International issue
Summer 2019

Building a Powerful Antiwar Movement

By Maria Svart, DSA National Director

On the anniversary of the start of the 2003 Iraq war this spring, I looked back at the pictures of the massive worldwide protests. Millions of people were in the streets, but they weren’t enough to stop the bombing. The U.S. war machine ground forward.

In strategic campaign terms, we had a clear demand (don’t invade) and target (George W. Bush), but we didn’t have leverage. DSA’s theory of power is that if we organize poor and working-class people in three different arenas—the formal political system, our communities, and our workplaces—we create real leverage and something greater than the sum of these parts.

Imagine if in the lead-up to the Iraq War we had built an antiwar base of poor people in open rebellion in both urban and rural areas, demanding social programs instead of bombs; if we had built a coalition of elected officials willing to argue and vote against nationalistic calls for war; and if we had built up a base of workers, especially in strategic industries, confident enough to strike against the war and demand conversion of their jobs from military production to production for domestic use meeting human needs. Imagine if those protests had been more than symbolic and we had been able to stop the gears of the economy and governability of society.

As we go to press, National Security Advisor John Bolton is concocting a case for us to attack Iran. At the same time, we can take inspiration from international solidarity. This spring, Bernie Sanders organized fellow senators and then representatives in the House to pass the historic War Powers Resolution against participation in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, although it was vetoed by Donald Trump. More recently, on May 20, dock workers in Genoa, Italy, refused to load electric generators onto a Saudi Arabian ship carrying weapons. “We will not be complicit in what is happening in Yemen” said the union leaders. Earlier, the ship had been unable to load weapons in France because of protesters.

We, too, can, and must, help build a mass movement saying no to the wars among the rich. Through all of our work, whether workplace or community organizing or in the electoral arena, we can talk about U.S. foreign policy. To think about how, I encourage you to register for our national reading group of Jane McAlevey’s No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age. We’ll have three sessions covering different chapters of her book. See the schedule here. Whatever the issue, this basic reality is true: the capitalist class has the money, but we have the people. We have the power, if we organize.

National Convention Countdown

Every two years, we gather in convention in different parts of the country. This year, we’re meeting August 2-4 at one of the two union hotels in Atlanta, Georgia, to debate political ideas, share organizing skills, and make decisions about our future.

Dates to Remember

  • June 13: The national office will release a compendium of proposed resolutions and constitutional/bylaws amendments.
  • By July 2: Any member or group of DSA members in good standing may submit amendments to proposed resolutions and constitutional and bylaws changes.
  • By June 16: National Political Committee nominees must complete a candidate questionnaire.
  • By June 23: Chapters must report convention delegate election results to national office, including delegate contact information and requests for full or partial relief from travel share requirements.

For more details and to sign up for frequent convention updates: