Thursday, July 19, 2007

Open Letter to ANSWER on the Need for Principled Unity in the Anti-War Movement

Letter to the ANSWER Coalition on the Need for
Principled Unity in the Anti-War Movement

By Abayomi Azikiwe,
Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice

To the ANSWER Coalition Leadership:

We are writing on behalf of our organiztion, the
Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice
(MECAWI), that is based in Detroit, Michigan, to urge
you to work in a manner which builds unity and not
divisiveness within the anti-war movement.

We were disappointed that ANSWER called for a
demonstration in Washington, D.C. just one week prior
to the planned activities of the Troops Out Now
Coalition (TONC) and others involving an encampment
beginning on September 22 culminating with a national
demonstration on September 29. Our organization made a
decision to endorse the September 29 demonstration in
the Capital.

Making a unilateral decision ostensibly on behalf of
the anti-war movement in the United States is not only
divisive but creates the impression of a lack of
coordination, strategic planning and cooperation among
relevant groups both national and local.

Unfortunately, the existing divisions within the peace
and anti-war movements in the United States have
prevented a more effective mass vehicle for people to
not only end the occupation of Iraq but to change the
course of the militarism and imperialism led by the
American ruling class.

We do not accept the rationale for ANSWER's actions
which claim that this demonstration on September 15
must coincide with decisions made in the Congress.
What is more important than responding solely to the
legislative branch of government is to engage in broad
consultation with the organizations and committees
which have done considerable work in building anti-war
sentiment throughout the country.

Why has the anti-war sentiment in the United States
increased substanially while the support for national
demonstrations have declined significantly? The style
of work that is employed in any effort so crucial to
the future and progress of the people of the United
States, the Middle-East and the world, must take into
consideration the full political impact of how our
tactical decisions will influence the ability of
people to express their opposition to war and racism.

The actions taken by people in this country are
important in the overall struggle to end world
imperialism led by the ruling class in the United
States. All around the world in Iraq, Haiti,
Palestine, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Venezuela,
Cuba, Mexico, etc., people are waging valiant
struggles against the impact of American foriegn
policy. Consequently, those in the United States who
project themeselves as leaders of the anti-war
movement must recognize the enormity of their
responsibility to act in the best interests of popular
forces both in this country and around the world.

Therefore, we urge ANSWER to work in an egalitarian
and transparent fashion by consulting broadly when
taking internal decisions regarding the anti-war
movement. We are requesting that ANSWER drop its plans
to hold a demonstration on September 15, because it
does more to undermine the movement to end the
occupation of Iraq than build principled unity and
that your organization work with the Troops Out Now
Coalition and other groups to build the September
22-29 activities in Washington, D.C. and other cities.

In Solidarity,

Abayomi Azikiwe
On Behalf of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against
War & Injustice (MECAWI)

From: Larry Holmes
Sent: Jul 18, 2007 11:58 PM

Dear Brian,

Greetings to you and other members of ANSWER. The member
groups of the Troops Out Now Coalition have given a lot of
thought about how to respond to your letter of June 30 in
a productive way. It has proved to be a challenging task.

Speaking on behalf of TONC, let me say that we want unity,
and believe that the necessity for meaningful, serious and
principled unity has never been greater than at this
moment. It was very hard for us to take your note asking
TONC to support the 15th seriously, sent to me the day
after you announced the Sept. 15 event.

As you know - TONC put forth a public proposal in the
middle of May for a mass national demonstration in DC from
the Capitol to the White House on Sept 29. That proposal
has gained wide endorsements, support and feedback. A
National Strategy Meeting was held on June 16 to discuss
the Sept. 29 and the encampment proposal. At the meeting,
more than 100 organizations and individuals discussed and
approved the Sept 29 date. The Sept. 29 date has been out
there for a long time, it has tremendous momentum, and
people all over the country are organizing for it.

For ANSWER to call another national antiwar march in
Washington for September 15, two weeks before another
national antiwar march in Washington is taking place only
serves to create confusion and fragmentation in a movement
that is already suffering from to much of that. By now -
many of the same groups and important leaders and activist
or listed as endorsers for both Sept. 29 and Sept. 15. Who
can blame them? People are just trying to do what is
right. In a situation like this - endorsers and supporters
are turned into pawns. They don't want to be pawns -
mostly they want a higher level of unity.

To be honest - there are some organizations within TONC
that are so tired of the needless competition, the no
holds barred attempts to marginalize a rival, that may not
even be a rival - that they have little energy for trying
- and little hope of succeeding in trying to find a way to
unite with ANSWER this fall.

However - there is a consensus in TONC - that it is in the
best interest of the rest of the movement that we try to
turn what is now two national antiwar marches in September
- into one. Many of us see unity right now as crucial
because popular outrage over the war may have reached a
tipping point that lays the basis for an anti-war march in
Washington D.C. this September unprecedented in size as
well as the participation of the kind of people that you
usually don't see at even the biggest of marches.


