Organizing the democratic majority into the fight for peace

November 28, 2023
Organizing the democratic majority into the fight for peace


The following presentation was given by Henry Lowendorf on behalf of the CPUSA Peace & Solidarity Commission at the CPUSA Peace Conference 2023, November 11–12, in New York City.

Welcome to all our comrades to this first-of-a-kind Peace Conference!

I urge everyone to take to heart the excellent comments of comrade Aida. As we analyze the situation in Israel and Palestine, we should be guided by them.

This conference, called by the National Committee, focuses our party to collectively dig deeply and step forward at a crucial moment in the life of our country and the world.

How appropriate that today is November 11, Armistice Day, the 105th anniversary of the end of World War I. The war to end all wars, wasn’t. So in some ways we’re meeting with the possible task of marching to end wars.

Today’s context, moreover, are the strikes by unions coast to coast opposing the corporate monopolies with one amazing victory after another. As we enter another season of elections, workers must similarly create a massive response to defeat fascist-minded attacks on our democratic rights.

This peace conference aims to collectively build the broadest possible peace front, fueled by the power of the party’s multi-racial working-class leadership that understands our class interests and the democratic nature of peace.

The questions we are addressing this weekend are: How can we draw on the ideas and energy of activists in labor, civil rights, environment, women, youth, LGBTQ — all the human needs struggles — to enhance the majority that supports cutting the military budget and shifting those funds to end poverty, racism, and environmental devastation, as laid out in the Third Reconstruction agenda of the Poor People’s Campaign? How can we build on the majority that supports a ceasefire and ending arms sales to Israel? How do we enhance the majority call to abolish nuclear weapons? How do we change the militaristic policies of the Biden administration? How do we build broad unity around peace to defeat the ultra right in 2024?

Our “People, Peace and Planet before Profits” program reflects the self interests of our multi-racial working class. Our statement on ending the downward spiral of violence in Israel and Palestine, based on solidarity with our fraternal parties, provides guidance.

Indeed, the conference we are attending will set the stage for growing the peace movement in our country in ways that have been missing for many decades.

Today and tomorrow, those of us assembled here will initiate and catalyze a much needed and, I assure you, a much appreciated grassroots revitalization of broader peace forces in this country.

The main reason for this conference is stated in its call:

“The traditional peace movement needs youth, energy, unity, imagination and diversity. It needs breadth and leadership from the [diverse] working class….

“How can the CPUSA draw on its deep history of peace work to help revitalize and rebuild the peace movement?

“At its core, this is a struggle for mass democratic power for people to change the direction of the country. What unique role can the Communist Party play?”

After this call was issued, another major war broke out that is generating horrendous bloodshed and once again threatens to expand into nuclear mushroom clouds.

The wars in the Middle East, exploding for many decades in one country after another, have now turned into a raging volcano of death and destruction for Palestinians in occupied Gaza and the West Bank. On October 7, Hamas attacked both military personnel and civilians, killing over a thousand and taking about 200 hostages. This action shocked and traumatized Israelis and the world. Even in war, we do not sanction the killing of civilians. At the same time, we must point out that the violence and pain that Israelis experienced in one day, has assaulted Palestinians every day for 75 years. Every day. The criminal Israeli occupation has fueled three-quarters of a century of resistance, both peaceful and violent.

The extreme right-wing Israeli government is responding by essentially destroying Gaza and the 2.3 million Palestinians imprisoned there, having already slaughtered over 10,000, including 40% children. The Israeli government is publicly calling to kill or expel all Palestinians from their homeland, ethnically cleansing them for a second time since 1948.

Most of the world is demanding an immediate end to this crime against humanity.

For us living in the U. S., it’s repellant that our government is so far unrelentingly committed to abetting these war crimes.

The call to this conference did not anticipate the tremendous activation of voices for peace in the Middle East that has taken place in the last month. This is the silver lining to an otherwise very dark cloud.

Reacting to this current crisis are gigantic rallies in the U.S. and across the world, first of all calling for ceasefire, humanitarian aid, an end to the U.S. sending more weapons of mass killing, the release of both the 200 Israelis held by Hamas and the many thousands of Palestinian political prisoners held by Israel, and for an end to the murderous, colonial occupation.

One thing we have before us is the toolkit provided by the Political Action Commission. It contains four pieces of legislation. The first urges us to support Congressional House Resolution 786, introduced by Representative Cori Bush, which calls for an immediate ceasefire in Israel and occupied Palestine. Our party must help unify peace forces to pressure Congress to vote for this resolution. In this conference, we must discuss how to make this happen.

We see a revival of the peace movement, mostly young, but fairly sophisticated. How can we catalyze far more visibility, as well as unity, from the labor movement, people of color, the women’s movement, immigrant rights and civil rights activists, and people of faith in the peace rallies that are demanding our government end its support for the massacre of Palestinians?

Clearly this energetic, welcome resurgence for peace and justice in the Middle East needs to be extended. Such a struggle necessarily demands an end to the whole imperial enterprise of “full-spectrum dominance” — military, economic, geopolitical, diplomatic, and cultural — over the whole human race, advocated by the most right-wing sectors of the U.S. ruling class since the 1990s and implemented since then by one president after another.

