Radical media, politics and culture.

L.A. Kauffman writes “All Has Changed"

Anonymous Comrade (awm13579@yahoo.com)posted this article by L. A. Kaufmann:

"It's now official: In the wake of the September 11
disaster, the IMF and World Bank have indefinitely
postponed their planned late-September meetings,
and the raucous street protests that were to greet
them have effectively been canceled. (At this
writing, the Anti-Capitalist Convergence, the
more radical of the two organizing coalitions, has
still not decided what it's going to do.)

There still will be teach-ins and at least one
large interfaith vigil in D.C. that week. Meanwhile,
the International Action Center -- front group for
the Stalinist Workers World Party, with a long
history of supporting murderous dictators like
Nicolae Ceausescu, Saddam Hussein, and
Slobodan Milosevic -- is planning to go forward
with a September 29 "March Against War and
Racism" in Washington. I suspect a lot of other
groups may sign on, because there's a widespread
desire to do something. But you won't catch me
supporting a "peace march" organized by a
bunch of authoritarian opportunists who have
no problem with slaughter, so long as it's
committed by their pet tyrants.

Excuse my angry tone: I'm awash in emotion
today. For days after the World Trade Center
was destroyed, I was in numb shock and
responded with frenetic action -- going to
hastily called meetings; handing out thousands
of leaflets for Friday night's massive peace vigil
in Union Square; putting up posters all
throughout Midtown Manhattan and,
yesterday, the just-opened part of the
Financial District. With exhaustion, the tears
have finally come, mourning mixed with rage
at what has happened and fear about what's to
come. Today is supposed to be the day when
people begin returning to normalcy, but there's
nothing normal about life now in a city where
the newspapers scream "CRUSADE!" and
"WAR!" on their front covers, where fighter jets
fly overhead and military vehicles prowl the
streets, where Arabs and Muslims are being
harassed and beaten, where lampposts and
bus shelters remain covered with heartbreaking
"missing" posters bearing photos of people
who will not be found alive.

When the wind from Ground Zero catches you,
this city smells of war and death. The first meeting
I went to, held outdoors in Union Square because
our usual meeting spot was in a restricted zone,
had to quickly decamp when the horrible smoke
began blowing north, overpowering us with its
toxic stench. ("I left Kosovo to get away from
that smell," a woman told a friend of mine.)
Several friends and I had caches of gas masks
in our apartments, many covered with rhinestones
and glitter, that we were planning to distribute
at the D.C. protests. When the call went out
that rescue workers urgently needed respirator
masks, we donated them all, first pulling off the
festive decorations that were now so inappropriate.

So much is inappropriate now that just one week
ago made political sense. Some of it is darkly
comical: Just two days before the World
Trade Center was reduced to rubble, people
were meeting here to plan direct action against
the Financial District in November, when the
World Trade Organization was scheduled to
meet in Qatar. (No word yet on whether the
WTO meeting will even take place; the
direct action, needless to say, will not.)

More broadly, the September 11 attacks
definitively interrupted the unfolding logic of the
movements for global justice. The IMF/World
Bank protests in D.C. were going to be
simultaneously broader, more diverse, and
more intense than any demonstrations in
recent U.S. history. The AFL-CIO was
pouring unprecedented resources into the
events, mobilizing its membership on a
massive scale, and faith-based and non-
governmental organizations were activating
thousands of people who had never come to
a globalization protest before. Meanwhile,
more and more people were embracing the
philosophy of "diversity of tactics," shifting
away from the strict nonviolence guidelines
that have been the hallmark of large-scale
direct actions for two decades, and agreeing
to respect those who chose to engage in more
confrontational or property-destroying tactics,
so long as they didn't directly endanger other

"Diverse tactics" are clearly off the table for the
time being, especially in New York and
Washington, where the sound of breaking glass
connotes death and devastation, and the masked
uniform of the Black Bloc will only inspire fear.

And with the world's greatest symbol of global
capitalism having been reduced to a smoldering
mass grave, it's going to be difficult for a while
to present anti-capitalist critiques in a way that
will resonate broadly, and not seem to justify
an unjustifiable atrocity.

Our movements' vision of global justice is needed
now more than ever; we will simply need to take
great care in presenting that vision in a way people
can hear.

In the meantime, a huge upsurge of activism for
global peace is already well underway. All a
round the United States, meetings to discuss
progressive responses to September 11 have
been overflowing. Groups everywhere have
thrown themselves into organizing everything
from rapid-response teams to counter racist
attacks to antiwar teach-ins and rallies. Here in
New York, we were all astounded and inspired
by the thousands and thousands of people, of
every race, class, and age, who converged on
Union Square last Friday night to stand for peace.

I know that one part of the deep mourning I feel
is for the global justice movements as they were
before those planes crashed into the Twin Towers:
steadily growing in scope and influence, increasingly
occupying a central place on the global stage.
We were blown off that stage on September 11,
and the context for our ongoing activism is now
utterly transformed. Action is essential: May it
be prudent, strategic, and effective.

* * *
FREE RADICAL: chronicle of the new unrest
is a column on the current upsurge in activism,
written by L.A. Kauffman (lak@free-radical.org).
It appears about once a month.

Back issues can be found at www.free-radical.org

To subscribe, send a blank email to: