The new antiwar movement: Learning from the mistakes of the past

One of the many signs denouncing Biden. That is a starting point, but only a starting point.

  • Biden & Democrats
  • Trump and Republicans
  • Alternative to both & learning from Vietnam War protests
  • Building a working class alternative to both capitalist parties

It is not enough for this new movement to denounce Biden. An alternative to him and both capitalist parties is more necessary today than in over 100 years. The rising movement against Biden’s support for Israel’s genocidal war can be the starting point, but we must go beyond that.

The situation is complex because Biden and the overwhelming majority of his party, including Bernie Sanders, are supporting genocide. On the other hand, what the QAnon Republicans pose is even more dangerous.

The former Trump administration’s racist in residence, Stephen Miller, is believed to be one of the main architects of Project 25.

Trump and “Project 25”
A recent  article in the Washington Post explained: “Donald Trump and his allies have begun mapping out specific plans for using the federal government to punish critics and opponents should he win a second term,”the Post wrote. According to the article, Trump not only plans to use the Department of (in)Justice (DOJ) as his own personal tool to persecute those he feels have betrayed him as well as Biden and other Democrats. Also, and maybe more important is this: Working with Trump is a group called “Project 25” (as in 2025). According to the Washington Post, the group “is developing a plan, to include draft executive orders, that would deploy the military domestically under the Insurrection Act,” if there are public protests against Trump.

This is not just scare stories. After he lost the 2020 election but before he left office, Trump was talking about using that Act to bring the troops out onto the streets in order to remain in office. The main thing that prevented him was the fact that the majority of the military generals made it clear that they would not obey such an order. Trump’s response to this was reportedly that he wanted generals “like the German generals” of Adolph Hitler.

“Schedule F”
Trump also tried to gain complete personal control over the federal bureaucracy through something he called “Schedule F”. This plan would enable him to fire up to 50,000 federal workers and install ones loyal to him. He wouldn’t have to fire that many. Just a few thousand in each department would cow the rest.

Biden hugs war criminal Netanyahu. However, “progressive” Democrat Bernie Sanders is on the same page as Biden when it comes to Israel.

This brings us to the Democrats, against whom the movement is correctly mobilized today. In general they support Israel’s genocidal war. While Biden may be moving incrementally to ever so slightly push Netanyahu, that is having no effect whatsoever because Netanyahu knows the Democrats will continue funding Israel. “Progressive” congresswoman Barbara Lee supports funding Israel as this debate I had with her in 2014 shows. Bernie Sanders won’t even call for a cease fire. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has bluntly denounced Trump for his support for Genocide and has implied not supporting him in 2024. It looks like the Democratic Party leadership will be primarying her, but in any case the question is: “What is the alternative to Biden and the Democrats?”

Learn from mistakes of movement against Vietnam War
Here this new movement should learn from the mistakes made in the movement against the US invasion of Vietnam. The Number One mistake was to keep that movement focused on the single issue of the invasion. The movement denounced President Johnson while he was in office, but it never posed an alternative. That left the door open to an even worse president – Nixon. Even more serious, once the war ended the anti-war movement collapsed. All that was left was a few little terrorist groups like the Weather Underground. That antiwar movement should have been raising the necessity for a working class party as an alternative to the Democrats and Republicans.

Opportunity today
Today, the opportunity to do so is many times greater. For one thing, the prejudices against socialism are a thing of the past for most young people (and many not-so-young people too!) For another, workers have been facing cuts after cuts in their standard of living. Also, movements by and for people of color, women and LGBTQ people have raised the consciousness.

Carpenters president Doug McCarron is only the most extreme example of the entire union bureaucracy.

Labor movement
If we are talking about a working class party and working class candidates for office, then we have to consider the only mass working class organizations in the U.S.  – the unions. They are controlled from top to bottom by a bureaucracy that is not only tied at the hip to the Democratic Party (except for a few who also support the Republicans), they are also locked into the “team concept”. That means the concept that the union and the bosses have the same interests on the job. The result is that the leadership does everything it can to keep the membership in check, to prevent a real fight against the employers. To even start to build a base inside the unions, any movement for a working class party will have to help rank and file union members organize to transform their unions.

Other issues
There are other complications. No political party, nor even any candidate for office, can grow around only one issue, no matter how important that issue may be. That includes Israel’s war on the Palestinians. That’s why this new movement will have to go beyond this single issue and will have to break with identity politics.Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, we have had protests of Ukrainian Americans against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, protests of Iranian Americans against that theocratic regime, and protests of Burmese Americans against the coup in that country. In each case, almost nobody else (except this author and a very few others) was present. And the “left” entirely ignored these issues. Why? The reason is that this “left” feels itself morally obligated to protest against anything the US government says or does, and little or nothing else. That is a betrayal of international working class solidarity, which has to be the number one focus of any working class socialist movement today.

How to begin?
We can start by organizing democratically run organizing committees in communities, schools, etc. These can be organized both through social media and at the rallies against the war. It may be “old fashioned” but we should be distributing physical leaflets which have contact information (including QR codes) to enable people to get involved. Meetings can be organized both online and in person (if possible outdoors to reduce the danger of covid, and in any case people should be masked). Through this, coordinating teams can be elected as well as representatives to link up all such committees together. Also, through this, a wider program – one which does not ignore the issue of capitalism vs socialism – can be developed.

Finally, we should call for the larger protests to be organized democratically, with speakers from all different points of view plus an open mic. This would give voice to those who want an alternative to the Republicans and Democrats, connected with those who think that the new movement should express genuine working class international solidarity not only with the Palestinians, but also with people suffering from occupation and repression in Ukraine, Iran, Myanmar, Syria, Chechnya, Xinjiang, and beyond.

2024 elections
It’s not possible to run a candidate for president next year. And those who are running are no alternative. Take Cornel West, for example: He opposes US support for Israel, but then he turns around and makes excuses for Russia’s equally criminal invasion of Ukraine! That is not real international solidarity; it’s simply falling into the same narrow methods of the failed “left” in the United States.

But what is possible is to start to organize to run candidates for local office – city council, even maybe state representative. Such candidates should emphasize that what happens in the country and the world as a whole will have a decisive effect on the city or region in which we are campaigning. That is the way to bring in all the wider issues. In this connection, the need for a working class party – and socialism – can be raised.

I hope my 2022 campaign for Oakland mayor can help set the stage for other similar campaigns.

My campaign for Oakland mayor
I ran for Oakland mayor in 2022 as the working class socialist candidate. One reason I did it was to help set an example of how such campaigns could look. In my campaign I tried to tie together the local and the wider issues. I stressed that I was not the “vote for me and I’ll set you free” candidate; I was the working class socialist candidate who advocated that we as workers have to organize. I included the need for a working class party and for socialism. Here is an example. I learned a lot in this campaign, including from the mistakes I believe I made. Here is an article explaining the general background and also some of the mistakes I made. I hope others take up this example, improve on it, learn from my mistakes and add their own ideas and approaches.

2 replies »

  1. Interesante el punto de vista de ayudar a la base de los sindicatos, osea sacarse de encima a la burocracia, para avanzar en la constitucion de un partido de la clase obrera

    • Translation: “It is an interesting point of view that support of the rank and file of the unions, removed from the domination of the bureaucracy, is necessary to advance the construction of a working class party.”

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