« Depressing non-depression economics | Main | The wheels on the bus... »

United for Pajamas (UFPJ)

By Michael J. Smith on Friday December 19, 2008 05:58 PM

I wouldn't have thought it was possible for UFPJ to be an even more narcoleptic lapdog for the Democratic Party after the election than they were before. But I was wrong. According to one of my lefty correspondents,

UFPJ recently defeated a proposal to support a united anti-war march in Washington D.C. on the sixth anniversary of the Iraq war, Saturday, March 21, by a vote of 111 to 49. Instead, United For Peace and Justice voted in favor of their program "Yes We Can... End the War" for a Saturday April 4 march on Wall Street, focusing on the recession.
Another correspondent adds:
It's true. I was there.

Supporters of March 21st asked that that action not be counterposed to April 4th -- and we still don't see them as counterposed. The UFPJ leadership insisted they had to be. Their arguments in favor of April 4th were that the focus had to move away from the war. In the words of UFPJ-NYC leader Leslie Kielson, "we're used to being in opposition, to being an antiwar movement. Now we can be proactive," because "we're in a new period."

And the idea of a march in DC -- instead of NY, where April 4th will be -- was vetoed because it would seem to be opposing Obama.

Over and over the need to realize "this is a different moment," to be part of the "Obama movement," was stressed.

After the vote on these two actions was taken, at a workshop on the economic crisis, I said that it would be great to get unions involved in April 4th and bring their demands for the kind of jobs and services they need for their members and communities (sounds pretty proactive to me!).

Unfortunately UFPJ instead is only calling for a 25% reduction in war spending (which would probably leave us at levels of 4 or 5 years ago). So rather than integrating the war and the economy in a genuinely progressive way -- i.e. no troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and jobs and services for all who need them -- they will demonstrate where, and with only those demands, that they feel won't anger Obama.

Socialistworker.org had a reporter at UFPJ's recent convention, who tells a melancholy tale:
THE MAIN U.S. antiwar coalition, United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), held its national convention in Chicago on December 12-14.... [T]he conference drew only 248 attendees, fewer than at its convention last year. Such a low turnout should come as no surprise; UFPJ has not called a major national antiwar demonstration in close to two years and has invested the bulk of its forces either directly or indirectly in campaigning for the Democratic Party....

At the convention, the majority of UFPJ's leadership and featured speakers argued forcefully that the antiwar movement should credit itself for helping get Obama elected and be encouraged that we will now finally have an ally in the White House.

"We have elected the most progressive mainstream politician imaginable," declared William McNary, president of USAction/TrueMajority, at the opening plenary. McNary went on to describe Obama as our "quarterback"--and say that the movement's task is to "block" for him.

On the same panel, Antonia Juhasz, an activist and author of The Bush Agenda, argued, "Barack Obama has a fundamentally different approach to Iraq and the war in Afghanistan. He has a fundamentally different approach to imperialism. He has a fundamentally different approach to the oil industry...."

[T]he convention marked a turn in UFPJ's past practice of focusing specifically on the war in Iraq. Now, UFPJ proposes to broaden out to highlight economic justice, racism and climate change, among a host of other issues.

"Only a new compact, a real compact with a handshake between social movements from the bottom up--especially the antiwar, economic justice and environmental movements--can begin to achieve a better, safer future and deliver on the truly radical promises of the Obama presidency," said Tom Hayden... now a Democratic Party activist....

[A] proposal to incorporate opposition to the war in Afghanistan was approved. "UFPJ demands immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all occupying forces from Afghanistan," reads the amendment. "We will make this demand along with immediate withdrawal from Iraq the central focus of our organizing and actions."

UFPJ's leadership clearly didn't want to come out for immediate withdrawal, which puts the coalition explicitly at odds with the Obama administration's plans. But sensing that this was broadly popular among the delegates, the program committee decided to accept the caucus' language as a friendly amendment, and thus avoid a vote on the issue directly....

Initially, UFPJ had called for mobilizations during the week of the anniversary of the Iraq war. Two other antiwar formations--the National Assembly that met in Cleveland this past summer and International ANSWER--put out a call for an ad hoc coalition of all antiwar groups for a national demonstration on March 21 in Washington, D.C.

UFPJ's leadership didn't respond to this call for unity, and instead proposed local actions on March 19 and a spring national mobilization in New York City on April 4. Asserting that the antiwar movement alone isn't capable of mobilizing sufficient forces and would risk alienating the Black community if it directly confronted Obama, the New York City march will have a slogan "Yes we can...End the war"--but will emphasize a broad range of issues....

