International gathering to end war

Top News Aug 11, 2017 at 5:04 pm
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Conference attendees march from UofT campus to the U.S. Consulate and to Nathan Philips Square to stage a die-in on the occasion of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings in World War II. (Photos: Joseph Smooke)

300 Delegates from 21 countries meet in toronto

By Joseph Smooke

War and climate change are rapidly changing our world as cultures, countries and people are traumatized and displaced. Sharing these experiences and stories is essential for building not just an understanding of our common struggles, but to envision how to make change for a peaceful and sustainable future.

Nearly 300 delegates representing 21 countries and 120 organizations from every region of the world gathered at the University of Toronto chanting “Long live international solidarity” and “imperyalismo ibagsak” (Tagalog for “Down with Imperialism”) in five different languages, bridging cultures and sharing stories of struggle and resistance.

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A participant speaks at a plenary session

The International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS) and the International Women’s Alliance (IWA) collaborated on these three days of teachings, demonstrations, and performances on August 5 to 7. Named “Solidarity and Fightback: Building Resistance to US-Led War, Militarism and Neofascism,” this conference was cast against the backdrop of impacts that U.S. President Donald Trump is inflicting on people and the environment globally from his position at the helm of the world’s largest imperialist power.

“The struggles not only of the Filipino people, but the struggles with different countries are similar,” Rhea Gamana of Anakbayan Canada said. “We are here to help each other. We will not stop until justice is served for all of us here. Not only for the Filipino people, but for everyone else in the world. With international solidarity that we’re showing around the world, it will definitely create a huge impact,” she continued.

“Before speaking about the way to fight back,” said one of the keynotespeakers, Leila Khaled of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, “it’s more important to decide why we are fighting, what are the rules of our fighting, and who we are fighting, so we can decide together how to establish a global movement for solidarity.”

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International Women’s Alliance members

In her video speech she said, “On the international level, we witness the means that the imperialists are using to achieve their cause. They give themselves the right to interfere in countries that do not abide by their policies.” She discussed the use of economic sanctions, the United Nations, the media, support for opposition groups, and accusations that certain countries of supporting terrorism as tools to justify their interventions, for example in Palestine, Venezuela and the Philippines. She cited the United States and Israel as major imperialist powers.

The conference was ambitious in its scope with the second day focused on the impacts of war on women and children. Joms Salvador of GABRIELA (Philippines) presented on a panel that included women leaders from Kurdistan and Congo talking about the impact of imperialist-led wars on women and children.

“Military operations aggravate economic insecurity. Women cannot leave their house to go to their farm or look for alternative sources of income. Military operations also result in loss of properties, destruction of shelters, schools, religious places, and other important structures in communities,” Joms Salvador said. “Economic insecurity places women in a more vulnerable position to be victims of trafficking, domestic violence, and other forms of abuse,” she continued.

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Fr. Rex Reyes, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines

Joan Salvador, also of GABRIELA, noted during a workshop discussion called “Ban the Bases” that the Philippines government is expending enormous resources to accommodate U.S. troops at its bases under the provisions of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). The U.S. troops are now in the Philippines “to man and command the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” she said. Building the infrastructure to support this presence diverts “resources from social services such as health, education, decent housing, even transportation and communication for the public,” she said.

One of the promises Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made when campaigning was to keep the Philippines independent of U.S. political and military influence. Prior to Duterte’s election, however, in 2014, the Aquino government signed the EDCA with the Obama administration which expands the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). EDCA not only allows the U.S. military to have a more permanent presence, but it allows the U.S. to build structures to support its troops at military bases operated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The recent offensive perpetrated in Marawi City with the justification of expanding the war on terror brought the Duterte and the Trump governments working together to fight what Joms calls an “alleged threat.”

Also declared a threat recently by President Duterte are the Lumad schools in indigenous communities of Mindanao which he threatened to bomb when he addressed protesters after his 2017 State of the Nation Address. “We would like to remind President Duterte that when we set up these indigenous schools,” said Beverly Longid of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and the International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation, “these Lumad schools were set up without any form of support from government, and it is precisely the absence of social services, the absence of educational services to indigenous peoples that we have to build this from our own efforts.”

