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UFPJ DIary: The Case For Participatory Democracy

"UFPJ Diary: The Case for Participatory Democracy" is a year long chronology of an activist's experiences working with UFPJ as a War Resisters League (WRL) and Direct Action Tendency (DAT) delegate advocating for direct action. Although the effort to procure UFPJ endorsement of direct action was ultimately successful, the democratization of United for Peace and Justice is apparently a more difficult and probably more protracted struggle.

Say, would you let me cry on your shoulder
I've heard that you'd try anything twice...
But then you open your eyes
And you see someone that you physically despise
But my heart is open
My heart is open to you

- Stephen Morrissey

This is an opinion piece, not a position paper of either the Direct Action Tendency, the Industrial Workers of the World, the War Resisters League or September Action. All of the positions advanced are my own, as are the errors. Of course, the final product has profited from some donated labor: many thanks to Brendan Story, David Meieran and Jim Macdonald for their valuable input and valiant efforts to trap my many errors.

This piece and my role in the organizing described within it could not have happened without my wife Donyal's patience and generosity (and skills as a photographer). I am also indebted to Ed Hedemann and Ruth Benn who are War Resisters and War Tax Resisters extraordinaire. My friend Matt Daloisio also played a pivotal role in the work described in this piece: Matt, an organizer with Catholic Worker, is incredibly supportive of this writer and my fellow Wobblies. People like Matt help make the WRL a place where the religious left and the secular not only coexist but form a very viable synthesis.

I'd also like to thank my brother Sam Morales for having made this journey with me. Sam is a true revolutionary and good friend. Lastly I want to thank my comrade Frida Berrigan for providing an example, in terms of level of activism, that always makes me feel guilty for not doing enough to elevate the Struggle. This piece is a Call To Action: the ultimate goal is the creation of a space wherein all activists can ramp up their level of participation - on their own terms.

I - Introduction

There is no shortcut to a society of participation. Either one makes the basic institutions internally democratic or one is blessed with political institutions that take on the coloration of their surroundings.

- C. George Benello

A little more than a year ago I was driving home from the Socialist Party's National Committee meeting in Pittsburgh when my mobile rang. Winding my way along the Pennsylvania Turnpike I listened as Greg Pason, the SP's National Secretary, asked if I would be willing to represent the Party as the national delegate to United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ). I was a little wary of committing to any more meetings, however, Greg would not be denied and I saw this as an opportunity to lobby UFPJ to embrace direct action. I said yes...

I am now at the end of my rookie year as a UFPJ delegate. Much has changed in a year's time: we've created a tendency of the SP devoted to activism, UFPJ has embraced direct action and I applaud them for that. As for democratizing UFPJ, I am no longer convinced that this is an attainable goal but I encourage and support all of the dedicated activists who continue to struggle towards this end. As I complete a year's worth of work within UFPJ I am recommending to the Direct Action Tendency that we disaffiliate in order to work with September Action with the long range goal of creating a new organizing model predicated on participatory democracy and direct action. Although I am resigning as DAT New York's local delegate to UFPJ I am not advocating that we anti-authoritarians not sit at the same table with UFPJ: I plan to do so. But I plan to speak frankly, at that table and elsewhere, about the need for sweeping and immediate reform in United for Peace and Justice. In as much as UFPJ claims to speak for the anti-war movement they need to start listening to those of us who are rank and file organizers. Whether we are card carrying members or not.

Although I lobbied hard for UFPJ to embrace direct action, suffered through innumerable meetings and teleconferences and eventually saw the creation of the Nonviolent Direct Action (NVDA) working group, I did not participate in its first action: the civil disobedience at the White House that took place on September 26, 2005. I opted out, choosing instead to join in an autonomous direct action at the Pentagon. What follows is the story of how it came to pass that what I fought for in UFPJ was realized and why I chose not to be a part of its first outing. It is also an attempt to analyze the shortcomings of UFPJ and make a case for participatory democracy within that organization. In my estimation, the effort to democratize UFPJ will prove to be much more difficult than the struggle to get UFPJ to accept direct action, and is probably more meaningful for both the peace movement in general and its direct action arm in particular. In the end, although I have opted to work to create a new organizing model external to UFPJ, I believe, given UFPJ's size and organizational profile, that the struggle for democracy must be carried on, from within and from without.

Participatory Democracy is a form of democracy in which people participate directly in decision making rather than indirectly through the election of representatives. In terms of group structure - this would involve a free agreement of individuals who work collectively towards common objectives. In local councils, e.g. citizen's assemblies, every voice is heard. The deliberative model is often consensus wherein a harmonization of values is attempted so that the group as a whole defines it objectives, tactics and message. (As opposed to a an elected body developing policy in isolation or attempting to fabricate a compromise that mollifies a majority of the constituents, marginalizes a minority and satisfies no one). In a large organization a national council can facilitate participatory democracy if it is formed as an assembly of recallable deputies mandated by local councils and its sole functions are coordinative and administrative.

For more see: Tom Hayden, Murray Bookchin, et al.

I urge all friends of participatory democracy and direct action who have chosen to remain in UFPJ to join in the cry for democracy, to demand that the J in UFPJ not be cast aside, to work with those of us who identify as anti-authoritarian and who want a voice in the peace movement, who want a say in our messaging and tactics, who want an organizational model that is consonant with the goals of peace and justice. I urge all friends of peace and progress to work together to build a movement we can all be a part of - and have a say in.

II - A Year In The Life of a UFPJ Organizer

Early June, 2004. David McReynolds, a longtime war resister and member of the Socialist Party since 1951, asked for a volunteer to represent the New York City Socialist Party Local in regular meetings of the newly reanimated NYC Local of the War Resisters League (WRL). I began attending meetings of the WRL in preparation for the upcoming RNC protests. This ranks as one of the best decisions I have ever made. I haven't gotten around to leaving the WRL yet and have no intention of doing so as the people are truly special and the actions are meaningful. Although I am not a pacifist, believing both in the efficacy of armed struggle as a means of national liberation and in the right to self defense I feel very much at home in the War Resisters League as diversity is not only tolerated but sought and the WRL approach to organizing is refreshing. One of the things that is most distinctive about the WRL is the group synergy that results from a democratic internal process and the shared struggle of activists who risk arrest as an act of resistance. My WRL Local proves on a weekly basis that participatory democracy is not only possible but productive as well. The WRL's commitment to direct action is well known. And inspiring.

? The RNC: August 2004 ?

August 29th, 2005, saw a very large demonstration in New York City, site of the Republican National Convention. UFPJ turned out 500,000 marchers and yet a fraction of this number set foot in Central Park as Mayor Bloomberg had denied UFPJ a permit out of concern for "his" grass. As Jesse Jackson said at the time: we shouldn't be so concerned about grass, whether we walk on it or smoke it. {1} At the end of the march UFPJ parked a sound truck at Union Square where steering committee members and staffers issued instructions for marchers to disperse, indicating that some marchers were going to Central Park. No UFPJ sponsored Direct Action to take the park occurred although some protesters did indeed go there on their own. Two days later, on A31, there were waves of civil disobedience and direct action throughout New York City. In my first arrest as a War Resister I was cuffed at 28th and Broadway, doing a die-in near Madison Square Garden. The WRL got good press coverage for this action, in part due to illegal police arrests of 227 WRLers at Ground Zero in an attempt to preempt the march (which failed). When I was transported via corrections bus from Pier 57 to the Tombs, UFPJ protesters were outside the Pier, yelling and cheering us as we drove by. We learned later that UFPJ had organized a press conference and protest that pressured police into moving us out of Pier 57, improving our conditions of confinement. This was much appreciated and gave us hope that one day UFPJ organizers would join us in the streets.

