portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article portland metro

imperialism & war

Time to Reinvent Portland's Anti-War Movement

Today's July 4 parade needed to be challenged. But it wasn't.
I think it's time the anti-war movement here in Portland reinvented itself. I have been feeling this for a little while, but seeing tanks rolling down Broadway this morning, and no visible anti-war presence makes it more of a priority in my opinion.

In general, I do not believe in trashing other well-intentioned folks or organizations, so I will try to avoid that. But it's time for some new organizations or new leadership or something. And I don't know where else to start this discussion. I have heard lots of folks saying things along these lines for several months now. Again, I don't want to air too much dirty laundry in such a public forum, but there are many reasons to work on developing some new groups/methods/ideas for challenging the US gov't and its policies.

Here's what I think we need, and if it seems feasible, I would be willing to help develop it. But I cannot work on these issues with the same groups, leadership ideas, tactics, etc. that have dominated the anti-war "movement" here recently.

We need an anti-war movement or organization that:
--effectively challenges US imperialism
--reaches out to folks most affected by US foreign and domestic policies (and is not mostly or entirely led by white men)
--recognizes and utilizes different kinds strategies and tactics
--has good internal democracy, and is not dominated by authoritarian or alienating "leadership"

I'm sure there is much more that is needed, but I just wanted to open the question. But I want to do it in a way that focuses on what we need, not in a way that overexagerrates our mistakes.
Do it! 05.Jul.2002 09:24

Anna

I don't know why nothing is happening in Portland. I check this website and several bulletin boards in local stores before each holiday or visit by corrupt politicians. I have not found a lot about what is happening. I noticed that there are several spontaneous small groups protesting but it is hard to find any actions.

I don't know the Portland people scape but it seems to me that someone could try to bring all the groups together and do a little planning. And, then let people know what is happening. It is pathetic that no one is standing up to the tanks and sick patriotism.

Where are the PPRC people?

The've been neutralized by nationalists! 05.Jul.2002 10:57

!HECKNO!

I think the anti war movement is bieng held down precisely because it is "the anti war movement." I think the anti war effort (if you can call it that) has at it's heart a bunch of liberal nationalists that believe in hierarchy. They can't see people organizing any other way. I think they don't want to see people organize any other way- because this would represent a challenge to thier authority. The authority wich says that leading us around by the nose chanting "REPEAT AFTER ME" is a legitimit tactic. (for communicating?) I've been to at least one event here where this "tactic" was used to head off a real conflict with a national figure. It's not that anti-nationalists can't organize it's that thier tired of working hard to educate and empower people only to see nationalists wingers take this energy and channel it to some winger cause. It's like what's at issue here? Is it that some tyrant stole the highest seat of the most deseased country on the planet? Or is it that the society that we live in is complicit in the destruction of every local or indegenious culture on the planet? That in fact, it is so hell bent on hemogony that it is attemting to kill every creature or culture it can't control? If this is the case- then how do we stop our complicity in this desease named dominance? I think we begin by challenging our own authority and thus everyone elses authority to dominate. Maybee stop focusing on our control of life around us and start focusing on our own ability to deal with life around us. Eh?
We CAN organize around anti-authoritarian ethos. It's just going to take nothing less than a personal revolution on everybodies part. A revolution in action and words. My thoughts tend to be that we should form support networks for communities of revolutionary intent. Communities that will be created in effect by people of this intent organizing in such a manner as to support a revolutionary community. Almost like- I think freely and act to respect all freedom therefore I am free- and will fight any authority that says otherwise.

For love and war,
heck

PPRC was there 05.Jul.2002 11:04

Anon

This was posted to the calendar last week:

 http://portland.indymedia.org:8081/calendar/?day=4

Info was also posted in response to a question on the newswire:

 http://www.portland.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=13760&group=webcast

PPRC May Have Been There, But... 05.Jul.2002 13:53

A Disappointed Activist

PPRC may have been there, but without a visible presence. My original post complained about a lack of "visible anti-war presence". We needed that. Having tanks rolling down Broadway with no one saying "No to War", or "No to US Imperialism",or whatever is bad. Having a few people pass out leaflets about donating to an Afghan victims' relief fund is not the same.

I was trying to open this discussion without naming names, but I guess I should. And no disrespect here, but the PPRC does not cut it for me. It pretty much fails on all four of the points I suggest in my first post.

I wonder what other people think.

