What is needed now more than ever

Afghanistan War Anniversary Protest, San Francisco, Oct. 6, 2012On October 6, ANSWER along with community partners held a rally and march in San Francisco commemorating the 11th anniversary of the U.S./NATO war on Afghanistan.

Dearfriends of the ANSWER Coalition,

On November 6, President Barack Obama was re-elected despite continuing high unemployment and increasing poverty, economic trends that would have typically doomed the chances of an incumbent president for a second term. Why was Obama able to prevail under such adverse circumstances? Primarily because a majority of the population feared and rejected the program of Romney, Ryan and the extreme right, a program which is emblematic of war, white supremacy, racist immigrant bashing, and hostility to women’s rights, LGBT rights and unions.

Oct. 6 2012 demonstration, San Francisco

Yet within hours of Obama’s victory speech—and contrary to the hopes of many supporters—the administration signaled reactionary initiatives on both the international and domestic fronts. In what was an obviously choreographed move, the morning news on November 7 carried reports of a proposal by the U.S. close ally, Britain, to establish a “safe zone” in Syria, something which could only be achieved by military intervention—a new war.

The same day, the so-called “fiscal cliff” burst into the news, with the president ominously stating that he didn’t believe seniors, students and working people should have to bear the “entire burden” for deficit reduction. The “compromise” being discussed now by the White House and Congress would, if approved, impose drastic cuts in social programs, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, in order to maintain the huge Pentagon budget.

Just a week later, reminiscent of the aftermath of the 2008 presidential election, Israel launched a devastating air, sea and land bombardment of Gaza (more on Gaza below).

The tumultuous events of the past few weeks show: 1) That a majority of people reject the reactionary platform of the extreme right; and 2) We cannot rely on Democrats to carry out a truly progressive program.

Simply voting against a reactionary platform is not enough. What is needed now more than ever is a powerful people’s movement, independent of both corporate-backed parties. That is what the ANSWER Coalition is dedicated to building. We hope that we can count on your continued support as we prepare for new opportunities and struggles.

WORD speakout
ANSWER participates actively in the group WORD (Women Organized to Resist and Defend), a national group fighting for women’s rights.

Obama and the Democrats owed their electoral victory to a progressive shift in popular attitudes in the United States and the changing composition of the U.S. electorate. Ninety-three percent of African American voters, 75 percent of Latinos, and 74 percent of Asian Americans supported Obama. Romney won a considerable majority of white voters, but tens of millions of white people also voted for Obama. Fifty-five percent of women, 60 percent of young people 18-29 years of age, and 77 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people voted for his re-election.

President Obama was the beneficiary of an enormous effort by organized labor, which mobilized workers around the country to knock on doors and make phone calls in support of the president. Union members voted for him by a more than 2-1 margin.

Occupy the Banks, San Francisco, January 20, 2012
The Occupy movement grabbed the attention of the nation in a fight against the 1%. ANSWER occupied a BofA branch in the financial district as part of a National Day of Action, January 20.

Teachers for Public Education march, San Francisco
Teachers, students, parents and staff united in several actions throughout the year to defend public education.

The progressive shift in attitudes was reflected in a number of polls and ballot measures. In a national exit poll, 66% percent of the voters stated that they favored a “pathway to citizenship” for undocumented people. Maine, Maryland and Washington state voters approved ballot measures legalizing same-sex marriage, and Minnesota voters rejected a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, the first times that statewide popular votes on same-sex marriage equality have won.

The vast majority of people who voted for President Obama and the Democratic Party did not do so because they favor the rule of Wall Street. They did not do so because they support drone strikes in Pakistan or Yemen, the bombing of Libya or the occupation of Afghanistan, or a new war in the Middle East. The victory of President Obama did not come about because of some of mass embrace of the many reactionary policies of his administration.

Like the Republicans, at the top, the Democratic Party remains a war party, determined to carry out Wall Street’s regressive program at the expense of the living conditions of the great majority.  Despite the momentary popular celebrations for the Democratic victory, this contradiction between the aspirations of the people and the real program of the Democratic Party must and will break out into the open.

