The following is a reply to a message sent to one of the local peace listservs expressing the feeling that our anti-war work is not effective.
Edpell wrote: why will the ruling elite care what we say?
I think this is a very important question. The ruling elite cares what we say only because they know that we have the potential power to stop them. To turn that potential power into real power requires organizing the American people and raising their political consciousness. This organizing and consciousness-raising must be the goal and the guiding principle of the peace and progressive movements.
Because the “ruling elite” does fear an increase in political consciousness and organization, we have had some success. They have not yet attacked Iran, though they want to. They have not used nuclear weapons in Iraq, though they have floated the idea such as the use of “bunker buster” bombs, which are low yield nuclear weapons. As they move towards attacking Iran, they know they will have to consider the reaction of the American people, of the rest of the world, of the soldiers, and of the Iranian people.
Our job is to cut through the media’s political propaganda, keep up our organizing efforts, and keep raising people’s awareness of what is going on. This will ensure that if they do attack Iran, the people’s reaction will be massive.
As far as increasing consciousness and organization are concerned, we are winning, even as the government continues with the same lies and propaganda. We have now gone from about 1/3 of the population being against the war to more than 2/3 being against the war. As part of that process, more and more people have started to draw far reaching conclusions about this war and about politicians, the media, and the government as a whole. I believe that there is now more mistrust toward both Democratic and Republican politicians than there ever has been before. Even during this election period, as news of the war has almost disappeared while the media uses up all the air time talking about the political horse race, anti-war groups are popping up, and the movement is strengthening in local areas across the country.
We have had glimpses of what can happen when potential power is manifested. On this past May 1st, 25,000 longshoremen went on a one-day strike on the West Coast, closing down all 29 ports on the West Coast. Their single demand was “US out of Iraq and Afghanistan Now.” Most strikes are economic strikes, like the one conducted by the transit workers in New York City a few years ago, which shut down New York City. That strike showed the power of working people when they are organized. But there has not been a political strike in this country for decades, except for the strike of the longshore workers and the strike conducted by immigrant workers last year to protest the injustices inflicted on them by this country.
It is clear that the longshoremen’s strike struck fear in the hearts of the American ruling class and their politicians, because the mainstream media, in lockstep, completely ignored it. The same thing happened with the Winter Soldier hearings, where Iraq veterans testified about U.S. atrocities in Iraq. The media all decided to say nothing, because if soldiers start opposing this war, it could turn into what happened near the end of the Vietnam War, when soldiers started to refuse orders and refused to fight.
So it is our job to let people know about the longshore strike and Winter Soldier, because it gives them an idea of what is possible. This is part of the consciousness raising that must happen. I believe that if the US attacks Iran, especially right in the middle of the ongoing war with Iraq, the response from people in this country, from the military, and from people throughout the world will be explosive. Once again, the political consciousness of people will be raised as they begin to understand what this ruling elite is really about and that it is not acting in the interests of the people.
This is why it is critically important right now to build a strong peace movement, as well as other progressive organizations. As people’s consciousness raises, they will be looking to join organizations in order to collectively fight back. We are the great majority. As Ralph Nader points out, in this country the top 1% is wealthier than the bottom 95%. The top 1% is organized; they have 2 political parties to represent them. Our 95% is not organized. Therefore, we must build a movement that seeks to organize the masses and move them into action. To do this, we must keep up our visible activity, seeking to draw in more and more people and figuring out ways to reach further and further into the general population.
This is one of the reasons why I worked to build the Cleveland Anti-War conference that was held in late June. On a national level, the anti-war movement is poorly organized and painfully divided, to the extent that the major national coalitions refuse to work with each other. The conference represented an attempt to change all of that by building a single united movement. This movement is critically important, especially as the US moves towards war with Iran and seeks to violently implement its goals throughout the world. (For a report on the Cleveland conference which took place June 28 - 29 go to: http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/natassembly040708.html )