REPORT ON UNITED NATIONAL ANTIWAR COALITION CONFERENCE
By Marilyn Levin, Co-Coordinator, UNAC
As the United States, in its desperation to control world resources and maintain its power, threatens to attack Syria and Iran, works to stifle popular resistance movements, slashes our standard of living, poisons our environment, and systematically dismantles the Bill of Rights, well over 500 antiwar and social justice activists gathered in Stamford, CT, March 23-25 to lay out an Action Program that can challenge the NATO/G-8 Agenda for war, austerity, and repression. Many participants praised the breadth and depth of issues and the caliber of the speakers and presenters in 50 workshops, six plenary panels, and keynote addresses by environmentalist Bill McKibben, historian and commentator Vijay Prashad, economist Richard Wolff, and Muslim Peace Coalition founder Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid. National antiwar leaders Medea Benjamin, Ann Wright, and David Swanson also played a significant role.
and youth of participants was significant for a large national antiwar
conference in recent times. Much of this was attributable to the organizing
efforts of the Muslim Peace Coalition, assembled due to the initiative of a number of important
clerics and community leaders, brought busloads of Muslim activists to the conference from
attendance at our first conference to this one shows a significant improvement
in composition that indicates the achievements of UNAC and changes in the
broader movement. The
A number of important
African-American political leaders lent their prestige to the conference. There
was a special lunch program -- The War at Home on the Black Community: Mass
Incarceration, Unemployment, Stop and Frisk, that featured Dr. Khalilah Brown Dean, a researcher on Black incarceration;
Larry Holmes, a leader of the International Action Center; and Black Agenda
Report staffers Glen Ford, Nellie Bailey, and Bruce Dixon. Highlighting the
New Jim Crow and the pervasive racism that generates it, as exemplified by the
murder of Trayvon Martin and the community response,
points to the necessity for a new civil rights movement. There were also
workshops on antiwar organizing in the Black community, organized by Ana Edwards
of the Virginia Defenders, and the contradictions of the imperialist’s agenda
for full spectrum dominance with a BAR panel. Black Agenda Report
Executive Director Glen Ford spoke on a plenary panel and introduced the Action
Program to the conference. This conference recognized the fact that opposition
to the war at home on the Black community must remain visible and at the center
of antiwar organizing in the
Labor was not a large component but there were leaders of important labor actions of the Longshore and Warehouse Union on the West Coast - Mike Fuqua, a Longview strike leader and Clarence Thomas, ILWU Local 10 Executive Board -- and Andrew Murray, British leader of a huge strike action in England as well as a national leader of Britain’s Stop the War Coalition. The connection of labor and the Occupy movement in confronting the economic attacks on working people and youth was stressed.
There were leaders of Puerto Rican and Colombian major student strikes and a Honduran presence. DRUM (Desis Rising UP and Moving) and the May 1st Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights played a significant role in the conference in involving South Asians and immigrants and highlighting their struggles.
struggle to “Free Palestine” was emphasized with two workshops, Andrew Dalack, speaking for USPCN (US Palestine Community
Network), and resolutions to support BDS, the Global March to
The focus on
NATO/G8 and the importance of building the national mass mobilization called
placed a full-page ad signed by hundreds of supporters of civil liberties
across the country and around the world demanding that permits for May 20 be
granted by reluctant city officials. The national coalition that UNAC helped
form and actively builds, CANG-8 (Coalition Against the NATO/G8 War and Poverty
Agenda) and attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU spent months
effectively countering city official measures and media hype designed to
discourage participation in the massive mobilization of antiwar and social
justice forces that are expected to be in Chicago on May 20. In fact, as of now,
the right for a permitted march and rally within "sight and sound" of
NATO's war-making gathering has been won. In spite of the administration’s aims
to stifle protest, the May 20th mobilization is steadily gaining
wide support, including endorsements from Occupy Chicago, the National Nurses
Union, and Rev. Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, headquartered in
The significance of the new Occupy Movement and relating the economic crisis and war economy were addressed by speakers and a number of workshops. Leaders of the struggles against drones and nuclear power and weapons led several workshops.
The expanding assaults on human rights and civil liberties was featured in many workshops dealing with Guantanamo, torture, indefinite detention, Islamophobia, the use of law and prisons for social control, and the curtailment of our rights to protest.
It was striking that there seemed to be consensus that US imperialism was the central unifying cause of the worldwide atrocities of never-ending war, austerity and repression and that this system of rule by the 1% must be defeated if a new order representing the interests of the 99% can be fostered. This theme was stressed repeatedly. Another striking feature was that in an election year, where traditionally the political emphasis of much of the left has been to defeat Republicans and avoid mass action, there was strong criticism of Obama and the Democratic Party administration as servants of the rich and just as culpable for the wars at home and abroad. The current election cycle was not a major concern at the conference.
contentious issue in 2010 was over the demand to End All US Aid to
controversial issue this year was over what position to take on
The Action Program introduced by the UNAC Coordinating Committee was well-received and accepted as the working document of the conference. It begins WE, THE NINETY-NINE PERCENT, AFFIRM THAT: The history of all successful social movements demonstrates that the few, the one percent, NEVER yield to the MANY unless the MANY are organized democratically, independent of the institutions of the status quo, united in struggle in massive numbers and confident in victory.
Action Program, as amended and passed by the conference, listed 18 actions.
Building the national march protesting NATO and the G-8 in
A strong and united national movement that relates to the global struggles against imperialist crimes is even more essential today. We can no longer be a “single issue” movement, as the Empire operates on all fronts against the 99%. However, the struggle to end war and repression, the major tools they use to maintain dominance and social control, must be at the core of our work.
UNAC is a
major national antiwar and social justice coalition. In this time of
never-ending war, our collective efforts to build strong actions to challenge
the war, austerity, and repression agenda of the 1%, are critical. Where would
we be if there was no visible, unified antiwar movement in the
adopted by the March 23-25 UNAC conference on
U.S./NATO Troops Out Now! No to Imperialist Wars, Occupations, Sanctions, Embargoes!
Self-determination for All Oppressed People!
United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) was founded on the principle of
self-determination for all oppressed nations and peoples. We demand the
immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S./NATO troops, mercenaries and
seen the horrific consequences of
It is our
task and obligation as antiwar and social justice activists within the