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In the anti-war movement is only one A.N.S.W.E.R. right?
The Georgetown Voice - Georgetown University's Weekly Newsmagazine ^ | January 30, 2003 | Eric Nazar

Posted on 02/03/2003 6:08:36 PM PST by tgslTakoma

Less than two weeks ago on the National Mall beneath the Capitol, thousands took part in a demonstration against the impending U.S invasion of Iraq. About 150 Georgetown students were there, but just how many protesters attended in total depended on who you asked. At 1 p.m. on a clear day where the wind chill hovered around 10 degrees, many had already begun to leave the Mall on a planned march to the Navy Yard in Southeast Washington. That's when Rev. Lucious Walker, took the stage. "There must be half a million people here," he shouted to cheers from the remaining protesters. For the International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) coalition--the group that organized the demonstration and march--that number sounded perfect. The mainstream media and a few police sources offered numbers considerably lower--most in the tens of thousands.

While disputes over numbers colored much of the coverage of the Jan. 18 protest, pundits and organizers agreed that the turnout represented an increasingly mainstream demographic, and that development portends a significant leap in political viability for the anti-war movement.

Though the numbers debate may prevent ANSWER from getting the credit it feels it deserves for organizing what may have been among the largest protests ever in Washington, its increasing success in attracting "real" Americans to protests has raised serious questions in the media and activist communities surrounding ANSWER's role as the current leader of the anti-war movement. The group is at the center of a growing controversy surrounding the anti-war movement, how it should be run and just who ought to be running it.

Since the protest, stories in The New York Times, Newsday, The National Review, National Public Radio and online newsmagazine have questioned the leadership and goals of ANSWER. In her Jan. 20 article, Salon writer Michelle Goldberg refered to ANSWER as "a front group for the Stalinist Workers World Party." Other reports drag out a laundry list of ANSWER members' dirty deeds: "supporting" hard-line communist regimes in North Korea and elsewhere, defending convicted war-criminal Slobodan Milosevic and vacationing in Cuba. NPR aired '60s radical-turned-Columbia University professor Todd Gitlin, who unfavorably compared ANSWER's far-left leadership to the "ecumenical" Students for a Democratic Society, which lead the anti-Vietnam war movement through the '60s and '70s. The Times quotes Rabbi Michael Lerner as being frustrated with the group's "knee-jerk anti-imperialism," while the conservative National Review denounces ANSWER as obnoxious, inflammatory and anti-American.

"Red-baiting, pure and simple" is how William Hackwell, an ANSWER spokesman, describes the media attacks. "They come from people who are pro-war and are trying to divide the anti-war movement. It's exactly like what happened in the '50s, during the McCarthy Era."

Hackwell and ANSWER see both the low-balling of protest numbers and statements like Goldberg's as part of an effort by the police and pro-war elements in the mainstream media to discredit the anti-war movement. Examining the content of the articles themselves, Hackwell has a point. They include little from activists actually working with ANSWER or in other anti-war groups, besides sound bites, and generally fail to analyze or address the group's organizational activities and structure.

While ANSWER is weathering the media criticism well enough, more ominous voices of dissent have risen within the activist community, challenging ANSWER's tactics and relations with other activist groups. While all anti-war groups place a great deal of importance on the value and appearance of unity, activists within ANSWER and from other groups have each claimed that the other is responsible for efforts to divide the peace movement.

To ANSWER, the numbers game comes with the territory. "We've been in a constant legal battle with the police over numbers," said Hackwell from San Francisco, where ANSWER organized a rally, its major west coast demonstration, on the same day as the D.C. protest. "This time, we rented our own helicopter in order to take aerial photos of the protest. Afterwards, they were saying 50,000. 60,000, tops," Hackwell recounted. "But when we showed them the photos and threatened to sue, they had to revise their numbers to 150,000."

The criticism aired over the past weeks, however, is directed more towards discrediting the group. The media's critique of ANSWER is directed primarily on the coalition's founding leadership, and its affiliation with the socialist Workers World Party. Brian Becker and Larry Holmes, co-founders of ANSWER and lead spokesmen for the coalition, are both members of the WWP secretariat. Becker writes frequently for the Party's newspaper, The Workers' World, and has appeared on Fox television in New York as a political commentator. It's from the newspaper and public speeches that critics of ANSWER have gleaned Becker's views on Iraq, North Korea, Milosevic and other topics. The roots of ANSWER's core leadership lie in the International Action Center, founded in 1991 by Becker, Holmes and other Workers World Party leaders. After Sept, 11, 2001, IAC leaders called for the formation of ANSWER to serve as what Hackwell called "a broader-based coalition."