? The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Action ?

Jump ahead to the "re-election" of Bush. The WRL, partly in response to the illegal arrests of our marchers on A31 and partly to point out that no matter who is in the White House the Iraq War would not stop, staged a civil disobedience at the New York Stock Exchange on November 3rd. By this time I had been to several New York City Coordinating Committee meetings at the UFPJ offices on 38th Street and knew Leslie Cagan slightly...I called her and asked if UFPJ would consider supporting our action. I was told that UFPJ's primary concern was the election and that if it was stolen (was there any other possible outcome?) they would need to act quickly and therefore could not support us. We held our CD as scheduled, the day after the election. My family participated in it by leafleting (this was my ten year old son's first action as a War Resister, I was quite the proud papa) and even in a hostile setting like Wall Street numerous passersby took our leaflets and thanked us - expressing their outrage and disappointment that Bush remained in power. Although irregularities plagued the election UFPJ did not organize a mass protest. This left some of us in the WRL wondering what it would have cost UFPJ to promote our action - via simple endorsement and perhaps email outreach.

? UFPJ's Second National Assembly (St. Louis) ?

After the action at the NYSE my WRL Local continued to have regular meetings and began discussing UFPJ's role in the anti-war movement and the upcoming National Assembly to be held in St. Louis, Missouri. In one of these meetings my comrade and friend Frida Berrigan asked me to consider being the WRL national delegate to the Assembly. I spoke with Greg Pason and was able to get the SP's National Committee to designate an alternate (a capable comrade by the name of Samuel Morales, Jr.) so that I could rep for the WRL and Sam could replace me, at least temporarily, as the Socialist Party delegate. We traveled together to St. Louis in February, 2005. At the assembly we listened to speeches by Movement stalwarts Angela Davis and Tom Hayden and voted on a wide variety of proposals. But our primary reason for being in St. Louis was to push the proposal for the creation of a Nonviolent Direct Action Working Group - an idea put forward by the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, the Brandywine Peace Community and the War Resisters League national office. Things went well initially and our proposal made it out of subcommittee...but on the day of the actual vote we were badly burned by a combination of rigid bureaucratic process and the actions of a steering committee member named Lisa Fithian who, in the opinion of many, misused her position to block our initiative by speaking against it as an officer of UFPJ (it is my view that she was responding to a perceived territorial threat as the proposal's primary author was someone with whom she had personal issues). After the vote, Sam and I sat down with a delegate from Madison and drafted a motion of reconsideration citing the irregularities that resulted in our proposal going down to defeat. At the next day's plenary we presented the motion to the appropriate committee, expecting to be tossed aside with a recitation of some arcane procedural rule. This did not happen - to our astonishment an administrative committee member named Judith LeBlanc asked me to meet with Cagan in the hall...this was my first exposure to the extraordinary administrative processes in UFPJ. I quickly found two of the other proposal endorsers and we met with with Leslie outside the plenary. She apologized for the actions of the steering committee member who spoke against our proposal and asked me to withdraw our motion as, at best, it would lengthen the assembly considerably, and at worst, might invalidate the entire affair due to some of the voting irregularities cited in it. She offered us a deal: Fithian would apologize from the podium and we would be guaranteed the working group we had asked for. We took the deal and only later did it occur to me that this sort of thing might be a symptom of a serious problem within UFPJ. {2} I fully believe that Leslie felt she was doing the right thing by all concerned and probably she did - but what troubles me is that she was ABLE to do this, without any process whatsoever. After the Assembly the NVDA proposal was brought to the Steering Committee where there was a vote on it. This provided a post hoc veneer of democratic process. It was a pretty thin veneer. Leslie had made a backroom deal that essentially circumvented the assembly altogether. I think, in retrospect, it was a Faustian bargain for all concerned. Had I been a delegate who voted against the NVDA I would have been very surprised to see it created - despite the proposal being defeated on the floor of the assembly by what was supposed to be a democratic process. The fact that the national coordinator was able to reintroduce a defeated proposal to the steering committee is problematic in terms of process but the fact that she negotiated with me using this as a bargaining chip, guaranteeing its passage, would seem to be an even larger issue. (The fact that this deal was struck in order to prevent public scrutiny of alleged voting irregularities is also an issue worthy of further examination).

? The NYC Coordinating Committee of UFPJ ?

After the assembly, focus within the NYC Coordinating Committee (CC) meetings of UFPJ turned to March 19th, the second anniversary of the Iraq War. My WRL local was planning a civil disobedience that incorporated military counter-recruitment - doing a blockade at Times Square. I began to urge the NYC CC to support this but attention within UFPJ was largely focused on a demonstration in Fayetteville, North Carolina which centered on veteran's groups - devoid of direct action. Nonetheless I continued to agitate for direct action, having now been joined by fellow DATer Sam Morales who was representing the Socialist Party while I continued on as a lame duck WRL delegate. At one meeting the Communist Party representative, Judith LeBlanc (the current vice chair of the CPUSA), was addressing needs for the upcoming actions and covered all of the various elements of the weekend of protests except ours. Realizing this she turned to Sam and I and said: oh, we'll try to work in support for your civil disobedience. Clearly, we were an afterthought but we felt that Judith's assurance was significant. Even though UFPJ-NYC is not a national body (UFPJ has a Steering Committee which meets monthly via teleconference and presently has 42 members) it is very influential. It meets in the UFPJ national office and 2 members of the Administrative Committee (a subset of the Steering Committee which meets biweekly and is UFPJ's most powerful body) rotate facilitation of the meetings. In addition to this, Leslie Cagan, the national coordinator, frequently sat in on the UFPJ-NYC meetings I attended. Thus we had hope that the move from protest to resistance might at last be underway.

? CP-UFPJ? ?

The Communist Party is a major player in UFPJ New York. This is a mixed blessing - on the one hand the administrative expertise and resources are very valuable. On the other hand, the legacy of Gus Hall and the years of democratic centralism being abused by CP leadership (which came to a head in 1991 at the 25th National Convention where 1/3 of the Party was expelled by Gus Hall - the expelled becoming the nucleus of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism) has produced something that those of us who were once in the CPUSA call "CP Style". For the uninitiated, this is an organizational style that is not particularly subtle about being top down. It is my understanding that Sam Webb, the CP's current chair, is invested in making the CP a more democratic organization (and perhaps he has succeeded, I wouldn't know) but they have yet to jettison democratic centralism, i.e., Leninism. Judith LeBlanc, in her capacity as UFPJ admin committee member, once remarked in a UFPJ-NYC meeting that the role of the CP was critical in UFPJ as "when you say Communist Party" people know what you mean - "it has name recognition." Setting aside the issue of whether or not this name recognition is always positive, this is an interesting point as UFPJ is big on name recognition and sucks in a fair number of celebrities which it then husbands as a resource. Brian Flanagan once remarked that the Democratic Party is like "a black hole with an event horizon surrounding it" that sucks in peace activists who are "never to be seen again" {3} - this could well describe UFPJ as it is presently constituted. Indeed, it is my view that organizers as well as celebrities are sucked into UFPJ and become "resources" (in the case of skilled organizers they are all too often treated as go-fers - Jim Crutchfield, a member of the IWW General Executive Board, attended a UFPJ NYC meeting in 2003 where "everybody sat in a big circle and talked for hours, and then four people made all the decisions after the meeting." This is very similar to my experience). Whether or not this approach was influenced by the CP is anyone's guess but there is a striking similarity in terms of the management of human resources between UFPJ today and the CP of the 1980s. It is significant that two of the most influential officers in UFPJ: Judith LeBlanc and Leslie Cagan, are vice-chair of the Communist Party and co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, respectively.

