Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

'That's the Challenge'


In early July Roy Pingel and his son visited our house here in Bath.  Artist and housemate Brown Lethem lived in New York City for many years and often gets visitors from the city.  This summer has been pure joy as we've seen a poet, author, painter and friends visit Brown from New York.

I'd never met Roy Pingel before but he was very interested in talking and I showed him and his son the short video about our April 1 arrests at BIW during a destroyer 'christening' ceremony.  I handed him one of the Global Network newspapers and he promised to stay in touch.

A week or two later I received a letter in the mail with a donation from Roy.  But most importantly, and exciting for me, was to see his words describing his clear understanding about the need for 'defense' conversion.  I'd like to share his good thoughts on the subject.  We need more folks to be talking about (and demanding) conversion of the war machine.

A very good friend of ours has also mentioned to me your work and interest around the retooling, converting, weapons industries into production that supports and improves life, not destroying it, and ultimately creates more jobs.

'Retooling America for Peace' (hey, maybe that can be used as a slogan for a campaign for industrial conversion, maybe it already is) stimulates a lot of interest but the conversion process to a peacetime economy - how does that start and move forward without major labor dislocation, especially at the initial stages?  How to confront the massive counter reaction by 'defense' contractors and financial elites, causes abundant fear, hesitancy, resistance, among labor leaders, workers and, of course, the politicians?  I guess that's the challenge, how to increasingly win over more of a US populace to Retooling America for Peace when much of the people seem disengaged from the reality that their country is an empire unmatched in history.

Good luck in your trial and all your work for demilitarizing space!

Roy Pingel
NYC

My only real response to Roy would be thanks for the great letter and thanks for seeing this big picture that is not adequately being addressed by the peace and environmental movements, the media, Congress nor the so-called 'Democratic Party' which says it is for peace and prosperity for the workers.  They ain't....

So folks that really understand this issue need to put our heads together and organize more discussion and action - everywhere.  The other necessary message, which is getting more play, is the devastating carbon bootprint of the Pentagon and its endless wars.  Climate change is worsened by the ever cancerous US military empire that impacts the environment and cultures of people in places like Guam, Jeju Island, Philippines, Australia, and Okinawa.

Thus we need conversion, and conversion campaigners, to be organizing particularly in communities where manifestations of the military production system are located.  We've got to keep looking for local people who will help us connect to labor unions that represent the workers at these production sites.

It would be helpful if labor would recall the words of William Wimpisinger (1924-1997) the 11th International President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.  During the early 1980's 'Wimpy' (as he was called) became a national leader in the united effort by his union and the peace movement to promote conversion.  In a speech at a conference in 1980 Wimpy spoke in favor of disarmament saying economic conversion of the weapons industry was key to economic stability in the US.  He maintained that weapons production is a capital intensive industry that doesn't do much in creating additional jobs. Instead it causes inflation and unemployment.  You can hear Wimpy's talk here

Most 'defense' workers just want a decent job with healthcare.  They'd be happy with conversion to building commuter rail, solar, wind, and tidal power systems. If we actually went that direction we'd also not have to go to war for oil.

That would make the local workers happy too because in the end it is often the case that their children are the ones dying in US wars for the oil corporations. 

Build it and they will come.

Bruce

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