Sunday, March 11, 2007

Barack Obama, Antiwar Protestors, Tactics & SDS History

[The following exchanges were spurred on
Chicago Indymedia by this report in the Chicago Tribune.]

Protesters disrupt Obama rally

Senator decries war but supports funding

by Christi Parsons and John McCormick
Chicago Tribune

February 12, 2007

A homecoming for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) turned into an anti-war rally Sunday evening, as he returned to his home city following the weekend launch of his candidacy for president to find a crowd of 7,300 troubled over the Iraq war.

Obama already had spent much of the day talking tough about Iraq, critiquing the war positions of other Democratic candidates for president and serving up a sharp retort to a foreign leader who had publicly mocked Obama's own plan for withdrawing troops.

Then a vocal crowd of anti-war protesters quickly made the issue the central focus of Obama's evening rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion, holding up a sign that read "Cut the Funding" during his address and chanting loudly as he tried to speak.

"I'm glad they were there," Obama said later. "They feel a sense of urgency about a war that should have never been authorized and a war that should have never been fought."

But he said he doesn't want to cut funding for the troops who already are serving in Iraq, saying that could mean they don't get the equipment they need.

"We need to bring this war to an end," he said, "but we need to do it in a way that makes our troops safe."

The rally was the last public event on Obama's weekend tour, which began with his official announcement that he would seek the presidency and continued with a tour of Iowa through Sunday afternoon.

But the daylong discussion of the war ultimately was overtaken by political reality, as Obama left the rally to attend a downtown fundraiser hosted for him by Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker.

"I need your money. I need your time. I need your energy," Obama told more than 700 donors gathered at the Hyatt Regency Chicago on East Wacker Drive, where they sampled sandwich meat and fruit in exchange for checks or credit card payments of up to $2,300.

Throughout the weekend, Obama talked repeatedly about the need to end the war.

`Not clear' on Clinton plan

But in talking with reporters over the noon hour Sunday, Obama spoke pointedly for the first time about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's position on the war, by many assessments the New York senator's greatest vulnerability in the primary race.

Obama said he was "not clear" on how Clinton would end the war, which she says she wants to do.

He also pointed out that he was against the war from the start, and said he thought it was possible at the time to tell that the military action "would not work out well." Both Clinton and Democratic candidate John Edwards voted in 2002 to authorize the war, a position that each is now working to finesse with Democratic voters.

In the same question-and-answer session with reporters, Obama had harsh words for Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who said Obama's proposal to withdraw combat troops by March 2008 would "just encourage those who want to completely destabilize and destroy Iraq."

Obama said Australia had sent only 1,400 troops to join the effort in Iraq, a fraction of the 140,000 U.S. troops there.

"I would suggest that he call up another 20,000 Australians and send them to Iraq," Obama said. "Otherwise, it's just a bunch of empty rhetoric."

At the rally that night, Obama greeted supporters with his wife, Michelle, at his side, reiterating the ideas of his announcement speech.

Drowned out by protesters

He hadn't yet gotten to his points about the Iraq war when the protesters began to chant "Troops out now!" prompting Obama to stop his talk and try to engage them.

"I hear you," he said. "We'll talk about that in a second. . . . You've made your point, so why don't you relax?"

But the protesters continued to chant, and the rest of the crowd began to drown them out with shouts of "O-ba-ma!" Someone grabbed the sign from demonstrators' hands--the protesters said later that security officers did so--and they left.

"They kicked us out," said Ryan Donnelly, a UIC student who participated in the protest with about 20 other students.

Obama's message was popular with the crowd. Heather Lewis, 20, a DePaul psychology student, had used black, red and blue markers to create an Obama logo on her white tank top.

Sharon Olsen, a postal carrier from Warrenville, declared: "I believe he is the future of politics for the United States. He has the ability to work with both sides of the aisle, and we need a change."

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) compared Obama to Harold Washington, who was elected Chicago's first black mayor in 1983. "He brought excitement to the air, just like Obama," he said.

The evening fundraiser attracted top Illinois Democrats, including state Comptroller Dan Hynes and Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan. Actor Dennis Hopper also attended.

David Keyt, a health and benefits consultant from Chicago, attended the fundraiser and wrote a check for $1,000 to cover attendance for himself and his wife. He said he was originally backing Clinton but is warming to Obama.

