Following is an interview with Jim Lafferty, executive director emeritus of the National Lawyers Guild in Los Angeles. He was one of the national coordinators of the largest anti-Vietnam War coalition: the National Peace Action Coalition. He is also a member of the Advisory Committee of Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP). The interview was conducted on February 3 by Alan Benjamin, member of the editorial board of The Organizer.
Question: Why should people in the United States oppose the buildup and increasing threat of war in Ukraine?
Lafferty: That’s the key question everybody should be asking themselves. I need to provide some context before I answer that question directly. We are told every day that our country is not currently at war, but this, of course, is a fiction perpetuated by the corporate media to hide what the U.S. is really doing across the globe.
The truth is that the U.S. has military bases in 140 countries at this time, and in many of these countries some form of military action is actually engaged. Yet this low-intensity warfare is not reported.
I also think one needs a little bit of history. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Gorbachev reached an agreement with the United States that the U.S. would not seek to grab up former Soviet states and countries in the Warsaw Pact and bring them into NATO. In addition, the United States would not take advantage of the situation to arm more heavily than it already was the territories and states surrounding the Soviet Union.
But that’s now what happened. NATO dragged in at least seven of the Warsaw Pact nations, many of them armed with nuclear weapons. All this was contrary to that agreement.
The U.S. wars and interventions have had a devastating effect on working-class people not only here at home, but throughout the world. Monies that should be spent for all of our domestic needs iares going to the arms manufacturers. There’s great profit to be made in the making of weapons of war.
The so-called “defense” budget – in reality a war budget– is massive to the extreme.
And the U.S. Administrations – whether Democratic or Republican — continue to use any excuse they can to be on a permanent war footing and thereby justify these outrageous, immoral expenditures — again, all resources and monies that should be going to secure life and welfare for workers and oppressed communities in the U.S. and around the world.
Question: What can we do to stop this impending war against Russia?
Lafferty: We need to build mass antiwar movements. But we have to keep in mind that we have a different situation today than what existed during the Vietnam War, when our troops were returning home in body bags by the thousands.
The U.S. military has found a way to conduct these wars with so-called volunteer armies: the armies of the poor, the armies of the disenfranchised. You don’t have a draft — thank goodness — but you don’t have it. And therefore, you have so many other issues that are front and center in the minds of the American people — from low wages, the covid pandemic, mounting inflation, lack of housing, and so much more.
In addition, as we speak, though there is increased U.S. weaponry being sent to Ukraine, the U.S. government is not talking about putting U.S. soldiers directly into conflict. This makes it more difficult for the American people to understand what is going on. All they hear in the mainstream media is how Russia is this terrible aggressive nation that we must stop it before it suddenly takes over Toledo, Ohio, or some other place.
All this makes it hard to form the kind of an organized, united-front mass movement that proved so successful in the past. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. We don’t know what’s going to happen next week. The situation on the ground could change rapidly. There is also much more availability of information via the internet now than there once was.
This coming weekend [Feb. 5 and 6] there will be antiwar actions all across the country sponsored by the ANSWER coalition, Code Pink, UNAC, Black Alliance for Peace and hundreds of other organizations. This is the beginning of a new anti-war movement. I urge your readers to get out in the streets to say, NO U.S. War Against Russia!