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.


The diversity 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 New York and DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), a group who brought many South Asian immigrant activists. The MPC organized what amounted to a mini-conference within the UNAC conference, with three workshops, a keynote by Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, and a meeting of the MPC that drafted a conference action proposal that passed unanimously calling for a mass mobilization and demonstration in NYC on June 16 to protest against “the violation of the civil and human rights of all people”, particularly the NYPD spying and the NDAA’s authorization of indefinite detention, and the wars at home and abroad.


Comparing the 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 Albany conference in the summer of 2010 was larger, a huge success, and launched a new national coalition, but the composition was narrower. Most were involved in the traditional peace movement and there were fewer youth and people of color. The contrast today showed the changes and gains we are making. There were more students, youth from the occupy movements and members of Students for Justice in Palestine.


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 U.S.


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.


The continuing 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 Jerusalem on Land Day, and organizing a Palestine Contingent for the march against NATO on May 20.


The focus on NATO/G8 and the importance of building the national mass mobilization called for Chicago on May 20 and winning our fight for the right to protest at these major events was evident throughout the conference. There were conference plenary panels on the Shifting Strategies of Empire, Our Response to the NATO/G-8 Agenda of War and Austerity, and a NATO/G-8 Protest Organizing Session aimed at organizing broad national participation in Chicago. Joe Iosbaker and Pat Hunt, central organizers of the NATO/G-8 protests, reported on plans for the mobilization and emphasized the national character of the Chicago actions and the fight for our rights to protest.


UNAC recently 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 Chicago. An impressive list of speakers for both the rally and the People’s Summit called for May 12-13 will be announced shortly. An international delegation will be attending as “observers” to document the peaceful character of the march.


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.


The contentious issue in 2010 was over the demand to End All US Aid to Israel, along with support for BDS and the Right of Return. That is generally accepted now and taking this strong stance built our stature and connection to the Palestine solidarity movement.


The controversial issue this year was over what position to take on Iran. There was total agreement on all sides re: nonintervention of any sort by the U.S. and its allies and self-determination for Iran. But many groups in UNAC and in the broader antiwar movement have different assessments of the government of Iran ranging from supportive to harshly critical and different perspectives on whether or not to address any criticisms at a time when the government faces sanctions and threats of attack. Cognizant that UNAC is a mass action and united front coalition, the conference voted by a 2/3 majority to re-affirm UNAC’s fundamental U.S./NATO "Out Now!" position and support of the right of self-determination of all oppressed peoples and nations, including Iran. (See Resolution on Iran.) Of course, all component groups of UNAC are free to express their differing views through their own publications, spokespersons, and actions.


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.

The final Action Program, as amended and passed by the conference, listed 18 actions. Building the national march protesting NATO and the G-8 in Chicago May 20 as the central mass action priority for the spring, along with the People’s Summit May 12-13, were emphasized. Other actions endorsed included May 1st immigrant rights actions, protests at the RNC and DNC stating, "No to the Democratic and Republican Party Agendas,” actions to support the Occupy movement and other antiwar and social justice events, support for Bradley Manning, building the national march for human rights and liberties in NYC on June 16, support for BDS against Israel, and emergency actions around threats of war or initiation of armed conflict.


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 U.S. today? What hope would people around the world suffering from wars, poverty, and police-state repression have if U.S. imperialism meets no resistance? UNAC is creating important alliances and organizing and supporting the kinds of actions that are essential to grow and win victories. Please participate by asking your organizations to apply to join UNAC, support us financially, and build the actions that that were approved at the conference.




Resolution adopted by the March 23-25 UNAC conference on Iran and related issues:

U.S./NATO Troops Out Now! No to Imperialist Wars, Occupations, Sanctions, Embargoes!

Self-determination for All Oppressed People!


The 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 drones from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Libya. We have every confidence that, free from imperialist intervention of every type, the oppressed nations and peoples of the world are fully capable of building societies that represent their interests as opposed to the imperial exploiters, neo-colonialists and would-be subjugators.


We have seen the horrific consequences of U.S. wars, "humanitarian" interventions, starvation sanctions, crippling embargoes and targeted assassinations. All have been employed to justify renewed imperialist conquest.


It is our task and obligation as antiwar and social justice activists within the United States to prevent the U.S./NATO's enormous military, economic and media power from imposing its will on the oppressed of the world in order to benefit the interest of the U.S. power elite – the 1%. UNAC opposes any form of U.S. military or economic intervention, sanctions, sabotage and assassinations in Iran and Syria, in Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Haiti, Zimbabwe, Africa in general and in all other countries, regions and continents where the Pentagon, the CIA, the State Department or their allies seek to impose their will.