by Christine Marie
“Stop the War on the Unions! Money for Jobs and Education, Not for War and Occupation!” So began a leaflet distributed by United National Antiwar Committee supporters at the Feb. 26 rally of 100,000 workers at the Wisconsin State Capitol building in Madison.
UNAC team members traveled from Minneapolis, Virginia, and Vermont to display a 12-foot banner at the rally and distribute thousands of flyers for the April 9 national antiwar march in New York City. (A West Coast antiwar mobilization will take place in San Francisco on April 10.) While the demand to use the trillions spent on war to stop the cuts by state governments has not really been part of the dialogue in Wisconsin or other states, UNAC activists found that marchers were very open to the antiwar message.
UNAC activists set up shop at a local union-friendly coffee house and got out a statement that argued: “A $3.9 billion budget deficit in Wisconsin was cited as the reason for attacking the public worker unions. That claim is phony. What Walker did not say was that Wisconsin taxpayers have been forced to pay billions to fund U.S.-led wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, send drones to Pakistan, support dictators and maintain more than 800 military bases worldwide costofwar.com. In addition, more billions have been given to the wealthy and powerful in massive bailouts and tax breaks.”
Truly, the demand, “Money for Jobs, not for War!” has never been more appropriate or timely. According to UNAC team leader Phil Wilayto, everyone they met was very open to this message. “I don’t know of anyone who got a negative comment,” he said.
That working people are ever more open to the links between cuts in social services, attacks on living standards, and the spending on wars abroad was evidenced by the endorsement of the April 9 demonstration by one of the most important unions in the Northeast and the largest single union in the country, SEIU 1199 United Healthcare Workers East. Union President George Gresham organized a presentation by Malik Mujahid of the Muslim Peace Coalition and Joe Lombardo of UNAC to the 200-person 1199 executive board on Feb. 18, and after deliberations the leadership body voted to endorse April 9 under the slogan, “Money for Jobs, Not War.”
Gresham’s group led the effort to initiate the Oct. 2 One Nation Rally in Washington, D.C., and it is hoped that his efforts will be the first of many more union efforts to build the spring antiwar marches.
The 1199 endorsement was one of a large number of supporters signing on to the April 9 and 10 demonstrations. In Northern California, SEIU Local 1021, with 25,000 members, voted for endorsement as well. In addition, New York State Peace Action, a group with more than 15 chapters, debated and approved support on Feb. 26. Overall, more than 500 organizations, national and grassroots, have signed on to build the spring actions.
The growing list of endorsers reflects the significant outreach underway. UNAC attendance continues at the numerous rallies sponsored by the communities of North Africans who have been mobilizing in solidarity with the revolt against the dictators.
Recognizing that any imperialist intervention into Libya would undoubtedly set the stage for more overt interference in all of the revolutions unfolding in the region, UNAC quickly issued the following statement: “At great risks to their lives, activists organizing to oppose oppressive, dictatorial regimes in the Middle East and North Africa have inspired us by their courage and determination. We ruefully acknowledge past and continuing U.S. support for dictatorships and military rule in the region. We recognize that the U.S. has been directly involved in supplying weapons and other forms of support to regimes that have committed atrocious human rights abuses against civilians.
“Conscious of our responsibility to stop the United States from further manipulations that would interfere with movements on behalf of true democratic developments in other countries, UNAC calls for an immediate halt to U.S. intervention in regions and countries where mass mobilizations are challenging oppressive regimes.”
“We have seen the horrific consequences of U.S./UN-imposed economic sanctions against Iraq, as well as the consequences of U.S./UN operation of “no-fly zones” over northern and southern Iraq, prior to the U.S. Shock and Awe attacks and invasion. We therefore oppose any form of U.S. military or economic intervention in Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia and other countries where movements are rising in opposition to dictatorships and military rule.”
UNAC’s quick response and carefully crafted statement undoubtedly contributed to the prompt and growing consensus among peace forces that a “no-fly zone” and other deadly measures could bring no genuine aid to the forces fighting for democracy and self-determination.
With the threats of intervention into Libya so palpable, it is easy to forget just how violent are the continued occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the drone and CIA attacks in Pakistan. We are now entering the 11th year of the occupation of Afghanistan, and last year alone over 700 invading soldiers and 10,000 Afghanis died.
This situation demands that the entire antiwar movement use coming weeks to assure the largest turnout possible on April 9 and April 10. The April 9 New York City march and rally assembles at 12 noon in Union Square. The April 10 San Francisco march and rally assembles in Dolores Park at 11 a.m. For more information on the April demonstrations and how to get involved, see www.unacpeace.org, (518) 227-6947.
> This article was originally published in the March 2011 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.