A Message to the Anti-war Demonstrators

What Will It Take?
What Will You Do?
Revolution #015, September 25, 2005, posted at revcom.us

Guantanamo. . . “shock and awe”. . . “collateral damage”. . . Fallujah. . . Abu Ghraib. Behind the words stand the cities reduced to rubble, the bodies in the streets, the hooded prisoners, the kicked-down doors, and the children—crying in terror or silently watching the humiliation of their parents. All justified by outrageous lies.

The horror grinds on, every day.

Iraq cannot wait.

Iraq cannot wait for “pendulum swings.” Iraq cannot wait for possible resolutions to set “reasonable” deadlines for hypothetical timetables. Iraq cannot wait for the 2006 U.S. elections—especially (but not only) when the major Democrats all oppose withdrawal from Iraq, and some even support more troops being sent.

Nor will Bush be swayed simply by public opinion turning against him, or the war. Bush himself seems to believe he’s on a “mission from God” and the pack of neo-conservatives, Christian fascists and kluckers who surround him have demonstrated their intent to hold on to power. What do the 2000 elections tell us, after all, if not that?

Iraq—and the world—cannot wait. We cannot tolerate three more years of slaughter and lies and madness.

The war and occupation of Iraq is not going away. Indeed, it will almost certainly grow more intense in the weeks and months to come, with more Fallujahs and more Abu Ghraibs. All that is what has brought people back into the streets again, demonstrating against the war. This is important and good and necessary.

But the question we all have to face is this: how to act in a way that truly corresponds to the urgency and scale of the situation? People have said to us, “we’ve protested, we’ve voted, but what’s going to make a difference?”

The Bush Package
Before getting into that—and as part of answering it—let’s step back for a minute. Bush is not the first U.S. president to launch an imperialist war. Not by a long shot. Nor is he the first U.S. president to militarily occupy another country in the name of democracy, or to grease the way to war with one lie after another.

At the same time, the Bush regime has taken the “standard operating procedure” further. They’ve declared a new “doctrine” that gives them the right to invade another country without even the pretense of an “imminent threat.” They’ve claimed the right to hold a person without charges, indefinitely, merely because the president says the person may be a “terrorist”—and this has now been upheld by the courts. The Bush regime instituted, and in so many words, justified the widespread torture of prisoners of war.

If all this were the only outrage of the Bush regime, it would be enough to declare it illegitimate. But look as well at their callous and murderous racism in the face of Hurricane Katrina, coming on top of a whole history of antagonism to the rights of Black people and an unprecedented polarization of rich and poor. Look at how they have packed the courts, including the Supreme Court, with fascist judges. Look at their use of the state to support extreme fundamentalist Christian-ity. Look at the relentless attempts to deny women the right to control their own reproduction; look at the way they demonize gay people and deny them equal rights. Look at how Bush himself, as well as his administration, trumpets ignorance —suppressing findings on global warming, stopping stem cell reseearch, and declaring himself in favor of teaching “intelligent design.”

This is a whole package.

This package is the product of a system, imperialism. And even the “normal workings” of that system are a horror for the majority—the vast majority—of the people on this planet. A handful of highly developed capitalist countries violently subordinate whole peoples and nations to the relentless drive of profit, leaving starvation and misery in their wake while fighting among themselves for superiority. The war in Iraq is essentially an attempt by the U.S. to dominate the whole Gulf region and the Middle East beyond it—at terrible expense to the people there, and in competition with their rivals in Europe and Japan.

Bush himself represents a section of the imperialists in the U.S. which believes that the huge changes in society—the emergence of the U.S. as the sole superpower, the socio-economic turbulence of globalization, the changes in the way people think and relate to each other within the U.S. itself—make necessary radical changes in the way in which U.S. imperialism enforces its will in the world and is ruled at home. When Dick Cheney talked after 9/11 about a “new normalcy” lasting for a generation, he was talking about the kind of thing represented by the war in Iraq and a much more highly repressive—a fascist —form of rule domestically. They have made huge strides in this since 9/11, and they are continuing this, relentlessly. It’s not for nothing that people talk about not wanting to live in a “new Rome”—or that older generation European immigrants make analogies to Hitler.

Again, what we have here is a package, a whole direction that has to be repudiated and opposed. Bush (and his regime) is not the whole of what’s wrong with this system. Again, they are creatures of a system —responding to what they see as the underlying needs of that system as it faces uncertainty around the world and in its home base. And we should be clear as well that they are setting the terms for the whole ruling class and don’t face any serious opposition within the ruling class, whether around the war or repression (note that the Patriot Act was recently unani-mously renewed by the Senate). They are an extreme concentration of the system. They are not the whole of it—but what they represent is something ex-tremely vicious and dangerous and the whole direction must be repudiated.