? How Can You Help? Donate! ?

It became clear to Sam and I, as we attended UFPJ NYC CC meetings, that they bore the hallmarks of top down organizational model. In the course of struggling for acceptance of direct action we began to notice that agendas appeared to be preset and that agenda changes were not encouraged due to the ever present urgency of some upcoming meeting or event. We also noticed that no minutes were ever distributed to attendees. There was a weekly email but it did not contain the previous week's minutes - it focused on announcements. Sam and I began to joke that, even though we had not signed enlistment papers, we were becoming foot soldiers in "CP-UFPJ". This was all sort of acceptable until the CC began having "Citywide Mobilization" meetings. These were held at 23rd Street, in the Communist Party's building which once housed the Daily World and the storefront Unity Book Store, now an artists' supply shop. Sam and I attended the meeting but it became obvious that there was little planning happening...this was really an opportunity for UFPJ to pass the hat - my first exposure to just how relentless UFPJ fundraising can be. It is my contention now that they differ little from any capitalist charity in that over one third of the annual revenue ($288,000 of $800,000 in 2004 {4}) goes to payroll. This is an astounding sum for most Leftists used to running their organizations with volunteer staff and a shoestring budget. Why is the budget so large? Clearly, maintaining the budget dictates the need for constant fundraising - but where is the public accounting of where the money goes? The balance sheet available on the UFPJ website is somewhat lacking in terms of specifics.

? M19: The Second Anniversary of the Iraq War ?

The net result of attendance at numerous meetings to plan protests on the second anniversary of the Iraq War wherein we pushed for full support of the M19 civil disobedience was a vague assurance of some kind of "support" as clearly the Fayetteville demonstration was the centerpiece of UFPJ's weekend of protest. There was, however, great interest on UFPJ's part in getting Frida Berrigan to speak at their Friday sendoff (of the buses to Fayetteville) at Union Square. I was the go between and Frida did agree to speak, providing UFPJ with their nationally known figure (the speech was good and helped the WRL to a degree but I later regretted asking this favor of Frida when I realized that UFPJ regarded her as yet another commodity...)

The M19 civil disobedience went well for the War Resisters League. A couple dozen of us were arrested at Times Square. Both Reverend Sekou and Leslie Cagan of UFPJ showed up at Times Square - to urge us on, not to risk arrest. I was pleased to see them, especially Sekou as, although he is a cleric and I have a secular orientation, he is a rank and file organizer, a straight shooter and a very likeable and committed activist. As I was loaded into the police van with my fellow arrestees I saw Leslie being interviewed by a TV crew. The media frenzy at Times Square was in part orchestrated by Bill Dobbs, UFPJ's masterful media person (Bill has an acerbic wit and is as likeable for his candor as he is valuable for his skill). Sitting at the Seventh Precinct I had time to reflect on my being in a dingy little cell with 3 other comrades and Leslie being on TV, speaking about OUR action - which got almost no support from UFPJ other than from Bill. Despite my gratitude for Leslie coming to our CD I was simultaneously angered that UFPJ would, perhaps unintentionally, co-opt it...while doing little to help build it. I had tried several times to post our call to action on the UFPJ NYC listserv and although no posts were bounced, none appeared on the list - this sort of thing is common in UFPJ as the centralization and hoarding of all resources, including information, is clearly a serious issue for anti-authoritarians concerned with democratic process. UFPJ's co-optation of the action was, in my view, very similar to what they often accuse ANSWER of doing. (UFPJ's criticisms of ANSWER, which we took at face value in CC meetings, was that they are impossible to work with as they argue over everything from major issues down to font size on fliers - and that they take credit for the actions of others).

The weekend of activities UFPJ had planned for the second anniversary of the war included, in addition to the Friday sendoff: the demonstration in Fayetteville; marginally the War Resisters action, and; a large interfaith service at Riverside Church on March 20. I attended the interfaith event as a representative of the atheist caucus of UFPJ (tongue firmly in cheek, it is a caucus of one). This was the kickoff of the Clergy and Laity Concerned about Iraq initiative and I wanted to support Reverend Sekou who was the point person in the CALC-I working group. It was a very successful event and I was duly impressed...Sekou had managed to assemble a truly inspiring set of diverse clerics who demanded of the audience, god forbid, action.

? April Actions: Tax Day at the IRS ?

During the month of April, UFPJ began to plan for a large New York City demonstration for disarmament to take place on May first. At a "Citywide Meeting" for the May Day demo, co-sponsored by Abolition Now and UFPJ, things came to a head in terms of process issues. Several of us who were working on a Tax Day action (still a week or so away) had asked to be allowed to announce our upcoming action. Despite assurances from Leslie and Judith that we would be allowed our two minutes at the podium (all speakers were to get two minutes for announcements), we watched in amazement as a rep from Abolition Now rambled on for over ten minutes. We waited patiently for our turn which never came as the moderator (Leslie Kielson, a member of the admin committee) said we were out of time and needed to form breakout groups immediately. Leslie C and Judith looked dismayed but said nothing. We never made our announcements. Instead we gritted our teeth and went home, grumbling...

Our WRL April Action was a Tax Day vigil outside the Internal Revenue Service. It was another successful action, again with no visible UFPJ presence...despite my agitating for assistance in the context of our weekly NYC CC meetings. Again, no listserv announcements made it through, no announcements at the citywide pass the hat meeting reached our friends in the Movement and yet the action was a success. I began to wonder what I was doing suffering through the UFPJ meetings at which I had little input and was simply there to be assigned a task for an upcoming UFPJ meeting or event...on some occasions the meetings were indeed hard to sit through. One of the issues confronting UFPJ is the lack of diversity, in terms of racial composition, in its officers and constituents. Obviously, UFPJ appeals to middle America with its focus on legislative action and attempts to find a lowest common denominator in terms of positions. This has an impact on diversity. Yet this fact seems to elude UFPJ officers. In fact, there is a strange myopia at work here...

? Visual Acuity And Lack Thereof ?

During one of the last UFPJ NYC CC meetings I attended, Judith was center stage complaining about the lack of diversity in the assembled activists. She pointed out more than once that she was the "only person of color in the room" and that this had to change, we had to reach out to communities of color. Unfortunately, she did not indicate that UFPJ was going to take political positions (e.g. on Palestine) that would allow us to attract a more diverse group. Judith was again stating she was "the only person of color here" when Sam Morales spoke, reminding Judith that he was Puerto Rican and knew all about discrimination from firsthand experience. Judith didn't miss a beat, continuing on to her next point. I was left wondering if her idea of outreach to communities of color consisted solely of getting big names like Danny Glover to speak at UFPJ fundraisers (Danny spoke eloquently at the National Assembly but UFPJ's celeb envy is highly problematic). What struck me was that Sam, the rank and file organizer, was almost invisible to Judith. I was dismayed by this as I believe that the myopic view she espoused is not an isolated phenomenon: there is an authoritarian hierarchy within UFPJ wherein steering committee members alone have the right to lecture the faithful on the evils of white supremacy (which none of the rank and file dispute and in fact address in our political work) even when their own political positions reinforce it.

