The spirit of opposition remains alive and widespread, far more so than in the 1960s. And as then — or in the earlier civil rights movements, or the later women’s, environmental, anti-nuclear, solidarity, global justice movements and others — small sparks can ignite large-scale commitment that may seem dormant, but is just below the surface. That is how every achievement for justice and peace has been won in the past, and there is no reason to suppose that the future will be any different. -Noam Chomsky
In the face of U.S. saber rattling within the greater Middle East, the need for the present young generation to step up its anti-war efforts becomes all the more pressing. Along these lines, students and youth from various parts of the country have reached out to one another in order to organize a new offensive against the architects of war and empire. From this process, a number of students called for a Week of Campus Resistance. The week of campus resistance has been endorsed by Left Hook, which is a leading leftist youth journal, and Campus Action Network (CAN).
The idea is simple: students from various localities and regions should organize an anti-war activity on their respective campuses from March 14 to March 18. Depending on the level of activism and organization, students should engage in sit-ins, walkouts, educational forums, and, most importantly, anti-military recruitment protests. For those who are on break, they should do their utmost to link up their struggles with the major protests taking place on March 19th.
As an aid to large scale, coordinated, across the country organizing, some among us have developed a web site envisioned as a meeting place, where people can post and vote on proposals for actions, leave comments to each other, and confirm their participation. The web address is www.tools4change.org/wcr/ . The developers of this site are the two co-authors of this article, Richard Moreno, a student at Mount Sac in California, M. Junaid Alam from Left Hook, and Daniel Morduchowicz, who helped with the technical aspects of setting the site together.
It is important to reflect on where the anti-war movement stands today.
Compared with the Vietnam anti-war struggles at a similar stage of the conflict, the present day movement’s development has progressed much more rapidly. It can be said confidently that its rate of growth is truly without precedent.
In 1961, President Kennedy authorized for the first time in U.S. military history the use of “Special Forces” as part of his counterinsurgency program. By 1962, the Kennedy Administration launched a full on invasion of South Vietnam using weapons of mass destruction; Vietnam’s indigenous peoples were rounded up, their territories were poisoned with chemical weapons, and U.S. air strikes were launched with devastating effects on the native population. By 1964, the war was effectively spread to the North. Still, protests remained sporadic and relatively isolated. Few of the serious activists and leaders in other causes were voicing their opposition to the war at this point in the conflict.
It was not until 1967 that the anti-war movement coalesced with the civil rights struggle and began to grow to a considerable size, culminating in the large-scale demonstrations later in the decade and into the seventies.
In contrast, even before the Iraq invasion got under way, on February 15, 2003 people around the planet, this time in the tens of millions, demonstrated their opposition against the impending U.S. aggression. In the U.S., people in cities from coast to coast took the streets in unprecedented numbers. And our demonstrations had widespread support among all kinds of activists, including many mainstream voices who had no qualms in voicing their opposition to American adventurism.
Among many other actions, on March 5, 2003, students from across the globe walked out as an act of defiance against the Bush Administration’s war plans and in solidarity with the people of Iraq, who for years suffered under the draconian sanctions regime implemented by the U.S. and now were about to be effectively robbed at gunpoint using the thinnest of excuses and in defiance of international law.
Although we did not achieve our objective of stopping the invasion, we have had some very remarkable successes.
The pro-war and pro-Bush government of Jose Maria Aznar in Spain was defeated arguably as a direct result of the anti-war movement. It is reported that some cities, such as Zaragoza, had participation of an astounding 75% of their population. One of the first acts of the new government under Zapatero was to pull the Spanish troops from Iraq, as demanded by the large majority of the Spanish population in the large scale actions that immediately preceded the vote, but were rooted in the previous anti-war activity, and not because of any kind of “capitulation” to the terrorists, as the U.S. media portrayed the Spanish election.
In the U.S., it is doubtful that without the anti-war movement the lies and deceptions used by the neocons to take the country to war would have ever been exposed. The same could be said about the completely shameful episode at Abu Ghraib, which exposed the true brutal nature of this Empire. Despite the relentless pro-war propaganda that is seen and heard on radio and television, and is also prevalent throughout the print media, it is pretty remarkable that such a large segment of the American population remains firmly opposed to the Iraq invasion and subsequent occupation. Without a doubt, the anti-war movement has had a lot to do with this.
The January 20th Counter-Inaugural Walkouts were a step in the reconsolidation of the militant student-youth movement. An entirely new generation has taken the helm of the anti-imperialist struggle, and, despite being somewhat dormant during the past few months, it has begun to make its presence felt once again as an indispensable part of the greater anti-war movement. In the spirit of the 1960s and 1970s anti-war struggles that shook the world, this generation has begun to reorganize itself and take its place among the front line in the struggle against empire and war. Through perseverance in the face of an overwhelming corporate propaganda machine, students have been networking, organizing, and planning under complex and difficult conditions for even greater struggles to come.
Noam Chomsky points out, the “spirit of opposition is alive and widespread, far more so than the 1960s.” But a lot of work remains to be done. It is time to go back to work and keep building our movement until we achieve total success.
Richard Moreno is a student at Mt. San Antonio College and a cofounder of www.globalresistancenetwork.com. Daniel Morduchowicz is a staff member at ZNet.