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Commentary :: Organizing
UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement
15 Jan 2006
Winning Congress for the Democrats won’t end the war.
UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement

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.

We 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 Democratic Party.

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.

The truth 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.

It 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.

This 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 UFPJ.

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.

All 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 militarist 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
ruling 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.

Leslie 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 right.

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 Democratic Party.

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 to fight.

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 either.

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 occupation.

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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Re: UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement
15 Jan 2006
i bet UFJP didn't decide to stop coordinating with ANSWER because they're pro-imperialist pro-democrat capitalists now- i bet it's because ANSWER is full of a bunch of authoritarian opportunists that are impossible to work with and that always try to steal other groups' attention and credit.
Most often asked question by Female Liberal Progressives
15 Jan 2006
Does this bomb belt make me look fat?
To be clear
15 Jan 2006
This article lists "stop the war" as its author, but the link included makes clear that it's from the Worker's World party, the ideological force which created ANSWER. In other words, this is ANSWER's sour grapes about UfPJ not wanting to work with them. They're obviously entitled to respond to UfPJ's position, but they should be upfront about who they are!
Re: UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement
15 Jan 2006
Workers World is a shitty party and I say that as a Marxist.

UJP & UfPJ are just straight up democrat front groups.

Neither of these organizations did ANYTHING during the DNC.

Organizing a march the day before the convention starts doesn't count.
Re: UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement
15 Jan 2006
I'm very critical of UfPJ and UJP, though I know that many individuals involved are not Democrats (maybe small-d, but that's a good thing). As for the DNC, I don't partiuclarly fault either group for not doing much then; I don't think that it was a particularly good strategic opportunity to do much. The whole thing was a sideshow atmosphere within a police state. The Boston Social Forum was probably the most useful part, but the week in and of itself wasn't all that productive.
Re: UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement
15 Jan 2006
Worker's world. All the articles seem to be by workers world party.
Re: UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement
16 Jan 2006
as much as UFJP annoys me, at least they are not stalinist.
Re: UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement
16 Jan 2006
And why is ANSWER stalinist? What is the basis of your accusation Noah? Do you mean Leninist, do you know that there is a difference?
Re: UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement
16 Jan 2006
What's the difference between stalinists and leninists? Do leninists pretend to like democracy more or something?
Re: UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement
17 Jan 2006
Apparently the chickens have come home to roost as far as the simmering organizatonal divisions in the anti-war movement go.On the face of it, the positions of the two coalitions do not warrant any split since either one is as likley to round up any stray non anti-imperialist Democratid politican to grace their platforms. Thus, the organizational issue does not enrage me. But Stopwar does bring up a point we should all be aware of both now and from history. One of the defining moments of the Vietnam anti-war movement was when defeatist Democrats began to grace the platforms at anti-war rallies. This was a conscious and explicit policy on the part of the Socialist Workers Party and the American Communist Party and the coalitions they created. Those organizations were more than willing to attack militants who opposed this policy to insure that the anti-war movement would stay within parlimentary bounds. We are beginning to have to face that same problem of (mainly) Democratic defeatism. Therefore it is important to remember the lessons of history and keep the Democratic politicans out of influence and off the platform at anti-war rallies. They did nothing to build this movement and they should not reap a political windfall based solely on their not being Bush.
Re: UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement
17 Jan 2006
Let's face facts. Put aside the rhetoric and any group that gives itself a name is really just one or more individuals exercising their will to power by trying to get a bunch of people to follow them and do what they say. When you hear "no no, we're all about consensus" that just means that it will be made clear to people who don't agree with the party line that they should shut up or leave. You will recognize the "leaders" even in the most "non-hierarchical" anti-authoritarian (or so they say) groups by seeing who talks the most, who seems to have the most friends and suck ups around them, etc. If you don't join in the fawning, you will be identified and selectively ignored. Such groups either fold after a short while, only to be re-formed with a new name and logo, or if they are particularly successful they become UFPJ, ANSWER, etc. In the meantime, they will expect you to contribute time and money to their cause. They will promote their friends' and their own music careers under the guise of throwing a benefit. They will revel in their role as leaders of men, tuning out all opposing views. And as activists they will fail, and make you fail with them. YOU have the power all by yourself to reach out to people. People who are not already converted to some "ism" or another. Whether you ask them to follow you or follow their own heart and mind (as I'm doing) is up to you. Live free or die. And f*** anyone who uses the cause of ending wars for their own egotistical purposes--y'all know who you are!
Re: UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement
18 Jan 2006
I think everyone here who is putting in a negative comment and effectively creating a divide between radicals needs to ask themselves if there is an actual, factual basis for their antagonism? Or, has the efforts by the state to divide and distroy a growing movement been sucessful? Think deep and hard before you buy the line of those seeking to divide, what is the motive of their disapproval of a unified movement? Personal glory or state agency? Either way they represent the past, the ideologies of individualism and division, not the future.
Re: UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement
18 Jan 2006
Brad, what I'm talking about exactly is personal and in-group glory taking precedence over any real progressive activism.