Or is this not the place for this kind of discussion?

responding to your four points 05.Jul.2002 22:21

Enji

in my opinion you do a lot of complaining but i don't see any answers.

you say:
We need an anti-war movement or organization that:
--effectively challenges US imperialism


how do we do that? got any fresh new ideas? are you doing anything to implement them besides complaining about the people who make the effort and are on the street *every* friday, and have meetings *every* tuesday? are you putting in the time? are you willing to put yourself forward at these meetings and *open* mike soapboxes and not only suggest *constructive* ideas but listen, really listen to the responses?

i'd really like to know if you've got ideas on how to effectively challenge us imperialism, because if you do, we all could use your brain power. we are a minority in our views, and it isn't easy tackling the behemoth, especially nonviolently.


you say:
--reaches out to folks most affected by US foreign and domestic policies (and is not mostly or entirely led by white men)

in my observance since i began attending the friday rallies in december, pprc is not "led" by anyone, and as a group they do do outreach. i have not been able to attend their meetings, but from comments i have seen and heard, they go out of their way not to have leadership in any particular few people, and it appears to me, reaching for collaboration, they correspondingly spend a lot of time discussing things. (weekly meetings *and* weekly rallies?!?) and gasp, there are white men who consistently put forward the effort, how dare they dominate by simply being present, but there are also arabs there consistently and well as women. sure there could be more outreach. care to help with that?

you say:
--recognizes and utilizes different kinds strategies and tactics

what kinds of strategies and tactics do you mean? do you mean violent ones? that would seem to contradict your call for effectiveness. do you mean more confrontive tactics, such as crossing a line and risking arrest? that is an individual choice, and one you can't force upon others, and one that individuals should have support for before they do it. do you mean creative tactics? give us your ideas, get involved. in my short time as a witness for peace and activist getting a (different) group going, considering the numbers of people out there, if you want something done, you've gotta get it started yourself. you can't expect someone else to take your idea and do the hard work of putting it out if you're not willing to do the work too. people are spread thin, you gotta do the selling of your idea too, if you want someone to help you.

it seems to me the venue is there, pprc has the weekly structure in place, and the structure to act when the imperialists come to town. i don't see many other groups stepping up to the plate and utilizing the structure they have put together, i'm sure they would love it if individuals or groups approached them with some fresh ideas. in fact the numbers of people on fridays are dwindling. sometimes there are other tactics. the jews for global justice, with their israeli checkpoints... but you know, the same dozen people are going to have the same coupla dozen ideas. if you're not there putting in the time, and finding out what it takes to be a public witness for peace, what good are you doing grousing without adding anything constructive to the mix? if you are putting in the time, frankly i'm puzzled, because you would know it's all easier said than done.


you say:
--has good internal democracy, and is not dominated by authoritarian or alienating "leadership"

as i mentioned, it seems to me pprc is making a concerted effort to be egalitarian and to reach decisions collaboratively. they are also human, and the group is not even a year old. clearly they are going to make mistakes and learn along the way. i understand the cheney protest could have gone down better, but it seems to me they are making the effort to learn as a group from that, and to learn what mistakes were made and how they can be prevented next time.

i would say, be careful what you label authoritarian or alienating "leadership". it sounds suspiciously like sour grapes. did you have an idea that no one liked?

i would ask, what makes good internal democracy? is there a formula that you plug in the numbers, and voila, there it is? would you like to be able to drop in, say your two cents, and have everyone go ooh, ahh, that's perfect, lets do that? would you resent those that have been putting in the time and effort since last fall, each and every week, because they appear to be the leaders and people listen to them?

i am grateful that there are a couple of dozen people who are putting in this kind of time and keeping this structure in place, but i am disappointed to see less interest in that ongoing structure, and i am concerned that it is because there are more people out there like you who judge the group harshly, but don't yourself make the effort (or so it appears) to add constructively to the effort. in my experience the die-hard pprc-ers are kind, responsive, caring, and not authoritarian.

of course portland's anti-war effort/ peace effort could be better. where are you all? you think we don't have jobs and families too? it's easy to complain. it's hard to come up with new ideas and make them happen so everyone's happy.

there was a lack of visible anti war presence because of the apathetic numbers of portland activists lately. pprc-ers were leafletting, but apparently didn't have enough numbers to also have a crowd. i admit i didn't go. i'm tired. care to inject some energy into the movement or continue to drag it all down with negative commentary?