"He represents something new, fresh and not tied to the history of Washington," he said as he arrived for the evening event at the Hyatt. "But we are still learning about him and reading his books."


O'bama and antiwar protestors

12 Feb 2007
by Seele

What is up with this "O'Bomb 'em" bullshit? Christ the only candidate out of 20 to set a date for the troops to leave iraq, and it's still not good enough from this lot. It's almost like some of these anti-war people would condemn ghandi for... who knows?!? "O'bomb-di is just like the rest!"


What "equipment" is that, OBomb'em?

12 Feb 2007
by Just asking

Barack OBomb'em says he won't cut funding because "our" troops won't get the equipment they need. I guess this includes the bombs and bullets that kill Iraqis. Isn't that right, Mr. OBomb'em?

What's troubling about this story is that the so-called Obama "antiwar" rally is a repeat of what happened 30 years ago, when the Democrats finally caught up to the people and began to talk about ending the war against the Vietnamese people. As I recall, they never did cut funding and it was the Vietnamese who finally forced the aggressors to cut and run.

Here we go again, with thousands ga-ga over the latest liberal savior.

When OBome'em says "relax," its good to see that there are people who won't do his bidding.


Re: What "equipment" is that, OBomb'em?

12 Feb 2007
by Student

We clearly need more of this. More pressure on the candidates (they don't even really have time to be "politicians" anymore- a two-year-long presidential campaign that'll cost well over a billion dollars???) ESPECIALLY the more liberal ones who run on an anti-war platform. That's where we can spotlight the gap between their position and ours. I guess you have to ask yourself whether you would sacrifice tens of thousands more Iraqi and Iranian lives so your guy can win an election while the U.S. foreign policy goals remain exactly the same.

What the gentleperson above is suggesting is that an antiwar movement should sit on its hands and get behind a candidate. I would like to know when that has worked. All the examples I can think of, it was the movement that led for change, and it was when the movement subordinated itself to the electoral process that the movement, and therefore all its political goals died as well. Look where Anybody But Bush got us. It got us Bush or Bush light, which, while lower in calories, tastes EVEN SHITTIER than regular Bush. If you don't think any popular movement can ever change anything, then at least admit it so folks don't have to waste their breath arguing, and you can go back to yelling at your tv.


Why Obama is O'bomb 'em

12 Feb 2007
by Andy

Because he advocated bombing Iran over a year ago -- a public position to the RIGHT of the Bush administration. That anyone would consider such a candidate "anti-war" is not only silly, but downright naive. Is there really that much white liberal guilt sloshing about this country that some can't see this?

In the fall of 2002 he used the anti-war movement, then dropped it like a lead balloon as all of the national Democrats rallied around Bush's war in the spring of 2003. When it came time for the 2004 Democratic National Convention and his prime time speech, a few reporters asked us where they could get a copy of his 2002 speech at the CAWI-organized federal plaza rally -- in Orwellian fashion, Obama had wiped it off of his web page.

Now that Obama has once again discovered that mouthing anti-war phrases (while voting for EVERY SINGLE war appropriation since he was elected senator) might be his ticket to the White House, he wants to use the movement again, and some are opportunistic enough to let him get away with it.

With an American bombing campaign against Iran perhaps just months or weeks away, this is unconscionable. Yes, Obama is O'bomb 'em -- kudos to the UIC students for pointing out what should be obvious to everyone else.


O'bama and antiwar protestors

12 Feb 2007
by Help the Right.. slinging mud at the mainstream Left.

If McCain, Romney or Giuliani wins then I know who to thank.


Re: O'bama and antiwar protestors

12 Feb 2007
by Carl Davidson

You don't have to get behind Obama, 'student,' and we need to keep calling him to task.

But why fight straw men? For instance, you say:

'What the gentleperson above is suggesting is that an antiwar movement should sit on its hands and get behind a candidate. I would like to know when that has worked.'

I don't know a single antiwar person or group saying the movement should 'sit on its hands,' do you? Tell us who and give us a reference. Otherwise, you're blowing smoke.

'All the examples I can think of, it was the movement that led for change, and it was when the movement subordinated itself to the electoral process that the movement, and therefore all its political goals died as well.'

