After a period of decreased activity, the antiwar movement is picking up the pace again. What can we do to insure that it grows as quickly and widely as it has the potential to do? What are the segments of the population that we should concentrate our organizing efforts on? What are effective strategies and tactics that we have used in the past that can guide and inspire the movement today? It is impossible to answer all these questions, but through collective discussion and action maybe we can come a little closer to some of the answers.

Many of us have attended antiwar meetings and protests. While we should praise local and national peace groups for all their hard work organizing marches, rallies and vigils, we should also think about some of the weaknesses and see how we can help overcome them.

We should be concerned with a lack of emphasis in some segments of the peace movement on sustained, grassroots growth, especially within the African American community, and on developing a coalition strategy. To build a peace movement that can really change our nation’s policies, we need to move the debate from the meeting room to the neighborhoods; from a core of peace activists to a mass constituency of trade unionists, community residents, religious leaders, students and even military personnel.

It would be a mistake to insist on a list of “correct” strategies and tactics. While general strategies and tactical concepts can be universally applied, the movement must also be flexible and adapt to different situations.

As Marxists, we understand that the working class plays a central, historic role. Because of its fundamental role in creating and maintaining our economy and society, it is the critical force able to change this society. But in our peace activity, are we using this knowledge and making sure that we are employing a class-conscious approach to building the movement?

Are we thinking creatively enough and formulating strategies that show our friends and allies the necessity of focusing organizing efforts on working-class communities, especially communities of color?

During the 2004 elections the anti-Bush forces mobilized an army of people in the largest voter registration drive in history. Key to the drive’s success was expanding registration efforts outside of the usual venues into working-class neighborhoods. The result was an unprecedented success in signing up new voters from traditionally low voter turnout neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, though, the ultra-right had its own grassroots organizing model, based in rural neighborhoods and churches, and was able to turn out more votes. We should learn from this experience.

The strategy used by the Republicans is borrowed from a model of grassroots organizing that the left successfully used many times in the past. By utilizing a block-by-block, neighbor-by-neighbor strategy, we can begin to build a broad political base educated on the issues and ready to be mobilized.

Though it may sound like a fantasy, in some places it may be very possible for peace organizations to organize block meetings and elect a neighborhood leadership. Block captains can become peace captains! And work in the neighborhoods will build personal relationships as the basis of grassroots organizing.

Instituting this kind of organizing is a way to build a pro-peace consensus that extends from inner city to suburb to rural town, and moves us in the direction of electing many more pro-peace political leaders.

When we attend our next peace meeting, let’s ask ourselves and our fellow activists, “What have we done in our neighborhood?” And hopefully we can focus the discussion and our members on a strategy to achieve a sustainable grassroots, pro-peace consensus based on the support, participation and trust of our local communities.

Glenn Burleigh is an organizer with the Communication Workers union and co-chair of the Missouri/Kansas Communist Party education/ideology committee.