Thanks, enji 05.Jul.2002 23:16

sue

"Disappointed Activist"s everywhere need to keep showing up, preferably in larger numbers, and be persistent. I live 100 miles away from Portland,and there's only a handful of "regulars" here, but the nimbers are growing and the activists are attracting more publicity with each weekly gathering. PPRC does excellent work, needs more participants, more ideas. Their meeting structure appears to be open and inclusive(I've only been able to go to one), and the two events I've attending were very well done- the Bush Welcome in January and the April 20 March. Portland is fortunate to have some kind of structure to work with. Progress is achieved through persistent and focused attention, through being there.

disclaimer 06.Jul.2002 08:04

w.heck

Just for the record,the above posting by "heckno" should not be confused with me.I do not share that person's opinions.I would like to see more focus on unity and less time and energy spent on what seems to me like bickering.
DAMN!Lets get it together here folks.
the real,
HECK

The PPRC is dead 06.Jul.2002 19:21

Josef Schneider

I helped to organize the first PPRC march on September 16, 2001. It was a beautiful event. Over 12,000 people took to the streets to demand that September 11th not be used as a pretext for war. But I very soon soured on working with the PPRC, as did all of the effective activists in town, with one or two exceptions.

Popular movements don't have much money for full-time staff and services, so we require the creativity and hard work of volunteers. But while the money of capitalist groups can buy compliance, it can't buy enthusiasm and soul. The power of money may have staying power: People will work for months and years on an issue if you make sure they are well housed, clothed and fed for doing so. But no force is stronger than a popular movement. Once aroused, all the cops, lawyers, journalists, teachers, soldiers, politicians and artists that money can buy will not stop it.

The most energetic groups in town organize themselves in non-hierarchical ways. Hierarchy inhibits and retards the individual initiative which is our one great strength. People get a bellyful of hierarchy40 hours a week at their jobs, they will not volunteer to be someone's unpaid subordinate during the little free time they have left over. We organized the September 16th "vigil and procession" through Portland of over 1,200 people with the sort of informal, non-hierarchical structures that get things done.

Yet, at the very next meeting some people began to demand that we elect a steering committee, and many of the same people decided that they needed to take that time to lecture the younger radicals present on the wickedness of violence. These younger radicals, many of whom had shut down the WTO (as opposed to staying home or merely marching around Seattle), had spent time, energy, and creativity trying to prevent the agony that we've seen Afghanistan suffer for the past 10 months. What was their thanks? To be lectured to by a crowd of boomers who brought with them baggage stuffed with an enormous sense of entitlement and opinions that were obviously shaped by watching TV. They acted as if everyone under 30 who had a tattoo or piercing was an habitual Black Blocer. And they just didn't want to hear about our "excessively democratic" (actual quote) ways of doing things. They wanted a bank account, and letterhead, and an Executive Director. This only days after we'd organized a huge, beautiful mobilization at which no one so much as picked up a stone or scratched the paint on a bank!

Now, I am generalizing here. I do most of my work in a multigenerational group. I really value the perspective that the older activists bring, and I frequently seek out their advice. But they are wise enough to treat their juniors with the respect due equals, and by doing so they increase the esteem in which we hold them. At the PPRC, not all those who backed a non-hierarchical way of doing things were young (I'm not), but most were. Not everyone who wanted their name and a title on a PPRC business card was a boomer, but most were. So folks, get over yourselves. Just because you attended an anti-Vietnam war demonstration doesn't give you authority to condescend to young activists. And isn't it strange that people who didn't believe the mainstream media's assertions about September 11th were so ready to believe the same mainstream media's characterizations of young activists? Why is that?

I stopped working with the PPRC in October, except for a brief moment when George W. Bush visited Portland. Thousands of people had surrounded the Youth Opportunity Center where G.W. Bush was scheduled to arrive. But a PPRC activist heard a rumor that had been put out by the cops that G.W. had cancelled his visit to YO. And since he was a "leader" and had a bullhorn he decided to announce this rumor to the crowd as fact. So, people melted away to the President Select's next stop, just in time for G.W. to come riding up to YO completely unchallenged.

It will always be this way, you can ossify the movement into institutions, or you can keep it non-hierarchical and vital. Forty years ago the civil rights movement shook this country to its foundations. Ordinary people, without titles or offices, like Rosa Parks or the four college students who began the lunch-counter sit-ins in Greensboro, took the initiative. Anyone heard about all that action coming out of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference lately? I didn't think so.

If the PPRC is moribund, I'm not surprised. It's hard to sustain intense interest in an issue, especially since the actual fighting in the "War on Terror" has quieted down to bombing the occasional wedding party. But I could see that the PPRC was heading for irrelevance nine months ago. You can't carry on the way they did and not snuff out an activist group's energy. And since they don't have money, they can't substitute the work of paid staffers for the activists' to keep some semblance of life going. They'll be entirely dead soon. That's ok with me. They could only suffocate activity within their own group, not the movement as a whole, which can't be contained within any organization. The PPRC is dead! Long live the peace movement!


