Thursday, October 13, 2005

Durham primary election results

The primary this year didn't seem very well publicized and I didn't know it was this Tuesday until last week. My Dad also voted but my Mom said she didn't have know enough about the candidates to vote this time, and she probably didn't have much time either. My younger brother could vote, but unfortunately he hasn't registered here or where he goes to college. Overall voter turnout was very low. I researched the candidates mainly by reading the questionaires printed in the Herald-Sun. I considered Cora Cole-McFadden (Ward 1), Howard Clement (Ward 2), and Steve Matherly (Ward 3) the most progressive candidates. Cole-McFadden called herself a liberal in the newspaper questionaire and I think she and Clement supported work done by Jobs with Justice and other progressive groups. Counting against Clement are accusations of conflict of interest in a decision involving a relative and his approval of the forced annexation of an area near RTP by the city. I will need to research these more before the November 8th vote. Steve Matherly is involved in progressive politics and is even on some of the same activist listserves as I am on. He ran against candidates I would not vote for. John Best (in Ward 3), along with Jason Maynard, John Holmes, and Victoria Peterson represent conservatism. Whatever class interests they represent are not working class. Best also hasn't had good meeting attendance I have heard. The other candidates I hadn't heard of, so I didn't know what they stood for.

For mayor I voted for Bill Bell, despite his part in creating our current school board disputes. I forgot to look for Jackie Wagstaff's website before voting.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

September 24th protests

I took one of Durham's two chartered buses to the huge anti-war demonstration in Washington, DC September 24th. There were at least 300,000 people in the march I have heard. It looked like it would be large, since there were so many buses from here in the Triangle, including two from Raleigh (one a Green Party bus). There were other events that weekend as well, and a lobbying day and mass civil disobedience action at the White House the following Monday.

Our bus got there later than planned and it was hard to see what was going on in the crowds. I went to find the NC contingent, but I didn't see it and the march hadn't started yet, I thought, so I went looking for the NC Peace and Justice Coalition's table. This would have been in the tabling fair across the street from the opening rally, so I missed the speeches. I ended up spending my entire time there looking at the tables, and I still was able to visit only 2/3rds or fewer and got loaded down with information and ideas for local actions. I had an impeach Bush sign and Alliance pamphlets on impeachment, but I ended up not doing much leafletting. The pamphlet was included in the Durham bus packets. I rode a bus that seemed to be mainly people from the local organization TRACTION, which is a youth group, so many people saw the protest with fresh eyes. It was also a more sociable bus than others I have been to DC on, with discussion before and after the demonstration. It was a good event, but there was so much to do and not enough time and it seemed disorganized at the start of the march. The only other thing marring the day for me personally was that I accidentally killed a copperhead as I went to the bus (at that time of year watch out, because in certain areas copperheads seem to prefer to cross roads).

I circulated the Downing Street memos/impeachment petition on the Durham buses and got many signatures (see the campaign blog, Someone was going to circulate it on Chapel Hill's three buses, but in the rush it was forgotten.

The two big anti-war coalitions, UFPJ and ANSWER (or the related TONC) were able to work together in organizing a united demonstration, though I have heard that UFPJ thinks it was a mistake and refuses to do this again. There may have been government sabotage of the march. I heard that trains from several Northern cities were stopped by some kind of an electrical problem. Later it was announced that airborne traces of Tularemia were picked up Saturday at the March. This looks like a possible biological weapon release like the Anthrax Scare. The week after the march I felt sick and was slightly worried, but it seems to have been just a cold and I have basically recovered.

There will probably be more in a report-back in the upcoming issue of Alliance!

This week I read an email by a UFPJ organizer from NC on how he (and UFPJ) view the event. He pointed out a RollingStone magazine article as having a good critique of our movement. I find this article by Tim Dickinson (see, in the politics section; it is the only anti-war article) outrageous and wrong.

