A Call to the Antiwar Movement: The Need for Unity and Clarity
This is a call for unity and clarity in the US antiwar movement. As activists from a variety of movements, we have a responsibility to articulate a vision for the antiwar movement that moves us forward, at a time when the ravages of colonial occupation are most deeply felt in Palestine, Iraq, and elsewhere around the world, as US imperialism continues to threaten yet more war internationally, and as racism and repression within the United States threaten our lives and our communities.
We believe that it is critical, necessary and essential that the building of the antiwar movement in the United States take place in a manner that emphasizes political unity and political clarity – political unity that links communities and movements in common struggle against US imperialism and political clarity that defines that struggle and its component parts, placing the struggle of the Iraqi and Palestinian people for national liberation at the center of our demands, just as it is in the center of the crosshairs of imperialism and in the center of resistance; as well as the struggles of the people of the Philippines, Colombia, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Cuba, the Sudan, Haiti, Lebanon, Somalia and everywhere else in the world where imperialism is waging war and occupation and people are resisting, organizing and building. Similarly, the struggles of Black, Chicano, Latino, Asian, Arab, Native and other oppressed nations and communities within the US must be central to our work as an antiwar movement that has real meaning for those most directly affected here; for example, the struggle of Katrina victims to rebuild their communities in the face of racism and oppression, and the struggle of undocumented and other immigrants for full equality, legalization, and workers’ rights.
Therefore, we believe that in order to continue to build a broad, mass antiwar movement, and to create the unity of movements and communities necessary to do so, these issues and struggles must be brought forth in our central demands in a clear and consistent manner, emphasizing the unity of our common struggles against US imperialism, and explicitly focusing on the inextricable linkage between Iraq and Palestine; the Right to Return for Palestinian refugees; the national liberation movements throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America; the struggle for self determination for the Black and Chicano nations, and against racism, national oppression, and all other forms of oppression within the United States; and the centrality of indigenous struggle.
We believe that when these central issues are ignored, or not discussed, in public literature, main calls and key slogans for demonstrations and actions, rather than building unity, this has the political effect of sidelining core issues and strengthening the hand of those who would prefer to see an antiwar movement that challenges only the methods and tactics of US imperialism, while leaving its structures intact. We believe that it weakens the power and strength of the anti-imperialist forces in the movement, and that, instead of providing needed political clarity, forces our entire movement to take a step backward, at a time when forward steps are decisively necessary.
In this context, we are concerned to note that the national demonstration being organized for September 15, 2007, by the ANSWER Coalition and a number of other groups, features, in a break with the legacy, politics and advocacy of ANSWER, one slogan and one alone – “End the War Now!” While we certainly agree that this demand is key, we cannot help but to note with dismay the absence of other, and stronger, demands. We are deeply surprised to see that the occupation of Palestine and the denial of the Right to Return for six million Palestinian refugees – at the center of ANSWER’s principles in the past for antiwar demonstrations, and inextricably linked to the occupation of Iraq – is unmentioned in the literature, slogans and call for the demonstration. In fact, the term “occupation” is unmentioned in the primary slogan of the demonstration, even in regard to Iraq. In addition, the people’s struggles against US imperialism in Colombia, the Philippines, Cuba, the Sudan, Venezuela, Haiti, and around the world – as well as the potential threat of war on Iran – are also unmentioned.
We raise these concerns not because we doubt ANSWER’s commitment to an anti-imperialist, anti-racist vision of social justice. In fact, it is precisely because of the strong commitment of those organizers, expressed through years of work and activity that have consistently delineated a broad, anti-imperialist perspective as a leading force in the US antiwar movement, that we must raise these issues for broader discussion and consideration, so that we may work together, arm in arm, to continue to build an antiwar movement that is capable of providing the support needed to the national liberation movements of the people of Iraq, Palestine, and everywhere; and that is capable of being fully part of and fully linked with struggles against racism and oppression within the United States, from the ongoing criminalization and national oppression directed against communities of color within the US, to the raids and repression against the immigrant community, to the ongoing “War on Terror” that has translated into a war of terror on Arab, Muslim, and South Asian communities.
