By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
And if Shingavi is truly the scheming, sinister, uber-socialist many people say he is, he needs a crash course in public relations; of all the coffee shops in all of Berkeley to meet a reporter for an interview, he picks Starbucks. ("It's just convenient," explains Shingavi, cloaked in a nondescript baggy sweat shirt and jeans, a pile of papers spilling across the table. "Most of the other coffeehouses are out of the way.")
The surprises don't end there. Shingavi says he grew up Republican in a suburb outside Houston, and even paced the floor of the Republican National Convention when it was held there in 1992. He dived into left-wing causes when he arrived at Berkeley three years ago, and has since been involved with a long list of groups, movements, and activists. "But this has been the first time I've felt personally implicated in a movement I've been a part of," says Shingavi, who adds that he's been the subject of death threats, spitballs, and other forms of harassment when taking the anti-war movement into the streets. "It's terrifying."
A proud advocate for the International Socialist Organization, he admits there are things he wishes he could have done differently at the November conference. But he says the ISO was just one of a number of leftist groups pushing for their own agendas at the conference, that many of the ISO's suggestions are routinely voted down, and that most of the infighting stems from genuine political differences.
"It's not like there's some secret cabal in Chicago that tell us what to do," he says, in breathless, practiced soundbites that bespeak a semester spent talking to the media. "I wish there were, it might make it easier for organizing. But it doesn't happen that way. So much of the criticism was attributed as political scheming, but nobody said what the political scheming was. Devious mind-control tactics? I agree that lots of mistakes were made, but they had more to do with the newness of the movement than any political masterminding."
The newness of the movement is also the cause of the capitalist/anti-capitalist split, Shingavi argues. "You've got a range of political opinions that overlap and force themselves onto each other, but if you're opposed to what U.S. military intervention does, you should be in the movement. It may cause a split. Maybe that's what it will take. Maybe we need splits in the movement before we realize what it is.
"Hell, I'm working with people who hate me, right? If I can continue to work in this kind of movement, and work with people who are not anti-capitalists and socialists, which I do on a daily basis, anyone can."
As the executive director of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute and an adjunct professor at San Francisco State University who teaches a course on U.S. peace law, Ann Fagan Ginger has spoken to anti-war groups at most of the major colleges in the Bay Area. She calls the Berkeley coalition's internal disagreements "some of the narrowest I've seen." She's also developed an analogy to explain the infighting that threatens to tear the coalition, such as it is, apart.
"It's like a semicolon," she says. "The most important mission, which is the need to stop the U.S. actions in Afghanistan, comes before the semicolon. People can continue to work on other things they were doing -- race discrimination, stopping the death penalty -- but that has to come after the semicolon. It's all connected, it's all one sentence, but you have to learn to make the purpose of every meeting what comes before the semicolon -- you can't do both in the same room. You can't bring about peace if you can't learn to respect other people's basic thrusts."
Because of all the clashing agendas, Fagan Ginger predicts that the anti-war effort will gather widespread steam only when the war begins directly impacting the movement's component groups -- when, for example, the environmental groups realize the war on terrorism's spread is an imminent and real threat to the future of the environment and the movement that aims to protect it. "If we do not get down to business, we could have World War III here," she says. "Unless they stop the bombing, they're not going to be able to do the other things after the semicolon."
In terms of building an anti-war movement, the war on terror poses steeper challenges than were posed by Vietnam. To start, the justification for this war, brought on by an attack on U.S. soil and U.S. citizens, is widely viewed as far more palatable, rational, and patriotic than the relatively theoretical geopolitical reasons advanced for fighting in Vietnam or the Persian Gulf. Beyond that, the war on terrorism has seen few Americans killed, few media outlets challenge the Pentagon's version of events, and most fighting done by proxies, rather than U.S. soldiers. And many observers say that until this war has an immediacy akin to Vietnam, when a large number of Americans knew someone who came home in a body bag, the peace movement may well remain the province of groups that were already protesting against the U.S. to begin with.