[mgj-discuss] An Open Letter to United for Peace and Justice
nonviolence at igc.org
nonviolence at igc.org
Thu Dec 1 19:47:03 GMT 2005
This is a thoughtfully written letter....but does not mention ANSWER.
Why the ommission or failure to send a similar letter to them.?
mgj at riseup.net wrote:
>An Open Letter to United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ)
>>From the Mobilization for Global Justice*
>Dear friends in United for Peace and Justice,
>Congratulations on organizing a very large demonstration in Washington,
>D.C. the weekend of September 24-25. The numbers and the resulting media
>coverage and visibility were indeed impressive.
>Having said that, we would like to share with you some fundamental
>political concerns of ours with:
>• the manner in which the mobilization was called,
>• what was and what was not included in the political message,
>• and how that was reflected in the way in which the organizing for the
>demonstrations happened on the ground.
>You might be surprised that we have issued an open letter rather than
>trying to communicate with your organization privately. We have, however,
>tried private, direct channels of communication both in the recent past
>and earlier, and found them to be ineffective.
>Our intent in writing this open letter is not to generate conflict, but to
>voice constructive criticism and generate debate, which is sorely needed
>in the wider peace and justice movement in the U.S. We hope for a
>Three days before hundreds of thousands marched in Washington, D.C. to
>demand an end to the occupation of Iraq – with parallel demands to end
>the economic occupation of the global South, a crowd of several hundred
>marched in the capital of Lesotho, a small landlocked country in Southern
>Africa. (By the standards of a small country like Lesotho, this was a
>The focus of this march was to demand fair resettlement and rehabilitation
>for the thousands displaced by the Lesotho Highlands Project, a series of
>dams financed by the World Bank. These dams were built to collect water
>for export to neighboring South Africa, even while Lesotho is afflicted
>with drought. The dams have displaced thousands, and destroyed the
>farmlands and fisheries that tens of thousands depend on for their
>survival. The contracts for building the dams were riddled with corruption
>benefiting foreign contractors, a fact that the World Bank tried for years
>to cover up.
>The situation in Lesotho is a microcosm of how the World Bank and its
>sister institution the International Monetary Fund (IMF) operate
>worldwide. To highlight a few recent developments:
>• The IMF and World Bank compelled Niger and Mali to deregulate food
>prices and privatize surplus food reserves, moves which led to the current
>famine in these countries, endangering the lives of hundreds of thousands.
>Similar subsidy eliminations are now taking place in Iraq, where 60% of
>the population depends on food subsidies for survival.
>• The World Bank is funding an immensely destructive gold mining project
>in Guatemala that will exacerbate poverty among indigenous Maya people
>while despoiling the environment.
>• Through the Policy Support Instrument (PSI), the IMF is expanding and
>tightening its control over countries which either do not need IMF loans
>or are poised to escape its economic dictatorship through debt
>cancellation. The PSI will expand the IMF’s leverage over these countries,
>and allow the institution to continue to impose devastating “economic
>Why do we mention all of this? A fact that was very well known to the
>national leadership of UFPJ – though they may deny it – is that the IMF
>and World Bank were meeting in Washington, D.C. the very same weekend that
>they called the anti-war march. MGJ had brought this fact to the attention
>of UFPJ through a letter, a few days before they issued their Call to
>Action for the weekend. We also raised this issue publicly at the Unity
>Meeting in Washington, D.C., organized by longtime Washington, D.C.
>community leader Rev. Graylan Hagler, as well as other community
>activists. UFPJ knew about the IMF-World Bank meetings before they issued
>their call for protests that weekend, in good time to change course and
>modify their protest plans to take the meetings into account.
>By bringing attention to the IMF and World Bank meetings, we do not wish
>to make the claim that resisting the policies of these institutions is
>“more important” than demanding an end to the occupation of Iraq (and the
>occupations of Afghanistan, Haiti, and Palestine). On the contrary, we
>recognize and give a great deal of importance to the grave violations of
>human dignity and to the loss of life that these occupations entail.
