What do you want? Blame game or common ground?

Peace Advocate May 2022

by John Blumenstiel

John Blumenstiel’s Commentary on Brian Garvey’s Counterpunch article.

Congratulations to Brian Garvey on his thoughtful article published in Counterpunch. He has articulated what many of us are feeling regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine—including dismay at the strongly divergent views within the peace movement as to where blame should be placed for that invasion. Garvey identifies three major ideological groups that are arguing among themselves as to who is at fault for the tragedies taking place in Ukraine: a) a group that places all blame on Russia, b) a group that refuses to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and c) a group that condemns Russia’s invasion as a clear violation of international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty, but also argues that NATO expansion set the stage.  

In my view, the common ground, the point of convergence among these different, apparently conflicting, perspectives, is non-violence. One of the inspiring elements of the progressive movement umbrella is that the peace groups within that movement share a commitment to  non-violence as our moral and political common touch stone. Based on our particular backgrounds and experiences, we may vary in the arguments and priorities that make most sense to us, but the bottom line for all of us is the central importance of non-violence and peace. Even during what may have been the zenith of the non-violence and peace movement in the US—i.e., the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war eras—there was fracturing; nevertheless, millions of people joined together for social justice and peace. 

And now we have conflicts over what to say and do about war in Ukraine. Given the history of America’s twin war parties and the ongoing threat to our very survival, is it not time for something new? Something daring? Something we can all come together on?  What I am promoting is the absolute necessity, at this time of historical crises, to build a political party/movement that unequivocally stands on a foundation of non-violence.  

Yes, in 2022, it is time for a bold commitment to non-violence.  I am a member of Massachusetts Peace Action because I greatly value their consistent efforts to bring these issues to the forefront of American consciousness. I am a member of the Green-Rainbow Party because I need to be part of a political party that is unequivocally committed to non-violence. The party may not be perfect, but we take pride in a very public commitment to 10 Key Values, of which non-violence is crucial.

As we look around at our co-workers for peace, we recognize many who have been in this endeavor since the 60s or longer.  Our commitment is great, but our numbers are dwindling.  To build the peace movement going forward, we must increase our numbers, expand our inclusiveness,  and overcome many significant barriers.  It is my opinion that this cannot be done by clinging to old relationships and outworn “hopes” that the Democratic Party can become a peace party.  If I am correct in thinking non-violence is and must be the common bond uniting peace groups, then why don’t we ask ourselves what ties us to the Democratic Party?  Democrats have time and again supported wars of aggression. They do not stand on a fundamental commitment to non-violence. They, as much as their brethren in the Republican Party, are the banner carriers for corporate interests; unfortunately, the corporate interests are all too committed to the profits of war.

In my view, Garvey has provided peace groups with valuable recommendations—stop calling each other names, and lead the call for “global coexistence, mutual respect, and cooperation to solve common problems.” My suggestion is that to do this, peace groups not only need to recognize and celebrate their shared commitment to nonviolence, but also need to forego their comfortable, but unfulfilling relationship with the Democratic Party.  This is an invitation to build bridges between older and newer generations of peace activists and the one political party, the Green Party U.S/ Green-Rainbow Party (Massachusetts affiliate)  that is organized around non-violence, the party for People, Planet and Peace.

Growing a political party/movement  that truly represents the needs and aspirations of the working class and poor, that fundamentally believes that non-violence is the only means of global restoration, is neither easy nor short term. It can be very discouraging work until one considers the alternative which we are now facing.  A party with truly transformational values (the Green-Rainbow Party’s 10 Key Values) provides a foundation of inspiration– a primary antidote to despair and a means for broad collaboration across the wide spectrum of peace and economic/ social/ecological justice goals. 

To achieve these goals we must surmount very real barriers: voter suppression, political party suppression, gerrymandering, dark money in politics, media blackouts, candidate harassment, and now we can add the  obvious surge in McCarthyism.  The prosecution/persecution of Julian Assange is only the tip of the iceberg that is threatening independent journalism and the suppressing truth.  Independent journalists of lesser renown are being suspended or outright canceled from their media platforms. Julian Assange faces 175 years of solitary confinement in US prison. For what?  Sharing the truth!  The silence of the mainstream media in refusing to stand up for freedom of the press and the necessity of public information indicates the level of suppression presently occurring.  Challenges to the pro-war hype are characterized as being a Putin apostolate, or worse. 

Garvey rightfully challenges all of us to seek a common ground.  In this particular case it is to stop the violence and human suffering. Peace advocates are all in agreement on that goal. This is the prevailing need and our common desire, and we must be cautioned against getting lost in the details and not strategizing and acting on obtaining the  goal or behaving in a way that is akin to utilizing Map Quest to seek directions to a destination but arriving late or not at all because we spent so much time debating the merits of Trip A or Trip B.  We have a common goal, let’s do our best to accomplish it and not trip over each other in the process. Our task is to develop new creative, sustainable strategies that enlist growing numbers of our citizenry in this effort.  Only through such growth and a reorientation of the underlying  cultural ethos towards non-violence  will we be able to overcome the war machine on this round and prevent future atrocities going forward.