? May Day March: UFPJ, Abolition Now and Us ?

May Day rolled around and it was a low key affair for most of us in the War Resisters League. We were in between actions, having completed the Tax Day vigil and just starting to think about our Fleet Week protests that were scheduled for late May. We decided to march in UFPJ and Abolition Now's anti-nuke demonstration taking place on May 1, 2005. Our (WRL) local fielded a good size contingent that was fairly ecumenical: we had IWW, WRL, Catholic Worker, Direct Action Tendency (Socialist Party), Kiaros Community, Green Party, Not In Our Name, CodePINK and No Police State Coalition all well represented. The march was a pleasant way to spend the day and we all wound up in Central Park at day's end.

? Fleet Week: UFPJ Forgets About Memorial Day ?

Despite my misgivings I attended one or two more meetings, albeit without Sam who had become so disillusioned that he returned to IWW organizing which is his first love. I had inherited the point position on a War Resister's Fleet Week/Memorial Day protest after a WRL colleague was unable to continue. I urged UFPJ to support this and received assurances that they would turn people out. In point of fact a very dedicated lower east side organizer named Ted Auerbach did turn out, as did Sekou. But the large numbers of UFPJ faithful did not appear. Again, no effort was made by UFPJ to promote our action. Despite this it was very successful and garnered a lot of media attention. I was relieved when it was over - it had been a hell of a lot of responsibility for one organizer - and without realizing it I simply stopped going to NYC CC meetings, coming up with one "valid" rationale after another. I was in limbo in as much as I wanted to see CALC succeed and I wanted to see UFPJ embrace direct action but I couldn't bring myself to waste any more time in CC meetings. An uncomfortable position to be sure...

? NVDA and CALC-I ?

A short time later I spoke with my friend Gordon Clark, author of the original Non-Violent Direct Action working group (NVDA) proposal. He told me that the the working group had indeed been created by Cagan and UFPJ's Steering Committee and that their first action would be a civil disobedience at the White House. I asked if he had heard that CALC-I was also planning a civil disobedience at the White House on the same date, the weekend of September 24-26th. Gordon was not aware of any CALC initiated mass action on this date (the weekend UFPJ had called for their Fall Mobilization) but he invited me to join the NVDA teleconferences and help organize the mobilization. I began working with NVDA and corresponding with Reverend Sekou as well as I wondered if the two proposals for CD (the Iraq Pledge of Resistance plan submitted to the NVDA by Gordon and Steve Cleghorn and the CALC plan) weren't really complementary. Meanwhile, in the WRL, we had decided to draft a plan for a direct action at the Pentagon and put that in the hopper along with the other proposals. Unfortunately, many members of the NVDA felt that only one mass action was doable and so the WRL Pentagon proposal, the CALC proposal and the IPOR proposal were seen as being in competition. The WRL was not looking to create conflict but the prospect of an action that centered on a CALC pray in at the White House or involved a coordinated legislative action (the IPOR action was to complement a "Lobby Day" effort) turned off a lot of WRLers who favored a secular action that was not connected with lobbying politicians - myself included. We had hoped that there could be at least two mass actions. Several NVDA teleconferences wrestled with these issues. The teleconferences were heated at times and on the day we voted on which proposal for a main action would go forward we reached an impasse. (There was also a lot of frustration as the issue of which organizational model should be used, centralized or autonomous, the substance of two other proposals, never got discussed). The vote count indicated that we were deadlocked. That week I worked on a unity proposal. I scaled down the Pentagon proposal (research had indicated that it might not be an ideal location for a mass action, although this conclusion was not shared by every member of my WRL local) and argued for a fusion of the CALC-I and IPOR CD's. The gist was that we would have one mass CD at the White House, organized centrally by UFPJ/NVDA/CALC and one smaller scale action at the Pentagon organized in an autonomous way by a sub working group. It turned out that some of these ideas were acceptable to IPOR and so Steve Cleghorn began to work with me on the "Unified Unity Proposal". We added in a late entry CodePINK proposal for their own action at the White House and I worked in ideas from the decentralized direct action caucus of which I was now a member.

? At Your Birthday Party ?

The decentralized, autonomous action caucus of NVDA had begun meeting in our own teleconferences just prior to my beginning work on the Unity Proposal. We christened ourselves September Action and registered a website in order to help promote any autonomous actions that might occur during the September Mobilization. Our birthday was July 24, 2005 and we began life feeling a bit uncertain about our relationship to NVDA. There was a fair amount of distrust between some NVDAers who didn't see the need for autonomous actions and those of us who in September Action felt that the White House civil disobedience should not be the only act of resistance taking place during the Mobilization. Although we still sought some form of recognition, whether as an ad hoc working group or a sub working group of UFPJ, many of us had reconciled ourselves to the fact that this would not happen.

? Criticism - Self-Criticism, UFPJ Style ?

Steve and I posted our Unity Proposal to the NVDA working group email listserv feeling cautiously optimistic. To my dismay, Leslie Cagan immediately wrote in essentially saying that UFPJ had agreed to direct action, this was a big step and why did we have to have an autonomous component? {5} My response to her note was to indicate that I did not feel it appropriate that the national coordinator of a very hierarchical organization should use her position to kill off a democratic initiative that was an attempt to find common ground. (Shades of St. Louis...) Leslie replied, arguing that her power had been overstated in my note. {6} I had some difficulty accepting this assertion, however, it did not surprise me. UFPJ has never been big on self criticism. And all of this was occurring at a time when: UFPJ was under fire for refusing to include support of the (Palestinian) right of return in their Mobilization slogans (from Mahdi Brae and others) and from some of its conservative members for even considering this; ANSWER and UFPJ were both organizing separate marches on the same day in DC; CALC had a minor controversy (Sekou had invited the Dalai Lama to speak at the Mobe without consulting the CALC rank and file), and; anti-authoritarian members of the coalition were decrying the lack of democracy within UFPJ (rumblings in DAWN and other concerned parties were getting louder).

? Hiroshima and Nagasaki 60th Anniversary March ?

With the struggle in the NVDA as a backdrop, the WRL continued its work. We planned a large march from the East Village (Tompkins Square Park) to the Hudson River on the West Side. The march, called to mark the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima, occurred on August 6, 2005. It started in Tompkins Square Park where we had held an exhibit about the horrors of nuclear war all day. At dusk we had a brief ceremony and formed up into a single file contingent under the watchful eye of the NYPD. It's worth noting that this march was typical, in terms of composition, of the recent WRL events. Beginning on March 19, I had been struggling, as an Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) organizer, to involve labor more in the WRL's peace work. Daniel Gross, the Starbucks Union (IWW) organizer had spoken at the March 19th rally before the civil disobedience. Three wobblies were arrested with the WRL in the CD at Times Square on M19. This trend continued in the Hiroshima/Nagasaki 60th anniversary exhibit and march. Our contingent was joined by eight wobblies, including Daniel Gross and Eugene Lerner. (Lerner and I had shared a jail cell on M19). The Hiroshima Day march was solemn and dignified as well as unpermitted. We trekked across town, reaching the Hudson at about eleven o'clock. A spectator approached me and asked what the "Never Again" slogan on my sign referred to. I said: "We are urging the government to stop killing people." The impromptu hug I received told me we were among friends.

