Revolution #164, May 17, 2009

From the Revolution Online Forum

Hi Andy Zee,

Thanks for your hard-hitting analysis about 'the movement' -- The Collapse of “The Movement”; the Resistance and the Revolutionary Movement We Need."

Six years ago I wrote something similar. I thought you might appreciate reading it. Attached are the three articles, tied together.

Cheers to your efforts,


One from the trenches: A Pacifist’s Moment of Rage

Part I of a three-part series
by Mark Schneider
February 10, 2003

On the heels of this country’s last mid-east slaughter I made my conversion to pacifism via a respected local elder who often challenged the peace movement to take on direct action and non-cooperation campaigns.  18 years old, military recruiters horny with jingoistic excitement, I rode my boat reading Gandhi, King, Day, Tolstoy, Goldman, etc… With these icons of pacifism and uncompromising resistance I thought I was in good radical company.

After at least 150,000 Iraqis were murdered by US bombs (many after the cease-fire) the shock set in that the peace movement was not a movement, thought it did seem dedicated to achieving peace - for their own personal comfort.

How else to explain the giant anti-war marches, full of heavy rhetoric and polite marchers happily following marshals, police and traffic signals back to their merry homes.  Nothing happened, nothing was stopped.

One prominent post-Gulf War I Massacre analysis was that the war was so quick that we all didn’t have enough time to develop effective networks and campaigns.  Another analysis correctly noted the relatively large number of protests that developed compared to the long lethargic wait during the opening years of this country’s invasion and genocide against Vietnam.

Several years later the peace movement has apparently learned little.  The movement is really a temporary motion.  We’re going nowhere except towards disillusionment and burnout.  Who else besides me recalls the near total meltdown of activism in the US after the spring of 1991?

So here we are, 2003, 500 years of genocide and colonialism in our own backyard and in our vacation rentals (Middle East, Central America, etc..)  And we’re all supposedly scratching our heads wondering what to do, or what to plan next.

Count me out.  Skip the rallies, the marches, the eloquent speakers, the letters, the calls, the petitions and the meetings.  No more.

Instead, I’ve got some questions.

How do you live with yourself?  I mean, if you’re conscious of all the litanies of US mass-murder and conquest, and you’re conscious of the resounding series of peace movement failures (the anti-war movement during Vietnam had very little to do with ending that genocide; the Vietnamese people get 95% of the credit) - how do you go on to each rally and meeting, trying out failed strategies and tactics?

Next, have you read the same history of resistance as I have?  Like, how we all call on Gandhi’s name and I assume realize the power of Gandhi was that he helped persuade at first dozens, then hundreds, then thousands and millions of people to a path of aggressive direct-action non-cooperation campaigns?  You must know that many were killed, injured and spent years in jail.  If we know this and want to emulate this history - why are we not organizing massive non-cooperation campaigns that erase our privilege, class status and supposed western comforts?

What kind of delusional world do we all live in?  Polite rallies and letters are not a rational response to US efforts to lay waste to Iraq.   Do we live in such fear of our PATRIOT-Act-pumped-up-police system?  No, because we were largely docile before Ashcroft.  Are we afraid of provocateurs and infiltrators?  I don’t think so because 95% of this movement is impotent without police and FBI sabotage.

Three years ago I’m walking the streets of Samara, Iraq.  Quickly making friends with some young kids I follow them home and meet their father.  Full of respect and Arab hospitality the father graciously enters into conversation.  Past the small talk, he incrediously asks me how I’m going to stop the US sanctions and bombings against Iraq?  Do I tell him I’ll write a letter, collect petition signatures and rally at the federal building?  Probably in a few weeks from now my relationship with this man may very well be the video screen of a US F-16 bombing his city. 

Last year I met a student from Gaza, Palestine studying at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank.  She hadn’t seen her family in nearly a year and spent much of that time unable to take exams because the Israeli military shut down her school, kidnapping some of her classmates.  I ask her to tell me one thing she’d like to tell activists in the US.  After a pause to apparently find a way to be polite she replied, “Get serious.”  There’s more than a rumor that the Israeli government may try to use the cover of this next US invasion of Iraq to “transfer” the Palestinian people off of the rest of their homeland, completing the ethnic cleansing of the last 50 years (recent polls say a majority of Israeli’s favor this option).  Should I “call” the White House to register my “concern” that this may happen with full US support and dollars?

