Subject: ON "WAR RESISTANCE WEEK" IN
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
The contemporary anti-war movement is building in the
Professor Israel Shahak, who was arrested by the Nazis in his homeland of
This is why I say that all men have a sense of commiseration :
Here is a man who suddenly notices a child about to fall into a well. Invariably he will
feel a sense of alarm and compassion. And this is not for the purpose of gaining the
favour of the child's parents or of seeking the approbation of his neighbors and friends,
or for fear of blame should he fail to rescue it. Thus we see that no man is without a
sense of compassion or a sense of shame or a sense of courtesy or a sense of right
and wrong. The sense of compassion is the beginning of humanity, the sense of shame
is the beginning of righteousness, and sense of courtesy is the beginning of decorum,
the sense of right and wrong is the beginning of wisdom. Every man has within himself
these four beginnings, just as he has four limbs. Since everyone has these four beginnings
within him, the man who considers himself incapable of exercising them is destroying
Wilhelm Rich, also, spoke of the spiritual and psychlogical mutilation which the human being experiences in capitalist society. Today we are witnessing, once again, extreme forms of militarization in the political economies based on war production. The casualties are not only to be found in the killing fields; the walking wounded are to be found in the streets at home, within the Empire, as well.
In the items below readers will see various aspects of the anti-war movement in
In item A. we are invited to share the experiences of a 7-year-old who is attracted to an American icon for reasons of his own and for which there is much empathy on the part of older journalists.
Item B. is a piece by student activist Asad Haider from
In item C. Grenoble undergraduate Frédéric Méni shares with us a new web site, useful in identifying the financial costs of the war in
Item D. is an article by Norman Solomon in which he criticizes the leadership of MoveOn.org for betraying the anti-war movement which it helped create.
Item E. is the description of a cultural movement in American within the anti-war movement, where we are introduced by Doyle Canning to the new and experimental meme campaign against Bush (and the hegemony of
And finally, in item F. we provide readers with a series of internet links on Activism and War from the www.zmag.org
site organized by Michael Albert in
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
From Russel Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
A seven-year old we know borrowed the CD. He had never heard about Elvis or heard an Elvis song. His favorite song?
It wasn't Jailhouse Rock. It wasn't Hound Dog. It wasn't Heartbreak Hotel. It wasn't Hardheaded Woman. It was none of the 30 Number One Hits.
It was the last song on the CD. It was the bonus song. Number 31: A Little Less Conversation.
A little less conversation, a little more action please
All this aggravation ain't satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark
This is the seven year old's favorite song. He plays it over and over and over.
This song came to mind after scanning the web and picking up the flood of writing and criticism about the state of the world. Here are three stories dated from yesterday, March 9:
In the New York Observer, Nicholas Von Hoffman writing about his son's return from Iraq, in which he observes: "It is the incontestable truth that the politicians and news personalities who talk so blithely about war would adopt a different and more cautious tone in their advocacy of killing others were they to know that a degree of risk attaches to themselves and their own kith and kin should war ensue. It would be a more peaceful world if the law read that the children of every elected official and every TV news celebrity would immediately be drafted on the commencement of hostilities."
A report out by the American Society for Civil Engineers, showing how our nation's infrastructure is crumbling, as we spend billions overseas in wars of destruction.
In the Brown Daily Herald, a report on Seymour Hersh's talk the day before at
There's just a non-stop flow of factual reporting and critical analysis. Those are three stories, just from yesterday. And we could deliver 50 more of equal quality and interest -- just from yesterday.
It is all here at our fingertips. True, it doesn't often make it onto the mainstream media. But click a button and there you have it. It is all right there. Available to anyone with access to the Internet.
The concentrated corporate mass media is the primary source of information for most citizens in the
We can't keep up with it. You can't keep up with it. We are drowning. You are drowning.
We know this may sound strange coming from two writers who spend most of their time researching and writing and contributing to the flood. But someone has to come up for air and scream: It's not making any difference!
Or as Hersh put it -- "It doesn't matter what we write. & Other presidents feel the heat, this one doesn't." To which we would add -- other politicians feel the heat, these don't.
