By: Senan Shaqdeh*
The United For Peace with Justice (UFPJ) National Assembly held a new meeting at the end of last month in St Louis USA. The Assembly had 450 registered representatives from its 850 affiliated national and local anti-war organizations from across the USA. The assembly was intended to shape the perspectives and actions for UFPJ for the following year. Anti-Iraq war protest
The existing liberal and left leadership of UFPJ continued its move to the right in the post-election period. They passed over the disastrous orientation on the election last year as if nothing had happened and in fact continued their fruitless focus on the Democratic Party: placing Democrat Tom Hayden on the opening platform; stressing the importance of the Progressive Democrats of America who handed out leaflets throughout the crowd; and winning as one of their priorities for the next year putting pressure on (i.e. lobbying) sympathetic politicians in Congress.
On the formal level, the UFPJ leadership did propose a focus on Iraq without retreating on connected issues like Palestine and fighting the scapegoating of immigrants and Arabs. Yet everything they did suggested a continued a move to the right and away from protest. In fact, the leadership of UFPJ had not proposed a single national demonstration against the occupation for the entire next year coming into the assembly.
On the other hand, a minority of activists, tried to offer a different direction‹protest to end the occupation; attention to the integrally related issues like Palestine and fighting racism against Arabs; and not surrendering to the Democratic Party.
The bulk of the delegates found themselves between these two poles. Overall the delegates to the Assembly were older, more middle class and white, and to the right of the re-emerging opposition to the occupation while the left-wing minority in the mini-plenary discussions of the UFPJ¹s strategic framework and in crafting proposals for the assembly to vote on. This minority put forward proposals like the People Power Proposal that emphasized grassroots activism and the Global Justice Working Groups proposal for a national demonstration against the Occupation on the weekend of the IMF/World Bank Meetings in April.
This left-wing minority was able to win significant support and find allies in both the mini-plenaries and general body discussions. The People Power Proposal actually won the majority of the room but, because of super-majority (requiring a two-thirds majority) voting procedures, was defeated. A significant minority voted against the lobbying proposal.
The left-wing and allies used the discussions about the proposed April demonstration, which was defeated in the mini-plenary, to change another proposed demonstration for Sept. 10, 2005 for the reform of the UN into a national demonstration to end the occupation. This new proposal won overwhelmingly in the Assembly.
The Assembly was unanimous in focusing on supporting the developing resistance among military families and soldiers. Based on a model campaign in Vermont, the left-wing won a proposal for affiliated groups to work to pass resolutions in their cities to demand that their state governors bring the National Guard home now.
The single-most glaring problem was the virtual absence of Arabs and Muslims. UFPJ only reluctantly took up the issue of Palestine and has done little against the scapegoating and detentions of Arabs and Muslims in the US, thus alienating activists from these communities. As a result, there were no Muslims in attendance and only one or two Arabs. What¹s worse, on a panel about diversifying the movement, which was in essence a long guilt-tripping session, they failed to include an Arab or Muslim speaker. This was simply inexcusable.
UFPJ has a left wing Strategic Framework, but its leadership is almost completely focused on appealing to an imaginary mainstream America and influencing the Democratic Party. While the left minority could sway things from this orientation at the Assembly, this will be more difficult afterwards when the leadership and staff will not be held accountable to the grassroots and will able to turn things back their way on every question.
*Arab Activist in USA