Communists link saving planet to slashing military
Delegates at the CPUSA convention (above) tackled issues of militarization and climate change and their interconnection. | Al Neal/PW

CHICAGO – At the 31st CPUSA National Convention, delegates made it clear that the struggle against climate change is also a struggle for peace. In order to save the planet from ecological disaster, the military budget must be massively cut. As the U.S. has been starting wars around the world for decades, it’s fitting that it should lead the charge in taking this first of many steps in environmental justice. It is, however, just one step. A broad movement is needed, the speakers declared, saying, “This is all one fight.”

“U.S. energy trusts have directed American foreign policy to enable control of resources in other countries, leading to war,” said Scott Hiley. “Megaprofits from coal, oil, and gas bankroll the fortunes of the most reactionary sections of the ruling class. It’s apparent that greenhouse gases – carbon and methane – are rapidly producing profound changes in the climate, including global temperature increase and changes in weather patterns with likely catastrophic consequences. Dramatic changes must be made, but powerful interests are denying this reality as they whistle past the graveyard.”

Hiley’s words rang out at the convention, mere months after the Pentagon released a report identifying the huge risks climate change presents to scores of U.S. military bases – the very sites that, as products of the military industrial complex, exploit the environment for profiteering and war.

Congress requested the report in an amendment to defense authorization legislation that passed with bipartisan support, while Trump was simultaneously denying the existence of global warming. The report, however, failed even to address the multi-billion dollar disasters that Hurricane Florence and Michael delivered to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida and the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in 2018, an indication that the Trump administration does not want to admit that the natural disasters that have ravaged the lives of working-class people have finally come to the doorsteps of the privileged, surrounding their ivory towers with a truth they cannot avoid.

“Worldwide operations of capitalism have led to intensification of climate change, new wars, greater instability, and an unprecedented number of people forced to flee their homes,” said Jordan, a delegate from Virginia. “Trump and his allies have taken dangerous, extreme steps on foreign policy. Workers and environmentalists are fighting back against the same corporate entities that have helped make this happen. We have a natural interest in uniting to stop this, and therefore the peace and solidarity movement is increasingly important.”

The Green New Deal is an example of an opportunity that can link these issues,” said Laura Dewey, an activist in the leadership of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. “What’s missing from it though, if it’s implemented, is that we’re going to have to cut back on the military budget. There are people in Congress like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez who are willing to do that.”

“The Poor People’s Campaign proposed the idea of a moral budget, which would include a cut in the military budget,” said Rossana Cambron. “They say that even what they are proposing to cut will not affect anything, so people who are pro military budget don’t have to oppose it. They suggest a cut of around $350 million, which could bring so many services to poor people.”

The question, then, was how military supporters could be brought to the table and made to realize that the issues of war and climate change are inextricably linked – and made to see the damage U.S. imperialism has done. According to delegate Michael McPhearson, people think in narratives, and there are stories that have helped people to believe in and rationalize what the U.S. is doing around the world; to try and make it moral and just. Activists must change the narrative to change those people’s beliefs and “must remember that we have connections with these people that might not be uncovered until we listen.”

People need to be aware of the harsh reality of U.S. imperialism, Rossana Cambron remarked. | Al Neal/PW

“It’s a process of building awareness,” said Cambron. “People need to realize that these wars are not keeping us safe, they’re not bringing peace or helping others. U.S. efforts have not reduced the terror threat in the Middle East and may have actually increased it. They tell us money is needed to support our troops, yet we had over 23,000 active military families on food stamps in 2013. The military hasn’t done another study on that issue since then, as you can imagine they received a lot of backlash. We’ve spent over $686 billion of our tax dollars on military, you’d think military families would at least have a liveable wage. Points like these can help people who are not connected to the military, who may feel they don’t have an interest in it.  It’s important to show how it affects them.”

“If we want to do something about climate change, then we have to do something about U.S. imperialism,” Laura Dewey affirmed. Another tool at our disposal, she said, is the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act of 2019, which has been introduced into Congress by Eleanor Holmes Norton every year since 1994. “It would literally dismantle nuclear weapons and take the savings – trillions, at least – and put them toward housing, transportation, infrastructure, public education, and move us toward renewable energy. And to me, that presents a built-in opportunity that our movement should take advantage of. It’s a great chance to unify environment, labor, and peace.” And that, she said, comes back to “building relationships and raising awareness.”

John Harrity, former president of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists, concluded that the struggle to reduce the military budget comes back to the problem of capitalism. “The issue of climate change indicates with certainty that capitalism is a bankrupt system. The fossil fuel companies are raking in the money even in the face of possible human extinction; they cannot stop themselves. We need a new economic and social system. After all, how can you trust a system that would lead us to the brink of extinction?”


Blake Skylar
Blake Skylar

Blake is a writer and production manager, responsible for the daily assembly of the People's World home page. He has earned awards from the IWPA and ILCA, and his articles have appeared in publications such as Workday Minnesota, EcoWatch, and Earth First News. He has covered issues including the BP oil spill in New Orleans and the 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris.

He lives in Pennsylvania with his girlfriend and their cats. He enjoys wine, books, music, and nature. In his spare time, he reviews music, creates artwork, and is working on several books and digital comics.