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An Open Letter to the SC Activist Community
by Pochovilla (pochovilla [at]
Monday Mar 20th, 2006 3:10 PM
We need to talk. Why? Because our tactics aren't working.
To the SC Peace Coalition. To WILPF. To the Labor radicals. To the Art n' Revolutionaries. To the MoveOn.orgers, and CodePink ladies. To anyone who's held a sign denouncing the war within the last 3 years - We need to talk. I love you all very much, and we all know each other by face if not by name; we've marched in the same marches, attended the same rallies, and chatted between cheers for what seems like years but we really need to talk. Why? Because our tactics aren't working.

The demonstration, the march, the action - while the concept retains its merit, the way we implement it has become hackneyed and impotent. We take out permits; we rally in our holding pen known as the clock tower while cars swim around us like sharks, drowning out our voices w/ honks and engine growls; we cross the street not when there are no cars but when the light tells us to; we march down Pacific and are told by our own organizers to stay on the sidewalk and not disrupt traffic; we hand out flyers to each other and talk about how the polls say this and that; how change is just around the corner - So we turn the corner and obediently head back to the clock tower, orderly, isolated, segregated from where the people are.

It's as if we're doing a walk-a-thon.

There has got to be a better way. And what I mean by that is, there has got to be a better way of thinking about and then acting against the war.

It's high time we made a connection. The machine of war isn't an abstraction halfway across the world, in fact it's right outside our homes and workplaces. When we say "No Blood for Oil" what we're really talking about is gasoline. And when we talk about gasoline, we really have to talk about cars - and if we're gonna talk about cars, we have to understand, that as long as they're allowed to dominate every aspect of our lives, oil wars will continue.

This is a crucial point to understand when we conduct our actions at the clock tower and in downtown SC for we are perpetually surrounded by, and having to yield to cars.

To me, the contradiction of rallying for peace in the face of imperialist oil wars at the clock tower while super sized SUVs encircle us is so obvious it's astounding that no one else seems to notice it. To this end, I'd like to offer the following thoughts:

1) You cannot be for peace and drive a Tundra, Sequoia, Titan, Suburban, Hummer or any of the other gas-sucking behemoths that clog our streets. So when they honk in support of our event, don’t cheer them on.

2) The people who drive these vehicles deserve a little bit of criticism for they bear at least a smidgen of responsibility for what's going on in Iraq. So when they pass us by, give them a thumbs down or a boo.

Now, I know that the majority of well-meaning but ineffectual progressives in town will argue against this point. Much of this has to do with the dominance of middle-class bourgeois values within the anti-war movement as it does w/ the misguided beliefs that we must never try to piss anyone off and must be polite in the face of violence and aggression.

The sad thing is, this kind of mentality seems to be the cause of, rather than the solution to the sorry state of the American antiwar movement. After 3 1/2 years of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the mass bloodletting perpetually getting worse, the American anti-war movement seems to have actually withered rather than grown in strength and resolve. Instead of developing a long over due critique of a system that creates war and organizing against it accordingly, certain groups in town as well as nationally are still doing teach-ins and having guest speakers.

This is not to say that the former type of events are all bad, but to say, there should be a full spectrum of tactics employed with a much much bigger picture in mind (i.e. revolution). This has not happened.

Just this past weekend, I participated in 3 separate marches - only one of which (the immigrant-rights rally on Friday) left me feeling the least bit inspired. The other two anti-war actions bordered on being embarrassingly lethargic to downright insulting as speakers advocated calling our local congressman to pass resolutions despite the fact that there's been little evidence that the 2-ruling parties are going to fix anything anytime soon.

And while the majority of well-meaning pacifists within our ranks would like to pretend that a guy driving a Hummer can be won over to our side as easily as a guy who drives a hybrid, that we should reach out to avowed right wing Republicans, yada yada, the truth of the matter is, there are differences between us that are irreconcilable. To put it another way, buying and wearing a shirt that says, "No Enemy" and then pretending that you have no enemies is hopelessly naive at best and horribly capricious at worse.

The anarchist community understands this better than anyone. People who drive Hummers, or any large vehicle for that matter are not our friends, period. Furthermore, liberal Democrats (yes, you) and conservative Republicans have more in common than dedicated Socialists and Anarchists as the former still believe that the Capitalist system is the most just while the latter understands very clearly that a system based on profits over people is inherently destructive to humankind and mother earth.

As to the issue of the SUVs and our demonstrations - this is only one example of how our tactics and theory must evolve. Whether that means shutting down streets for a half hour or publicly shaming SUVs drivers riding alone, we need to employ much bolder methods than the ones we have been using.

Obviously, most progressives reading this are going to roll their eyes and talk about safety - Like most Americans, comfort always comes first, and the idea about shutting down a street is too "radical."

But for the other folks out there (and I know our numbers are growing) who are serious about stopping the war - nonviolent direct action is not only justified, it is a necessity. The killing has to stop. To this end we must be committed.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Robert Norse
Monday Mar 20th, 2006 11:14 PM
Other than denouncing SUV owners, do you have any particular suggestions (say a sit-in in Farr's office, or a Belarus-type round-the-clock vigil at a federal building like the post office? Or a demand that City Council require that it divest itself of any war-related investments? I'd support (with my body and my energy) any of these demands.
by travel abroad.
Tuesday Mar 21st, 2006 1:26 AM
See how much difference those demos make, when you tell people you're from California.

