Anti-war activists host event in New York to discuss urgent steps for peace in Ukraine

Eight activists, including Jeremy Corbyn, Jill Stein, and Vijay Prashad to speak in New York City in a panel titled “The real path to peace in Ukraine”

November 18, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Anti-war activists gather in Washington, DC (Photo: Peace in Ukraine)

US-based anti-war organization Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition has teamed up with movement incubator space the Peoples Forum to host an anti-war event, calling for peace in Ukraine. The event is titled, “The Real Path to Peace in Ukraine.” Eight anti-war activists are slated to speak, including philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky, British MP Jeremy Corbyn, former US presidential candidate Jill Stein, historian and Tricontinental Institute director Vijay Prashad, ANSWER director Brian Becker, Breakthrough News host Eugene Puryear, People’s Forum co-executive director Claudia de la Cruz, Medea Benjamin, the director of US anti-war organization CODEPINK.

“The moment is now to inaugurate a new, multi-national, grassroots movement to advocate for the end to the current war in Ukraine,” write the event’s organizers. “The stakes are too real and the dangers too great for the peoples of the word to remain on the sidelines.” 

This event comes at a time where there is an opportunity for the US-based left to establish its presence in the anti-war movement. At the moment, the right-wing, especially the ultra-right, is the loudest voice against continued US funding of the violence in Ukraine. Marjorie Taylor Green, conservative Georgia representative notorious for her frothing-at-the-mouth bigotry, often lambasts President Biden for sending billions to Ukraine. “Biden wants more money, $37.7 billion, for Ukraine but still refuses to do anything for America’s border,” Green tweeted on November 15, referring to immigrants passing through the Southern US border, often a fear mongering talking point for the nativist US right. “Biden is the best business partner the Cartels have ever had and doing an excellent job as [Vice President] under President Zelensky.”

Candace Owens, right-wing pundit who is currently smearing the Black Lives Matter movement and spreading the counter-slogan “white lives matter,” has labeled Zelensky as “America’s welfare queen.” FOX News commentator Tucker Carlson went out of his way to champion the Russian side of the war in Ukraine, saying “I think we should probably take the side of Russia, if we have to choose between Russia and Ukraine.” Senate minority leader, Republican Kevin McCarthy, criticizing the billions of dollars in weapons and aid the Biden administration has sent to Ukraine, said that Republicans would not write a “blank check” to Ukraine if the party gains a majority in the House of Representatives. 

These have been the loudest voices against the US’s indiscriminate funding of the war in Ukraine thus far. Missing is a popular left anti-war alternative that matches the influence of the right. 

However, a letter sent by certain members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to Biden on October 24, urging the president to pursue a peaceful, diplomatic end to the war in Ukraine, provided an opening for the left. The letter signified one of the first anti-war measures by the most influential in the progressive sector of US politics. 

The language of the letter was mild. The progressives open by saying, “Your [Biden’s] support for the self-defense of an independent, sovereign, and democratic state has been supported by Congress, including through various appropriations of military, economic and humanitarian aid in furtherance of this cause.”

Its entreaties are also mild. Referencing worries about a potential catastrophic nuclear war, the progressives write, “we urge you to make vigorous diplomatic efforts in support of a negotiated settlement and ceasefire, engage in direct talks with Russia, explore prospects for a new European security arrangement acceptable to all parties that will allow for a sovereign and independent Ukraine, and, in coordination with our Ukrainian partners, seek a rapid end to the conflict and reiterate this goal as America’s chief priority.”

But the letter was not mild enough for Democratic Party leadership. The next day, following an uproar against the letter by the most powerful Democrats, the Progressives withdrew their statement. Nancy Pelosi made a point to drive in her support for as prolonged a conflict as possible: “On behalf of the Congress, I made absolutely clear that America’s support for Ukraine will continue until victory is won,” she said. 

Progressive Caucus leader Representative Pramila Jayapal, one of the signatories of the letter, backtracked, claiming that the letter was published without proper vetting. Nonetheless, the intervention of the US’s most prominent progressives into the anti-war arena provides an opening for the rest of the left in the country. This is where organizations such as the ANSWER Coalition could step into an important role. The “Path to Peace” event is already beginning to spark conversation, as reportedly even Zelensky’s circles are furious about it.

The event organizers write, “We, people of conscience, are coming together to demand that there be a radical shift in the direction of US military and foreign policy. NATO expansion must end. Money must be spent on education, healthcare, and housing, not the war machine. We demand peace, not war. Join us!”