Revolutionary Worker #1172, October 27, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
On October 6, 2002, tens of thousands around the country took part in the Not In Our Name protests, kicking off a new movement of resistance against the whole U.S. government agenda of war and repression.
Miles Solay is a member of Refuse & Resist! and an organizer for the Not In Our Name Project. On October 6, Miles joined Robina Niaz as co-emcee in New York's Central Park--where 25,000 gathered to take the pledge of resistance. On October 19, the RW talked with Miles about the impact and significance of this outpouring of resistance.
RW: You've been involved in the Not In Our Name Poject from the beginning -- what did you think when you looked out and saw all those people in Central Park?
Before October 6, I knew...we had confidence that we could do this, that the people could build resistance. But on October 6, when I saw 25,000 pairs of eyes fixated on the stage, searching for a place for their voice, searching for each other, I began to get a vision and a picture of what is actually needed to put a halt to this whole thing. You got a sense of what's to come. It was just a beginning. You had a feeling that it is actually possible to stop this juggernaut, that we could do this.
One of the really exciting things about this not-in-our-name movement--that we saw on a new level on October 6--is how you've got people with these rather divergent viewpoints on what is behind all this, and even on what is actually going on with this whole so-called war on terrorism, but that people were coming together in a common voice, a common pledge, a common commitment to go up against this--with the resolve to stop it.
RW: Why do you think the pledge of resistance has resonated so strongly with people?
There are three main things that I think the Not In Our Name Pledge of Resistance gets at: it's us, people here, taking responsibility to resist what the government is doing in our name; it's us making a pledge of common cause with the people of the world; and there is the determination to realize that vision--"another world is possible and we pledge to make it real." We're not just saying this.
I think what resonates about the pledge, even more than just catching on--and why it is something that not only people who have taken it are moved by, but even the press are intrigued by it--is because it's people coming together and saying this, particularly when they say it in public, when they say it together. It's a real commitment when you say it like that, especially when you are making it to other people here, and other people all over the world.
I think the other thing is that the pledge is something to live by--they are poetic and tangible words for people to live by. The pledge is not a song, but in every generation there are anthems, something people hold up and strive for themselves and others too. It's a barometer: "Have you taken the Pledge?" There's a certain solemn and earnest defiance and there's a timeliness and timelessness that has really touched people. The Pledge has been translated into 10 languages.
RW: What do you think was accomplished on October 6?
October 6 was a day when close to 100,000 people from many walks of life across the country came together and said "NO." This war is not being waged for our benefit or on our behalf, we are going to do everything we can to stop it because we don't want it to go down at all. October 6 laid the basis--it was an act of resistance, a manifestation of the message of Not In Our Name. It was people from all walks of life coming together and saying, you know we're not gonna allow this to go down.
It was a beginning--we know that there are many, many people out there, many people in this country who disapprove of this war on the world, the wartime police-state measures and the roundups of Arab and South Asian immigrants. It's impossible to ignore it now. You can sit in a pizzeria and overhear people debating the "war on terrorism" and the impending invasion of Iraq. It's on the minds and on the lips of millions of people across the country.
October 6 was that corner we had to turn, that line we had to cross to say, "We are defying this right now." We're breaking ranks and we're not gonna go along with this.
To understand the significance of October 6 and the Not In Our Name Pledge of Resistance we really have to situate them within the context of what the rulers are calling on us to do. They are calling on us to roll over in the face of all this, to lay down and play dead, and not speak out against this and rally others to do that. October 6 was a day when thousands came out and did the exact opposite.
People were coming out and saying, "No, this is unjust, immoral and illegitimate," as the Not In Our Name Statement of Conscience says. We can't accept this. We cannot go on with our lives as normal while hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives hang in the balance. As Donald Rumsfeld doctors his list of 60 countries that are eligible for possible U.S. invasion, we cannot go on as normal. This was the sentiment that was expressed on October 6: We have got to stop this steamroller.
RW: This situation is a major challenge for the new generation, and on October 6, youth spoke very passionately about taking responsibility. How do you see that?
Our generation right now is coming into a world of unjust war and loud lies that emanate from the radio airwaves to the television to the magazines. They have got a plan for us, they want us to roll over in the face of all this. Far from pledging common cause with the people of the world, they don't want us to even acknowledge that the rest of the world even exists, except how it affects American interests.
One of the things that enthuses many youth about the Pledge is this emphasis on the people of the world. People are beginning to see and recognize that our futures are intrinsically bound up, or should be bound up, with the futures of the other 6 billion homo sapiens that inhabit this planet.
There is no draft, at least not an official one yet, but in a certain sense people are being drafted into going along with this war on the world through public opinion, through their inaction, through their silence, through their subservience, and many of us are looking to the future and saying this is not something that we want to sign up for.
RW: In every great resistance movement, there has been an important dynamic between the major voices of conscience and cultural figures and the movements of the youth. This fall a major Statement of Conscience signed by artists and intellectuals was published in the New York Times, the L.A. Times-- and now in USA Today. How has this Statement impacted on the youth?
The importance of these beloved figures, prominent writers, artists gets misconstrued--that it's just because they are so famous. But it's important that they participate in the movements of resistance in their own ways. The myriad of people who have signed the Not In Our Name Statement of Conscience have earned their standing among the people broadly in society. What it has meant for these writers, filmmakers, intellectuals and so on to come together as a combined voice of conscience has opened up opportunity and provided oxygen for the youth to explore and stand up against all this.
One big aspect to all this, which has complexity to it, is all of the exploration and searching that's going on. What is it going to take stop all of this unjust war? Why is the world the way it is? Who can we depend on to stop this military machine of imperial domination? Congress? The United Nations? The fact that these artists have put their collective neck out--it's part of people figuring out what their lives are gonna be about now.
RW: Where to from here? What is it going to take to stop this juggernaut?
The situation necessitates massive resistance. The challenge we're facing is the challenge that billions of people all over our planet face right now. And here we are in this special place to either accept it or be a part of stopping it. The indomitable resistance of the people in their millions has the potential to stop this war on the world and repression on the `homefront'. And I think we've got the basis with Not In Our Name to build the kind of movement that won't get sidetracked.
To stop this, it is going to require the hundred thousand people who took the Pledge of Resistance on October 6 going out and speaking to, organizing millions of others in the coming period to organize and manifest formidable resistance. That is beginning to happen with October 6 and the outpourings against the war on Iraq on October 26. People have got to live their lives by the call of the Not In Our Name Pledge of Resistance: This is where it stops and we are going all out. What we're facing is enormous and our resistance needs to be immensely powerful qualitatively as well as quantitatively.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)