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Left-Right Antiwar Alliance? Response to Justin Raimondo

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Left-Right Antiwar Alliance? Response to Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo gave a talk in Boston last Thursday, November 13, to propose "Organize a Left-Right Alliance Against the War Parties". Raimondo is editorial director of antiwar.com, an excellent libertarian antiwar site.  The transcript is posted here and video can be seen here.   The Boston meeting was attended by about 60 people, nearly all of them white and about 80% male.

The talk was billed as the Boston launch, or pre-launch, of a new antiwar coalition to be called Come Home America, and "which seeks to unite conservatives, liberals and libertarians against militarism and Empire".   There is also a book to come out with the same title-- a collection of writings by those who attended a left-right antiwar meeting in Washington in February 2010.

Raimundo started out his remarks by attacking the "left" peace movement, calling out United for Peace and Justice and United National Antiwar Conference for criticism.   There were so many distortions and slanders in this portion of his remarks that it would be tiresome to respond to them all.

The thrust of his attack on UFPJ is that it has, first, surrendered politically to the warmakers by supporting Obama, and second, actually dissolved as an organization.  The truth is that UFPJ continues vigorously opposing the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the whole imperial system; our most recent national action was to bring peace issues to the One Nation Working Together mobilization on October 2, when we convened 90 national organizations behind the Peace Table, organized a peace feeder march, and distributed tends of thousands of antiwar signs, flyers, and stickers to the largely labor and Afro-American crowds that turned out.   UFPJ's local affiliates continue to hold vigils, demonstrations and forums across the country.  Working through One Nation may not be the tactics Raimondo prefers -- but it's a lie to say UFPJ isn't in the streets.

During the Bush years, the Iraq war was the flashpoint of national politics.   Progressives objected to Bush policies on nearly everything, but the war was the rallying point.  Under Obama, that has changed, partly because some of Obama's domestic policies are better than Bush's, and partly because with the economic crash, jobs and economic issues are now the main issues in the country, more important to many than the wars.  None of these facts were created by UFPJ.  

Antiwar progressives are disappointed with Obama's weak measures on jobs, health care, education, housing, climate change, and immigration rights-- but at least Obama recognizes these are problems to be solved, while the right does everything it can to prevent solutions.  We want to revive the economy with a much larger jobs program (and restructure it to break corporate power), to create health care for all, and to transition quickly to a post-carbon economy to save the planet.  We defend the limited moves Obama has made in these directions, while criticizing them for their weakness.  So, a significant portion of the anti-Bush coalition now defends Obama against the right (and tries to push him farther).   And yes, this has meant a decline in support for UFPJ compared to the Bush years -- because we continue to focus on attacking Obama's war policies even as we work with Democrats against the right.   But we have stabilized and are moving forward with new initiatives.

Another wing of the progressive antiwar movement, while agreeing with UFPJ on jobs and other issues needed by the people, sees Democrats as just as bad as Republicans (on war issues as well as domestic issues) and is opposed to working with any Democrats.   UNAC tends to fall into this category, though there is a range of views in both UFPJ and UNAC.

Raimondo spent nearly an hour recounting the twists and turns of the peace issue in US politics from the Founding Fathers through 1812, 1989, 1914, 1941 and so on.  While the history lesson was interesting, it was not completely clear what lessons he wanted us to take away from this account.   I suspect his point was that neither Democrats nor Republicans have been consistently antiwar but have favored war or peace depending on the domestic interests they defend.  Perhaps Raimondo thinks this pattern should be ended, and that a true antiwar force is in favor of peace regardless of other factors.   For my part, I am not against all wars.  I see war as a last resort but I defend the war against Hitler and the US civil war, for example, as necessary wars.   In the current era, I am against all wars conducted by the US imperial state.

In the final portion of his remarks, Raimondo called for a single-issue antiwar movement, and this seems to be the goal of the proposed Come Home America.   My reaction to this is that progressives connect peace with justice for good reason -- because we see so many links between them, and because the constituency we seek to mobilize does too.   We see Muslims being scapegoated as part of the phoney "War on Terror".   We see the poverty draft putting disproportionately Black and Latino youth in the line of fire.   We see the hollowing out of the economy as US companies export manufacturing and increasingly, white collar jobs too, overseas.  We see jobs, health care, education and the rest being decimated by the government's runaway military spending.   All of these are powerful factors which move people to oppose the wars.

Still, even if libertarians don't agree with any of this, if they are coming together to work against the wars, I for one will welcome them.  We value the antiwar stands of Ron Paul and a small number of other Republican congresspeople (9 voted for the McGovern bill for an exit timeline in July, compared to 153 Democrats), and we certainly hope their ranks will grow.  I can testify that at the Tea Party Express rally on Boston Common on April 14, there were many antiwar Tea Party supporters (though they did not have antiwar signs).  I could support libertarian speakers at antiwar events, in proportion to the effort they put into turning out people, and provided they don't create divisiveness by attacking other parts of the coalition at an event where we are trying to speak to the broad public.  (They can debate strategy all they like in forums and meetings.)  

I am also open to hearing a proposal for any special antiwar rallies which mention only wars and don't get into justice issues where the left and right disagree.  We're not going to put the bulk of our effort into such an approach because it would not be an effective way to bring out our base, but we can do events like that sometimes.   Raimondo's proposal for a right-left antiwar coalition is not serious if to join it, we have to stop being progressives.   We are not going to drop the "Justice" from UFPJ's name -- if that's the proposal, you can forget it.  

United for Justice with Peace is the Greater Boston affiliate of UFPJ.  UJP's next Stop the Afghanistan War vigil in front of Sen. Kerry and Brown's offices will be Wednesday, Dec. 15 at noon.   Libertarians, join us -- or hold your own vigil if you don't like ours.   Either way, let's get moving!