“The global anti-war majority must oppose the politics and economics of war and build a world based on environmental sustainability, health and peace”Jeremy Corbyn
By Ben Hayes, Arise Festival volunteer
Hundreds joined panellists from Britain and across the world at Building Global Movements for Peace, People & Planet, one of the sessions organised as part of this year’s Arise Festival.
Chairing the meeting, CND General Secretary Kate Hudson outlined the task of progressive movements internationally as being to “transform the world in order to address the series of crises we face” – and commended Arise as a “celebration of peace, internationalism, solidarity and unity” organised in the spirit of building links between those fighting for positive change across the world.
MP for Islington North Jeremy Corbyn opened by paying tribute to longstanding CND campaigner Bruce Kent, who passed away last month: calling on activists to “draw inspiration” from his life and tireless commitment to working for peace, from opposing cruise missiles at Greenham Common to calling for an end to the war in Ukraine in Trafalgar Square earlier this year. Drawing links between the spread of war and growing numbers of global refugees, he highlighted the role of the British and American governments in arming Saudi Arabia throughout its ongoing war in Yemen- arguing that this exposed the justifications put forward for military actions supposedly being based on humanitarian concerns. Corbyn criticised global institutions for failing to bring “the language of peace” to discussions on the current conflict in Ukraine and cited the need to “make popular opinion a force for it” in order to keep hopes of a ceasefire alive- viewing the Athens Declaration launched earlier this year as a positive step forward. Warning that “we face a new period of neoliberalism”, he closed with a call to “oppose the politics and economics of war” and for the “global anti-war majority to build a world based on environmental sustainability, health and peace”.
Sevim Dağdelen, member of the German Parliament, quoted the words of French socialist leader Jean Jaurès: “capitalism carries war with it like the cloud carries rain”. Calling for peace movements around the world to “reject the new global militarism”, she emphasised that “the war on Ukraine must end as quickly as possible- a negotiated solution is a necessity towards this”. Dağdelen also discussed the the current situation in relation to energy and the cost of living is posing to communities in Germany, with million at risk of being left without proper heating during winter and/or losing their jobs- all whilst the country’s military spending is set to rise to the third highest levels in the world. Noting the rhetoric at the recent NATO summit, she called for “global co-operation of progressive forces who oppose the policies of war and oligarchic capitalism” to ensure they make themselves heard.
Varsha Gandikota-Nellutla, member of the Cabinet of Progressive International from India, discussed the importance of making the definition of peace (“living without distress or disturbance”) a reality in terms of the planet’s food system. Outlining the shocking reality of the current state of affairs (with well over 2 billion people going hungry on Earth today, global food prices at an all time high this year, and 70% of the world’s agricultural communities controlled by the ‘ABCD’ group consisting of just four companies), she argued that “crises such as COVID and the war in Ukraine bring misery for the masses but opportunity for some of the richest corporations”. Gandikota-Nellutla noted that the last 2 years have seen the emergence of 62 new “food billionaires”, and characterised the food industry as “trading in hunger”: “food security must mean security from those depriving people of it”. She also highlighted the role of governments representing some of the world’s richest countries in putting restrictions on developing nations in relation to providing state support for agriculture, as well as blocking the waving of COVID vaccine patents and boosting production and availability. Defining the current period as “crisis after crisis”, she pointed to gains made by mass mobilisations of farmers in India as an example of what movements challenging the current system can achieve.
The International Transport Workers Federation’s Gabriel Rodriguez reflected on the difference that growing up in Argentina with parents in organised workplaces made to his childhood, and how many inspirational leaders (both political and industrial) had been taken from Latin America as a result of vicious reactionary clampdowns seen throughout the region. Discussing the work done by the labour movement to “rebuild strength and capacity” in the various countries where this had taken place, he noted that recent months had seen numerous electoral victories for progressive forces in the Americas (including the historic win of left Colombian Presidential candidate Gustavo Petro as recently as last month)- and expressed his hope that more would follow. Rodriguez discussed the labour reform introduced by the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico as an example of the gains being made for organising in the region- with the law ensuring the right for workers to elect their union representatives and countering attempts from employers to set up ‘fake unions’. He called for the labour movement to work internationally “for an environmentally and socially sustainable future for our planet”.
Yanis Varoufakis of Diem25 in Greece described the meeting as “a very important initiative” and called for a movement to “end the oligarchy’s monopoly over media and the levers of power”. Noting that just miles away from where he was speaking on the rise in global militarism lies a military base operated by the US in Crete, he described the current cost of living crisis as “the latest targeting of the many”, and called for “unity in struggle” in response to it. Arguing that the lack of a meaningful legacy of action from the COP26 summit in Glasgow last year and the statements emerging from the recent NATO summit “reject the direction” of those in power, he emphasised the importance of movements working across national boundaries to “assert our own interests” and put the issues being discussed at Arise on the agenda.
Gyekye Tanoh of the Third World Solidarity Network in Ghana highlighted a recent speech from RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch on the importance of rejecting attempts to pit different groups of workers against each other, and argued that “our common experiences and needs form the basis of solidarity- this is the best protection the planet can have, whether you’re in England, Ecuador or Ethiopia”. Outlining recent developments in Africa, he discussed the buildup of US and American military forces and the situation in Madagascar, which has been declared “the world’s first climate disaster and famine zone”- with cyclones leaving around a million experiencing food insecurity hunger and up to four million at risk of displacement. Tanoh emphasised the importance of mass movements “articulating the reality of the system and linking the fights for peace, people and planet”- arguing that “having a systemic analysis and approach is crucial for achieving systemic change” and avoiding the path of division. Making the case that in a British context engaging in social movements can help the Labour left “overcome the restraints placed on it by the leadership of Keir Starmer”, he encouraged the building of a global socialist current “which can help lead our struggles to victory”.
Concluding, Kate Hudson thanked all panelists and attendees, and encouraged those tuning in to help build movements for peace and justice- as well as joining in more upcoming sessions at the Arise Festival.
- Register for the full range of Arise Festival events here.