January 27, 2003

Antiwar movement grows beyond the usual shibboleths

While the War Party brays about all the glorious sacrifices we'll have to make to win the War on Everyone, and opines that privation on the home front builds character as well as empire, it looks like there's some wavering in the ranks. Writing in "The Corner," National Review's group-blog and mutual admiration society, investment banker and weekend NR blogger Andrew Stuttaford balks at a world without wingtips:

"WINGTIP TRAVEL TIP [Andrew Stuttaford]

"Going through security at a West Coast airport this week my harmless-seeming (if battered) shoes once again triggered off the system.

"'Metal shanks,' explained a sympathetic screener as he studied these not so lethal pieces of fine English footwear. 'Try wearing sneakers when you travel and just pack the regular shoes in your hand baggage.'

"OK, maybe most people have already worked this out for themselves, but it seemed like good, if aesthetically distressing, advice to pass on to anybody (like me) not smart enough to do so. Just thought I'd mention it."

Let's hope and pray the President utilizes his State of the Union speech to proclaim "I can only promise you blood, sweat, tears, and confiscated wingtips." Half of the GOP would defect on the spot, and soon the Young Republicans would be vying with the Workers World Party for prime spots on the speakers' platform at the upcoming antiwar rallies. Speaking of the Workers out-of-this-World Party….

As the antiwar movement gains momentum, it is fast leaving behind the eccentric pro-Stalinist cult that has been the driving force behind the recent mobilizations. The Workers World Party was founded in 1957 by followers of Sam Marcy, a former leader of the Socialist Workers Party: Marcy and his small band of followers were expelled for supporting the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary. Up until this point, they have dominated the platform at antiwar rallies organized by their front group, Act Now to End War and Racism (ANSWER), but the long campaign by moderates and libertarians in the antiwar movement to create a single-issue coalition unburdened by far-left shibboleths is finally taking hold, having reached the point where even the New York Times is taking note of it.

The pro-war Right has latched on to the WWP-antiwar connection, absurdly charging that to even march in a rally in any way connected with known Communists is to become an accomplice and apologist for all the horrors of Stalin's gulag. According to David Horowitz, the ex-Commie-turned-rightwing self-parody, the hundreds of thousands of antiwar demonstrators who turned out on January 18 were all Communists, who agree with the WWP that Kim Jong Il is a "Great Leader" and North Korea is a workers paradise.

But the Times doesn't cite the hyperbolic Horowitz or any of his fellow neocons, only antiwar people who are sick unto death of hearing about Mumia Abu-Jamal:

"Behind the scenes, some of the protesters have questioned whether the message of opposing war with Iraq is being tainted or at least diluted by other causes of International Answer, which sponsored both the Washington and San Francisco rallies. … Answer's critics say they simply wish that when it sponsors antiwar rallies, it would confine its message to opposition to war. At the rally in Washington, the group's speakers advocated causes like better treatment of American Indians and release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the radical activist long imprisoned for killing a Philadelphia police officer."

The WWPers have struck back, predictably enough, with cries of "McCarthyism!" Says Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a spokeswoman for Answer,

"When you select out the Socialists or Marxists, the point is to demonize and divide and diminish a massive, growing movement."

To even raise the question of what sort of leadership the antiwar movement must have to win is to engage in "classic McCarthy-era Red-baiting."

The Wacky-Worlders are kidding themselves, but they can't kid me. Dealing with a real honest-to-goodness Communist – that is, a member of the party of Gus Hall and Earl Browder – would be a hell of a lot easier than having to contend with the WWP. The WWP/ANSWER group select themselves out of the crowd of socialists and other Marxists in the antiwar movement with their inveterate sectarianism and the sheer eccentricity of their politics. And it isn't just me, unregenerate right-winger that I am: plenty of leftists agree with me on that score.

Leftists in the antiwar movement should take to heart the tactics employed by the parent party of Sam Marcy and the WWP during the Vietnam war era. The Socialist Workers Party (SWP), once the main Trotskyist group in the U.S., helped to build a massive movement in opposition to the Vietnam intervention, in which eventually millions of Americans united around a single issue: bring the troops home now. The Trots went up against every grouplet of New Left know-it-alls, who thought they were going to hitch up the antiwar movement to their revolutionary bandwagon, and they largely succeeded, or at least they fought the "multi-issue" self-styled radicals to a standstill. As Fred Halsted, a leader of the SWP and the antiwar movement, put it in Out Now, still the best blow-by-blow account of the Vietnam era opposition:

"Numerous unaffiliated radicals made the mistake of treating the antiwar movement as an embryonic revolutionary party or trying to convert it into a leftist political formation according to their specifications. To whatever extent they succeeded with any formation, it simply ceased to be an effective antiwar mobilizer."

It's a pertinent lesson for today. The Times goes on to cite one activist who helped organize a protest in her Northwest Washington neighborhood in "in part to provide an outlet for those who felt uncomfortable attending the Answer-sponsored rally. 'I felt like it was important just to go and be counted," Karen Guberman said, 'but many of my friends felt they couldn't count on what was going to be said, and so we did this very specific thing.'"