The Bush regime must be driven from office.

Nothing less will do. Again, this is a whole package, a whole dynamic, and must be fought as such. That, and nothing short of that, is what will make a difference. And that is why you need to throw in with the effort to drive out the Bush regime—and in particular, the call for massive demonstrations around that demand on November 2.

Reversing the Dynamic
For some time now there has been a very bad dynamic going on. Millions of people have been deeply disturbed and outraged by all this, but they have not found a way to act.

But, as the Call for November 2 has put it, “silence and paralysis are not acceptable. That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn—or be forced—to accept.” And people have come forward now to pose a challenge to those who do see or sense the stakes. Again, from the Call:

“We are talking about something on a scale that can really make a huge change in this country and in the world. We need more than fighting Bush’s outrages one at a time, constantly losing ground to the whole onslaught. We must, and can, aim to create a political situation where the Bush regime’s program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking society is reversed. We, in our millions, must and can take responsibility to change the course of history.”

This plan is visionary. It is bold. It is audacious. But here’s the main thing: it actually corresponds to the danger we face; and nothing else can unlock the potential energy among literally tens of millions of people that still remains dammed up. It can make a difference. Thus, in its boldness and audacity lies its strength.

Yes, it will be hard. The Bush crew will not go without a struggle. And the people who have to do this—in their millions—are going to have make big leaps in their level of organization and militance in order to do this. No way around that.

But there IS something to build on. For one thing, there is a network of activists and cores of people that have begun to take shape around this bold call. There is beginning organization. And there is the embryo of a new spirit that all this can mesh with and build on and make still more powerful. Cindy Sheehan’s brave protest in Crawford against the war in Iraq, in the face of personal and political attack, struck a chord and unleashed tens of thousands of people to take a stand. Millions of people found Bush’s outrageous inaction—and action—around Hurricane Katrina intolerable; it called into question anew his very legitimacy and raised huge questions about the whole history and structure of society. These people want—and need—more.

This is an opening, but that’s all it is—an opening—and it has to be seized upon—quickly!--and turned into something bigger. If not, these people—Bush and Cheney and Rove and the rest—will find the ways to recoup their position and reinforce their fascist agenda, and to suppress and take revenge on the opposition that does exist.

And What If We Succeed?
Some people say, no one has ever done this sort of thing before. Well, yeah. But if that were taken as the argument for what should or could be done at any time, then nothing new would ever come into being. There’s a lot of truth to the adage that necessity is the mother of invention—and with this much necessity staring us in the face we better be damn inventive and quit dwelling on what (supposedly) can’t be done. Right now even right-wing columnists openly worry about the current political terms “bursting open.” We who want progressive social change should be at least as keen to seize on the possibility and think big. As the Call for November 2 points out, “history is full of examples where people who had right on their side fought against tremendous odds and were victorious. And it is also full of examples of people passively hoping to wait it out, only to get swallowed up by a horror beyond what they ever imagined. WHICH ONE WE GET IS UP TO US.”

And think about it: what if we succeed? What if we really do pull together and launch something new on November 2? What if people, through their united and diverse actions on that day, create a new dynamic in society, where there is a growing movement uncompromisingly demanding the Bush regime’s ouster and taking increasingly determined, mass action to bring that into being? What if people across a whole broad spectrum are able to unite in action and debate the future they do want, as they are struggling against the one that is being clamped down? What if there is a new ethos in society—one in which “the right side” of things responds with whip-like speed and sharpness when women are denied birth control, when radical professors come under fire, or when there is an obscenity like the exploitation of Terri Schiavo? We’re not talking about some big day that takes place in the same overall context—we’re talking about changing the context itself through mounting powerful outpourings of protest on November 2.

But again—let yourself think it—what if people succeed, in both launching this dynamic and then carrying it through? Even here, we should be sober. For one thing, there is still the larger battle to replace this whole system. And if the people do drive Bush from office, it is almost certain that the forces in the government, the military and society at large that share Bush’s agenda would be fighting like hell to reassert their position and their whole agenda. So, yes, in very important ways even getting rid of Bush would be only the beginning.

