Wisconsin, Washington & Egypt: what does it mean for the peace movement?
By Judith Le Blanc
Huge battles are going on in Madison and many state capitols over cuts in social services and the rights of those who provide those services: public employees.
Why should the peace movement get involved and how?
The answer is simple on a personal level. We must get involved because it is the schools, fire houses and public transit we depend on that is being threatened by budget cuts.
Our family and friends and neighbors may be the ones losing their jobs and benefits. Reading the Iraq Veterans Against the War statement in support of the public workers in Wisconsin tells that story well.
We must be a part of the fight to save our communities from the devastating cuts.
The second reason is we understand the root causes and one of the ways to solve growing national deficit: end the wars and cut military spending.
Polls continue to show that people understand that the wars, tax write offs for the rich and the bail out of Wall Street have driven up the deficit. And they are ready to act! A new poll shows people believe the rich need to pay their fair share and that cutting military spending must be done.
The peace movement has been right all along when we have marched, lobbied and spoke out against the human and economic costs of the wars. We have been right for decades that an ever-increasing military budget is stealing resources from our communities.
Dr King said in 1967, “When the bombs are dropped in Vietnam they explode in our community.” He was right then and it is even truer now. The bombs are exploding in our communities and in every state capitol.
Now people also see that the drive to balance the local and national budgets on the backs of the sickest, oldest and youngest in our communities is just not right! Now hundreds of thousands are beginning to take to the streets to say just that.
So the question is how should the peace movement get involved in these struggles. How can we, as a movement, be a part of one of the biggest nonviolent upsurges for economic justice in recent history? This struggle is going on from Wisconsin to Washington to Egypt.
We need to mobilize as hard and as broadly as we did in the struggle against the war in Iraq. Remember the urgency to take a stand because life depended on it?
Life does depend on it today. The picture of the protester in Tahrir Square in Cairo holding a sign that said, “Egyptians support Wisconsin Workers: one world, one pain.” In Egypt, they marched, as we do here, for economic justice and democracy.
People around the world are counting on us to end the threat of US wars, and a foreign policy driven by the military industrial complex. Today’s budget struggles are a step in that fight.
We need to march with our signs for “Moving the $ from wars, back to our communities! Jobs not war! And Bring the war $ home.”
We need to organize contingents to march with the labor and community groups every time they call demonstrations. We need to go to their organizing meetings and help plan hearings, town hall meetings and draft leaflets.
We need to bring in the issues: It is not a deficit crisis; it’s a revenue crisis! Bringing the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq can be the beginning of funding our communities.
Is it more work then we have been doing? Yes, it is and will be in the next few months. We have to go the extra mile to build a new kind of peace and justice movement.
WI Peace Action has been in Madison and in the solidarity actions in Milwaukee, bringing the banners and strengthening their relationships with labor leaders with solidarity activities. Liz Klainot, the WI Peace Action program director said, “It’s crazy here. We are going to demonstrations every day.”
Being involved in these struggles will strengthen our ability to end the wars and cut military spending. We will have a broader base of support for the initiatives we, the peace movement, take later on.
Congressional lobbying will have stronger political clout, when we go together with labor and community groups to press for cutting Pentagon programs to free up the resources to fund human services.
There is no quick fix for the budget crisis, but new closer relationships between the movements for economic justice and peace is the foundation for changing national spending policies.
We must move the money from weapons and wars to save our communities.