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News ::
War is not the answer, and neither is ANSWER! (english)
18 Apr 2003
Modified: 21 Apr 2003
Yes, large demonstrations can show people they are not alone in their beliefs and help voices be heard, but if aligning oneself with ANSWER does more damage than good, then perhaps unity is not the only answer.
Imagine organizing a benefit show with three killer bands. You’ve picked a venue, date and time. A “friend," who happens to have more connections and financial backing than you, has known about your show since you started putting it together. But a few days before the show, your “friend" gets the club to make a change – and he takes the venue out from under your show. Your “friend" then approaches you with an ultimatum: You must give up the venue, all your hard work in vain, or forego the benefit, let him run the show and hope your bands get to play. Not wanting to throw away the effort you put into booking bands, organizing and promoting your show, you let this “friend" take charge. Afterwards, he takes credit for your efforts and claims success to the media, even though you see otherwise: His last-minute hijacking diverted the show from its original purpose.

The question is: To what extent do you now trust this “friend"? Do you think he will be honest about his intentions in the future? Do you think he will opt to collaborate on the next event? Or do you think he will work behind your back, use his connections, and again undermine your efforts and take the credit?

These are exactly the questions that must be asked within anti-war organizing circles. The “friend" is Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER); and this “friend" is a repeat offender, most recently during the Day-After events in Boston.

You may be asking why this is important or relevant for you; it’s just activist infighting and doesn’t affect the general participants, right?

Wrong. Like other people who have been involved in anti-capitalist and anti-war struggles, I have witnessed first-hand how ANSWER’s behavior foments distrust and puts protesters’ safety at risk. The last thing any organizer should want to do is put people, including families and children, at increased risk of abuse or arrest by police. My friends and I have been surrounded by police because ANSWER organizers singled us out as anarchists; the tension was not only apparent between the police and us, but between us and a group we were theoretically working alongside. That tension can spread to other people at the demonstration who may feel unsafe and choose not to participate in future demonstrations.

ANSWER has also increased risk to protesters by fragmenting large groups of people at demonstrations. A general rule of thumb is that there is safety in numbers at large demos; individuals and people in small groups are more at risk of being snatched up by cops, separated from comrades and arrested on bogus charges. One way activists like myself have seen ANSWER break up large groups of people is to stop parts of a march at an intersection, waiting for traffic or pausing for no apparent reason. One other way people have been separated is when those leading marches take people on routes differing from the original organizers’ plans, which then splits the march in two or leads people somewhere organizers and/or participants don’t consider a “safe space."

On top of it all, the leadership behind ANSWER has not been open about its politics, politics that alienate the general public as well as most people attending ANSWER events. People have a right to know who they are standing beside and what ideology they are or appear to be supporting.

So let’s do a little Background 101 for those not in the know. ANSWER is generally regarded as a front group for the International Action Center (the groups share office space, phone numbers, leadership and, according to many activists, money). The IAC, in turn, is generally regarded to be yet another front group, but this one for the Stalinist group Worker’s World Party (WWP). These connections have been cited in publications ranging from The Nation to the New York Times – a Google News search for “Workers World Party" can guide you.

The WWP puts out a newspaper in which its politics are made clear: WWP defends Slobodan Milosevic and supports North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il; it denies the massacre in Tienanmen Square, asserting no students were killed; it even supports Saddam Hussein because he is anti-imperialist. Genocidal dictators can count on WWP. But I bet protesters might not be so quick to count on organizers who support Saddam, since most anti-war folks don’t support Hussein or a US occupation but rather the Iraqi people and their right to determine how they live their lives.

So where does that leave us when we go to big demos? Sometimes ANSWER is the only game in town, and sometimes a big turnout is the display of protest that people want at a certain time. Which brings me back to my point about unity.

ANSWER’s behavior is detrimental to the unity many organizations cite as vital to stopping this war. Instead of refuting criticism or explaining where they stand, ANSWER’s leaders have instead resorted to claiming that critics are “red-baiting" or being divisive.

Unless organizations are upfront about where they stand, it makes no sense to work alongside them toward an immediate goal when their long-term goals are so very different. I, for one, do not intend to support an authoritarian group for the sake of “movement-building." ANSWER/IAC/WWP knows that there is not popular support for its politics, but it can grow its organization by using a popular issue – in this case, anti-war sentiment.

Yes, large demonstrations can show people they are not alone in their beliefs and help voices be heard, but if aligning oneself with ANSWER does more damage than good, then perhaps unity is not the only answer.

So instead of repeating tired old chants and listening to ANSWER’s redundant speaker line-up, we should consider the reality that using a diversity of tactics, including examining and addressing the underlying causes of war, is what will help all anti-war protesters achieve their goal.

For more information on ANSWER/IAC/WWP, including links to articles from the WWP paper on its own Web site, see http://authoritarianopportunistswhocozyuptogenocidaldictators-forpeace.o (note: There really is a hyphen between “dictators" and “forpeace").
See also:
http://www.weeklydig.com/?ContentId=2946
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Comments

Pro-war, anti ANSWER propaganda (english)
19 Apr 2003
These kinds of divisive article about various groups that do the work required to build large crowds is silly.

If anyone wants to know what ANSWER stands for, why not just go to their site, rather than go to a sited that can only offer biased, second-hand information.

Peace
Damn... some one with a brain.. (english)
20 Apr 2003


Agree with the article on ANSWER and that they are a FRONT
group for the communists.

Thanks for leting those who can "think for themselfs" have
an opportunity to explore the issue.

Surrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre..

Go to the ANSWER wen site. You hear and see ONLY what they
want you to hear and see. PERIOD! So whats the point bimbo
who wrote the comment above this one?

My feeling is you are trying to Tata reality.. ANSWER is
the proverbial "You can't tell a book by its cover".
fair criticism (english)
21 Apr 2003
Is it possible that internal criticism between activist groups can be divisive and unjustifiable considering the larger social issues at stake? Yes.

But is it also possible that a fellow group or faction really is so problematic that -not- criticising it and letting them continue on unchecked and unchanged is overly detrimental to the movement and shared goals of peace? Yes.

It's a judgement call when it's right to make these kinds of critiques--that is unless your want to quash all dissent and internal opinion, which seems a pretty repugnant notion.

I didn't write or post the original criticism of ANSWER, but based on my own experiences with them in how they relate to grassroots organizing in DC--the critique is spot on, and the damage is grave enough to warrant the criticism.

Is it ok that the organizing group of a large scale protest isn't in the "mainstream" of people participating in that protest--yes, but of course strategically that's not the best idea.

But is it ok when that organization ignores or subverts and harms local activist initiatives and acts as a non-inclusive, non transparent group... No, that isn't ok. And ANSWERS apparent inability to listen to this criticism and try to work and correct it-- instead just trying to call it divisive attempts to attack the cause -- are either dellusions or flat out self-serving deceptions.