So, what are you waiting for?  Millions of indigenous people in the US were slaughtered and most activist’s ancestors watched , applauded and immensely benefited.  Millions more have their grave in the Atlantic, rather than their homelands in Africa, and most of our ancestors watched and a few petitioned; the rest of us continue to benefit.  Millions more the US murdered in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and the peace movement can’t point to any defining moment in its struggle to stop Kennedy’s, LBJ’s and Nixon’s bombers.  Now Iraq, then maybe Palestine.

What are you waiting for?

* * * * *

The Peace Movements Illusionary Strategy

By Mark Schneider
February 10, 2003

Imitating previous peace movement attempts to derail a US invasion, the latest anti-war incarnation is doomed for failure and regret.  How else to analyze a movement mostly relying upon a reformist and precarious position of reaction? 

Here are the main strategies put forth by the “big-name” organizations and political fronts, followed by a deja-vu history and ending with seven alternative short-term strategies the peace movement should consider.

UN Inspections Save the Day?

I have the utmost respect for those Americans going to Iraq right now, to be in solidarity with a people about to be invaded and colonized by the US.  Yet I was dumbfounded when I read that representatives from Code Pink (organization of women who’ve maintained an ongoing vigil at the White House) have traveled to Iraq on January 30th to be in solidarity with the Iraqi people but also “they will meet with the United Nations weapons inspectors to express support for their efforts.”  Huh?

From the numerous noble city anti-war resolutions to speeches by Hollywood celebrities and anti-war movement key players, there is the endless drone to “support the inspections.”

While someone could persuade me how this strategy might slightly stall a US invasion, this strategy fails to meaningfully drive a wedge to stop a war, and worst of all, it sets a horrible precedent. 

Without delving into the history of the manipulative machinations of US involvement with Iraq (since the West carved the Middle East and “created“ Iraq), let’s briefly look at the last 12 years of UN inspections in Iraq.  The inspection regime was set-up after the 1991 US invasion and slaughter left Iraq socially and economically decimated.  Concurrent with the UN inspections were the UN sanctions which have (choose your number because it almost doesn’t exist even among the current peace movement’s rhetoric) killed at least a million Iraqis, mostly babies and children.  And just why were the inspections set-up anyway?  Ostensibly to root out any remaining “weapons of mass destruction” that Iraq supposedly has always had but yet bizarrely refrained from using during the US invasion. 

Yet one could just as well read the inspection regime as a surreal cover-up.  A cursory reading among many public documents shows without a doubt where the vast majority of these weapons came from: the West (mainly US, Britain, France and Germany).  Did anyone notice the tizzy the US went into when Iraq gave the UN that 10,000+ page document illuminating these foreign purchases?  Or why the UN inspection team has always been forbidden to name western suppliers of Iraqi arms? 

In any case, the inspections are irrelevant.  Whether they prove Iraq has this or that is pointless.  What if Iraq is proven to have 20,000 long-range warheads that can carry chemical weapons to the US?  Will the peace movement bow down and say, “Oh well, Iraq deserves to be destroyed and colonized now.”  Look at Iraq’s neighbors --- they all have various mass-murder weapons.  And look at the US - we’ve got the biggest stockpile, are the biggest arms exporter and our resume speaks volumes because we threaten and use nukes, biological and chemical arms.  Who in their right mind expects any kind of Iraq not be armed to the teeth?   Just in the last 100 years the Arab world has been carved up by the West, had dictators and monarchs installed by the West, has been invaded and colonized in the form of Israel, and we expect all their rulers to be descendants of Gandhi?

Additionally, by the peace movement’s acquiescence on inspections in Iraq, it opens to the door to invasive inspections wherever the US sees fit.  North Korea.  Iran.  Cuba.  Chiapas.  Where does it end?   International inspections as used today are just a form of elite manipulation, dominance and can always be used as a pretext for killing, pillaging and colonizing. 

US must have a UN partner in crime

Another feature of most of those anti-war city resolutions, as well as the Congressional Democrats who voted against Bush’s war resolution is this macabre idea that the US can’t go to war against Iraq without United Nations’ backing.  As if that’s been a problem before?  When the Soviet Union collapsed in the late 80’s it represented the last real veto in the highly dictatorial UN Security Council.  Since then to get the UN’s fig leaf endorsement the US empire has either bribed or caged any country in the way. 