What movement has 'subordinated' itself to the 'electoral process'? I know movements that have ignored the electoral process, or taken part in the electoral process, but 'subordinated' themselves to it? The only one I can think of is the labor movement, and even that's not entirely fair.

Then you say:

'Look where Anybody But Bush got us. It got us Bush or Bush light, which, while lower in calories, tastes EVEN SHITTIER than regular Bush.'

What are you talking about? The antiwar movement, or the part of it that did register voters or work for a candidate, could have chosen not to, I suppose, and stayed home election day. All it would meant was Bush would have had a bigger margin of victory. But I guess if you think they where all 'even shittier' than Bush, then was the election's outcome a plus in your book?


Re: O'bama and antiwar protestors
12 Feb 2007
by Student

Ok. My comments, first of all, were directed at "Steele's" comments. That's not really apparent from what I wrote.

In re: 'sitting on one's hands', it seems like that was kind of what "Steele" was suggesting. That we shan't be critical of the best candidate. I say bollocks. We should be critical of every candidate. Doesn't mean we can't support 'em either, if they deserve it.

What that person was saying was critical of the protest in that s/he thought we were attacking Obama, whom s/he sees as the best antiwar candidate. The point of the protest was, like I said, to highlight the gulf between his position and an antiwar position. Not to attack Obama as a crap candidate.

Frankly, I don't know what "Steele" would have young antiwar activists do, but since we got our message out across the country, I think we still did a decent job.

As for the ABB comment, admittedly, that was not very well put at all. The point was that the movement did stagnate as many turned towards electing Kerry, who was not an antiwar candidate by any stretch, just like it stood very still between Sept 24, 2005 until Jan 27th 2007 due to the mid-term elections. Now, it's not an either/or proposition, vote or engage in activism. Clearly one can do both, but organizing suffers, the movement dies down, politics soften, and expectations fall when elections become the only goal. How we balance these are an important argument we should be having in the antiwar movement.


Re: O'bama and antiwar protestors

12 Feb 2007
by Carl Davidson

Fair enough, 'student'. We don't completely agree, but now the discussion is on better ground. I've talked enough for today. Someone else can take it further, if they like.


O'bama and antiwar protestors

13 Feb 2007
by oh, come on

Carl, you write: "What movement has 'subordinated' itself to the 'electoral process'?"

You're kidding me, right? Among the voluminous examples through U.S. history, how about something recent -- say 2004! -- the ABB election which won us four more years of Bush, cited above. You'll recall that in that election, our pals in national peace projects like UFPJ not only stepped back from militant (OK, UFPJ has never been militant, I'm just goofing you) activist work, but encouraged their peeps to do the same. It has taken something like two years for the anti-war movement to recover from that disastrous stall in momentum.

Blowing smoke? Buddy, you're blowing more than that if you really believe movements aren't subordinated by their 'leaders' to electoral imperatives all the time. Among the many wonderful purposes that elections in this country serve -- from maintaining the pretence of 'democracy' to ensuring that a shitload of connected 'advisors' will clean up at the money trough -- are their role as a tight little funnel through which to channel popular outrage, opposition, and dare I say it -- militant fervor for real, substantive change.

For less recent examples from history, you might try the Chicago aldermanic election of 1880, in which the elites refused to allow a legitimately elected aldermanic candidate to take his seat because he was too damned unacceptable. The result? Among other things, that typical little incident of political theft convinced electoral activists Albert Parsons and August Spies that there was simply no hope in hell for a fair shake within the electoral system. But it took the two men a solid decade of wasted effort to get to that conclusion. And you can bet your ass their opposition was not sorry to see them spinning their wheels in the electoral sector instead of throwing themselves full tilt into the kind of more militant mass organizing that ultimately won victories like the 8-hour day (a victory we've seen steadily eroded despite all that tireless electoral work our labor bosses have staked themselves to for the last three generations. Hmmm…).

Of course, the elites got Spies and Parsons six years later, when they railroaded them along with the rest of the Haymarket martyrs for a bombing to which zero evidence linked the men.

