Dear sisters, brothers, comrades and friends,
It is my pleasure to bring you solidarity greetings from the Canadian Peace Congress. We want to thank and congratulate our host, the Nepal Peace and Solidarity Council, for preparing this Assembly and allowing all of the peace and anti-imperialist forces of the world to gather for this important meeting. We also salute the people of Nepal, whose continued progressive struggle has brought about the change from a monarchy to the Federal Democratic Republic, along with many other important social and political developments in recent years.
As well, we want to thank the General Secretary and President of the WPC, for their committed and excellent leadership over the past 4 years since our last assembly in Caracas, and the Greek Peace Committee for continuing to provide the Executive Secretariat and headquarters.
This Assembly of the World Peace Council convenes at a critical moment for peace and progressive forces worldwide. Since our last Assembly in 2008, the global capitalist crisis has continued and deepened, and competition for resources, markets, influence and profits has grown much more fierce and desperate. In an effort to overcome the crisis and avoid economic collapse, capitalist countries are attacking the social, economic and political gains won by the working class over many decades of struggle.
Alongside severe austerity measures, many of these same governments are dramatically increasing their military budgets. Partly, this is a practice of using public monies to quickly deliver significant profits to large corporations – military industries are a high-profit corporate bail-out. It is also part of increasingly aggressive moves toward militarism and war, as various centres of imperialism try to expand their spheres of influence and control over resources and markets, at the expense of their imperialist rivals. These moves bring devastating destruction and displacement to the people of the developing countries that have been targeted. Far from resolving the crisis of capitalism they lay the foundation for an even deeper crisis, and are an escalating danger to world peace.
At the same time, we see that resistance to imperialism is growing, with massive progressive upsurges in many countries around the world. The majority of the world’s people continue to actively reject war, militarism, aggression, and colonialism; and they are demanding peace, sovereignty and solidarity. Imperialist states are trying to manipulate this upsurge – they are working to penetrate, weaken and compromise progressive movements, and are actively identifying, creating and arming reactionary forces. Imperialist countries are specifically targeting certain states who have opposed their plans – this is an immediate issue in the Middle East, where the US, Canada and other NATO countries, as well as Zionist Israel, are trying to manipulate the complex, deteriorating situation in Syria in order to fashion another Libya-style intervention under the pretext of “responsibility to protect”.
It is important that our Assembly is meeting in Asia, as US imperialism executes its “pivot to Asia”.
The peace movement needs to ask: Where is this “pivot” coming from and why is it happening now? This is not just like a light switch that the Pentagon has decided to turn on. During most of the George W. Bush government, US imperialism was overwhelmingly focused in the Middle East. However, towards the end of the Bush presidency the US military began expanding its presence and influence throughout other regions of the world. The MERIDA Initiative in Mexico, the creation of AFRICOM, and the reactivation of the Fourth Naval Fleet are all part of this trend, which President Obama continued with, for example, the announcement in 2009 of seven new US military bases in Colombia.
However, the move to shift 60% of US naval strength to the Asia-Pacific area by 2020 is a very significant development that represents more than a general “re-adjustment”. The pivot to Asia has much to do with the desire for the US to directly position its military against Russia and, in particular, China. Why? To ensure that the massive US investments and trade interests in the Middle East and Asian regions will be protected – in other words, using force to preserve and expand US influence and power in the region, at a time of desperate competition among capitalist countries.
It is also important to realize we are not just talking about naval forces, because virtually all US flotillas and submarines are equipped with nuclear weapons. Asia will become even more militarized than the Middle East, and much of that militarization will be in the form of nuclear weapons proliferation. Technological developments in the area of delivery systems mean that nuclear proliferation relies less and less on massive nuclear warheads, and increasingly focused on “tactical” nuclear weapons. There is a dangerous process of trying to make nuclear weapons appear “conventional” and, therefore, less sensitive to public opposition and more easily carried by countries who are not officially Nuclear Weapons States. The F35 fighter jet is a key component of this, since part of the development program involves redesigning the B61 “tactical” nuclear bomb so that it can be carried by F35’s from many different countries. The question of nuclear disarmament and the related issue of a Nuclear Weapons Convention, is one that needs to receive more attention from the peace movements worldwide.
