By ADAM BUSTILLOS
Some 300 antiwar and social justice activists from 27 states and four nations attended the fifth national conference of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) at the People’s Forum in New York City over the weekend of February 21-23. Entitled, “Rise Against Militarism, Racism and the Climate Crisis – Building Power Together,” the conference marked UNAC’s 10th anniversary. It was live-streamed nationally attracting some 5,000 viewers. Another 10,000 followed the event via Facebook. To date some 160 groups nationwide have affiliated with UNAC.
The conference featured a series of panel discussions and workshops focused on UNAC’s perspectives aimed at mobilizing mass opposition to all U.S. wars against working people at home and abroad.
UNAC reaffirmed its unconditional support to the right of self-determination of all oppressed nations and peoples, from Syria, Yemen, Libya and Palestine in the Middle East to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba in Latin America and to U.S. imperialism’s ever-deepening military penetration of Africa.
U.S. imperialist wars in all their present day manifestations, including the imposition of crippling economic blockades, embargoes and sanctions imposed on 39 nations, have killed millions in the past years. The conference condemned U.S. intervention in the internal affairs of other countries through regime change agencies such as the CIA, the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID and other U.S-sponsored agencies and NGOs. A panel on “Identifying U.S. Regime Change Campaigns” included speakers on Syria, Nicaragua, Bolivia and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
A conference-opening panel, “Opposing Imperialist Wars, featured a broad-ranging critique of U.S. policies from the Philippines to Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. The “Militarism, Racism and Climate Change” panel described these elements of U.S. policy as inherent in the structure of a society that privileges the pursuit of capitalist profit over the needs of all humanity. Jeff Mackler, Socialist Action’s 2020 candidate for the U.S. presidency and a UNAC founder, addressed this subject stating, “UNAC’s focus in support of self-determination of all poor and oppressed nations applies to all such nations regardless of our differing opinions of the nature of their governments. Our focus is on U.S. Out Now! Without the ever-present U.S. wars of regime change intervention and exploitation the people of all poor nations will have the best opportunities to fight for a socialist future.”
The Pentagon is world’s largest polluter
A workshop on “The Role of the United States in Exacerbating Environmental Degradation” noted that the U.S. military is the world’s largest institutional fossil fuel polluter, with a carbon footprint exceeding all but eight countries. Yet, unlike all other nations, this aspect of U.S. fossil fuel pollution is formally exempt from inclusion in U.S. data. Additionally, with the offshoring of U.S. fossil fuel pollution in the context of the globalized economy many U.S. commodities are manufactured in other countries to take advantage of cheap labor, poor environmental legislation, and lax labor laws. These commodities, along with Pentagon pollution, are not counted in the U.S. carbon footprint.
“Defending our Movement,” a panel chaired by Margaret Flowers of the Venezuelan Embassy Protectors discussed the government’s prosecution of the four activists’ effort to keep the right-wing coup organizers from Venezuela out of the Venezuelan Embassy. This panel also heard from Clare Grady of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, who are face up to 25 years in prison for their nonviolent protest at a Trident nuclear submarine base. Other speakers included Kevin Zeese of Popular Resistance and the Venezuelan Embassy Protectors, Michael Smith an attorney/activist who co- edited the new book “In Defense of Julian Assange.” Frank Chapman, co-chair of the newly re-founded National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression rounded out the panel.
A lunchtime keynote address was presented by Glen Ford, Executive Editor of the Black Agenda Report. Ford scored the twin parties of war and racism and affirmed UNAC’s policy of non-support to the twin parties of big business.
Principles of Unity and Action Proposal
A concluding plenary session, chaired by UNAC Administrative Committee member Jeff Mackler, updated UNAC’s Principals of Unity and reaffirmed UNAC commitment to building a democratically organized mass action united front coalition to challenge U.S. wars at home and abroad. The conference unanimously approved the Principles of Unity that included opposition to all U.S. aid to the Zionist settler colonial state of Israel, support to BDS and support of the Palestinian demand for a democratic, secular Palestine and the right to return of all dispossessed Palestinians.
The final conference Action Proposal session included UNAC support to several antiwar and social justice actions in the coming months including the March 13-15 nationally-coordinated “Sanctions Kill! protests, the mass antiwar protests at the Democratic and Republican Party conventions and the International Conference for the Normalization of U.S.-Cuba Relations.