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imperialism & war

Analyzing "The Movement"-Looking Back at PPRC

I found out that the movement wasn't really there. It seemed to be there, I could watch it on television, or read about it in various magazines, but in my real life all I could find was a nonprofit organization called PPRC.
SInce September 11th, or more to the point, since October 7th, 2001 and the bombing of Afghanistan, I've been involved with what I tend to call "the movement." The Twin Towers falling, the Anthrax scare, the indiscriminate bombing of a starving country while the terrorist culprits scrammed, all of it moved me to act. I wanted to act in concert with others to expose the lies, and to eventually build something better than the corporate doomsday world I'd found myself in.

But here's what happened. I found out that the movement wasn't really there. It seemed to be there, I could watch it on television, or read about it in various magazines, but in my real life all I could find was a nonprofit organization called PPRC.

This organization had an interesting beginning, and through my involvement with the organization I learned both about how difficult it is to build an open and democratic organization, and that there are some seemingly built-in constraints muzzling most peace groups.

Primarily, however, the story of my involvement with PPRC is a story of burnout, alienation, and a growing sense of hopelessness. Still if I am going to find a way out of this abyss this story is one that I have to write. A story I have to examine, come to terms with, and eventually transcend.

To Begin:

"We will make no distinction between those who have committed these acts and those who harbor them," Bush said. He was essentially promising a war on every state with a criminal element. WIth this doctrine he could have declared war on Canada, Germany, France, and even Florida. After all, Al Quaeda cells existed in each of these countries.

We would go to war and stay at war until the last "terrorist" was dispatched to hell.

I'd entered into a totalitarian nightmare, a nightmare sure to bring on more attacks like what we'd suffered on 9-11 while simulataneously empowering the police appartus domestically.

"You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists."

I wasn't with them. I'd committed thought crimes already. How long would it be before the FBI arrived at my door?

I had to do something. It was a matter of using my right to free speech or standing back to witness the end of the world.

Maybe a week after the attacks I ran into a former member of the ISO, a friend and co-worker who had been transferred to another department and with whom I'd lost contact. I was glad to see him.

"What's the far left going to do? Are you organizing?" I asked him before I even said hello.

"What are we going to do?" He tapped his chin and smiled broadly. "We're going to rally around the flag," he said. "The far left isn't going to do a thing."

He explained that the group he was working with, an organization consisting of maybe 300 activists from various groups, an organization mostly dominated by former Green Party members, had just voted that the group would not criticize US Foriegn Policy.

"What?" I asked. "What group is this?"

"PPRC-Portland's Peaceful Response Coalition."

"Are they against the war? Sounds like a peace group."

"We're focussing on trying to protect the local Arab community from hate crimes," he said.

"That's a fine thing, but what about trying to protect the Afghans? The Bush administration is threatening to use nuclear weapons," I said.

"They won't use nukes."

"But, isn't just the threat of using Nukes worth criticizing?"

"We're rallying around the flag," my friend said.

"That's terrible."

"Yes."

It turned out that he was overstating his case. PPRC was standing in opposition to the war, but only in so much as it stood for peace. No official critique of actual policy existed within the organization, but lots of people were criticizing US foriegn policy at the various rallies.

"What about the Anarchists? What are they doing?" I like to think that I was an anarchist, liked to pretend that there was some central anarchist collective in town, and I'd point to various infoshops and bookstores as proof.

"The anarchists I know have formed an anti-authoritarian committee within PPRC and they've walked out on 2 meetings," Paul said.

"Fuck!"

This was my introduction to what I would later call "the movement." For the moment it was enough to keep me away, but without any other alternatives I soon found myself at my first PPRC rally.

More next week...

homepage: homepage: http://www.douglaslain.com

Corrections 03.Dec.2003 19:05

Jeff Cropp

Doug - you made several errors in this paragraph, probably because you weren't involved in the organization at its beginning. Please attempt to verify your facts before printing them.

"He explained that the group he was working with, an organization consisting of maybe 300 activists from various groups, an organization mostly dominated by former Green Party members, had just voted that the group would not criticize US Foriegn Policy."

1.) We were not "former" Green Party members - we were current members working on something besides Green Party activism.

2.) We did NOT "dominate" the group. There were, like, one or two dozen confirmed Greens that I can recall, about the same as the number of radicals. Then there were the Democrats, the Socialists, the Independents, the Republicans... Lots and lots of other people besides Greens. Several of us had leadership positions within the PPRC organization, and tended to be quite vocal. However, there was no Green attempt to "dominate" the PPRC's agenda.

