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International Action Center Politicizes September 11 For Broad Aims

The International Action Center call to action gets it half right. “On September 11 the Tea Party and its racist allies will again demonstrate against a proposed Islamic community center several blocks from the World Trade Center site,” the IAC observes. “They are trying to whip up hysteria against Muslim people.”

It’s true that right wing activists are using the nine-year anniversary of the attacks of September 11 to try to promote their political aims. But then, the IAC is trying to politicize September 11 as well, using the occasion to advance its own political agenda.

At first, the IAC protest seems to be a simple defense of the equality of Muslims, in the face of attempts to limit Muslims’ freedom of religion. Before too long, however, other policy items from the International Action Center’s political agenda creep in:

It’s about organizing labor unions and promoting certain kinds of government spending: “They want to destroy our unions and public services and use racism and hate to divert our attention from devastating cutbacks and record unemployment.”

It’s about opposing war: “Don’t let the memory of 9/11 be misused again to justify new wars against people in Muslim countries.”

Let’s throw in education and health care too: “Let’s unite against racism and bigotry and fight together for JOBS, health care, to save our schools and services and build human solidarity and respect.”

How about some anti-corporate campaigning? “It is not Muslim people who are robbing our jobs and homes and closing schools and hospitals. It is the banks, corporations and the Pentagon.”

If the International Action Center wants to campaign against corporate power, let them do it. There’s nothing wrong with activism to promote health care, or adequate educational spending. I think that anti-war activism is terrific.

Mixing all these issues together, as if they’re inextricably related, however, limits the effectiveness of International Action Center protests. By making its September 11 event a laundry list protest, the International Action Center restricts participation only to those people who oppose anti-Muslim crusading, wars, banks, the Pentagon, the health care industry AND the prevailing model of dealing with the present economic crisis.

There’s only a small group of people who could happily go along with the agenda of such an event. That’s why the International Action Center remains a small group of people, and IAC events themselves remain small.

The IAC wouldn’t have to abandon its ideals to become a more successful activist organization. They would simply have to show more discipline: Let an anti-corporate protest be only an anti-corporate protest, make an anti-war protest only about opposing war, and focus health care reform activism only on health care reform.

All-or-nothing activist organizing tends to settle strongly on the side of nothing.

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