Statement by the Ohio State Labor Party (OSLP) Executive Board in Response to Carl Davidson’s Article
Recently an article by Carl Davidson titled “The Bumpy Road Ahead: The New Tasks of the Left Following Obama’s Victory”1 has been widely circulated. We are writing to express our strong disagreement with some of its central tenets.
For those who may not know, Carl Davidson is a long time antiwar activist. During the Vietnam War, he was a central leader of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and later became a journalist for the weekly Guardian newspaper. He has served as a member of United For Peace and Justice’s (UFPJ) Steering Committee and was coordinator of the October 27, 2007 regional demonstration in Chicago, an action called by UFPJ.
Davidson’s point of departure is to catalogue what position various left wing groups took in the just concluded presidential race. A self-described socialist, he lashes out against those, which did not actively support Obama, groups which he describes as ultra left, anarchist, Maoist and Trotskyist.
If all that Davidson was doing in his article was denouncing those who disagreed with his support for Obama, we would not be writing this response. However, Davidson goes further than denounce, he advocates waging a campaign within the antiwar movement directed against them—regardless of whether they are playing a positive and productive role in the struggle to stop the bloodshed. Here is how he puts it:
“We have to break decisively with this ultra-left, semi-anarchist perspective. While the hard core of this trend is small, its reach is wider than some might think. It’s not a matter of purges; it’s a matter of emancipating the minds of many on the radical left from old dogma. There’s no way forward under these new conditions if we don’t.” (Emphasis added)
Here is the inconsistency: Davidson also says, “What this election, its outcome, its battles and ebb and flow, and the engagement of the masses, has especially done is reveal the utter bankruptcy of almost the entire anti-Obama Trotskyist, anarchist and Maoist left, save for a few groupings and some individuals.” But if these groups have been rendered so bankrupt, as Davidson claims, then why is a campaign directed internally against them so urgently needed at this time?
The bottom line is this: Many organizations and individuals in the antiwar movement, including the National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations, support a united front of all antiwar forces and oppose dividing the movement on the basis of electoral preferences. Davidson’s line is the polar opposite of this position and we believe it must be rejected in no uncertain terms.
In the early days of the Vietnam antiwar movement, the Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy, which was in leadership of the movement at the time, sought to “sanitize” it by barring left wing groups from participating in demonstrations. However, SANE soon lost hegemony, thanks primarily to young activists who helped establish the principles of non-exclusion and the rejection of redbaiting in the movement. From that time to this, the movement has been relatively free from the exclusionary and redbaiting politics of the past. Obviously, Davidson would like to revive those discredited politics.
Today, the antiwar movement is at another crossroads. We have plenty on our plate to deal with, the unification of the movement in the streets to demand the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan being the central priority. Our struggle is against the government in Washington, which is frantically trying to restore some of its lost power and influence so that it can more effectively advance its expansionist policies. Contrary to Davidson, there is a way forward for the movement, which does not involve turning inward, and waging attacks against forces which took a position in the election different from his own. Let’s get real here: Those in our movement who supported third parties (or no party) are not the enemy. Unity, not divisiveness, is the key to the movement’s success.
And lest people think this is an esoteric discussion among the left—since labor was united behind Obama—it should be pointed out that millions of U.S. workers continue to vote Republican every election cycle and a recent Peter Hart survey found that while 67 percent of union members who went to the polls voted for Obama, 30 percent chose McCain. Those trade unionists who voted for McCain are not the enemy either, and we need to reach out and attempt to win them to the antiwar cause, along with Obama supporters.
Against U.S. wars and occupations? Then join us! What you do on the
outside on the electoral front is your own business.
Jerry Gordon is a veteran antiwar activist since the War in Vietnam and continues to be a leading force in the National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations (NA) formed June 28-29, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. The main purpose for the NA is to encourage and facilitate unity within the antiwar movement behind united, independent, massive and peaceful demonstrations in the streets against the wars. You can learn more about the NA at:
1 The Bumpy Road Ahead: New Tasks of the Left Following Obama’s Victory
By Carl Davidson, Progressives for Obama
November 19th, 2008