The Troops Out Now Coalition proposes that there be one major
mobilization in September on Sept. 29. To facilitate unity
around this date, TONC will step back as the main
coalition associated with Sept. 29 - creating the basis
for ANSWER - and all of the other major antiwar forces to
come together under a SEPTEMBER 29 UNITY COALITION TO
THE WAR. Let us seperate any kind of organizational
partisanship from the date. We believe a real unity
coalition would provide the broadest umbrella for all of
the important forces in the antiwar movement - as well as
in the impeachment struggle - the Black movement - the
immigrant rights - women - labor - LGBT - Youth - and
anti-imperialist movements to share in equal sponsorship
of the protest. If this happens - Sept 29 will not be
owned by any one coalition - but instead be owned by the
entire movement - and based on equitable cooperation
between all coalitions.

*PROBLEMS WITH THE SEPT. 15 DATE: September 29 is just a
better date if we want to even try to get hundreds of
thousands of people to D.C. We know that Sept. 15 is the
deadline for the Pentagon report on the progress of the on
the war - but that report could come anytime before Sept.
15 including the middle of August.

* We proposed September 29 for a national march precisely
because it will give us all time enough time to organize a
major march - early in the fall. For students to really
get involved in a September national marches just as they
are returning to school - the two weeks more of organzing
time between Sept.15 and Sept. 29 is absolutely crucial
to them. One need only ask around to hear this point
affirmed. Moreover - Congress is scheduled to vote to
continue war funding before Oct 1. The end of September is
a better date for those of us who believe fighting to cut
off all war funding is an important fight.

* Another problem with the Sept. 15 date is that there are
large numbers, especially students, who are organizing to
come to the encampment against the war starting on Sept.
22 and culminating with the mass march on Sept. 29. The
rationale and success of the encampment is completely
based on the timing of the mass march on Sept.29. Again -
the criteria for a unifying date in September should be
how it helps maximize participation and push forward the
movement - not competition between coalitions.

CLARITY ON SOME ISSUES: Your note to me says that TONC
knew that ANSWER planned to hold a Washington protest in
September (presumably based on various dates throughout
the fall that ANSWER had applied for rally permits to the
various police authorities in D.C.). TONC did not know
that ANSWER was planning a major national march in
September - and others should not be mislead into thinking
that we did. Until Sept. 15 was made public over the
internet - based on ANSWERS prior public statements - we
believed that ANSWER was promoting an anti-war march of
one million people to be held either in the spring of 2008
- or next November. Nobody questions ANSWERs right to
change its mind - but there should be clearity on the
timing and chronology of decisions.

SUMMARY: Getting unity around the best date for a mass
march on DC in September - together with the formation of
a national unity coalition around the date- hold the best
chance of motivating activists at the grassroots - and
maximizing pressure on the antiwar groups centered in the
Democratic party to refocus their energy and resources at
least for a little while - away from the 2008 presidential
elections - and into getting the movement back into the

TONC is ready to meet with ANSWER (and anyone else) at
anytime in the spirit of comradely friendship, solidarity
and honesty. We are prepared to deal positively with your
legitimate concerns - as we expect you to do the same wth

So many people are baffled over why our two coalitions -
two avowedly anti-imperialist coalitions that share so
much in common - have not figured out how to work together
better. If we ever do figure it out - it would be
encouraging to many people.

We look forwards to hearing from you regarding plans for
September ASAP.

In Solidarity
Larry Holmes, for The Troops Out Now Coalition

Call me at any time 917-825-2302 home 212-243-4281

(Your June 30 letter to me)

Dear Larry,

As you know the ANSWER Coalition applied many months ago
for permits in September, including September 29, as we
were determining the best date for a mass demonstration
followed by additional days of actions in Washington DC.

We have decided to focus our mobilization on September 15
and the days immediately following. This will be the time
period when Congress is debating the re-funding of the war
after Petraeus and the Pentagon report about the progress
of the "surge." This is the best time also because it will
be the focus for the international and national media.
Ramsey Clark and the ImpeachBush movement will be
organizing very significantly for that date.

Although we had considered September 29 as a mobilization
date, and have the permits for that date, we settled on
September 15 for a mass mobilization because September 29
is too late. I think you may be aware of the timing issue
since you wrote on June 21 that TONC was open to
"modifying and improving" its own plans for late September

TONC's Encampment is scheduled to start September 22. We
think that thousands of people coming to DC in the prior
week will probably be helpful in your efforts. Of course,
there will be many other actions called by numerous groups
in July and August as well.

If TONC is interested in mobilizing for the September 15
demonstration and being represented in the program, the
ANSWER Coalition wants to make sure that you know that we
would welcome your participation. All the organizations
that join together for this significant action will feel
proud for having made it the success that it is sure to

Feel free to me email me at or
call on my cell at 202-904-7992.


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