United For Peace And Justice 3rd National Assembly

From June 22-24, more than 300 people from 35 states gathered outside Chicago
for the third National Assembly of the country’s largest grassroots antiwar
coalition, United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ). Delegates representing
nearly 200 UFPJ member groups—ranging from national organizations like
Veterans For Peace and U.S. Labor Against the War to local groups like
the Greater New Haven Peace Council and the San Diego Coalition for Peace
and Justice—met to discuss strategies, priorities, and initiatives for
the next 18 months. 

The UFPJ National Assembly was energizing and inspiring for those who attended.
Connecting to other activists, having the opportunity to think collectively
about both the challenges and the opportunities ahead, developing concrete
projects to work on together, and knowing we are all part of a movement
motivated by the urgency of the moment and the long-term vision of a world
grounded in peace and justice all fed the energy of the weekend. 

Participants got to work as soon as they arrived, taking part in numerous
workshops to discuss issues ranging from impeachment to the threat of an
attack on Iran. Skills-sharing sessions covered engaging the media, approaching
elections from a nonpartisan, grassroots standpoint, and more. 

The question that rose again and again was, “How do we move the 70 percent
majority now opposing the war and occupation of Iraq to effective action?”
As Tom Hayden remarked, with tongue in cheek, in his address on the first
night of the assembly, “It’s not easy for people who are committed to being
marginalized if necessary to suddenly find themselves in the majority.
It creates an identity crisis.” More seriously, he urged assembly delegates,
while not being satisfied with how far the majority of the U.S. public
has come, to find ways to relate to the “majority moment” we are now in. 

With that in mind, the assembly voted to organize a short-term campaign
grounded in local work, culminating in a massive national mobilization,
to be held in six to eight regional centers, on Saturday, October 27. The
goal of this strategy is to tap into the very broad sentiment against the
war and to bring new people into the streets. But instead of asking everyone
to go to Washington, the delegates decided it was time to offer mass mobilizations
closer to home. It was also hoped that this initiative would strengthen
UFPJ as a coalition, and the peace movement as a whole, by building up
the grassroots organizing infrastructure across the country. 

The assembly re-affirmed that the central focus of UFPJ is ending the war
in Iraq and bringing all the troops home, now. Toward that end, there was
agreement that UFPJ’s primary work will be a Campaign to End the War that

  • lobbying to end congressional support of the war 

  • counter-recruiting and support for military resisters, veterans, and military

  • exposing the economic costs of war and the military budget 

  • engaging in the 2008 electoral season to project a peace and justice agenda

  • developing skills and organizing training for local groups 

  • challenging war profiteers 

  • creating a nationwide public education project 

This program of work was adopted at the assembly. It aims toward three
broad goals: (1) Take advantage of the new moment in the struggle to end
the war in Iraq and bring the troops home by bringing more people—and more
people from the diverse communities of this nation—who are opposed to the
war into public action to end it, while sustaining the involvement of those
who are already active. Also, help more people see how the war and occupation
in Iraq is linked to other key issues: possible military attacks on Iran,
the war in Afghanistan, U.S. support of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian
territories, oil and the climate crisis, nuclear weapons proliferation
and dangers, the role of corporate war profiteers, torture, attacks on
civil liberties and civil rights here at home, etc. 

(2) Strengthen links between the antiwar movement and economic, immigrant
rights, and social justice movements, particularly by highlighting the
economic costs of the war and the need to fund social programs here at
home—such as the rebuilding of New Orleans. 

(3) Build on the creative local and national organizing efforts of the
antiwar movement during the 2004 and 2006 election seasons, as we engage
the 2008 presidential and congressional elections. We must make sure our
call to end the war in Iraq is clearly heard and that issues of war and
peace more generally are paramount throughout the electoral cycle. UFPJ
will not endorse or support specific candidates for any office or political
parties, and we reaffirm our independence from any political party. Our
goal will be to ensure that the sentiment for ending this war, and redirecting
our nation’s priorities, is so pervasive and so visible that every candidate
for every office will feel he/she must address and be accountable to an
energized, mobilized, and active populace. 

There was strong support for a campaign of decentralized actions and activities
around the country, initiated by different UFPJ member groups and allies,
beginning in August and running through the fall, while also making connections
to several important and related issues: 

  • In response to General Petraeus’s report on the escalation due in September,
    the Declaration of Peace campaign is calling for nonviolent actions at
    every congressional office in the country Sept. 14-21, demanding that Congress
    end funding for the war and occupation (www. declarationofpeace.org). 

  • The Iraq Moratorium begins on Friday, September  21, and continues on the
    successive third Fridays of every month. The campaign aims to move the
    70 percent majority who oppose the war to take some action to end it—whether
    it be wearing a black armband, not buying gas, pressuring politicians or
    the media, etc.—and to escalate both in numbers of participants and intensity
    of actions with each month. The range of suggested actions is broad in
    order to encourage both first-time and long-time activists to take part
    (www.iraq moratorium.org) 

  • The No War, No Warming intervention in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, October
    23, when Congress is in session, will take over Capitol Hill via nonviolent
    direct action, while solidarity actions take place around the U.S. and
    internationally. No War, No Warming demands that our government take immediate
    action to bring our troops home and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels
    (www. nowarnowarming.org) 


Susan Chenelle is a member of United for Peace and Justice’s national staff.