Having A Stalinist Group Organizing Your Protests Is Never Helpful

I still don’t understand why antiwar activists can’t organize their own rallies. Why involve a Stalinist group when you’re perfectly capable of handling it yourself? Whatever the reason, it makes you look well out of the mainstream to hang out with these peckerwoods.

But as the rallies grew larger and more prominent, drawing hundreds of thousands of people in San Francisco and tens of thousands more in smaller protests nationwide, ANSWER’s politics seemed moot. To the vast majority of people marching this weekend in global demonstrations against war on Iraq, they still are. Yet over the last several days, ANSWER’s politics have created a rift within the leadership of the antiwar movement that demonstrates the difficulty in having such a small, radical group play a prominent role in organizing the peace effort.

The problem was exposed when Rabbi Michael Lerner, one of the nation’s most prominent liberal Jewish leaders and editor of the San Francisco-based magazine Tikkun, went public to complain that he was “banned” from speaking at the Sunday rally here, because ANSWER objected to his positions on Israel. (Lerner favors a two-state solution, while ANSWER is fervently anti-Israel.) “A complete falsification,” countered Richard Becker of ANSWER Lerner was not invited to speak, said Becker and other rally organizers, because he had previously “attacked” ANSWER’s positions, and organizers of the rally had agreed not to have speakers who had criticized any of the organizing groups.

Lerner had criticized ANSWER for allowing too many speakers who believe that the United States is threatening to attack Iraq because Israel wants the war and far too few speakers “who share my view that this war is not in the best interests of either Israel or of the United States.”

He was also quoted in a newspaper saying: “There are good reasons to oppose the war and Saddam. Still, it feels that we are being manipulated when subjected to mindless speeches and slogans whose knee-jerk anti-imperialism rarely articulates the deep reasons we should oppose corporate globalization.”

In a press release, the four coalitions organizing the antiwar demonstrations — Bay Area United Against War, Not In Our Name project, United for Peace and Justice and International ANSWER — wrote: “When members of the Tikkun community, who have actively participated in the organizing meetings for Feb. 16, suggested to Bay Area United for Peace and Justice, that it propose Michael Lerner as a speaker, it was explained by members of UFPJ that since he had publicly attacked ANSWER in both the New York Times and Tikkun community e-mail newsletters, his inclusion in the program would violate the agreement among the Feb. 16 organizing groups.”

In other words, dissent among dissenters was not allowed.

The end result of this is that thoughtful leftists are marginalized while the inmates run the asylum.

No comments yet.

Leave a Comment