ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA, August 30th—At this year’s Veterans for Peace (VFP)/Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) convention the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) met and worked with old friends to distribute Challenge and our “GI Notes” newsletter and make new contacts.
IVAW’s actions at the Democratic and Republican national conventions drew the most excitement among the young vets. At the DNC (Democratic National Convention), IVAW led over 3,000 in an anti-war march and claimed victory when Barack Obama’s top veterans affairs advisor accepted a message against the Iraq war from IVAW on behalf of the presidential candidate. However, when the vets asked Obama’s representative for an expected time of reply, Obama’s reps refused to give one. While IVAW is currently eager to negotiate a meeting with Obama, the lesson we in PLP saw was that Obama and the Democrats are willing to pretend to listen while they plan expanded wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan (see article on page 4).
Many in IVAW are not fooled by Obama’s supposed “anti-war” stance—some in IVAW even pushed to officially oppose the US war in Afghanistan—but few see alternatives to pressuring politicians. We in PLP said that working class, lower enlisted troops, and students can end imperialism through generations of class struggle and armed revolution, not lobbying and elections. Imperialist wars continued after the US bosses defeat in Vietnam because of capitalism’s constant drive for profit and power, not “greedy” corporations and “corrupt” presidents. The openness by some vets to PLPs line at the convention left us energized and eager to aid in active-duty and vets struggles.
The role of police was also a hot discussion. Some wanted to trust and work more with the police because at the DNC, a handful of police in riot gear refused to point their weapons at the IVAW contingent, left their posts, and were moved to tears by a powerful speech given by an IVAW member.
The police attacked the rest of the DNC anti-war marches. Also, the basis of IVAW’s appeal to police was individualist and patriotic, focusing on the psychological effects on the cops for attacking “American” veterans who were mostly white. Given racist police murders and anti-immigrant raids by ICE, law enforcement would probably treat black, latino, and immigrant troops differently.
Similar tactics of vets appealing to cops did not work at the RNC. Uniformed cops openly tried to sit in IVAW’s closed workshops in the IVAW convention room, they photographed vets walking to hotels, and attacked protestors during IVAW’s attempt to bring McCain’s campaign a veterans rights message.
Many at the convention were motivated to stop more troops from experiencing the guilt of killing for oil and greed, and to stop the killing of civilians. Many really believe politicians will listen to them or that enough troops and public will rise up so the anti-war movement will stop the bosses war in the next few months or years. But vets need a long term struggle against the profit system behind the wars. Many of the young vets we met are motivated to do more around Veterans issues and racism against Iraqis. PLP plans on working with and giving them communist leadership to oppose capitalism and all it’s imperialist wars, not just Iraq.
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