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re-building a movement - constituencies1 - contra Visalli  edag-@verizon.net
 Jul 21, 2011 01:00 PDT 

Very good discussion! I hope the following isn't a detour.

In connection with this topic I went back to review older postings in the
list, and by chance found another by Dana Visalli that completely passed me
by - one of the weeks I was out to lunch, I guess. Dana's post led me to a
chain of thought relevant to the present discussion, so I'll try revisit it
here. (Please excuse the long subject line; I'm not "contra" Dana, the long
subject line is just an attempt to set up easy searching.)

On May 01, 2011 16:03 PDT Dana wrote in "Insanity Deepens":
 DV Did someone here say they supported the US attack on Libya?
DV We live in a criminal nation.
DV    Regional Armies on Alert as Libya Crisis Deepens
DV    NATO Bombs Disabled Children's School in Libya
DV    Gadhafi's Youngest Son, Three Grandsons Killed in NATO Strike
DV    NATO Powers Reject Gadhafi's Truce Offer
DV    US Intel: No Evidence of Viagra as Weapon in Libya

I can't complain about Dana's revulsion at the instances of violence
perpetrated by NATO; the links he provided are precisely what should be
pointed out, regardless of whether the poster opposes or supports the NATO
intervention. And I myself very often think that the way to address the
problem of civilization is to regard it as an aspect of mass insanity,
taken in a precise as well as rhetorical sense.

But I believe it was a posting of mine "supporting" the action in Libya
that set Dana off. On Apr 22, 2011 13:55 PDT in "salve for confusion" I wrote:

 EA I'm advocating war-tax refusal in general while at the same time
EA speaking up for support of intervention in Libya

This was in a report on my attempts to talk to my neighbors around last tax
day; I went on to say that they could care less about WTR, my confusions,
or what was happening in Libya; their first concern was holding on to their
homes or jobs after the depredations by mortgagers and Wall-Streeters.
Nonetheless, I stand by my assertion that I was of two minds. I don't want
here to defend the position, but rather to reflect on it in the context of
movement-building.

I think my statement reflects that of an audience for WTR that's been given
short shrift, perhaps unconsciously, by activists moved by personal
conviction so strong that it leads to a too-quick devaluing of other,
different convictions. To put the case for a diversity of approach as
plainly as I can:

I'm not a radical pacifist, I don't hold a principled objection to war in
general. This isn't because I like war, but because I distrust the tyranny
of overarching principles. My experience has been that sooner or later a
particular situation arises where the "self-evident" imperative, no matter
how elevated or systematic, becomes a barrier to right action. Or at least
to my making up my own mind about what the right action is.

So I can conceive of occasions when even though I'd think a government's
action is wrongheaded or criminal, I would nonetheless "support" or "take
part in" a particular war. The key is in coming to an understanding of
what's meant - in an extremely personal sense, which could well be
completely different in two different comrades addressing the same
situation - by "support" and "take part in," and always in relation to the
concrete situation at hand. Imagining those situations where it'd really
matter, I see that it could mean at one time intervening as a peacemaker
between factions, at another bringing aid to the beleaguered, and at
another running guns to insurgents - all this based not only on the
perceived need, but also on a candid assessment of one's actual
capabilities in regard to them. I'd like to think that to me the criterion
would revolve mostly around who is the underdog. And when the underdogs
become upperdogs - as they seem always to do - that I'd be quick to change
sides. Simone Weil, who struggled with pacifism all her life, nonetheless
fought for the Spanish Republic in 1938. Did that violation of pacifist
principles make her a lesser person, or her attempts to conceptualize a
better world of lesser value than those presupposing a doctrinaire pacifism?

I'm neither proud not ashamed of my Bogartian outlook. The important point
for movement building is that about half the people who have been or are
attracted to WTR share it or something like it, not to mention even more
aggressive ones. I met all types when I was active in NEWTR, and as long as
the goal of reducing harm was clearly understood by all, all were welcome.

Not only by me: By keeping our organizational eyes on antiwar goals instead
of ideology, Frances Schwab, a rock-solid religious pacifist, Cynthia
Foster, who would go to any lengths to oppose what she saw as injustice,
and myself, a general hell-raiser and amateur commissar, managed to work
productively and enjoyably together to build WTR in Eastern Massachusetts.
We were by no means the only such cluster! - such "coalitions of ideology"
formed all the time, and IMO was a reason for the success of the antiwar
efforts before they fell apart with the changing social conditions starting
in the late 1980s and '90s.

I wonder if the value of diverse opinion is missed by organizers because
we've become divorced from the concreteness of the struggles that repel us,
and the concrete needs that it's in our power to address; amongst us as
well as our neighbors war and suffering becomes too often more abstract
than our own abstractions. I guess what I'm saying is that I think it's a
mistake to require that ideologies, even the most elevated, be
prerequisites for joining the struggle toward concrete progressive goals
that all, even warriors, can help in attaining. My apologies if I've made a
convoluted mess of a simple point. - ed
	
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