It was always true throughout the Sixties that we were small and marginalized.

- Bernardine Dohrn {7}

? The Unity Proposal Revisited ?

The NVDA ultimately voted to accept a streamlined version of the unity proposal drafted by Gordon Clark after we all received Cagan's letter bomb . It removed specific UFPJ responsibilities to the autonomous action organizers that I had included after discussion with my colleagues. This surgery worked for Cagan and the admin committee but would cause logistical headaches for September Action later. Leslie C and Judith spoke in favor of this lesser of two evils proposal and it was indeed a way of disposing of the autonomous actions question without UPFJ taking on any financial or other support commitments. Recognizing that we hadn't won much of a victory - we were not an officially sanctioned working group and had no commitments from UFPJ - we nonetheless began organizing under our own name. Composed of anti-authoritarian direct action types from several different anti-war and labor groups, we began organizing under the banner: "Shutdown The War Machine, Four Days of Direct Action" and "People Power". Doubtless viewed with some suspicion by our colleagues in UFPJ's upper echelon, our request for money to rent a convergence space were met with "absolutely not". {8} A last minute appeal for funds for housing space that went out to Leslie Cagan did not even produce a response. Some might argue that Cagan supported the unity proposal in order to marginalize and isolate September Action...to many of us in the Collective it certainly felt that way. Despite noble attempts by NVDAers Gordon Clark and Pete Perry to get us funding none appeared.

? People Power ?

As UFPJ and ANSWER finally came to terms on a joint rally and march, September Action carried on - running consultas in DC, Cleveland and New York and helping to promote a schedule of autonomous actions occurring during the weekend of the September Mobilization in Washington, DC. Despite the lack of support from UFPJ the autonomous actions were very successful. The CodePINK vigil at Walter Reed hospital (Friday, September 23) we endorsed was much larger than usual. (Not that September Action can take credit for the increased numbers as all we did was help promote the event - we did not send a sizable contingent. Most likely the promotion and the presence of so many activists in DC helped our friends in CodePINK). Saturday's (S24) Mobilization for Global Justice feeder march that originated at Dupont Circle and targeted the IMF and World Bank was three times larger than the anti-IMF demo that took place the previous April and was very spirited as well. Sunday's "Adopt An Intersection" action was hugely successful in that 70-100 activists blockaded intersections around the Mayflower Hotel for four hours, thus preventing IMF delegates from getting to the Sunday meetings. There were only two arrests and one report of an injured protester. One affinity group, composed of DAWN and September Action organizers, was called the Monkeypants Collective. This creative caucus dressed in clown regalia and occupied the pivotal intersection of Connecticut and Desales where they blocked IMFers while identifying themselves as "Neo-Clowns". The WRL Pentagon direct action was also a great success. 45* arrestees had managed to shutdown the Metro entrance to the Pentagon and even the Metro itself for a brief period. This action was seen as disruptive rather than symbolic by many observers and as a participant I have been complemented repeatedly by those who thought this action was special. I am touched by this and grateful to all who supported us. (* 45 were arrested but only 41 were charged as the arresting officers for four of our number did not come to the processing center to fill out the proper forms - sometimes bureaucracy has its upside).

UFPJ's Civil Disobedience also went well with 370 participants being arrested. However, it should be noted that Cindy Sheehan being arrested at this action caused some in the media to depict the CD as the arrest of Cindy Sheehan and her supporting cast. This is not fair to those who worked hard on this action although I doubt it diminished their spirits - and rightly so. Although this was a largely symbolic civil disobedience, it is significant that: a) it occurred under the auspices of UFPJ (with the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, the National Call for Nonviolent Resistance and Clergy and Laity Concerned taking on much of the logistical work), and; b) many who participated had never been arrested before - perhaps indicating the long overdue move from protest to resistance is underway. For the above reasons, I found the action inspiring.

My only critique of the White House action is that it might have been nice to not involve celebrity. The image of Cindy Sheehan asking for a meeting with a President (whom she knew in advance was not there - he was once again on vacation) might work as a photo op but it diminishes to a degree the importance of those rank and file who committed civil disobedience, in many cases their first CD. UFPJ celebrity envy is highly problematic, especially when contrasted with the idea of real People Power where ordinary people can make a difference. Unfortunately UFPJ functions as a kind of paparazzi of the Left - it seems clear that their agenda is to co-opt celebrities, and indeed the peace movement itself, whenever possible - their jumping on the Cindy Sheehan/Camp Casey bandwagon is evidence of this. UFPJ completely co-opted the post "Camp Casey" bus tour organized by Veterans For Peace (VFP) and once there, they became territorial, throwing two DAWN organizers off of a tour teleconference. {9}

? Should I Stay Or Should I Go ?

After the Mobilization, many of us in September Action, the NVDA caucus turned autonomous collective, struggled with the issue of whether to work with United for Peace and Justice. I have come to accept the position of Jim Macdonald, a DAWN organizer and fellow founding member of September Action. Jim has argued that we must work with UFPJ, continuing to speak truth to power even though this promises to be a very difficult task. {10} Believing that Jim's analysis is correct, I have resigned myself to the fact that, just as the IWW seeks to build a new society in the shell of the old {11}, we must seek to democratize the Old Left by building the Next Left in its corridors. And so, grumbling all the way, I will continue to agitate for reform within UFPJ, this time from the outside, while simultaneously looking to build a new organizational model external to UFPJ wherein participatory democracy and direct action inform our approach. Each member of September Action will have to decide this question individually, as a matter of conscience. The collective has no stated position on this issue. It is my personal conviction that the struggle to define a new organizing model and the struggle for democratization of the organization that claims to speak for the mainstream anti-war movement are both essential components of a dialectic whose synthesis holds out the promise of a stronger movement for peace and progress.

III - Analysis

? Social Democratic Centralism ?

Anti-authoritarians who have spent long hours building the UFPJ coalition and its actions now feel trapped in what has become an entrenched system. In private conversation with other activists on the libertarian Left I have called this system Social Democratic Centralism. This treacherous pun encapsulates the following alleged attributes of UFPJ: a corporate liberal agenda; an anti-democratic (Leninist) organizational model, and; the careerist impulse of an upper echelon preoccupied with self preservation and self promotion. It is my belief that United for Peace and Justice must perform a serious self examination prior to the next National Assembly if it is to survive peace in Iraq. The American war in Viet Nam also seemed never ending to those resisting it but 30 years ago it did come to a close and the peace movement stumbled badly - this mistake should not be repeated. The intensely bureaucratic organizational model of UFPJ stifles creativity, simultaneously hoards and squanders resources, and alienates anti-authoritarian activists and people of color. UFPJ needs to look at why this is so and to explore possible corrective action in order to redefine itself as an organization that embraces participatory democracy and has an agenda that ensures the struggle for justice will continue after the Iraq War is ended.

? The Peace Bureaucrats ?

United for Peace and Justice regards itself as the voice of the anti-war movement, the coalition that represents the mainstream peace community. Their character foil is Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R.). UFPJ likes to be perceived as a democratic, inclusive and open organization. In my experience, many of its leadership regard ANSWER as an ultraleft, divisive organization which is a front group for the Workers World Party. Many in the mainstream peace movement who support UFPJ accept these views as a given. ANSWER members are equally certain their take on UFPJ is correct. ANSWER accuses UFPJ of being unconcerned with issues that affect communities of color. ANSWER is accused in turn of being divisive: argumentative in negotiations, guilty of Trotskyist tailing (co-opting) UFPJ actions and being gratuitously inflammatory in its slogans which include statements such as Support The Iraqi Resistance. The litany of accusations and counter-accusations is seemingly endless (and may well serve as a surrogate for more meaningful activity). Despite this, it is my view that UFPJ and ANSWER share a common, bureaucratic, organizational model, albeit each with its own unique features. Both organizations are administered by what I would term Peace Bureaucrats: for all of their assertions to the contrary, in its internal functioning UFPJ is not that dissimilar from ANSWER - it is top down and the administrative committee can overrule decisions made at the level of the steering committee. The national coordinator wields influence not unlike a Leninist general secretary or chair and, armed with "name recognition" (the net result of celebrity envy), is certainly equipped to use the cult of personality as necessary to influence decisions. {12} (Whether or not this occurs is arguable. I witnessed what seemed to be unilateral administrative decisions overruling plenary votes in St. Louis and an attempt to quash a motion on the NVDA listserv. It is my opinion this sort of thing does go on and the office of national coordinator should be abolished or its power curtailed by some rudimentary sanity checks).

? Shadow Play ?

In speaking with various steering committee members, and based on my experiences working within UFPJ, it has become clear that, contrary to UFPJ's Structure and Functioning document, which defines the Steering Committee as the highest decision making body, the real power resides in the Administrative Committee. Within the Administrative Committee, the national coordinator and co-chairs make the lion's share of decisions. Thus what I've experienced at the level of the NYC CC appears to be true of the steering committee as well: power is concentrated in a very small number of hands; decisions arrived at by democratic process (voted on at the National Assembly) appear to be discarded or overturned; no minutes from Steering or Admin Committees are published on the UFPJ website or distributed to member groups. There is precious little transparency or accountability to member groups. The fact that the national coordinator and a co-chair are officers of organizations with Leninist organizational models is possibly a factor. In any case, it is a suffocating reality as the end product is a bureaucracy that has grown adept at manipulating a constituency that needs to believe the organization is delivering the goods. I take exception to that view. In my estimation the sub rosa government which is the admin committee and national coordinator has created a situation wherein no mechanisms exist to prevent administrative exigencies, red tape, leadership hierarchies and clogged channels of communication from destroying any sense of meaningful participation on the part of the rank and file - and decreasing the efficiency of the organization. It is time to desanctify and demystify the grand coalition: bureaucracy does not equate to efficiency. And it is the death of participatory democracy.

Never The Rose Without The Prick. - Tom Verlaine

? Infinite Regression ?

The democratization of UFPJ is an interesting puzzle because, although UFPJ is run in what appears to be a highly bureaucratic, centralized manner, its constituents would be appalled to be called either "communist" or "democratic centralist". What's more, despite the fact that many affiliates willingly submit to an arguably anti-democratic organizational model, they voice objections to many of its decisions if not its overall direction (or lack thereof). This is not unlike the American electoral system which UFPJ is, superficially at least, wedded to: many Americans appear to regard democratizing "democracy" as impossible and decline to challenge the apparently immovable bureaucracy. And so it is in UFPJ as well: the members rarely challenge the bureaucracy which clings to a corporate liberal agenda which in turn fails to challenge the war machine head on. A bit of infinite regress not without historical precedent. The peace bureaucrats of UFPJ's upper echelon appear to have much in common with the "peace utopians" Rosa Luxemburg described in 1911:

...the roses of capitalist profit making and class domination also have thorns for the bourgeoisie which it prefers to wear as long as possible round its suffering head, in spite of all pain and woe, rather than get rid of it...{13}

? Corporate Liberalism v. Stirring Rhetoric ?

The disinclination to take a principled stand until shamed into doing so (or feigning compliance by passing meaningless legislation) is a standard tactic of the bourgeois State. Unfortunately, this malady also appears to afflict the UFPJ hierarchy...probably for similar reasons. There is some, at least stated, anxiety within UFPJ over alienating the base which is presumed to be centrist. There is a feeling among the libertarian Left wing of UFPJ that the organization's desire to be a one size fits all coalition is at the root of the diversity issue identified by ANSWER. UFPJ's hesitation to take a principled stand out of concern that it might anger centrists (and their corporate liberal friends in Congress) doubtless alienates marginalized groups that will not join a coalition that refuses to even pay lip service to their concerns.

When looking at the UFPJ/ANSWER duality it is interesting to read the memorandum of understanding between UFPJ and ANSWER issued prior to the joint rally and march that occurred on September 24, 2005. In the document, specific slogans to be borne on banners in the march's lead contingent are described in detail. ANSWER announced its intent to use "anti-imperialist" slogans on their banners while UFPJ planned to use slogans that "address the war in Iraq and issues connected to that war". {14} ANSWER throws out the usual revolutionary slogans and other stirring rhetoric but is hampered in terms of PR by its symbiotic relationship with the Workers World Party which continues to defend the Soviet model. Meanwhile, UFPJ offers a familiar corporate liberalism, with demands that won't frighten its corporate apologist friends in Congress. Hence the lack of any slogans that go beyond "bring the troops home". It is my view that ANSWER will not be reformed. While there are doubtless many members of the coalition that are not Workers World cadre the organization is routinely referred to as a front group by independent leftists and I believe this is an accurate description although I will surely be called sectarian for saying publicly what many believe privately. That leaves one large coalition left to speak for the peace community that is not willing to be identified with vanguardist front groups. Unfortunately, this coalition speaks the language of corporate liberalism which many, myself included, regard as a dead end. To serve the peace community well we must get away from self defeating rhetoric, thinking and agendas. Here is (then) SDS president Carl Oglesby, speaking in 1965:

Let me then speak directly to humanist liberals... Corporatism or humanism: which? For it has come to that. Will you let your dreams be used? Will you be a grudging apologist for the corporate state? Or will you help try to change it - not in the name of this or that blueprint or ism, but in the name of simple human decency and democracy and the vision that wise and brave men saw in the time of our own Revolution?

And if your commitment to human values is unconditional, then disabuse yourselves of the notion that statements will bring change, if only the right statements can be written, or that interviews with the mighty will bring change if only the mighty can be reached, or that marches will bring change if only we can make them massive enough, or that policy proposals will bring change if only we can make them responsible enough. {15}

? Welcome To The Machine ?

Describing the generation gap from a young person's point of view, pop singer Robyn Hitchcock said that old people "cling onto life like some kind of disease." {16} UFPJ resembles this remark. Those in the hierarchy look to remain there, probably in response to a belief that they are essential to the survival of the organization. UFPJ as the permanent anti-war movement - the loyal opposition to the permanent war. The bloated organizational budget is not questioned as all available energies are put into maintaining it. Publicly, UFPJ often appears focused more on fundraising than on mission. All of this contributes to a perception of the part of activists that, within UFPJ, self preservation has become the reason for being and UFPJ has become about as revolutionary as the March of Dimes. The primacy of chant and ritual has replaced any sense of urgency and consequently, urgency is periodically manufactured in various committees and issued via the email listservs. But not many recipients believe the urgent appeals as they are generally little more than a request for donations ("How Can You Help? Donate!) The endless streams of email appeals to one's wallet appear to have been born in a manufactory of echoes...the other day, as I walked through the East Village, I saw an oversize yellow ribbon magnet that said simply: support the magnetic ribbon industry. Touche. Anti-war sentiment drained of meaning, pre-packaged, sanitized and relentlessly marketed. I have been guilty of saying in jest that the war can't end quite yet, UFPJ has an overstock of ribbons. The mass marketing of a bumper sticker mentality may keep UFPJ in the black but at what cost? We have built a machine when we desperately need a movement.