As a citizenry outraged by this war in
Shouldn't we be spending less time writing and more time organizing? We can't predict. But we suspect this:
We are at a tipping point. Bush can be pushed over. And we know for sure that Elvis wasn't talking about politics. But his advice holds true for the here and now:
A little less conversation. A little more action.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter, <http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com>. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, <http://www.multinationalmonitor.org>. Mokhiber and Weissman are co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of Democracy (
From Asad Haider :
"The old SDS dictum, 'People have to be organized around the issues that really affect their lives,' is really true.... That is to say, that racism and imperialism really are issues that affect people's lives. And it was these things that people moved on, not dorm rules, or democratizing university governance, or any of that bullshit."
The war on
THESIS TWO: Higher education has failed the student because the university, along with most of domestic American culture, has been militarized. The most direct expression is in the military s major investments in research funding; but it goes beyond this. The standards of free political debate, so crucial to an atmosphere of intellectual growth, have been replaced by standards of defending Western civilization against the terrorism of dissent: look at the repression of Ward Churchill, Joseph Massad, and countless other professors. These professors are persecuted because they have not been playing their roles as American intellectuals, which, as Chomsky has tirelessly demonstrated, is to manufacture the consent of the masses. This is the future role of college students, who are learning early that those who question the currents of mainstream thought are punished and those who deceive the public and rationalize war crimes are rewarded. As future intellectuals, students are carefully taught the doctrines of imperialism: the Orientalist demonization of Arabs as a civilizational Other, a neoliberal economics that portrays the victims of transnational corporations as the beneficiaries of development , the political mythology that portrays American military hegemony and its acts of aggression as benevolence. The university ensures the transmission of a system of ideology which guarantees that the decisions made by the corporate-authoritarian elite remain unquestioned by the disempowered American public.
THESIS THREE: The academy acts in the interests of corporations because the university itself has moved toward a corporate structure. Former CEOs are hired as presidents, research funding comes from corporations, corporate sponsorships impose brand names on students, and the corporate ethic of competition and hierarchy are imposed upon faculty and students. Graduate students are often unable to unionize, and service and clerical employees are paid low wages. This corporatization arises as an expression of the role of the university within capitalist society: to reproduce the relations of production by training the majority of students to be laborers and consumers rather than citizens. Gramsci said that every relationship of hegemony was necessarily an educational one, that class rule was secured by training the working class to accept its exploitation; but he could not have foreseen that capital s invasive violations of the public sphere would make every relationship of education a hegemonic one. Historically, the mission of the university has been defined by the tradition of humanistic education, which seeks to develop the individual into a participating social agent. This democratic ideal has always coexisted with the pressures of the market and the ruling class, which varyingly attempt to turn the university into another kind of industry or an ideological state apparatus. The movements of militarization and corporatization have caused education to lose the battle.
THESIS FOUR: The unusual socioeconomic role of the student has made the university a crucial battleground (see the work of Andre Gorz). The necessity of a techno-managerial elite in the workplace and the ongoing transition from material to immaterial production brought on by recent advancements in communications technology create a need for rigorous training in the universities. Of course, the students must develop the necessary technical ability, but they must also learn the ideological dynamics that preserve the social and economic hierarchy. Instead of doing useful or fulfilling work, students must practice rote memorization under the regime of exams, controlled by the absolute authority of teachers and judged by the artificial standards of grades; students are alienated from the teachers, who are often overworked and are equally constrained by the system; students are divided into hierarchies based on grades, class ranks, and social status; decisions are made exclusively by the administration or through a petty and useless student bureaucracy; the curriculum and pedagogy suppress critical thought; students must pay the constantly rising tuition, often forcing them to pay off loans for 10 or 20 years after graduation.
THESIS FIVE: The alienated structure of education results immediately in a generalized discontent, and because of the transience and inconvenience of the student life, the student is not integrated into the system. A contradiction emerges, nascent within the intellectual rigor demanded by specialized training: the intellectual and social development that is necessary to the training of the specialized class creates a potential for critical thought, which contains the potential for radical action. After all, the university is not just an ideology machine it is a battleground, a space in which the struggle for the human mind is fought. In exchange for incorporation into capitalism s bureaucratic class, the student is granted an unjust privilege access to knowledge on a scale denied to those unable to afford it but this privilege is a double-edged sword.
