International & Antiwar News


Originally published in the Winter/Spring 2023 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 71, printed March 22. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Winter/Spring 2023 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For other issues dating back to 2012, see the Full Issues page.

By Phil Wilayto

An interesting thing has happened in the U.S. antiwar movement. After years of relatively small protests, two relatively large ones took place, both in Washington, D.C., both demanding that the U.S. government stop funding the war in Ukraine.

And yet the two actions could not have been more different.

On Feb. 19, about 1,500 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial. This protest was cosponsored by the conservative Libertarian Party and the liberal People’s Party, which grew out of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign of 2016. The event was dubbed Rage Against the War Machine.

This was an example of what people are calling a “Right-Left” alliance. The idea is that people and organizations with different views on some issues can come together on others and so form a more powerful movement.

The other protest took place March 18 at Lafayette Square, across from the White House. This one drew about 2,000 people, maybe more, and was cosponsored by a wide range of antiwar organizations including the ANSWER Coalition, United National Antiwar Coalition, Code Pink, Veterans for Peace and was endorsed by some 200 groups, including the Virginia Defenders and the Odessa Solidarity Campaign.

Several thousand people march in Washington, D.C., March 18 to demand an end to U.S. funding the war in Ukraine and many other causes. Photo by Phil Wilayto.

So what’s the problem?

The Libertarian Party, which really ran Feb.19, is a right-wing organization that stands for a particularly brutal form of capitalism, one 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. In its view, the only proper function of government is to protect life and property, which means the 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. It doesn’t matter what individual liberal speakers may say at their event, it’s the agreed-upon program that counts. Supporting a “Right-Left” alliance means abandoning the working class and communities of color.

In contrast, March 18 called for defunding the Pentagon and funding much-needed social programs. It targeted racism and promoted the right of self-determination for oppressed peoples.

These differences in politics between the two protests were reflected in their different demographics. Feb. 19 was mainly white men between the ages of 20 and 50. March 18 was thoroughly multiracial, with many young people of color.

The fact that two very different events protested the same main issue sparked a heated debate in the antiwar movement. Some argued that, with the war in Ukraine escalating, alliances with right-wing organizations were both justified and necessary. Others argued that such alliances mean abandoning communities of color and only serve to further legitimize and strengthen the Right.

The Defenders took the second position. What’s more, we intervened. We put together a little pamphlet arguing why a Right-Left alliance was such a bad idea, took it to Feb. 19 and distributed hundreds of copies to the crowd. We had many conversations, and may have opened a few minds.

Then we mobilized for March 18, reaching out to friends and allies in Norfolk, Roanoke and Harrisonburg. And we rallied and marched in D.C. and were invited to address the indoors program that followed the march. (The pamphlet is posted at

These are difficult times and a lot of good people are scared. But the answer isn’t to turn to backward forces. That just paves the way for a more powerful, rightwing movement.

And that’s what we should be fighting against, not uniting with.

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