Speech given in Vancouver, BC, by Marc Brodine, March 2003

BY:Washington District| April 12, 2003

Peace in the World, or the World in Pieces
By Marc Brodine

We live in times of great danger and great opportunity.

Two events from the last few months symbolize these two opposites.

On February 15th and 16th, over 11 million people around the world demonstrated against the possibility of war against Iraq. These were the largest coordinated demonstrations ever, including several demonstrations with well over one million participants. These demonstrations were part of a rapidly growing, largely spontaneous worldwide peace movement, and affected politics in numerous countries.

They put the Blair government on notice that the next elections in Britain will be much more difficult for him. They put backbone into the Turkish parliament, which voted down a bill to let the U. S. military use bases in Turkey to attack Iraq from the north. They supported the German and French governments in their opposition to a United Nations resolution providing cover for Bushs military adventurism. This peace movement has already forced the U. S. to delay its attack on Iraq for many monthsif Bush had his way, the U. S. would have gone to war last year.

Political strikes in Europe against the war, from one-hour strikes in Italy to day-long strikes in Germany and other countries, set the stage for joint international working class actions, a powerful force which can force companies and countries to oppose the U. S. ruling class drive for world control.

The opposite event was the decision by the Bush Administration to ignore world opinion and invade Iraq under the bizarre and unprecedented doctrine of pre-emptive strike. The U. S. military was supplemented by troops from Britain and a handful of other countries, while Colin Powell trumpeted the so-called coalition of the willing, referred to by others as the coalition of the willing to be bought. The military blitzkrieg unleashed by Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and the Republican majority and many Democrats in both houses of the U. S. Congress is leading the world to the brink of even wider war.

The massive worldwide demonstrations and the U. S. invasion of Iraq are the manifestations of the opportunities and the dangers of our moment in historywill we sink into endless warfare, hatred, death and destruction, or will we force a change in the priorities of countries, governments and populations?

This worldwide peace movement is also very evident in the United States. Frequent demonstrations of hundreds of thousands have taken place in Washington DC, New York, and San Francisco. Tens of thousands have rallied in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland Oregon, and Boston. Innumerable smaller demonstrations have taken place, in cities large and small, in towns, in neighborhoods, in churches, synagogues, and mosques, over the Internet, and in the letters to the editor pages of newspapers and magazines. Combined, this is an active force of several million people.

Alongside the spontaneous growth of the peace movement and of local organizations, has been the development and growth of new national organizations and coalitions.

There is United for Peace and Justice, in which our Party plays a role, and which unites the long established peace organizations with newly active churches and mainstream organizations. There is moveon.org, which has organized hundreds of thousands of e-mails, faxes, and telegrams to the White House, Congress and the UN. Another Internet based organization is True Majority. These three also participate in a working coalition called Win Without War, which sponsored television and newspaper ads, several lobby days directed at Congress, and e-mail campaigns. These Internet-based campaigns enlisted many hundreds of thousands, at several points growing by two hundred thousand in one week. In Seattle, the main coalition is named SNOW, Sound Opponents Of War.

There are several other national organizations and coalitions that have played a role in the demonstrations and mobilizations. These include Not In My Name and International ANSWER; both include leadership from some sectarian left organizations. Each of these coalitions of course includes much broader forces, laying the basis for building unity of action between the coalitions, which cooperate on both a local and national basis when possible, in spite of political and practical differences between them.

With the huge spontaneous movement, many first-time activists come without previous organizational experience. They can fall for militant-sounding slogans and tactics that drive away the vary people the peace movement needs to reach and win. We have to keep the main goal in mind: to win millions of people in the U. S. to the peace movement.

The Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches, and many other religious organizations have taken positions against the war. Over 100 city councils passed anti-war resolutions.

And in Congress itself, a handful of progressive Congress people have introduced resolutions, marched in demonstrations, spoken out, and are suing Bush. Notable among these are Barbara Lee of California, the only vote against the original resolution authorizing Bush to use force, and Jim McDermott of Seattle, who visited Iraq and spoke out vigorously against invasion. Several dozen are co-sponsoring a resolution to revoke Bushs war-making authority.

All this is in marked contrast to the much slower development in the U. S. of an anti-Vietnam War movement. The first demonstration in Seattle against the war in Vietnam took place in 1963 and had about 45 people in attendance. It took about five years to build up Seattle demonstrations to about 6,000. In 1970, that exploded to 30,000.