THESIS SIX: In preparing us for alienated labor and consumption, student privilege brings us the stupidity and banality of student life, the emptiness of campus culture, the intellectual charlatanry of professors who use terms like humanitarian intervention and free market. At the same time, it grants us the time, energy, and resources to study and understand history; it gives us a space in which to revolt and make history. In the face of a schooling system that seeks to train us for an intellectually, culturally, morally, existentially bankrupt life under the regime of bureaucratic capitalism, we can use our empty privilege to demand a real, critical education that prepares us to participate as active citizens in an autonomous society of our making. This entails nothing less than the abolition of the student; it means the institution of free education as a universal right of the citizen. Our society has developed the ability to realize this ambition, but has instead summoned its vast technological, intellectual, and physical powers in the service of death and destruction. Our training as students plays a central role in the perpetuation of the system which demands that violence rule the global order. To resist the ongoing occupation of
THESIS SEVEN: We came to college for an education, but education is impossible in a society ruled by the logic of empire, which has reached its alarming peak in the subjugation of the people of
Visit http://www.tools4change.org/wcr/ to learn more about and participate in the Week of Campus Resistance.
Asad Haider is a student and activist in State College,
From: MÉNI Frédéric
Subject: A new anti-war link
Date: Sat, 12 Mar 2005
Hello Professor FEELEY,
Here is an interesting website: http://costofwar.com/
Have a nice weekend.
from Norman Solomon :
Sadly, it has
come to this. Two years after the invasion of
With a network of more than 3 million online activists, the MoveOn leadership has decided against opposing the American occupation of
During the recent bloody months, none of MoveOn s action alerts have addressed what Americans can do to help get the
That resolution would seem to be a natural peg for the kind of kinetic activism that established MoveOn s reputation. A movement serious about ending
But, tragically, MoveOn s leadership is having none of it. Over a period of recent weeks, the word
Why won t MoveOn support our troops by supporting a pullout of our troops from
MoveOn.org s executive director, Eli Pariser, told me. We re seeing a broad difference of opinion among our members on how quickly the
In sharp contrast, early in the 2004 primary campaign, MoveOn committed itself to endorsing any Democratic presidential candidate receiving more than 50 percent of the Internet ballots cast by its activists. (Howard Dean fell shy of a majority, so there was no MoveOn endorsement.) But now, evidently, a majority of MoveOn members in favor of swift withdrawal from
When I asked Eli for clarification, he replied: We ve been talking with our members continuously on this issue. We ve surveyed slices of our membership in January and in December, and surveyed our whole membership last spring. That s how we know there s a breadth of opinion out there.
But last spring was a year ago. And any surveying of slices of our membership in January and in December came before the Woolsey resolution offered an opportunity to find out how the MoveOn base views the measure. In any event, there will always be a breadth of opinion about this war -- a fact that does not trump the crucial need for clarity of purpose.
If MoveOn leaders were willing to submit the House get-out-of-Iraq resolution to MoveOn s rank-and-file in an up-or-down vote, the chances of a substantial majority would be excellent. Too bad the leadership of MoveOn.org is currently unwilling to find out.
The 29 members of the House now sponsoring the resolution are hardly radicals. They recognize the kind of grisly consequences of equivocation that occurred during the Vietnam War: Refusal to speak forthrightly about the urgent need to end military involvement only fuels the war s deadly momentum.
It s all well and good for MoveOn.org to do superb work in the current battle over the future of Social Security. And it s very helpful to excoriate President Bush for his many big lies in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. But such activities don t make up for going along with the basics of the present-day
When a large progressive organization takes the easy way and makes peace with war, the abdication of responsibility creates a vacuum.
Ironically, a group that became an Internet phenom by recognizing and filling a void is now creating one. And other groups are bound to emerge to fill it.
Among the emerging organizations is Progressive Democrats of America (www.pdamerica.org), a fledgling national group with an activist focus on the
MoveOn.org pioneered the use of email and web technologies as creative tools to further its political agenda. Now that the MoveOn agenda on the
Friends don t let friends drive drunk, and peace advocates do a lot more than shrug when a previously great antiwar organization starts to get lost.