Just go back to November 1990 when the UN Security Council gave Bush Sr. the green light to evict Iraq out of Kuwait and then do whatever else the US wanted (like invade Iraq, call out for an indigenous rebellion and then betray said rebellion).  Remember how, in exchange for not vetoing the US plans, China got massive development aid and a diplomatic coup when the US gave up it’s rhetorical leverage over the Tianamen Square massacre?   Or how about tiny poor Yemen - upon voting “No” against the US, the Yemeni temporary UN Security Council representative was told by the US representative “that will be the most expensive ‘no’ vote you’ve ever cast.”  Within days the millions in US aid to Yemen, paltry by US standards but large by Yemen impoverished standards, was nixed.  Even Cuba, another temporary Security Council member, was offered a bribe by the US (turned down).

Or, take right now.  Iraq’s immediate neighbors are getting a windfall.  Israel’s going to get at least $10 billion extra, Turkey billions more and a free hand to continue it’s subjugation of (“bad”) Kurds, Jordan is getting a handsome package.  It doesn’t take a rocket political scientist to see that Russia, China and France are waiting for the best deal.  They’re not going to veto - all they do is lose if they do. 

The vast majority of the world’s 180+ governments are corrupt and don’t represent their people’s interest.  So why should we expect that some of the historically worst human rights violators (France, Britain, Russia, China) would have the guts to confront the US, and to do so with any moral voice?  If the peace movement insists on this strategy, then let’s roll out the red carpet for further US aggression with a UN flag flying somewhere on the side, out of the way.

No War for Votes

While "No War for Votes" is a snappy slogan, it's a strategy that already has clearly failed miserably. 

The giant Internet group, MoveOn seemed to pioneer this partisan strategy.  It goes something like this: if enough anti-war Democrats were supported for their supposed anti-war platform then war could be averted.  Take my Congressional Representative, Diana DeGette.  A true liberal that is against a war with Iraq unless there's UN backing and Bush makes a better case.  Bush will likely get said UN backing and will provide phony or exaggerated evidence and sooner than later DeGette will fall in line. 

I remember her predecessor, Pat Schroeder, another noted liberal, who initially supported sanctions instead of a war against Iraq.  When Bush Sr. unleashed the missiles and fuel-air-explosives over Basrah and Baghdad, Pat Schroeder told us anti-war folks in Denver that she was for an air-war instead of a ground war because there'd be less suffering.  Schroeder, like DeGette and the vast majority of liberal Democrats in Congress, vote the Pentagon line most of the time.  Nader had it right -- there really is very little different between Republicans and Democrats.

Or, activists believe the perplexing idea that voting matters.  At the heart of it lies the sad belief that if Gore was President we’d not be bent on colonizing Iraq (I assume at best we’d at least be continuing the murderous sanctions and 3-times a week bombings that Clinton profited off of).  We need to base our efforts on fact, not faith.  Voting and Americans bizarre fondness for our corrupt and shameful electoral democracy have become a sort of religion that is above rational scientific testing of whether it’s ever been effective.

While I appreciate all the recent enthusiasm of disenfranchised Democrats to try to stop this war against Iraq from escalating, I find it troubling that most of these folks were not around either in US streets or with Voices in the Wilderness in Iraq while supposed liberal icon Bill Clinton's sanctions and bombing policy was decimating the Iraqi people.

Congressional Resolution To Stop the War

Look at the history of how anything even slightly radical came from Congress.  Did the liberal Democrats during Kennedy & LBJ's reign benevolently bestow the Voting Rights Act in 1964?  Or did countless people force Congress to action due to their incessant organizing, making sacrifices, getting attacked by police, lynched and assassinated by KKK often with government collusion?  That's the only way elite our elected elites in power will respond -- when they have to respect people power and try to placate that rage and desire.

Yet by some magical fairy act, some anti-war activists want to wave a wand and command their politicians to actually risk their entire political careers with little else but the facts?  All we need to do is write a lot of letters, make some phone calls and send in email petitions?  Can someone please let me know when this strategy (in the absence of an aggressive pubic pressure campaign) has produced any substantial radical legislation?