3.) We voted to not criticize US Foreign Policy ONLY for the first big rally and march, which occurred five days after September 11th. We felt that it was too soon after so many people died to jump into foreign policy issues. The focus of that first march was mourning and discouraging retaliatory violence against Muslims. We knew there would be plenty of time later to address foreign policy.

Thanks Jeff 03.Dec.2003 19:55

Doug

Thanks for the corrections, Jeff. Stick around because I'll probably get more stuff wrong in the future, although I'll try to check my facts or at least remember them accurately from now on.

Doug

Disquietude 05.Dec.2003 19:27

Bill

I think we must accept that Doug's friend said what Doug reports.

Doug's friend may have been wrong. Doug may misremember. Doug's friend might jump in and dispute the report.

However, there remains the fact Doug's friend said something and Doug remembers something.

While it is appropriate for Jeff challenge the somethings, from the point of view of PPRC, it is wrong for Jeff to accuse Doug of not verifying his facts. Doug is not (at this point) reporting on PPRC, but on what his friend said. Doug reports what he remembers. Even his friend cannot dispute that.

This is an important distinction.

I don't know Doug. I have no idea what he intends to publish, next week, whenever. So far, his language suggests that he will be critical of (his experience of) PPRC. That might be interesting, it told honestly.

Yet, he has barely started and already someone is insisting he repudiate his own experience.

Doug may be full of shit. PPRC can correct that after he reveals it. To demand he revise his history before he has told it smacks of the thought-police on the other side of the barricades.


What disturbs me most is not that Doug's memories, or his friends comments, might be inaccurate, as Jeff claims. The few paragraphs above suggest that Doug had a deeper and longer involvement with PPRC than a casual chat with his friend. The points Jeff raises are not subtle nuances which might escape the notice of an indifferent observer; they are significant and easily seen.

If the friend's remarks were inaccurate, why does Doug still believe them, two years later.

Early Corrections 07.Dec.2003 02:00

Douglas Lain

You're quite right to think that I'll be writing about PPRC with a critical eye, and it is interesting that Jeff Cropp felt inspired to correct me this early in my effort.

Maybe I should I address the two "errors" Jeff pointed out rather than just letting it be.

When Jeff says that PPRC only voted not to criticize US foreign policy at the first rally I tend to believe him. I wasn't at either the first rally nor the planning meetings, and subsequent PPRC rallys did include a variety of criticism of US foreign policy. I'll defend what I wrote, however, by reiterating what Bill wrote above. I was just reporting what I remembered from a conversation with a friend, and this friend read what I've written and confirmed that he remembers saying what I attribute to him.

The second "error" Crop points out isn't really an error at all. I suppose it's a matter of interpretation as to whether the Green party dominated PPRC in the beginning. There were four Green party board members with leadership roles in PPRC, and Jeff was one of them. In fact, I understand that it was Jeff who drew up the specs for how the organization would be structured. That is, it was Jeff's idea that PPRC would have a "coordinating committee", and that there would be seperate committees handling press work, internal communication, outreach, education, and events. The GM or general membership was to vote on proposals from these various committees as well as on other proposals at the GM meetings.

The structure of the organization changed over time, but at the outset it was the Green Party reps, and most specifically Jeff Cropp, who created the structure of the organization.

Jeff's correction contains an error, at least it seems to me it does. There were absolutely no Republican Party leaders involved in the formation of PPRC, and scant view registered Republicans, perhaps none. Also, the democratic party was not involved in the formation of PPRC. Those of us in the organization did, however, work out of Green Party offices frequently in those first few months, and the Green party also allowed PPRC to use one of their phone lines to receive messages.

I hope that clears everything up.

Yes, Douglas 09.Dec.2003 00:22

Bill

Your story makes more sense now.

Just tell the rest of your story as you (and your friends) remember it.

Jeff will doubtless correct what he or the Green Party feels needs correction. Let him tell their story; you tell yours. We, out here, are smart enough to know the difference.

I am glad you started this. We will all be better for listening to and understanding each other.

Thank you for your courage, and for giving a damn. And for your faith that PPRC can improve.

PPRC can improve? 09.Dec.2003 15:34

Douglas Lain

I'm not so sure that PPRC can improve. "The Movement" certainly can improve, however.

Thanks for your vote of support.

Doug