Organizing against the U.S.-backed Israeli war on Gaza

Since November 14, the ANSWER Coalition has sponsored or helped to organize dozens of marches and rallies protesting the latest Israeli assault on Gaza. Thousands of people have taken to the streets in cities across the country and hundreds of thousands have joined protests around the world.

In the U.S. corporate media, Israel is invariably depicted as “victim.” Its brutal and cowardly military assaults are justified as “retaliation,” inferring that Israel’s actions are “self-defense.” Over and over, since the early 1950s, successive Israeli governments have staged provocations to prompt responses that could then be used to justify massive attacks while presenting Israel as the “victim.” The aim has generally been to gain new territory and/or crush any state or movement perceived as threat to Israeli military domination.

Palestine Land Day 2012, San Francisco

Demonstration for Gaza, November 16, 2012

This familiar pattern was repeated in November 2008. The murder of five Palestinian civilians on the day after the 2008 U.S. election broke a ceasefire and set in motion a train of events that led to an all-out assault on Gaza by the Israeli military. A vast array of weaponry, including white phosphorous and depleted uranium munitions, was unleashed on a trapped population.

This time, the fatal shooting of a mentally disabled young man on November 5 and a 12-year-old boy on November 9, both killed by the Israeli army inside Gaza, set off the new round of fighting. Then, on November 14, Israel assassinated a Hamas leader, Ahmed Al-Jaabari, the very same day that he had been presented with a proposal for a long-term cease-fire by a joint Israeli-Egyptian commission.

These provocations were no doubt approved at the highest level of the Israeli government. The extreme right-wing Netanyahu-Liberman government sought a new conflict both to further devastate the Palestinian infrastructure in Gaza and to advance their political prospects in the January 2013 Israeli election. That hundreds of Palestinians and some Israelis as well would die in order to achieve these objectives was incidental to the Israeli leaders.

Since Israel’s latest intense bombing campaign began last week, Clinton, President Obama, and Republican and Democratic congressional leaders have repeatedly expressed all-out support for the Israeli side, while pointedly ignoring far higher Palestinian casualties.

Ramsey Clark, anniversary of Iraq war, San Francisco, March
Former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark addresses a teach-in about the effects of two decades of U.S. war and sanctions upon the people of Iraq.

The House of Representatives “passed” a resolution expressing its “unwavering commitment” to Israel. House Resolution 813 was introduced at 12:04 p.m. on November 16, and declared adopted exactly one minute later at 12:05 p.m!

Between Nov. 14 and the ceasefire on Nov. 21, at least 160  Palestinians were  killed, more than 1,000 wounded and much of Gaza’s infrastructure and public facilities destroyed by coordinated air, sea and land-based bombardment. On the Israeli side, there were six killed and 240 wounded.

To hear U.S. officials talk, you would think it was the other way around. But despite their absurd and obscene pro-Israeli rhetoric, it was also clear that Washington feared a new Israeli ground invasion of Gaza might provoke rebellions in neighboring Arab countries, and possibly lead to a wider war. Thus, Secretary of State’s emergency trip from Cambodia to Cairo.

Despite the death and destruction inflicted by the Israel, and despite the fact that it has no air force, navy, armored units or anti-aircraft defenses, the Palestinian forces were not defeated.

Whether the present cease-fire holds and for how long can’t be known at this point. The only real long-term solution to the crisis remains an end to colonial occupation and real self-determination for the Palestinian people, including the right to return to their homeland.

The New Year will confront us with new challenges and new opportunities for organizing the movement for real change. In the words of former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, “the ANSWER Coalition has played a vital and irreplaceable role in building the people’s movement.” With your support, we will be able to do even more.

Yours in solidarity,

Richard Becker

P.S. Tax-deductible donations by check can be made to Progress Unity Fund/ANSWER and mailed to 2969 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94110.  Please date your check prior to Dec. 31 for a 2012 tax deduction.

Many thanks to Krissana Limlamai and Bill Hackwell for contributing photos.

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