The fact that these strategies have completely failed in the past does not matter.  A few years back anti-sanctions activists met with Congressional Representatives, educated them, sent them petitions and letters asking them to sign a non-binding letter calling on the President to end "economic sanctions" against Iraq (retaining the to be illuminated "military sanctions").  For months of this work, activists were rewarded with 70 mostly liberal Democrats signatures.  There are 435 members in the House of Representatives.  Clinton might have blown his nose with this letter.  Are we suppose to just try this failed strategy again while the decimation of Iraq continues?

Or look at the war resolution in the Senate just weeks before the 1991 invasion of Iraq.  Narrowly approved (Al Gore was a key vote FOR war), the main reason this pointless resolution past was due to the phony testimony of a close relative of the Kuwaiti Royal family that maintained that Iraqi soldiers, upon invading Kuwait City, tossed out and left to die dozens of newborns from dozens of incubators.  Amnesty International played right along (apparently doing some kind of "investigation") and endorsed this bullshit and presto, turn on the liberal waterworks and Iraq was sufficiently demonized.  This entire story was all quickly proven a total fabrication.

But let's be fair.  The US Congress has become more and more irrelevant every year.  Clinton did not need any official Congressional resolution supporting his bombing of civilians in Serbia and Kosovo.  Same with Bush a year and a half ago with his mass murder of at least 3000 Afghan civilians, and who knows how many Afghan men actively resisting (a number apparently irrelevant even in peace circles). 

Mass Rallies, Vigils, Speakers, etc...

While these actions don't qualify as strategies, I dare you to put a dozen activists in one room and ask them to come up with an anti-war strategy.  I guarantee most will offer one of the above tactics.  Tactics are not an end, they are a means to achieve a strategy and ultimately lead to achieving the main goal.  A rally (tactic) brings out 500 people in order to block a military base (strategy) to make it difficult for US soldiers (objective) to invade Iraq (goal).

Rallies are meant to organize people and pump them up TO DO SOMETHING.  Like at least march somewhere.  Preferably in the streets, preferably breaking some supposed "law" that says they don't have a right to peacefully assemble in their publicly paid for street. 

Instead, I've been to too many big rallies where we all hold mostly difficult to read signs, listen to often passionate speakers, hear and sing a song or two, and then, incredibly, we all go home!   

The big DC and San Francisco rallies of recent are textbook examples.  Just imagine the hundreds of thousands in DC who rallied and listened to speeches, then went on a march to the Navy Yard...and then left town!    What if these people flat out didn't stop at the gates and fences of the Navy Yard?  What if even 10% just simply broke down the fences and gates and occupied the Navy Yard and wouldn‘t leave? 

While I appreciate the way that mass rallies can be an entry-way for especially people afraid to have their neighbor know they held a protest sign, at least some of the rest of us need to go beyond just rallies.  

Narrowly Focused Anti-War Movement

Look around at most of the recent efforts to stop a US war on Iraq and it’s just that: US vs. Iraq.  Palestine gets a little mention, but the mainstream peace organizations are certainly careful to avoid that supposed political minefield.  You don’t hear much talk even about the US-led UN sanctions against Iraq and the absolute horror and misery this has caused the Iraqi people.  Nor do you hear much connection between the globalization movement and the anti-war movement, obviously natural allies.  But then we might hear words like “empire,” “imperialism” and “colonialism” -- all frightful words for mainstream unaccountable peace leaders. 

No, we’re all supposed to carry “No War on Iraq” signs and “Support Inspections Not War” and not make any connections to not only the rank US history of imperialism and mass-murder abroad, but this staid peace leadership avoids making plausible links with people of color within the empire and their justice struggles. 

End the war abroad and end the war at home.  Isn’t there a connection between sweatshops in LA and exploiting brown-skinned people’s oil in Iraq?  Or the militarization and assault on Mexican and Central-American immigrants is in the same family as the coming US invasion of Iraq that will produce hundreds of thousands of Kurdish, Shia and Sunni refugees.  Or how about how 1/3 of Black men are either in jail, on parole or tied up with the “Justice” system?  Or the exploitive uranium strip-mining on American Indian land and the failure for the US to at least financially compensate American Indians hundreds of billions of dollars for even the bogus and corrupt Trust accounts set up in the 19th Century?  This is war folks, which side are you on?