I suppose that some might take from this historical rumination the notion that you've got two options - subordinate your legitimate desires to the imperatives of the electoral process and its endless 'lesser of two evils' paradigm, or risk outright assassination at the hands of the elites. On the other hand, despite the most recent wave of government repression - from denying dissidents the right to fly to threatening people with prosecution under the PATRIOT Act - people still seem willing to step out in opposition to the war, and step it UP with no regard for any sacred cow anywhere, including Hillary or Obama.

Of course, all of this pales in comparison to, say, the constant reality of political assassination, imprisonment, and so forth that people confronted during other struggles for justice, notably and recently, the civil rights movement in this country. Poll anybody living who was active in, say, the Black Panther Party or SNCC. I'd speculate that the example those dogged fighters for justice faced forty years ago serves as inspiration in at least some sectors of the anti-war movement today - excepting, of course, our pals in MoveOn and PDA, who think its all about elections all of the time and we should just get over this 'end the war now' crap. Cripes, even Judith LeBlanc of UFPJ believes that - note that the day before the January 27 protest, she told NPR that when UFPJ says "Troops out now" they don't really mean that … they mean troops out pretty soon. Don't take my word for it. Listen to the interview:

Ironically, it is just the sort of relentless, uncowed commitment to principle like that exhibited by the UIC protesters who pooped on the Obama party which stands the best chance of opening the electoral ground to candidates who truly are more progressive than the creeps the two parties continue to offer up. Why, it might even foster the formation of electoral parties with platforms based on verifiable principles - and candidates who stick to those principles, instead of the mealymouth quislings that pass for elected officials today.


O'bama and antiwar protestors

13 Feb 2007
by urraca

The headline from the Chicago Tribune (Sept 25, 2004) after Obama's Republican opponent became no-chance Alan keyes:

Obama would consider missile strikes on Iran

excert from the article:

Obama said the United States must first address Iran's attempt to gain nuclear capabilities by going before the United Nations Security Council and lobbying the international community to apply more pressure on Iran to cease nuclear activities. That pressure should come in the form of economic sanctions, he said.

But if those measures fall short, the United States should not rule out military strikes to destroy nuclear production sites in Iran, Obama said.

"The big question is going to be, if Iran is resistant to these pressures, including economic sanctions, which I hope will be imposed if they do not cooperate, at what point are we going to, if any, are we going to take military action?" Obama asked.

Given the continuing war in Iraq, the United States is not in a position to invade Iran, but missile strikes might be a viable option, he said. Obama conceded that such strikes might further strain relations between the U.S. and the Arab world.

"In light of the fact that we're now in Iraq, with all the problems in terms of perceptions about America that have been created, us launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in," he said.

"On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran. … And I hope it doesn't get to that point. But realistically, as I watch how this thing has evolved, I'd be surprised if Iran blinked at this point."

As for Pakistan, Obama said that if President Pervez Musharraf were to lose power in a coup, the United States similarly might have to consider military action in that country to destroy nuclear weapons it already possesses. Musharraf's troops are battling hundreds of well-armed foreign militants and Pakistani tribesmen in increasingly violent confrontations.


O'bama and antiwar protestors

13 Feb 2007
by Carl Davidson

Sorry, 'Come On,' but UFPJ organized one of its largest actions ever in the pre-2004-election period, about 500,000 in NYC at the GOP convention.

We're their main affiliate here in Chicago. And we joined in building every mass action in this city during that whole period.

When an election comes up, the issues of the day are reflected in it, and many people who care about elections become active around their issues in the electoral area, whether you or I have anything to do with it or not.

You can ignore them or you can engage them, but you don't have to 'subordinate' yourself to them. Perhaps some electoral party groups do, who come together or activate themselves only when there is an election, but the antiwar movement? I don't think so.


O'bama and antiwar protestors

13 Feb 2007
by sabate

That's pretty rich Carl, considering the actual history and diversity of RNC organizing that went on. I was there as well and recall that the UFPJ march and rally was notable as much for its shameless pandering to the Dems and as for the antiwar message delivered.

But here's a question you might pass on to Leslie, Judith, and L.A. et al at UFPJ headquarters. The RNC is scheduled now for Minneapolis-St Paul ( you can read more about the local organizing for this going on at Twin Cities IMC. ) Any plans for UFPJ to be outside?


