[OPE-L:8650] the anti-war movement

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Fri Mar 21 2003 - 08:45:51 EST

Rakesh wrote in [8642]:

> By the way, I think the American weekend anti war movement is not
> only politically impotent, it is even for the most part
> ideologically trapped as Perry Anderson has shown.

I found Anderson's pessimistic piece to be quite unconvincing (and
I also note that it was _not_ primarily directed at the anti-war movement
in the US).  Is the anti-war movement "politically impotent"?

No.  Nor is the international anti-war movement of which the movement
in the US is only a part.  What has to be grasped, first and foremost,
isn't  the demands of the anti-war leadership or their political
orientation.  What must be fully comprehended is the _enormity_ of the
anti-war  movement!  How many MILLIONS of people have
demonstrated against the war in the US and internationally?   I can not
give an exact quantitative answer to that question.  Yet,  the quantitative
scale of this movement shows that it has become _qualitatively_ something

And what is that then?  Well, you have many millions of people globally
who have been energized and mobilized into opposition to the war.
And who are these people by and large?   They are, by and large,
workers and students in the advanced capitalist nations and workers,
students, peasants,  and members of the 'informal sector' in many other
parts of the world.  And they are, in large measure, people in a state
of *political flux*, i.e. people without any strong commitment to
political ideology or party.  They are also, relatedly, in very large
measure young people and I see the anti-war movement as potentially
the beginnings  of another world-wide youth radicalization.

What is it that demonstrators learn from being part of the anti-war
movement?  What is learned does not primarily come to them by
virtue of event organizers or speakers.  Let's consider then what _is_

-- millions of demonstrators have seen first-hand the cold hand of
state repression and brutality.  They have seen the riot cops being
used, for example, against their friends and neighbors.  Experiences
like that are far more likely to lead to radicalization than reading
textbooks in a classroom.   It leads many to re-think what the role
of the state is and to further question and challenge authority.

-- they go to these demonstrations and then read the mainstream
media 'reporting' on these events and they also, in the US and UK
especially, see how the mass media is uncritical and pro-war.
This leads millions of people to re-assess how they view the
relationship between the media and the state.

-- they see that the US and UK governments have produced
fabricated 'evidence'.  How do they interpret this?   They
understand that they have been lied to.  This then leads them
to ask:  what else has the government lied to us about? One
can easily understand how this can, in due course, lead to a
'legitimation crisis'.

-- they learn that there are a number of political-economic
reasons for the war.  E.g. they might learn for the first time
(since in most countries it hasn't been reported in the mainstream
media) about the payment for Iraqi oil with Euros and the dollar
system for other oil-exporting countries.  This leads them to
ask: who will profit from a war?    This question taken a step
further can lead people to question imperialism and capitalism.
They learn how some US-based corporations and the wealthiest
families can be expected to gain from the war.  This makes them
question further.

-- they learn about demonstrations in other countries and in so
doing they come to identify with demonstrators elsewhere.
This leads many away from conceptualizing opposition to
the war in terms of national self-interest and towards
_internationalism_.   They come to see themselves as "citizens
of the world" ("I am a citizen, not of Athens or Greece, but of the
world" -- Socrates).

-- they _see_ for themselves other demonstrators.  They know
that they are not alone.  And they are energized and heartened
by this fact.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

The point that I am trying to make is that one has to comprehend
a social movement like the anti-war movement as a _dynamic_
process.   It is a dynamic that is not controlled by _any_ leadership
or state.  This is not to say that there are not contradictory aspects:
e.g. in some parts of the world, the anti-war movement might be
expected to strengthen Islamic fundamentalist political movements.
But, overall, I think this is an enormously positive and exciting
movement.  Of course, our hearts go out to the Iraqi people who
are being slaughtered.  But, I think that there is enormous positive
potential here.

Am I being too 'optimistic'?

In solidarity, Jerry

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