Basically the article seems to say that the anti-war movement needs to moderate and focus its demands, so that it can unite with veterans,, Win Without War, Democrats, and Republicans. It would then have mass support and could present a "responsible" exit plan allowing us to declare "victory" in Iraq. I may overstate the author's views, but he quotes mainly from opponents of ANSWER, and even of UFPJ, and obviously is not very anti-imperialist (opposing the forced and undemocratic military and economic domination of other countries in general, not just the military occupation of Iraq). This has elitist and racist overtones. The article criticizes the diversity of demands at the protest, from freeing Haiti, to anti-Israel speeches, to freeing US political prisoners. It seems racist to say we want the support of what are probably mostly white (and "middle class") groups like MoveOn, and not that of Haitian and Arab Americans, or of the blue-collar working class. And I think Americans should be able to understand violent resistance by patriotic Iraqis, and recognize that they have a right to defend their country, as much as Americans in the 18th century, the French in WWII, and other Europeans.

These concerns are very linked to opposing the War, not diversions hijacking the movement. Israel does not control the United States, but it seems obvious to me that it is our agent in the Middle East and benefitted from this war, since Iraq ws a poweful Arab nationalist opponent, which also aided Palestinian groups fighting Israel. We supported Israel's Zionist colonial policies for our own ends. It is the same arrogant US imperialism in Iraq as the imperialism that supported the Haitian coup, meddles in the Philippines, meddles on the Korean peninsula, and pursues neo-liberal, anti-popular policies in Iraq, New Orleans, and Bolivia. Consider the case of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. The UK removed the islanders for a military base, and this military base is also used by the US to attack Middle Eastern countries. Opposing the Iraq War on a narrow basis only throws away our momentum, doing nothing to prevent future wars, such as against Iran or a world war, against China or the EU (which I think is very possible in the coming decades).

There is the argument that we need to moderate so the bourgeois poiticians will join with us. I think it is the purpose of protest movements to make a demand and leave it to the politicians, who are really against us, to produce a solution to save themselves and placate us. If we had influence, and could say we want X exit plan, we wouldn't be protesting. My understanding is that this is how the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War struggles were won (the last movement is critized in the RollingStone piece). The Democrats are not only "spineless" in general on the War, they are also really opposed to us even when they support peace. The leading Democrats fault Bush with not winning in Iraq, isolating us internationally, and distracting from the "War on Terror." They don't oppose the toppling of a foreign government that has done nothing to the American people, for economic and geopolitical gain. They fear we will lost "credibility" as the global bully if a Iraqis can force us out of Iraq. A "victory" in Iraq will hurt the American people - it will be the groundwork for future wars, it will support the Bush Administration, and it will support the neoliberal globalization hurting workers and farmers from Durham to India. And even with our radical demands Democrats and even Republicans are calling for an exit plan.

Finally, I am uneasy with the idea that veterans and their relatives are the people most able to speak on the War. They should be priviledged as experienced, directly involved, and valuable speakers, but all of us supposedly have a voice in government policy and all of us are affected in some way by the War. We are victimized by it here at home when it causes Muslims to support fundamentalists who bomb civilians in this country, when it is used to justify repression of protesters, and when it results in mercenaries patrolling the streets of New Orleans. We don't live in a society where only veterans, or taxpayers, can speak on or supposedly determine government policy.

It would be good if even groups like Win Without War would join us in the streets, but narrowing what we demand to suit more "responsible" groups only serves the warmongers and ensures that we have to do this all over again in 2010. Also don't forget the quiet wars waged in our names, such as the strangling of Iraq after the first war, which may have killed a million Iraqis. It would also be very difficult and undemocratic to impose a uniform message on a protest by 300,000 people, for example I went there protesting for impeaching Bush. It is true that CSPAN coverage wouldn't show much of this, since their idea of covering a protest seems to be just focusing on the official speakers.

There is more to say, but this has taken too long, so I will end it here.