[sixties-l] Using "Redbaiting" Charges To Silence ANSWER's Critics (fwd)

From: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu
Date: Thu Mar 27 2003 - 02:08:48 EST

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    Date: Sun, 16 Mar 2003 23:20:42 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Using "Redbaiting" Charges To Silence ANSWER's Critics


        by Nathan Newman, Vice President NYC National Lawyers Guild
               former National Vice President, NLG

        [Note, as will be obvious, my views are my own and those who agree me
    within the Guild and do not reflect those of the national leadership of the
    NLG or the collective views of the NYC local chapter leadership. Title for
    identification purposes only]
    (written week of February 15th)

    Is the antiwar organization ANSWER a front group controlled by the Workers
    World Party?

    Apparently, this can no longer be considered a question of debate on the
    left; the national executive committee of my organization, the National
    Lawyers Guild, has declared in a resolution passed this week that such
    statements are "unprincipled", a "witchhunt", and merely "redbaiting"
    and a form of "McCarthyism." (See full resolution at end of this post).

    And how did the NLG come to pass this resolution? The resolution was
    proposed by a member of the DC-based law firm, the Partnership for Civil
    Justice, which does legal work for Workers World and was picked by the WWP
    as a member of ANSWER's steering committee. And when he
    made the proposal, after a few obligatory noises about Ashcroft,
    he made it clear that the purpose of the proposal was to silence members of
    the NLG itself, particularly some people in the New York City chapter who had
    been critical of ANSWER's role in New York City, and myself in particular
    for critical comments on Workers World and ANSWER on my personal web site at

    And the discussion on implementing the resolution was not about mounting a
    public campaign against some latter-day House UnAmerican Activities
    Committee, but about how to instruct and silence local National Lawyers
    Guild chapters and leaders to conform to the new ideological line.
    Throwing the phrase "redbaiting" around works around the left like charges
    of "subversion" does around the right: it encourages people to fall into
    line for fear of being labelled disloyal and leads to suppression of dissent
    internally. And unfortunately, the national leaders of the Guild scurried
    to condemn "redbaiting", while really endorsing the suppression of dissent--
    suppression which is what real historical redbaiting was all about.

    Like the exclusion of Rabbi Michael Lerner from speaking at the Bay Area
    rally against war on February 16th and other charges of "redbaiting" the WWP
    and ANSWER have levelled against their critics, this intervention of the
    Workers World Party into the National Lawyers Guild is part of a systematic
    campaign to silence those who criticize their politics and role in the
    antiwar movement.

    This whole "red-baiting" defense of the role of the Workers World Party in
    ANSWER is itself a polemic used to avoid discussing the problems many
    LEFTISTS have with what's been going on in the peace movement. Folks like
    myself are not critiquing the fact that large numbers of left groups are
    organizing to get people to these rallies or participating in them-they are
    criticizing a particular group, the Workers World Party, because its
    politics and allied regimes are as repugnant as the warmongering of the Bush
    administration and the WWP's methods are sectarian and exclusionary.

    The Workers World Party does not represent some consensus of left values--
    it is an organization that hails the North Korean regime as a model of
    socialism, even as children starve there in favor of building weapons, an
    organization that praised the killings of students in the streets of Beijing
    back in 1989, and an organization that declares that no mass murders were
    committed by the Serbian regime of Milosevic. (See links at the end of this
    post for more on the WWP's many horrendous political positions)

    And of course ANSWER is set up as a front group-- the WWP established a
    national steering committee of either controlled organizations or small,
    closely allied groups in September 2001, and haven't opened it up to larger
    national groups. Inviting major peace organizations onto the steering
    committee would be an obvious thing to do if this was a real national
    coalition, rather than a WWP-controlled front group, yet the steering
    committee is still restricted to mostly tiny, WWP-allied or controlled
    groups. See here ( http://www.internationalanswer.org/endorsers.html) for
    the list and the decided lack of major national peace groups on the steering

    Take the example of the Partnership for Justice, an NLG firm and legal
    counsel to WWP, whose lawyer-member made the proposal to suppress any
    criticism of the WWP and ANSWER within the Guild. If ANSWER is a real
    national coalition, why isn't the National Lawyers Guild itself on the
    national steering committee of ANSWER, rather than one particular DC-based
    NLG law firm? Why, because the WWP wanted only the closest allies of the
    WWP in leadership, not any group that might actually have a different
    opinion on how opposition to the war should be framed or how outreach should
    be organized.

    Sure, the WWP invites other groups to endorse and participate in their
    rallies, but that's a very different thing from creating a real coalition
    that is democratically controlled by mass movements. ANSWER is not a
    coalition. It is a sect-controlled organization, ie. a front group, that
    other groups are welcome to endorse or not in a take-it-or-leave it manner.

    Some defend the WWP and ANSWER based on the need to defend their work in
    building rallies against the war. But as for the supposed WWP skill as
    organizers, many people were coming in large numbers to any rally in sight
    because they oppose the war-- that is not the WWP's or ANSWER's doing, they
    were just managing the bandwagon. And I measure their organizing not by
    those numbers but by the even larger numbers, including many people I knew,
    who couldn't bear to go to their events. Given the mass numbers of people
    against war in this country, the failure to get larger numbers early on is a
    real failure of the organizers.

