Peace and Solidarity Conference — Main Report

BY:Sarah Staggs| March 19, 2002

Welcome to Chicago. Thanks for making the trek. Your participation here today is very important. I stress participation, because we see this meeting as an important opportunity to share are local experiences, successes and challenges in the context of the current period and what is happening at a national level. Why have we invited you here today?

In our call to this meeting we stated that peace has become the central issue around which all other struggles revolve today. Whether it is the struggle for affordable housing, for immigrants rights, for nationalization of the steal industry or for a just foreign policy, none can make progress while the current administration pursues it unending ‘war on terrorism.’ The war on terrorism has become the rationale for pursuing a militaristic, anti-democratic, anti-labor anti-women and racist agenda against all people while wrapping it in the flag of patriotism.

It has placed a roadblock in the path of every people’s struggle, which cannot be avoided. It cannot be sidestepped, or passed over, the roadblock must be removed. The administration’s ‘war on terrorism’ must be ended. We said it was important for the party and its allies to come together to develop winning strategies for removing this roadblock, for building peace and international solidarity.

I would like to take a few moments to lay out a perspective from which our deliberations will proceed. I do not purport to know all the questions let alone answer them, but to develop a framework in which our deliberations can proceed.

In the main report to the February national committee meeting, Sam Webb said: ‘The overriding aim of the Bush administration is to utilize this war against terrorism as its entrance ramp to permanently and irreversibly solidify it single super power status in the 21st century.’

There are many roads to this status – control of oil, show of military might around the world, new military bases and presence in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, a program of reaction and racism at home, unchallenged ascendancy over its European and Asian rivals and nuclear blackmail. All are part of the wider, integrated policy of US imperialist world domination. A policy of pursuit of unrestricted access to the resources of the world and then the unrestricted access to the markets of the world for the greater profit of U.S. transnational corporations with the willing resort to use of military power and war to achieve it.

Writing in 1916, in ‘Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism’, Lenin said:

?Imperialism is the epoch of finance capital and of monopolies, which introduce everywhere the striving for domination, not freedom. The result of these tendencies is reaction all along the line whatever the political system, and an extreme intensification of existing antagonisms in this domain also. Particularly acute become the yoke of national oppression and the striving for annexations, i.e., the violation of national independence (for annexation is nothing but the violation of the right of national to self-determination)??

This description is still valid today. There is no better explanation for the brazen, unilateral, go it alone policy of the US government. While every conflict is recast as part of the war on terror, any that would oppose US intervention abroad are painted with the broad brush of terrorism. At the same time, the US refuses to honor international treaties such as the ABM Treaty, Kyoto Protocols and the Convention on Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons and brazenly walked out of the Conference against Racism in Durban. The imperialist nature of US foreign policy is clearly exposed.

With the nation in a state of shock after 9/11, the administration was all too willing to take advantage of our collective sorrow and quickly move towards an aggressive policy of retaliation and war. I would add, it is not only the looting of the public treasury to fund this unending war, nor the dangerous assault on our basic democratic freedoms in the pursuit of ‘security’ that we are organizing to stop. It is not only the brutal destruction of Afghanistan and the direct killing of over 3500 Afghani civilians to which we demand an end; (not to mention untold thousands more whom will perish from exposure, hunger and disease). We also call for an end to the very military doctrine now being pursued that threatens to catapult all of humanity into nuclear annihilation.

The War Abroad
The Bush administration has wreaked unwarranted destruction on Afghanistan, yet has little to show for this destruction, either in terms of increasing our security or the capture of those accused of the crimes of 9/11. Despite announcements that the war has been successful and the Taliban have been defeated, the war continues.

First, we hear that we have accomplished our mission. Then there is word of the most intense fighting yet, with enemy troops said to be amassing in greater numbers in the mountains outside of Kabul. We have doubled our troops to over 2,000 in the fighting this most recent campaign where we experienced our highest casualties and reports from front line soldiers that we underestimated the ‘enemy’s’ skill and tenacity. Then we hear that operation Anaconda has been successful in wiping out a force of nearly 1000 Taliban and Al Queda fighters, yet the body count of enemy dead has not surpassed 25. These see-saw reports seem to reflect the Jeckle and Hyde mentality of declaring great military successes over the terrorists and then warning us again we are not yet safe from terrorism to further justify military build-up. A related aim is breaking the ‘Vietnam syndrome’ and conditioning US public opinion to accept the loss of American lives as well. It is certain that the US troops will see battle again and will not be coming home soon.