>We have reason to believe, though, that some persons in the leadership of
>UFPJ do not give any importance to the social, economic, and ecological
>devastation caused by the IMF and World Bank across Africa, Asia, Latin
>America, the Caribbean, the Pacific, and other impoverished regions of the
>world. If that is true, it is a major problem. It shows a lack of vision,
>analysis, and understanding of the political economy of the contemporary
>Before going further, we would like to point out that this is not about
>MGJ. The more important issue at stake here is the fundamental lack of
>solidarity of the leadership of important sections of the U.S. peace and
>justice movement with billions of poor people worldwide, overwhelmingly of
>color. It is imperative for that section of the U.S. peace and justice
>movement that works mainly on foreign policy issues to recognize that the
>damaging foreign policies of the U.S. are not solely about who this
>country bombs and occupies, but equally about who this country starves and
>exploits for the profit of multinational corporations. It is equally
>important that we recognize that exploitation extends to the environment,
>and that forests are clearcut, air and water polluted, and ecosystems
>destroyed every day to extend economic control.
>The economic control of the planet for corporate profit is a central tenet
>of U.S. foreign policy. A failure to recognize this reality is also a
>serious analytical failure on the part of the peace and justice movement.
>We believe that this lack of vision is also self-defeating. If the U.S.
>peace and justice movement is serious about ending the occupation of Iraq
>(and of Afghanistan, Haiti, and Palestine), the movement needs to develop
>and internalize an understanding of the motivations for and the roots of
>war and occupation. The drive for imperial control of natural resources,
>cheap labor, and markets has been a key part of the motivation for U.S.
>wars and interventions for decades (some would argue, centuries), and a
>peace and justice movement that has a strategic goal of not merely ending
>this latest war but undermining the U.S. war machine in the longer term,
>needs to build this understanding into its actions.
>What is more, these linkages are common sense across much of the world. In
>most countries, the organizations fighting neoliberal economic policies
>and the organizations resisting U.S. military aggression are the very same
>organizations. In Bolivia and Ecuador, the very same organizations who are
>resisting IMF and World Bank-imposed policies such as water privatization,
>export of natural gas, and destructive gold mining, are also involved in
>struggles against the proliferation of U.S. bases and the militarized
>U.S.-backed war on drugs. The Freedom from Debt Coalition in the
>Philippines, who resist IMF and World Bank loan conditions, also played a
>major role in the coalition that pressured the Philippines government to
>withdraw its forces from Iraq. Why do we compartmentalize issues to our
>own detriment here in the U.S., and why do we always prioritize getting a
>few more column inches in the New York Times, or several thousand more
>people at tomorrow’s demonstration, over building a genuinely broad-based
>movement over the next five or ten years?
>None of which is to say that there should not be a protest against the
>Iraq war on the weekend of the IMF and World Bank meetings. There should
>be protests against the illegitimate U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq
>365 days of the year. But when these protests coincide with the IMF and
>World Bank meetings in the same city in which the meetings are taking
>place, it is perfectly reasonable and legitimate to expect that there be a
>serious effort on the part of all concerned to integrate the message of
>fighting U.S.-sponsored wars and occupations with the message of resisting
>the economic dictatorship and ecological warfare of the IMF and World
>Bank. These messages are not hard to integrate at all – just ask us, we
>have done so already in ways that are clear, concise, and convincing!
>And we are certainly not the only ones doing this analysis either. You
>don’t need to take our word for anything – just read recent writings by
>Shalmali Guttal of Focus on the Global South, or freelance writer Naomi
>Klein, or Antonia Juhasz, or Abu Khaleel’s blog from Baghdad
>(iraquna.blogspot.com), or decades of writing by Uruguayan writer Eduardo
>Galeano about Latin America.
>The lead-up to the September 24-25 weekend
>There was much in the lead-up to the weekend that we had deep misgivings
>about, but we’ll confine ourselves to observations about one particularly
>First, as we mentioned earlier, MGJ had sent a letter to members of the
>UFPJ national steering committee a few days before they issued their Call
>to Action for the weekend, with an open offer of working together with
>them to integrate an antiwar and an economic justice message for the
>weekend’s actions, taking advantage of a historic opportunity to link
>these issues together. With the U.S. imposing an IMF-style structural
>adjustment program on Iraq at gunpoint, and with Paul Wolfowitz as head of
>the World Bank, this is the right time to be making these connections.
>Unfortunately, the national leadership of UFPJ reacted to our letter as if
>it were a threat. Three members of the steering committee came to
>Washington, D.C. a few days later, and set up a meeting with
>representatives from MGJ. It is a measure of the importance they give to
>the issue of U.S. economic hegemony that they were 45 minutes late to
>their 1-hour meeting with us, but were not willing to delay the start of
>their next meeting to give enough time to meet with us. For the 15 minutes
>or so that they did meet with us, they said repeatedly that their
>demonstration was going to be about the single-issue message of “U.S.