We are the only reason the world knows that our government is not representative of its people.

We are the fly in the triumphalist neocon ointment. That's a lot.
by who cares?
Tuesday Mar 21st, 2006 2:00 AM
"We are the only reason the world knows that our government is not representative of its people."

Who said that?!

I think most people in this world (outside of the U$A) who are protesting against war understand that no matter where you go, government is not representative of its people.

We have got to be more than just an annoying fly to stop the war!
by Nunya
Tuesday Mar 21st, 2006 9:03 AM
To those who I saw at Sunday's march who hissed at the Hummer that drove past, and the author of this letter-

We are a nation so startisfied by cliques and beliefs. We will never be able to rally for change by creating more enemies. Sure, I dont drive a vehicle and I don't like or condone the gas guzzling SUVs. But who do we help by turning away those who support our cause on the basis of the vehicle they choose to drive. We will not change any minds or habits by rallying against our allies.
Ignorance is much easier to change then hatred. By yelling and hissing we create enemies. By opening our arms anf then teaching we can change habits. None of us are perfect. We don't understand every issue to a T. I want to be educated, not turned away and not hated. Open your minds to the people you meet, noone can truly listen until they are heard. Change the world, start with yourself.
by just one person
Tuesday Mar 21st, 2006 12:23 PM

hey i have an idea! how about destroying those SUVs?

the poster is right. 3 and a half years of COMPLETELY INEFFECTIVE protesting really proves that what most people are interested in is seeing themselves on TV and patting themselves on the back for having "done something" about the war.

no one ever mentions this, but are you aware that you are LEGALLY OBLIGATED to defy local laws in the face of aggressive war waged by your country? that's right, according to internatioal law - which, according to article VI of the constitution is the law of the land - you are LEGALLY OBLIGATED to stop this nation from waging aggressive war.

and yet people still argue about getting permits for parades... about staying on sidewalks... about respecting property. you obviously dont give a damn about the iraqis. it's your pureness and "happiness" that are the primary concerns.

so instead of smiling or booing at SUVs - how about torching them? how about torching them everyday? how about torching the fucking cops who try to stop you? how about torching the buildings where the officals meet to spy on and repress you? how about torching their houses?

gosh, we are told, that would be violence! that would be illegal!

and once again it is proven that you care only for yourselves. you demonstrate in public so that you can meet each other and dance in the streets - hey maybe you'll even hook up with someone cute!!! meanwhile, iraqis die and you do NOTHING about it.

by Californians
Tuesday Mar 21st, 2006 4:02 PM
Californians have this funny way of thinking they know what's going on, without ever really stepping out of their own Californian "headspace," if you will.

Most nonamericans I've met presume that individual Americans are pro-Bush, until proven otherwise. Once proven otherwise, anti-Bush Americans are very popular abroad.

You only know this, however, if you actually leave the USA once in a while. Yes, including California.

PS: Going to "Cascadia" doesn't count.
by saw member
Tuesday Mar 21st, 2006 4:46 PM
Thanks for posting this. Regardless of whether people agree or disagree with the author's arguments, it is still a step in the right direction - that what we aren't doing but need to be is STRATEGIZING about where to go. In my years of organizing here in SC, that's one thing that, frankly, isn't done nearly enough. We need to ask ourselves the right questions - what's the problem, how can we fix it, who our allies are, what our timeline is, etc. Educating ourselves about the issue is great, and is part of a strategy, but education is not an end in of itself - it's a strategy to achieve a larger goal.

The author brings up the issues of SUVs and gas-guzzeling cars as something that needs to be addressed, as it relates to the war. Individual acts alone aren't going to change the system - if you think SUVs are the problem, organize a campaign where antiwar/environmentalists get together to make the connections and find strategic change - figure out what can be done.. like banning local dealerships for selling anything that has under a specific mpg, going after the oil companies that are making huge profits by staging sit-ins on their off-shore oil rigs, being creative with the press, etc. There's lots of stuff that an be done.. you just have to be strategic.

I personally don't think it's all about oil and SUVs, and I'd urge folks to look at the corporations making huge profits. Ex: Bechtel is based in SF, one of the biggest antiwar cities in the country. What would happen if their front doors were occupied for a week?
Lockeed Martin is up in the SC Mountains. what would happen if the street were shut down & no one could get there for a week? how 'bout a month? What if the County Supervisers passed a policy saying that cops could not forcibly remove protesters from the street? How long could we be there then? what happened if every day for a week, we shut down the Capitola recruitment center?

There's pleanty of things that we can (and should) be doing. It's just a matter of us being strategic and asking the right questions. Who, locally, is profiting and providing the raw materials for war? What are these raw materials? Weapons and recruiters. We've got 'em both locally and can shut 'em down. What if every community in CA did this? We could end the war.

Everyone keeps talking about how important it is to get the rural areas on board, etc. etc. etc., but where is most of the industry? where are these weapons made? where, numerically, do most recruits come from? It's all in the cities. We have the power to end the war, it's just a matter of being strategic and realizing that power.
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