The stifling of diss…
The stifling of dissent among those protesting the stifling of dissent.

Untold however, was the ironic story of a similar struggle within the anti-war camp, where some leaders, activists and writers who voiced opposition to leadership say they were stigmatized and labeled “red-baiters” and “McCarthyists” in an alleged attempt to intimidate and silence dissent within protest ranks.

Take Nathan Newman as an example.

Newman, former vice president of the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, is a union lawyer, political activist and frequent contributor to Technology Review, Progressive Populist, and American Prospect.

A political activist and former union organizer, he also was the project director at NetAction, a consumer technology advocacy group and wrote “Net Loss,” a book addressing Internet policy and related issues of economic inequality.

Newman’s offense? He repeatedly has described the ANSWER [Act Now to Stop War and End Racism] coalition, a prominent organizer of the anti-war rallies, as a front group for the neo-Stalinist Worker’s World Party, or WWP, a group he describes as supporters of “mass murderers,” “morally reprehensible,” and “not fit to associate with.”

Is that some sort of trumped-up charge, or can he back up that allegation of a tie-in?

To those who questioned his characterizing of ANSWER as a front group for the WWP, Newman responded, “I’ve worked with the WWP in various coalitions. You may not know how front groups work, but when the website was created by, the office is run by, and the main spokespeople are all from a single group like the Workers World Party, it is fair to characterize the group as being derived from that group.”

He added, “And as a member of the leadership of the National Lawyers Guild, which has endorsed ANSWER – against my vote – and who has key people doing their legal work, I know pretty well the role of the WWP in organizing this stuff. ”

“If the main group leading ANSWER supports mass murderers, ” Newman concluded, “those working with them have some responsibility for disassociating themselves from those views.”

Pretty convincing stuff. A “conscientious objector” in the ranks of those who would (normally) wear that label as a badge of honor. Newman says he’s just trying to hold the folks on his side to the same standard they apply to the conservatives.

Newman called for consistency, saying the left rightly had condemned Trent Lott for his association with “neo-confederate racists,” but added, “The same principle applies to the left not casually ignoring its own association with supporters of authoritarian butchers.”

There’s more in the article, but you get the idea. I disagree with him on the anti-war stance he takes, but you’ve got to admire a guy who’s willing to take a long look at his own side and use the same standard of measurement with them. Well, apparently, some folks wouldn’t admire that.

Newman’s public expression of disdain for the WWP and ANSWER soon set him at loggerheads with the Guild, which maintains a cozy relationship with the groups.

Newman reported the Guild’s National Executive Committee rebuked him and the New York City Guild chapter he led for their strident criticism of these key groups that wrested organizational control of and led the recent anti-war rallies.

At the time of his rebuke, Newman told fellow activists, “At the moment, I am being denounced by name within the National Exec Committee of my own organization, the National Lawyers Guild, for being critical of the WWP’s connection to ANSWER on my personal blog, and a resolution is being voted on to denounce all such criticisms as red-baiting … denying that ANSWER can in any way be described as a front group of WWP, thus making any accusation of such ‘unfounded’ and a ‘vicious attack.’

It’s getting personal, but here’s comes the clincher.

“Our executive director wanted to add part of the resolution that no local chapter could criticize the WWP’s role or otherwise deviate from the national line (something the NYC chapter already has done in its own resolutions), so this ‘anti-red baiting’ position is turning into its own form of authoritarianism within various left organizations and publications.”

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, here’s the liberal answer to “McCarthyism”: More “McCarthyism”, but this time featuring the question, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a critic of the Communist Party?” John Ashcroft is not forbidding these folks from protesting publicly, he’s not stifling dissent, but leftists themselves are doing far worse than they accuse him of. And this is not coming from some moderate, or some Blue Dog Democrat.

“I consider myself a ‘leftist,’ he said, “even Marxist in some vague ways, and have been member of softer left groups like Democratic Socialists of America and the Committees of Correspondence. So my opinion is not ‘anti-left’ or ‘anti-Party’ per se, but anti a particular kind of sectarianism.”

There’s a lot more in the WorldNetDaily article; a lot of background. Well worth the read. And it looks like Mr Newman has read it and generally approves of the article. (Instapundit would jokingly quip “Cats and dogs living together!”) On his blog, Newman writes:

Rightwing on Me and WWP

WorldNetDaily, the popular rightwing online news site, has a full-fledged story on the attacks on critics of the WWP-ANSWER within the left, with a lot on my history within the National Lawyers Guild. They seemed to have combed every email list and web site to piece together the story. Although they didn’t bother to even contact me for comment, a pretty shabby failure.

It’s not too slanted, since it emphasizes how isolated ideologically the WWP is on the Left and distinguishes the vast numbers who opposed the war versus the tiny clique around WWP-ANSWER who were pro-Saddam.

The article even points out why the media pays more attention to fringe rightwing groups than to Stalinist groups like the WWP– the rightwing groups are actively murdering people in the US. Quoting one source:

“The far right becomes relevant when it’s shooting abortion doctors or blowing up courthouses,” he said, “There aren’t a lot of leftists blowing things up.”

Which of course highlights why the rightwing is kind of silly to itself spend too much time talking breathlessly about fringe groups, when it tolerates Klan allies and abortion doctors in its midst. I wonder how many exposes WND has done on those?

To which I’d add a few things.

  • While the shootings and bombings mentioned are tragic and should not happen, any group (fringe or not) that finds moral equivalence between that and the hundreds of thousands in North Korean gulags where thousands die every year is seriously overdue for some introspection.
  • Oh, and there are leftists blowing things and people up too. (Anyone remember the Unabomber who was a big Al Gore fan?)
  • And finally, while there may have been just a “tiny clique” in the WWP-ANSWER movement who were morally pro-Saddam, the rest of crowd, marching to keep him in power and continue his skimming of billions (with a ‘b’) of dollars from the UN Oil-for-Palaces Food program, were effectively pro-Saddam, regardless of their intent.

Anyway, just something to think about when you hear the left complaining about the “stifling of dissent”. Again, as Instapundit would jokingly quip, “I blame Ashcroft”, except this time it could read “I blame the Ashcroft protestors.”

Filed under: Uncategorized

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!