The hot war in Iraq seems to be winding down. The Bush-Rums-feld-Wolfowitz team got lucky. None of the bumps in the road to Baghdad proved serious enough to overturn their war wagon. If their luck holds, and they get out of town before theres a complete meltdown of Iraqi society, they may just be able to count their oil wells, declare victory and come marching home.
Of course, that may be asking for an awful lot of luck. The consolidation phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom is already proving stickier than anticipated. Iraqis arent lining city streets, waving American flags and accepting chocolate bars from triumphant U.S. soldiers. Anti-U.S. sentiments inside and outside Iraq are growing, as is the possibility of armed conflict between various Iraqi factions. The possibility exists that Bush et al will be faced with committing the nation to a drawn out campaign to install our puppet or passing off the mess to the United Nations.
Whichever scenario comes to pass, the question progressives must ask remains the same: Where do we go from here?
The importance of that question increases every day as the wave of dissent that turned out 35,000 people for marches in the weeks prior to the war ebbs away to a few thousand people showing up to demonstrate three weeks into hostilities. Theres more to measuring a movement than counting heads, but most organizers in town will admit a loss of momentum appears to be taking place.
What is important is that we not let the trough following this wave deter us from doing the work that needs to be done. The flow of events is sometimes deep and swift and other times shallow and slow. Movements expand during times of crisis and contract once the crisis has passed (or at least appears to have passed). Since we never know which of these expansions will make it possible to actually cast off this rotten system we have, we must stay the course. We must organize in ways that will capture as many new people as possible as well as plant seeds that will blossom in the next upsurge of dissent.
What does that mean in concrete terms? That answer has appeared regularly in these pages: we must continue the struggle through local campaigns that will build our base and better position us to stop the next imperial war that comes our way. We must work to illuminate the ties that bind the varied and not alway harmonious parts of our movement together so that trade unionists and peace activists and environmentalists will see that each struggle is just part of a larger one.
In this issue of the Alliance we offer some possibilities for progressives asking Where do we go from here? On page 1 we hear from several local activists who have been asked that question.
On page 7 we offer a progressive response to Mayor Katzs State of the City address. Within that response is the material for dozens of local campaigns: organizing a public utility district, reorganizing the structure of city government; creating real citizen oversight of the police; instituting community-driven, conflict resolution centered policing; ending local corporate welfare and building a stronger labor movement to name just a few. Each and all of these would not only improve the quality of life of Portlanders and build our progressive base, but also create real political power for our movement.
These are also not short-term projects, which is why the Alliance will be revisiting them, as well as others, in the coming months. We have reached some sort of juncture in our movement. We need to make of it what we can and do what we can to build this movement.
The work is there to be done. Some of it may even draw large
numbers of supporters with or without bombs dropping. But whether working
with thousands or dozens, we must carry on with building a movement that one
day will be capable of not just casting off an unjust system but of building
a rational, just, democratic and peaceful new world.
At the Alliance, were trying to do our part by working to bring more people to the anti-war table. Thanks to a generous grant from the McKenzie River Gathering Foundation, we are hiring two interns who will report on anti-war activity within the citys communities of color and working class communities. The goal of the work is to build bridges between groups of activists who are working towards the same goals and foster cooperation where possible. We think this work will be vital to making the transition from an anti-war movement to a social justice movement.
We also hope this program will provide an opportunity to broaden and diversify our own alternative media community. We believe progressive alternative media needs the same deep roots in communities of color that we have elsewhere in the city if we are to remain a credible voice for all progressives.
The Portland Alliance
2807 SE Stark Portland,OR 97214
Last Updated: June 1, 2003