Monday, 28 March 2005
Anti-draft movement begins to come together
As the likelihood of a military draft in the USA becomes more apparent, anti-draft activism is beginning to move beyond individual Web sites (like those I have created and maintain, Resisters.info and MedicalDraft.info ) to the formation -- mainly on the initiative of parents of potential draftees -- of small, local, grassroots community anti-draft groups in scattered cities and towns. More recently, organizers of those groups have begun a discussion among themselves, with existing groups whose concerns relate to the draft (peace and anti-war organizations, organizations for conscientious objectors, civil libertarians, etc.), and individual anti-draft and draft resistance activists (including past generations of draft resisters such as myself and my circle of aging draft-resister friends) on the formation and structuring of a more organized anti-draft movement.
Last week I was part of an initial conference call with a few such activists. There was a considerable degree of agreement on the desirability of coordination and communication, although it remains uncertain what structural form that might best take.
In this context, Tom Reeves, who was one of the anti-draft activists from the Vietnam War period who was most helpful in their support of draft resistance and resisters in the 1980's, has just published a lengthy and useful survey of the forms a draft might take, the political forces behind it, and (towards the end of the article) of the embryonic state of anti-draft organizing, A Draft By Any Other Name... Is Still Wrong: Exposing the Coming Draft . (If anyone has his current contact info, please let me know.)
Meanwhile, there are signs that the "hot button" character of the draft as an issue is attracting interest, as it did before the 2004 USA Presidential election, from groups for whom it hasn't previously been a priority. NoDraftNoWay.org , a Web site set up by the International Action Center (IAC) / Workers World Party and associated groups, has posted a call for a national day of anti-draft actions on 31 March 2005 (not mentioning the national anti-draft lobbying day on 16 May 2005 initiated by the Center on Conscience and War (NISBCO) that several other groups have already endorsed for May 16, and that seems to be gaining momentum, as also mentioned in Tom Reeves' article), and a one-day "national anti-draft conference" in New York City on April 16 (a date oddly out of sync with the annual focus of many peace groups involved both with draft resistance and tax resistance on "tax day" actions at that time, many of which are already planned).
While I welcome more organizing around the draft, this does raise -- sooner than I expected -- concerns about co-optation of the issue of the draft by groups with a particular political "line", and/or that may seek to use the public appeal of the issue of the draft to further that line and recruit people into their organization (and not primarily to get people working specifically against the draft), as well as much of the specific history both of IAC itself, and previously of CARD (Coalition Against Registration and the Draft) in the 1980's.
The leaflet for the conference refers to "draft resistance counseling", a term neither draft counselors nor draft resisters would be likely to use, reinforcing the degree to which this plan has been developed in isolation from groups already working with a focus on the issue. I don't know what NoDraftNoWay.org's actual position will be on illegal forms of draft resistance.
Perhaps the most telling thing about IAC's intentions is that they issued this call with no consultation with any of the groups I (or anyone I know, including in New York City) is in touch with that are working specifically on the issue, calling severely into question their commitment to genuinely cooperative coalition work, shared leadership, or sharing in defining the political line of the "coalition" which, I presume, will be formed as an outcome of the conference.
I've been trying to find out more about their plans, but with no success. I have gotten no response to e-mail sent to "info@NoDraftNoWay.org" or the local IAC office, and the phone number on the Web site routes to the general phone line at the IAC office in New York. When I called a couple of weeks ago, no one there knew anything about "NoDraftNoWay.org" -- it was just one of the IAC Web sites, not an organization as such. There are no individuals identified with the "organization" on the Web site. All the "local contacts" initially listed on the NoDraftNoWay.org Web site were other IAC offices, atlhough the site does include articles from a variety of perspectives (including one of mine, I was somewhat surprised to discover) and links to right-wing and Libertarian anti-draft Web sites as well as leftist ones.
It's a positive sign (even though a symptom of bad things happening in the world) that a new anti-draft movement is emerging and coming together. I just hope it organizes itself in an empowering and democratic way.Link | Posted by Edward on Monday, 28 March 2005, 17:59 ( 5:59 PM) | TrackBack (0)