Rebuilding an Anti-War movement in the U.S.
The main enemy is at home. But the enemy of my enemy is NOT my friend.
A.N.S.W.E.R. is not the answer
In 1967 MLK called the U.S. government “ the greatest purveyor of violence” in the world. In the middle of the Vietnam War he was certainly correct. He would be right to repeat this sentiment today. The U.S. is the world’s preeminent imperialist power. It has over 1000 foreign military bases. Its ships patrol all the oceans. It still has enough nuclear bombs to destroy humanity. Its record of government overthrow is unparalleled in human history. It claims the right as the “indispensable nation”( Bill Clinton) to interfere in every area of the globe. It backs repressive governments against their own people and others. It supplies Saudi Arabia in its genocidal war against Yemen. It supports Israel with billions of dollars against the Palestinians, denying their right to self-determination.
U.S. based corporations benefit from this military dominance — -both the “defense” contractors and others. As NYT columnist Thomas Friedman said the hidden fist of the U.S. military is used to back up the hidden hand of the “free” market. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson understood this 100 years ago:
Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused.
The U.S. military is the enemy of humanity. It is the largest single user of fossil fuels in the world. Anyone who wants a better world should resolutely oppose U.S. militarism and imperialism.
But what is the most effective political basis for this movement?
There is a debate among anti-war activists. In order to build opposition to U.S. intervention, should activists whitewash or support U.S. enemies? This comes up now in the discussion of Ukraine. Some activists such as the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition take a campist position — -i.e. they give political support to the camp of countries the U.S. opposes. They repeat the talking points of the Russian government. They claim that Russia has a right to protect its position from NATO. Because the U.S. is the most dangerous imperialist, they come close to saying it is the only imperialist.
But is this true? Russia is a secondary imperialist power that has suffered defeats since 1991. It lost control of Eastern Europe , the Baltic States and Ukraine when the USSR collapsed. Yet it is still a regional imperialist with international aspirations. In 2014 it stole the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. It regularly interferes in the politics of Ukraine , Belarus etc. It is now using Russian troops to support the authoritarian government of Kazakhstan against a popular uprising. It is planning naval war games off the coast of Ireland.
There is no reason to give political support to Putin’s authoritarian regime. To do so is to back his government against the Russian movement for democracy. It would be to back the repressive government of Kazakhstan against the people of that country. It would be to back the Russian state against the aspirations of the people of Ukraine.
The U.S. has no right to interfere in Eastern Europe. Activists should oppose the NATO buildup and NATO in general. NATO is a cold war relic that needs to be dissolved. It is a weapon of U.S. control over Europe. But opposing the U.S. and NATO does not necessarily mean supporting Russia’s ambitions.
Those who support democracy and international solidarity should support popular revolts against authoritarian regimes that the U.S. backs ( such as Saudi Arabia and Israel). However , we should also support movements for democracy in Russia, China etc.
A renewed anti-war movement can be made up of those who support this international solidarity AND the campists who support Russia. There is no justification for separate anti-war movements since both oppose U.S. interventions. Separation would only weaken the effort to stop U.S. wars.
However, an anti-war movement that is dominated by campism will be less effective than an independent movement. People in the U.S. understand that Putin is no popular hero. They understand he is an authoritarian dictator who is not standing up for his people, but for the oligarchs. They will not enthusiastically join a movement that seems to be a pawn of Russia. Though the movement should not focus on denouncing U.S. enemies, it should certainly not seem to defend them either.
An effective anti-war movement must steer clear of political support to either side . While primarily opposing the U.S. , it should not seem to justify the Russian position.
Ordinary people have no stake in the imperialist battles between the superpowers. The anti-war movement needs to oppose any military intervention or use of sanctions against Russia. It should not support a diplomatic solution because the U.S. has no right to impose its will on the Ukraine-Russia conflict even with negotiations. To paraphrase Van Clausewitz “ diplomacy is war by other means”.
The central demand should be the same as it was when MLK spoke “ U.S. Out!” .