National ANSWER conference

National ANSWER conference

Wow. The ANSWER conference in NYC this past weekend was amazing. 800 people from around the country, plus Japan, Korea, and Venezuela attended, including twenty of us from L.A.

It was titled the National Conference Against War, Colonial Occupation And Imperialism. This somewhat inflammatory title was quite deliberate and also summarizes the future focus of ANSWER – to broaden the focus from the Iraq invasion to include all U.S. occupations, current and future. We are now occupying Afghanistan and Iraq. The current U.S proposal to the U.N. makes it clear the U.S. and Britain wish to run Iraq as they see fit, with no restrictions. Which is a textbook definition of colonialism.

Six months ago people were saying “Imperialism” was an old tired word, and not applicable to our times. Now it’s in current usage again (even if sometimes used as a boast by neocons). ANSWER is a primary reason why people are talking about imperialism again – because they see linkages between issues. The assault on civil rights is directly related to invading countries, which is directly related to tax cuts for the rich while the states go broke. Once you see these issues as related, then it becomes a pattern, and the best word to describe that pattern is imperialism.

There were workshops on Saturdays on a number of topics; The Middle East, Cuba, Latin America, the Balkans, plus the Patriot Act, Reparations, Queers for Peace, the War at Home, the Patriot Act, – and the wonderfully named, Battling the Giant Squid: Breaking through the Stranglehold of the Corporate Media.

On Sunday, we broke into groups to discuss strategies for what comes next, and then reported back at the final plenary. I’ll have more on this later once I get the reports.

One reason ANSWER organized so well this past year is because they had an action plan, which was followed often and changed as needed.

The action plan for the next several months includes:

May 20 (tomorrow).
There will be nationally coordinated local actions protesting Bush’s new attacks on Cuba (which he will announce tomorrow). In L.A., it’s at the Westwood Federal Bldg. 5 PM.

July 4.
March and protest in Philadelphia. Bush will be speaking that day at the opening of the National Constitution Center (which in a hideous or telling move, depending on your viewpoint, was built on an African-American graveyard). Consider this to be a national demo. ANSWER is part of the local Philadelphia coalition that has been planning this for months. Let’s let the world know what we think of Bush and his War Without End lunacies.

Sep. 27.
International coordinated day of action against occupation and empire. “From Palestine to Iraq to the Philippines to Cuba and everywhere”.

Summer educational campaign.
Produce educational materials, fact sheets, booklets, etc. on any and all topics; such as war, social service cuts, tax breaks for the rich, repression at home, etc. Then do mass tabling and leafleting nationwide.

This is an ambitious plan, to be sure. And ANSWER can pull it off. I was impressed by the many hardcore organizers I met who have been at this for years, if not decades. Some of them are Socialists. To which I say, so what? As Richard Becker pointed out, newspapers in Europe don’t red-bait, because they know, well duh, Socialists organize for social change and that this is not news.

Some websites I learned of include:

Partnership for Civil Justice.  Constitutional lawyers who defend our rights in D.C. courts. Be happy they are there.

Freemanz. Political photography and audio. He was arrested for “wiretapping” because a cop didn’t see the microphone he was taping with. I am not making this up.

SOS 2003. Website to be for the three day demo and protest at the Strategic Command HQ in Omaha Nebraska Aug 1-3.

The photo is some of the ANSWER LA crew. I’m on the bottom in the blue jacket, near Seku, 5, our youngest organizer who is on his dad’s shoulders.

 It was quite a weekend, even if I was badly jetlagged and running on little sleep.