While I have no doubt that state actors, or even rogue law enforcement, intelligence, or foreign agents are at work undermining unity among radicals/activists, their work isn't really so hard when you think about it.

The majority of older folks in the movement seem to be drawn to "respectable" groups like the various iterations of the letters of U, P, J, and sometimes F. These groups are the opposite of radicalizing, and they do stupid things like encourage their members to vote for Democrats. Same with MoveOn, which only has so many members because the mainstream media decided that of all the grassroots efforts at organizing, that is the one they were going to publicize (like they chose Howard Dean to represent the "progressive" alternative to Kerry.

Enter the various "youth blocs" which are encouraged by their non-hierarchical (read charismatic) leadership not to associate with older people, from whom they obviously have nothing to learn. When was the last time you saw an older activist break out in some spoken word rap about anything? Or organize a really kickass rock concert? Older activists are always telling you what books they think you should read in order to compensate for your crappy American high school education, or telling you that this all happened before under Reagan, blah blah blah. Who needs it?!

So yeah, too many egos, too much complacency, too much ignorance, not enough discipline, not enough creativity, and all because people are never encouraged to think for themselves by the self-styled "leaders" of the movement. Because those people know that if they encouraged that, they would just be another small voice in a larger unified effort, and they can't stand that. their insecurity demands more, their resumé demands more, their grad school application demands more.

If I meet one more lifelong student championing the cause of working people I'm going to vomit all over their laptop.
Re: UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement
18 Jan 2006
"If I meet one more lifelong student championing the cause of working people I'm going to vomit all over their laptop"


soft-handed socialists. wouldn't last a day on a construction site or "proletarian" job. I wear my politics on my sleeve (or hardhat) at work and the fact that I work makes me credible.

I would love to see the sparts try to sell the Workers Vanguard at my job.
Re: UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement
18 Jan 2006
I happen to be an older grad student (former organic farmer). So your rules and generalizations do not always apply. This is a perfect example of the many ways that people with diverse backgrounds can come together to form a movement. We all have our strong points and weak points and we all need to break down our presuppositions about other radicals. There is no right way to live, or act agaist the machine. We are all parts of the same organism.
Re: UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement
18 Jan 2006
Agreed, Brad, and that means accepting and encouraging and listening to criticism. Everyone should have a real job at some point in their lives, with a real asshole boss, low pay, etc. That is, if you want to be credible. Take a few years off from your academic career if you haven't. Otherwise I can only assume you think you're too good, too smart, or too "entitled" to see what it's like for the people you preach to.
Re: UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement
18 Jan 2006

are secretaries working class? nurses? call center workers? waiters?

if you only recognize ppl who work in the building trades as "working class" you're bound to defeat
Re: UFPJ leadership divides the anti-war movement
19 Jan 2006
I'll answer that--YES. Anyone who is forced to be a servant of other people for 40 hours a week so that some assholes can buy an extra car for their snivelling kids is being oppressed. Let's make this as simple as possible--technological progress is our patrimony as human beings. No one can say that they are entitled to reap the benefits more than anyone else, since we ALL struggle together to make that progress possible. When the result of that progress is a grossly unequal distribution of the fruits of our collective labor with no reduction in work hours since the turn of the last century, it's a clear indication that millions are being shafted. That billions in fact are either exploited or simply discarded as human chaff. I don't care what label you attach to yourself--you either think we should all have to work a lot less, or you think that we should all be made to feel so insecure that we give up the best years of our life to advance the cause of caviar for the few and bombs for the rest. When you reflect on this, it's clear that the current "movement" is WAY too caught up in a lot of crap that doesn't address this simple fact. And that really sucks. We're piddling away the window of opportunity that we have while the powers that be work to plug all the holes in their evil traps of work and debt slavery. We have the Internet, we have some freedom still to assemble. Most of all we have a ruling class that is vulnerable to good, coordinated attacks against their criminal enterprise. But after 4 plus years since the catalyzing catastrophe of 911, the government is still full of criminals, rich people continue to rig the stock market to steal working people's money, and bullshit "news"papers like the NYT are still in print despite collusion in high crimes. What gives???