The organizers of September 15 have traditionally been at the forefront of raising these issues, not as extraneous, secondary or minor issues subject to a “laundry list” of concerns, but rather as inextricably connected, central matters that are vital to creating any real movement capable of substantially confronting and challenging US imperialism; and building the alliances that can continue to raise and mount such a challenge, within the US and at an international level. For years, forces within the antiwar movement, linked to United for Peace and Justice, often supportive of the Democratic party, have done everything possible to minimize, exclude and silence the voices of oppressed communities and national liberation movements, refusing to recognize the linkage of Iraq and Palestine, and the overall war on the Arab people; advocating for internationalized occupation of Iraq; denouncing the Iraqi national and people’s resistance; refusing to address the multifaceted, vibrant and powerful movements challenging US imperialism throughout Africa, Latin America and Asia; sidelining indigenous and Native issues; and refusing to focus on racism and national oppression within the United States. These forces have played this role for years; they have often justified their actions by labeling them “broad,” and stating that they are capable of reaching larger numbers of people without addressing these fundamental issues for any movement seeking social justice or to support the national liberation struggles of oppressed peoples.
Time after time, the work of community organizations and antiwar coalitions – including the ANSWER Coalition – has proven those arguments incorrect; that real, broad movements are built by linking communities and struggles against common enemies, through community and grassroots organizing, and that the vast majority of people in the United States have no more interest in supporting the oppression of people in Palestine, Afghanistan, Colombia, Venezuela or the Philippines than they do in supporting the occupation and devastation of the people of Iraq. Therefore, we are committed and determined that our organizing must continue along this path – a path of struggle, justice and liberation; a path of anti-imperialism; and a path of political clarity that informs, motivates, educates and organizes people into a mass movement truly capable of providing the much-needed challenge to US imperialism.
It is very difficult to imagine an acceptable tactical choice that results in the marginalization of central issues and the derogation of core struggles to the sidelines of the movement. On the contrary, rather than building unity, such a tactical choice hinders the kind of real unity that has been forged through years of struggle, while strengthening those who have disunited the movement by refusing to recognize these core issues and rejecting a clear anti-imperialist perspective. Thus, it is problematic at a tactical level as well as an overall political level.
Therefore, we believe that it is critical that antiwar organizing not regard these fundamental, key issues, and fundamental struggles, as anything other than inextricable and central to building the antiwar movement. At this time, when the people of Iraq and Palestine are paying daily with their lives against brutal colonial occupiers; when bombing raids, assassinations, mass military lockdowns, mass imprisonment and the attempted fomenting of civil wars and internal conflicts are a constant and vicious reminder of the ongoing colonial occupations; when we are nearing 60 years of occupation in which millions of Palestinian refugees are prohibited from returning to their original homes and land; when we are witnessing new onslaughts against people’s struggles internationally, including the imprisonment of Filipino people’s leader Jose Maria Sison and the killing of hundreds of activists in the Philippines; and when racism in the United States continues to devastate Black, Latino, Asian, Arab, Native and other communities of color within the United States, and the vicious assault of the “War on Terror” continues to terrorize our communities; there is no other place for the movement to go but forward – united as strongly as possible around a clear political program that emphasizes an anti-imperialist perspective solidly confronting these threats.
