The three days of anti-war actions in Washington, D.C. last weekend organized primarily by United for Peace and Justice were a huge victory for the progressive movement. From the Saturday rally and march co-organized with ANSWER, to the Peace and Justice Fair all day on the Washington Monument grounds, to the highly successful Operation Ceasefire concert/rally Saturday going late into the night attended by tens of thousands, to the tent revival inter-denominational religious service Sunday evening, to the mass lobbying of many hundreds on Capitol Hill Monday morning followed by almost 400 people getting arrested in front of the White House Monday afternoon-all of it was a powerful manifestation of our movement’s growing political strength.
The question is, what next?
At least a couple, maybe more, of the people who spoke at the big Saturday rally put forward that the peace movement should prioritize getting a new Congress in 2006 and a new administration in 2008, meaning the election of Democrats.
Undoubtedly some will take this up, but I hope the vast majority of those present see the importance of continued grassroots organizing, broad-based outreach and the building of alliances with constituencies whose numbers in D.C. were not what they should be given their anti-war sentiments, especially communities of color. Independent, issue-oriented, multi-cultural movement-building must be our overarching approach.
Many activists will continue the important counter-recruitment organizing and work with military families. To my way of thinking this is critical, strategic work. Key to the eventual withdrawal of the U.S. from Indochina was the open rebellion by young people in the U.S. against the military draft and the open rebellion by soldiers in Vietnam against further participation in the war. Wars cannot be fought if there are not enough troops willing to fight them.
It is also essential to keep making the obvious political links between the horrendous and racist government response to Katrina, the continuation of the criminal war in Iraq and our being ruled by an incompetent, corporatist administration that should be under indictment and on the way to jail for all the destruction they are responsible for. We must support the grassroots organizing that is taking place in the deep South to oppose the plans to reconstruct New Orleans and other areas devastated by Katrina and Rita in ways which will permanently displace long-time African American and other poor and working class residents and line the pockets of politically-connected corporations. Our demand must be something like, Money for Human Needs, Not War and Gentrification, in New Orleans, the deep South and throughout the country.
It is also important that the peace movement strengthen its involvement with the growing movement to stop global warming. An international day of action on this issue is happening on December 3rd, with actions planned throughout Europe, in Australia, Canada, the USA and elsewhere. This is at the same time as a big international conference Nov. 28-Dec. 9 in Montreal, Quebec of all the Kyoto Protocol signers. The U.S., which has not signed Kyoto, will be there working to obstruct forward progress on this urgent, life-and-death issue. This is the role they have been playing at international gatherings for years.
There are obvious connections between the war for oil in Iraq and global warming. Rather than getting ourselves deeper and deeper militarily into the Middle East in an effort to control its oil supply, the U.S. should be embarking on a crash program of energy conservation and efficiency and a rapid transition to wind, solar and other clean energy sources.
And there is a widespread and growing popular understanding of the role of global warming in making hurricanes like Katrina and Rita stronger and more destructive.
Is it possible that the environmental movement, the African American/racial and economic justice movement and the peace movement could, over the next several months, increasingly make connections and find the ways to be mutually supportive of each other, understanding and acting upon the obvious connections?
Yes, without question. Some progress has already been made, as evidenced by who spoke in D.C. on September 24th and other interactions that have taken place.
Those of us who understand and see these connections have a responsibility to do all we can to strengthen and deepen them. These three movements, together with others, have the potential to fundamentally and permanently alter the political dynamics within U.S. society, not in the far distant future but next year and going forward.
We are at a potential turning point historically. Let’s act accordingly.