Report on the Rage Against the War Machine Rally

by Phil Wilayto, circulated by the Virginia Defenders of Freedom, Justice and Equality, February 22, 2023

A few of us from the Virginia Defenders and the Odessa Solidarity Campaign attended the Rage Against the War Machine rally held Feb. 19 in Washington, D.C. Our purpose was to observe and evaluate the event, and also reach out to any well-meaning people concerned about U.S. support for Ukraine and try to explain what is so dangerous about supporting this attempt to build a so-called “Right-Left” alliance.

The rally at the Lincoln Memorial ran from 12:30 to about 4 p.m., followed by a march to the White House and other events. At the rally we passed out about 250 copies of our “Open Letter to Rage Against the War Machine from the Odessa Solidarity Campaign,” working various layers of the crowd, so I think we got a pretty good feel for the event. (The pamphlet ends with promoting the antiwar protest called for March 18 in D.C.)

We haven’t seen a count of the crowd by the organizers, but our take is that there were about 1,500 people at the rally. (Al Mayadeen English put it at between 1,000 and 1,200. A fawning report in Covert Action estimated it at “several thousand.”) This includes the crowd in front of the speakers’ stand, which was set up facing the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial; plus a smaller crowd behind the speaker’s stand; people sitting on the steps of the Memorial; and those lined up along the Reflecting Pool. As always, there were tourists in the area, but it was pretty easy to tell who was there for the rally and who was just passing through.

The crowd was about 95% white, with the largest demographic being white men between the ages of 25 and 50, many of whom wore clothing with libertarian slogans. A lot of the older people in the crowd wore peace signs. Most people seemed to have come as individuals, not in groups. There were a few African-Americans, some Middle-Easterners and a few women wearing scarves in the hijab custom.

Interestingly for a “coalition,” there were very few signs or banners from organizations other than the Libertarian Party and the Schiller Institute, a project of the right-wing LaRouche cult, which had a speaker, Diane Sare. We didn’t see any signs, banners or literature tables from the People’s Party, which, with the Libertarian Party, was an official co-sponsor of the event. The only outright neo-Nazi we saw was anti-libertarian Matthew Heimbach of the Patriotic Socialist Front,  who came with three or four other people and was not a speaker.

Most of the signs people held were hand-made. There were a few U.S. flags, a few Russian and one Rainbow flag. We collected 14 different pieces of literature from different organizations, not all of which were endorsing the rally but none of which criticized it. There was a section for literature tables, but most were by the Libertarians, with one by the even more right-wing Mises Caucus, which recently won election to most of the party’s top posts.

While none of the speakers gave anything resembling a virulently right-wing talk, the loudest boos for Democrats weren’t for Biden or Bill Clinton, but for Obama. The liberal speakers raised the need to fund social programs here at home, not wars abroad, but we didn’t hear anyone challenge the crowd to address racism. A common theme of the talks was the possibility of the Ukraine war escalating into a nuclear war, and how that danger justifies a Right-Left cooperation. (A list of the speakers is below. The 24 speeches themselves are posted on the RAWM website.)

Our take:

This was a Libertarian Party event, not a true coalition effort. Some liberals spoke, but they didn’t bring any numbers. They were window-dressing, providing a liberal cover for a reactionary organization.

The rally took place in the context of a weakened antiwar movement and a rising right-wing movement that opposes U.S. wars from an isolationist, “America First” perspective. According to a recent AP poll, less than half the U.S. public still supports sending weapons to Ukraine, but the only voices in Congress representing that view are right-wing Republicans. And at the fringe are the fascist organizations that chant “Russia is our friend,” again, from a right-wing point of view.

So RAWM was an attempt by the Libertarian Party to step into a political vacuum and seize leadership over the rising antiwar sentiment in the country. The event wasn’t huge, but it had legs, and was a definite advance for the LP. And as one of the rally co-chairs put it, “ We have plans – this is just the beginning.”

So what’s wrong with all this? The LP is for a capitalism with no restraints – no labor laws, no laws against structural racism, sexism or LGBTQ oppression, no government programs of any kind that benefit the working class and oppressed communities, no public schools, public libraries, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Section 8 housing – nothing but cops, courts, prisons and the military.

And to unite with the LP, you have to agree to demands that totally ignore the central issue of white supremacy and the need to defend and expand programs that address human needs. (See the 10 RAWM unity demands.) It doesn’t matter what individual liberal speakers say; it’s the agreed-upon program that counts. Supporting a “Right-Left” alliance means abandoning the working class and communities of color. Even the threat of nuclear war doesn’t  justify that – unless you’re a very selfish, middle-class, white male, which seems to be the LP’s social base.

Our recommendation is for the broadest possible mobilization for the genuinely progressive March 18 national march on Washington to end the war in Ukraine (HERE and HERE), and promoting greater unity among the truly anti-imperialist organizations – with a renewed commitment to make fighting racism a more central part of our collective program.

And if anyone in Virginia would like to join us in D.C. on March 18, please respond to this email.

(Defender Kat McNeal contributed to this report.)

Thanks,

Phil Wilayto

Coordinator, Odessa Solidarity Campaign
A project of the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality
“Supporting the anti-fascist people of Ukraine since 2016.”

*Featured Image: src ~Virginia Defender

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RALLY SPEAKERS (whose speeches are posted on the RAWM website.)

Max Blumenthal
Gerald Celenti
Dan Cohen
Jimmy Dore
Tulsi Gabbard
Chris Hedges
Scott Horton
Kim Iverson
Craig Pasta Jardula
Dennis Kucinich
Daniel McAdams
Dan McKnight
Tatiana Moroz
Garland Nixon
Jordan Page
Anya Parampil
Ron Paul
Tara Reade
Wyatt Reed
Diane Sare
Jill Stein
David Swanson
Roger Waters
Ann Wright

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2 comments

  1. The hysteria by the socialist left regarding this rally is disappointing to put it kindly. There was no conspiracy to be a liberal cover for the libertarian party. Most of the speakers were either FDR liberal types ..socialist or progressive. some could be described as centrists . there were few libertarian speakers. The real issue is where WAS THE SOCIALIST LEFT AND TRUE PROGRESSIVE FOR THE LAST YEAR ..WHY SO LATE (MARCH 2023) TO ORGANIZE A RALLY. ?

    1. The relentless attacks of people associated with this Rally in February are telling. What I want to call the ‘old left’ and the only people organizing antiwar events for a decade were completely ignored by the Libertarian organizers (yes, I know many speakers were ‘left leaning’ allies of ours). From the beginning, you have relentlessly attacked us on our own blogs and list serves. Why? What is your agenda that such aggression is required. We were not important enough to include in your plans, but we are so important that any criticism requires an aggressive response. Can you coexist? You want us to fall in behind you in a kind of one sided ‘coalition’. Why not start with peaceful coexistence on the same road? We aren’t embarrassed about who we are. Why are you upset that we are telling the truth about your background? It is petty. Just chill, and if you are sincere, then the breach will heal. Let it be!

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