Broad Coalition Drew Thousands in First National Antiwar Protest
John V. Walsh
Thousands of people assembled at the Lincoln Memorial on February 19 to protest the US proxy war using Ukrainians as cannon fodder to bring down Russia. It took as its name “Rage Against The War Machine.” And it sought to bring together people of all political persuasions in opposing the war. “Everyone in; no one out,” an invitation might have been framed.
Not only was it the first national demonstration against Joe Biden’s cruel proxy war; it was the first to be live streamed and is now archived here with all the speeches. A very 21st Century event!
The crowd in DC was estimated variously from 2000 to 5000, with sister rallies in 19 other cities. This was a remarkable achievement as the first action for a fledging. Its success is testimony to the hunger for such a broad-based movement.
And broad-based it was, another first, bringing together people from across the political spectrum to oppose the war. The lead organizations were the leftist Peoples Party and the Libertarian Party. The broad base was reflected by four former presidential candidates, well known national figures, among the many speakers: Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, Jill Stein and Tulsi Gabbard. No other antiwar protest in the U.S. even aspires to such inclusivity.
Without such an inclusive anti-interventionist movement, it is virtually impossible for popular forces in the U.S. to end the war in Ukraine, let alone wider wars with Russia or China. This kind of popular movement must succeed if we are to get off the road to nuclear war, WWIII. We have no other alternative as we face a threat to our very existence. It must grow if we are to survive.
The February 19 protest was the first to raise as its lead demand “Not one more penny for war in Ukraine.” This is simple, direct and captures the nature of the growing discontent over the war. Previous, smaller, local demonstrations most often called for “Peace In Ukraine,” a sentiment, not a demand, and one that can easily be co-opted by warhawks. After all, Joe Biden is for “Peace in Ukraine” – once Russia has been brought to its knees, the goal of the war as Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, and Undersecretary of State, Victoria Nuland, state openly.
“Not one more penny for war in Ukraine” is directed at the role of our government, the only one we can influence. If that demand were met, then a negotiated settlement would have to be undertaken. As the second demand of the demonstration, “Negotiate Peace,” states: “The US government instigated the war in Ukraine with a coup of its democratically elected government in 2014, and then sabotaged a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine in March. Pursue an immediate ceasefire and diplomacy to end the war.”
“Not one more penny for war in Ukraine” addresses the needs of Americans whose support it was designed to develop. Most Americans feel this war in their pocketbooks, and the last thing we need is more tax dollars on top of the more than $113 billion allotted in 2022. It is a demand meant for the ears of the US government – and of the American people.
Average Americans feel the effects of this war in their daily lives. They are strapped by inflation worsened by the war; by an economy slipping into recession, by neglected disasters like the toxic spill in Palestine, Ohio; by rising national debt; by the crisis of homelessness; and by a health care system that grows ever more expensive, less comprehensive and less universal.
This demand is so eminently practical that is now embodied in a Resolution has been introduced in the House, aptly named “The Ukraine Fatigue Resolution.” It is authored by Rep. Matt Gaetz and gained 15 co-sponsors so far. It quite simply calls for the U.S. to “end its financial and military aid to Ukraine.” (A weakness of the bill is that it is only “a sense of the House,” not a law that is binding. A strength is that a vote on it would force Representatives to stand up and be counted. Most importantly, it is a beginning and shows that antiwar sentiment is growing. A binding law is the next step.)
Tellingly, Gaetz and all co-sponsors of the bill are Republicans, a rebuff to the idea that all antiwar sentiment exists only on the “left.” The desire to end this war can be universal if politics and ideology would get out of the way. The next step is for some – even one – progressive in Congress to sign onto the Gaetz bill. That way, the Congress would mirror the universalist sentiment we saw in the streets on Feb. 19.
Finally, a broad-based movement like RageAgainstWar is part of a growing international trend, as Max Blumenthal discussed here beginning at the 1hr, 37 min mark. As one example, six days after the Feb. 19 rally, Sarah Wagenknecht, member of the Bundestag (federal Parliament) and of the German Party Die Linke (The Left), and feminist activist, Alice Schwarzer, led a demonstration of tens of thousands at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. It too called for an end to military funding for Ukraine. When Wagenkenknecht was asked if members of the right wing AfD, (Alternativ fur Deutschland) were welcome, she declared they were if they opposed the war. And Schwarzer said it is time to look beyond left and right.
Sshwarzer’s plea to look beyond left and right should constitute watchwords not only for Germans, but for Americans and the entire West as we face the peril of nuclear war that could easily be triggered by this cruel U.S. proxy war.
John V. Walsh, until recently a Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience at a Medical School in Massachusetts, has written on issues of peace and health care for the San Francisco Chronicle, EastBayTimes/San Jose Mercury News, Asia Times, LA Progressive, Antiwar.com, CounterPunch and others.