Even as the conflict rages in Afghanistan, Bush has developed a new hit list in his now infamous ‘axis of evil’ formulation. Iraq appears to be first on Bush’s list. The US, with a tremendous build up of military might in Kuwait, discussion of forming a government in exile, and heightened verbal attacks on IRAQ for failure to let UN inspectors into weapons facilities, is laying the groundwork for a full scale invasion. It is precisely to garner support for an attack on Iraq that is the purpose of Dick Cheney?s visit to the Mideast as we speak.

Iran and North Korea may be next. US troops are being ferried into the Philippines ostensibly in an attempt to route out terrorists, but more importantly to re-establish a military presence in a strategic location of South East Asia.

Citing US positions on fighting terrorism, Sharon and the Israeli government have launched a war aimed at crushing the Palestinian people. It is clear that the US shares responsibility for unleashing a new level of terror against the Palestinian people, intensifying the spiral of violence and retaliation. The real obstacle to lasting peace in the Middle East is Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territory and the development of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories. As we said in our statement of January 26 this year, we must demand:

An immediate end to the violence and placement of international peace keeping forces in the Occupied Territories.
That the U.S. and Israel must comply with international law and treaties securing the Palestinian’s right to self-determination and an independent state.
Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and East Jerusalem.
Recognize the right of return of Palestinian refugee.

End us aid to Israel as long as it refuses to comply.

While having no relation to 9/11, US policy in Colombia has been one of extreme pressure on the Pastrana government to abandon the peace process and launch an attack on FARC and the people’s forces throughout Colombia, which it did just 4 weeks ago. Should there have been a trace of doubt about real US intent in Colombia, the announcement at the beginning of February that the mandate of plan Colombia was expanded to include protecting US oil pipelines from attack made it clear. Protection of US corporate profits, intervention to destroy the popular movement and control of oil are the real motives behind Plan Colombia.

On the African continent, destabilization campaigns continue against progressive regimes in the Congo, Zimbabwe, and Angola. Just last week, the US press lamented the passing of Jonas Savimbi, a CIA backed contra- force responsible for leading a war over a two decade long period against the progressive government of Angola, resulting in the death of at least 500,000 in Angola.

US Military Strategy
The US military strategy supported by a $355 billion annual budget – soon to be $400 billion annually if Bush gets his way – includes resurrecting the Star War program as the centerpiece of strategy to develop full spectrum nuclear weapons capability. In addition to the exposure of the nuclear reduction agreement with Russia as a fraud – US stockpiles will not be reduced – in recent days the true nature of the new military strategy has come to light with the revelation of a new nuclear strategy.

In January, a secret report from the Bush administration called the ‘US Nuclear Posture Review’ was presented to congress directing the Pentagon to develop contingency plans to prepare for use of nuclear weapons against China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria. Calling on the Pentagon to develop smaller nuclear weapons for use in certain battlefield situation, the report named three types of situation in which nuclear weapons could be used. First against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack; second, in retaliation for attack with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons; or third ‘in the event of surprising military developments.’ It is clear that Dr. Strangelove is alive and well at the Pentagon.

Such policies amount in the short run to a looting of the public treasury for the military industrial complex’s benefit. It threatens nuclear blackmail to any nation who dares disagree with US policy and in the end threatens the fragile balance of life with a nuclear nightmare of unimaginable consequences. Such a policy only feeds the desire of other countries to develop their own deadly nuclear arsenals.

Since September 11, the US has established numerous new military bases around the world. In the Americas, Puerto Rico has become the command center, replacing Panama’s previous role. New bases are being built in Ecuador, Aruba, Curacao and El Salvador all in preparation for defeating the left insurgent movement in Colombia, the independent path of Venezuela under Chavez and the insurgent movement in Ecuador. In Eastern Europe there are new bases in Bulgaria and Turkey, in the Mideast, bases have been built in Kuwait, Qatar and in South Asia new bases have been established in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgystan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Philippines will be added shortly to this list. In all, the US has bases in 59 countries outside of the US.

The new and expanded role for NATO as a junior partner in imperialist plunder was first developed during the war in Yugoslavia and further defined in Afghanistan. The US, using its forward bases around the world is the strike force and NATO comes in for clean-up and so-called ‘peace-keeping’ – the co-occupying army – afterwards.

This foreign military presence helps to maintain an imperial economic system without formal political control of other countries. This expansion of military might represents a globalization of power used to maintain political and economic superiority. For the United States to maintain global political, economy and financial power, it must resort periodically to exercise of military power.

Saying no to US military globalization is also saying no to capitalist globalization. It is saying no to US imperialism.

