every public event I have attended for the last two years
– all of them being related to opposing the war – I have
invariably run into someone speaking with a thoughtful,
sensitive, reasonable inflection about the need to “reach
out to the other side” and help stop the polarization
that is creeping into American society. And I have had
to practice my best diplomacy to respond… because if I
said what I want to say how I want to say it every time
I hear this bullshit, I would look like a bully. People
who adopt these “reasonable” tones are often skilled passive-aggressives
who could easily make anyone who opposes them look like
a bully. I suspect they also often have agendas.
me say now with no equivocation, I endorse polarization.
Deep, wide, disruptive, knock-down-drag-out polarization.
That’s what social upheaval looks like, and upheaval is
exactly what we need.
not the kind that was creating an idiotically divided
antiwar demonstration for September 24th. That kind of
polarization, where the left organizes a firing squad
by forming a circle, is destructive of only one pole.
I’m not going to go into any depth here about the respective
faults of the two groups – one very broad and administratively
unwieldy, with certain leaders that will cling to the
pantlegs of the Democratic Party until they die, and one
agile as only a top-down rule-or-ruin sect-led outfit
can be, with leaders who seem unable to resist proposing
maximalist programs in every venue in order to woo social
sector “franchises.” There… I talked shit about both of
them, as they both deserve. Enough. Broad is good. Agile
is good. Opportunism, in any guise, is bad.
is being organized on September 24th is immensely important,
far more important than either of the “leading” groups,
and their decision to bury the hatchet is an indication
that the clamoring of many dedicated leftists who put
the needs of the movement before those of some fetishized
organization has had an effect. We need a united left,
and we do not need any formation out there claiming to
be the only true prophets any more than we need social-democratic
majoritarians. Otherwise the polarization will be a massively
organized, well-funded (and need I point out, well-armed)
right-wing, and a fragmented fratricidal left.
steady degeneration of the Energy War, the growing public
disillusion with the serial pronouncements of “progress,”
and the catalyst of the Cindy Sheehan drama in Crawford,
have thrown a monkey wrench into the propaganda machine,
but more importantly, the “radical” position on the war,
unilateral and immediate withdrawal, has been legitimized.
And it wasn’t accomplished with a policy fight, with lobbying,
or even with a “peaceful, legal” demonstration. It was
accomnplished with civil disobedience.
protest was civil disobedience! She was told not to. She
did. She was told to leave. She didn’t. She is also going
to refuse to pay her taxes.
this kind of action captures the public imagination, there
is always the threat that people will be awakened to politics
as a struggle for social power that can be taken out of
the electoral-legislative corral.
from plain opportunism and the whiff of funding opportunities,
Moveon, a thinly-veiled front for the Democratic Party
first conceived in defense of the murderous Bill Clinton,
whipped into Crawford with money and media experts to
“support Cindy,” because there is no entity that has more
to fear from her out-0f-the-box message than the bourgeois
charlatans of the Democratic Leadership Council. To her
great credit, Cindy has finessed this very well, using
the resources without accepting anyone’s strings to dance
around the core message – Bring Them Home Now. Those of
us who know her know that Cindy is no “average middle-aged
mom.” She is an extremely intelligent woman with the heart
of a pro boxer.
Democrats are already grooming a few 2008 candidates,
including the execrable Hillary Rodham Clinton who has
already stated her intention to beef up the war against
Southwest Asia. Let’s not forget that her husband presided
over an Iraqi holocaust that George W. Bush is still trying
to match. The Republicans are secure for now with their
white nationalist popular base. An active and increasingly
militant left is a more immediate threat to the Democrats
– who have prospered from Republican reaction for decades
now by capturing social bases that feel they have nowhere
else to go. That dilemma is real, but it is also predicated
on the notion that to “go there” we need to contain ourselves
in electoralism and pluralist policy fights that are engineered
by corporations and NGOs.
why Sheehan and others who propose the radical option
of simply leaving Iraq are now being surrounded by the
friendly faces of “progressives” who will try and redirect
this newfound mobilization along acceptable paths.
Tom Hayden with his “proposal” for disengagement in Iraq.
The logic is – antiwar Congresspeople cannot advance their
agenda without an alternative to the fake “exit strategies”
of the right. Of course, this is just another Moveon proposal.
Nothing unilateral about it, and no demand for immediate
withdrawal. Moreover, it depends on actions taken by Iraqis
that the US will ultimately have no control over unless
it is coercive. This plan is no less racist in its implications
than the Republican myth of democracy-implants. It still
calls for outsiders (including possibly the CIA!) to broker
the withdrawal and oversee the “reconciliation” of those
troublesome brown people. Sorry, Tom. This is bullshit.
Just because you ask for guarantees of no permanent US
bases and no preferential US contracts does not erase
the fact that you have taken self-determination off the
board and are attempting to redirect the demand (yet unmet)
for a political decision to leave into a policy debate.
me just say something about how to withdraw. This is my
plan, and it requires nothing of the Iraqis:
National Command Authority orders all US forces redeployed
out of Iraq within one month and out of the theater in
two months. Any commander that fails to meet the deadline
will be summarily relieved, and replaced with a commander
that will thereby be placed on a shorter timeline. I can
promise anyone who has no experience of the military that
this is perfectly feasible, and that with that kind of
command emphasis, the mission can and will be accomplished.
the movement that will hopefully put hundreds of thousands
in the streets of DC in September has not yet achieved
the goal of forcing this political decision to be made.
Politics as an exercise of popular power will be sidelined
if it takes up the issue of HOW to leave Iraq. It’s a
bullshit issue designed to stand us down, and put us back
in the box.
the same time, we have to pay attention to how the right-wing
is attacking Cindy Sheehan. Something we have to be very
clear about is that these attacks are only commensurate
with the threat they perceive her to be. When it is necessary,
the reactionaries will be unleashed by the entire dominant
class to whatever is necessary to preserve their power.
They will slander us; they will jail us; and they will
kill us, if that’s what they believe is necessary. I don’t
know why so many people so stubbornly ignore this historically
demonstrable fact. The only way to prepare for that is
to build a powerful and militant multi-tendency revolutionary
left that transcends the NGO politics of the “progressives”
on the right and the sectarian (and tactically stupid)
maximalism of the ultra-left.
most important task over the next month – at least from
where I am standing – is to use the momentum created by
the Cindy Sheehan breakthrough at Crawford to ramp up
the largest possible demonstration against the war for
September 24th in Washington DC. Psuedo-leftist “exit
strategies,” blaming Republicans for the war (instead
of the entire dominant class), or trying to turn this
into a recruiting opportunity for small leftist sects,
are obstacles to this process. Turning this war into a
political liability will do more for every form of resistance
to imperialism in every location around the world than
all the policy fights or all of the pristinely perfect
left-maximalist programs in the world.
doesn’t bring down the beast. Bleeding does. The US withdrawal
from Iraq will be one of the biggest victories for genuine
people’s movements, here and abroad, since the US was
forced out of Vietnam.