by Christine Marie
Outrage against the U.S./NATO attack on Libya has provided new support for the April 9 antiwar march and rally in New York City and the April 10 demonstration in San Francisco. Over 500 organizations have endorsed the dual protests, initiated and sponsored by the United National Antiwar Conference (UNAC). Buses from as far away as Minneapolis are scheduled to make the trip to the New York demonstration.
The April 9 and 10 protests will underscore the integral link between Washington’s wars abroad and its war on working people and oppressed groups at home. As part of its propaganda for endless war, government repression within the United States has reached a new level with the federal grand jury witch hunt against antiwar activists in Minneapolis and Chicago, as well as with the long-standing campaign to demonize U.S. Muslims under specious charges of “terrorism.”
A press conference at City Hall in New York City last month demonstrated that the Muslim American community is ready to fight back against Washington’s attacks. Representative signers of a statement by 100 imams, accompanied by the Reverends Robert Coleman of the Riverside Church, Stephen Chinlund of the Episcopal Church, and Mark Hallinan of the New York Society of Jesus, called on supporters to march on April 9 to condemn the war and Islamophobia.
The organizing statement, initiated by Malik Mujahid of the Muslim Peace Coalition USA, urged supporters “to stand in solidarity with our neighbors for justice at home and abroad; for peace and jobs; against wars and terrorism, and to bring our troops home.” Further, they expressed their solidarity with the struggles of working people in the U.S., including the rights of unions to bargain, the rights of undocumented workers to due process, and the fight against the criminalization of the Black community.
The issue of Libya was prominent in Harlem on March 29, when New York City Councilman Charles Barron stood with around 150 others outside of a Democratic National Committee fundraiser for Barak Obama and shouted, “We did not elect Barak Obama for him to bomb Africa!” The $30,800-a-plate re-election affair was held at a new upscale restaurant symbolic of the gentrification that is displacing Harlem’s Black population, and dissipating the potential of Black political power being wielded independently in the community’s defense.
Harlem housing activist Nellie Bailey said, “We want money—not for war—but for our children and our seniors here at home.” The demonstration followed by a week the very public withdrawal of support for Obama by the African American poet Amiri Baraka via a new work, in which he said:
So it wd be this way
That they wd get a negro
To bomb his own home
To join with the actual colonial
Powers, Britain, France, add Poison Hillary
With Israeli and Saudi to make certain
That revolution in Africa must have a stopper
The bombing of Libya was the first U.S. military action actually directed by the relatively new U.S. African military command center known as Africom. The activation of Africom, which at this moment links the attacks on Africa with the attacks on the Black community in a manner instantly understandable to the street, has created new opportunities to build an antiwar movement capable of outreach to one of the communities most victimized by the shuffle of funds from social services, education, and housing to war.
The relationship between the war against working people at home and the wars abroad was a theme in the resolution passed in the same week by the Hartford, Conn., city council. Over $453 million in tax revenues from residents of the city of Hartford, one of the poorest cities in the nation, has gone to fund the wars and occupations in the Middle East.
The council resolved, in addition to demanding of the federal government that it bring the war dollars home, to urge Hartford residents to participate in the April 9 march in New York City.
More surprisingly, they noted that “budget deficits, largely due to war spending, have been used as a pretext to force concessions from public sector unions” and resolved to support the right of unions to collectively bargain.
While the Hartford city council plainly laid out the relationship of the state budget deficits to war spending, most labor leaders nationally have refused to integrate the demand to end the wars into the fight to defend public workers’ right to collective bargaining. Their refusal to take up this demand reflects their deference to the Democratic Party.
There are increasing exceptions to the rule, however. At a recent union rally at the New York state house, Transportation Workers Union Local 100 President John Samuelsen felt compelled to call for ending the war. He and George Gresham, the president of 1199 Healthcare Workers East, are keynote speakers at the April 9 antiwar rally in New York City. Also speaking is Mike Keenan, president of the Troy, N.Y., Area Labor Council.
The attacks on the Muslim American community, the Black and Latino communities, and the unions are not the only issues that are more and more organically being integrated into antiwar organizing. The relationship between the government’s deadly and destructive wars for oil and its support for nuclear power has been brought home by the ecological and human disaster in Japan.
Historically, nuclear power was used to normalize nuclear production for weaponry. The “peaceful uses of the atom” were promoted as part of an ideological campaign to quell the horror aroused by the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The plutonium-laden MOX fuel made from recycled reactor rods has similarly been justified as a barrier against nuclear weapons proliferation and, in turn, as part of a discourse to ramp up fear of nuclear terrorism.
The confluence of five factors—the Japanese nuclear disaster, the U.S.-European-Japanese failure to invest in green energy, the escalation of investment in nuclear power, the brutality of a new oil war in North Africa, and the dumping of depleted-uranium shells on Libya—have all brought a new interest in the April 9 and 10 antiwar marches from anti-nuke activists.
In San Francisco, Pacifica radio station KPFA endorsed the April 10 antiwar march and is vigorously building a No Nukes! No War! Contingent. In New York, well known anti-nuke activist Harvey Wasserman is speaking. The United National Antiwar Committee, in response to these developments, formally added a No Nukes! No War! Demand for the national actions.
All of these developments, coming as they do as a result of or in conjunction with the new U.S./UN/NATO threats to the embryonic Arab revolutions and upsurges against dictatorial rule, suggest that a new and vigorous antiwar movement is within our reach.
At this moment, the United National Antiwar Committee, born out of the democratic one-person, one-vote assembly of over 800 activists in Albany last July, and committed to mass action independent of the Democratic and Republican parties, is leading the way in this process.
UNAC is planning a second national conference, where the lessons of organizing the April 9 and 10 actions will be drawn and plans for the future mapped out. Your group can find out how to join the UNAC Coordinating Committee now by visiting the website at www.unacpeace.org.
> This article was originally published in the April 2011 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.