Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dear Peace Movement: what's the plan?

Last weekend I attend the NATO Counter Summit (Friday and Saturday, blog entries) and then marched with Occupy Chicago to oppose NATO and the occupation of Afghanistan.

While it will probably antagonize some people who were at the Counter Summit, I would say that much of the weekend seemed to lack context. How have society's power dynamics shifted against the peace movement? What should be done to address this shift?

There's a certain temptation when peace activists gather for them to prove their commitment to peace by avoiding conflict with each other.

The weekend seemed to lack a critique of why society is the way it is (aside from the same critique that goes back to the Vietnam War), an acknowledgement the peace movement has gotten its ass kicked badly for a decade or a conversation about modifying the strategies and tactics.

To the extent the Counter Summit articulated a political agenda William McNary of Citizen Action/Illinois (Wikipedia Citizen Action) advocated voting for Obama. Sarita Gupta of Jobs With Justice (Wikipedia) advocated voting Democrat to flip control of the U.S. House. And someone else advocated participants (mostly over 50 years old) go to Wisconsin to help defeat Gov. Scott Walker in the recall election.

Let's be realistic. Aligning the peace movement with the Democratic Party hasn't been a huge success. After the 2008 election Democrats controlled the Presidency, the U.S. House and had a 58-41 advantage in the U.S. Senate which would later turn into a 60-40 advantage.

What did the peace movement get out of helping the Democrats? Not much.

Basically, the United States and NATO countries still have the same dysfunctional economic system. The system relies on using military spending to make the elites rich and to saddle the public with debt. Through NATO and the Star Wars weapons system, the pathologies of the U.S. economy are being exported across NATO.

And of course the Democratic Party is strongly aligned with the ideology of Zionism. So, when the Israel Lobby and the Military-Industrial Complex push for policies that move the United States closer to war with Iran, the Democratic Party is a problematic ally. Does the Democratic Party want war with Iran? Probably not. Who in the Democratic Party is willing to stand-up against the push to war with Iran? Very few of them.

It seems the peace movement has three major options, if it wants to change society.

1. Work within the two-party system.
2. Start or align with a "third party".
3. Pursue a strategy outside of politics.

Unfortunately, it feels like the peace movement is pursuing a "none of the above" approach.

The peace movement is not agitating within the Democratic Party, at least not effectively.

The peace movement is not aligning with a "third party" in any systematic way.

And there's no vision for creating something big enough to work "outside of politics".

Now, some of the people at the DC organizations will talk about moving this bill forward or some other minutia, but nothing being talked about seemed like it could lead to a decisive victory.

About ten years ago, a wise old peace activist (with a labor background) said s/he was suspicious of working with religious people in the peace movement. The way s/he saw it, religious activists were mostly about getting their ticket punched so they could get into Heaven. It didn't matter if the activism achieved anything because it was about getting credit with God for being on the right side of the issue.

My background is more in the military, media and electoral activism. In the military, things tend to be done or not done. In the media, either the story got written or it didn't. In elections, you win or lose. And whether one achieves these outcomes or not depends on whether one had an effective plan and whether one executes on the plan.

I wish I heard a critique of society that made me react, "Aha! Someone who gets it. That makes sense." I wish I heard a plan that I was excited about because I felt like it could succeed.

I didn't here any ideas that were particularly exciting. It seemed like going through the motions of opposing the things the peace movement has always opposed without there being a plan to get something worth winning.

1 comment:

  1. At the "Veterans Fight for the Right to Heal" presentation Aaron Hughes made the point that we needed to get more people involved and leverage our existing social networks.

    What was striking was this was the only time I remember hearing the idea "we've got to get more people involved to achieve our goals" theme all weekend.

    In fairness, after Friday morning I started skipping the plenary speeches.