By ERWIN FREED
Responding to an international call initiated by major anti-war groups, activists in Connecticut organized an emergency protest at the Federal Court Building in New Haven in solidarity with Ukrainian victims of the ongoing Russian invasion on March 6. The main slogans of the international call, initiated by Code Pink and two British antiwar coalitions, were “Stop the War in Ukraine! Russian Troops Out! No to NATO expansion!” The international call also opposed U.S./EU sanctions against Russia, which are a way of waging war by economic means and demanding opening borders to refugees.
Endorsers of the Sunday action included Unidad Latinas en Acción, New Era Young Lords, Promoting Enduring Peace, Mending Minyon, 350CT, International Marxist Tendency (Socialist Revolution), Socialist Resurgence, and a number of individual members of local clergy, labor, and other social movement groups. The protest was quickly organized on an emergency basis in a collaborative manner with much collective discussion on slogans, speakers, and building activities by activists from endorsing groups. Despite the limited time to build the action and bad weather conditions, over 100 people showed up to listen to a broad range of speakers, stand in solidarity with Ukrainians struggling against Russian occupation, and against U.S./NATO intervention.
Speakers at the demonstration connected the war on Ukraine and mounting inter-imperialist militarism with a diverse range of different local and international issues. Stanley Heller of Promoting Enduring Peace kicked off the rally by denouncing the Russian invasion and calling for international solidarity for the Ukrainian people and Russian antiwar activists as well as victims of imperialist violence in Syria and Yemen.
Melinda Tuhus, speaking on behalf of 350 Connecticut, spoke about the devastating human and environmental cost of militarism. Melinda pointed out how “the war in Ukraine highlights dirty energy’s role in destabilizing our geopolitics,” giving specific examples of how the war and responses by various countries and companies have horrific implications for the environment. This includes a planned increase in liquified natural gas by the United States, a type of fuel whose production releases methane emissions, which are 100 times worse for the climate than CO2. She pointed out that “militaries around the world, with the U.S. far in the lead, consume massive amounts of oil and gas” and that the U.S. military’s almost $800 billion budget should be converted to human needs.
Nika Zarazvand, a local Iranian activist involved with many struggles for justice, spoke about the devastating effects of sanctions for working and oppressed people. She mentioned her own experience: “As an immigrant from Iran, I am used to people not knowing anything about my country other than the talking points of sanctions and nuclear weapons.” She continued that her family members in Iran were unable to access COVID vaccines, PPE, and health care due to the crippling unilateral sanctions on Iran. In the United States, Nika’s family members “are interrogated for over two hours at their own bank … because they send money to Iranian medical students in Ukraine.”
Nika also pointed out that while sanctions are justified as an “antiwar” measure, they do not actually affect the abilities of governments to wage wars because they “can always find a way,” usually by imposing severe austerity on the working class and farmers. She concluded that the sanction regime in Iran could only end in one of two ways, either the total collapse of the country—starting with working people—or a mass movement in the U.S. against sanctions.
Two veterans spoke about their experiences opposing the war. The first was Mitch Linck—a Marine Corps Veteran, antiwar and climate activist, and Socialist Resurgence member. Mitch spoke about his political awakening when he was deployed in Iraq, realizing he had more in common with everyday Iraqis than he did with the people who started and profited off the war. He also spoke on how the fact that militaries are composed of working class people who have no material interest in fighting other workers is a source of hope.
He stated that Russian soldiers in Ukraine are “the same people—workers, farmers, and members of oppressed groups—who are mobilizing against the war. … There’s already some examples in Ukraine of fraternization between Russian soldiers and Ukrainian workers.…
“Soldiers on both sides of the war have connections through family, culture, and history. They have connections not just with each other but with the heroic antiwar movement developing in Russia under extreme pressure from the state. They have connections with the working class in Kazakhstan and Belarus, who have carried out massive upsurges, including a general strike against their own government’s plans to privatize the public sector and against Russian domination of their country. [This] gives an example for us here today. We can see the methods of struggle that we can follow—mass action, strikes, ways of struggle that involve the people who really make society run.” He concluded his speech with a call for rebuilding anti-war organizations that can mobilize millions in the streets and give soldiers the confidence to disobey orders, which is what caused the ultimate victory of the movement of the war in Vietnam.”