O'bama and antiwar protestors

13 Feb 2007
by more lol

Oh, lordy, Carl. Not another "grownup" pointing out the obvious about Obama. Where is all this cynicism coming from? I wonder.

BTW. Congrats to the UIC students for calling Barack out on his support for continuing to fund the war. Good job.


Circling the Square
by Christopher Hayes

The day before Barack Obama announced his candidacy for president in Springfield, I was having breakfast in Chicago with my friend Paul Smith. Paul's what might be called an Obama "early adopter." Like a lot of young, Chicago progressives, he threw himself into Obama's senate candidacy when he was just a long-shot in a crowded primary field. In fact, Paul and I first met at an Obama fundraiser in the fall of 2003. So few donors had bought tickets for the event that a mutual friend on the campaign asked us to show up just to fill the room.

Over breakfast we talked about Obama's impending announcement. Paul was preparing to drive down with me on Saturday to watch the speech in person, but feeling ambivalent about the candidate himself. "I can't quite figure out where to plant my flag on him," he said. "I was looking back at my blog from 2004 and the posts I wrote about him and I was so completely committed to him and so convinced he was special and wanted to convince others. And now, I just, I can't quite get back to that. I want to recapture it, but I can't remember what it was."

In the car-ride down to Springfield on Saturday, we were also joined by our friend Dan, another early supporter. He met Obama through a mutual friend around the same time Paul became involved with the campaign. He donated money, organized friends, and became close with many of the campaign staff. I asked Dan if he shared Paul's doubts. "I have issues," he said with a frown. "He's so fucking coy. I mean, I love the guy, but there are things that really matter to me, and they've got to really matter to him. And it's not clear to me right now that they do."

This sentiment is pretty widely shared among the Chicago progressives I know. Many have grown disillusioned with a man they once thought was one of their own and now seems in danger of becoming just another politician. Part of this can be chalked up to a kind of punk-rock-band-gone-MTV disaffection. People who were into Obama when he was an underground, authentic phenomenon aren't necessarily so into the slickly produced, more pop-friendly version.

But then, music can be both really predictable and really popular, and the same is true of politicians. When I talked to people on Saturday, who'd come out on a freezing February morning to stand in the cold and hear a speech they recited, with an almost unsettling fidelity, the campaign's own buzzwords: A college student from downstate said she liked Obama because he was from a "different generation," and that she'd decided to come to "be part of history." A recovering Republican grandmother said she admired Obama because he was "fresh" and two middled-age men with Obama t-shirts spent several minutes telling a Chinese news crew that Obama was a "uniter not a divider." The reporter kept pushing the two men to name specific examples of this quality, but they just kept repeating the point.

Having it both ways, attempting to be at once a progressive champion and an ideological cipher, has become the hallmark of the Obama rhetorical strategy, but there are still so many circles this campaign is trying to square, you wonder if it can last. On the one hand, Obama wants to present his campaign as something more than a campaign, a kind of grassroots, people-powered movement. "That's why I'm in this race," he said Saturday, "Not just to hold an office, but to gather with you to transform a nation." When people like Paul and Dan and others were working on Obama's senate campaign in 2004, that's how it felt. But now he's running for president at a moment in history when the national media rewards the kind of air-tight focus and message discipline that are not exactly what actual grassroots movements are known for producing. So as people entered the square outside the old state capitol in Springfield, security confiscated any home-made signs (all they need is one off-message slogan -- "Destroy The Zionist State!" -- in the frame to cause a week of headaches.) But inside the entrance to the plaza, someone, most likely the campaign, distributed ersatz homemade signs with slogans like "Barack the Vote!" and "Vote 4 Obama" all painted with the same multi-colored palette.

Then there's the other major contradiction of the campaign, the fact that it is simultaneously promising two things -- progress and unity -- that have an uncomfortable relationship to each other. In his speech, Obama recited moments in American history when politics became something more than the mundane mechanics of governing and effected a true transformation of the polity: the civil war, the New Deal, the civil rights movement. But the problem is that those were moments not of unity, but of extreme polarization. The South only granted rights to black citizens under force of arms, armies of unruly war veterans gathered in Washington DC during the Great Depression to demand the government provide them with a safety net, and when Martin Luther King Jr went marching through the South, he was met with batons and firehoses and accusations that he was dividing people and stirring up trouble.