ANSWER headquarters are housed within the Manhattan offices of the IAC, but the organizational structures of the two groups are significantly different. The ANSWER coalition is administered by a steering committee of representatives from 11 established activist organizations, one of which is the IAC. The other 10 groups are generally small and tend to represent less radical causes. One member group is dubbed "Pastors for Peace."

Charles Kaufman, national co-coordinator of the Nicaragua Network, a group that has worked for social and economic justice in Nicaragua for over 20 years, is on the ANSWER steering committee. "We all share the same basic viewpoints. We're all anti-imperialist, and we're all anti-war," he said. According to Kaufman, the steering committee makes all decisions on protest dates and speaker lists in a consensus-based, democratic manner.

Hackwell rejected the notion that holding unpopular political opinions makes the ANSWER leadership unfit to lead the anti-war movement. "We don't discriminate as to who can be a part of our organization," he said. "The groups on our steering committee, they aren't just names; they're real groups that have been organizing against war and racism for years."

But even if the coalition is "broad-based," that doesn't change the fact that its leadership puts a radical face on the organization, critics say. Chuck Munson is a longtime D.C. activist who has been involved with the Mobilization for Global Justice and the Anti-Capitalist Convergence and currently runs the website Munson stressed that simply labeling ANSWER a "front group" for the Workers World Party is misleading, but did claim that "their organizational goals revolve around promoting the best interests of the [WWP]."

In any case, Munson claims that the leaders' politics are nevertheless detrimental to the anti-war effort as a whole, as war supporters use ANSWER's political background to smear the peace movement. "The skeletons in their closet add lots of negative baggage to the peace movement," Munson said. "The pro-war side is already mentioning the WWP's long-standing support for anti-U.S. dictators."

Since October, two additional (organizers are loath to say competing) anti-war coalitions have sprung up, representing a more mainstream constituency of nonprofit and faith-based organizations. United for Peace and Justice, probably the second most prominent national anti-war coalition, is organizing major protests in New York and San Francisco on Feb. 15 and 16. So far, UFPJ has attracted the support of many activist organizations--currently around 150--that have been reluctant to sign on with ANSWER, including the National Council of Churches, Pax Christi, Peace Action and Veterans for Peace. While some of their members have been outspoken critics of ANSWER's organizing tactics, the leadership of UFPJ has emphasized publically that any organization against the war is ultimately good for the cause.

Jennifer Carr, the Washington representative of United for Peace and Justice, quickly defended ANSWER when asked about the recent attacks. "I don't support the attacks on ANSWER," Carr said. "They are just attempts to discredit the movement as a whole." Carr said she doesn't see the political affiliation of ANSWER's leadership as being particularly relevant.

In addition to ANSWER and UFPJ, the National Council of Churches, which represents 36 national denomination, founded a third coalition group, Win Without War last December. Carr sees the presence of multiple coalition groups as a positive development. "Not everyone is going to gravitate toward exactly the same things, and that's why these different coalitions exist. It shows a huge, broad movement."

"There's already a really broad range of people who oppose the war," Carr said. "Focusing on one small fragment of a movement is divisive and discredits what they did on Jan. 18, in bringing out a very diverse and broad range of people."

Carr also explained that UFPJ attracts the more mainstream activists and organizers, while ANSWER attracts the revolutionary socialist bloc, which represents a gain for the movement as a whole.

The only problem with that analysis is that, as Jan. 18 showed, ANSWER is already seems to be attracting the mainstream to its protests. What's notably absent amidst the name-calling among activists and the staid media criticism is an analysis of just how ANSWER gets so many people out for their protests and how they build alliances within the activist community.

But according to its critics from the activist community, the real story is how ANSWER doesn't build alliances, and instead uses cutthroat tactics, bullying and misrepresentation to bolster its prestige and credibility as leader of the anti-war movement. Even before the April 20 marches, organized separately by four different coalition groups, ANSWER was positioning itself to take credit for the entire convergence.