Instead of going around ANSWER, however, the antiwar mainstream now appears to be going over its head: the February 15 rallies (Feb. 16 in San Francisco) scheduled by United for Peace are shaping up as a very different and far broader venue for peace activists to make their case. While ANSWER has endorsed the February actions, "it is not yet clear what role it will play in shaping the tone," the Times informs us. The paper quotes Leslie Cogan, a UFP organizer, as saying "We want our speakers making a clear link to the issue."

Now that is something to look forward to, and I have a suggestion. Why don't they invite Brendan O'Neil to speak? He has an interesting piece in the Christian Science Monitor, one that challenges the familiar "war for oil" argument that infatuates the left-wing opposition to the exclusion of all other explanations. He trenchantly points out that this very same analysis has been hauled out to "explain" every war in the post-cold war era, from Kosovo to Somalia and Afghanistan. While acknowledging that oil is a factor, O'Neill rightly points out that this "one-size-fits-all" template obscures more than it explains:

"Instead of coming to terms with the forces driving Western intervention in each case, sections of the antiwar movement opted for a one-size-fits-all explanation, superimposing the 'war for oil' script on often complex conflicts."

This one-dimensional analysis fails to account for a number of other, often far more significant factors weighing in for war, such as religion, ideology, domestic politics, and the personal loyalties and idiosyncrasies of politicians. There is also an ideological motive for the "it's all about oil" mantra:

"The well-rehearsed oil argument attempts to make war a simple issue of good versus evil, with oil-greedy imperialists on one side and defenseless civilians on the other. This presents the world as we might prefer it to be, where it's easy to know whom we should oppose, rather than as the world really is – where wars are weird, confusing, and often fought for no obvious material or economic gain."

What would be interesting to hear is what, exactly, are these weird, confusing, and not-so-obvious motives behind the rush to war. O'Neill doesn't say in his article, but, as my regular readers know, I have my own theories on that subject, and, speaking of Israel….

The worldwide campaign to conjure up a rising tide of "anti-Semitism" in Europe as a natural outgrowth of rising antiwar sentiment took a weird turn the other day when French police called into question the recent stabbing of Rabbi Gabriel Farhi. This incident, you'll recall, was supposed to herald a "wave" of "anti-Semitism," allegedly tied in to the anti-Israel boycott and growing opposition in Europe to Ariel Sharon's ongoing conquest of the occupied territories. Every political leader in France condemned the attack, descrying the "bigotry" and "hate" that no doubt motivated it: except, it seems, that the wound may have been self inflicted. Ha'aretz reports:

"The French Jewish community is in an uproar over allegations that Reform Rabbi Gabriel Farhi, who was stabbed on January 3, may in fact have faked the stabbing. The allegations surfaced in a report this week by the weekly magazine Marianne, which was then picked up by Le Figaro. The journal reported that police officers investigating the stabbing said it is not clear whether Farhi was actually stabbed by an unknown assailant, and they are not ruling out the possibility that Farhi in fact stabbed himself."

Faked "hate crimes" are nothing new. Remember Tawana Brawley? Al Sharpton would rather you didn't. But surely a lot more politicians, pundits, and professional victimologists of all persuasions were taken in this time around. What I want to know is this: will Rabbi Farhi be prosecuted if and when it is proved that he committed a hate crime against himself?

The evidence doesn't look good for the Rabbi and his supporters:

"'I've seen assaults and stabbings as part of my job, but I must say that this was a rather strange stabbing,' Marianne quoted the officer who led the investigating team as saying. A few days later, the doctor who examined Farhi submitted a report to the police in which he wrote that 'the wound does not match the rabbi's version of the assault.'"

The report, we are told, has "stunned French Jewry" – but what about the legions of politicians (four former prime ministers), not to mention the pundits, who piously proclaimed that the stabbing of Farhi signified the parlous moral condition of Europe? One hopes they are not too stunned to ask why someone would pull such a stunt at this particular moment in history.


I have an article in the February issue of Chronicles, the monthly magazine put out by the Rockford Institute, "Attack of the Jacobins," on l'affaire Lott. I don't think this one is online, so if you want to read it (and the other articles I'll be writing for them in the future), I suggest subscribing.

I will also have a piece on the antiwar movement in the upcoming issue of The American Conservative. Again, fans of my writing would do well to subscribe. Please use this link as Antiwar.com gets a cut. Thanks.

– Justin Raimondo

comments on this article?

 Please Support Antiwar.com

520 S. Murphy Avenue, #202
Sunnyvale, CA 94086

or Contribute Via our Secure Server
Credit Card Donation Form

Your contributions are now tax-deductible

Antiwar.com Home Page

Most recent column by Justin Raimondo

Archived columns

Growing Up

Israel's Amen Corner

Target: Scott Ritter

Listen Up, Soldier

Watch Your Back

Going Crazy

Turning Point

War Party in Retreat

Hail Caesar?

Korean Ghosts

Do Neocons Exist?

Happy New Year?

Previous columns

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

Back to Antiwar.com Home Page | Contact Us