History of Previous Peace Movement Illusions

Step back a dozen years and recall two of the main mainstream peace movement mantras:  “Supporting sanctions instead of war,” and, along with the rest of the seemingly mindless US public, “Support the Troops” (remember the yellow ribbons and the flags?).

Boy, we got a lot of mileage out these strategies, didn't we?  Liberal experts cited the case of UN sanctions against South Africa as The model to be used with Iraq.  They failed to note that most South African blacks WANTED the sanctions. 

I don't recall many Iraqis crying out for the UN to take away one of their only means to food (oil sales).  Yet the experts persisted and the anti-war movement took the bait, grasping at any straw short of unleashing the horrific bombers.

Yes, the economic blockade was having an adverse effect on Iraq, prior to the January US (and assorted "allies") invasion.  Yet from the perspective of the Iraqi people, sanctions were a form of war.  And once the “war” started and the US dispatched with most of Iraq's water treatment, sanitation and electrical grid, sanctions really cranked into action.  Humanitarian organizations have documented that sanctions against Iraq have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children.  Was this the peace movement's desired effect of sanctions?

And who could forget the "Support the Troops" patriotism test.  Stemming from a fictitious urban myth that Vietnam veterans returning from slaughtering the Vietnamese people were spat upon by anti-war protestors, apparently 1991 anti-war activists were afraid to be seen as antagonistic towards our brothers and sisters commanded to slaughter another brown people.  However, this feeling was easily exploited by the pro-war elites.  And really, if the intention was to offer some kind of olive branch to US soldiers, I really question how many were won over to the anti-war cause by this faltering display of submission to a brutal fascist military & government.  In the coming days watch for a replay of this pathetic jingoism.  

Alternative Strategies

By no means is this an exhaustive list.  I hope it inspires people in the movement to think about taking the initiative and not waiting for our usual reactive positions or grasping at previous failures.

1. Counter-Recruitment

At a recent rally in DC, John Judge of the Washington Peace Center, announced from the stage that 200 US military A DAY are going AWOL. This information came from the Counter Recruitment Network, and from the Pentagon.  We need to not only support these brave folks, but actually go on the offensive and both disrupt military recruiters and offer young poor people real practical alternatives.

For starters, how about educating soldiers and young people about the history of the US military's abuse of soldiers:  From Gulf War Syndrome, exposure to DU and other biological chemicals, to Agent Orange, or how drugs are prevalent and often encouraged to cope with the madness of slaughtering nearly defenseless people, the US military leaders attempt to create unfeeling automatons and then willfully discard any veteran who is able to emotionally or physically express pain and remorse.

How about starting a parallel program to the recruiting programs in high schools?  Attempt to meet with those recruited and those susceptible.  Offer alternatives.   I'm sure organizations like the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, AWOL Magazine and AFSC's Youth & Militarism Program are ready for the support.

2. Solidarity with Arabs & Muslims under attack by the US Government.

Imagine if thousands of young white middle class American men were being systematically rounded up, interrogated, fingerprinted, often detained, some arrested and held indefinitely, many secretly deported.  Would there not be an uprising?

Yet, this is exactly what is happening, only the skin color and country of origin is different.  These people deserve the same rights and privileges as anyone else.  Yet the US peace and anti-war movements are almost completely disregarding this immensely important struggle, that lo and behold, we might just have a good chance of accomplishing something tangible: protecting the rights of all people -- no matter where they are born, and, exposing the US government's racist and authoritarian manipulation and control of yet another people of color.

Yet a nagging question quickly surfaces:  Just why has the peace movement not made common cause with our Arab and Muslim brothers?  Could there in fact be rampant racism among our ranks?  And what about the common refrain I here from white activists (something along these lines): why don’t “they” join our anti-war movement?  People of color rightfully get defensive when confronted with this gibberish; they reply, “Where have you been to support our movements?”  Police repression, FBI wars against indigenous resisters, racist drug war, criminalization of immigrants, worker exploitation, AIDS, and a legacy alive and well of white supremacy embodied in nearly all US institutions.  Well, white peace activists, where have you been?

Clearly the peace movement, in order to do justice in working on any of the above, need to do some intensive anti-racism trainings.  However, we could at least be providing valuable legal and official observer support and then move on to publicizing and exposing this illegal and immoral discriminatory treatment of Arab and Muslim people.  Staging rallies AND actions at INS and Justice Department offices may serve to disrupt these draconian measures.

