type of thinking is one going to end up following then?

I find Max' arguments to be, uh, "disengenuous" for the most part, whatever other possibly even good points he does make. Such is dialog among (potential, anyway) komrads: it'll lead to clarity -- one way or another. Now that's scientific and socialist.

Yes to principled United Fronts. No to unprincipled Popular Fronts.


On another note:
kazembe wrote:

"I think for many radicals, the question of a mass movement goes beyond the cattle herd protests to DC. At the core, we have to look at the possibilities of slowly building networks of resistance among people on multiple levels, with clear political objectives."

kazembe is, of course, right here, essentially. However, they are also inadvertently spreading a pernicious little meme in this statement, which hangs around the Left like a flu bug. So I'd just like to stomp it here, if kazembe doesn't mind, in hopes of slowing and stopping its spread.

The error is much like 'putting the cart before the horse': i.e. it is true that our efforts in organizing people invariably are slow; but this does not mean that we should be organizing slowly. In fact, the more inertia there is to deal with in a group, and the slower they move off the mark, then rather the more strenuous and determined the effort should be to move them, often enuff.

And understand that this is not a merely personal petty matter, or a hair-splitting operation on my part: misunderstandings over just what is 'going slow' in these circumstances has led many times to a justification for some 'business-as-usual' status quo, or even political paralysis and inaction. And I've seen this very justification used numerous times -- and have even been subject to this kind hypocrisy myself. It's actually not a small matter at all, which is why I'm drawing attention to it.

So we can see here how important exact understanding of wording and word meaning is. It is not pathological in the least to insist on getting words and party lines exactly right. What is wrong with that process is the reification of such a process into essentially its opposite: the kind of practice which Max is so sure he is the master of ferreting-out in others.

Joshua Sieman said...

All this talk of "movement centered" whatever is nonsense. What movement, moving where?

Movements have a politic, whether they admit it or not. I trust those who are honest enough to say what it is instead of saying whatever will get them over today. It ends up being about the activist and not the activity.

Those who act on behalf of the community, the race, the neighborhood, the job, the gender, the sexuality, the whatever are fakers if they don't say what they are really fighting for. I'm getting old now and have been at this for decades. There's always some activist job network claiming they are just asking questions and making the road by walking yadda yadda. They either build political parties or they end up professional hustlers of one type or another. Parties give accountability and honesty, even when they are not what I agree with.

I see it all the time with people who call themselves activists. The one thing they can't stand or abide by is those who openly say what they are about, but they put up with professional "activists," liberal shills, casual honchoism and all the other baggage of so-called movements.

What is really condescending to me is the fake humility, fake questions, fake coalitions, fake openness and general poseur crapola of the petty bourgeois left. You think other people don't notice it? Look at who shows up and you keep wondering why they all look just like you.

Max says he won't ever know what is to be done. That's nothing to be proud of and is a sign of exactly how comfortable you are.

It's not about you. Is that condescending? Maybe getting challenged and called out is too much for you. Lucky you must be.

Short commentator said...

Yawn. Max has been saying the same shit for a while.

Read the analysis of Bob Avakian and Revolution newspaper. Then criticise what they say. Whether you like it or not, 'line' is how people view and understand the world. For all your criticisms, you won't even read it.

Ostrich politics.

I saw you at November 2nd, standing at the outskirts of over 2,500 people in Union Square... particiapting and organizing? No.

Make some real commentary on World Can't Wait.

What do you think of this:

And this:
And this:

Or this:

Harold Pinter (Nobel Laureate and one of the most famous living playwrights):
"The Bush Administration is the most dangerous force that has ever existed. It is more dangerous than Nazi Germany because of the range and depth of its activities and intentions worldwide. I give my full support to the Call to Drive out the Bush Regime."

These people are not dupes. And by the way, you're recycled Max Elbaum garbage is so tired.

You should read 'From Ike To Mao And Beyond'.

Yeah, and tell me about transparent movements in Latin America a la Chavez, Morales (both presidents of capitalist countries), and ZERO....

the burningman said...

I guess I won't feed the virtual negativity by responding here in depth, but I did want to note that I think Max is both factually and politically wrong in his analysis of what matters.

The "movement" is not the center of anything. Real politics needs to be grounded among more than ideologues, in communities, work places and schools -- but where it is moving is the real question that activists, organizers and thinkers need to be interrogating. We can strive for clarity without confusing that with "purity."

I also don't think it is possible to do work that is "transcended" by some amorphous "movement." We are what we do, and in this case Max makes a false distinction between "movement-centered" work and a "particular line." All movements have general lines: that is what makes them coherent.

You are arguing a particular position while claiming the ground of neutrality.

fuego fuego said...

Max -- what do you make of UFPJ's Operation Stay at Home tonight?

max said...

I think, and have always been clear about the fact that UFPJ still has not articulated a clear strategy for what to do 'between the protests'. There seems to be general agreement that there needs to be more but so far it has been very uneven.

This is the same general critique of most organizations/coalitions & movements that focus on mass mobilizations without a lot of grass-roots base building strategy. UFPJ has done good work giving local support to various military family groupings and small 'middle america' anti-war formations who would otherwise feel much more isolated then they already are.

I guess there is now a call for a large April 29th demonstration in DC or something, it will be frustrating if there is nothing happening before that but then again i am not out there doing tons of anti-war work so im a little out of the loop.

What would you have called for during the State of the Union? A few hundred people gathering to hear Al Sharpton speak at times square? I just dont think there are any creative strategies amongst the anti-war groupings, especially when it comes to working between the 'big dates'...