Welcome to WIN

WIN Through Revolutionary Nonviolence

Welcome to WIN. This is the first issue of the War Resisters League’s newest expression of our oldest practice: nonviolence. Although this latest incarnation is new, WIN magazine is not. The Workshop in Nonviolence (WIN), a direct action group in New York City and an affiliate of the Committee for Nonviolent Action and WRL, steadily produced a lively magazine from 1966 to 1983. In that time, a host of dedicated characters contributed to and helped produce WIN, many of whom still work closely with WRL. WIN magazine was full of beautiful artwork and articles covering everything from resistance to the Vietnam War to women’s liberation and gay rights to prisoner uprisings.

It is with a desire to remember the old WIN, and with the same commitment to radical nonviolence, that we introduce a new WIN for a new era of war resistance. Coming at you four times a year, WIN wants to be your movement manual—your organizing resource and your political inspiration—to be scribbled in, photocopied, shared, and talked back to. We want to see you often—in your local bookstore, community space, online, and (of course) on the streets.

Carrying the mission of the Nonviolent Activist (the product of the merger of the old WIN magazine and WRL News) forward, WIN will continue covering resistance to war and nonviolent movements around the world through its articles, interviews, and reviews. WIN will also cover the wars waged against people in the United States—addressing issues such as the prison-industrial complex, police brutality, violence against women, and immigrant rights. Not content to simply report, WIN will nurture our readers as activists, equipping them with relevant and accessible information to support their organizing work. In addition, WIN hopes to reach new writers and audiences and to foster critical alliances between the War Resisters League and a wide range of organizations and movements working for social justice.

Reclaiming our history

We struggle at a seemingly dismal moment, when genuine peace seems distant and when the word itself has been used to justify the murder and occupation of people and nations worldwide. We struggle in a sanitized world—where the suffering of millions can be erased, edited, dressed up as “democracy,” and called liberation. We live in a world where “human rights” and the rule of “international law” are distorted to justify sentences of death and disregard for entire populations.

Like most struggles for justice in the United States, nonviolent movements have a radical and vibrant, yet assaulted, legacy. The messages of figures like Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have been deliberately diluted to erase the memory of their radicalism. Bush “pays tribute” to the  life of Coretta Scott King in the same State of the Union address in which he justifies the continued occupation of Iraq.

In the face of this robbery, new nonviolent movements must reclaim our histories, along with the knowledge that ordinary people—not just Kings and Gandhis—have always had the power to make change.

Reinvigorating nonviolence

As an 82-year-old secular pacifist organization, the War Resisters League has steadfastly called for nonviolence through several generations, while also being challenged and forever shaped by the new visions and strategies of each generation’s peacemakers.

 Today, nonviolence again faces challenges. Oftentimes, it is articulated in abstract or inaccessible ways, appearing removed from “on the ground” struggles. Nonviolence needs to be shaken from this philosophical slumber, to breathe fire once more. WIN magazine hopes to help rekindle this fire and contribute to building a vibrant and inclusive nonviolent movement.

After all, nonviolence is not just a pleasant-sounding philosophy, but a revolutionary practice to be realized in context, with eyes wide open. It is not a fixed ideology, but is dynamic—attentive to and shaped by the world around it.  Nonviolence must be courageously complex, making space for dialogue and disagreement. It is not a map, but a walking stick—guiding us on our long journey, transformed by the trail blazed.

Unlike liberals and warmakers, we won’t settle for an apolitical nonviolence or an unjust peace. While we must always promote—through both our words and actions—nonviolent methods of resistance to oppression, we must understand the basis of armed resistance, acknowledge the context in which such a struggle is waged, and strive to eliminate its causes.

There are many paths to nonviolence—those that are secular, those that are religious, those that are strategic, those that are moralistic, those that come from direct experiences of war and suffering, and those that do not. Our movements must be thoughtful enough to accommodate such diversity. Some of the most vibrant social movements, while using nonviolent methods of resistance, do not explicitly identify themselves as nonviolent. We must recognize the power of these actions, support them, and build with potential allies where they are.

Getting to the grassroots

Over the past five years, since the first whispers of another attack on Iraq, we have witnessed unprecedented protest against U.S. invasion and occupation. Yet as the occupation has worn on, the primary tactics of marching and mass demonstrations seem to have lost much of their effectiveness and ability to inspire. While bringing out 500,000 to a demonstration and getting media coverage are important, they are not necessarily indicators of a diverse, grassroots, and sustainable movement against war.

Rather, some of the most strategic and long-term organizing to stop the war is happening through spaces of popular education, support groups, direct action, and community organizing. The movement against military recruitment grows stronger every day. Youth around the country are reclaiming their campuses and their rights. The blossoming GI and veteran movement against the war is politicizing hundreds of young men and women who are taking back their humanity by refusing to kill.

Most important, however, these organizing efforts fundamentally understand something crucial to the future of our movements: Wars abroad are unshakably fastened to the wars at home. One need only look at the crumbling public education system, lack of jobs, and drastic cuts to social services to see that domestic poverty is the lifeblood of military recruitment. The government’s indefensible response to Hurricane Katrina has everything to do with military spending and budget priorities. Iraq Veterans Against the War marched from Mobile, AL, to New Orleans under the slogan: “Every Bomb Dropped on Iraq Explodes over New Orleans.” It is the politics and spirit of such a slogan that WIN magazine hopes to further; knowing that the separation of these seemingly disparate issues is a political illusion that takes us farther from building a broad-based movement against war in all of its forms: racism, xenophobia, sexism, capitalism, and homophobia. By understanding these multiple systems of domination and oppression, we can stay true to the WRL’s mission to “remove all causes of war.”

Without a doubt, we need an end to war. Yet we can’t spend all our time articulating and re-articulating what we are against; we must begin to envision and build the nonviolent world in which we wish to live. To many, this can seem like an even more daunting task than ending a war. Yet like grassroots antiwar strategies that start from education and relationship-building, creating another world can start interpersonally or locally—the most revolutionary moments in the most basic of actions.

WIN will explore the cracks in this empire that are bringing us closer to the just world in which we have yet to live—from free health clinics and collective childcare, to alternative economic systems and alternative energy. Each season, WIN will harness this revolutionary imagination, bringing you stories from a movement bold enough to act and smart enough to dream.

Welcome aboard!