Letter Dialogue About “The Peace Movement Responds”

Against the Current, No. 30, January/February 1991

Michael Hahn; Peter Drucker

I HAVE A brief comment on Peter Drucker’s article “The Peace Movement Respond” in ATC 29. In my view, your presentation of the New York City Coalition/Workers World Party/Ramsey Clark position is totally inadequate. I am sure that you are familiar with their arguments—as stated, for example, by Ratner and B. Schaap in the October 24 Guardian.

However, rather than engaging in a serious debate you chose to fail back on cheap polemics and ridicule by drawing an analogy between the refusal to condemn Iraq and the WWP’s “applause” for the Tiananmen massacre. (One could easily apply the same “logic” to your position—Drucker equates the Kuwaiti ruling class with the Chinese democracy movement—but that would be a rather silly “argument,” wouldn’t it?)

Much in the same vein—by calling the leadership of other local coalitions “healthier” than the NYC Coalition leadership—you seem to imply that WWP and Ramsey Clark are somewhat less “healthy” or even “insane.” This reminds me of a truly sickening tradition of “debate” in the world socialist movement. With this kind of attitude lam not surprised that the September 18 meeting was “exceptionally heated.”

Furthermore, I am not sure what enables you to make the rather dubious claim (at least in my view) that Mobilization for Survival and others ”have taken the lead” in anti-war organizing.

Hopefully ATC will be able to publish a more insightful analysis of the emerging anti-war movement and to seriously engage in a debate about its policies and appropriate strategies.

P.S.: It should not be necessary to note that I am NOT a WWP member or supporter.

P.P.S.: I loved the articles on the cancer epidemic!

–Michael Hahn, Howard University, Washington, D.C.

Peter Drucker responds:

THANKS TO Michael Hahn for raising some important issues.

I oppose condemnations of Iraq by antiwar coalitions. We need the broadest possible unity around our top priority getting the U.S. out. At the founding meeting of the National Campaign for Peace in the Middle East, I put forward a compromise (which was defeated) that would have avoided explicit condemnation.

This is also the position taken by ATC, although we ourselves do condemn Iraq, for reasons explained in our editorial in this issue.

I respect (though I disagree with) those like Michael Ratner who oppose ever condemning the Iraqi invasion in public. People like Ratner should not be confused with the Workers World Party, which supports Saddam Hussein (e.g. it endorsed a pro-Saddam rally in Washington last summer).

WWP’s position on Iraq is of a piece with its congratulation for the perpetrators of the Tiananmen Square massacre on having “withstood a violent counterrevolutionary rebellion.” (Workers World, June 15, 1989, 1) Both these positions show how little Workers World has learned about how crucial democracy is for socialism.

Many people who agree with the Coalition on not condemning Iraq have dissociated themselves from its tactics. Michael Ratner, for example, who worked with the Coalition for months, now supports the call for a January 26 march on Washington, contrary to the Coalition’s position. So do left groups like the Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Action—in fact, every socialist group I know of except Workers World.

The other ATC editors and I truly want to break with “cheap polemics and ridicule.” We welcome dialogue and discussion on all issues. But our distaste for infighting cannot excuse us from having frank, public, badly needed debates.

January-February 1991, ATC 30