"The recent protest numbers have been more of a wave of dissent that ANSWER is riding than any big testimony to ANSWER's organizational abilities," Munson mused. He went on to predict that after a few more big rallies, ANSWER will be eclipsed by more fractious groups. "People aren't going to wait for ANSWER to tell them when to protest," he said.

"We've organized three major demonstrations in the past year, each one doubling in size," Hackwell responded. "If you're looking for a sign that we're weakening, well, that's surely not it." In addition to the Jan. 18 protest, Hackwell referred to the Oct. 26 anti-war demonstration held near the Vietnam War Memorial that ANSWER claimed 200,000 attended and an April 20 anti-war and pro-Palestine march that drew an estimated 70,000 to D.C.

But as the rallies grow, the ranks of the discontented likewise grow. Among them is recent Wesleyan University graduate Jessie Duvall, who was one of the lead organizers for the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition, which planned an anti-war march, called United We March, for the April 20 protests. Duvall said he was "very frustrated" with ANSWER's tactics. "I found [ANSWER] disrespectful of established decision-making processes, uncooperative, controlling and deceitful. They would say one thing and do something else or agree to something, and then not do it," he wrote in an e-mail to the Voice.

Duvall claimed ANSWER leaders arbitrarily made decisions not agreed to by other groups, making them essentially irreversible by announcing them in news releases. "It was impossible to go back on [the releases] without it seeming like the United We March coalition was trying to split the movement," Duvall said. "Every time the United We March coalition hesitated on making a decision or disagreed with a proposal that ANSWER made, we were were accused of trying to split the movement."

In the end, observed Duvall, ANSWER's tactics allowed them to take credit for work other groups were responsible at least in part for. Munson and others make similar claims that ANSWER hijacked a Sept. 2001 anti-globalization protest in D.C.organized by multiple groups, scheduling its own anti-war protest on the same day, and then taking credit for the entire weekend.

More recently, Iraq Pledge of Resistance, a UFPJ member group, complained about ANSWER's predilection for hijacking others' protests. IPR had scheduled a march through the streets of D.C. for Jan. 19, the day after ANSWER's rally and march. Upon hearing that ANSWER had scheduled a "youth and student march" at the same time and for the same location, IPR national coordinator Gordon Clark attempted to compromise with the group, only to be met with an e-mail from ANSWER coordinators Sarah Sloan and Peta Lindsay accusing UFPJ of disrespecting ANSWER and claiming that ANSWER had put out the call for their march first. It read in part, "Since United for Peace has been unwilling to endorse the Jan. 18 No War on Iraq National March on Washington, it will be considered divisive that United for Peace has called for another demonstration in Washington the day after the Jan. 18 demonstration." On Jan. 19, according to observers, including members of Georgetown Peace Action, ANSWER drove their sound truck into the middle of IPR's demonstration, drowning out that groups chanting with their own and refusing requests to let IPR protesters use their loudspeakers.

But while such tactics may outrage other organizers in the activist community, they are part of the reason why ANSWER has taken a leading role in the anti-war movement. While the group's position at the vanguard may leave the movement as a whole more vulnerable to media attack on ANSWER's ideological background, it has ironically served to create the appearance of unity that activists both within and opposing ANSWER have so desired. Specifically, ANSWER's centralized decision-making body led by a vanguard of experienced activists is a main reason for its success. While many claim that such a structure undermines the democratic process, some are beginning to consider it necessary to the anti-war movement's success.

Within the UFPJ coalition, members have complained internally that the organization needs to become more like ANSWER in order to organize effectively--whether that involves competing with ANSWER, or cooperating with them, or neither. In an internal memo obtained by The Voice, a lead UFPJ organizer argued that the coalition needs "an empowered steering committee that can actually set priorities for the coalition, and whose representative leadership we would all try to follow."

At their founding conference in October, the United For Peace and Justice coalition decided Feb. 15 as the date for a major protest in New York, marked to coincide with a predicted beginning of the war. On Jan. 8 ANSWER announced a planned "week of resistance" surrounding that date. Whether ANSWER will attempt to hijack and take credit for UFPJ's protest, in spite of the goodwill the two coalitions have shown each other publically, remains to be seen, but press reports are already giving credit to ANSWER for organizing these upcoming protests.

