The Antiwar Movement Bows to the Radicals
January 23, 2003
by Ronald Radosh
For a while, self-proclaimed “moderates” in the emerging peace movement argued that there had to be a serious, mainstream, and effective antiwar movement. Like the radicals, the moderates argued against going to war against Iraq. What disturbed the moderates, however, was the sponsorship and tone of the growing mass antiwar movement, which once again held a March on Washington last weekend.
David Corn of The Nation magazine complained that the peace movement would never reach the churches and union halls if it was led by those who praised Fidel Castro, convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, and which threw in defense of Serb war criminal Slobodan Milosevic for good measure. Todd Gitlin, the distinguished Columbia University professor of sociology and communications, echoed Corn’s concern in the pages of Mother Jones, writing that the current movement was too “provincial to stop the coming war.” It was, Gitlin wrote, “turning the movement toward the bitter-end orthodoxy of the Old Left.” And writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Professor Michael Berube opined that America needs a “mature, legitimate, and popular” antiwar movement. The “demonstrations to date have been led by unreconstructed Communist-front groups,” Berube wrote.
These writers and others made these warnings as strong as they could. Time has passed now, and it seems their pleas were made in vain. Last weekend, as last year, the growing antiwar movement was still being led by the same anti-American and extreme pro-Communist groups as before.
Thousands have assembled in our nation’s capital and in San Francisco, parading out the same old left-wing speakers to vent their outrage on America’s supposed aggression.
And once again, the sponsor of the march was Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), a group run out of Ramsey Clark’s International Action Center, a front group of the Communist Workers World Party. And once again, despite the so-called moderates own protestations, they enlisted en masse, lending their names and their numbers to the extremists’ action. Their lame argument is a simple one: they know how to organize. Nobody listens to speeches or looks at placards; all that counts are the total number of bodies opposed to the war on Iraq.
The ANSWER coalition claims that the threat that menaces the world today is not the “purported” one from Iraq, but the “actual” threat of the use of “weapons of mass destruction” by George W. Bush, who is planning “preemptive wars of aggression.”
To these Communist march organizers, the purpose of U.S. policy is not to neutralize the ever growing threat from a nuclear Iraq, but to “spend $200 billion . . . so that . . . Big Oil and banking corporations can take control of and profit from the oil of the Persian/Arabian Gulf.”
And just as they argued before the liberation of Afghanistan that any war there would be unwelcome and would lead to hundreds of thousands of innocent lives lost, they argue today that a new Gulf war “will be a catastrophe,” as the U.S.—not Saddam Hussein with his SCUD missiles and chemical and biological arsenal—is threatening our soldiers “and civilians to vast toxic exposure” through the use of “depleted uranium weapons.”
And so their repetitious and now so well-known slogan: “No Blood for Oil.”
In ANSWER’s world, the U.S. is oppressing peoples everywhere—supporting Israel’s “murderous war of occupation,” engaging in “a policy of U.S.-supported terrorism,” and leading the world in a dangerous direction. Their perspective is the warped worldview of a discredited Communist system and its spent leadership; no wonder they herald the brutal regime of Kim in North Korea and think that Saddam Hussein is a benign and well-meaning leader. The march’s Communist leaders presented the songs of Patti Smith and the words of actress Jessica Lange, a woman who already distinguished herself in London a week ago by stating, “I hate Bush. I despise him and his entire administration . . . It makes me feel ashamed to come from the United States . . . it is humiliating.” To attack Iraq, she added, would be “unconstitutional, immoral, and illegal.”
Lang is a woman, it appears, who fits right in with the Maoist ideology of the march’s sponsors. Patti Smith, for her part, said, “I don’t care who it is [who organizes the protest] as long as they feel the same [as I do].”
Hearing these people and their slogans and looking at their signs brings to mind the admonition by John Lennon in the 1960s, when he was asked to write a song for the movement. His response, “But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, / You ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow,” is needed more than ever.
That Mao is now replaced by the likes of Kim Jong-Il and Yasser Arafat makes little difference. Perhaps the antiwar protestors should sing the refrain of another one of those antiwar anthems from the days gone by, but address it to themselves and the march leaders: “When will they ever learn, / When will they ever learn?”
This article appeared in the New York Post on January 19, 2003, and is reprinted with permission.
Ronald Radosh is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute; Prof. Emeritus of History at the City University of New York, and the author of many books, including "The Rosenberg File;" "Divided They Fell: The Demise of the Democratic Party, 1964-1996," and most recently, "Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left."