The next veteran who spoke was Briam, a trans activist involved with the immigrant/workers’ rights group, Unidad Latina en Acción. Briam spoke on the human costs of war for those who go through the military in the U.S. They said, “Soldiers and everyone else who are part of the military machine are treated as interchangeable … lives are ruined, minds are lost, and people come home forever changed. It affects family, friends, entire communities … those who fight in wars are victims of the wars themselves. … Governments prey on poor and disenfranchised communities to feed the war machine. Eho else joins? I joined because I couldn’t find a job after college.”
They also spoke about the undemocratic, hostile, and sexist nature of the military industrial complex: “I thought I could change it from the inside … [but] if you do the right thing, they will forget about you, try to silence you. … I was assaulted by a captain, and I said something about it … and all that happened is that he’s not an officer anymore.” Briam concluded: “People join for free health care, free education … why is that not available to all people? We’ve wasted trillions of dollars over the course of my lifetime. How many people’s lives were destroyed? That is why I am opposed to all war.”
CJ, an organizer from Black and Brown United in Action, spoke on the need for solidarity against “the oldest pandemic and war—racism. … When we who are not white and are without privilege go outside, the war is automatically on us.” She pointed out how local politicians in New Haven are deepening the war on Black and Brown people through increasing funding to police rather than “hiring and training Black and Brown people.”
She spoke about the domination of New Haven politics and economy by Yale, “driving out the people who feed you, the undocumented immigrants, the Black and Brown people, the sex workers, the formerly incarcerated, the everyday targets of the war.”
Referencing the abuse of domestic workers, terrorization of incarcerated people, and lack of opportunities provided by the state, CJ asked, “Tell me where the war is not? You know why? Because I’m not white. … The knee has been on our necks for so long.” She concluded by calling to “stop the war on the poor” through taxing Yale, providing livable wages, and ending harassment of immigrant workers and those who speak up. “To end this war we need to stand up for the oppressed.”
Alyssa Rae, a member of New Era Young Lords and defense industry worker, spoke about the hypocrisy on display with how media is treating Ukrainian versus non-European refugees. She quoted Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, who said of Ukrainians, “These people are intelligent, they are educated people. … This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists.” She also mentioned CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Amata, who said in an equally racist manner, “[Ukraine] isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilized, relatively European—I have to choose those words carefully, too—city, one where you wouldn’t expect that, or hope that, it’s going to happen.”
New Era Young Lords National Chairman Suby Toro connected the invasion of Ukraine with the ongoing privatization and selling off of Puerto Rico by U.S. bankers and government. Suby contextualized the stranglehold being experienced by Puerto Rico under the Jones Act, Act 60, and “a lot of things right now that are hindering Puerto Rico from being able to build its own economy.” He called for unified international struggle because “if it happens to Ukraine, what do you think is going to happen to places that can’t defend themselves?” Suby also pointed to the need for expanding work in local communities.
Connecting the antiwar movement with with feminist and immigrant organizing, Megan Fountain of ULA reminded rally-goers of upcoming events for International Working Women’s Day. Megan talked about the international women’s strike that is taking place all over the world on March 8, in a “strike against patriarchy, a strike against capitalism, a strike against imperialism.” In particular, “this year women and LGBTQ+ people are striking against war. And they’re having a global scream against war.”
She described how the pandemic has intensified the violence against women’s bodies and that war will and does deepen that violence. Explaining the gendered violence of war, Megan said, “War always leads to more sexual violence, more rape, more violence against women, more poverty, more oppression for working people. Working people and working women never win in these wars.” She also spoke about how the conflict shows the “ongoing violence of borders and the ongoing violence against migrants, especially when the migrants are from Africa, the Middle East, Central America, and Latin America.”
Eric Goodman from the International Marxist Tendency talked about the roots of inter-imperialist conflict in capitalism’s drive to control new markets and super-exploit workers around the globe, that “war was baked into capitalism from the beginning.” This is also a function of the fact that the “profit system is in terminal decay and their backs are against the wall. The financial house of cards the bankers have built is close to collapse, and debt is now near to three times global GDP.”
