Friday, December 19, 2008

Thinking About Spring – Ready to March?


It appears that an early spring national protest schedule is taking shape.

United for peace & Justice (UFPJ) is calling for a 3 month antiwar campaign, with LOCAL ACTIONS on Thursday March 19th, and a culminating national rally in New York City on April 4 2009.  More information about the campaign outline is here.

Meanwhile, the rival ANSWER coalition is calling for A NATIONAL MARCH on the Pentagon on Saturday March 21. Their information is here.  

A couple of comments: Lots of deja vu all over again here. The two big names of the national peace scene are not co-operating; so what else is new? There’s no mention of April 4 in NYC on the ANSWER site, and UFPJ says zilch re: March 21 at the Pentagon.

But there’s more involved here than the old leftie sectarian competition. On the one hand, UFPJ’s Call for action notes that last fall it urged planning for a big DC rally next March. But given the economic crisis and Obama’s election, they say they feel a need to “change gears.” 
They say that much of their constituency will likely not want to be protesting the new president only two months after he’s inaugurated. (I think they’re right.) They don’t say, but there is reason to believe, that ANSWER has once again scooped up all the permits for  DC sites on March 21, so they’d have to join them to do something in DC, and they don’t want to do that.

One other internal item is also significant: UFPJ’s longtime national coordinator Leslie Cagan is stepping down. A “help wanted” notice for her successor is on their site.

My view: both these groups are very weak. Neither has organized a successful large action since January 2007. And UFPJ is right that many activists will want to “wait and see” what the new president will do, and March will feel too soon to know. 

Plus, the fact is that another BIG chunk of progressive folks worked their hearts out and their butts off for that same new president as the hope 
of change.  And these and other folks already seem bound to put on what will be the biggest “rally” and “demonstration” maybe ever seen in DC on Jan. 20. 

The notion that lots of those folks will then turn right around and go protest the object of all that adulation in mid-March – well, I wouldn’t bet on it. 

It will take some mental adjustment for some of us to not have the man in the White House as the object of rage the way so many of us have (with reason) gone after the current lame duck resident these past eight years.  But it’s an adjustment we need to start making, if only to avoid splintering our own base.

Here I’m recalling what I’ve read about when FDR came in. The New Deal sucked the air (and the mass base) out of the socialist groups, and the key struggles of those years went on in other, more specific contexts – such as union organizing. Not that FDR was 
beyond criticism (far from it). But the political situation had changed dramatically with his arrival. I wonder if we’re entering into a similar period now.

Anyway, unless something big changes, my prediction is that the Pentagon march will be no big deal. NYC could be somewhat different, because the city is so large one can gather a hundred thousand without drawing from much beyond the suburbs. Yet what would be a huge crowd anywhere else will be merely respectable in NYC, and media attention will likely be tepid.  

I would see the NYC rally as a kind of holding action, something to do that keeps UFPJ on the game board, but not much more, til maybe there’s a turn against the new administration. It might be interesting, if the weather is good.

So, several options seem possible for local groups like those here in North Carolina (or wherever you are, Friend).

1. Ignore all these machinations entirely, do our own thing here, when we want, with whom we want, focused on the issues we want. 

2. Or maybe pick Thursday March 19 for some local-regional event (s).

3. Or even do a local-regional action on Saturday March 21, ignoring the Pentagon march.

4. & 5. Buy train/bus/plane tickets for DC on March 21 and NYC on April 4.

What do folks think?

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