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Anti-war leaders answer red-baiting of ANSWER

Following is a reply signed by a group of progressive leaders in southern California to an article by David Corn that appeared in the newspaper L.A. Weekly. Corn is also Washington editor for the Nation magazine and a paid consultant with the Fox News Channel, an extremely pro-war cable station owned by media billionaire Rupert Murdoch. In his article, Corn attacked the organizers of the Oct. 26 anti-war demonstrations as "commies" or dupes of Workers World Party. He repeated this red-baiting of the anti-war movement on Nov. 18 in an appearance on the Fox program called the "O'Reilly Factor."

To the Editor of the L.A. Weekly:

David Corn's scurrilous piece on the massive demonstrations against a new war with Iraq, held on Oct. 26 in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco ("Behind the Placards: The Odd and Troubling Origins of Today's Anti-War Movement," L.A. Weekly, Nov. 1-7, 2002), is unworthy of any newspaper, let alone one that considers itself "progressive."

Were it not for the sad fact that many thousands of people may read Mr. Corn's diatribe, the article would not be worthy of the time it's taken us to respond to it. After all, those of us who've signed this letter are members of L.A.-based anti-war and social justice groups and, unlike Mr. Corn, we've got a movement to build. Besides, what can one really say in response to an article that resorts to referring to the organizers of the Oct. 26 protests as "commies"! Mr. Corn claims this is "not red-baiting"! Well, if attacking a movement because of the political affiliations of some of its leadership isn't an old fashioned example of Joseph McCarthy style red-baiting at its worst, I'd hate to see what Mr. Corn thinks is red-baiting.

Those of us who have signed this letter greatly admire the work that International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) did in organizing the Oct. 26 anti-war protests. Its national steering committee is comprised of IFCO/Pastors for Peace; International Action Center; Nicaragua Network; Mexico Solidarity Network; Partnership for Civil Justice; Kensington Welfare Rights Union; Free Palestine Alliance/US; Mideast Children's Alliance; Bayan International/USA; Korea Truth Commission; and the Muslim Student Association. Are there any communists amongst the members of ANSWER, the principal organizer of the Oct. 26 protests? Specifically, are some of the leaders in ANSWER members of the Workers World Party? Sure. The question is, "So what?" As any student of the powerful--and successful--movement against the U.S. war in Vietnam knows, members of the Socialist Workers Party and the Communist Party, U.S.A., were among the leadership of the two major anti-war coalitions during that war. But the thousands of volunteers and the hundreds of thousands of protesters who showed up at the demonstrations were of every political stripe. The same is true today. The speakers and demonstrators on Oct. 26 came from every segment of the population; from public officials like John Burton, head of the California Senate, to thousands of college and high school students; from actors like Mike Farrell to Vietnam vets like Ron Kovic; from labor leaders like Walter Johnson, head of the San Francisco Joint Labor Council of the AFL-CIO to business executives against the war; from older peace activists like Daniel Ellsberg to younger ones like 12-year-old Sarah Enteen; from hotel workers to Dolores Huerta; from religious leaders like Bishop Gumbleton to socialists like Richard Becker. And the list goes on and on.

Mr. Corn complained that speakers at the rallies talked about political issues not directly related to Iraq, but failed to note that the demonstrations themselves were nevertheless "single-focused." And that single focus was the looming war with Iraq. And the same could be said of the rallies held by the massive movement to end the U.S. war in Vietnam. The largest demonstration against that war took place on April 24, 1971, when nearly one million people gathered in Washington, D.C. and over 300,000 marched and rallied in San Francisco. Among the speakers that day? Democrats and Republicans and ex-military officers and elected officials and labor leaders and Black nationalists and feminists and member of the clergy and gays and students and entertainers, etc., etc., ... and, yes, some communists, too. And, as was the case again on Oct. 26, while all of these speakers were united in their opposition to the war, they also spoke on a wide range of other issues of concern to their constituencies. In doing so, they demonstrated the breadth and power of the anti-Vietnam War movement. They also demonstrated that they understood (as Mr. Corn apparently does not) the connections between the issues they were addressing and the war itself. This approach proved successful during the movement against the war in Vietnam and it can bring us to peace again today. That's why speakers from across the political spectrum were invited to speak on a wide array of war-related social justice issues on Oct. 26.

Lastly, Mr. Corn owes an apology to the quarter of a million people who demonstrated in two cities on Oct. 26. His article clearly suggests that he considers them "dupes" of the "commies" who organized the protests. To suggest that these tens of thousands of protesters, including the many prominent individuals who addressed them at the rallies, were too stupid to make up their own minds about Bush's war on the world and war on civil liberties at home is truly insulting. That's what Congress's old House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) used to say about the protesters demonstrating against the Vietnam War. Happily, it didn't frighten people away from the anti-war coalitions then and it won't frighten them away now. People saw through the discredited red-baiting tactics of HUAC, and they will see through the red-baiting tactics of commentators like Mr. Corn.

We who sign this letter invite everyone who reads it to reject Mr. Corn's ugly and divisive message of fear and defeatism, and to join one of the national, or local, anti-war coalitions in their area. Together we can once again build a broad-based, non-partisan, non-witch-hunting anti-war movement that can--and will--win the peace!


American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, L.A./O.C. Chapter

Arab American Cultural Center

Danielle Babineau

Blase Bonpane, Office of the Americas

Theresa Bonpane, Office of the Americas

James Lafferty, National Lawyers Guild

Rev. James Lawson, Jr.

Joe Navidad, BAYAN International/USA

Palestine American Women's Association of Southern California

Jonathan Parfrey

Save the Iraqi Children Committee

Michel Shehadeh

Carol Sobel, National Lawyers Guild

Don White

Yong-bin Yuk, Mindallae

Reprinted from the Nov. 28, 2002, issue of Workers World newspaper
This article is copyrighted under a Creative Commons License.
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