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Tea party anyone? Codepink’s call to action at Left Forum finale

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NEW YORK -- The 2009 Left Forum wrapped up here Sunday. Refreshingly, the closing plenary featured an all female line-up of speakers. The four women covered an impressive activist and intellectual range: Medea Benjamin of Codepink, Johanna Brenner from Portland State University, Kate Bronfenbrenner from Cornell University and Bhairavi Desai, Executive Director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.

Medea Benjamin, founder of Codepink and no stranger to rabble.ca readers, was particularly strong in that her presentation made some creative and forceful suggestions for upcoming mobilizations. She warned that the ‘tea parties’ mobilized by right wing political forces should not merely be mocked.

“The Left must provide venues for angry people to mobilize or we will lose this moment to the demagogues of Fox News,” Benjamin argued. “If we can’t seize this moment … when are we ever going to organize?”

With the next round of ‘tea parties’ set for July 4, Benjamin proposed that the left mobilize popular education events in the week leading up to Independence Day. And she stressed the important role of progressive media in this effort. “We need to get the progressive media to do the same thing [as Fox News does for the Right.] Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Amy Goodman, Laura Flanders – let’s ask them to organize with us.”

Benjamin concluded her talk with a call for organizing -- “we can theorize and write books, and take action – indeed we have to do both.” Specifically, she called attention to the urgency for the U.S. anti-war movement to do the basic work of outreach and education needed to build popular opposition to the war in Afghanistan (and Pakistan).

Medea Benjamin and CODEPINK are as busy as ever. They just keep going and going and going. A series of follow-up delegations are planned to bring aid and solidarity to the people of Gaza, and a delegation to Afghanistan may also be in the works for later in the summer.

CODEPINK is just one, relatively small organization. But it’s energy and creativity -- combined with a nose for movement building possibilities -- is something that others on the Left should try to emulate.

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