WRL News

Winter 2007


Taking Counter-Recruitment to the Next Level

The counter-recruitment movement has been hard at work trying to stop the poverty draft by educating youth about militarism, the realities of enlisting, and alternatives to military service.  We have a vibrant movement made up of seasoned and skilled activists, but unfortunately there are very few young people in leadership positions.  The Not Your Soldier Project, a collaboration between the War Resisters League and the Ruckus Society, is about taking the sophisticated political analysis that many youth have and translating it into concrete, effective action.  We are committed to an organizing style that puts working-class youth and youth of color in direct control of the content and goals of the project and to creating ways for youth, students, soldiers, and young veterans to be actively engaged in every step of the process.

In response to the Pentagon’s ever more sophisticated recruitment techniques, the counter-recruitment movement has had to grow and adapt.  Following an assessment of our work and of the needs of this movement, the Not Your Soldier Project has developed an organizing platform focused on addressing the four issues that form the backbone of the poverty draft: the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, JROTC programs, the No Child Left Behind Act, and school visits by recruiters.  Each local campaign has clear goals and measures of success around this platform.

Of course, recruitment tactics vary from community to community, so we have developed a flexible structure through which national staff works with campaign partners to develop a locally relevant and effective approach.  We are committed to supporting our local partners through the entire process of the campaign, from strategy development to days of action, from organizational development sessions to hosting youth camps.

In recognition of the long-term military occupation of Iraq, regardless of the promises of the new Congress, we have set out an organizing plan and some clear goals for the next three years.

By the end of 2009 we will have

produced measurable results challenging military recruitment on at least 20 campuses across the country, through targeted campaigns addressing local poverty draft issues.

contributed concretely to the expansion of the counter-recruitment movement’s organizing base to include more youth and people of color.

increased the counter-recruitment movement’s understanding of campaigning and organizing skills and capacity.

built bridges between the educational justice, juvenile justice and counter-recruitment movements.


promoted an anti-imperialist, anti-war focus within the counter-recruitment movement

We have our work cut out for us. We are fortunate to have a variety of effective tools and resources that we have gathered or developed over the past couple of years.  The educational materials, training methods, curricula, and relationships that we have developed support the growth of Not Your Soldier chapters.  New and innovative media like MySpace and YouTube are useful tools for connecting with young people.  In addition to our stellar advisory board made up of youth organizers, veterans, and counter-recruitment activists from a variety of communities across the country, we are developing ongoing relationships with local and national musicians and artists.  We regularly update our website (www.notyoursoldier.org), and are always looking for new ways to get the word out.

Clearly, we need  your help to make all this happen.  Check out our website for more information about the project or contact us directly with any questions.  If you are interested in getting involved, get in touch with us now.

— Steve Theberge
  Coordinator of WRL’s Youth and Countermilitarism Program

WRL Welcomes Liz Roberts

WRL has added a development coordinator to the National Office staff.  We are happy and proud to announce that the talented and dynamic Liz Roberts has joined the staff in that position.  Liz comes to us from the Brecht Forum of New York City, where, as outreach coordinator, she successfully drew more people — and more kinds of people - into the Brecht’s ambit.  At WRL, her task will be a little broader and a little more ambitious.  She’ll be coordinating our fundraising efforts and at the same time leading the effort to broaden our funding and membership bases.  One of her early tasks will be to oversee WRL’s first membership survey in this century (coming to your mailbox soon).

“Liz hit the WRL ground running, and she has already scored several times, facilitating the film festival, working on the next fund appeal and the 2007 Raffle for Resistance, and helping line up the coming major upgrade to our database and website.  We are delighted to have her!” says Ellen Barfield, who represents the Fundraising Committee on WRL’s National Committee.

WRL Organizing Network Gathers

There were a number of reasons I thought it was important to attend the Third Annual WRL Organizing Network (ON) Gathering October 6-8 in the Texas Panhandle.  As an organizer in the New England Regional Office, I need to connect with other organizers in WRL.  We face unique challenges and opportunities as a secular organization committed to promoting antimilitarism and nonviolence, and getting together to talk about our work is essential.

The Organizing Network is committed to moving our annual gatherings around the country so we are able to visit different local groups.  Mavis Belisle, the director of the Peace Farm, who hosted us, has been involved in WRL for many years.  While it is always good to see Mavis, it was also good to meet folks who worked to establish the Peace Farm and people new to the group.  One person who had felt isolated in the area found the group thanks to a notice Mavis had put in the paper about our meeting.

Our first event was an exercise in antimilitarism and nonviolence.  We drove over to the Pantex facility, the final assembly point for all U.S. nuclear weapons, and Mavis described the plutonium storage sites.  When armed security guards drove up to question our presence near the plant, local activists explained who we were and that she had called Pantex informing them we’d be taking a tour around the perimeter.  Still, they asked for identification from all of us.  We made it clear that this was a public road and we had a right to be there and would not comply.  They left us alone to continue our tour of the real danger.