If MoveOn continues to abandon its antiwar base, that base will get the picture -- and move on.
Norman Solomon s latest book, War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death, will be published in early summer. His columns and other writings can be found at: www.normansolomon.com
from Doyle Canning
But this spectacle did not go unchallenged indeed there were other actors who took the stage that day. Shoulder to shoulder with placard wavers and cat-callers was a sizable contingent engaging in a very different act of resistance, publicly withdrawing their consent from the Bush regime with nonviolent direct action.
A group of 5,000 people from all walks of life from
The Turn Your Back on Bush (TYBOB) action itself was a moving moment that galvanized key constituencies to publicly display their dissent to the Bush agenda. This simple act of turning our backs was a potent symbol of the opposition movement inside the empire, and has a symbolic resonance that can carry more complex meanings.
Turn Your Back on Bush used an organic synthesis of organizing and messaging strategies, and an arsenal of nonviolent tactics, to bring people from over 40 states and bounce the TYBOB story in hundreds of media outlets worldwide, reaching over 50 million people.
TYBOB was not only an overwhelming tactical success, it was also an important strategic laboratory of resistance, and in that way it was also a movement building success. The action was an organic process of creative collaboration that combined a number of age-old organizing techniques, as well as innovative strategies, that are can serve as models for informing grassroots direct action in the months and years ahead.
Harnessing the Psychic Break : November 3rd 2004
Turn Your Back on Bush (TYBOB) was an idea hatched by community organizers in the lead up to Nov 2, who were grappling with the question of, What s next? At on Nov 3rd, the website TurnYourBackonBush.org was launched, and by mid December, almost 10,000 people had joined the email list.
The action was designed to harness the psychic break the moment when people realize the system is out of alignment with their values, and they are able to break through the barriers that have kept them from taking action.
This element was successful, as people from across the country who had never been active as organizers in public demonstrations before made commitments to get involved, and explore a new kind of activism outside of the electoral arena.
Some of these folks had been volunteers for efforts like MoveOn PAC, or even worked for the Kerry campaign. Some were pissed off voters, or disenchanted non-voters. When the psychic break hit, and folks realized that the Democratic strategy had failed and Bush was still President, many of these kinds of folks put their time towards mobilizing to bring busloads of people to
Not Just on the Internet: Real Organizing in the Real World
Turn Your Back on Bush had a sophisticated online strategy, building an impressive email list, and putting up online forums for folks to connect about anything from the post-election blues, to the best deals on busses from Wisconsin. The URL was well branded through the organizers media work, and during the week of action, downloadable flyers, scenario updates, and DC maps made it a great way to plug in to the action.
This online strategy was used as way to drive organizing on the ground, in the real world. The TYBOB core team recruited 41 state level organizers, who were working in their home state, coordinating local groups and feeding information from the grassroots to
All of these people were volunteers. They were, for the most part, folks who had a psychic break and contacted the website saying, I want to do something! There were hundreds of emails like this. With a thoughtful email, and then a phone interview, they were recruited by the TYBOB organizing director to plug into the mobilizing machine. Those who could make the commitment of 15-20 hours a week were given the responsibility of state organizer.
Because the project was operating without much funding (all monies raised were from individual donors, and half was raised on the website) there wasn t much material support to give to these folks. The support was in the form of one-on-one phone conversations, email updates, and state organizer conference calls.
TYBOB was able to plug people in who had never considered themselves activists, let alone organizers. The empowering organizing structure built up confidence, deepened commitment, and activated new networks of folks.
The response was overwhelmingly positive, and refreshing. As state organizer said, I ve never done anything like this before, but I organized my kid s class trip to
The TYBOB Meme
A meme is a unit of self-replicating cultural information a slogan, melody, image or idea that bounces through the culture. Turn Your Back on Bush, with its viral organizing structure and simple and powerful imagery, was really in many ways a meme campaign.
The idea of the action was simple, and had clear logic to it. Anyone could participate, and there was support for people to do so. The name of the action framed it with an embedded story (i.e. message, logic, and actors).