Standing on the site of where Abraham Lincoln gave his "house divided" speech, Obama invoked him as a model:

"[T]he life of a tall, gangly, self-made Springfield lawyer tells us that a different future is possible. He tells us that there is power in words. He tells us that there is power in conviction. That beneath all the differences of race and region, faith and station, we are one people."

It's hard to quarrel with the sentiment. But Obama didn't mention that Lincoln was also the most hated and polarizing figure in American presidential history. Sometimes unity is the price of progress.

-- Christopher Hayes, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute, is a senior editor of In These Times.


O'bama and antiwar protestors

13 Feb 2007
by J.

Remember, folks, our diversity is a strength, not a weakness.

We all contribute, by confronting power with a variety of tactics and strategies.

Let's keep pissing on the powerful, and spend a little less time pissing on each other -- that's a distraction from the real target.


O'bama and antiwar protestors

13 Feb 2007
by Carl Davidson

You're missing the point, 'more lol.'

What's interesting to me with Obama is the parallels with McCarthy in 1968.

Both of them took a stand in their race that was/is outside the 'out now' position of the antiwar movement.

Both drew or are drawing large numbers of idealistic, antiwar youth to their campaigns, often young people not active before.

Both drifted or are drifting leftward in their campaigns.

Some people argue that McCarthy 'diverted' antiwar forces with his campaign. In retrospect, I don't think that view was quite right. Most of the McCarty kids were newcomers. If not for McCarthy, they may have remained passive a lot longer, or at least a bunch of them would have, I think.

We had a long discussion of this in SDS at the time. We didn't support McCarthy because he was only calling for 'negotiations with the NLF,' rather than 'out now.' But we also knew the 'Clean for Gene' kids would radicalize. It was in the cards, whatever stand their candidate took.

So we drafted a careful appeal to them, especially at the Democratic Convention in 1968. We didn't trash them, or their participation in his movement, but appealed for common action, which was made rather easy when the Chicago cops let loose on all young people in the streets, whether they were for McCarthy or chanting 'Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, NLF is Gonna Win!'

I thought it one of our more astute tactics.

Now McCarthy floundered, but opened the door for Bobby Kennedy, whose position on the war wasn't as good as Gene's, but he drew an even larger insurgency until he go a bullet in the head, within weeks of King's being assassinated.

The Black revolt, with 180 cities in flames, then moved everything to a new arena. The Dems were split and destroyed, and the GOP played the 'white backlash' to emerge as the new electoral majority.

McCarthy, by the way, continued to move beyond the Democrats. He later left the party, and ran several times as an independent, on more radical positions, but never got very far. Studying that would probably reveal some lessons for us, too.


O'bama and antiwar protestors

13 Feb 2007
by Ryan Donnelly

This action was just what needs to be done. If students stand up most places he goes and they get the coverage we did, it's going to be harder for him to keep his moderate line. He's not even for Troops Home! I'll let him say it "That's why I have a plan that will bring our combat troops home by March of 2008." Just combat troops! He is the best viable candidate out there, but that is exactley why we need to be pressuring him to move more left. When he sees that his base is for Troops Home Now, he'll either take that position or his campaign will die. The anti-war crowd has no friends in politics, that is why we need to force our enemies and false-friends to comply.


O'bama and antiwar protestors

13 Feb 2007
by Question...

...what about John Edwards? He seems more sincere and resolute about ending the occupation.


O'bama and antiwar protestors

13 Feb 2007
by J.

Edwards is like the rest of them. He is driven by expedience. He voted for this war, but now sees that position loses him the Democratic primary this time around.

Edward's about-face is a classic illustration of why keeping the pressure up, from every angle, delivers results.

Predication: After the first primary, even Clinton will be anti-war. But it will be too late for her. She'll end up like Lieberman last time -- a pathetic loser.

Some of these people are smart enough to realize that, before they can posture for the general election, they have to get through the primaries. And the primaries will not allow war supporters to survive.

Edwards' anti-war position is a smart political judgement. Clinton's stupid. Obama seems to be learning. Let's keep teaching them, by every means, from every angle. Every little bit helps.


O'bama and antiwar protestors

13 Feb 2007
by Carl Davidson

That doesn't help much, 'J.'