Even while the crisis in Gaza has drawn the world’s attention and ire, the war between Ukraine/NATO and Russia drags on with terrible death and destruction. Because of the ferocity of Israel’s violence against Palestinians, news about the war between Ukraine and NATO on one side and Russia on the other has receded to the background, but the killing continues.

The United States government, led by bipartisan warmongers, does everything in its power to prolong both wars and to prevent diplomacy to end the violence. Our government weaponizes these conflicts.

The only winners in these wars are the merchants of death, the Lockheed Martins, Boeings and Raytheons, and the giants of the fossil fuel industry. As their profits grow, we say, “No!”

Let’s discuss this weekend how we activate the peace majority in this country to demand an end to the profiteers of death.

Both the European and the Israeli–Palestinian wars involve nuclear armed states as combatants. Each war can easily escalate into nuclear confrontation, potentially wiping out civilizations past, present and future. Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968 requires the U.S. to negotiate nuclear abolition with all the other nuclear-weapons powers. But to date, it has refused. Today, there is Congressional legislation that would call on the U.S. to negotiate nuclear abolition. It is the second piece of legislation described in the Political Action Commission’s toolkit. Let’s discuss how we mobilize at the grassroots to promote the passage of this legislation.

We also recognize the relationship between wars abroad and wars at home.

What are the priorities of the democratic government of the richest country in history? Certainly not educating children. Certainly not protecting the environment. Certainly not ending racism and sexism and ensuring equal justice. Not ending police violence, especially against people of color, or treating immigrants as human beings. Not providing universal health care, or protecting women’s health. Not ensuring livable-wage jobs, affordable housing and secure pensions. Not ending the poverty draft, or eliminating poverty itself. The list of low priorities is long, while the list of what our government considers most important, what is easily funded with no questions asked, is very short: namely, war and corporate profits.

Every year, Congress appropriates a huge treasure to feed the Pentagon, now amounting to well over $1 trillion. That’s 2 million dollars every minute, 24/7.

Imagine this, comrades: Less than 2 days’ worth of Pentagon spending would cover the salaries of all 75,000 NYC school teachers for one full year.

If we want to make headway in providing quality, desegregated public education, we have to redirect money from war into teaching our children to be human.

The Pentagon is the greatest single greenhouse gas polluter on earth from all the fuel it burns in its bombers, tanks, ships, buildings and computers. Beyond that, consider all the wars fought to ensure that U.S. monopoly corporations can take over fossil fuels under the soil of invaded countries. There is no doubt that taking control of oil and methane in Iraq, Libya, Iran, Venezuela, and Russia for the giant fossil-fuel monopolies is a major reason for the bombing and economic wars the U.S. wages on those lands.

If we want to revolutionize the energy we use to make sure the climate is our friend and not our enemy, we have to quickly stop this country’s aggressive fossil fuel wars and create a just transition away from burning them. The Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act offers $369 billion over ten years toward that goal, which equates to $37 billion per year. That’s less than 4 cents on the dollar of annual Pentagon spending. Our government’s priorities are upside down. It’s up to us to right them.

If we want to make headway in preventing the earth from overheating, we have to end the power of the Pentagon and the oil giants.

If we took ten days’ spending from the military budget, we could have 159,000 clean energy jobs.

A third piece of legislation in Congress, as described in the toolkit, is the People Over Pentagon Act of 2023, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee and others. It calls for a $100 billion reduction in the Pentagon budget, a good beginning for what must be far deeper cuts. For example, the Poor People’s Campaign calls for a cut of $350 billion. How can our party organize support for this legislation?

There is no end to the examples of how this country could better spend the wealth the working class creates instead of promoting killing. We must create a transition from killing to healing, ensuring workers and the planet are justly treated.

The fourth bill described in the Political Action Commission’s toolkit is the Third Reconstruction legislation, based on the Poor People’s Campaign to “Fully Address Poverty and Low Wages from the Bottom Up.” A major source of funding to accomplish this is to move money from the military budget to human needs. Another source is to tax the income and wealth of the billionaires. Let’s talk about how we mobilize to accomplish this.

These four pieces of legislation form an organizing center for building an active, grass roots, working-class peace majority in our country, which will be necessary to deal with additional crucial issues. These include ending the embargoes and illegal, deadly U.S. sanctions on Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Syria and other countries, which force the working class to choose between starvation and migration. A larger and more active working-class peace majority will also be needed to stop the new Cold War against China, and attempts to generate a Chinese civil war, to close the 800 U.S. military bases on foreign soil, to shut down NATO, the U.S.’s foreign legion, and to dissolve AFRICOM, the Pentagon’s new colonial invasion of Africa. We must also organize to end the militarization of the border, and the police and Pentagon’s militarization of our society in the schools, in the streets, and in our homes.

The results of this conference can accelerate and energize our party’s work in building working-class pressure for peace initiatives, while building democratic people’s power at the same time.

In the forum coming up, the panelists will suggest next steps on how peace issues can be included in different areas of the people’s struggles. The breakout sessions give us all the chance to propose initiatives for building concrete actions. From these workshops, we must formulate proposals for action to present to the National Committee, so that our party can make the slogan “People, Peace and Planet before Profits” a reality in our daily work.

Click here for more on the CPUSA 2023 Peace Conference.

Images: People’s World on Flickr


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