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Cockburn, Jay Jurie and the state of the Peace Movement

July 21, 2007

Some time ago, I wrote in this blog about the strange (to me anyhow) situation in the peace movement here, with 70%+ of the people of the United States clearly against the war in Iraq, wanting the US to pullout yesterday, but that this is not reflected in the strength of the peace movement itself, which seems small and narrow in general. (I looked for the exact comment I made but there is already so much stuff on this blog that I couldn’t find it).

Jay Jurie, who used to hail from Colorado and now teaches in Florida, and with whom I shared the high honor of having been arrested now 37 years ago for our anti-war activities on the CU-Boulder campus, wrote me a short note about how his take on the peace movement in Orlando Florida was similar. And we commisserated as to why.

Today I came across a piece that Alexander Cockburn wrote for the French monthly Le Monde Diplomatique (more on this publication in the near future). Entitled `The Unquiet Americans – Why So Few Protests Against the Hated Invasion?’ – it is one of the better pieces on the subject. He suggests that unlike the Vietnam days, that the peace movement is tamed, has lost its edge, has been outmaneuvered or coopted by spineless Democrats in Congress, there is no draft, most of the movement is over 55 years of age and for these and other reasons has yet to `find its way’. As is usually the case with Cockburn, he’s worth the read on this one. (Just click on `The Unquiet Americans’, – above – the article should come up.)

Most or all of this is accurate enough and is discussed from Florida to Colorado and beyond, if Jay Jurie and myself are any indication. I might put it all a little differently though.

What I notice is the narrowness of the social forces involved. Any burnt out over-the-hill Marxist worth his salt with a bad back and acid reflux condition will ask the same questions: where are labor, people of color, the churches, the spineless Democrats, etc? old questions perhaps…still valid, you betcha. Without being too didactic, it’s still a truism that social forces have something to do with social movements, hard as it is for some folks to get it. And when the social forces are not there it does say something about the breath or lack there of of the social movement.

Yes, there is a labor contingent against the war which is active in places like L.A. and Chicago, very much so, but nationally it doesn’t seem to amount to much yet from what I can tell, whatever the formal position.

Every year on Martin Luther King Jr”s birthday thousands of Denverites, many if not most of them Black, march in remembrance. Virtually every one of these demonstration since the war began has had a strong anti-war component both in the signs of demonstrators and in the speeches, but the rest of the year – other than from Black elected officials – one sees and hears little. It’s more or less the same with the Chicano community. The peace sentiment is there, but the activism?…

Anyhow, Cockburn does a pretty good job of explaining this sad state of affairs. There is something to be said about a really sober and depressing analysis which hits the nail on the head…which just goes to prove the old adage: we might not have power, but thanks to the likes of Cockburn, we’re well informed.

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