Monday, January 24, 2005


Militant Solidarity

Islam Online always presents a wide variety of articles of various nature, political, social and of course, religious. In a recent edition, they reprinted an article by Walden Bello, PhD, Executive Director of the Bangkok-based Focus on the Global South and Professor of Sociology and Public Administration at the University of the Philippines.

The article was originally published in
Focus on the Global South (a program of development policy research, analysis, advocacy and action on the grassroots level) under the title "The Bush Victory, Fallujah, and the Republican Right’s Challenge to the Global Peace Movement."

I think that the entire article is enlightening, but I wish to highlight the aspects which are relevant to what Europeans and Americans can do to actively work to stopping this madness of the war against Palestinians and Iraqis and the occupation of their lands in defiance of all legality.

The article is very long, and here I am reprinting only the final portion.

"Supporting the Iraqi people’s struggle to create the sovereign space for a national government of their choice continues to be one of the two overriding priorities of the global anti-war movement. The other is ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the trampling of the Palestinian people’s rights. At a moment marked by the conjunction of a resurgent Right in the US and a continuing crisis of empire globally, what will it take to advance this goal?

First of all, the movement has to graduate beyond spontaneity and arrive at a new level of transborder coordination, one that goes beyond synchronizing annual days of protest against the war. The critical mass to affect the outcome of the war will not be attained without a rolling wave of global protests similar to that which marked the anti-Vietnam war mobilizations from 1968 to 1972—one that puts millions of people in a constant state of activism. Coordination, moreover, will mean coordinating not only mass demonstrations but also civil disobedience, work on the global media, day-to-day lobbying of officials, and political education. More effective coordination and, yes, professionalization of the anti-war work must not, however, be achieved at the expense of the participatory processes that are the trademark of our movement.

Second, in terms of tactics, new forms of protests must be engaged in. Sanctions and boycotts are methods that must be brought into play. At the Mumbai WSF earlier this year, Arundhati Roy suggested starting with one or two US firms benefiting directly from the war such as Halliburton and Bechtel and mobilizing to close down their operations worldwide. It is time to take her suggestion seriously, not only with respect to US firms but also with Israeli firms and products.

Moreover, the level of militancy must be raised, with more and more civil disobedience and non-violent disruptions of business as usual encouraged. We must tell Washington and its allies that there can be no business as usual so long as the war continues. The kind of debate taking place in Britain, whether to push peaceful demonstrations or civil disobedience, is fruitless, since both are essential and must be combined in innovative and effective ways.

In the US, activists can draw on the immensely powerful tradition of disobedience to unjust law that motivated people such as the abolitionists, Henry David Thoreau, the Quakers, and the Berrigan Brothers. Indeed, this kind of resistance might be the key in stopping not only the imperial drive but also the rush to restrict political liberties and democracy. At no other time than today, when the electoral option is gone, is it more necessary to resist the imperial writ nonviolently by invoking a higher law.

Third, it is clear that Great Britain and Italy—Britain especially—are the principal supports of Bush’s war policy outside the United States. Bush constantly resorts to invoking these governments to legitimize the US adventure. What happens in Italy, in turn, affects what happens in Britain. Both countries have solid anti-war majorities that must now be converted into a powerful force to disrupt business as usual in these countries ruled by governments complicit in the American war.

Both countries have the hallowed tradition of the general strike that, combined with massive civil disobedience, can significantly raise the costs to their governments’ support for Washington. When asked why the demonstrations of March 20, 2004, drew significantly fewer people than those of February 2003, many activists in Britain and Italy responded: because people felt their actions were not able to prevent the US from going to war anyway. That sort of defeatism and demoralization can only be countered not by lowering the demands on people but by upping them, by asking them to put their bodies on the line through acts of nonviolent civil resistance.

Fourth, with the Middle East being the strategic battleground of the next few decades, it will be essential to forge links between the global peace movement and the Arab world. The governments of the Middle East are notoriously supine when it comes to the US, so that, as in Europe, it is forging the ties of solidarity among civil movements that must be the main thrust of this effort. This will actually be a courageous and controversial step since some of the strongest anti-US movements in the Middle East have been labeled "terrorist" or "terrorist sympathizers" by the US and some European governments. What is important is not to let US-imposed definitions stand in the way of people reaching out to one another to see if there is a basis for working together.

Likewise, it is critical for the Palestinian movement and the Israeli anti-Zionist and peace movements to get beyond the labels imposed by governments and find ways of cooperating to end the Israeli occupation. Process has a way of bringing people together from seemingly non-reconcilable political positions. In this regard, the
Beirut Anti-War Assembly that took place in mid-September 2004, with strong representation from the global peace movement and social movements from all over the Arab world, was a significant step in this direction.

As it enters its second term, the Bush agenda remains the same: global domination. Our response is the same: global resistance. There is only one thing that can frustrate the empire’s dark aims in Iraq, Palestine, and elsewhere: the militant solidarity among world’s peoples. Making that solidarity real and powerful and ultimately triumphant is the challenge before us.


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