The Organizing Network was established three years ago as part of WRL’s restructuring process.  WRL locals felt we needed a network to strengthen our grassroots activism.  Therefore, these gatherings are spaces to share ideas, develop strategies, and participate in trainings.  We are currently in a transitional period.  It’s been difficult to strengthen grassroots organizing without enough staffing dedicated to this — the presence of a new Field Organizer will make a major difference. In order to clarity our organizing motives and principles, we drafted and came away from the conference with the following statement on WRL’s role regarding local organizing:

“WRL’s role in the movements for peace and justice is to practice and promote, from a secular and internationalist perspective, nonviolent resistance to war, militarism, and the causes of war.

“What this means in relation to local organizing is that:

“We see personal transformation, political action, and constructive program as equally necessary components of the changes we seek;

“We emphasize strategic nonviolent direct action to bring about social change through a broad view of what constitutes both violence and nonviolence;

“We advocate non-participation in as many aspects of the war machine as possible and creation of nonviolent economic structures;

“We recognize that militarism pervades our culture from ‘cradle to grave’ and we encourage group empowerment to confront it at every stage.

“These perspectives and emphases give us the flexibility both to create national initiatives and to provide resources, analysis, training, and support for local campaigns.”

We look forward to an even larger gathering of WRL organizers in 2007.

— Joanne Sheehan

Puerto Rican Social Forum

From November 17 through 19, 2006, the World Social Forum Puerto Rico Coordinating Committee held the first Puerto Rican Social Forum. As a space of convergence between diverse grassroots community groups and social movements, more than 110 organizations and collectives presented projects and proposals, and exchanged ideas and experiences, in hopes of building solidarity and action.

The forum took place at the Universidad de Puerto Rico’s Rio Pedras campus, surrounding the cultural venues, nearby public spaces, and the Manuel A. Pérez residential community.  The need for the Puerto Rico Social Forum emerged from the wide frustration resulting from political inertia and sectarianism and government corruption and ineffectiveness.  Participating organizations and individuals represented the powerful and creative popular responses being organized to these frustrations.

A diversity of panels, workshops, seminars, performances, exhibits, and presentations were packed with an impressive 1300 organizers and activists.

Some highlights included sessions with a group that continues to carry out civil disobedience in the struggle against U.S. Navy exercises on the island of Vieques (Desobedientes del Este de Vieques), testimonies from displaced residents of various communities and a proposal of collective deeds over communal lands as a strategy against gentrification and displacement (Grupo de las 8 Communidades del Caño Martín Peña), a documentary by and about Dominican women in Puerto Rico (Centro de la Mujer Dominicana), workshops on alternative community educational, agricultural, and economic models (Nuestra Escuala/Nuestra Patria, Grupo Unido de Acción Ecológica, Alternative Ciudana), and a showcase of alternative architectural design projects within communities and public spaces (Taller de Diseño Communitario).

WRL was represented in the areas of nonviolent resistance to militarization and military recruitment in schools, together with Coalición Ciudadana Contra el Militarismo and Madres en Contra la Guerra.

— Yeidy Rosa

Dellinger Lecture Series Launched

WRL launched its Annual David Dellinger Lecture on Nonviolence on the league’s 82nd birthday, October 19, at Judson Memorial Church in New York City.  The first speaker was lawyer, activist, historian, and writer Staughton Lynd, who first met Dellinger more than 40 years ago during the civil rights struggle and the early days of the anti-Vietnam War movement.

“Resistance to War in a Volunteer Army” was the title of Lynd’s talk.  He used the case of military resister Lt. Ehren Watada to illustrate the difference between a pacifist conscientious objection to all war and the refusal to participate in a particular war by military volunteers who come to believe that the war is wrong.

Lynd, who wrote a court brief in support of Lt. Watada, said that Watada “considers that he is not engaging in ‘civil disobedience’ but rather obeying settled international law that Nuremburg decreed he would disregard at his peril.  In his case — and in future cases like his, a potential or actual soldier may be entitled to refuse orders not only because they require ‘war crimes’ or ‘crimes against humanity,’ but also because they demand obedience to a ‘crime against peace’: aggressive war.”  Such arguments might bring us to the point when, “Someday they’ll have a war and nobody will come,” Lynd said.

Dave Dellinger was a leading voice for nonviolent action and a longtime WRL member.  He died at age 88 in 2004, and WRL chose to honor his memory by establishing the lecture series and an essay contest on nonviolence.  New York City high school student Krista Ambats was the winner, and as she presented the award, Elizabeth Peterson, Dave’s widow, said, “This is one thing that David was very, very interested in and wanted all us old people to do, and that is to listen to what the young people have to say!”  Singer/songwriter Rebecca Fanya ended the evening with a powerful song of hope.

Thanks to cosponsors the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute, Historians Against the War, and the Judson Memorial Church, and to everyone who made a special contribution to support this event.

A CD of the talk and question and answer session is available for $8.  Please send payment to Dellinger Lecture, WRL, 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012.

— Ruth Benn