On October 25 in Washington D.C., 40-50,000 people protested in the first national anti-war demonstration since the fall of Baghdad. This protest was a turning point, marking the rebirth of the U.S. anti-war movement, this time as a movement against the occupation of Iraq.
Many of the Oct. 25 protesters were new to the anti-war movement. Communities that have been devastated by budget cuts, along with some unions, came out to protest the occupation’s drain on public funds. Military families spoke out against the Bush Administration’s drive for oil profits and power that has come at the expense of their loved ones. These families organizations, such as “Military Families Speak Out” and “Bring the Troops Home Now!” have been leading the charge in the emerging movement against the occupation of Iraq.
Back in March 2003 when Bush ignored the giant anti-war demonstrations and proceeded to bomb Iraq anyway, some leaders of the anti-war movement became demoralized, concluding that protests were ineffective. The February-March 2003 issue of Justice defended protests as an important tactic, but we also explained that “protests alone [wouldn’t] stop Bush.” “Mass mobilizations, strikes and general strikes leading to the overthrow of the government [would be] necessary.”
Some leading anti-war activists are now placing their faith in electing a Democratic President in 2004 as the main way to stop Bush’s agenda. The largest organized groups at the October 25 protest, for example, were those campaigning for Democratic presidential candidates.
Many people were supporting Howard Dean, who regularly attacks Bush’s policies on Iraq, although Dean himself is actually opposed to ending the occupation of Iraq and once told NPR host Bob Edwards, “the first thing I would do is bring in 40,000 to 50,000 other troops” to Iraq.
Even more protestors were supporting Dennis Kucinich, the most “left-wing” of the Democratic presidential candidates. However, Kucinich is only calling for replacing the U.S. occupation with a United Nations occupation. This would not give the Iraqi people democratic control over their country, but would open it up to exploitation by more imperialist countries. He also voted in 1998 for the “Iraq Liberation Act,” Bill Clinton’s call for regime change in Iraq, and he argued for the continuation of murderous economic sanctions on Iraq as an alternative to the 2003 Iraq war (Meet the Press, 2/23/03).
Focusing the anti-occupation movement on electing a Democrat will make it very difficult to organize a successful movement. Protesting against the occupation during the election would call attention to and discredit the Democratic candidates who support the occupation. Many Democratic supporters would be put into the position of having to hide their disgust at this occupation in order to support their candidate.
Many Democrats are now criticizing Bush for not sending enough troops to Iraq. Only mass, militant, grassroots movements on the scale of the movement against the Vietnam War could force the ruling class to bring the troops home. Building that movement is our most important task.
In the April-May 2003 issue of Justice, Socialist Alternative argued that the anti-war movement would revive because “the longer the occupation drags on, the more body bags will come home, the higher taxpayers’ bill will rise, and the more ordinary Americans will oppose the occupation.” The revelations of Bush’s lies about Saddam’s supposed weapons of mass destruction and links to the Al Qaeda terrorists, along with workers’ worsening economic conditions, are also contributing to the groundswell of opposition to the occupation.
The Iraqi people clearly do not want the U.S. military occupying their country, and they are willing to fight back. Bush is now claiming that he will end the occupation by June 2004, yet he is mobilizing the National Guard and Reserve for duty in Iraq.
Bush thought that by defeating Saddam’s regime, he could also defeat opposition to his conquest of the world, but he was wrong. The movement against the occupation will only grow.
All Out for March 20th!
Protest the Occupation!
On March 20, 2004, anti-war organizations all around the world are planning massive protests on the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. All signs indicate that this will be the next major flashpoint of the growing movement against the occupation of Iraq. By organizing people in our unions, communities, and campuses to turn out in a massive show of force, we can use March 20 as an opportunity to crystallize and strengthen the mounting opposition to the occupation. Anti-war, labor, and community activists should join or establish coalitions in their area, to build for massive local and national mobilizations for this day of action.