The meme spread through the media, on the web, and through word of mouth. A sophisticated and strong media plan moved the meme in the mainstream from Saturday Night Live, to the Washington Post, to the Wisconsin State Journal, to BBC World News Tonight. Targeted outreach and organizing moved the meme through various networks and constituencies from Black Voices for Peace to students in rural
The TYBOB meme spread organically, across the
There was no global orchestration of this and other TYBOB actions that took place simultaneously to the Inaugural parade rather, it was a good idea and took on a life of its own. That s what memes do, and how a good meme campaign can work.
SmartMemes are containers for collaborative story telling that empower people, and have the power to challenge assumptions about power. The smartMeme of TYBOB was its ability to inject the action idea into the culture, creating an image that represents resistance (backs turned), and an action that anyone can take (i.e. one need not hang from tall buildings or lock themselves to things in order to participate.) TYBOB became a space for the collaborative power of a story about resistance that challenged the assumption of Bush s legitimacy and mandate.
Direct Action at the Point of Assumption
Turn Your Back on Bush publicly removed support for the agenda of the Administration and interrupted the message from the White House the message of mandate. Placing key constituencies turning their backs along the parade route military families, veterans in uniform, first responders, clergy, students, and people of a multiplicity of faiths, races, ages and backgrounds TYBOB told a story that challenged those assumptions and showed the American people turning against Bush.
The traditional points-of-intervention of the Left are interventions in physical space: the point of production (workers strike), the point of destruction (blocking logging trucks), the point of decision (take over a congressional office). Rather than a protest looking to hold tactical, physical space in the streets, TYBOB was an intervention in idea space. TYBOB was a Direct Action at the Point of Assumption: an action that contested the meaning of the inauguration and created space in the realm of assumption and idea for a critique of Bush and his empire-building policies.
It was an effort to compete on the playing field where the Bush regime has shown considerable strength (with their control-memes of WMD; partial birth abortion; ownership society; etc.). It was also an effort to expose their considerable weakness by showing the reality of an increasingly wide and deep opposition movement of people from all walks of life. It was an action to show that key actors in the Administration s story about their war (troops, military families, first responders) are leaders in the ranks of an increasingly diverse peace movement. It was specific about interrupting the Bush message of mandate the assumption of power and consensus with a simple, elegant act of resistance.
Turning Towards New Strategies
Turn Your Back on Bush is more than an action it is a story, and it is a political space. As we turn our backs on Bush, we are turning towards each other to explore new strategies. And as we enter the next four years, we must explore new strategies; we must make this story real with a movement of organized resistance.
The next step for the TYBOB team and for the smartMeme collective was to co-sponsor the people powered strategy to stop the war (http://email@example.com/msg02014.html) proposal at the national assembly of United For Peace & Justice in
In 2003 the default strategic framework was to stop the war before the
It s going to take people power to stop the war in
Let s learn some lessons from the TYBOB experiment: Let s learn how to effectively harness psychic breaks people are ready to join this movement if we give them a chance and have clear and accessible organizing models. Let s explore the viral structure of meme campaigning, and combine real time organizing on the ground with the power of the internet and the media to move our action ideas. Let s scout for interventions in idea space, and engage in mass nonviolent direct action at the points of assumption. Let s mobilize mass non-cooperation with the
Let's turn our backs on Bush, and turn towards each other to have conversations about our strategies to tell each other our stories about how we are going to stop this war and strengthen the democracy movement. As we turn our backs on Bush, we got each others back with solidarity, story, and the strength that comes from strategies made of hope.
Doyle Canning (firstname.lastname@example.org) works in the core collective of the smartMeme strategy & training project (http://lists.mutualaid.org/pipermail/mgj-discuss/2003-August/002329.html), and worked with the TYBOB core team on action design, strategy and messaging. This commentary was reviewed by Jet Heiko and Nick Jehlen, co-founders of Turn Your Back on Bush, and inspired in part by the evaluative comments of the TYBOB core team meeting on Jan 26, 2005.
from Michael Albert :
Click here for : More on the Anti-War Movement in the United States.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research at CEIMSA-IN-EXILE