By m(A)tt – CLASH Collective (with shortening from slingshot)
We are fast approaching the third anniversary of the war in Iraq and the annual protests on the anniversary of the war. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, millions have suffered, and the situation becomes worse every day — indeed, every second. And in over three years of protest, we have by and large gone unheard in any practical sense. We may make some headlines now and again by winning celebrities to our cause, but regardless, our cries for peace and justice have gone unheeded.
Make no mistake: this war will come to an end, sooner or later. The hatred this unprovoked war has sewn is so entrenched, and the people of Iraq are so determined to be rid of an illegitimate, foreign rule, that it is simply impossible for the US to win in any sense of the word.
However, if we allow this war to run its course, the cost may be higher than we realize. The steady stream of broken bodies and damaged minds eats away the social fabric. The economic cost of the war — hundreds of billions of dollars — further cripples social welfare at home. The mainstream antiwar movement expresses concern for the war’s affect on society, but limits itself to liberal tactics and strategies incapable of stopping the war. Gradual tactic could take years to stop the war – similar tactics during the Vietnam war era permitted that war to continue for ten long years, which saw millions dead. The deep societal scars from Vietnam are still felt today by hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and millions of southeast Asians. Today, the consequences for the rest of the world, which will bear the brunt of an invigorated fundamentalist movement being bred in Iraq, will be far greater than anything the US government has yet to unleash upon the world. Another ten year war is not acceptable.
We must be clear about what the powers that be believe the stakes of this war are. While they are not sure if this crusade can be salvaged, they believe that no cost is too high to maintain US world supremacy in the twenty-first century. This includes the leadership of the Democratic Party every bit as much as it includes the Republicans, and we simply cannot depend on any anti-war candidates (like Richard Nixon) to do our dirty work for us. Campaign promises that run diametrically opposed to the status quo are unlikely to be honored. Fundamental change, which is the only worthwhile goal in this era, never in history has come from above and within the system — it has always come from below and without. The fact is that the government must be forced to cease its aggression by regular people of all walks, and we must intervene with our own bodies. We must end this war before it ends us.
Because of the urgency of the situation, the anti-war movement should abandon permitted mass protest and lobbying of so-called government representatives. It may be unrealistic to expect this of the whole mainstream movement immediately, but tactics that haven’t worked for three years should not be repeated blindly. We must wage war on the war-makers. Wage it in whatever ways that are consistent with our own beliefs through the use of direct action. But please, wage. We are not fighting for merely the moral imperative of the situation; it is a matter of self-preservation. If we continue to obey, we dig our own grave.
The US government is capable of waging war in the first place because it has a stable base from which to operate. That base is what is know as our society. From our society, it takes troops, weapons, goods, land for bases, and moral support, all in order to hold other peoples captive. We, the citizens of the empire, are therefore in a unique position to deprive the war machine of what it requires to continue its crimes. If we withhold troops through continued and intensified counter-recruitment work, they have no one to kill and die for them. If we block the development, manufacture and distribution of weapons, they have no implements of violence. If we put even the home bases of the military on the defensive, it will make it all the more difficult to go on the offensive. And already, the moral support for this war is steadily disintegrating. The application of these concepts are, in our opinions, very much up for debate — a debate that at the moment is very difficult to have in the broader antiwar movement, as dialogue is very much framed by the movement leadership and celebrities, who are decidedly against any such ideas.
In the last several decades, direct action has been often organized in a democratic fashion through organs of popular power known as spokescouncils. Spokescouncils are generally directly democratic (as opposed to democratic centralism) where all participants in the actions of a certain time frame and geographic area make decisions on general guidelines, agreements and policies for action, while maximizing freedom of movement and action for individual groups. Some spokescouncils are varyingly private, while others are open to the public, based on the level of police state mobilization. Concerns such as the vulnerabilities of some activists to state repression are discussed and addressed.
We realize that the repercussions for arrest are simply too high for some to risk, and so we recognize the strong and often urgent need for solidarity to our more vulnerable comrades. However, that doesn’t mean everyone must limit themselves to permitted protest. That one reality does not erase the other — that permitted protest has a bad track record in terms of making us heard by the war-makers. We believe the first priority in the struggle against the war is to use effective tactics and stop the war — they the chips fall where they may.
People who are unable to risk arrest can play pivotal supporting roles for those who do, such as providing medical, legal, media, communication, and other kinds of assistance. Other direct actions can even be legal, such as counter-recruitment work. If fulfilled, these can make an effective movement a sustainable one, and are therefore every bit as important. Maintaining visibility for people doing work behind the scenes and/or in supporting roles can be a challenge, but is by no means impossible, so long as we have organizations that are anti-hierarchical, participatory and radically feminist.
Further, practical on the ground solidarity can have a major impact on the safety of those who are more vulnerable to arrest and brutality, but risk arrest anyway. Some such examples are the tactics of forcible un-arresting, jail house solidarity, and generally being mindful of the vulnerabilities of others when planning and carrying out direct action. We also recognize that the escalation of the struggle can potentially mean that all of those who are more vulnerable in the movement become therefore more at risk, regardless of the roles they consciously play. However, we believe that any movement that effectively challenges the status quo, regardless of the tactics employed, will always receive state repression, of which we have already gotten a taste. Repression is inevitable. But if we concede effectiveness, we risk repression for nothing.
We desire a movement that is completely out of control, like a force of nature, or a wild, cornered animal. In our experience, direct action that is organized autonomously and non-hierarchically is generally the most effective kind. This effectiveness has been demonstrated at countless actions, most infamous in the streets of Seattle in November 1999, when hundreds of affinity groups blocked streets, the paths of WTO delegates, and in many cases successfully fought off police repression. We also believe too much is at risk to simply hand over command to any leadership, which may have very different priorities and ideas about what is at stake, just so they can negotiate us away with the State. What’s there to negotiate about? Either the war continues (and with it the march to apocalypse) or the war is over. What could be simpler? Further, when those in the street are allowed to call their own shots, based on their own priorities and the mutual aid and solidarity of their comrades, they invariably call the right ones. It is only through autonomous direct action that we can foster an American insurgency capable of halting the war machine, and ultimately building the framework for a new democratic, cooperative, peaceful society.
Up the Ante!!