According to a Jan. 19 wire service report, "International ANSWER and other peace groups are calling for a week of anti-war actions in New York City starting on Feb. 15." In the volatile world of activist organizing, it seems that ANSWER has secured its position at the helm of the anti-war crusade for at least a few more weeks. Meanwhile, the controversy will most certainly continue.

TOPICS: Activism/Chapters; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; News/Current Events; US: District of Columbia
KEYWORDS: answer
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I've posted this for a couple of reasons... First, it appears that ANSWER is beginning to show its red roots, in the tactics they are using (more now that they have gained some amount of mainstream media "respect" and "credibility") against the very folks who have given their endorsement of ANSWER's so-called peace movement.

Now, I'm not at all surprised that ANSWER was just using the other "peace groups" for furthering their own agenda; but the peace groups are beginning to see that they have allowed a bully to hijack their movement. Unfortunately for them (and for us too, it appears) ANSWER has planted itself firmly at the front of the movement.

I still don't understand how so many people who are leaders of other groups have allowed this to happen; communists have never been known for their honesty and humanitarianism.

The second reason I posted this article is that it gives those of us who care some very good material to work with to form a "lesson plan," if you will, for the other groups who have blindly allied themselves with the communists behind ANSWER. For instance... to those groups who endorsed early and are now reconsidering what they have done... "Why on earth would you guys expect a bunch of communists - who support Kim Jong Il, Milosevich and Castro - to be telling the truth to you when they say they are for peace and against racism?"

The soccer moms for peace, and the pastors for peace, and the quakers for peace and all the rest of them need to be made to think very carefully about who they are forming coalitions with. The communists will talk a benign tale in favor of all kinds of warm and fuzzy things, but historically - once they have consolidated power (even over a "peace movement"), they will wield that power with an iron fist; and peace be damned! What makes the peace crowd think it will be any different with ANSWER? Their behavior thus far, with the organizing and publicity and speakers, etc. is perfect evidence of their true color.

I've rambled. Please read the article through and add your thoughts, comments advice and ideas for those of us who will be going out into the streets and onto radio shows to counter ANSWER's anti-America agenda. Thanks!

1 posted on 02/03/2003 6:08:36 PM PST by tgslTakoma
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To: tgslTakoma
2 posted on 02/03/2003 6:14:22 PM PST by amused (Don't call them liberals, socialists or left wing statists is more like it.)
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To: tgslTakoma
Charles Kaufman, national co-coordinator of the Nicaragua Network, a group that has worked for social and economic justice in Nicaragua for over 20 years

Maybe this Nazar guy could use a lesson in media bias. "Worked for social and economic justice?" What the heck does that mean? It would be one thing to print a quote of the guy saying that's what he did, but it's another for a newspaper to print that uncritically.

3 posted on 02/03/2003 6:29:33 PM PST by xm177e2
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To: tgslTakoma
If A.N.S.W.E.R (WWP) has the backing of the Masses, where are they in the Peoples Republic of Mass? Aside from a candle lit vigile, there has been no action in Boston.

For all of you MassFReerers that desire some street action E-Mail, Frank Neisser,, he is the boss commie. Tell him that he is the wave of the future.

4 posted on 02/03/2003 6:31:55 PM PST by Little Bill (No Rats, A.N.S.W.E.R./WWP is a commie front!!!!)
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To: tgslTakoma
I find it hard to believe that the NY Times reported on ANSWER's obvious communist/stalinist views.
5 posted on 02/03/2003 6:39:08 PM PST by Guillermo (Sic 'Em)
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To: tgslTakoma; JamesParmelee; Dave Dilegge; BufordP; ironman; Tolerance Sucks Rocks; leadpenny; ...
DC Chapter Ping List! Some food for thought for the next encounter with the IAC/ANSWER commies.
6 posted on 02/03/2003 6:41:48 PM PST by Angelwood (Prayers and condolences to the friends and families of the Columbia Shuttle crew.)
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To: tgslTakoma
7 posted on 02/03/2003 6:58:12 PM PST by daughterofTGSL
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To: daughterofTGSL
It's bedtime kiddo.


P.S. Thanks for the bump!

8 posted on 02/03/2003 7:00:34 PM PST by tgslTakoma (OK guys... so when's Patriots Rally IV gonna be?)
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To: Angelwood
Excuse me for a sec. I have read with interest how the NY Times is so left wing until I have viewed it for the past two years. They are!