More Bickering 08.Jul.2002 12:50

A Disappointed Activist

Hey Enji, Sue, others...
I am trying to help here. In case you haven't noticed, the "anti-war movement" here is pretty hurting. Turnout at the weekly PPRC vigils is down (and having less of an effect, in my opinion; the last one I went to was an embarassment, with only one anti-war sign, no literature to hand out, and a pretty small, very undiverse crowd; people were laughing as we marched by), the Cheney protests were pretty weak, and probably did more to divide the movement then build it, and the anti-war presence on July 4 consisted of a dozen or so people (all white men, by the way) who handed out literature that was barely anti-war.

Again, I want to the movement to be strong, to grow, but we must be able to critically evaluate our success so far. What I hear some of you saying is "Stop complaining and just show up". And that seems like not a very good way to build the movement.

I believe that more folks have left the PPRC then are currently showing up for their meetings, rallies, and other activities combined. Should we not question this?

And Enji, a large part of your response seems to focus on questioning my own personal activism, commitment, and history with the PPRC. These may be valid concerns, but I think my criticisms are shared by many. Suffice it to say that I tried working with the PPRC, I have put in some time, and I am willing to work on this stuff. But I, like many others, have become disillusioned with the current state of the "movement", and are pretty unwilling to keep working within current groups without significant changes.

I think there are some creative ideas out there, and some new groups are starting to work on stuff. But I wonder how much the PPRC contributes to these new ideas, or are folks still less likely to get involved because they think it will be led by the PPRC (which does tend to scare people away). You can criticize me for bickering, but that is a fact, lots of people in Portland are keeping their distance from the PPRC and anything they think might be initiated by it.

On the other "Reinvent the Movement" thread, some folks are suggesting specific ways to try to do this, and that's great. Personally, I'm not that interested in attending meetings in the middle of the street, or growing my own food, but if you are, that's great. Go for it.

I said what I'm interested in.

Here are my initial thoughts:
We need an anti-war movement or organization that:
--effectively challenges US imperialism
--reaches out to folks most affected by US foreign and domestic policies (and is not mostly or entirely led by white men)
--recognizes and utilizes different kinds strategies and tactics
--has good internal democracy, and is not dominated by authoritarian or alienating "leadership"

to disappointed activist 10.Jul.2002 23:23

Enji enji@earthlink.net

perhaps you thought my questions were rhetorical. they were not.

you say:
Again, I want to the movement to be strong, to grow, but we must be able to critically evaluate our success so far. What I hear some of you saying is "Stop complaining and just show up". And that seems like not a very good way to build the movement.


I have no problem with critical evaluation, but I didn't find yours helpful. I did find the ideas from other threads helpful. Your four points 1. seemed to me to ignore the efforts of people who from my observance *are* inclusive and egalitarian, 2. kind of point out the obvious without adding any new ideas to the table, 3. seem to imply that the current anti-war movement has done nothing to address those points. I am not saying "stop complaining and just show up". I am saying "please use constructive criticism and yes, show up so when you do provide some constructive criticism, people will know you as a friendly face and not some saboteur". In my book "we weren't really connecting with anyone. We moved too fast to speak with anyone or for most people to discern our chants or read the signs" from Prop Busta is constructive criticism. "time for some new organizations or new leadership or something" is not constructive criticism, it is destructive.

I do think it's a problem that the numbers of the rallies are dwindling, I do think we need to ask the questions as to why, but I don't think the answers lie in those simplistic negative answers like authoritarian impulses and sexism. I think those questions need to be asked up front, not anonymously, and with determination to seek the truth no matter how uncomfortable it gets. No white men should have to apologize for being the only ones who show up for a meeting, but they should be willing to listen to women and people of color who stopped coming if there's anything they can change to get them to come back. But if no one talks, how can anybody listen?

So this talking is good. It is having an effect. My concern with the language of "reinventing" and "what's wrong" is that all that has been right gets thrown out too. There are some things that are right about the peace movement in Portland. Some of those things that are right have probably only come about because there are people who've been sticking it out through every little messy conflict.

I have heard these vague comments before, that certain portlanders want nothing to do with pprc. While I can understand you may not want to air anybody's dirty laundry, and you want to make clear to me and others there may be something about pprcers that severely alienated others from them, I find the message troubling. A group less than a year old, dedicated to peace, has somehow alienated the rest of Portland? Surely any group less than a year old has growing pains? Josef Schneider raised some important points, but I wonder how old they are, and whether those same people still dominate. What he described sounded like ageism, but it could also been personality conflicts. Certainly, the main dozen or so people who drive pprc aren't old enough to have protested the vietnam war, unless I am severely underestimating their ages. Most important, it concerns me that PPRC could be judged forevermore for its worst moments, or for its most prickly individuals. So now, you'd have a bunch of *other* people alienate *them* and form a new organization or something? How is that building a movement of peace? (that one is a rhetorical question.)