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October 5, 2007 | Page 10

Racists respond to Jena demo
Building the antiwar movement

Racists respond to Jena demo

ON SEPTEMBER 21, four nooses were found at Andrews High School in High Point, N.C., just down the road from where I live in Greensboro. There has been ridiculous speculation in the local media about whether or not it was "just a prank," or if it has anything to do with what happened in Jena, La.

It has everything to do with Jena. The largest rally in the Deep South in a very long time had happened the day before, because nooses had been hung on a tree in the schoolyard at Jena's high school. It's also connected to the nooses that were hung on the same day in Alexandria, La., in response to the rally in Jena.

Racism is a huge problem in the U.S., and it is finally being brought out in the open that it is just as alive and virulent as ever in the South, and everywhere in the U.S. We just need to make sure we continue the movement to free the Jena 6 at the grassroots in our communities all over the country.
Julie Southerland, Greensboro, N.C.

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Building the antiwar movement

PAUL D'AMATO'S article, "Socialism, struggle and the united front" is incredibly important today (September 14). The overwhelming majority of people in the U.S. oppose the Iraq war, but consciousness is mixed, ranging from people who take issue with the war because it's unsuccessful, to people who see it as a symptom of capitalism, a system of exploitation that must be overthrown.

I recently read a great piece by Cindy Sheehan, entitled "Pigs of War" on, where she attacks both Democrats and Republicans for their support of the war and poses the question: "What if instead of pigs of war in our government, we had elected officials who put humanity before politics and people before profits?"

Now, I feel that change more fundamental than better elected officials is needed, but I would eagerly work with Cindy Sheehan and anyone else who wants to end the war.

However, in the comments section of Sheehan's article, Max Fields counterposes building an antiwar movement to building a movement that gets to the root of the problem--imperialism--arguing, "We need to face [imperialism], as well as the fact that Iraq is not an anomaly, but an exclamation point on what we've been. Then, and only then, can we begin to do something."

This is a dangerous view. Instead, revolutionaries should take Trotsky's "united front" approach of working within the antiwar movement in order to convince other activists of the need for more fundamental change, a strategy which D'Amato does a great job of laying out.

I agree that we need a movement that takes up demands beyond just opposing the war, but it's possible and necessary to get things done without requiring that people who are active in organizing to acknowledge this right off the bat. In a political climate where over 70 percent of people in the U.S. are opposed to the Iraq war, I think that the first step is to get as many of those people as possible involved in organizing against the war.

Revolutionaries need to have their own organizations raising the issue of imperialism, but in order for these organizations to have an audience and be able to grow, they need to work within mass movements, which the antiwar movement could be in the short term.

Right now, there is the potential to draw large numbers of people into a movement that has one demand: "Troops out now." Once people are engaged in that type of organizing, revolutionaries need to bring up issues like opposition to imperialism and Islamophobia and the need to take a strategic view of GI resistance as key to ending the war.

For many people today, coming to an antiwar conclusion has the potential to be the first step toward a broader radicalization. How far they depends upon whether or not they encounter people, organizations and publications that are making radical arguments. A great place to organize and reach radicalizing people right now is the antiwar movement.

Of course, if the antiwar movement goes no further than challenging the Iraq war, even if the movement is successful, capitalism will remain intact, and there will be more wars. Still, working within and helping to build the antiwar movement is an important next step on the path to fundamentally changing society. It's a necessary next step precisely because it has the potential to organize broad masses of people into struggle, which is key if you want to change peoples' consciousness.

As D'Amato mentions, in his pamphlet Left-wing Communism, Lenin argues against German Communists who reject working within parliament (with the goal of revealing its bankruptcy): "Clearly, the 'Lefts' in Germany have mistaken their desire, their ideological-political attitude, for actual fact."

Just because a segment of the left realizes that we need a movement with demands beyond ending the war does not mean that the majority of people realize this, nor does it mean that building the antiwar movement is obsolete. To abandon the antiwar movement is to deprive newly radicalizing activists of precisely the types of anti-imperialist views they must be won to in order for the kind of fundamental change you seek to become possible.

A strong argument can be made that the Vietnam War was ended in large part due to resistance in the ranks of the military, which was supported and emboldened by a broad antiwar movement, with Vietnam Veterans Against the War playing a leading role. It's also true that many people (my parents included) began their process of radicalization by actively opposing the war, becoming revolutionaries through that struggle in large part because they encountered revolutionaries within the antiwar movement.

Today, Iraq Veterans Against the War is growing, including active-duty GIs who have resisted the occupation. In order for more soldiers to have the courage to resist, a strong antiwar movement is necessary.

Revolutionaries need to help build the movement, work within it and--through clarity of argument and effectiveness of action--win broader layers of people to revolutionary politics.
Gary Lapon, Northampton, Mass.

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