Click on the title to link to an "American Left History" blog entry, dated December 5, 2007, and titled "Political Slogans and Timeliness- Anti-War Soldiers and Sailors Solidarity Committees" that is mentioned in today's entry.
Let me put the question posed by the title of this entry in context. In early 2006, during the height of the furor over the Cheney/ Bush Administration’s handling of the Iraq War, the circle of anti-war militants that I work with proposed a strategic plan aimed at creating support groups, the soldiers and sailors solidarity committees mentioned in the headline, for the growing discontent inside the military. Politically the committees were seen by us as a shortcut way to do effective anti-war work in the absence of any real movement by organized labor to take actions, like political strikes, to put a end to the war. And also as a way to galvanize support from those anti-war militants who were repelled by the flagging mainstream middle class-led anti-war movement that seemed to be bogged down in a dead-end strategy of ever more mass demonstrations (although conveniently, as those who track such things will note, not near election time). Seemingly, more time was spent looking for ways to avoid confronting the war issue on the streets as those leading various coalitions greedily eyed the then up-coming 2006 mid-term Congressional elections, and the prospects for electing "progressive" Democrats.
There has always been a distinction made in the revolutionary movement, and if the reader is not aware of it he or she should be, and in any case I will make it here, between the tasks that small ad hoc militant leftist groups can propose and carry out in their work and those of a mass labor party or organization. Thus, today, for instance, communists and other radicals are for the most part about the business of carrying out propaganda to small groups of interested militants in order to create a cadre ready to carry out the tasks necessary when our time comes. In 2006 our circle went beyond that. We carried out the propaganda for soldiers and sailors solidarity committees in the local and regional anti-war milieus but we also saw something of a unique opportunity to link up the civilian antiwar movement with what appeared to us to be some serious discontent in the military, and we agitated around the committee slogan.
What we were responding to, as had occurred in the general population, was a war-weariness on the part of a significant section of the soldiery, a questioning of the mission in the wake of the very serious tendency toward chaos in the internal political and military situation in Iraq, a disquiet about the mounting personal hardships, especially by those National Guard units that were being held over beyond their original tour of duty, and an overall physical weariness caused by repeated deployments. The tinder was there, if only for a short time. Moreover, the point that pushed us forward was contact with elements in the military that were looking for civilian support. Thus, for most of 2006 we not only carried out propaganda for soldiers and sailors solidarity committees but we actively agitated and built them, as well. Furthermore, our agitation included encouraging larger groups to form committees, and to make contact with military personal in their area and, most importantly, in Iraq. Thus within the limits of our resources and the time frame we were working in we carried out what overall was an fairly goo small scale agitational anti-war campaign.
As I have tried to telegraph above though this ability to agitate effectively only lasted until the Bush troop "surge" of 2007. Our anti-war military work, strangely enough, was one of the casualties of that surge. Our contacts dried up, other things got resolved inside the military that helped tamp down the discontent, and, candidly, the morale of the troops improved as they smelled "victory" with the new "surge" strategy. Thus, that opening closed down. Although we did low-level work around the issue the agitational campaign ended and the slogan of the soldiers and sailors committees went back to its original use as a propaganda tool. I wrote a blog entry in this space about that shift from agitation to propaganda, and timeliness in revolutionary politics in general. (See linked article above.)
All this background, hopefully, will help explain not only the title of this entry but why recently my circle has again started to put the question of organizing soldiers and sailors solidarity committees on the front burner for propaganda purposes. This is moreover no mere abstract question. After reviewing the previous work and its rationale one of the younger, and newer, members of the circle questioned why we were reviving the slogan. Good point.
We have repeated projected that this Afghan war, and its future escalations, will be a big and permanent albatross around the neck of Barack Obama during the life of his presidency, especially from those people on his left that we want to, no, have to, talk to today. However, we also note that there is little manifestation of an anti-Obama backlash from that quarter today, although there are certainly murmurs of some inarticulate discontent. Moreover, there is nothing, at least nothing that we can grab on to, happening with the soldiers and sailors on duty now. So why the emergence of the slogan again, even if only for propaganda purposes? Well, that goes to one of the lessons that we learned from the 2006 experience.
I have recently (see blog entry for January 23), and have on many earlier occasions in this space, noted both my own background in anti-war military work and that such work is hard, tough work. One of the biggest initial hurdles is making those first contacts AND then winning through actions over time the trust of the soldiery. Our circle has come to a consensus, and rightly so I think, that we were actually too late in starting our work in 2006, that early or mid-2005 would have placed us in better position to make a bigger splash. So while this slogan is a propaganda point right now, we are making it today to get those connections going. For others, to whom this entry is really directed, and who are interested in this strategy start thinking along those lines. Also check the Fort Hood, Fort Lewis and Fort Drum G.I. Coffee House links on this profile page for further orientation. Not one penny, not one person for Obama’s wars! For soldiers and sailors anti-war solidarity committees! Immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all U.S./Allied troops and mercenaries from Iraq and Afghanistan!