This is the copy of a draft article I just submitted to a local, progressive magazine.
JUST PEACE NOW!
As April 22 approaches each year, I always recall the large peace marches in Vancouver. They were huge. Though lead by the opposition to nuclear weapons which demonstrated concerns about war and environment, there was nonetheless a united participation of various political concerns from the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist, to advocacy for certain international relations policies and structure or processes of cooperation, to appeals for safety and conservation.
Now I wonder why apparently so little peace activism in the context of terrorism, counter-terrorism, territorial and civil war, foreign aggression, militarization, occupation and increasing military spending and a tendency towards state repression against dissidents and liberation struggles. It’s not as if the problem of war has disappeared. When the US, France and Britain bombed Syria on the dubious premise of destroying sources of poisonous gas allegedly used by the state of Syria against its people, it was shocking how few people demonstrated their objections to the aggressive intervention. Efforts to build or rebuild a united peace movement are urgently needed.
Let’s review what happened to Vancouver’s big peace movement. It subsided when the Soviet Union collapsed, signalling the end of the Cold War. (The collapse was actually preceded by a period of détente between the USA and the USSR.) Then the call was raised to move forward on activism to protect the environment, with less focus on nuclear weapons, although nuclear power and war remained obvious threats to the environment. On the peace front, there were intermittent mass mobilizations protesting the bombing of Yugoslavia, the Gulf War and the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, but nothing the size of the previous “Peace Walks” recurred. A nation-wide, anti-war coalition (Stopwar.ca) formed for purposes such as those, and there was even a World Peace Forum held in Vancouver. There were sporadic and weak responses to the plan to invade Colombia and the perpetual support for Israel’s aggressions and support for repressive dictators such as a series of presidents of the Philippines. Lethargy soon hampered responses to the bombing of Libya and other international crimes and aggressions. The idea that bombs should be a remedy for human rights abuses was becoming normalized. What’s more, the problem of nuclear war has re-emerged and there has been widespread support for the perverse clarion call of deterring the nuclear threat by sanctions and military intervention in Iran and Korea. The Iran situation was saved but we have yet to see whether reconciliation with North Korea can be reached. (Here’s hoping!)
The danger of war including the threat of nuclear war is ever-present and even worse today. Besides a patchwork of regional conflicts, it seems to me that world war looms again, considering the tensions between Russia and its allies, and the USA and its allies. The Syria situation as well as that in Yemen and Palestine concern me, as do the military encirclements and sanctions against North Korea and Venezuela. No matter what your politics, there is no justification for military solutions. The people must rebuild the peace movement. I suggest we need to better understand the context that produces conflict, militarization, state repression and aggression, and to show solidarity for peoples struggling for liberation. Objectors of conscience and peace-loving, democratic-minded activists should come together with a clear-minded view about the global system that produces and extends so much violence in the world. They should carry the banner of peace with social justice.
I think there is no contradiction with environmentalism. For example, minerals and petroleum feed the war machinery. As we can see by the Kinder Morgan pipeline and terminal expansion, environmental struggles necessarily confront multi-national corporations, incursions on indigenous rights and lands, their destruction of lands and communities, and state support for it all. There has to be a new way of life to resolve such conflicts in the long term.
For my part, I am involved in launching the Just Peace Committee. Allied with critics and opponents of the global system of monopoly capitalism (imperialism or neo-colonialism), it is starting out with discussions of four areas of conflicts: Korea, Venezuela, Philippines and Palestine. It is my sincere wish that groups can regroup in this way and come together with a fresh outlook and process of cooperation because of the urgent necessity of our times.