Which way forward for the antiwar movement?

Workers World Managing Editor John Catalinotto held an interview March 13 with Sara Flounders, co-director of the International Action Center (IAC), a member of the Administrative Committee of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) and contributing editor to Workers World, to discuss the developments of the past year of the war in Ukraine between the U.S.-led NATO alliance and Russia.

Antiwar protest in Times Square, New York City, Jan.14, 2023. (Photo Credit: Brenda Ryan)

Workers World: We’re about to participate in an antiwar demonstration, set to take place in Washington and San Francisco. What is the nature of the war we’ll be protesting?

Sara Flounders: First I’d like to list some recent events that reinforce the points I’ll be making.

On March 10 President Joe Biden’s administration submitted a military budget to Congress of a record $886 billion. With add-ons from Congress, funds hidden in veterans’ benefits and research, and supplements for arms to Ukraine, the costs will easily top $1 trillion.

That same day a major regional bank, the Silicon Valley Bank in California, failed and was taken over by federal regulators. It was the largest U.S. bank to collapse since the 2008 financial crisis.

And that same day, China hosted negotiations in Beijing between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which ended with an agreement between the two major West Asian countries. For the past 75 years the U.S. had been the dominant power in that region. In a symbolic way, U.S. imperialism has been pushed aside.

These events mark the serious character of the economic and diplomatic crisis U.S. imperialism faces. It means that in an attempt to reverse these developments, the Biden administration will deploy the U.S. military. We’ve seen this increased use of the U.S. and NATO’s military in Ukraine and in the South China Sea throughout 2022.

WW: Let’s start with the war in Ukraine.

SF: The war in Ukraine is a proxy war. The U.S.-NATO-European Union armed the Ukrainian side and turned it into a prolonged war against Russia. Washington is willing to fight to the last Ukrainian. 

U.S.-led NATO has been developed as a worldwide police power enforcing imperialist expansion not only in the North Atlantic but in Africa, Latin America, West and Central Asia, and even in the Pacific. The U.S., often with NATO backing, has waged wars of aggression against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and indirectly against Syria, Yemen and Palestine.

Biden declared that the goal of the Ukraine war was to collapse Russia. U.S. strategists have designated the weakening of Russia as a necessary step in targeting China. The war in Ukraine is a disastrous, dangerous new imperialist offensive. It is part of a continuing effort to reconquer the world economy. 

In his arguments evaluating World War I over 100 years ago, the Russian revolutionary V. Lenin demanded a “revolutionary defeatist” position of the workers’ party in each country against their own imperialist ruling class. In Workers World newspaper, we have been explaining the dangers of NATO expansion for the last 30 years. We are for the defeat of this NATO offensive today.

The demonstrations this coming weekend demand that the U.S. and NATO stop their war against Russia, stop arming the Kiev regime and end all sanctions against Russia. Why do we focus our criticism on NATO? Because any gain of NATO is a threat to workers here and globally. Any setback for U.S. imperialism and its NATO war machine strengthens the workers globally. 

WW: The war in Ukraine has gone on for over a year now. How do you evaluate its result?

SF: Soldiers have died on both sides, and the civilian population has suffered greatly. Remember that by expanding NATO eastward and threatening to make Ukraine part of NATO, the U.S. and its allies provoked the Russian intervention. Washington then imposed the heaviest sanctions it could, in the hope of bringing about regime change in Russia. This it failed to do.

Washington did succeed, however, in lining up the European Union countries behind these sanctions. Many NATO countries increased their war budgets, Germany doubling its budget. The U.S. succeeded in disrupting EU-Russia trade. When pressure mounted in Germany to reopen transmission of gas from Russia, the Pentagon blew up the Nord Stream pipelines. 

The U.S. failed to bring about regime change in Russia. But it succeeded, through sanctions, in breaking EU trade with Russia. These sanctions have imposed great hardship on the working class in Europe — which is a multinational working class. There is an upsurge of working-class struggle in Europe — seen at its peak in France — and growing disillusionment with the war. 

The failure of the U.S. to disintegrate Russia is leading to many other global changes. U.S. dollar hegemony has slipped. And, as was just shown, an important deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran could be made in China without U.S. participation.

WW: A month ago there was a demonstration in Washington on Feb. 19, which was labeled antiwar, which had the leadership of the Libertarian Party. What was your attitude toward it?

SF: We did not believe it would help the antiwar struggle to try to build what some people call a “right-left block.” The working class, including the most oppressed sectors of the population, those most impacted, will be the core of the antiwar movement. 

A right-left block, in this case with Libertarian leadership, diminishes the role especially of oppressed workers. Libertarians are pro-capitalist in the rawest form. Capitalism is the basis of imperialist war. So aggressively promoting capitalism disorients the movement and divides it. 

The Libertarians are strongly anti-union, anti-Social Security and against civil rights laws that attempt to mitigate racist discrimination. In Washington, their speakers made their pro-capitalist positions clear. 

But we also understood why individual antiwar activists would participate. We did not discourage participation. But we opposed endorsing the Feb. 19 demonstration. UNAC, Answer, Code Pink, Veterans For Peace, Black Alliance for Peace and others also refused to endorse.

WW: How is the demonstration on March 18 projected to be different from Feb. 19?

SF: The United National Antiwar Coalition — UNAC, which I have been part of since its founding 12 years ago — chose to build an alliance determined to strengthen left and anti-racist forces that target, not glorify, the capitalist system. This was a defining moment in direction. 

UNAC held demonstrations from the beginning of the war in March 2022. In October of 2022, we organized coordinated actions in more than 70 cities and with an even broader coalition in more than 90 events in January 2023. 

In the upcoming March 18 Peace in Ukraine rallies, on the 20th anniversary of the criminal U.S.-invasion of Iraq, we are part of an even broader antiwar coalition where anti-imperialist positions are well represented. 

Our demands include opposing the threatened U.S. war against China and Israel’s war against the Palestinian people, keeping the U.S. out of Haiti, ending sanctions on Syria, an end to NATO and to AFRICOM. Fund people’s needs not the war machine, and fight racism and bigotry at home not other peoples, is what ties this effort all together. 

See UNACpeace.org for more information.

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