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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

HAW is now a "left-wing social club"...

Over at HNN there is an article by a former author of this blog attacking HAW as a "left-wing social club." Read it here:


I posted the following comments in response and wanted to publish those remarks here as well:

Some points:

- I am a member of the SC and yet somehow I am not opposed to libertarians.

- The "many" libertarians who joined HAW are apparently not numerous enough to vote anyone onto the SC. I would encourage libertarians to run for leadership positions and steer the organization in a direction they want. Elections are this month. There are twenty leadership seats to be had. If anyone thinks we're a "left-wing social club," then mobilize! That would be more effective than un-libertarian portrayals of discrimination and one's own victimhood.

- There are numerous "libertarian" posts on the blog. They went on for months and outnumber anything "progressive" on the blog. If ideology were the reason for stopping the two libertarians from posting, then that is indeed a mysterious anomaly. It is interesting that David's article here does not include our main complaint against him in his list of "main complaints against us." It goes unmentioned - not even to deny it or refute it. Read versions of what happened from both sides in the comments to posts at the HAWblog made in March of 2009, especially at http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/blog/2009/03/haw-info-draft-of-haw-statement.html#links. The whole blog issue was very unfortunate and I don't think either side played its cards right in the dispute that flared up last spring. The HAWblog is now admittedly rather stagnant. But it simply isn't the case that the HAW leadership suddenly moved to banish libertarianism and conduct a purge.

- The "blogroll" at the HAWblog has links to several libertarian or libertarian-friendly sources. They were put there on the initiative of David Beito. That is all the more evidence that participation is possible. If someone like David Beito were on the steering committee, even more would happen.

- The word "progressive" in the subtitle on a poster announcing a panel is not a core statement of ideology. Furthermore, the word progressive is followed by the phrase "and historically minded activists." Pouncing on this one word - an ambiguous word - and on a particular blog post is rather odd. It gives the impression that some people need HAW to be a left-wing whipping boy.

- A close reading of the new statement (and as historians, that is how we read documents) shows that it is not a "leftist critique of global capitalism." It expresses hope that the "crisis of global capitalism" - an undeniable fact in the spring of 2009 - not lead to more war and be paid for by the little guy. It does not advocate statist solutions (nor market solutions for that matter). Indeed, the call to not solve the crisis on the backs of the little guy seems very compatible with libertarianism to me. Ron Paul would not favor bailing out the fat cats or seizing resources abroad or some form of Keynesian military spending.

- Membership in HAW does not require signing on to a neo-Marxist agenda. It does not even require total agreement with the new statement - only "substantial agreement." During steering committee votes on the statement, I abstained because of the ambiguous "capitalism" clause. Nonetheless, I can get on board with the general theme. I know of at least one other HAW member who had strong objections to a particular clause (a different one) and yet signed anyway.

If people want to break with HAW because they do not feel it represents them, that is okay. We can go after militarism from different angles. The black-square bishop and the white-square bishop never meet, but can cooperate in checkmate. I think a case can be made that HAW is more "ecumenical" than portrayed in this article, however.

Edited to add: Another attack on HAW has been published at antiwar.com.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

The Keyhole: A peek at the Steering Committee

This is the first of what I hope are regular reports on what the SC is doing or talking about doing. Right now, there are a number of issues on our plate:

- New steering committee: We just got through another election and we are welcoming new members. This coming Wednesday we will have a conference call to talk about our ideas for the future.

- A new core statement of purpose: The election of Obama, his policies, the impending escalation of the war in Afghanistan, and other factors going back further in time present HAW with a situation that is different from when the original statements were drafted and signed in 2003. Members of the SC are fielding ideas about a new core statemetn of mission and purpose or a new "basis of unity." One member has offered a draft of such a proposal. There have also been proposals for a new name, such as those ideas fielded here at the blog.

- What _is_ HAW? Related to that is the issue just raised yesterday about what exactly HAW is in terms of membership. Does the SC act in the name of the signatories when we address other themes not related to an anti-Iraq-War stance, such as the Afghan War or torture or more general themes of empire?

- Monograph series: The idea of publishing has returned. Several members are tossing around ideas on publishing a monograph series on issues important to HAW. We are considering whether that is a good idea and how that could best be done.

- Chapters: For quite some time now, we have been encouraging people to found local HAW chapters. Discussions about that have re-emerged this week.

- HAW Listserv: Someone has suggested re-establishing the HAW listserv. This has been opposed by almost all members of the SC who have responded to the initiative. There is a feeling that it would only create more e-mail and that there are other channels available for communication. The larger context of this is also the origin of this posting: Member concerns that the SC is not responding to current issues and to member concerns. The consensus on the SC is to encourage the blog to be our forum for debate among interested parties.

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