A Call for Unity of the U.S. Anti-War Movement
To: Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (ANSWER)
The Northeast Ohio Anti-War Coalition (NOAC) was established in October, 2002 to unify antiwar forces in Northeast Ohio in an open, democratic coalition with the objective of helping prevent the threatened U.S. war against Iraq. In the aftermath of the conventional phase of that war, we decided to retain our coalition and to continue building demonstrations around such demands as "Bring the Troops Home Now! End the Occupation of Iraq!"
We have for the entire period of our existence set as an objective the unifying of the anti-war movement, not only locally but also nationally. Accordingly, NOAC sent a delegate to the June, 2003 conference of UFPJ to promote a proposal we submitted calling for the cosponsorship by ANSWER, UFPJ and USLAW of the September 27 demonstrations called by ANSWER. In response to the written question put by UFPJ organizers of the conference "Which constituencies would this campaign help us bring into the movement or develop strategic alliances with?" we answered:
"Many, the most important of which as proposed are labor with USLAW in the umbrella and people of color with the involvement of ANSWER. The labor movement is critical for developing the most powerful anti-war movement possible. Labor organizations which have passed anti-war resolutions are far more likely to endorse and participate in a national action if it is a united action. . . . The same holds true for international anti-war forces. They will much more readily respond to a call for an action sponsored by a united anti-war movement than only by a section of that movement. All of this must happen to maximize the ability of the anti-war movement to mobilize the greatest number of diverse people and constituencies to present a united front against U.S. plans for continued occupation, warplanning and diversion of resources to meet basic needs."
Although we were told that the spirit of the NOAC resolution was warmly received at the UFPJ conference, the proposal was rejected because the proposed date for the action September 27 is a Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah.
UFPJ did agree to form a liaison committee to work with ANSWER and other anti-war groups in the interest of promoting unity in the movement. Since the June conference, however, it is our understanding that representatives of UFPJ and ANSWER have yet to meet. Moreover, ANSWER has now called national demonstrations for October 25 which conflicts with the October 24-25 conference USLAW previously called to be held in Chicago.
What is urgently needed and still lacking at the present time are plans for united mass demonstrations in the Fall cosponsored by the three groups. This in a period when the U.S. continues its brutal colonial occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, with rising anger and opposition demonstrated by the peoples of both countries, a growing number of resisters to those occupations being murdered by U.S. forces, and the peoples of the occupied countries lacking adequate water, food, electricity and other basic necessities of life. At the same time, U.S. soldiers stationed in the occupied countries are themselves victims of the occupations, as more and more lose their lives while demoralization deepens.
Under such circumstances, leaders of the two major anti-war coalitions have a responsibility to put aside whatever differences stand in the way of unity and join together in the streets to organize as large an action as possible this fall to challenge the government's escalating drive for empire and world domination. And we believe they should do so together with USLAW.
Unifying the anti-war movement in this country has long been a difficult and challenging proposition. We can recall successes and failures in this regard. One success was the coming together of the entire movement, divided though it was, to sponsor and build the April 24, 1971 demonstration against the Vietnam war, which turned out to be one of the largest demonstrations in U.S. history. When unity of the two major coalitions was not quickly attained to support that action, activists spoke out without mincing words. For example, in a letter to both coalitions dated January 26, 1971, the Lower East Side Mobilization for Action (N.Y.) wrote, "Can any of you seriously argue that these [differences] are overriding in the face of the urgency of united action? What madness has brought this upon our movement? … We therefore plead we urge we demand we shout to you: Halt this headlong drift towards division, towards splintering, towards tragedy. Join together it is not too late to deal President Nixon and his war policy a mighty blow, and accelerate the drive towards peace in Vietnam." Expressions such as this were a key factor in forging the resulting unity.
On the other hand, we vividly recall what happened at the very beginning of Persian Gulf War I, when the situation cried out for unity of the anti-war movement but resulted in separate demonstrations a week apart in Washington D.C. The scars of that divisiveness have yet to heal.
With respect to the immediate situation, we have two suggestions. The first is that ANSWER establish its own liaison committee and that representatives of both coalitions meet as quickly as possible. The second is that in the future, before setting dates for major national demonstrations which are designed to mobilize the largest possible number of people, each coalition explore with the other and with USLAW the possibility of making the proposed actions jointly sponsored.
We have no illusions that organizational steps alone will result in united actions involving the various components of the U.S. antiwar movement. For that to happen will require leadership on all sides keenly aware of the responsibilities that go with that leadership and willing to commit themselves to the overriding need to forge unity subordinating turf concerns in the interest of achieving that objective. We earnestly hope that such leadership will be forthcoming in the weeks, months and years ahead.
For our part, we intend to disseminate this statement as widely as possible throughout the movement in hopes that other anti-war groups will also speak out to both major coalitions and remind them of the responsibility we all share to curb U.S. military expansionism and support the right of self-determination of occupied and oppressed peoples around the globe, a responsibility that can most effectively be discharged through unity in action.
Submitted by the Northeast Ohio Anti-War Coalition (NOAC)
c/o American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
513 W. Exchange St.
Akron, OH 44302