Pointing to a way out of the crises of capitalism, Eric said, “In every country around the world, people are looking for a way out of the crisis. They are relearning old traditions of mass mobilization and militant strike action. The working class has never been larger or better connected, nor has any single cog ever been more vital to a complex global supply chain … [their social power derives from the fact that] around the world, not a box is shipped, a classroom taught, nor a patient nursed but by the kind say so of the working class.”
Kevin Menescardi, on behalf of the Central Connecticut Democratic Socialists of America, called for the U.S. to pull out of NATO, and Russia out of Ukraine. He continued that “we must stand not just with the working classes of Ukraine and Russia, who did not ask for this war, but all people facing similar terrors. We must stand with Afghans as we do with Ukrainians. The U.S. should give them their money back and help them avert famine. We must stand with the people of Yemen as we do with Ukraine. The U.S. should stop helping Saudi Arabia genocide them.
“We must stand with Venezuelans, Iranians, and Cubans as we do with Ukraine. The U.S. should lift all sanctions and end the over six-decade embargo of Cuba. We must stand with Iraqis as we do with Ukraine. The U.S. should pay war reparations to them. … If the forceful seizure of territory is so wrong, the U.S. should give Puerto Rico back to Puerto Ricans, Hawaii back to Hawaiians, the same with Guam, Samoa, the Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands. Along with reparations for years of nuclear testing, violence, and occupation … Our solidarity is universal, or it is nothing.”
The rally concluded with a speech from Evan, a Socialist Resurgence member, reprinted below.
Dozens of attendees signed up to continue to be involved in building a broad statewide antiwar coalition, independent of the Democratic Party, with the reach and authority to begin calling mass actions involving increasing numbers of working class and oppressed peoples. As world imperialism continues off the cliff of conflict and war, this work is increasingly necessary not only on a local or statewide level but in the national and international arenas as well.
Socialist Resurgence strives to be active builders of this movement and to continue to develop collaborative mobilizations and networks in the antiwar and all other social movements with the perspective of bringing the working class, not just in the ones and twos but in the millions, into these struggles.
Speech by Evan, from Socialist Resurgence:
Hello everyone, and thanks for coming out today in the rain and such on short notice. I’m Evan, with Socialist Resurgence, here to talk about how we need to organize against the U.S., NATO, and Russian war machines and all of the ways that they harm working and oppressed people every day. The Russian invasion of Ukraine marks a major turning point in great power rivalry, a major step towards another world war.
Part of building this movement against war is pointing out the hypocrisy from the rulers as they start to whip people into support for their wars. The U.S. government is trying to paint the Russian government as a uniquely evil state—and the Russian government is certainly evil—but they want to sweep under the rug the epidemic of police violence against Black and Indigenous people in this country, the ongoing attack on undocumented immigrants in this country, the growing war on trans and Queer people, on reproductive rights in this country, the close to one million people who have died from COVID—sacrificed for profits in this country.
These crises will deepen as tensions grow between all of the major powers and everywhere. Already, we have seen racism against non-white refugees from Ukraine. Already, we have seen asylum denied to Ukrainian refugees in Europe and in the United States.
What we need to oppose these attacks is a mass movement, one that is independent of the parties of the corporations—the Democrats and the Republicans—that can mobilize people into the streets. And we’ve seen this before. We’ve seen this in the opposition to the war in Vietnam. We’ve seen this in the opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We need to rebuild this movement based on broad coalitions that can debate politics, and that can bring whole communities into the streets, or on strike, and win over soldiers to opposing their own militaries.
Not only do we need a mass movement, but we need a workers’ party that is independent of the ruling class—a party that can work to organize the movement, and that can give it a program around not just war and not just individual issues that affect millions of peoples lives, but against capitalism as a whole and for workers’ power.
Video of the demonstration is available at: https://www.facebook.com/SocialistResurgenceCT/videos/278559047688092
Photo: CJ, an organizer from Black and Brown United in Action, speaks at the New Haven rally. (Socialist Resurgence photo).