Scarcely a day goes by that I do not receive an email from a self-proclaimed “progressive” organization soliciting contributions and asking for support and participation. Unfortunately most of these groups are tightly allied with, if not completely controlled by, the Democratic Party leadership and they toe the party line with a fidelity that would make an old Stalinist blush. The groups are legion: MoveOn, ACT, American Family Values, True Majority, etc. They raise many issues, the favorites being Social Security and (surprise!) electing Democrats in 2006. But one issue that is rarely mentioned is the war on Iraq. And although these groups will tell you that the war was a mistake, they are careful to state that now the U.S. cannot withdraw at least not anytime soon. They are for “staying the course,” although they do not like to use those words. The giant fissure now separating these groups and their hawkish masters like Howard Dean, H. Clinton and John Kerry from genuine progressives and from a near majority of the American people is the issue of total withdrawal from Iraq, commencing at once.
Perhaps no organization is more illustrative of this kind of sell-out, and none more powerful, than MoveOn.org. Take a look at their web-site today (03/16/2005). You will find nothing about the upcoming actions on the weekend of March 19th, the second anniversary of the War, calling for withdrawal now. (There is an advertisment for an old documentary on Iraq done in 2003, but that is it. That is a long period of silence.) But the site is awash with items on the approved Democratic Party agenda. (It is pretty pathetic when the only possible victory these “progressives” can hope to claim is preservation of a program from the 1930’s. Hardly progress.)
But MoveOn is apparently feeling some heat. After an incisive piece by Norman Solomon exposing the pro-war stance of MoveOn, I received an unexpected email today. In it MoveOn calls on its contributors to participate in peace “vigils” sponsored by Sojournors. But Sojournors on its web-site does not call for total and prompt withdrawal from Iraq, only for “lasting peace and security in the region,” whatever that means. Sojournors is apparently intent on proving that you don’t have to be anti-war to be pro-peace. But that is not the worst of it. MoveOn wants to make sure its stance is not misinterpreted, saying: “The fundamental error of the invasion has left us, as a nation, with no opportunity for a quick fix.” “Quick fix” is MoveOn speak for prompt withdrawal.
Even more pathetic were the house parties organized by MoveOn nationwide last March 10. There were many younger people at the one I attended who were brought there by anger over the war in Iraq. And what did they confront an organizing meeting where the word Iraq was mentioned only once over the webcast and that as something MoveOn would eventually address. To kick the meeting off, the webcast was addressed by Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, who is pro-war, anti-choice, anti-environment (siding with the mining interests in his state of Nevada) and the author of a constitutional amendment prohibiting flag burning. Some progressive! And then we were “organized” to call Senators to urge them to oppose Bush’s judicial nominations a bit of political tone deafness in light of the fact that the second anniversary of the war comes in the same week when this action is being urged.
MoveOn’s fundamental problem is that it is not democratic. There is no effective way for members to communicate with the leadership. The leadership polls its members but only within certain guidelines. When they did their on-line primary which launched the candidacy of pro-war Howard Dean, they did not include Nader or any non-Democrats. In the on-line discussions one’s comments get lost in a fog of blog. And I have personally had my comments critical of the Democratic Party pulled from such a Discussion. MoveOn will either democratize or die as progressives understand that it is strictly a partisan organization.
But I fear that other “progressive” organizations are sliding into the same pro-war pit inhabited by MoveOn. For example, The Nation’s call for immediate withdrawal, at least in the last half year, has been minimal. It is noteworthy that both the Nation and the paleo-conservative magazine, The American Conservative, have opposed the war. But whereasThe Nation endorsed the pro-war John Kerry, the American Conservative refused to endorse the pro-war George Bush. So which magazine is principled and which merely partisan? (The American Conservative even did an extensive interview with the anti-war Ralph Nader leading up to the election whereas The Nation excoriated him and banished him from its pages.) And now leading up to the March 20th anniversary of the war, there is no clear call in The Nation this week to join the Out Now demonstrations. Hopefully, The Nation will change course, invite Nader’s contributions on the war and vigorously promote actions calling for U.S. withdrawal.
And sadly this slide to the Right includes the Greens (my party). At least The Greens are calling for immediate withdrawal and sponsoring the Out Now demonstrations this coming weekend. But they are hardly leveling a blistering critique at the Democratic Party for its pro-war stance which is precisely what a political party like the Greens exists to do. Instead the Greens seem to be stalled in some kind of time warp where all that matters is the vote count in Ohio. Or take Air America Radio. Its anchor program, the Al Franken show, has not called for withdrawal or pointed even once to the complicity of the Democrats in the war. Franken, author of “Lies and the Lying Liars That Tell Them,” should know that a very powerful way of lying is by omission. Fortunately some other voices on Air America are not following the party line, calling instead for immediate withdrawal and promoting the Out Now demonstrations. And it is evident from the calls that many are fed up with the Democrats.
Beneath all this an anti-war movement is stirring. One can see it in organizations and coalitions like the one organizing the March in Fayettteville, NC, calling for the troops to be brought home now, in the town meetings in Vermont where 49 of 52 towns voted for withdrawal, in the anti-war movement in Washington, DC, which has been sparked into a fury of progressive activity following its work together with A.N.S.W.E.R on the anti-war demonstration at the Inaugural, and in the demonstrations at military recruitment centers. (To its credit, MichaelMoore.com tirelessly tracks these genuine anti-war efforts.)
So it is on to Fayetteville this weekend. Or if you cannot make Fayatteville then demonstrate locally not at a phony vigil but at a genuine “Out Now” anti-war event. (See www.unitedforpeace.org/) Soon the misleadership must either change or lose its following.
JOHN WALSH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org