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November 1 Antiwar Conference Report
On Saturday, November 1st, over 50 antiwar organizers and activists gathered at the Britannia Community Centre for an antiwar conference titled “Imperialist Disaster: War at Home – War Abroad - Economic Collapse - The Antiwar Movement and Beyond: How the New Era of War and Occupation Brings Misery and Destruction for Humanity”. The conference, organized by Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO), set out to cover the most pressing issues facing humanity today. In a world plagued by war, occupation and a growing financial crisis, people on every continent are feeling the heat brought on by imperialist countries.
After attendees registered, the conference was opened by MC Janine Solanki, a member of the MAWO Executive Committee and co-chair of MAWO. She explained the importance of people coming together at this time to critically look at the situation in the world around us, and to forge a path for the future of antiwar organizing.
The morning was kicked off with two film screenings which highlighted Canada’s role in the world as a colonial and imperialist player. The first film, ‘Not So Gentle Neighbor,’ was an exposé of Canada’s long-standing war against Indigenous people. The next film, ‘Kabul Transit,’ took a look at the occupation of Afghanistan in which Canada plays a major role. It showed the contradictions between the supposed ‘nation and democracy-building’ in Afghanistan that Canadian politicians often talk about and the reality for Afghans living there.
Following the films was the first workshop of the day: “Worldwide Capitalist Financial Crisis, Militarism and the New Era of War and Occupation”, presented by Ali Yerevani, political editor of the Fire This Time Newspaper and an organizer with the Iranian Community Against War (ICAW). Ali tackled the idea that imperialist countries are able to prevent financial disaster by creating wars and occupying oppressed nations. He explained that through the banking financial crisis and economic collapse that is gripping the whole world, they cannot free themselves of this downhill path. He emphasized that with war and occupation of Afghanistan in 2001, just two months after the September 11, 2001 incident, the whole world has entered into a new era of war and occupation. The current worldwide financial and capitalist crisis will not reduce the dynamics of the war against colonial and semi-colonial countries, but on the contrary will make imperialist countries more determined to accelerate the momentum of war and occupation.
Everyone was treated to lunch, and then jumped into a multimedia presentation on MAWO’s history as an antiwar coalition. This conference was significant because it marked five years that MAWO has been organizing against war and occupation. In pictures, conference participants saw the campaigns and work that MAWO has consistently been involved in over five years of organizing.
The multimedia presentation was followed by a special report by Tamara Hansen on the case of the Cuban 5 heroes and the current hurricane relief and reconstruction campaign for Cuba. Tamara is the coordinator of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) and the co-chair of the Canadian Network on Cuba. Tamara gave an update on the case of the Cuban 5 and highlighted the importance of the campaign to demand visitation rights for the families of the 5, and then explained the solidarity work that different groups around the world have been doing to help the people of Cuba after their country was hit with three hurricanes.
The second and final workshop was entitled “Five Years of the Antiwar Movement: Weaknesses, Strengths, and Challenges Ahead”. This talk was delivered by Nita Palmer, who is on the MAWO executive committee and is the secretary of MAWO. Nita outlined the different stages that the antiwar movement has gone through. From the invasion of Afghanistan, through the buildup to the invasion of Iraq to today, she tackled the failure of the majority of the left and progressive trends in effectively combating the war drive because of a lack of unity combined with infighting, sectarianism and factionalism. She analyzed, through the last seven years of antiwar activities, how the antiwar movement has lacked consistency and has had an absence of solid organizing as a result of lack of perspective and deficiencies in the foundations of ideology, as well as the lack of a unified, independent, working-class action program. She also explained the importance of unity among antiwar groups and coalitions, of consistent demands and politics, and of consistent and dynamic organizing.
MC Janine Solanki wrapped up the day by encouraging everyone to get involved in organizing in the antiwar movement. After a day of debating and lively discussion, everyone was given a chance to discuss more and get involved in MAWO’s upcoming actions against the ongoing war drive. After five years of organizing, the conference was a big success to show how far we have come and to provide inspiration and perspective on the work that we must continue.