It just says keep on marching in the streets--maybe bigger, maybe more militant, maybe both--and harass every candidate who claims to oppose the war every chance you get, while probably ignoring the prowar candidates (well, except in some folks minds, they're ALL pretty much equally prowar candidates, so then you aim your main fire at those who are best or slickest at pretending to be antiwar).

Exactly how this is supposed to help get a candidate become more antiwar and then get elected is not so clear here, at least to me.

I'm not against most of it if it's handled well--ie, I don't go for the 'aim the main blow at the conciliators' line of the third period Comintern, look it up if you haven't heard of it-- but I think we need something more here.

How about we have our neighborhood-based P&J groups register new voters, and track, door-by-door, the degree of their antiwar views, as well as the views of those already registered. Map them all out, nonvoters, too. And our groups keep all the lists and tallies, and we put out our own platform literature on the war. We don't hand them over to anybody.

But we also offer to work in alliance with other groups, everybody from immigrant rights to Youth for Obama or Students for Edwards, canvassing and doing registration. We can't do it all and neither can they, so we make a division of labor and share experiences. If a neighborhood doesn't have a local group, and a majority in Chicago do not, then we organize one of ours as a nonpartisan P&J group, not one tied to the Dems and one or another of the candidates, and with these tasks as a starting point.

We do up a scorecard of where every candidate stands, and organize some neighborhood forums around them. We don't endorse anyone, we organize big debates, and we invite everyone we meet to mass actions; we just change the demographics of the electorate and make it bigger as well (and we keep those lists, to build our own groups, with an eye to the future).

Once you've registered, say, 50,000 or more new voters this way, and have them related to YOUR group, and you have a working relationship with various activists in various campaigns, then you probably begin to some attention from some candidates in a far different way, ie, you've accumulated a little clout that they understand, in addition to the kind of negative clout you get making a ruckus and getting busted at their office or campaign events. That's still important, but the organized strength from the base-building in the 'hoods pay off more strategically, I think.

This way you've intervened in the electoral process on a nonpartisan basis, you've built independent grass roots groups and projected your own views into the debate within the electoral effort, not just outside of it, and, if everything works well, you pull things to the left, not only for one round, but, if you consolidate it, for more in the future even after this war ends.

And you haven't 'subordinated' your group or alliances to anyone.

I'm sure it could stand some improvement, but that seems like a the start of plan we might work with.


O'bama and antiwar protestors

14 Feb 2007
by J.

I'm sorry I didn't make myself clear, Carl.

Please don't mistake me for someone who knows, or cares, about "the third period Comintern." I'm not a Commie, I'm South Side Irish, and Irish Republican, and instinctively understand that the only people politicians care about are the people who show up and vote for them on election day. I'm all about electoral strategy.

But the street strategy helps too, and that's why I participate in it.

Irish Republican says: "Hit 'em from all sides, from every angle, all at the same time. Confusion is our ally, chaos our best friend."

That mercenary approach might be more distasteful to you than the one you imputed to me (not your fault, based on my choice of words, and the context -- online's that way.) But it is my approach.

I very much respect your approach, whether or not you respect mine.


O'bama and antiwar protestors

14 Feb 2007
by Carl Davidson

Good, 'J,' we're in the same ball park and likely the same team.

(BTW, I'll from an Orange line of Ulstersmen, but my immediate grandparents became Catholics over here, so many of my relatives either don't know or don't speak much to each other, meaning I know a little about those 'troubles.')

Confusion and chaos as friends? Only if it's in their camp.

Hit'em everywhere at once?

I like Mao's 'One against ten, ten against one' If you're the 'one' and they're the '10,' pullback, regroup, then break off a smaller piece of them, encircle it so you're now the 10 against the one, then put them out of business. Then move on to the next bunch.

It comes from playing 'Go' rather than checkers or even chess.


O'bama and antiwar protestors

14 Feb 2007
by m

Davidson writes: "We had a long discussion of this in SDS at the time. We didn't support McCarthy because he was only calling for 'negotiations with the NLF,' rather than 'out now.' But we also knew the 'Clean for Gene' kids would radicalize. It was in the cards, whatever stand their candidate took...

"So we drafted a careful appeal to them, especially at the Democratic Convention in 1968. We didn't trash them, or their participation in his movement, but appealed for common action..."