Already, before the war started, there has been one demonstration in Seattle of 30,000. Numerous other demonstrations have ranged from one thousand to four thousand to ten to fifteen thousand, in Seattle alone. Portland also has had repeated demonstrations with turn-outs in the range of 20,000 to 30,000.

Similarly, it took until the early 1970s for national demonstrations to reach a million participants. When I was 13, in 1965, I went to the first national demonstration against the war in Vietnam, sponsored by SDS, in Washington DC. There were more people than I had ever seenover 25,000! There have already been several demonstrations, with one on the East Coast, one or more on the West Coast, where the combined total was over 1 million.

After the start of the Iraq war, there have been numerous daily demonstrations, vigils, and prayer services, though smaller in size. Civil disobedience, collaboration between coalitions, and regular public debate have all had an impact on the national consciousness. Even though the media still downplay and discount and undercount the peace movement, they are covering it regularly. Letters to the editor feature a point-counterpoint between pro- and anti-war citizens.

The peace sentiment within labor is a particularly positive sign. During the Vietnam War, it took many years before even local unions began passing resolutions against the war. The AFL-CIO threatened to expel any central labor council that passed an anti-war resolution. Only in the late 1960s were there the first signs of a stirring anti-war sentiment in labor, and the first successful efforts to build labor anti-war organization. This time around, thousands of union locals, important central labor councils, several state federations, and important national unions have already passed such resolutions, and sponsored busses to demonstrations, and marched in labor contingents in those demonstrations. Even John Sweeney, head of the AFL-CIO, has had to equivocate on support for the war, opening the door for further union organizing against the war policies of the Bush Administration. Many unions are taking the lead in linking the huge increases in the war budget to the crisis in the U. S. economy, broadening the base for opposition to war.

Demonstrations have been noticeably more diverse, and have energized a new generation of youth activists. A national student strike on March 5th brought out students on over 300 college and university campuses, and at hundreds of high schools, in the largest youth actions in decades.

These are all signs of hope, of progress, of the emergence of a movement big enough and strong enough to change the political direction of our country.

There are also many signs of danger, of an intensifying push to restrict the democratic rights of citizens and immigrants, to grant new broad powers for surveillance to the national security state agencies, to develop a national database of all people who might challenge the hegemony of the Bush Administration. Administration spokesmen regularly work to whip up war hysteria, threaten invasion, and demonize many countriesIraq, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Libya, and actually send troops to many other countriesincluding Columbia, the Philippines, and build new military bases all over the Middle East.

This war is not about Iraq, not about Saddam Hussein, not about weapons of mass destruction, not about liberating the Iraqi people from an oppressive dictator. Saddam Hussein has been an oppressive dictator for a long time, including during the early 1980s, when the U. S. gave Iraq weapons to use against Iran. They had no qualms then about supporting a dictator who used chemical weapons, when they thought it served the geopolitical interests of the U. S. corporations.

This war is not about forcing any country that rejects or ignores United Nations resolutions to abide by those resolutionsIsrael has violated more UN resolutions than any other country, yet still gets billions of dollars of U. S. government military supplies each year. The U. S., by engaging in an aggressive unprovoked war, is violating the UN Charter, so this is not about respect for UN resolutions and principles.

The Bush Administration, which cries for the Iraqis to honor the Geneva Accords about the treatment of prisoners of war, routinely violates those accords, engaging in the same practices they accuse the Iraqis of engaging in. Bush has unilaterally withdrawn the U. S. from international treaties, from the Kyoto Accords to the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. The U. S., alone among major industrial countries, rejects the setting up of an international court to prosecute war criminals, demanding that U. S. soldiers and political and military leaders be exempted from prosecution. The U. S. alone asserts its right to wage aggressive pre-emptive war anywhere at any time. The U. S. government alone refuses to be judged by the same standards as other countries.

Prominent hawks, who pushed the invasion of Iraq long before 9/11, are now calling for Iran or Syria to be next. Richard Pearle, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Condolezza Rice, and Rumsfeld himself, threaten other countries with invasion unless they capitulate to unilateral U. S. demands. While complaining about the supposed threat from Saddam Hussein, the U. S. government threatens other countries with weapons of mass destruction, and has actually invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq, and threatened to invade Iran, Syria, Columbia, and other countries. The U. S. government is turning into an outlaw state, defying international pressure, acting toward allies in an arrogant and bullying fashion, blatantly using bribes and threatening the cut-off of aid against any who oppose the U. S.