3. 1000 American anti-war activists join the Iraq Peace Team by March 15th

Getting people to Iraq by March 15th may be a mute point -- assuming the US goes ahead with an invasion before then. However, having a specific target number and a date could push hundreds of people to making the trip.  The indefatigable folks at Voices in the Wilderness have put together an impressive screening process and a simple sensible plan while folks are part of the Iraq Peace Team.  If there was a national peace prize in the US these folks should get it.

But they need help.  More than just money, we need people by the hundreds to sacrifice and risk some of their privilege and simply be present in Iraq, to both act as a buffer and deterrent (think at least a 1000 people) and in real solidarity with Iraqi people on the receiving end of our bloody tax dollars.  It should be a real source of embarrassment and shame that so few US citizens have joined the Iraq Peace Team.

Local organizations, faith communities, student groups, unions, civic organizations should all adopt at least one person to go to Iraq.  Funding should be no problem when we equally share the responsibility.  People should be committed to going for at least 1 month, come back and speak to as many communities as possible.

4. Nationally and Internationally Coordinated Days of Noncooperation

Instead or at least as a supplement to these big polite anti-war rallies, how about we coordinate a dozen cities at a time to conduct various direct actions that hopefully more than symbolically begin to raise the social cost of war?  Like a wave on the ocean that goes on and on, every day for a month we’d have a dozen cities be the focus of blocking major highways, blocking entrances to military bases, reclaiming a major intersection and hosting a carnival of war, publicly burn stacks of Federal Tax forms, etc...  Be creative.  These ideas don’t have to result in arrest, by the way.  Take a cue from the resistance to Pinochet’s reign on terror in Chile: leftists often had rolling actions, or would take over a busy pedestrian area and flyer everyone and fade into the crowd when the police/military arrived.  Or organize school and business walkouts.  There are at least a few radical unions that might offer at least a work slow-down.

And there is nothing more powerful than if such actions could be coordinated internationally.  About six weeks ago there was a super-important international peace conference in Cairo.  Who represented the US?  A motley mix of less than a dozen people.  We can do better than that.

I realize that people willing to use confrontational tactics face bigger consequences so I strongly recommend for this item especially, please read Part III of this series, The Peace Movement’s Missing Links with suggested long-term solutions.

5. Reparations for Iraq & International Justice Conference

Various experts are saying that once Iraq has been re-invaded and colonized by the US that Iraq will need tens of billions of dollars to rebuild.  The new corrupt government of Afghanistan is still waiting for their billions.  Don’t hold your breath that Iraq will be rebuilt any time soon (except for the oil fields and refineries, I suppose). 

In the meantime, how about the peace movement DEMAND the US government take care of the damage we’ve already done.  For the hundreds of thousands of young Iraqi lives snuffed out by contaminated water -- due to sanctions.  Or all the universities, schools, mosques and churches that have been attacked.  Or the innumerable factories and businesses destroyed by US bombs.  Or for how the West carved up the Middle East and installed and supported repressive regimes like Saddam Hussein. 

It’s a big price tag and when the American public accurately sees the true cost I don’t think they’ll agree with Madeline Albright’s “the price is worth it” comment.  I don’t think we’re talking billions, I think we’re talking trillions. 

Afraid of demanding a trillion dollars go to Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship?  Then organize an international justice conference to take place in Amman or Beirut.  I’m not talking about waiting for the corrupt governments to do this.  We do this with civic organizations around the world, like how the World Social Forum has gloriously erupted in Brazil.  We create our own public agreements and then demand our governments honor them. 

6. No Nukes for Anyone or Nukes for Everyone!

I think 99.9% of the US peace movement strongly believes that Iraq under Saddam Hussein should not have nuclear weapons.  But apparently many of this same group are ok that Israel has nuclear weapons and is able to lock up Mordecai Vanunu for decades (for daring to reveal this “secret”).  And some are at least ok with the U.S. having nukes and using them on human beings (Hiroshima & Nagasaki). 

How about the slogan “No Nukes for Anyone or Nukes for Everyone!”  And that means we’re going to refuse to condemn Iraq’s (even under dictatorship) desire for nukes as long as the US and its allies maintain, test, stockpile, threaten and use nukes on people.  The hypocrisy has to end and should start by at least our rhetoric.  Otherwise when we patronizing say that X country and Y country shouldn’t be allowed to acquire weapons without exposing the duplicity of the current nuclear powers then we’re just as racist and authoritarian as the elites in power.

