Within a week of September 11th, a national student day of action against the war was called. On September 20th students on over 150 campuses in 36 states held actions. At several campuses the rallies numbered in the thousands. On September 29th the 10,000 strong protests against the IMF/World Bank meetings were transformed into an anti-war demonstration. From the beginning, college campuses have been the strongest base of anti-war organizing across the country.
But while the initial burst of anti-war campaigning mobilized an important force, which could have been the basis for a wider struggle, the movement was unable to reach beyond this initial layer of people. Activism declined as people felt demoralized by the widespread public support for the war. With the US military victory in November, the movement everywhere has lost steam and been reduced to a small core of activists.
Many activists are asking: why wasn’t the movement able to build wider opposition to the war? Mass opposition to the war in Afghanistan could have only developed on the basis of major events, such as heavy US casualties. Given the nature of 9/11 terrorist attacks and the rapid US military victory, there were severe objective limits to how large the movement could grow.
In the next few months, it is likely that the US will strike new “terrorist targets” in other countries, or that things might not go so smoothly in Afghanistan. If so, we should be ready to respond. But unless the US attacks Iraq (which would re-ignite the anti-war movement on an even larger scale), the basis for a widespread anti-war movement as it existed between September and November no longer exists. This turn in events places challenges in front of the movement, and poses the question: what to do now?
Defend Civil Liberties! Fight Racism!
We need to continue to fight against the attacks on civil liberties and racism. We should campaign to prevent college administrators from turning over to the government the private records of immigrant and Arab-American students.
Money for Education and Jobs, Not War!
With the economic recession beginning to bite, both parties are attempting to balance budget deficits by slashing spending for social services. Colleges will try to make up for this through tuition hikes. This will be a paramount issue for most students for whom college is already too expensive. Anti-war activists should be on the frontlines of these fightbacks, pointing out that the government actually has plenty of money – it’s just being wasted on bombs. By campaigning against the attempts to make workers and young people pay the price of Bush’s war, the anti-war movement can gain much more public support.
Fight the WEF & the Corporate Agenda!
Another important opportunity for the anti-war movement is the World Economic Forum (WEF) summit in NYC on January 31-Febuary 4th. The capitalist policies of the WEF are responsible for the mass poverty and oppression in the former colonial world as well as in the industrialized countries. These conditions are the breeding ground for desperate acts by desperate people – the basis for terrorism and war.
While the US is claiming “victory” in Afghanistan, none of the underlying problems which breed terrorism or war have been solved. We need to learn the lessons of 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan by building a movement that addresses the root cause of these conflicts: global capitalism. Only by replacing this exploitative and oppressive system with a new socialist society will we finally abolish war and terrorism.
For a Broad-Based Progressive National Student Organization
The vast majority of students who organized in opposition to the war yesterday, will tomorrow continue their activism on other fronts in the struggle against corporate domination, militarism, and other effects of capitalism. In light of this, the February national student anti-war conference should not be limited to organizing against the war on terrorism. We should instead see it as a chance to take the progressive student movement as a whole forward by developing a broad-based national student activist organization.
The February conference should be used as a springboard to organize all progressive student groups for another national student conference this fall. Together, we can launch a powerful, united, national student movement to take the struggle against war, racism, sexism, education cuts and corporate globalization to a much higher plane.
Justice #28, January 2002