>troops out of Iraq.”
>We publicly confronted UFPJ with our concerns at the Unity Meeting
>convened by Rev. Graylan Hagler and other community activists a few weeks
>later. After that, there was a sudden interest on the part of UFPJ in
>talking with us. We took that interest at face value and attempted to
>engage with UFPJ to try to develop and disseminate a unified message of
>resisting U.S. domination, through bombs and occupation as well as through
>loans and trade. We thought (mistakenly) that we had crossed a bridge to a
>The events of the weekend
>We’ll start with a brief run-down of what happened at the opening rally
>for the antiwar march. It is significant that only two of a very large
>number of speakers at the rally were slated to talk about the IMF and
>World Bank meetings; none of the other speakers even mentioned the fact
>that the IMF and World Bank were meeting only a few blocks away that
>One of the two was Virginia Setshedi, a phenomenal Black activist from
>South Africa, who was treated by UFPJ in a manner bordering racism. She is
>a truly visionary activist and a dynamic speaker, and yet was given only
>three minutes to speak after a long procession of well-known U.S. speakers
>who were given five minutes each – and often took longer than that. Far
>from being honored that Virginia had come all the way from South Africa
>and was willing to speak at the rally, the organizers acted as if they
>were doing her a favor by giving her a platform. The way she was treated
>was incredibly patronizing, and we feel very strongly that UFPJ owes her
>The other was one of our own members, Basav Sen, who did not in the end
>get a chance to speak. We understand that technically, this was because of
>the preceding program taking too long, and we do not mean to imply that
>there was a conspiracy to keep him from speaking. It is significant,
>though, that both Virginia and Basav were scheduled towards the end of the
>program, and given only 3 minutes each, out of a very large number of
>We want the leadership of UFPJ to appreciate that this was far more than a
>slap in the face for Virginia, Basav, or MGJ – it was a slight to people
>fighting World Bank-funded water privatization, to people organizing
>against IMF-imposed public spending cuts, and to millions worldwide who
>are engaged in life-and-death struggles against the economic policies
>imposed by U.S.-controlled institutions – including in Iraq. The least
>that they can expect of those of us who are in the U.S. is some basic
>The logistical preparations
>Besides their lack of political vision, the UFPJ leadership also made
>serious errors in logistical planning and preparation.
>Though they had planned several days of action and were expecting 100,000
>participants, UFPJ did not adequately prioritize housing. They did ask a
>local DC group to help find housing, but did not provide any resources or
>respond to frequent requests to coordinate efforts. This group and others,
>including MGJ, formed an ad hoc committee which did manage to secure some
>housing, but as the mobilization approached there was still a shortage.
>UFPJ expressed great concern about the lack of housing but still did not
>provide resources or coordination. At the same time they were claiming
>poverty when it came to funding housing, UFPJ was running a million dollar
>ad campaign and pouring a lot of money into the Operation Ceasefire
>concert. As an example of poor coordination by UFPJ, they ignored the ad
>hoc committee’s repeated offers to link the two web-based housing boards
>where people in Washington DC could offer housing to out-of-town
>activists, and out-of-town activists could request housing. It made
>perfect sense to link the two websites, so that people who were looking
>for housing would need to access only one website for complete
>information. Despite a few conversations with UFPJ on this issue, nothing
>came of it. Fortunately due to the hard work of the ad hoc committee,
>there was not a housing crisis. However we will never know how many
>activists chose not to stay for the full weekend or did not even come to
>Washington because the housing situation was not more secure.
>UFPJ’s treatment of the Direct Action Medic Network (DAMN) was extremely
>unfair as well. DAMN is a small collective working tirelessly – and for
>free – to keep protesters healthy and safe during demonstrations in
>Washington, D.C. UFPJ initially refused to reimburse DAMN for providing
>water and medical supplies for demonstrators, and expected them to staff a
>medical tent at the festival even though they are not licensed medics and
>it would be illegal for them to do so. There were only a few health and
>safety volunteers outside of DAMN. Thus, on the largest day of action,
>hundreds of thousands of demonstrators had only a small overstretched band
>of volunteer street medics to rely on. In the event of an accident or
>simply of hotter weather, this inadequate preparation might have resulted
>in serious medical problems.
>We believe there is a connection between the failures of political
>analysis on the part of UFPJ, and their logistical failures. The
>connection lies in an elitist mode of organizing that treats the
>grassroots as a resource to exploit rather than as a source of leadership.
