UNAC Conference: Power to the People

by Margaret Kimberley, published on Black Agenda Report, April 10, 2024

The recent 2024 United National Antiwar Coalition conference brought together an international group of activists from member organizations who mobilize against imperialism, racism, and neo-liberal policies around the world. BAR Executive Editor and Senior Columnist Margaret Kimberley delivered these closing remarks.

Good afternoon and power to the people!

Thank you all for joining us here at this United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) conference , Decolonization and the Fight Against Imperialism.

This is my fifth UNAC conference, the first was in 2012. Shortly afterward I joined the Administrative Committee of UNAC and have had the honor of working with comrades in this organization, and with people like yourselves.

What do we say at UNAC? We say, “Stop the wars at home and abroad.” We have spent this weekend talking about that war, a war waged by capitalists, racists, imperialists, usually all the same, against humanity.

These people are the modern day descendants from those who did the very same things on this continent. Here in Minnesota, in Mankato, Minnesota, the largest public execution in US history took place when 38 Lakota men were hanged on December 26, 1862. They were killed for resisting, resisting the genocide against their people in the so called Lakota War. We can look outside the window here and see the Mississippi River, which begins here and flows down to the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River was one of the largest means of transit in the domestic, internal slave trade, as human beings were sold along this route in Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana and sold in slavery markets along that route. Everything we talked about this weekend have their beginnings in these stories, stolen land, stolen human beings, wars against humanity.

More recently, it was here in Minnesota in 2020 that a man named George Floyd was murdered by police. His killing set off mobilizations across the country and around the world, but we all remember what we were taught in science class. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. And lo and behold, suddenly there were what are euphemistically called public safety centers and police training centers which began to pop up across the country. But the right term is cop cities. And yes the word is plural and there was a great workshop on this topic yesterday.

I don’t want to preach to the choir but there are some things I want to remind you of. In looking at the program and talking with you all it is clear that we know that we are in a battle for survival. That’s not hyperbole. One down side of conferences is that it isn’t possible to see everything and I’m sorry I had a conflict with my own workshop and missed the panel on Climate Change, Climate Justice, and War. The capitalists, the imperialists, the racists, are in the process of killing all life on the planet with our money, all the fossil fuel companies are subsidized. A few days ago I saw the headline, “Greenland’s glaciers are melting 100 times faster than estimated.”

Every month in the past year has been the warmest month since records were kept. March 2024 was the warmest March in history, and February 2024 was the hottest in history and so on. Of course a country with 800 military bases around the world plays a role. How much fossil fuel is needed to fly jets and operate ships and so on and run military bases. We talked about that issue here at this conference.

Of course we talked a lot about Palestine and we must. We say we live in the belly of the beast and we see it in Gaza. The president who we are told is defending democracy went to Israel and gave a blank check to kill thousands of people and he has the help and support of congress. I deliberately omit the name of the Israeli prime minister because we can not personalize this war. That’s what Biden and leaders in congress and his friends in corporate media are doing, trying to distract us by pointing fingers at a person and making him the villain when the US is a villain as well and will send weapons to Israel regardless of who sits in that office. And let’s be clear, ethnic cleansing is the right term. That is the goal. That’s one of the things I appreciate about being here at a UNAC gathering. Because people know that and will say that. The deaths of at least 35,000 people, they’re not collateral damage, their deaths are the very goal of the project. And the crocodile tears shed are just that. Because Israel will still get weapons, even after the deaths of the staff of the World Central Kitchen, an establishment NGO that worked closely with the Israel government, the deaths of those people created a public relations crisis.

But it was resistance which brought their deaths to public attention. To their great credit, Palestinians show us the dead. None of this “That might be disturbing, you may want to close your eyes.” No. They did what they usually do and showed the world these victims and accelerated the political crisis necessary to end these war crimes.

UNAC understands the importance of bringing us together from all over this country and the world. We have two ambassadors this weekend, from Nicaragua and the Western Sahara, the Polisario front.

