Monday, August 24, 2009

Aug. 10, 2009 New Group Formed

August 10, 2009
ANNOUNCEMENT from the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter —



The editors of the Activist Newsletter have just formed a new multi-issue organization in the Mid-Hudson Valley. It's titled "Peace & Social Progress Now!" (PSPN).

The main purpose of this effort is to kick-start the declining antiwar movement in the Hudson Valley and to activate the progressive forces in the region on issues from single-payer healthcare to actions promoting environmental consciousness, from reducing the defense budget to strengthening civil liberties, from a genuinely progressive taxation plan to increased social programs for working families.

PSPN will conduct regional demonstrations, including a rally in the Mid-Hudson region October 17 (save the date!) calling for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. This is near the eighth anniversary of George W. Bush's invasion. And there will be a number of educational meetings addressing a variety of national and international topics.

Newsletter editors Jack A. Smith and Donna Goodman are coordinating this process and are creating a board of advisers to help guide PSPN's work. Together they have organized about 100 regional demonstrations, public meetings and bus trips to out-of-region peace demonstrations during the last 15 years, including an October 2002 protest rally and march of some 2,500 people in Kingston, N.Y., opposing Bush's intention to invade Iraq.

It was relatively easy to organize through the newsletter during the dreadful Bush years when liberals and progressives opposed an international policy of war and bullying, and a domestic policy based on flagrantly serving the interests of big business and Wall St. at the expense of the poor, the working class and middle class. But a new organization, as well as the newsletter, is required now.

Why? Bush and the Republicans are gone now, and it is more difficult to organize actions for peace and social progress when Democrats control the White House and Congress. Most activists (and some leaders of movements) vote Democratic and many tend to pull back from protest when their party holds power. Our wake-up call came in March — two months after President Barack Obama was inaugurated — when we organized bus trip number 21 to bring antiwar people to Washington for the national protest on the sixth anniversary of the unjust and illegal invasion of Iraq. Instead of the usual three to six buses bringing 150 to 300 people to D.C., we managed to get one bus, and there were more than a dozen empty seats.

While recognizing that the centrist Obama Administration is better than its right wing predecessor, the reality is that we are still living in a quite conservative period in American history. This era can transform into its opposite, but only if there is a resurgence of mass movements of people demanding substantive progressive changes, not the vague concept of "change" that propelled President Obama to power. In other words, very serious problems remain, and will not disappear without organized, intensive pressure from the people.

Washington is still fighting two unnecessary wars, one of which — the Afghan quagmire — is greatly expanding and its flames have breached national boundaries to burn Pakistan. Despite some welcome changes in Washington after eight ghastly Bush-Cheney years, many of their unsavory initiatives — from erosions of civil liberties, to a militarist national security policy, to the continuation of excessive White House "signing statements" — remain on the books. The bloated Pentagon budget is increasing. Millions of American families are suffering joblessness and home foreclosures, but they have not received the kind of solicitous attention bestowed upon the banking system and Wall St. Meanwhile, the gap between wealth and poverty continues to widen.

Clearly, the antiwar movement and other movements dedicated to advancing progressive goals are weaker today than they were a year or two ago, much weaker in some cases. The formation of Peace & Social Progress Now! is intended to help strengthen those movements and to interject left politics into regional debates. We think that a new organization will be more effective than the newsletter alone in making a contribution to the struggle.

We will continue to promote the activities of all the peace and justice groups in the Hudson Valley through both the newsletter and the Activist Calendar, and in other ways as well. We will be meeting with several regional organizations to propose joint actions and occasional ad hoc coalitions around big issues. In addition, several leading members of such groups have agreed to serve on our advisory board and several others will be asked to do so in coming weeks.

If you have questions, comments, or wish to become more closely associated with PSPN as it develops over the next months, please communicate with us at