This is not only a time, however, of devastating assaults. It is also a time of resistance and of popular struggle for liberation. In Iraq and in Palestine, the national liberation movement and the people’s resistance are unbowed and unbending in the face of this brutality, at the very center of the struggle against US imperialism, leading that fight in the most dire of circumstances and with the highest level of courage. In the Philippines, in Colombia, in Haiti, people’s movements grow and continue despite violence, persecution and threats. In the Sudan, in Iran, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Somalia the people continue to resist US threats and war drives. In Venezuela, in Cuba, in Bolivia, in Oaxaca, in Vieques, throughout Mexico, throughout Latin America, popular resistance and people’s movements continue to thrive and grow, engaging in struggles and revolutionary processes that inspire the world. It is a time when oppressed nations and communities within the US are refusing to accept the continuing racist oppression and criminalization that has defined the history of the United States, from the genocide of indigenous people to the genocide of Africans and the horror of slavery to the continuing reality of racist oppression, the prison-industrial complex and police brutality; and it is a time when millions of immigrants have risen to demand their rights. It is a time when the working class of the United States is rejecting the use of their children as war fodder for the imperialist rulers. It is a time, in short, when nothing less is required of us as a movement than to raise the level of our resistance, in terms of our unity and in terms of our collective ability to prioritize the needs of the movement and the needs of the people, and when nothing less is required of us than political clarity that places all of these core struggles against US imperialism at the center of our work and that refuses to diminish, mitigate or ignore any of them.
This is a call for the future of the antiwar movement in the United States. It is a call to all of us to examine and develop our political organizing and our grassroots work, and a call to all of us to ensure that our demonstrations shall indeed call to end the war, and shall, inextricably, centrally, address the occupation of Iraq and Palestine, support the Right to Return for Palestinian refugees, emphasize the struggle against racism at home and abroad, and provide support to the movements of people in the Philippines, Colombia, Haiti, Venezuela, Cuba, the Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon and everywhere else in the world where people are threatened by imperialism yet continue to resist. This is the way forward, rather than backward, and it is the path needed by the movement today.
It is time to march on September 15. It is time to march on September 29. These demonstrations must be massive and strong. And we call on the organizers of the September 15 demonstration, and all future demonstrations, to place these concerns at the center of their work, and to include these demands in their core demands and main call for the demonstration. Anything else is much less than what is needed now. It is time to move forward together, in struggle and in unity to challenge and confront US imperialism at the center of its power.
Al-Awda New York
Arab American Union Members Council
Arab Muslim American Federation
American Iranian Friendship Committee
Harlem Tenants Council
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
New Jersey Solidarity – Activists for the Liberation of Palestine
New York Committee to Defend Palestine
Palestine Solidarity Group – Chicago
Students for a Democratic Society – University of North Carolina at Asheville
Students for Justice in Palestine – DePaul University
UMMA (United Muslims Moving Ahead) – DePaul University
Musa Al-Hindi, member, coordinating and executive committees, Al-Awda,
Palestine Right to Return Coalition*
Dr. Masad Arbid
Dr. Naseer Aruri
Nellie Hester Bailey, Harlem Tenants Council*
Lumumba Bandele, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement*
Khaled Barakat, Al-Shorouq Newspaper*
Dr. Hisham Bustani, Writer and Activist, Secretary, Socialist Thought
Forum (Jordan)*, Founding Member, Resistant Arab People’s Alliance
Bernadette Ellorin, Secretary-General of BAYAN USA*
Kamau Franklin, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement*
Lora Gordon, Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago*
Dr. Nidal Habash, Jordan
Samia Halaby, Palestinian artist and activist
Monadel Herzallah, Arab American Union Members Council*
Basem Khader, Palestinian Activist
Nada Khader, WESPAC Foundation*
Michael Letwin, New York City Labor Against the War*
Vanessa Lucas, co-chair, Philippines Subcommittee, National Lawyers Guild*
Khalil Maqdesi, Campaign to free Ahmad Sa’adat*
Ellie Ommani, activist with NoWar Westchester*
Ardeshir Ommani, American Iranian Friendship Committee*
Merrilyn Onisko, co-chair, Philippines Subcommittee, National Lawyers Guild*
Brenda Stokely, New York City Labor Against the War*
*Organizations for identification purposes only.