7. Pro-Democracy Movement for Social Justice

Since democracy in the US is a joke, why not form a broad-based movement trying to create real democracy in the US?  House by house, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, community by community: build an accountable democratic movement where organized human beings decide their own fate, rather than just every four years on a touch-screen or voting booth.  But wait, in many ways such efforts are already happening.  The peace movement only needs to make common cause.

Imagine with all the boundless energy currently spent on preventing this war, imagine even just 10% was dedicated for the next 5 years on such a struggle? 

For instance, here in Denver the police department has been exposed in a massive decades-long illegal spying operation of political dissidents (mostly Leftists with a special focus on indigenous activists).  Thousands of files (paper, photo and video) have been kept on individuals and organizations, including one for me and the organization I’ve help build.  A local primarily people of color organization, the All Nations Alliance, has a public campaign to not only hold the Denver Police and government officials accountable, but want to put into place a citizens review board that would have the authority to discipline and sanction rampant police misconduct.  A winnable scenario yet the local peace movement, by and large, has made itself oblivious to this extremely important struggle (which even directly affects peace activists -- mind boggling!).

I’m not suggesting that the peace / anti-war movement stop its current efforts to reign in our military machine run amok.  Justice movements at home and abroad go hand in hand.  We should view these various justice struggles as complementary and allied.  But we need to do more than just pay lip service.

We don’t have to keep failing as a movement.  We need to take the initiative and realistically assess the power we have to create change.  Yet if the peace movement continues to shoot for the largest goal possible, or desperately grasps at dubious strategies, this will always lead to failure.

Let’s learn from our mistakes and start with the first winnable step.  We’ll thank ourselves later.

* * * * *

Long-Term Solutions: The Peace Movement’s Missing Links

By Mark Schneider
February 11, 2003

After more than a decade spent active in the US peace movement, anti-war movement and social justice movements, one loud emotive feeling shouts out: “What are we waiting for!?”  How come there is not massive civil disobedience to stop this madness of impending invasion and slaughter of Iraq?  Are people in the “movement” actually living some illusion that polite mass rallies will do anything but make us here in the US feel better?  I’d hate to be an Iraqi knowledgeable of such gibberish.

A few years ago I read Ward Churchill’s book, “Pacifism as Pathology” and I was able to discount some of his attack on pacifists.  Now, I think I know what he was after: the vast majority of the peace movement believes they’re making a substantive difference, no matter how many millions of people are regularly slaughtered by the US war and capitalist machine

Before the Believers discount this screed, I offer a new long-term activist diet of building relationships and community, addressing privilege, and, learning from history to create an effective strategy.


During my years of organizing and agitating I preached a praxis that was 90% action and 10% talk.  Yes, groups I’ve been involved with have been more active, taking on small and large projects, with some notable successes.  However, an essential step has been skipped: do we actually care about each other?  Sure, we share the intimacy of stressful meetings, street actions and the like.  But is that enough?  How much do we celebrate each other’s birthdays, births and deaths?  How many break bread together?  How many of us are there for someone when they’re depressed or angry?  How many of us party together, dance, sing, pray and fast together?

Face it, we live in a culture dominated by individualism, and the idea of community is relegated to at best an ideal to work towards, or at worst a freakish gathering of cultists or isolationists.  How can we radically change a fascist empire when we supposedly agree on the problem lack the most basic trust. Building community based on mutual needs and vision should not be secondary to our pursuits.

Look at the history of Gandhi and the Indian Independence Movement.  It relied heavily on a still intact system of family, clan and village, united by spirituality.  Or MLK, Jr and the civil rights movement would not have gotten anywhere without the built-in community the church and spirituality provided.  Or how about the Zapatistas in Chiapas.  They organized for more than a decade, going from village to village, building a mutual vision as well as trust between villages.

With the exception of the admirable, though often temporary, small affinity groups models (like the successful globalization direct action in Seattle in 1999), the modern peace movement lacks community.  Why is this an obstacle to taking on direct action?  Well, how do we expect people to risk imprisonment, torture and worse if there is no real relationship that will support and nurture them. 

