UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement
Published Dec 24, 2005 8:21 AM
It was with deep concern that we read a recent communication from United for
Peace and Justice, sent out on Dec. 12 by its national coordinator, Leslie
Cagan. It stated that the coalition had voted by a two-thirds majority to no
longer collaborate with the ANSWER coalition in the anti-war movement.
salute the one third of the member groups who put the need for principled unity
of the anti-war movement first. They had the courage to stand up and resist the
pressure to support what is a totally unprincipled measure, which can severely
injure the unity of the movement at a critical time when there are new openings
to escalate the anti-war struggle.
The UFPJ document is filled with orga
nizational complaints about ANSWER. We believe that these organizational
complaints are merely a cover behind which the UFPJ leadership is readying an
open shift to the right, orienting to the so-called “anti-war”
elements in the capitalist establishment and preparing to use the anti-war
movement as a platform for promoting the Democratic Party in the 2006 elections.
We think that beyond being an attack on ANSWER, this document was a reflection
of the aversion of the UFPJ leadership to anti-imperialist politics of
international solidarity and to the orientation that rejects support for the
But some things must be reviewed for the record. In the
preamble to UFPJ’s declaration it referred to how they originally
“did not believe it would be productive to make coordination with ANSWER a
centerpiece of our September 24 efforts” and then went on to make a
convoluted explanation of why they had changed their minds.
about UFPJ and Sept. 24
This is completely disingenuous.
The facts are that UFPJ, after having called for a demonstration in New York
City on Sept. 10, 2005, switched it to Sept. 24 in Washington, D.C.—the
same day and the same city where ANSWER had already called for a demonstration.
This precipitated a crisis of disunity and confusion in the movement.
had the effect of forcing people to choose between going to a demonstration
organized by anti-imperialist forces, who defended the Palestinian and Arab
cause, or going to one called by the more moderate anti-war forces. This, in
spite of the fact that there was a strong political basis among the
rank-and-file, new and old, for unity around the question of bringing the troops
home now, ending occupations, and using money for human needs, not war.
Fortunately, the progressive activists in the movement prevailed and
forced UFPJ to retract its plans for a separate demonstration.
hard-fought unity resulted in a major revival of the anti-war movement in which
300,000 people came out and marched together. There were, of course, many
shortcomings of the demonstration, including the fact that it was predominantly
white and that the working class was not a strong force in the demonstration.
But those are major historical problems that the movement must fight to
overcome. These are matters outside the framework of this dispute and do not
diminish the success of Sept. 24, such as it was.
The UFPJ communication
ostensibly based its decision on three grounds, arising from the Sept. 24
demonstration: that ANSWER went beyond its agreed-upon time slot and thereby got
more coverage on C-SPAN, putting forth a political message that was skewed; that
ANSWER began the march an hour later than agreed upon; and that ANSWER did not
turn out enough volunteers, thereby putting an added burden on
ANSWER has given a detailed refutation of these charges. But whether
some or none of them are true is beside the point. Whatever difficulties were
experienced by UFPJ, actual or perceived, they pale in comparison to the need to
unite the broadest possible forces who are devoted to the immediate,
unconditional and complete withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq.
organizations in the anti-war struggle owe it to the Iraqi people, the people of
the Middle East, and the workers and oppressed people right here at home to
subordinate their own particular organizational interests to maximizing mass
mobilization, so long as it is on a principled basis.
The Iraqi people are
suffering death and destruction every day from the onslaught of the U.S.
military machine. According to Johns Hopkins University, the Iraqi death toll
now stands at upwards of 119,000. Tens of thousands are in jails. Families are
separated. Cities and towns are in ruins from repeated U.S. military raids and
air bombardments. The Iraqi resistance fighters are giving their lives daily to
expel the colonial occupiers.
The suffering and sacrifice of the Iraqi
people in the daily struggle are of such monumental magnitude in human terms
that the UFPJ leaders should be ashamed to even bring up their relatively
minuscule organizational complaints as a reason for breaking the unity of the
struggle against the war.
But UFPJ’s motivation is not
organizational. It is political. The leadership of UFPJ has always been against
the left and has always oriented towards the Demo cratic Party. Those who
constitute the leadership today were in organizations that tried to isolate and
undermine the anti-imperialist forces and all militancy going back to the
Vietnam-War era. These leaders were in favor of “sanctions, not war”
during the Gulf War of 1991.
