By Jonathan King
The 2022 “Reducing the Threat of Nuclear War” conference was held on Jan 29 as a virtual event. The annual Conference has developed from a regional event to a national gathering, with more than 400 registrants, from 40 states and 20 different countries. This year’s theme, “Rebuilding a Broader Movement”, was expressed through speakers representing national constituencies including Larry Cohen, board member of national Our Revolution; Shailly Gupta Barnes, Policy director of the Poor People’s Campaign; Jodie Evans of CodePINK, Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies; and Joe Cirincione of the Quincy Institute. Videos of the speakers can be viewed at youtu.be/SDTGwwyuVOo and youtu.be/7HxwXnkWQPA.
U.S Representative Barbara Lee and U.S. Senator Ed Markey addressed the Conference through video greetings, commenting on the pressing need to cut back weapons purchases and war preparation. The Conference was held under the cloud of US war mongering with respect to Russia and the Ukraine, which became a focus for immediate action.
Larry Cohen pointed out that reducing Congressional support for nuclear weapons expenditures required changing the composition of the Congress. He called for a focus on supporting progressive candidates running in Democratic primaries for the 2022 midterm elections. These are held in different states throughout the Spring, Summer and Early Fall.
Shailly Gupta Barnes reported on studies carried out for the Poor Peoples Campaign showing the potential high impact in many key states of an increase in the number of poor and low wealth people turning out to vote. This constituency is often ignored by main line candidates of both parties. Barnes invited conference participants to join the PPC in mobilizing this constituency by joining a National Assembly of Poor and Low Wage Workers on June 18 in Washington DC.
Jodie Evans described the need to educate and mobilize among our citizenry to cut the outrageous pentagon budget, using every social and community network available. Given the immediate threat, CodePINK, Peace Action and other Conference cosponsors called upon participants to immediately write the President, and their Congressional Representatives, opposing military aid to Ukraine, using this link: bit.ly/diplomacy-ukraine.
Joe Cirincione made clear that support for nuclear weapons expenditures remains strong among Democrats and Republicans in Congress. He noted that the balkanization of nuclear disarmament advocates harmed our mission, and indicated the need of advocacy groups to collaborate more closely and coherently.
Expertise on the issue of nuclear disarmament were provided by Elaine Scarry cogently addressing the need for the US to adopt a No First Use of Nuclear Weapons Policy. Joseph Gerson reviewed the Russian experience of three European invasions (Napoleon, Germany in WWI, Nazis in WWII) and calling for diplomatic solutions to the tensions in the Ukraine and over Taiwan. Bill Hartung described the ability of the nuclear weapons industry to influence Congress through recycling a fraction of the enormous sums of taxpayer dollars provided them though cost-plus weapons contracts.
A very important part of the Conference were the Breakouts, each with Chairs, Panelists and a Reporter. These covered the full range of issues and actions that Conference registrants were nagged in. Reviewing the list of Breakouts topics and panelists is instructive.
In the initial planning of the Conference program, the intention was to end the Conference with a call to engage in the 2022 Midterm elections, promoting either Pro-Peace Platforms, and/or pro-Peace candidates. The need to respond to the Ukraine crises required putting that goal aside, in order to focus on the immediate danger.
The Conferees will return to the theme of promoting pro-peace platforms and candidates in the 2022 primaries, at a national webinar to be held Sunday evening, March 20, 6 pm (Eastern). Speakers will include Larry Cohen, Shailly Gupta Barnes, Medea Benjamin and Lilly Dragnev (National Peace Action). You can register for this important event at bit.ly/peace-2022-primaries.
The Program Committee members were Jonathan King, Susan Mirsky, Robert Redwine, Amar Ahmad, Patricia-Maria Weinmann, ably supported by the many who volunteered to Chair the Breakouts or serve as Reporters.
The Amy Rugel Giving Fund and Norris Rugel Giving Fund provided financial support.