Imagine a scenario where you were part of a tight-nit community of 10 members.  Two members might want to go to Iraq to be human shields against a US invasion.  With community in place, the other 8 members could support those two members to go to Iraq, possibly taking care of children and other responsibilities. Yet, most of us don’t live or have a supportive community, yet we want to take on these more assertive actions.  A committed community is the long-term answer.

Addressing Privilege

“All I know is that my happiness is built on the misery of others, so that I eat because others go hungry, that I am clothed when other people go almost naked through the frozen cities in winter; and that fact poisons me, disturbs my serenity…”  Radical writer and activist John Reed wrote these words on his 30th birthday, about 85 years ago. 

A few summers ago the indefatigable Kathy Kelly used this analogy while living in a US bombed-out slum in Al-Basrah, Iraq:  Those elites in power are driving a train reckless at full speed, the middle class sit in second class, the poor sit in spartan third class and the mass of repressed humanity represented by the common Iraqi people are not even on the train.  They are lying on the tracks, mercilessly run over by the capitalist train.

Living in an empire we are all immensely privileged, the whiter the skin you have generally the more privilege.  Yet who out there is willing and ready to radically restructure their lives to attempt to not to benefit off of American genocide and domination?  How many white activists our there are ready to be race traitors, shed off their daily inheritance of racist privilege?

Yet while there have been some admirable if only temporary attempts at accomplishing this task, like the primarily white activists who effectively shut down the WTO-IMF meetings in ’99 Seattle, we need to not only have anti-racism and privilege consciousness workshops, we need to actively end this cycle.  That means divesting yourself of property, assets, comfort, family inheritance, etc…  Where do you divest?  Who does this go to?  Take your pick:  Who around you are the most exploited, most enslaved by capitalism. Return it to them. 

But don’t stop there.  After relieving yourself of said ill-gained wealth, invest in real wealth: relationships and community.  Build cooperatives based on mutual aid and cooperation.  Bail out of the market economy, create your own economic relationships based on equality.   The diagnoses and prescription may be difficult to digest, but I assure the medicine is quite liberatory.  No more bills, no more white guilt, no more capitalist distractions, just real conscious living. 

Look at the life of our recently departed comrade, Daniel Berrigan.  Soldier-mercenary during World War II, he consciously gave this violent life up to become a radical Catholic clergy committed to Plowshares direct actions and helped found Jonah House – an intimate community of radical Catholic malcontents.  His life is like a how-to book for those of us saturated with privilege.

History-Fueled Strategy

Is the peace / anti-war movement capable of reflection and analysis?  A skim of the last 40 years shows a string of major defeats.  Failure.  Yes, there have been notable small exceptions, but the biggest anti-war movement - during the US genocide of Vietnam - cannot legitimately claim any substantial credit for stopping that slaughter.  Who does get the credit: the tireless Vietnamese resistance.  For, if the anti-war movement during Vietnam actually stopped that mass murder, wouldn’t there have been some kind of meaningful change in US foreign policy?  There is a non-stop continuum from the genocide of American Indians to today’s domination and slaughter of Arabs in Iraq and Palestine. 

So let’s look at the peace movements history of mostly failed tactics and strategy and learn from it.  If we’re trying to stop the US military from annihilating another country are we going to solely rely upon completely non-confrontational letters, phone calls, vigils, and rallies?  And conversely, is the alternative choreographed symbolic civil disobedience?

I’d like to think that ’99 Seattle offered a glimmer into the potential for people power:  creative nonviolent affinity-group based direct action that WAS SUCCESSFUL.  Certainly while ’99 Seattle represented a break-through in tactics and strategy as well as being effective, it is not a recipe that should be precisely replicated. 

Now look at successful social change movements around the world and there are certain fundamental commonalities:  community (usually including shared spirituality), solidarity (privilege broken down), and an uncompromising struggle of direct action without dependence from authority and established power. 

Think of the seventh-generation from now.  When they look back at what we did to not only restrain the capitalist empire but to envision and create a new world, naturally they’re going to wonder why we hopelessly kept on repeating the same mistakes, grasping at band-aid solutions.  Why didn’t we build sustainable communities of resistance?  Why didn’t we end racist privilege and work and live in solidarity with the oppressed?  Why didn’t we read all the great books and/or listen to our elders who can tell powerful stories of resistance?  Why didn’t we learn from them?


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