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Jennie-Laure Sully of Movement Against Rape and Incest in Montreal

Longid is not only concerned about Duterte’s threat to bomb Lumad schools, but the possibility of increased militarization throughout the Philippines if Martial Law is expanded beyond Mindanao because of increasing reports of terrorist activity on islands throughout the country.

“The U.S. labeling of Southeast Asia as the next front of the war against terrorism is actually a myth,” Joms Salvador said. “It is about economics and politics. It is not about protecting people of the world it is about controlling and owning the resources of the world.”

To protest the ever increasing imperialism of the U.S., delegates capped Sunday’s proceedings by gathering at the WWII monument at Queen’s Park, on the anniversary of the nuclear bombings in Japan that ended that war. The delegates rallied then marched down University Avenue to the U.S. Consulate before proceeding to Nathan Phillips Square to state a “die-in” as a protest against war.

While “Solidarity & Fightback” was about learning and understanding about the root causes of war and the inhumane acts of capitalism, it was just as much about achieving solidarity among oppressed peoples and finding ways to resist and fight back.

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Coni Ledesma, International Wemen’s Alliance

As Coni Ledesma from the International Women’s Alliance said “When there is oppression, there is resistance” and that the time to strike against imperialism is now. She talked about how tigers are relaxed when they’re comfortable, but become ferocious when wounded. “And that is what Imperialism is today because it is going down. It doesn’t have the power it had before and so it is ferocious … That is why our resistance has be to be more ferocious, more creative, more determined.”

Longid spoke on the first day in place of Renato Reyes, Secretary-General of  BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) who was not able to secure his visa to enter Canada for the conference. She talked about events and protests coming up in the Philippines including the Indigenous and Moro people’s groups gathering this September “for a one-month long protest activity that we call a journey for peace and self-determination.” They will be in Manila to target mining and energy companies’ headquarters and the government departments responsible for relations with indigenous people and for managing natural resources.

Then, in November the heads of states from Russia, the U.S., China and Canada among many other nations will converge in Manila for the East Asian Summit hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. There will be anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist protests to bring attention to the impacts that the actions and policies of these countries have on marginalized peoples.

“We all imagine a time when our governments wage war against the true enemies of the people: poverty, inequality, injustice and oppression. We imagine a time when true economic, political and social development based on self-sufficiency, national self-determination …  is the banner under which our societies are organized,” Joms Salvador said.

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By Joseph Smooke

Two days before the Solidarity & Fightback conference, a group of delegates went to London and Waterloo to bring attention to two of the largest U.S.-based defense contractors that have significant operations in Southern Ontario. Delegates timed the protests at these multi-billion dollar corporations to coincide with the anniversary of the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan at the end of World War II.

“We thought it was important to show that the wars are just not far away in other lands. They’re right here at home with us,” said Malcolm Guy, General Secretary of ILPS. “General Dynamics has a huge factory here in London, Ontario where they manufacture, among other things, armed personnel carriers. In this instance, many of the armed personnel carriers here are being produced for Saudi Arabia, in one of the biggest military contracts in Canada’s history,” he continued.

Guy then set a hopeful tone that was a constant theme of the conference. “We want an end to industries of war. We want these industries of war to be converted into industries of peace.”

Beverly Longid, Indigenous People’s Movement for Self-Determination & Liberation

Beverly Longid, Indigenous People’s Movement for Self-Determination & Liberation

 

Johsa Manzanilla from Winnipeg

Johsa Manzanilla from Winnipeg

 

Cultural workers perform

Cultural workers perform

 

Rally infront of the U.S. Consulate

Rally infront of the U.S. Consulate

 

Conference participants gather before WWII Monument at  Queen’s Park.

Conference participants gather before WWII Monument at Queen’s Park.

 

Youth from various countries join the anti-war rally

Youth from various countries join the anti-war rally

 

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