This state and its allies in corporate media hide the rest of the world from us. UNAC does the opposite and brings the information we need to see that the same people who fight against the sovereignty of African nations and who want to destroy the Nicaraguan revolution are the same people who build cop cities.

The same people who speak of “mistaken” killings committed by the IDF sound just like people who dismiss the more than1,000 police killings that take place in the country and call those mistakes. Yes, 1,000, an average of 3 people are killed every day by police in the US.

So everyone here knows that they are a revolutionary. Yes, you, you are. All of you. That word revolutionary used to scare me. I felt it was a word I could not live up to. Sharing these issues, working on these issues, these are revolutionary acts. We by taking parts in UNAC member organizations we know who our enemies are, we know that they are enemies, that we have enemies and we know that wishful thinking reformism is a road to failure. That is the importance of a gathering like this. It gives us renewed focus and concentrates our efforts.

Let me remind us all how change takes place. We know that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice only if we bend it. How have changes come about? Positive change happens when people like us mobilize and create political crises. That’s what revolutionaries always do and that’s what we know at UNAC.

I also want to point out something that isn’t talked about enough. We also have to  struggle with each other. That’s all to the good. It’s not something to be afraid of or nervous about. We can’t move forward unless we learn how to engage in principled struggle with our comrades. If you’re not struggling with someone you’re not doing enough work.

I also want to point out, just by being here, it’s important to acknowledge what we are doing ourselves and for one another when we come together like this. The capitalists, the ruling class, they want us to be atomized, to be separate, to feel separated from each other. We’re always told nobody wants to listen to us. Nobody believes what we believe. No one agrees with us. Sometimes when attempting to engage with people, with people we care about it can be difficult. People who are in denial or who are susceptible to propaganda. And that can be very frustrating but the worst thing we can do is to believe that we are alone when we’re not.

There are thousands of people, millions, who don’t want their public resources used for war, who know that their needs aren’t being met precisely because the war makers and the fossil fuel producers get their money.

One of the workshops I’m sorry to have missed was Bringing Anti-imperialist Issues Into Community, Workplace, School and Union Organizing. Good people in that workshop.  We should not think that we always have a heavy lift in talking to people. People know they are struggling to live. That’s why you see these funny news stories, ironic, not hilariously funny, news stories about how well the economy is doing and wonder about why Biden is struggling in the polls.

People know that they are not living well. They know they’re struggling. The worst thing we can do is think that we are special people in a unique bubble. There are plenty of people who do get what we’ve been talking about and others who are desperate to hear from us, and that is why they marginalize and censor us. You wouldn’t bother censoring someone if you thought no one wanted to listed. It is just the opposite. They know that people do want to hear what we say. 

Lastly, I don’t think this is something that is going to apply to anyone here, but what I’m going to talk about it anyway. You know one of the things that confuses people most in this country is that it portrays itself as a democracy. Of course it is laughable, but that imperative is so strong. It is what people want to believe about themselves and the system they live in. That’s why they use the word so much. That’s why the word is used so much, they know it’s powerful appeal. Yes, we get to vote after they go in a smoke filled room and choose candidates, but that is nothing but an oligarchy.

This quadrennial political extravaganza, otherwise known as a presidential election year, can confuse a lot of people. I’m sure it’s no one here. I’m sure no one here in October is going to say, “You know, I really do need to vote for him because the other guy is so much more evil.” So don’t let that be you.

I’m going to close by saying this. I don’t want to mess up the quote from Che about revolutionaries loving people and that it is an act of love to change the world, but it really is.

Sometimes when you love people you do not always get along in a particular moment or circumstance. But we have love for the world. We would not do what we do if we didn’t care about people, if we didn’t care about our communities, about this country, about people all over the world.

So I will close by saying, “Power to the people!” and “Make love not war!”

*Featured Image: From Livestream by Wilton Vought

Margaret Kimberley is the author of Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents . You can support her work on Patreon and also find it on the Twitter , Bluesky , and Telegram platforms. She can be reached via email at .

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