Hmm. That's how some of the leadership in the NO (National Office) of SDS might remember the organization's relationship with the McCarthy campaign after almost four decades, but the truth is that back on campus , the relationship between the McCarthy campaign and SDS was a bit more contentious. At the time 'Clean for Gene' was a phrase usually referenced tongue in cheek. The Yippies had a much funnier and more scatalogical description of the process -- but then again, they were running their own candidate, "Pigasus the Immortal" for President.

While it's true that SDS generally avoided taking a confrontational approach toward the McCarthy campaign - there was a diversity of opinion about how to deal with it -- and the Democrats. Some called for actually backing the campaign. Others, including much of the SDS national leadership, called for backing the National Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE) efforts to bring as many people as possible to Chicago for the demos and teach-ins planned around the 1968 Convention. Others supported staying home and focusing on local organizing. And still others wanted to support the Yippie plans for a Festival of Life during the Convention -- and use humor, satire and disruption in the streets to drive home an antiwar message.

Many of us were also organizing to directly challenge the University's complicity in providing material support for the Vietnam war and trying build solidarity with anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles in the community. Yet, when it came to questions of strategy, there was also strong sentiment in SDS chapters across the country not only to engage, but to challenge McCarthy activists around the real limitations of building a 'loyal' opposition inside a decidely imperialist party with blood stained hands which had repeatedly demonstrated stark indifference or outright hostility toward grassroots movements for progressive social change - including the emerging Black liberation movement. Our explicit goal wasn't to just explore common pathways and organize joint actions with the liberal students we knew -- it was to radicalize them.

But Carl's right about the Battle of Chicago - the tear gas and batons of Daley's rioting cops did far more to dispel liberal illusions among McCarthy supporters than any carefully crafted SDS flyer or nationally circulated position paper -- at least on my campus. Like the Paris student uprising, it was a defining moment for the student movement and set the stage for the upsurge that was to follow.

Fast forward to the Obama rally. One fact Carl omitted in examining the parallels between Obama and McCarthy is that as sketchy McCarthy might have been around the demand for immediate troop withdrawal, he never called for bombing Cambodia or Laos while arguing for a negotiated settlement with the NLF or the DRV.

Obama on the other hand is on record about attacking Iran. That, and his refusal to actually work concretely to defund the war makes him more than a legitimate target for a little antiwar public pressure. Thanks to the UIC students for doing just that.

It should be interesting to see just what role UFPJ -- and a reborn SDS -- takes toward Obama, Edwards and other born again antiwar candidates during the Democratic National Convention in Denver next year.


O'bama and antiwar protestors

14 Feb 2007
by Carl Davidson

I don't think we disagree here, 'm'.

With somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 members at the time, we had a range of views and practice. If the NO was on target, most would pick up on stuff we put out, but if we weren't, we were ignored. New Left Notes, our paper, reported favorably on Pigasus and well as our appeal to the McCarthy kids, which, while measured, was hardly uncritical. And I was assigned at the time to both promote the alliance with Dellinger and the Mobe and the upsurge around university connections with the war.

The harshest differences over the war in SDS were, first, with PL, who wanted boycott the Mobe and attack the Vietnamese leadership as sellouts, and, second, with what was to become the Weather Underground, who also trashed the Mobe, and RYM2, but that's a longer story.

I think Obama's comments on Iran are one of his more unsuccessful efforts at learning to 'triangulate' and learn to speak 'DLC-ese', which you can see in how he stumbles around in the piece from the Trib posted above. Whether he regrets it or would frame it differently now, I don't know. In any case I would continue calling him out on it, and I prefer pushing the 'no first strike' pledge in regard to any country, not just Iran. The position he took was bad enough, even though I don't think he's with the current batch of NeoCon firebreathers trying to provoke attacks on Iran right now.

I think the students calling him to task and challenging him to move further in our direction, rather than simply denouncing him, is exactly the right thing to do. Some folks who know what's going on in his camp tell me he's not going to budge further, but I don't believe it. There's a historical process speeding up here, and things that seem far out one day are old hat the next day, so to speak.

The same goes for Edwards, who is slightly left of Obama on the war now. Too bad he didn't do so well when he actually had a vote in the Senate.

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