    New York City, as one example, saw the sectarian destruction of an initial
    broad-based antiwar coalition formed after 911. However, with a real
    democratic coalition, United for Peace and Justice, reconstituted recently,
    New York City exploded this past weekend with hundreds of thousands marching
    for peace, reflecting all the people who were against the war but had been
    reluctant to march as long as a sectarian group like WWP was designing
    outreach and running the show.

    As for the threat to the movement of "divisive" public criticism, if lefties
    like David Corn and Todd Gitlin et al had not been criticizing the role of
    the WWP, the rightwing would be breathlessly "exposing" the nefarious role
    of "commies" in the movement. As it is, it was hard to accuse the people
    showing up at antiwar rallies of being puppets when they were fully informed
    and debating the issue. In that sense, I think this debate helped insulate
    antiwar activists from being accused of being "dupes" or other trash.

    Honest debate does not weaken the movement. It in fact strengthens it by
    making dissenters feel comfortable participating even when they disagree
    with certain parts of what's going on.

    As for me personally, I've spent nineteen years doing progressive organizing
    of various kinds and have long experience working with the WWP occasionally
    and watching them mess up coalitions more often. And the WWP doesn't build
    institutions that do the real day-to-day organizing work needed for
    progressive change. While rallies can be good for energizing people to do
    systematic political work, it is more effective when those doing rally
    organizing have a real plan for moving people into longer term organizing
    work. But this is where the core politics of the WWP-- its really nasty
    identification with dictators and anti-democratic forces -- makes them
    useless for building real democratic politics at the grassroots.

    The history of the WWP is opportunistically jumping at the head of a crisis,
    building big rallies, then leaving nothing of significance over the longer
    term when the immediate crisis passes. Their history is littered with
    various "coalitions"-- each controlled by them and built for a specific
    crisis-- that essentially left nothing to build on afterwards.

    All this while the Right has been systematically building broadbased,
    permanently mobilized networks for the last thirty years.

    If the Left continually chooses short-term expediency by accepting
    leadership by opportunists like the WWP, they will continue to lose over the
    longer term. Remember, the WWP was in the leadership of one wing of the
    first anti-Gulf War mobilization. Yet here we are again on the march to war
    with Iraq-a testament to the ineffectiveness of the long-term organizing
    that came out of WWP organizing.

    And I still can't get away from the WWP politics-- I wouldn't care if they
    were the most effective organizers on earth given their repugnant views. The
    Nazis were also good organizers. The WWP to this day believes that the North
    Korea dictatorship is the model of how society should be run. They think
    killing students in the streets of Beijing during Tianemen was a good thing.
    And they deny that women were raped and Bosnians killed in mass numbers at
    Srebrenica, making them little different from Holocaust deniers.

    If the Left cannot build a movement based on an integrity in its politics
    and our associations, we will lose in the long term.


    See this info on WWP

    ** supporting the Chinese government's 1989 Tienanmen Square massacre
    ** supporting the "socialist" North Korean dictatorship of Kim Jong Il and
    the starving of the people in favor of military funding:
             http://www.workers.org/ww/2002/korea0425.php and
    ** attacking international war crimes tribunals and defends Milosevic
    against international charges and denying the mass murders in Srebrenica
    ** and viewing Iraq's Saddam Hussein as a beacon of anti-imperialist

    See also, for example, Z Magazine's Q&A on the topic (A.N.S.W.E.R. is
    discussed in #8):
    Lengthy, detailed expose of International Action Center's politics
    Anarchist critique of Workers World Party
    David Corn critique of A.N.S.W.E.R.'s October 26 D.C. anti-war march
    Salon reporter's critique of A.N.S.W.E.R. and other far-left anti-war
    A critical response to Corn and other A.N.S.W.E.R. detractors
    An example of A.N.S.W.E.R.'s relations with other groups
    Why the A.N.S.W.E.R. style of political mobilization is inherently
    disempowering brought to you by International A.O.W.C.U.T.G.D.F.P.

    The National Lawyers Guild Resolution against "redbaiting"

    WHEREAS the ANSWER coalition has been subjected by some critics to
    unprincipled attacks based on what others perceive to be the political
    philosophy of some of its members; and

    WHEREAS we are entering a dangerous period in our history in which
    reactionary and establishment political forces will attempt to isolate and
    fragment the progressive movement; and

    WHEREAS the National Lawyers Guild has a proud history of working with
    progressive political groups and individuals representing a wide variety
    of political philosophies; and

    WHEREAS the ANSWER coalition has been actively involved in mobilizing a
    mass movement against war and racism;


    That the NLG opposes red-baiting and similar tactics of ideologically
    motivated negative labeling of sectors of the progressive movement;

    That the NLG categorically rejects calls to "purge" the movement of
    progressive people who hold certain beliefs or who are members
    of particular parties, and recognizes such demands and divisive attacks as
    a real threat to an effective anti-war movement; and

    That the NLG will not participate in witchhunts and opposes in the
    strongest possible terms calls for Congressional investigations of
    political organizations, and stands ready to assist all who resist this new
    McCarthyism; and

    That the NLG insists that such disagreements about politics and strategy
    as may from time to time exist among groups in the progressive
    movement must be aired and resolved in an atmosphere of mutual respect and
    on a principled basis, with the goal of building a broad-based movement.

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