The chief enemy of creativity is "good" sense

-- Pablo Picasso

? Don't Step On The Grass ?

There are not many grassroots efforts that UFPJ supports beyond lip service and in my view this is a serious strategic blunder. It is my contention that not only is it time to move from mass protest to people powered, decentralized, resistance in general - it is time for UFPJ to pay a lot more attention to local initiatives and to let the membership hear of these efforts so that community organizers can get support from UFPJ affiliates. Currently hoarded UFPJ information and communications resources should be used by and for the member groups who are undertaking local actions - without the affiliates having to ask permission to use the resources they have helped pay for. The affiliates also need to step up and demand more from the national office - UFPJ organizes two mass mobilizations a year. Is this cost-effective? What if one of these were a mass civil disobedience? One that is not celebrity based, but is people powered. One that is disruptive, not symbolic. What if, in addition to mass actions, UFPJ supported resistance on a regular basis, say counter-recruitment CD actions, at a grassroots level? In the organizations I work for (War Resisters League, Industrial Workers of the World and Socialist Party) we do a lot of work with a lot less money than UFPJ spends on fundraising alone ($35,000 in 2004). Simply put, UFPJ must find a way to support grassroots organizing and civil resistance as well as large marches - and do so within the current budget. Let's eliminate the institutionalized disorganization which is the primary block (by design?) to affiliates using the national resources. Open up the channels of communication. Decentralize command and control. Democratize the organization and RESPOND to affiliates rather than crying poverty or playing the corporate liberal game of saying: "if we support you then we have to deny the request of this other group" (pluralism)...bring the two groups together and let them find a way. As an organization UFPJ should facilitate problem solving discussions where resources for grassroots campaigns are scant and let the affected groups set the priorities. UFPJ should facilitate cooperation - and get out of the way so that discussion is fruitful.

? Diversity, Not Tokenism ?

In terms of building an insurgent culture within the heartless heart of the oppressor nation, so as to carry forward the anti-imperialist struggle, we need to attract the anti-organizational youth and students, i.e., those anarchists who resist participating in any organizational structure. We need to attract people of color led organizations. But we appeal to neither with our intensely bureaucratic/centralized hierarchical organization and its corporate liberal agenda. Handwringing about how to bring in individual people of color is no substitute for reaching out to people of color led organizations, embracing their issues, and bringing them into the coalition. Here is a concrete example of one way to prove our intent is genuine, not lip service, to POC issues: cease the celeb envy and get serious about supporting political prisoners and prisoners of class war, the overwhelming majority of whom are people of color. We must move beyond paying lip service to the anti-imperialist struggle by recognizing that the US has internal colonies and those colonized who dare fight back are locked up, murdered, and/or placed on death row - e.g. Mumia. We must embrace real issues that concern people of color, if we are to move beyond tokenism and add POC led organizations to our collective. In addition to opposing the war in Iraq we must fight for the environment and animal rights, we must demand independence for Puerto Rico, demand the closure of the IMF and World Bank (and reparations for their victims). We must point out that the fascism that has infested Central and South America was manufactured in the US and selectively applied to people of color in this country by liberals and conservatives working in concert to preserve the status quo and their privileged place in it. We need to seriously rethink the entire notion that going to elected officials on bended knee to beg for table scraps is a viable strategy. UFPJ, as an organization, must be honest with itself and its constituents and recognize that militancy is the only strategy that has any chance of long term success in the anti-war and anti-imperialist struggle.

? Beyond Liberal Leninism ?

Within UFPJ, moving from liberal Leninism to democracy will require sustained struggle. New ideas and approaches are viewed with distrust by the leadership. Pluralism remains the model of group organization and pluralism for UFPJ mirrors its counterpart in corporate America: the ruling bodies (some elected, some not) skillfully play groups off against one another rather than seeking a harmonization of values and educating and perhaps radicalizing constituents. Currently UFPJ's overarching ideology (corporate liberalism) is imposed from above and personified in a national coordinator who tends to monopolize photo ops. The result is a manufactured organizational identity - rather than developing identity in an experiential way it is defined by the administrative committee and the national coordinator. The triumph of form over content.

The synthesis of individual need with social purpose in a group context is what develops group synergy. UFPJ has turned this on its head. The bureaucratic approach that permeates UFPJ alienates organizers who leave the coalition embittered when they come to feel that their identity and needs have perverted into a form that best serves the needs of the organization's hierarchy. The departure of skilled organizers has not gone unnoticed but it has prompted no self-examination. In meetings I attended, UFPJ New York's officers exhorted the membership to recruit from their communities, to animate groups not yet involved in the struggle and to attempt to reanimate those that have fallen by the wayside. The leadership itself has invited no criticism nor has it engaged in any public self-criticism on the subject of poor attendance at coordinating committee meetings. In fact, organizers willing to suffer through UFPJ meetings all too often function as go-fers, being assigned menial tasks. (This is certainly the case in UFPJ-NYC meetings and was also my experience at the National Assembly: "Can you go to Kinkos and make copies? Nevermind that you'll miss the next plenary vote...") This is alienating and counter-productive. Effective organizers regard themselves as empowered agents of change. They develop their skills and confidence in struggle, not making copies for administrative committee members. In coordinating committees, organizers should help decide more than who will bring the signs to the next march. At the local level, the skill set of an organizer is best acquired in meaningful work. Fundraising in response to cries of poverty that elevate the magnet campaign to a raison d'etre is no substitute for community organizing around genuine issues.

Effective organizing requires the development of principled messages that are the result of self-education and group discussion. This is something UFPJ must promote. However, the national office should not be developing a curriculum. On the contrary its function should be to facilitate local efforts in this direction.

Over-centralization in UFPJ is a huge problem. All resources, including information and decision making authority, are hoarded. Yet,the members are the backbone of the coalition. They are its street presence and contribute in numerous ways to the $800k annual budget {17} As the front line staff of UFPJ, its organizers and affiliate groups deserve, and should demand, more than an authoritarian hierarchy, two mass mobilizations a year and official listservs that are strictly moderated and where posts often languish for days. The fact that UFPJ is doing far less than many national groups, run on a volunteer basis with shoestring budgets, speaks volumes about the need for change.

United For Peace and Justice has had only one national coordinator since its inception. A national coordinator who not only invites celebrities to UFPJ functions, but has become a celebrity as well. The paid staff of UFPJ are her functionaries, not given a vote in UFPJ decisions. They execute the will of the national coordinator, who, it appears, is not above using the cult of personality to influence decisions (my experience of this at the National Assembly was truly startling - this officer has no vote on the Steering Committee yet offered to overturn a plenary vote without first consulting the Steering Committee...and did this in an attempt to block any scrutiny of alleged voting irregularities). Having a national coordinator who is regarded, and regards herself, as a celebrity is not conducive to internal democracy. If UFPJ needs an top level officer (and I am not convinced of this) this officer should be selected by a national council, not appointed by the steering or administrative committee. The office itself should be more secretarial than executive and safeguards to prevent abuse of power should be installed. UFPJ states that the Steering Committee is the highest decision making body. The Administrative Committee should be abolished. And the Steering Committee, or preferably, a national council, should function in a purely coordinative and administrative manner.

