Reflections on national No U.S. Foreign Military Bases Conference

by Bruce Gagnon, January 16, 2018, Organizing Notes.

We are on the train from Baltimore heading back to Boston.  Then we hop on a bus to Portland where our car is parked for the final ride home to Bath.  It’s a 12-hour journey.

The Conference Against US Foreign Military Bases this weekend at the University of Baltimore was one of the best I’ve ever attended.  The series of plenary panels were top of the mark and we all learned so much.

There will be videos available soon and I will post links to them.

The panel on the US-NATO Asia-Pacific Pivot which I moderated went very well and got excellent reviews.  It was the youngest panel during a weekend where we heard lots of concerns about not having enough young people present.  In fact I gave up my speaking slot so the ‘youngster’ Will Griffin from VFP could speak – so they made me moderator.  But this is how we attract more young folks – some of us gray hairs need to sit down and give up our seats to the lesser known but very talented up-and-coming activists.  This is the way they will get experience and recognition.

It was Dr. Manning Marable (renowned black history professor, social critic and author) who gave me my first invitation to speak at a national peace conference around 1982 at Fisk University in Nashville where he was then teaching.  I was 30 years old at the time and working in Orlando, Florida with a black neighborhood group that was struggling to save their downtown community from redevelopment and gentrification.  I had invited Marable to come to our annual meeting as keynote speaker and we became friends.  He then invited me to the conference he organized at Fisk and asked me to speak about the connections between militarism and attacks on social progress.

Marable’s book How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America had a huge impact on me and cemented my thinking about the obvious and crucial links between militarism and growing poverty in the US and around the world.

In the late-1980’s, once I was working for the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice, we invited Dr. Marble to come back to Central Florida to speak at our annual peace conference and it was there that I first heard anyone talk about the coming demographic changes in the US that would make people of color the majority population.  Marable accurately predicted that some day soon the corporate oligarchies that run America would move to create ‘candidates of color’ that they controlled. Thus the rise of Obama and now talk of Oprah Winfrey as possible Democratic Party candidate for president in 2020 indicate Marable’s correct analysis.

The conference speakers in Baltimore repeatedly touched on these same themes of military expansion  and capitalism’s never ending heartless drive to destroy programs of social uplift as Dr. King called them.  Capitalism exists to maximize profit, control and power.  Mr. Big cares nothing about the ‘great unwashed’ and only sees the public as tools to be used and discarded toward their goal of corporate domination.

Those who hope for and work for peace should recognize that the rich and powerful use war as a blunt instrument of profit and control.  Thus simply calling for ‘peace’ is not enough – we must also demand the complete restructuring of society away from a culture that worships $$$$ to one that values all lives and sees our sacred connection to nature.

I am so glad that MB and I went to Baltimore.  The next step will be to take this conference to an international setting in order to further build a unified anti-base, anti-war movement that links hands around the world.  Only by working together can we hope to stop global capital’s insatiable appetite for control of our planetary resources and the people who live on this beautiful tiny fragile orb.


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