The Bush Administration hypocritically takes advantage of the justified outrage of the people of the U. S. against the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center to build support for war against people who had nothing to do with those attacks. For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the U. S. ruling circles have an ideological justification for their military adventurism which can gain support from large sections of the population. They are taking full advantage of this to promote their ultra-right policies, not only in foreign affairs, but also to target the poor and workers inside the U. S. The U. S. people are caught between the right-wing fundamentalists in the Middle East and the most right-wing power-hungry sections of the U. S. ruling class.

Even though a majority of people in the U. S. currently support the invasion, most do not appear to believe that the U. S. should regard the choice to go to war without UN approval as a precedent, a recent poll showed. 66% said the U. S. should not feel more free to use military force in the future without UN authorization. Similarly, over 80% thought the U. S. should deal with the Iranian government through diplomacy, not force or threats.

The U. S. has been in a serious recession since about six months before 9/11, with no end in sight. Unemployment continues to rise, with Washington and Oregon among the hardest hit. Even the lowest interest rates in 40 years cant stimulate the economy. City, county, and state governments face the worst budget crises since the mid-1940sbillions of dollars of shortfalls resulting in billions of dollars of cuts in social service programs. For example, in Washington State, Governor Locke is proposing to cut 46,000 poor children from state-funded health care, due to a several billion-dollar shortfall in state revenue. At a time of greater need for social programs, for the safety net, programs are being cut yet again, while Bush pushes another tax cut for the super-rich.

This struggle between the ultra-right and the growing peace movement sets the stage for the 2004 elections. There will be a titanic battle to wrest control of the presidency and both houses of Congress away from the ultra-right, away from the warmongers, away from the multi-national corporations. The peace movement, the labor movement, the womens movement, the civil rights movements, the environmental movement, the immigrant rights movement all have a huge stake in reversing the policies of the Bush Administration and his Congressional allies.

Under cover of the war, the Bush Administration is pushing its regressive, repressive agenda across the board. Ashcroft is proposing a Son of the Patriot Act which would restrict civil rights and civil liberties even more than the so-called Patriot Act. Bush is eviscerating environmental protections, union rights, and privacy rights. Under the guise of the needs for flexibility for national security, hundreds of thousands of government workers in the newly created Department of Homeland Security have been denied the right to union representationmany of whom have had such protection for many decades. During the longshore strike last year, the government threatened to intervene even beyond its actions invoking the Taft-Hartley Actthreatening to break up the coast-wide bargaining unit, to nationalize the docks and run them with military labor, and to break the union with huge fines. The strength of the union, of international solidarity of dockworkers, and of a disastrous affect on the economy all helped settle that strike, but the attitude of the Bush Administration continues to be anti-union, anti-worker, anti-civil rights in the extreme. The Bush Administration, at the same time it calls for supporting the troops, is even proposing to cut veterans medical benefits!

We should not have any illusionswhile there is still a great deal of room for democratic action, for electoral struggle, for demonstrations and strikes and the building of mass movements in the U. S., the clique around Bush is working to push the U. S. in a fascist direction. The ruling circles in the Bush Administration are representing the most anti-democratic, most reactionary, most militaristic, most exploitative sections of the monopoly ruling class. Unless the progressive mass movements fight to defend every encroachment against our hard-won democratic rights, the ultra-right will continue to chip away at democracy and civil rights. This is not just a battle for peace in Iraq, for peace in the Middle East, for an end to the adventurist military policy of the Bush Administration; it is a battle for real democracy.

Pressure from the peoples of the world, combined with the growing peace movement and sentiment in the U. S. can bring a stop to this war and to the war drive that is fueling a new, heightened imperialism.

This will require greater international cooperation and coordination, and greater unity. The Communist Parties of the world have a crucial role to play in building this unity between movements, organizations, unions and countries. We believe that socialism is becoming not just possible but necessary for the survival of our species and our planet.

The international movements for peace, against capitalist globalization, against the FTAA, for womens rights, for equality and justice and against racism, for a renewed labor movement, for a sustainable environment, for immigrant rights, and for a moral, just, and multilateral international community of nations which solves problems through peaceful means, together these movements have the power to turn the countries of the world in a more progressive direction, to blunt and stop the ultra-right, and to lay the basis for a new flowering of humanity.


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