But what a beginning it would be! Three huge differences would stand out from today. First, an independent mass movement of the people would have inflicted a major political defeat against the vicious agenda now in command, with its major representative brought down and the whole ruling class in a scramble, quarreling among themselves. Second, there would be a politically energized and unleashed people, ready and able to take the struggle further and seize on the openings created. Yes, the struggle would get sharper—but for the first time it would actually be two-sided. And third, many more people would be actively debating a different future, and as part of that, checking out and coming over to a revolutionary communist understanding, program, and organization.

“Come Out of the Stands and Get Into the Game”
There is right now a tremendous amount of work to do to realize the immediate goal of truly setting in motion this dynamic. Even with beginning advances, the people are far from where they need to be on this. From here out, every day must count for the massive outpouring that must come on November 2, uniting all kinds of people to powerfully raise the slogan of “The World Can’t Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime!”

For one thing: people need to change their lives, now, to make this happen. Put it this way: the fans have to get beyond cheering and booing, and come down out of the stands and onto the field to make sure the right team wins.

If you quit your job or left school to work for Howard Dean—even though his program fell far short of what you wanted—now is the time to sacrifice for something that you actually believe in!

If you hated the war and threw everything into getting Kerry elected—even though he supported the war—now is the time to work your hearts out for the things you actually support!

If you grow heartsick watching the footage from Katrina or the pictures from Abu Ghraib but tell yourself that “the most that I can do about it is to just try to do good in my own little corner”—think about what you’re saying! How can that be a response to torture, or to any of the other outrages that, not too long ago, you told yourself you’d never accept?!?

And to those of you who have taken up the challenge to end this war—going on the road with Cindy Sheehan, or taking on other forms of activity—by all means continue and intensify your efforts. But now is the time to link these efforts to November 2, throwing in all you have to make that day a powerful motive force in ending this war. To those of you who left your jobs and homes to go to New Orleans, or otherwise supported the people—yes, keep that up and intensify it, but do more as well—take that same spirit and energy and put it toward building resistance not only to that outrage but to this whole regime on November 2. Anything less will not cut it. And, again—one more time—think of what it would mean to succeed!

Tell The Truth
Above all, November 2 is based on the truth of what is needed. The truth about this war; the truth about this regime and how really dangerous it is; and the truth about what it will take to stop it. And to those who have begun to step forward to take up November 2, including many people new to political activity, remember this: at the beginning, truth is always in the hands of a minority; but if you persist in it—if you find the ways to deepen your understanding of it and connect it to people with conviction and imagination—you will be able to win people to understand it . . . and act on it.

And then, organize. Organize. Organ-ize. Build committees where you work, where you live, where you go to school. Hook up to the national website of World Can’t Wait. Reach out to people who’ve never acted before, and reach out to those already in organizations. Get out the call for November 2, everywhere you go.

Over the past few weeks, as those of us who support the RCP have sold Revolution, and as we and others have taken out the Call for November 2, many people have said that they think the mood is changing and that there are millions ready to act. We think that is true; the mood is changing. But someone has to bring the vision that can inspire those millions. Someone has to take responsibility. Someone has to change their life, determined to be part of making it all happen.

Be that someone.

To Musicians, Actors, Lecturers, Preachers, and Others in the Public Eye
You have an audience. Use your ability to reach a broad audience to fulfill a great need—to mobilize MILLIONS for November 2, 2005 to take a massive first step in a powerful movement to force Bush out.

When you are in front of a mike, on stage, on a podium, and on TV/radio talk shows, read this key section from the call “The World Can’t Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime!”

“...Silence and paralysis are NOT acceptable. That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn—or be forced—to accept. There is no escaping it: the whole disastrous course of this Bush regime must be STOPPED. And we must take the responsibility to do it.”

“And there is a way. We are talking about something on a scale that can really make a huge change in this country and in the world. We need more than fighting Bush’s outrages one at a time, constantly losing ground to the whole onslaught. We must, and can, aim to create a political situation where the Bush regime’s program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking society is reversed. We, in our millions, must and can take responsibility to change the course of history.”

“To that end, on November 2, the first anniversary of Bush’s ’re-election,’ we will take the first major step in this by organizing a truly massive day of resistance all over this country. People everywhere will walk out of school, they will take off work, they will come to the downtowns and town squares and set out from there, going through the streets and calling on many more to JOIN US. They will repudiate this criminal regime, making a powerful statement: ’NO! THIS REGIME DOES NOT REPRESENT US! AND WE WILL DRIVE IT OUT!’”

Get in touch with World Can’t Wait at worldcantwait.org