Obama’s threatened aggression against Syria once again requires the awakening of the slumbering anti-war movement. The demo I attended at the White House on Saturday was apparently called by the Stalinist front group, ANSWER. A sea of their yellow signs dominated the event. Judging from the images I saw from the multitude of other protests last week against the looming military assault, the situation was similar elsewhere in the country.
No one can blame ANSWER for filling the vacuum and pulling the demonstrations together. Someone had to do it. Yet how is it that in over a decade, since the post 9/11 permanent war footing our nation has adopted, we are still relying upon such an unaccountable, unrepresentative, and frankly embarrassing group. ANSWER is the creation of the International Action Center, which is itself a spinoff of the Workers World Party, whose leaders have rhetorically supported everyone from Saddam Hussein to the North Korean government. If the antiwar movement ever gains the kind of traction needed to influence government policy, a weak link like ANSWER will be a gift to the corporate media seeking to demonize us.
The expansive umbrella coalition UFPJ once provided an alternative, whatever its flaws. But it has long since been reduced to sending out the occasional email blast. Nothing so ambitious as recreating the sizable grassroots UFPJ network is needed. Pulling off the kind of small actions ANSWER hosted this past weekend does not necessitate great resources; simply a coordinated call to action and the printing of a large number of picket signs.
Given Washington’s posture of continuous global war, the need to supersede ANSWER will only grow. Allowing them to continue to dominate the scene allows them to present the most visible face of antiwar protest. Their slogans, chants, and literature are what the public sees. Until then we are saddled with dubious rhetorical lead balloons like “Hands Off Syria” that seem calibrated by a 1930s Communist soapbox speaker for minimize resonance to the contemporary ear.
Update: A.N.S.W.E.R. was distributing this flier to the crowd at the first protest I attended on Saturday August 31st. I’ve excerpted two of the most objectionable passages. Workers World Editorial, Aug 25, 2013: “[The rebels] are responsible for the 100,000 deaths and millions of refugees from this conflict. …. …the ‘rebels,’ or as Damascus rightly calls them, the ‘terrorists,’…”