Front groups subvert anti-war movement
by Brown Douglas
A growing debate in the anti-war movement today is about
front groups--political organizations or "coalitions" that arise from
other organizations, but with the relationship hidden. This is done for many
reasons, and they all reek of vanguardism, authoritarianism, and
The front group being talked about and debated in
today's anti-war movement is International A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and
End Racism) and its parent organization the International Action Center (IAC).
These two organizations are front groups of the Workers World Party (WWP), a
neo-Stalinist organization. Among some of its reactionary political positions
are the support of the Chinese government during the Tiananmen Square massacre;
support of Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav war criminal, and more recently
heaping praise upon the North Korean Stalinist dictatorship of Kim Jong Il as an
heroic "independent socialist system" that is fighting U.S.
imperialism tooth and nail.
With political stances like these, it is unsurprising to
see that on an organizational level, A.N.S.W.E.R. and IAC display some abhorrent
tactics that alienate many activists from working with them. They have been
widely accused of taking over events not organized by them and claiming them as
their own. They’ve also been known to buy up all the permits of likely protest
spots before an event, and then dole them out to other organizations with the
condition of signing on to an A.N.S.W.E.R. demonstration, thus creating many of
these so-called “coalitions." The anarchist website infoshop.org has a
thorough and interesting critique of these “left” groups and the role they
have so far played in the anti-war movement.
What I’m concerned about is what happens to an
anti-war movement that allows itself to be infiltrated by these groups and the
ideas that accompany them. Some activists caution us to put aside our
differences for now while we all get together to try and stop a war, as if the
differences aren't important. Others recognize that these groups are suspect,
but feel powerless in resisting or don’t feel that it’s as important as
resisting the impending war.
I would say that the most pressing and important
contradictions to work out in any social movement comes from within that same
movement. Resolving these contradictions is vital if there is to be any
meaningful unity between the many diverse organizations and individuals
To what extent will activists allow front groups to
stifle dissent and go about their way of organizing? Pragmatism is so ingrained
in the logic of this society that it has seeped into social movements and made
many uncritical and unprincipled. An activist wrote to me that, "I do not
buy the WWP platform, but I'll sure as hell endure their anti-war
gatherings." Does that mean sitting back and watching as speakers are
banned for daring to speak out against A.N.S.W.E.R. policies, as was done this
past weekend to Rabbi Michael Lerner in San Francisco? When does it become
"important" enough to bring up the fact that many are marching under
the organization of a group whose policies are overwhelmingly anti-freedom?
These things must be questioned and opposed!
WHAT ARE WE FOR?
A key thing to do in opposing the vanguardist philosophy
of front groups is to bring to the forefront the question, “What are we
for?” Vanguardism is the idea that we can’t think for ourselves and that a
certain group can do the thinking and doing for everyone and “lead” a
movement. Spelling out very explicitly what we are for makes it hard for
counterrevolutionary ideas to be hidden behind the scenes where they are not
questioned or even heard by many people. The pragmatist law of sticking together
based on opposition to only a few issues can be exposed for what it is--fatal to
the anti-war movement and all other justice movements. It also forces us to
redefine ourselves in relation not only to what we’re against, but what we
want to see happen with our movement and how we want the world to be.
Many activists prefer to organize in a lowest common denominator fashion by picking an issue that everyone can agree on and not focusing on anything outside of that issue. That has been an historical downfall of radical social movements, as seen most tragically in Spain in the 1930s when the Popular Front ideology allowed Stalinists to come in the guise of anti-fascism while at the same time murdering many revolutionaries attempting to create a totally new society. Repressing discussion on what we are for only comes back later to kill a movement from within.
Published by News and Letters Committees