>The grassroots has no role in determining the political vision of the
>coalition; the vision and message are driven by the needs of getting on
>CNN and the New York Times. Yet, the grassroots is expected to do the
>“grunt work” of arranging for housing, medical support, and legal support,
>without any help from the so-called “leadership”.
>Conclusion – what do we want?
>We seek open debate and discussion on analysis as well as dynamics within
>the U.S. peace and justice movement. We know that fracturing and
>factionalism weaken the movement – and that is not what we seek – but it
>is equally true that conformity, unwillingness to engage in real debate,
>and a refusal to air real differences when they exist can stifle and
>eventually kill a movement.
>Recent events have provided a great opportunity to engage the wider public
>on the profound injustice of U.S. policies and politics, both domestic and
>foreign. Without a wide dialogue about what exactly these opportunities
>are, and how we can make the most of these opportunities in a way that is
>respectful of the people affected by recent tragedies, we as a movement
>will have failed.
>In our own public education around the September 24-25 weekend, MGJ made
>every effort to link the disaster in Louisiana, the global economy, and
>the occupation of Iraq in a way that is meaningful and not merely a
>laundry list of complaints. We do not claim to have been perfect in how we
>have done so. The point to bear in mind is that we have tried sincerely to
>make these connections, not merely to advance any particular campaign that
>we are working on, but to serve what we see as the broader objective of
>building a movement that connects the local with the global, and connects
>the war on the poor being waged with F16s with the equally vicious war on
>the poor being waged with privatization, budget cuts for social services,
>gentrification, displacement, and environmental racism and classism.
>We hope that this letter provokes the leadership of large national peace
>and justice organizations to engage in some reflection about how not to
>sacrifice longer term goals to advance short term interests. We hope this
>letter gets them to think about building a movement towards a more just
>U.S. foreign (and domestic) policy, and not merely a campaign to bring
>U.S. troops home from Iraq. We hope this letter sparks a dialogue about
>how we in the U.S. can organize in a way that is more respectful of, and
>more in tune with, the rest of the world.
>At the very least, we hope that this letter gets the leadership of peace
>and justice organizations to organize in a manner that is respectful of
>all progressive causes. It would not be acceptable for a peace and justice
>group to organize a demonstration on Martin Luther King Day without making
>the ongoing civil rights struggles of African Americans a central part of
>the political message. It would not be acceptable to organize a
>demonstration on Columbus Day without incorporating Native American
>struggles for land rights and environmental justice into the core demands.
>It is equally unacceptable to organize a demonstration during the IMF and
>World Bank meetings without acknowledging the struggle of people across
>Africa, Asia, and Latin America against these imperialistic institutions.
>Nor is it acceptable to call for a demonstration in another city without
>consulting with local activists first and not as an afterthought. Finally,
>it should not be expected that the locals do the “dirty work” of logistics
>without having a central role in shaping the political message.
>We end with the observation that it would be breathtakingly arrogant on
>the part of the “leadership” of so-called progressive organizations to
>imagine that “the masses” are not ready for a sophisticated and nuanced
>analysis, and can think only in soundbytes and bumper sticker slogans. We
>talk to our neighbors, to people we meet in the subway, to cashiers at our
>neighborhood grocery stores, to cab-drivers, and to other folks.
>Grassroots constituencies have a far greater degree of political
>sophistication than the so-called leaders of the progressive movement give
>them credit for.
>“The people” are ready for a political message that links fundamental
>racial, economic, and gender inequalities in the U.S. with similar
>inequalities on a global scale, and the role of U.S. military power in
>maintaining these inequalities. They are ready for a political message
>that links economic deprivation and war with global climate change and
>environmental destruction. They are ready to question the role of the U.S.
>political and economic system in creating and perpetuating these
>injustices. Particularly after Hurricane Katrina, people are eager for
>such a message. Are the “leaders” listening?
>*The Mobilization for Global Justice is a Washington, D.C. based group
>that works on issues of global economic and social justice and
>sustainability. We believe another world is possible and necessary. We
>envision a world free of corporate domination and crushing debt,
>particularly in communities of color. We act to expose and change the
>institutionalized violence wrought by international financial and trade
>institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and
>World Trade Organization.
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“Have you ever wondered why we (women) are not in armed combat against you? It’s not because there’s a shortage of kitchen knives…It is because we believe in your (men’s) humanity, against all the evidence.” Andrea Dworkin
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