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News :: War and Militarism
An Anti-War Resurgence?
29 Sep 2008
Modified: 09:05:43 PM
Toward the end of his 2007 essay The Shock of Victory, David Graeber points out that the US government has taken extraordinary steps to protest-proof the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among other measures, the Pentagon forbids photographers from taking pictures of soldiers’ coffins returning to the US Military tactics are designed more to avoid US casualties than to win battles. Even in the face of excruciating labor shortages, with some soldiers returning for their fourth tour of duty, there has been no discussion of reinstating the draft, because even George W. Bush realizes that such a move would touch off massive demonstrations all over the country.

Join the anti-war rally on October 11th:
The corporate media have done their part to squelch any public dissent. They have down played and ignored any protest that has occurred far more than in the Vietnam years. A 10,000 strong anti-war march in Boston last October was hidden in the middle of the Boston Globe’s metro section. Even the enormous protests in Washington, DC and elsewhere during the run-up to the Iraq invasion were buried in the press by an avalanche of pro-war cheer.

Well-funded mainstream “progressive” organizations, such as and United for Peace and Justice, have aided and abetted the marginalization of protest. By forcing their followers to adopt watered-down, “non-violent” demonstration tactics that the establishment has long since learned how to deal with, the leaders of these groups have increased their influence in the Democratic Party at the price of any chance of actually shortening the war. Not surprisingly, many activists have become discouraged with this situation and left the anti-war movement. Yet in recent months there have been signs of resurgence. Protesters shut down downtown Washington, DC on this year’s anniversary of the Iraq invasion with a diverse mixture of tactics that included street theater, music, blockades, reclamation of public space and more. The Winter Soldier hearings held by Iraq Veterans Against the War were distributed widely on the internet (although they were of course ignored by the capitalist media). Anarchist-driven actions in Portland, Oregon and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, among other places, have shown the world that non-violent tactics don’t have to be legal.

More broadly, even some liberals seem to be recognizing the futility of permitted marches. The organizers of the mainstream protests at the recent Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota endorsed a diversity of tactics and made a truce with local anarchists.

Even here in Boston there has been a recent up tick in anti-war activity. On Friday, August 2nd, upward of 100 protesters gathered for a rally at the recruiting center on Tremont Street across from Boston Common. The rally was part of a nation-wide mobilization to prevent war with Iran. An incomplete list of organizations taking part includes the International Socialist Organization, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Raging Grannies, Veterans for Peace and the UMASS Campus Anti-War Network. After rallying in front of the recruiting station for nearly two hours, protesters gathered on the Common for speeches, followed by a small march through downtown. Police presence consisted of about 30 cops on bikes and motorcycles, who made no arrests.

While this action was unremarkable in terms of immediate effectiveness, a few positive signs could be detected. Two union leaders, representing the United Steelworkers and a hotel workers union, made brief speeches expressing solidarity against the wars. While their rank and file was not much in evidence, any mainstream union involvement in anti-war activism is encouraging. Also, the Army closed down the recruiting center for the day in anticipation of the protest. This was probably an overreaction on their part, but it does demonstrate how the paranoia of the ruling class can be profitably exploited.

But most of all, the energy and enthusiasm shown by all those present indicated the level of anti-war sentiment that permeates the country. Even as protests have dwindled, the war has grown more unpopular, to the point that 70% of the population now thinks it is a bad idea, according to recent polls. Anger at the war and the economy can be channeled into far more effective tactics than marching in circles and chanting slogans. The time is ripe for activists and organizers to seize the opportunity at hand and ignite a storm of protest that will make the anti-war movement impossible to ignore.

This October 11th, the sixth anniversary of Congress’ authorization to invade Iraq, major anti-war protests will be held in cities across the US. In Boston, there will be a rally on Boston Common at noon, followed by yet another march with signs and slogans. These protests are unlikely to have any more impact than their predecessors, but they may at least provide an opportunity for activists to reach out to those who are ready to do more than just march and chant.

[REPOSTED from BAAM's newsletter from September 2008
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