Four years ago today (January 27, 2007), United for Peace & Justice organized a mass protest in Washington DC to end the Iraq War. In the three weeks leading up to the event we were rushing to get our first publication—Building a Successful Antiwar Movement—to the printer in time to distribute at the rally. Jonathan Matthew Smucker wrote this antiwar organizing primer in collaboration with Madeline Gardner, and we fundraised to be able to distribute about 20,000 copies free of charge to local antiwar groups across the country.
The pamphlet is written for a particular audience at a particular political moment — at the height of the unpopularity of the Iraq occupation, and a week after the new Democratic-controlled Congress had been sworn in. However, the pamphlet provides some “tools and methods for people organizing to end the war” that are still relevant today. And the frameworks can be applied to other social justice issues as well.
The pamphlet is posted here in four parts:
- Three Roles of an Antiwar Core (Intro)
- Speak the Truth, Tell a Story (Role 1: Interpretive)
- Articulating a Strategy (Role 2: Instructive)
- Activating Popular Participation (Role 3: Facilitative)
You can also click here to download the original formatted pamphlet as a PDF.
To inquire about ordering hard copies of the pamphlet, email info[at]beyondthechoir[dot]org — please write “Pamphlet” in the subject line.
This is the fourth and final installment in a series written by Jonathan Matthew Smucker in collaboration with Madeline Gardner, originally published in 2007. Click here to read the previous essay, Articulating a Strategy
Kinetic and Potential
There is a tendency among people active in social movements (like the antiwar movement) to look at ourselves and think that this is it, that we are the whole of the movement, that we know all the players. When we think we know all the players, as well as how to talk to them/ourselves, then we can become lax on communicating with a broader public. This limits efforts to recruit, activate, or make alliances with, additional players. If we think about the antiwar movement only in terms of its kinetic energy (i.e. that which is already in motion) we will look around at the actors currently on the stage and think that it is up to us alone to end the war and prevent future wars of aggression. This would require magic. We can- not realize our vision of peace and justice with only our current numbers mobilized. We must build a far larger movement. We have to activate potential energy.
This is the third installment in a four-part series written by Jonathan Matthew Smucker in collaboration with Madeline Gardner, originally published in 2007. Click here to read the previous essay, Speak the Truth, Tell a Story
Context is the ground we build on.
The second primary role of an antiwar core that we will discuss is to formulate winning strategies and articulate them in a way that will inspire broad action to end the war.
Taking action with a faith in the possibility that we may somehow end the war is very different from taking action with a strategy about how to do it. The former is a shot in the dark. The latter is a hard target, but one we’re likely to get closer to the more we practice.
Faith in the possibility of affecting change is an important starting point – a prerequisite for social change work. Given the profound level of political disempowerment in our society, such faith should not be undervalued. But good strategy must be informed by much more than faith. The more information we have, the more likely that our strategy will be on target. What kind of information are we looking for? Well, who are the decision-makers? Who or what influences them? What are the decision-making processes? What alliances and tensions exist within “the system”? What are the possible legislative and legal points of intervention? Who are our allies? Who are our potential allies? What related issues are other progressive groups working on? What are the big concerns in our communities, and how are they articulated? How do people get their news and information? What are the cultural narratives that hold meaning to the people around us? What are people’s attitudes toward “activism” or “activists?” What is the history of social change, and how is that history perceived?
This is the second installment in a four-part series written by Jonathan Matthew Smucker in collaboration with Madeline Gardner, originally published in 2007. Click here to read the previous essay, Three Roles of an Antiwar Core
The first primary role of an antiwar core that we will discuss is to attach meaning to unfolding events and help shape common understandings – to interpret reality based on the patterns we observe.
Imperialism, for example, is an observable pattern where the government of one country extends its dominance over other countries or colonies to increase its own wealth and power. Progressives see US military interventions, political and economic pressuring, and even cultural exports through the lens of a story of US imperialism. This story helps us to understand the situation.
Stories can expose underlying motives. They turn the actors into types of characters: protagonists and antagonists, victims, villains, heroes, and so on. Stories connect events, and strip them of their randomness and neutrality. Stories place judgment.
But stories can also obscure motives and distort reality. For example, there is another story used to explain the various manifestations of the US government’s meddling in the world. The story of US benevolence has deep roots in the culture, relying heavily on popular accounts of World War I and, especially, World War II. This story assumes that our government is genuinely interested in spreading freedom, justice and democracy (rather than undermining and overthrowing it).
This is the first installment in a four-part series written by Jonathan Matthew Smucker in collaboration with Madeline Gardner, originally published in 2007.
They won’t do it. It’s up to all of us to stop the war.
It’s 2007, and the war continues. It is even escalating with Bush’s maddening “surge.” Equally maddening is the announcement from prominent Democrats that they will not be exercising the only power they have to rein in the administration. Instead of denying Bush more funds for the war – a move, with historic precedence, that would pressure a quick withdrawal of US troops from Iraq – they are opting for a non-binding resolution, a “political statement.”
While a large majority of Americans want their leadership to bring the troops home, Democrats are using their new majority to state their heartfelt wish for the same-to pass a symbolic resolution-rather than to use actual power to make it so. New House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and most other Democratic representatives are parroting Bush by equating continued funding for the war with support for our troops. They should be refuting this manipulative frame, not reinforcing it.
Many rank and file Democrats and some progressive leaders like Representatives Jim McGovern (MA) and Dennis Kucinich (OH) are pushing to end the war by cutting off the Administration’s requested funds. But it is becoming clear that the November election results – popularly dubbed a referendum on the war – are not enough for the new Democratic majority Congress to decisively exercise their power to end the war.
It is becoming clear that the majority of Americans who favor a quick withdrawal will have to exercise their own power – beyond voting – to pressure an end to the war. The politicians won’t do it without the mounting pressure of a well-organized popular movement. It is up to all of us to build such a movement.
originally published on September 30, 2010
Listen to the full interview with Jose Vasquez:
Jose Vasquez shares his journey from Army Staff Sergeant to Conscientious Objector to Executive Director of Iraq Veterans Against the War – and offers some reflections on organizing with veterans and GIs in today’s antiwar movement.
To find out more about IVAW, check out their new site.
You can donate to IVAW here.