Call for a Left/Right/Libertarian Anti-War Convergence

John Walsh at Counterpunch is urging his friends on the anti-war left to join forces with the active anti-war right and anti-war libertarian movements.

Why is the anti-war movement not having a greater effect? Why does the war go on with no end in sight? There are a number of reasons, not least the perfidy of the Dem establishment, but among the most important and least recognized reasons, I believe, is that we have a badly divided anti-war movement now. And I am not talking about past squabbles on the Left…

…[T]here is another wing or perhaps wings of the drive to end the war. These “wing(s)” are the traditional conservatives who often identify themselves as Republicans or Libertarians. I have found that even peace activists working on the staff of organizations like Peace Action are blissfully unaware of this part of the antiwar sentiment.… The timid rejection of the war in The Nation, all too much under the sway of the Dems, pales by comparison with the cover headline of The American Conservative some months ago which blared: “We do not need an exit strategy. We need an exit.”

Even more striking is the Libertarian opposition to the war to be found most notably in the online publication, one of the best places to go on a daily basis to keep up with antiwar news and opinion.…

Lefties would do well to recognize that they share more with Libertarians than with the Democratic establishment.…

One may argue that the Libertarians, traditional Right and the Left do not need to come together, that each can fight against the war in its own way. But this is not adequate for several reasons. First, such separation is a set-up for a divide-and-conquer approach, at which the two War Parties are very adept. The Republicans can appeal to the Libertarians and traditional conservatives to support them as a lesser evil; and the Democrats can appeal to the Left to support them as the lesser evil. The net result is the dominance of the War Parties and the continuation of war, empire and the suppression of liberties embodied in the Patriot Act. And this tactic has worked well for the War Parties who have alternated in the making of war and supervision of the empire while the anti-war forces are left without a real political home. And without contact, each side is left with the stereotypes of the other, stereotypes that only reinforce their separation.

Second, at times the Left cannot reach people with an anti-war message, because of cultural factors or different philosophical outlooks. But very often these same people can be reached by others, especially by the Libertarians.

I like hearing this sort of thing. I think better cross-ideology alliance building would certainly help the anti-war and pro-civil-liberties movements. But I think also that the anti-war left is suffering from a reliance on unproductive tactics. So much of its energy goes into organizing large rallies and marches, for instance.

All of the marches and rallies since the start of the Iraq war have suffered from comparison with the huge worldwide demonstrations that took place when the war began. Nowadays the pressure is not being put on the government and the war makers, but on the rally organizers and participants — will they be able to raise sufficient numbers of people to make the news, or will they fail and demonstrate that the energy in the anti-war movement is fading?

And even if they succeed, all that happens is a bunch of peaceniks gather together holding signs and listening to the same familiar rants. Business as usual, in other words — everybody knows just how to react, the reporters can write it up in their sleep, and nobody at the Pentagon has to change their plans.

At least where I live, peace demonstrators aren’t really demonstrating much of anything. It’s such a frequent and unremarkable thing for people to march around holding signs and chanting that it doesn’t register as much more than the equivalent of a Columbus Day parade or a farmer’s market. People don’t ask themselves “what is so upsetting my fellow-citizens that they’re taking to the streets?” They ask themselves, “protesters in the streets? Is it a day that ends in ‘y’ again? I wonder if traffic will be bad on the way home.”

What does it demonstrate when the anti-war movement gathers together, again and again, to listen to speeches telling them that their opinions are correct, and to perform some mass action that they know from repeated trial is wholly ineffective at meeting their stated goals?