UFPJ was actually created in reaction to and
in opposition to ANSWER after Sept. 11, 2001, when ANSWER became the central
force resisting the Bush campaign of “permanent war.” From the
moment UFPJ was created, its leadership resisted any united front and had to be
dragged by the movement, including its own member organizations, into united
activity. This happened on April 20, 2002; Oct. 25, 2003; March 20, 2004; and
this past Sept. 24.
UFPJ and the Democrats
Up until now,
however, the UFPJ leaders have handled their splitting activities one
demonstration at a time, without openly elevating their opposition to ANSWER
and, in reality, the whole anti-imperialist left, to the level of firm policy.
What has changed? It’s the combination of the beginning of a split in the
ruling class and the approach of the 2006 elections.
John Murtha, the
Demo cra tic Party Congress member from Penn syl vania who is
close to the Pentagon, declared that “It is time to bring the troops
home”—when “practical,” hopefully in six months. He is
for leaving a strike force “over the horizon.” Murtha’s
position reveals a growing
split among the generals and in the
class over the war.
Murtha, Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic Party
leaders did not shed one tear for the Iraqi people. On the contrary, they
represent the forces that want to find a way to salvage the interests of U.S.
imperialism, which has sunk into a quagmire with the colonial adventure in Iraq.
At the same time, they want to utilize the growing anti-war sentiment, not to
get the U.S. out of Iraq, but to get themselves into office, where they will
pursue a “multilateral” approach to securing the interests of
Washington, Wall Street and the Penta gon in Iraq and everywhere.
Cagan and the social democratic leaders of UFPJ took this as their cue to put up
a firewall between themselves and the anti-imperialist left and stretch out
their arms to what they hope will be a bourgeois opposition. At the same time,
they see Bush’s poll numbers dropping, the Republicans beset by corruption
scandals, and the Demo cratic Party salivating in expectation of taking back the
Congress in 2006.
Up until now, the UFPJ leadership had been forced to
unite with the anti-imperialist forces because the capitalist politicians were
nowhere to be found in the fight against Bush to stop the war. Their criticisms
were restricted to what happened before the war—the lies about WMDs, about
Iraqi links to al-Qaeda, etc.—and how badly the war was going. John Kerry
was still calling for more troops until only recently. Hillary Clinton was also
a hawk. But now that the odor of a bourgeois opposition has arisen from the
halls of Congress, the UFPJ leadership is anticipating new alliances to the
This is not only a matter of speculation. Communications from U.S.
Labor Against the War (USLAW) reveal that before the UFPJ leadership issued its
attack on ANSWER, it was already in discussions about an April action with the
moderate and bourgeois forces, including USLAW, Win Without War, NOW, PUSH and
other moderate, social-patriotic forces, all of whom are oriented to the
Democrats: a war party
The Democratic Party
leadership is firmly under the control of the imperialist establishment. The
Democratic Party, on the whole, is a war party. Virtually every Democratic
president in the last hundred years has carried out imperialist wars and
interventions. Just in the last half century, John F. Kennedy invaded Cuba and
began the Vietnam War, which Lyndon Johnson continued; Carter tried to invade
Iran and started a clandestine war against what was then a progressive
government in Afghan istan; Clinton carried out air wars against Yugoslavia and
Iraq and imposed genocidal sanctions on Iraq. The Repub licans, of course, were
part of all this.
The social democratic, liberal and pacifist forces that
the UFPJ leadership is looking to form a bloc with, as opposed to
anti-imperialist forces, see the ascendancy of the Democrats as the solution to
the Bush reaction. But the only real way to push back the reactionary forces of
capitalism so as to end the war and benefit the workers and the oppressed at
home is to build an independent, militant movement on the ground that is willing
Winning Congress for the Democrats won’t end the war.
Congress is a talk shop. If it were more than that, at any given moment it could
use any one of a hundred reasons to impeach Bush, to cut off funds for the war
and occupation, to bring up Cheney on charges of being the “torture vice
president,” and many other things.
Getting the Democrats in the
White House, where they will be administering the aggressive, repressive
capitalist state against the people at home and abroad, is no answer
The pages of this newspaper have advocated and encouraged anti-war
unity with ANSWER and all other progressive and anti-imperialist forces, and
will continue to do so where appropriate in the interests of the struggle. Organ
izational questions must be subordinated to the task of ending the
In that regard, we encourage the movement to call to task the
leadership of UFPJ and force them to reverse this divisive policy. The solemn
duty to get U.S. imperialism off the back of the Iraqi people, to bring the
troops home, and to defeat U.S. schemes to impose an “Iraqization”
of the occupation requires the strongest unity, independent of the parties of
the war makers.
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