By Chuck Kaufman
There are iconic moments in the movement for justice and peace when, if you are not a participant, you regret it forever. My first was May Day 1971 when we shut down Washington, DC protesting the Vietnam War. I missed being with a million people in New York in September 1982 protesting nuclear war, and I missed the November 1999 WTO protest in Seattle. But I did participate, and earned my first arrest, in March of 1990 on the 10th anniversary of Archbishop Romero’s assassination. I also participated in the April 2000 IMF/World Bank protest in DC and a year later the Summit of the Americas protest in Quebec City where the Free Trade Area of the Americas was born and died. And, of course, I participated in all the national anti-war protests for the past 10 years beginning with the formation of the ANSWER Coalition three days after Sept. 11, 2001, especially the two largest – Jan. 18, 2003 in DC and Feb. 15 in New York. The anti-war movement was never able to assemble the numbers it did prior to the invasion of Iraq after President Bush ignored the popular will and invaded Iraq based on lies. Sectors of the movement demobilized to work in the pro-war Kerry campaign of 2004 and again for the Obama campaign in 2008, leaving the anti-war movement marginalized. So why should Oct. 6, 2011, with its ambitious plan to start a permanent occupation of Freedom Plaza near the White House, be any different? Maybe it won’t be. Maybe it will show that we’re still not angry enough. Maybe it will show that Euro-Americans are still too comfortable. But maybe it will be the beginning of something new. I’m feeling that something different is in the air; the first sudden gust of wind announcing the hurricane to follow. A few days ago, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said that labor is going to ditch the Democrats in the run-up to 2012. He said, “We’re going to use a lot of our money to build structures that work for working people. You’re going to see us give less money to build structures for others, and more of our money will be used to build our own structure.” Hallelujah. I joked on Facebook that Trumka’s speech was the true epicenter of the recent East Coast earthquake. October 6 could be the beginning of a paradigm shift in which the anti-war movement too divorces itself from the Democratic Party and determines to build popular movement structures that will have to be taken into account by whichever party is in power. President Obama may have made a serious mistake when he raised so many people to the mountain top of hope only to throw them under the bus after he got elected. As the social movements of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Brazil have proven, it is possible to take power peacefully, by mobilizing smart and by mobilizing relentlessly to confront the corporatacracy and its morally bankrupt political parties. I bought a one-way ticket to Washington, DC for Oct. 6 in the hope that we are done with voting for the lesser of two evils; that we are done with expecting salvation from the servants of our corporate ruling class. It may not happen. Our movements may yet be too co-opted. But, man, would I regret if forever if I had booked a return flight to my home in Tucson, Arizona for Oct. 9 and it turned out that those who stayed founded a new age without me.