The imperialist encirclement of China and the related military buildup in the Asia-Pacific region are extremely dangerous developments. I am very disappointed to inform you that these developments are being carried out with the full support and participation of the Canadian government. Canada is an imperialist country, and is very closely connected – politically, economically and geographically – to US imperialism. It is a colonial settler state placed on stolen Aboriginal land, although there is a growing awareness among the population about the connection with a peaceful foreign policy and the need for full Aboriginal rights in Canada. Since 2004, Canada has had a very conservative government – arguably the most reactionary in the country’s history – and it has assumed an international role as a “NATO aggressor state.”
Since our last Assembly in 2008, the Canadian government has:
- enthusiastically and publicly supported, promoted and participated in the NATO war against Libya;
- pressed hard for imperialist aggression against Syria and Iran, and stationed a Canadian warship in the region;
- in the war in Afghanistan, Canada knowingly handed over Afghan prisoners to torture, lied to the Canadian public about its role in this torture, and then adjourned the Canadian Parliament to close discussion and scrutiny by the government into its own role in these war crimes and the implications under international law;
- taken moves to establish Canadian military bases in foreign countries – including a secret base in the United Arab Emirates, a base on Korea’s Jeju Island, and current negotiations for a base in Singapore with the express purpose of supporting the US pivot to Asia;
- moved to militarize the Arctic (both unilaterally and through NATO);
- opposed Cuba’s participation at the Organization of American States, and officially recognized the coup leaders in Honduras and Paraguay;
- declared uncritical support for Israel’s reactionary Zionist regime, and actively suppressed Palestinian solidarity movements in Canada; and
- announced massive increases to Canada’s military budget, including $30 billion for the F35 fighter jet.
The Canadian government has also taken concrete steps to deeply integrate the Canadian military and security institutions into those of the United States. The government has even guided aspects of the country’s economic development to the partial benefit of US militarism, specifically in the area of the energy industry. The US military is the single largest purchaser and consumer of oil in the world, using 360,000 barrels per day – this is roughly the same consumption as Ireland or the Philippines. Very recently, the US Department of Defence and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly identified energy resources for the US military as a “strategic issue.” Canada has the third largest oil reserves in the world, after Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, and ahead of Iran. Canada’s energy policy is to export huge amounts of unrefined oil to the United States, to secure the oil needs of the US military and provide huge profits for oil corporations. This policy comes at the expense of the social, economic and environmental interests of the Canadian people. Efforts by Indigenous and environmental activists in Canada to oppose the development of oil pipelines to the US have been denounced as “terrorist” by the Canadian government, who has overseen espionage operations of these groups during the past year by the national police and military.
In the current period, the main work of the Canadian Peace Congress includes:
- Developing our anti-NATO campaign – we completed an organizing tour of Western Canada in the spring and will continue this tour in Eastern Canada in the fall; and we have initiated a broadly-based Network on NATO, to increase the level of discussion and action in Canada about NATO;
- Continuing our work with other peace and progressive forces to oppose the drive to war against Syria and Iran;
- Developing our campaign against militarization of the Arctic and for an Arctic Zone of Peace;
- Building a campaign in Canada against foreign military bases – we need to connect with WPC campaign by exposing US and NATO use of bases in Canada and also by building opposition to Canadian bases in foreign countries;
- Initiating efforts to organize alternative commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the First World War, which will be in 2014 – this war occupies a large place in the history of Canada and its centennial will be used by the Canadian government for pro-military, narrow nationalist celebrations;
- Supporting and participating in the Third Trilateral Peace Conference of Canada-Mexico-USA.
We would like to end with some remarks about World Peace Council work. We note that there has been an increase in communications from the WPC and member organizations in the recent period (eg: Peace Messenger, and statements and reports from regional and inter-regional meetings) Such communication and information is helpful for movement building, on both national and international levels. We encourage the WPC to continue to develop these kinds of communications. Related to this, we also encourage more member organizations to link their internet sites to WPC site, with the purpose of increasing the flow of information among the WPC members.
We would like to see, where possible and practical, increased campaign material from WPC – such as fact sheets and background analysis on major issues and developments – and will offer whatever assistance we can do help achieve this.
We also note that the WPC has status at the United Nations, including consultative status with UNESCO. We encourage the WPC to take greater advantage of this status, in whatever way is possible and practical, to network with those governments and NGO’s which (for whatever reasons) find themselves objectively opposed to imperialist schemes and aggressions.
Comrades, there is no other organization in the world like the World Peace Council, with such a long and distinguished history of struggle against imperialism and war, and for peace. The Canadian Peace Congress is committed to building our movement in Canada and internationally, and we look forward to continuing our common struggle, together with all of you.
For peace and solidarity!
President, Canadian Peace Congress
20 July 2012