On February 15, many thousands of protesters will assemble within sight of the United Nations building in New York to express their opposition to a war in Iraq. Their efforts will be duplicated in some 300 additional cities throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. This will be the first such protest not organized by the Workers World Party (WWP), an energetic Marxist-Leninist organization that openly supports Kim Jong Il’s brutal dictatorship in North Korea. Instead, it will be run by a group called United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ), whose co-chair Leslie Cagan is an enthusiastic, longtime supporter of yet another Communist despot, Fidel Castro.
Given the manner in which the major media report the contemporary "peace" movement’s activities, the average American would never suspect that it is in fact a movement dominated the selfsame Communists that once marched in support of Stalin, Mao, the Vietcong, the Sandinista Marxists, and the Communist guerrillas in El Salvador; the same America-loathing radicals who, because they passionately deem America the root of all evil in the world, now support Kim and Castro.
A featured speaker at last month’s massive "peace" rally in Washington, for instance, angrily denounced the "American imperialism" supposedly underlying our country’s "war against the people of Iraq, and the people of Palestine, Colombia, and the world." And he had plenty of company; there was nary a word uttered about any threat posed by Saddam Hussein – let alone the Palestinian suicide bombers or the communist guerrillas in Colombia. In the eyes of such "anti-war" orators and their enthusiastic audiences, America is always the problem, regardless of the setting or the time.
The media, however, do not mention such things. They show only the surface of the movement, flashing images of spirited marchers with their placards and pithy slogans that decry America’s "cowboy" mentality. Citing the large numbers of such demonstrators, liberal defenders of the "peace" movement contend that it is "broadening" to include many who cannot be described as "hate-America" Leftists like Ramsey Clark or Noam Chomsky.
But in order to understand the mind of any movement, we must acquaint ourselves with its leaders, those individuals whose ideas animate the masses that follow them. Consider the aforementioned Leslie Cagan. She is a socialist and longtime activist who, during the past thirty years, has mobilized millions of demonstrators in rallies denouncing our nation’s foreign policies; its military-related spending; and its purportedly virulent racism, sexism, and homophobia. She is a die-hard, pro-Communist radical who proudly aligns her politics with those of Communist Cuba.
Yet a February 4 New York Times puff piece benignly heralded Cagan as "one of the grandes dames of the country’s progressive movement," a woman whose "organizational skills are prodigious." Predictably, there was no mention that Cagan has consistently lavished praise upon Castro’s Cuba, which she considers a far better place than the United States. During her seven years as director of the Cuba Information Project, she led numerous demonstrations demanding that the US end its economic embargo of, and travel ban to, Cuba. "In the winter of 1969-70," Cagan fondly recalls, "I spent over two months with the First Venceremos Brigade in Cuba. Just ten years into their revolution, the Cubans had taken control of their history. . . . While we were in Cuba, Fred Hampton and other Chicago Black Panthers were murdered. It was a shocking reminder of the brutality and power of the US government, and there we were in Cuba, a whole nation under attack from the US. As Brigadistas we were taking a risk traveling in defiance of Washington’s travel ban, but we knew the risk was small compared to what Cubans and so many others around the world faced every day."
In short, Cagan candidly sides with Castro’s Communist regime rather than with the United States, which she deems the world’s foremost terrorist nation. The Venceremos Brigades with which she proudly associated were in fact organized by Castro’s Cuban intelligence agency, which went so far as to train some "brigadistas" in guerrilla warfare techniques, including the use of arms and explosives. Cagan’s pro-Castro rallies were supported by such socialist organizations as Casa de las Americas, the Communist Party, the Socialist Workers Party, the Venceremos Brigades, the Workers World Party, and the Young Socialists. Cagan herself was an original founder of the Committees of Correspondence, a splinter group rooted in the Communist Party USA. Joining the chorus of her fellow leaders in the "peace" movement, she condemns what she calls America’s "daily assaults and attacks on poor and working people, on women, people of color, lesbians/gays and other sexual minorities, the disabled and so many others, [and] such foreign policy matters as . . . military actions and economic sanctions."
In February 1996 at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, the National Network on Cuba (NNOC), of which Cagan was a national co-chair, sponsored a public forum that featured an address by Angela Sanbrano of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), which was affiliated with the Communist guerrilla movement in that country. Another guest speaker was the Cuban revolutionary José Luis Ponce, who appeared on stage with an admiring Cagan. Ponce extolled the enormous social gains that Castro’s revolution had brought to Cuba. As the socialist publication The Militant paraphrased it, Ponce lauded the revolution for its opposition to "the legacy of US domination - a legacy of unemployment, absence of health care for millions especially in the countryside, illiteracy, racism and the super-exploitation of women." He further predicted, quite happily, that "a fight for socialism" would re-emerge in Russia. To all these assertions, Cagan nodded with approval.
Not surprisingly, Cagan firmly opposes our government’s contemplated war against Iraq, which she characterizes as nothing more than a thinly veiled oil grab. "Oil is not worth war!" screams Cagan’s UFPJ Website. "How much is the Bush administration’s push for war with Iraq motivated by its desire to gain control of Iraq’s oil fields?" On February 4 in Charlotte, North Carolina, UFPJ sponsored a "No War For Oil" protest held symbolically in front of a Texaco location.
In attributing nefarious motives to US military ventures, Cagan continues a long Leftist tradition. In the 1960s, for example, it was commonplace for the Left to assert that the US was sending troops to Southeast Asia merely to secure mineral rights in South Vietnam for American corporations. As Stokely Carmichael put it at the time, our 58,000 dead soldiers were sacrificed merely "to serve the economic interests of American businessmen who are in Vietnam solely to exploit the tungsten, tin, and oil."
