Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, addressing an African American History Month forum in Detroit on February 28, 2009. (Photo: Cheryl LaBash), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Antiwar Strategies in Black Community Organizations
A panel presentation from the United National Antiwar Conference (UNAC)
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Note: The following talk was delivered at the UNAC Conference held March 23-25, 2012 in Stamford, Conn. Other panelists participating in this session were Ana Edwards, of the Virginia Defenders who chaired and moderated, Brenda Stokely of the Million Worker March, Ajamu Baraka of the Black Left Unity Network and Clarence Thomas of the ILWU.
When we examine the question of antiwar organizing in the Black community it must be done from an historical perspective. African people have been at war with imperialism at least since the 15th century.
The slave system was an act of violence, uprooting, exploitation, occupation and displacement. These historic facts are also true of the Native peoples of the western hemisphere, Asia and the Pacific.
African peoples always resisted slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism. We have a vested interest in defeating imperialism in other parts of the world because it weakens the exploitative system overall.
Role of Africans in the Struggle Against Imperialism Since 1900
The so-called Spanish-American War during the turn of the 19th and 20thcenturies signaled a new dawn in the rise of supremacy of U.S. imperialism. Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Philippines were taken over by the U.S. ruling class.
Cuba and Puerto have large African populations. The Filipino people are subject to occupation, militarism and gross exploitation as well.
During this period the most progressive and revolutionary elements within in the African American community opposed these imperialist wars.
World War I was an imperialist adventure dubbed as the “war to end all wars.” In actuality this was a war between various European imperialist states and the U.S. designed to carve up the rest of the world, particularly the oppressed nations of Africa, Asia, the Pacific and Latin America.
In the immediate aftermath of WWI we saw the rise of the Pan-African Movement, the red summer of 1919, the burgeoning national liberation struggles as well as the first socialist revolution in Russia and the founding of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). By 1929 the world capitalist system had collapsed leading to new mass and labor movements, the ascendancy of fascism in Europe and Japan and a consequent second imperialist war.
Even after WWII, we witnessed the horrors of Korea, Algeria, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic and the genocidal actions of Portugal, Britain, France, South Africa and the U.S. role in Africa. Revolutionary Africans in the U.S. and throughout the world supported and joined the movements for African liberation on the continent and within the domestic confines of the imperialist states.
Since 2008, with the formation of the U.S. Africa Command (Africom), the ruling class of the most formidable imperialist power in the world is poised for another major push toward neo-colonial domination of the continent. The bombing and overthrow of the government of Libya represented the first major project of Africom.
This project is continuing in Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Guinea, Zimbabwe and other states. We must categorically oppose Africom in all of its manifestations.
The Experience of MECAWI
In September of 2002, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) was formed. It was quite obvious that the U.S. was going to invade and occupy the Middle Eastern nation of Iraq.
Utilizing the hysteria emanating from 9-11 and the occupation of Afghanistan, the war against Iraq was presented as a necessity to search for and destroy “weapons of destruction.” Yet the nuclear arsenal of the State of Israel was never mentioned nor the plight of the Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian people who are under direct threat of U.S.-backed Israeli aggression.
MECAWI also saw the invasion of Haiti as an extension of the escalation of imperialist aggression. Haiti presented a unique example of the role of enslaved and colonized peoples throughout the war. The Slave Revolution was unprecedented in history and Haiti is still paying the price up until this day.
Principles of MECAWI
MECAWI believes firmly in linking the struggles against imperialist wars in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East to the struggle inside the U.S. against national oppression, economic exploitation, political repression, gender oppression and all forms of injustice. Our main slogan from the beginning was “Money for Our Cities, Not for War.”
Since 2004, we have reclaimed the antiwar and social justice legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through our annual MLK Day Rally & March held at Central United Methodist Church downtown (Detroit). This is the largest gathering of progressive forces every in southeastern Michigan.
One major offshoot of MECAWI was the formation of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs. We have been in the forefront of the struggles against the impact of the global capitalist economic crisis, the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
We are demanding that the bankers and bosses who created the crisis must pay for it. The urban crisis is a manifestation of the collapse of capitalism and imperialism.
We must join with the peoples of the world to create a planet absent of war, oppression and economic exploitation.