It is still hard for me to believe that a national newspaper can get away with this over and over again.

Is is the demographics, where they are? Are they really communists?

I still don't get it. Excuse me.

9 posted on 02/03/2003 7:27:24 PM PST by AGreatPer
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To: tgslTakoma
This is a surprisingly factual and fair-minded article, given who wrote it and where it was published. One point, the numbers of attendees, can be established by hard evidence that no one in the minor or major press has discussed.

Every organization that wants to conduct a demonstration in Washington (or most other places) must file for a permit, which is never denied due to the politics of the organization. The permits in D.C. include a required upper estimate of the number of attendees. This is an important number because it affects the requirements for spot-a-pots, levels of police protection, bus parking, etc.

ANSWER's permit for its last rally in D.C. stated its own upper limit of attendees at 30,000. As someone who stood in the cold opposite the Marines Barracks at 8th and I Street, S.E., and watched them sashay by, I can guarantee that they had no more than 20,000 at that point. (Also, by spotting certain unique signs and VERY unique individuals, some of the protestors circled the block and came by twice, apparently in an effort to appear to be more than they were.

Congressman Billybob

Click for latest column for UPI, "Those in Peril on the Sea" (Not yet on UPI wire, or FR.)

As the politician formerly known as Al Gore has said, Buy my book, "to Restore Trust in America"

10 posted on 02/03/2003 8:05:37 PM PST by Congressman Billybob
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To: Congressman Billybob
The sick joke here is that the Workers' World Party (WPP), the Communist backer of ANSWER, openly supported, endorsed, and cheered on the Soviet military invasion of Hungary in 1956.

Yet they claim to be "anti-war"...

11 posted on 02/03/2003 8:21:48 PM PST by Southack (Media bias means that Castro won't be punished for Cuban war crimes against Black Angolans in Africa)
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To: tgslTakoma
In any case, Munson claims that the leaders' politics are nevertheless detrimental to the anti-war effort as a whole, as war supporters use ANSWER's political background to smear the peace movement. "The skeletons in their closet add lots of negative baggage to the peace movement," Munson said. "The pro-war side is already mentioning the WWP's long-standing support for anti-U.S. dictators."

Great post, this is almost balanced enough for Fox. Who knows how many "Americans" would be there if they didn't have to endorse the answer crowd by thier attendence?

Free Mumia my a**

12 posted on 02/03/2003 8:35:21 PM PST by Gore_ War_ Vet
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To: tgslTakoma
The most stunning revalation is the alliance of the labor unions with this riff-raff. I find it hard to believe that the rank and file hate America as much as ANSWER professes.

I find it disgusting that the union leadership has done this most likely without the consent of the membership. If you are a member though, you are sleeping with dogs and will also get fleas.

Where have all the hardhats gone?

13 posted on 02/03/2003 8:36:18 PM PST by pfflier
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Comment #14 Removed by Moderator

To: tgslTakoma
Check it out, I was way ahead of the game in calling ANSWER a bunch of commies.
15 posted on 02/03/2003 9:30:18 PM PST by TheAngryClam
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To: xm177e2
"Worked for social and economic justice?" What the heck does that mean?

Basically, advocating redistribution of income, equality of outcome, elimination of the profit know, communism...

16 posted on 02/03/2003 9:43:35 PM PST by hellinahandcart
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To: tgslTakoma

17 posted on 02/03/2003 9:47:31 PM PST by Cindy
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To: tgslTakoma
I suggest that everyone planning to oppose ANSWER in the street make sure their health insurance is up to date, and that they know how to block punches...


18 posted on 02/03/2003 9:50:11 PM PST by Tolerance Sucks Rocks (You show me who controls the land, the money, and the weapons, and I'll show you who's in charge!)
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To: tgslTakoma; kristinn; Xthe17th; Doctor Raoul; daughterofTGSL; Dave Dilegge
Anyone know the latest news about Iraq-Al Qaeda ties, by any chance?
19 posted on 02/03/2003 9:51:27 PM PST by Tolerance Sucks Rocks (You show me who controls the land, the money, and the weapons, and I'll show you who's in charge!)
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To: tgslTakoma
20 posted on 02/03/2003 9:55:17 PM PST by Cindy
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