By JEFF MACKLER
— RICHMOND, VA. — Three hundred antiwar and social justice activists and leaders from 31 states registered for the 2017 national conference of UNAC (United National Antiwar Coalition). The conference was entitled “Stop the Wars at Home and Abroad: Building a Movement Against War, Injustice and Repression.”
The unifying and optimistic conference, UNAC’s first in the South, took place in the context of the U.S. military’s declaring a no-fly zone over key areas of Syria—euphemistically called a “zone of deconfliction”—its shooting down another Syrian plane, and yet another racist acquittal of a murdering cop (this time, the innocent victim was Philando Castile in Minnesota).
It was the most diverse attendance—by age, race and geography—of any antiwar gathering in recent history, with participants from seven countries present.
The unanimously adopted Action Plan stated, “UNAC reaffirms its commitment to the organization of independent, mass action, united- front mobilizations against all U.S. wars at home and abroad. Unity in action against the endless imperialist wars for power and profit is inseparable from the same necessary unity at home against the inherent racism, sexism, homophobia, and anti-working-class policies generated by a society ruled by the one percent.”
The proposal committed UNAC to organize and support local, regional, and nationally-coordinated actions, to expand its leadership bodies and to broaden and strengthen its capacity for mass mobilization at a time when support for antiwar and social justice issues is on the rise.
The conference was hosted in Richmond by the UNAC-affiliated Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality. All sessions were professionally live-streamed and recorded (see unacpeace.org).
Fifty-six speakers made presentations at seven plenary sessions and an equal number of workshops. The conference focused on exposing and challenging the U.S. government’s ever-expanding and unending wars, the inseparable threat of nuclear annihilation, and catastrophic climate change as well as the wars against working people at home. This includes the broad destruction of the social safety net, repression of political dissent, the racist mass incarceration and repression of society’s most oppressed and exploited, union-busting, persecution of immigrants, government-promoted Islamophobia, and the rise of neo-fascist and alt-right groups.
“We are at the eve of a new movement in this country,” said the keynote speaker, Ajamu Baraka of the newly formed Black Alliance for Peace. “I believe that this conference, this coalition, will be able to lead and build the kind of antiwar, anti-imperialist movement that is needed today. Baraka’s remarks were underlined by an impressive range of African-American leaders at the conference, including Lawrence Hamm, Peoples Organization for Progress; Margaret Kimberley and Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report; Ana Edwards, Richmond Defenders’ Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project; Lee Robinson, AAPRP; Joribu Hill, founder, Mississippi Workers Center for Human Rights; Saladin Muhammad, founding member, Black Workers for Justices and Clarence Thomas, past secretary-treasurer, ILWU Local 10.
A broad range of other nationally prominent antiwar activists added their voices to UNAC’s unifying themes, including Kevin Zeese, co-director, “It’s Our Economy”; Ann Wright, antiwar activist and former U.S. Army colonel and diplomat; Bruce Gagnon, coordinator, Global Network Against Weapons Nuclear Power in Space; and Medea Benjamin co-founder of Code Pink and Global Exchange.
Socialist Action’s literature table and newspaper were well received.
Jeff Mackler is a member of UNAC’s Administrative Committee. He spoke on Syria at the conference’s sixth plenary session.
Photo: The UNAC conference ended with a march to Richmond’s African Burial Grounds, where Gabriel Posser, leader of the 1806 slave rebellion, was executed. By Marty Goodman / Socialist Action.