[S]upporters of UFPJ's leadership spoke of the importance of broadening the constituency and agenda of UFPJ. But the logic of their position was to insist that no antiwar demonstration take place in Washington....

Tom Hayden! Perfect. Was it Gore Vidal who once observed that "Tom Hayden is the type of guy who gives opportunism a bad name"?

Comments (6)

United For Appeasin' Democrats. Ugh. What a bunch of losers. Why am I not surprised?

While we're on the subject, check out this video from this week's Code Weak...uhh, Code Pink action in solidarity with that Iraqi Shoe-Throwing Guy:
...in which Medea Benjamin answers some of my questions about the incoming Regime revealing its true face to us vis-a-vis Code Pink's smarmy, gushy email to supporters the morning after the "election" – and tap-dances so furiously that you can almost hear "Tea For Two" playing in the background. In her remarks she also mentions the April 4 NYC mobe, and when asked about what kind of "pressure" CP plans to lay on The One, her answer is basically more of the same old shit that's never worked.

This and more at

Well, that's show business.


Even at this late date I'm torn between being deeply disgusted at UFPJ's hypocritical shilling for the Other War Party and stricken with awe at their astonishingly effective neutering of so many smaller anti-war organizations. It takes a twisted kind of genius to convince so many supposedly anti-war people to support pro-war democrats. The UFPJ leadership should be given some kind of award before they're dragged out into the street and beaten with crowbars.

Al Schumann:
stricken with awe at their astonishingly effective neutering of so many smaller anti-war organizations.

That really gets to me too. It's not as though there's any upside to aligning with the Democrats. I could easily see people offering support to Kucinich or Gravel, at the early stages, before shrugging and walking away once the pro-war platform was cemented in. But following the farcical, blatantly dishonest trail right to the bitter end is going to cause a break up of the smaller groups. All they've got to offer is principles. Once those are gone, they've got nothing; no expectation of rewards, no integrity. Nothing. All the work gone. Sacrifices gone. Friends gone, without even a core of people to try and rebuild.

Most of the leaders of the groups know that useful idiocy only works out well for people who are already celebrities. It's not a path to celebrity. The best they could possibly hope for is the lofty status of posting a one hit wonder Kos diary: "I didn't leave the left. The left left me." That kind of sad thing. But maybe that's enough.


Most people mistake wishing for thinking. I recall Michael's post awhile ago about the upper West side Obamaphiles who only hoped for a better face on the status quo.

We're even guilty of it here, indulging our outrage at UFPJ's and BO's betrayal, as if we expected something different from either. We're merely watching mile markers on a downward slope we saw long ago. When we approach the bottom, when times are bad enough, we may give up wishful thinking.

Al Schumann:

Oh, I don't know, Seneca. I never expected anything much from BO, his offer of rent-to-own magic ponies and his proposal to enact sugar that's good for you. I long ago got over my thin expectations for UFPJ, back when they hoisted the windsock in 2003. Over the years I've developed a pretty good sense of which smaller groups will cave and which won't. And over the years I've spent a lot of words on all that, in their infinite iterations, without waxing immediately pyrrhonic, but I do know they're sideshows.

My outrage, such as it is, as it exists today, is much closer to the giddiness of a mourner who has attended a few too many wakes, and is desperately trying not to indulge a propensity for crude practical jokes -- stink bombs in the coffin, whoopie cushions on the pews, giving the preacher a wedgie, that kind of thing. That may be all there is left, for me, given my limits, but I have comrades whose continuing efforts and engagement deserve as respectful an acknowledgment as I can muster. Sometimes that entails saying something, botched and inadequate though it may be.

What UFPJ has done is a very bad thing. They misled and undermined people who had a reasonable expectation of good faith. That's something that cannot be said for BO, who preyed on the willful gullibility of people who make a conscious, and successful, effort to kid themselves. Nevertheless, what he did is rotten too. The stunted character of the sucker does not excuse the crime.

Post a comment

Note also that comments with three or more links may be held for "moderation" -- a strange term to apply to the ghost in this blog's machine. Seems to be a hard-coded limitation of the blog software, unfortunately.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on Friday December 19, 2008 05:58 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Depressing non-depression economics.

The next post in this blog is The wheels on the bus....

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Creative Commons License

This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by
Movable Type 3.31