Far from National security, US imperialism’s strategic goal is to impose by any means necessary, the global rule of transitional corporations in their drive for profits and world control.

The War at Home
The imperialist policies have a sharp cutting edge on the domestic front as well, where the burden and costs of the economic crisis (well under way before 9/11) are being shifted onto backs of the working and impoverished multitudes in the US.

The war at home includes the attack on unions and the economic living standards of the US people. Corporate lobbies, with the aid of Bush-Cheney, cynically and ruthlessly exploited the September 11 attacks to promote corporate bailout packages totaling over $100 billion while the number of unemployed workers soars to unprecedented levels. Facing growing unemployment, homelessness, hunger and loss of health care, workers are being told that corporations need a stimulus package. With the announcement of the $50 billion increase in the military budget, the vast majority of workers are being told that it is the military -industrial complex that needs more money, not programs to aid the temporary, under-employed, underpaid, and unemployed workers and their families in our nation.

Over 2 million jobs were lost in the economy last year, 1.6 million before 9/11 and yet we still see no movement to provide health care coverage while unemployed. Even if you believe the recent reports that the economy is picking up and the loss of jobs has ended, a quick look at the statistics of the last so called boom period provide no comfort.

A group entitled United for a Fair Economy published the accomplishments of the last 20-year run of economic expansion.

Since 1989 the number of billionaires ha jumped 306 %
Chief executive officers who laid off more than 1,000 workers earned 80% more in 200 than CEO?s who laid off fewer than 1,000 employees.
In the last two decades, CEO pay as s a multiple of the average worker’s pay jumped from 42 times more in 1980 to 475 times more in 1999.
Family income over the same period declined for the bottom 20% increased only 1 % for the next 20%, eight percent for the middle 20 %, but 115% for those in the top one percent.
movement of jobs from the category of full time regular to temporary or part-time position – contingent employment
Lengthening of the workday for 25 million people to 49 hours per week.
Average hourly wage for production and non-supervisory workers fell 9 % from 1973 to 1998 and the numbers go on.

If this is the kind of recovery they are promising us, we so no thank you. It is no recovery at all for the working class.

An integral part of its war on terrorism includes a vicious campaign unleashed by the administration against basic democratic rights. While paying lip service to the condemnation of racist attacks on Arabs, Muslims and South Asians following September 11, the right-wing Bush-Ashcroft policies have endangered the civil liberties and democratic rights of all who live in the US. The immigrants rights movement, which was on the verge of winning amnesty, has lost its momentum with the anti-immigrant hysteria stirred up by the Bush administration’s policies.

These policies, which include racial profiling, secret and indefinite detentions without charges or legal recourse, and the establishment of military tribunals by executive order, are currently targeted at non-citizens, but are being expanded to include individuals and organizations that oppose the administration’s policies. The Patriot Act, far from fighting terror, attempts to extend the atmosphere of terror and to silence the right to criticize government policy.

We must remember that this is the administration that came to power illegally and that Bush’s forces appeared ready to stop at nothing to gain the presidency. And when we remember that – besides packing the government with his cronies at Enron – Bush has appointed the likes of fascist- minded individuals like Otto Reich, Jorge Negraponte and Elliot Abrams to key posts; then we can appreciate the menace to constitutional democracy that this administration represents.

New Challenges
The criminal attacks of September 11 and the administration’s response to them have created new realities for the peace movement. A growing and increasingly vocal anti-globalization movement that was poised to challenge the role of corporate greed at home and abroad was temporarily set back. It has regained a tremendous momentum with the demonstrations at the World Economic Forum in NY. With over 50,000 converging on Puerto Alegro for the World Social Forum, it is clear that the worldwide movement has not been deterred.

The struggle for peace encompasses not only the struggle to end Bush’s reckless ‘war on terrorism’, but also a fight against racism and anti-immigrant reaction, a fight against capitalist globalization and for economic justice plus the defense of civil liberties and democratic rights for all.

How do we assess the developments? As communists we understand that is an extremely dangerous moment, but Bush and that segment of the ruling class he represents do not hold all the cards. While some people may be demoralized by the current state of affairs, we know how to organize, mobilize, and recognize the shifts in public opinion that can become a powerful force in changing the direction of this country.

While you might not know it from listening to the ruling class media, there is growing opposition to US policy around the world. The demonstrations all over Europe last fall were massive and strong in their opposition to the war with over half a millionn people marching in the streets of France, Germany, and Greece, England and Italy. The united front in the war against terrorism that Bush likes to speak of has shown some small cracks and after the Axis of evil speech was roundly denounced by many as a man out of touch with reality and history. With the new hit list for nuclear war, it is likely that the opposition will continue to grow.

The European nations are letting BUSH know that they are not willing to follow the US around the globe in unending war. They warn Bush that attacking Iraq would be folly and fan the flames of hatred to the US. The South Koreans are dismayed at the potential impact of Bush’s statement because they are pursuing a course of reunification – a process not encouraged by such inflammatory speech.

Not much more than two weeks after launching an office of strategic information, it has been shut down. The specter of even more media and information control brought such criticism that it never saw the light of day.

The international spotlight on our treatment of the prisoners of war at Guantanamo Base, even though Bush did not want to call them that, forced a change in treatment. The military leaders began to worry that US prisoners of war would not be treated according to international standards should they be caught that led to a change in perspective.

Here we must recognize the tremendous role of Cuba and Fidel Castro in consistently denouncing terrorism, since they have been victims of such acts so many times themselves. Their call for an international, multilateral strategy to defeat terrorism and demanding a role for the United Nations in this endeavor are important contributions to the world-wide debate. And we are bound to build the solidarity movement with the five Cuban political prisoners, whose only crime was to expose the ongoing terrorist activities of the ultra- right Cubans in Florida and foil their plans.

Here in the US the policy of detaining over 1000 (500 remain in custody today) Arab Americans without formal charges, without rights to counsel and visitation by family has come under increasing criticism.

Representative Dennis Kucinich has now joined Representative Barbara Lee in a loud voice opposing the unending war on terrorism. We must find ways to ask every congressman to say Amen to Kucinich’s prayer for peace. There are signs that some are willing to raise the voice louder and more pointedly at the administration’s attempt to silence opposition in the name of fighting terrorism.

The labor movement is raising its voice against the economic policies and refusing to be derailed by charges of lack of patriotism nor making 9/11 the excuse for all ills in the economy. 50,000 steelworkers marching on DC when only 10 or 15,000 were expected is a powerful testament to their demand to be heard. We are encouraged by the efforts, yet small as they may be, of the labor for peace committees that have been formed in New York, San Francisco and Sacramento.

The peace movement is growing and a certain momentum has been gained. There have been successful and ongoing vigils; demonstrations, conferences and more that have not only reinvigorated the traditional peace movement. Because of the many sided attack both abroad and at home; this peace movement has brought together forces in a new way. It is not yet solidified, but it has potential that is different than the past. In the six points that unify even the traditional Peace and Justice Coalition there is a new level of understanding of the inter-relatedness of the struggles – economic justice and peace, between democracy and peace between peace and civil rights. It has not always built all the bridges, but the construction is still under way. It is a struggle that as communists we understand. We can help in that construction. The party is playing a leading role in key movements both nationally and around the country and we have a unique opportunity on many fronts to influence the direction and growth of this movement under construction.

I want to speak of one item in particular that is the struggle to put the maximum number of people on the street in Washington DC on April 20. This is a moment that we cannot let pass us by. We will hear more on the details in a special report this afternoon by Libero one of our national leaders.

I believe that we must recognize that while there are two demonstrations on the same day, there is really only one game in town that weekend. It is a united call to action to demand an end to the war, to demand an end to racial profiling, to demand aid to education and an end to university complicity with the military. It is a call to demand an end to the secret imprisonment of immigrants, and for a foreign policy based upon social and economic justice, not military and corporate oppression. We are calling on the administration to end the war at home and abroad. And we are working to mobilize people to attend the Rally at the Washington Monument and the march to the Capital bldg. I know we have tactical issues to resolve, and some astute organizing, but we all must leave with a resolve to fill buses, vans, cars to get to DC on April 20.

The struggle will extend beyond April 20 and we, as the party will be there as well. Our deliberations this weekend build on a long and proud history of the Communist Party in the struggle for peace. We will carry on the best traditions of anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist fight – from the example of DuBois leading the Stockholm Peace Appeal to the movements to end the wars in Korea, and Vietnam. From the struggles to end the nuclear arms build up to the solidarity movements we help build with the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and with the anti-colonial struggles in Angola, Namibia and Mozambique.

We understand how central the issue of peace is to the struggles of working people both here in the United States and around the world. We are internationalists as well, so as we build the movements for peace; we also stand in solidarity with working people the world over as they fight for freedom and independence.

We stand confident that we will chart a winning course in our deliberations this weekend. In the words of our own countries freedom fighters and the words of those struggling round the world for peace and justice:

We shall overcome.

Si Se Puede.


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