Friday, January 26, 2007


UFPJ's LeBlanc Waffles on Iraq Withdrawal

Judith LeBlanc, National Co-chair of United for Peace and Justice, was on National Public Radio yesterday talking to Melissa Block about today's non-working day, civil obedient 'anti-war' rally in Washington, DC. As Block alluded, UFPJ's official position is "End the war in Iraq, Bring all the troops home now!" However, LeBlanc explained "When we say 'immediately' we mean make the decision now and then map out a plan."

What's wrong with sticking unequivocally with "... troops home now!"? Of course, no one expects the troops to be tranported instantaneously--that's magical thinking--but there is no practical reason why an American withdrawal from Iraq could not begin "now" i.e. "at the present time or moment" or "in the time immediately to follow : FORTHWITH" and be concluded within days. All that is lacking is the political will in Washington and also, as is now clear, within the leadership of UFPJ.

On the UFPJ web site, LeBlanc is identified with the Communist Party, USA (CPUSA). In fact, LeBlanc is a National Vice-Chair of the CPUSA and Chair of its Peace and Solidarity Commission.* LeBlanc's involvement in both UFPJ and the CPUSA is not surprising as both groups have thoroughly accommodated themselves to the Democratic Party, which has steadfastly backed the US war in Iraq.

As Joe Allen wrote last year in CounterPunch:
By every conceivable measure, the antiwar movement in the United States should be a vibrant, mass movement. ...

Another crucial reason for the weakness of the antiwar movement is the political course chosen by United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), the largest and most visible antiwar coalition in the U.S.

UFPJ's main claim to leadership was the role it played in organizing the U.S. end of the worldwide antiwar protests on February 15-16, 2003, a month before the invasion took place.

Yet in the three-and-a-half years since, UFPJ has organized only a very small number of national mobilizations. And even these have not always been unambiguously antiwar demonstrations. For example, the clear target of UFPJ's protest outside the Republican National Convention in August 2004 was George Bush, not the war on Iraq, which has taken place with bipartisan support.

This past spring, meanwhile, some coalition leaders explicitly described the New York City demonstration on April 29--which UFPJ cosponsored with a wide array of liberal groups--as part of a broader mobilization behind the Democrats in the 2006 election.

UFPJ's response to the major crisis points for U.S. policy since the invasion--the leveling of Falluja, the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, the threats to attack Iran, the recent Israeli-U.S. assault against Lebanon--has been feeble in terms of protest, while its emphasis on building support for the so-called antiwar Democrats in Congress has grown more distinct.

* * *

ONE FACTOR in this strategic orientation is the influence of the Communist Party (CP) USA, which plays an important part in shaping the direction of UFPJ. One of UFPJ's co-chairs and most active leaders is Judith LeBlanc, who is publicly identified as a member of the Communist Party.

For the past 70 years, with few exceptions, the CP has argued that it is essential for progressive movements hoping to win social change in the U.S. to support the Democratic Party against the Republicans. ...

The Democrats--who, before and since the 2004 election, ducked every opportunity to challenge the Bush administration's policies--got the unswerving support of a large section of the left, including the Communist party, to the detriment of the struggle against the Bush agenda.

* * *

NOW, TWO years later, with Bush's policies sinking still lower in public support--when the anti-war movement should be pressing both parties for immediate withdrawal from Iraq--[CPUSA National Chair Sam] Webb is arguing against it.

Instead, he proposes that antiwar activists should support what he calls an "anti-occupation bloc" in Congress and the various proposals put forward by its members for "redeployment" of U.S. troops or setting a deadline for their withdrawal from Iraq.

This "anti-occupation" bloc is an interesting group of people. When the Republicans called the Democrats' bluff and put forward a resolution last spring calling for immediate withdrawal, only three House Democrats voted for it. The rest voted against it--including Rep. John Murtha, whose "redeployment' plan has been supported by UFPJ, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), an "antiwar" candidate in the 2004 Democrat primaries, who said the Republican resolution was "a trick." ...

But most congressional Democrats are opposed to setting a deadline for withdrawal, and even the "antiwar" resolutions put forward by the "out of Iraq" caucus contain qualifications and vague timetables. The demands that Webb would have antiwar activists embrace, in reality, are not to "end the occupation," but to continue it in a different form.
LeBlanc's remarks on Friday exemplified beautifully the position critiqued above by Allen: "Troops home now!" but not really (wink, wink).

The list of confirmed speakers for today's rally includes a healthy contingent from the phony " ' anti-occupation bloc' " cited by Allen:
The speakers list also includes Zionist hacks Leslie Cagan, National Coordinator of UFPJ; rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun; and Eve Ensler, Lion of Judah.

* The CPUSA is not a group known for its principled opposition to war, except, of course, "imperialist wars." However, UFPJ is a coalition and I wouldn't object to their participation/membership simply because the CPUSA is not opposed to all wars.

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