IV - Conclusion: Where Do We Go From Here?

? Peace and Justice: The Struggle Continues ?

I have described a system that I assert has entrenched itself in our own ranks: a curious beast I call Social Democratic Centralism for lack of a better term. I have described it attributes: a corporate liberal agenda and approach married to an anti-democratic organizational model that stifles creativity, squanders resources and is primarily concerned with self preservation and self promotion. I believe that we have all contributed to the building of a machine when what we need is a movement. The war in Iraq will end. When it does, if we are to be prepared to tackle what will not end: ongoing covert warfare, globalization, internal colonization of people of color, destruction of the environment, erosion of civil rights, etc., we must examine what we have constructed and find a way to reshape it into a form that is capable of carrying on the struggle for justice after US forces have been withdrawn from Iraq.

What follows is not a fully fleshed out program. It is the bare bones, kernel of an idea called participatory democracy. I urge all friends of peace and progress to expand on it, to flesh it out - and more importantly, to demand its implementation.

1) UFPJ is too large and too bureaucratic...the organization should be broken up: local, regional and national councils should replace the steering and administrative committees. Anyone who attends a local meeting should have a vote and be eligible to be selected as a delegate by the local council (local assembly of member groups). Delegates to the regional councils should be mandated by local councils. Delegates to the national council should be mandated by regional councils. Delegates to the regional and national councils should be subject to immediate recall by their constituents.

2) Anyone who joins a regional or national working group should have a vote in all of its decisions.

3) Ideally, the office of national coordinator should be abolished. Term limits must be enforced if the office of national coordinator is to be continued. All national officers should be mandated by the national council (or assembly) and should be subject to immediate recall.

4) Commissions should be established to explore complex issues and they should facilitate discussion and ongoing education within the local councils on the issues of the day. All members/affiliates should be urged to communicate their ideas and concerns on various issues to their regional or national delegates. Official positions should be decided in the context of the national council, based on information brought back to the NC by local and regional delegates. A harmonization (consensus) on positions should be sought in the national council and communicated back to the local councils.

5) Minutes should be kept at every meeting and published on the national website as well as emailed (or snail mailed) to all members.

6) Access to unmoderated posting on all UFPJ listservs should be available to council delegates.

7) Accountability of paid staff must be ensured by some mechanism (unreturned calls and emails are a chronic problem as staff priorities are set by the national coordinator).

8) Paid staff/organizers should have a union, an IWW Industrial Union Branch (IUB). All paid staff should sign "red cards" (Industrial Workers of the World membership cards).

9) There should be a strict, PUBLIC, accounting of every aspect of the UFPJ budget.

To the activists reading this: I urge all of my sisters and brothers still working within UFPJ to demand democracy. To insist on change. To demand action. To "be certain enough to act and to doubt simultaneously". {18}

You may think that I'm out of hand
That I'm naive, I'll understand
On this occasion, it's not true
Look at me, I'm not you

I would like a place I could call my own
Have a conversation on the telephone
Wake up every day that would be a start
I would not complain of my wounded heart

- Bernard Sumner


{1} New York 1 newscast - The Road To City Hall. Host Dominic Carter
was obviously caught off guard by Reverend Jackson's remark.
Expecting (and receiving) pablum from NY1 most of the time I was
equally taken aback.

{2} Good, Thomas. Report Back to WRL National Committee 2005.
(see Appendix A)

{3} Good, Thomas. Brian Flanagan Speaks (Next Left Notes) 2005.
Brian, the ex-Weatherman and former Jeopardy! champion, spoke at a
screening of the Weather Underground film at Bluestockings in NYC.
(see www.nextleftnotes.net/current/brian_flanagan.html)
Brian is the quintessential New Yorker, a nice guy and recently
married (congrats Brian).

{4} United for Peace and Justice, Annual Financial Report (2003-2004).
Essential reading.

{5} Good, Thomas. Letter to Leslie Cagan (see Appendix B).

{6} ibid.

{7} Good, Thomas. From SDS to NCOR: Socialism, Anarchism and Bernardine Dohrn.
Dohrn spoke at the 2005 National Conference on Organized Resistance.
NCOR is an annual, largely anarchist, conference held at American University
in Washington DC.
(see www.nextleftnotes.net/current/ncor.html )

{8} Conversation with a May Day DC organizer named Emily who joined Sept Action
after the group was formed and was a key player in the Adopt An Intersection
action. She is fearlessly devoted to participatory democracy and we love her
for it.

{9} Perry, Pete. DAWN listserv post. (see Appendix C)
Pete is an extraordinarily gifted organizer and generous person - he fought
the UFPJ brass repeatedly on behalf of September Action. Thanks Pete!

{10} UFPJ (in DC)...That Horrible Sinking Feeling by Jim Macdonald.
(see www.nextleftnotes.net/current/horrible.html )
I like to joke privately that September Action is UFPJ's love
child. We are illegitimate in the eyes of the hierarachy and
many of us believe that Love Is The One Great Surreal Moment
as Andre Breton put it - and of course love is a subversive
language. (We are that odd synthesis of "lifestyle" AND
"workerist" anarchist from which most doctrinaire types would
recoil in horror).

{11} Preamble to the Constitution of the Industrial Workers of the World.
(see www.iww.org/en/culture/official/preamble.shtml )

{12} The CPUSA (where Judith LeBlanc is Vice Chair) and CCDS (where
Leslie Cagan is Co-Chair) are both Leninist organizations,
one with a self described democratic centralist model (CP)
and one with a de facto democratic centralist structure (CCDS).
This should surprise no one familiar with the history of the
US Left as CCDS was formed via a split (the CP members who signed
Angela Davis' letter - the "Initiative" - were expelled from the CP
in 1991 and went on to found CCDS).

{13} Luxemburg, Rosa. Peace Utopias (reprinted in The Labour Monthly, 1926)
Rosa coined a great phrase with "Peace Utopias". Phil Berrigan
also contributed to the Left's lexicon with "Peace Bureaucrats".
(Thanks to FDB for sharing this).

{14} Cagan, Leslie. Memorandum of Understanding between United for Peace
and Justice and the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition (emailed out to membership
on 09 Sept 2005 - see Appendix D)

{15} Oglesby, Carl. Let Us Shape The Future (speech presented at the
March on Washington, 1965). A pivotal moment - this speech marked
SDS's break with liberalism. I am still amazed each time I read it.

{16} Hitchcock, Robyn. Young People Scream (Groovy Decoy), 1986.
Hitchcock is a surrealist painter, poet and songwriter concerned
with social issues. He has toured with socialist cockney folk singer
Billy Bragg - who in turn was one of Abbie Hoffman's favorite performers.

{17} United for Peace and Justice, Annual Financial Report (2003-2004).

{18} Good, Thomas, From SDS to NCOR: Socialism, Anarchism and Bernardine Dohrn.
(see www.nextleftnotes.net/current/ncor.html )

homepage: homepage: http://www.nextleftnotes.net/current/ufpj_diary.html