Following President Bush’s recent State of the Union address, Cagan said, "George Bush again tried to make his case against Iraq and he failed." "Such a war [in Iraq]," she contends, "undoubtedly threatens to unleash an escalating and uncontrollable cycle of violence, death and destruction." Of course, she does not express the barest hint of concern that Saddam’s regime, which has blatantly defied the conditions of UN Resolution 1441, poses a threat to American security. In the eyes of Cagan and her ilk, the principal enemy of world peace is the United States.
But we ought not be surprised that the very people who opposed military action against the al Qaeda-harboring Taliban should now oppose military action against a monster that has yet to strike with its full measure of ferocity. Last summer, Cagan joined such notable critics of America as Noam Chomsky, Ed Asner, Medea Benjamin, Gloria Steinem, Ossie Davis, and Michael Ratner in signing the infamous "Not In Our Name" (NION) statement denouncing America’s declared war against terror, which began in Afghanistan.
"Let it not be said," read the NION document, "that people in the United States did nothing when their government declared a war without limit and instituted stark new measures of repression. The signers of this statement call on the people of the US to resist the policies and overall political direction that have emerged since September 11 and which pose grave dangers to the people of the world."
"We believe," added the NION signatories, "that peoples and nations have the right to determine their own destiny, free from military coercion by great powers." Given the context in which it was used, that may well be the most inane sentence ever put to paper. Asserting that the US possessed no moral authority to annihilate the Taliban, it implied that that privilege rested with the same Afghan people who lived powerlessly under the Taliban’s brutal oppression. By the same token, we are apparently expected to believe that the Iraqi people have it within their power to dethrone a dictator who, during his twenty-four-year reign, has imprisoned, maimed, and murdered hundreds of thousands of actual and suspected political opponents.
Perhaps the most noxious element of the "peace" crowd’s message is its pathetic lack of viable alternatives. Cagan, for instance, boasts that "while organizing against the Gulf War in 1990/1991 . . . I coordinated the National Campaign for Peace in the Middle East, [whose] primary focus . . . was trying to stop the mad rush to war by the US government." The historical record shows that more than five months elapsed between Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the start of the Gulf War, during which Saddam defied repeated ultimatums to withdraw his troops as a means of averting a coalition attack. Thus it is utterly obscene to depict America’s actions as a "mad rush to war." While Cagan and her cronies self-righteously stand around bleating for peaceful resolutions to international conflicts, the armies of dictators who haven’t the slightest desire for peace can swallow up entire nations.
Cagan is never at a loss for words when presented with an opportunity to denounce America and applaud Communist regimes and their support groups. Indeed she cheered last month’s "peace" rally in Washington, sponsored by International A.N.S.W.E.R., which is closely allied with the WWP, which in turn avidly backs Kim Jong Il’s regime in North Korea. "This is A.N.S.W.E.R.’s dance, and they get to call the tune," Cagan said. "We are at a point where it is really, really critical that many, many groups come out and voice their opposition to this war. Some in the hard-core Left have taken the lead on that, and I applaud those groups for that." Stalinist Communist parties have always had their own "peace" fronts, a tradition that the WWP, Leslie Cagan, and other prime movers of the anti-war movement now continue.
Some readers may find it difficult to believe that the WWP does, in fact, support the murderous North Korean government which has not only exterminated hundreds of thousands in concentration camps, but has poured all available resources into a military buildup while some two million people died of starvation. Yet on July 9, 1994, WWP chairman Sam Marcy wrote to "Dear Comrade Kim Jong Il," extending the organization’s "deepest condolences" on the death of Kim’s father, "the great leader of the Korean people, Comrade President Kim Il Sung." Marcy eulogized the elder Kim for having "devoted his whole life to the Korean people’s struggle for national self-determination and the international working-class struggle for socialist emancipation. With his leadership, the Korean people . . . brought about the first defeat of the US imperialist military machine. . . . Comrade Kim Il Sung worked tirelessly to bring about the peaceful reunification of Korea and to forge a lasting peace on the peninsula. . . . It is Kim Il Sung’s remarkable achievement that in his own lifetime he became a symbol of national liberation and reunification for the Korean people, and a symbol of the anti-imperialist and socialist struggles of all the world’s peoples. Although US imperialism tried at every opportunity to blockade, threaten and sabotage the construction of socialism in the north, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea stands strong. . . . Workers World Party [is] proud to have known Kim Il Sung as a great leader and a comrade in the international communist movement."
Obviously, it isn’t really the concept of "war" that Leslie Cagan and her fellow Communists oppose, but only war that seeks to protect the interests of the United States. As National Review Online recently reported, the WWP has in the past "supported the Soviet interventions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Chinese government’s crackdown in Tiananmen Square," and today "devotes much of its energy to supporting the regimes in Iraq and North Korea."
At the aforementioned Washington demonstration, virtually every featured speaker invoked standard Communist rhetoric glorifying the "struggle" of their "comrades" to mount a "revolution" to "liberate" the "oppressed peoples" suffering under American "imperialism." They displayed placards bearing slogans like, "Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld: The Real Axis of Evil." Such is the mindset of Leslie Cagan and her fellow leaders of the "peace" movement. Their devotion to genuine peace is much like Yasser Arafat’s; they exploit the rhetoric of peace while working feverishly toward a very different agenda.