CHICAGO – Meeting in the context of the continuing U.S. bombing of Afghanistan and the danger of expansion of the war into Iraq, intensified Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and mounting danger of use of nuclear weapons, some 70 peace and justice activists from 14 states met here March 16-17 to chart a fightback against the increasingly reckless actions of the Bush administration.

The national meeting on “U.S. Imperialism and the Struggle for Peace in the 21st Century,” organized by the Peace and Solidarity Commission of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), discussed the urgency of mobilizing for the April 20 March on Washington for Peace and Justice. “We must do everything we can to mobilize all who oppose the Bush administration policies into the streets of D.C.,” said Libero Della Piana, national coordinator of the Young Communist League, one of the initiating organizations.

The April 20 demonstration is being sponsored by a broad coalition of peace, youth and student, faith-based, labor and community organizations around the demand of stopping the war abroad and at home.

The importance of the April 20 action has grown dramatically, said Judith Le Blanc, a vice-chair of the CPUSA, in view of recent revelations that the Bush administration’s Nuclear Posture Review contains contingency plans to use tactical nuclear weapons against seven nations or in regional conflicts. “The Bush administration’s threat to use first-strike nuclear weapons will set off an alarm for millions of people in our country about the danger of nuclear war and the need to come to D.C. to take action to save our planet,” she said.

In her keynote address to the conference, Sarah Staggs, chair of the CPUSA’s Peace and Solidarity Commission, said that “peace has become the central issue around which all other struggles revolve today.”

“Whether it is the struggle for affordable housing, for immigrants rights, for nationalization of the steel industry or for a just foreign policy, none can make progress while the current administration pursues its unending ‘war on terrorism,’” she said.

Staggs said that the administration’s open-ended war on terrorism “has become the rationale for pursuing a militaristic, anti-democratic, anti-labor, anti-women and racist agenda against all peoples, while wrapping it in the flag of patriotism,” and that it has become a “roadblock in the path of every people’s struggle.” She underscored the importance of finding ways for the Party and its allies “to come together to develop winning strategies for removing this roadblock, for building peace and international solidarity.”

In discussing the threat of terrorism and the need to effectively combat it, speakers at the conference rejected the Bush administration’s unilateral military approach, and its expanding war and the possible use of nuclear weapons. They called instead for multilateral solutions based on the rule of law and a framework that includes the U.N. Charter and the International Criminal Court.

The participants underlined the importance of finding new and creative ways to draw still wider sections of the U.S. people into the peace movement to stop U.S. military interventions overseas, to cut the Pentagon’s war budget and to fund human needs. They expressed the need to organize a broad peace movement more deeply rooted among workers and the racially and nationally oppressed.

Dee Myles, a CPUSA national board member, called for struggling to expand the reach of the organized peace movement to non-traditional allies so as to “break the movement for peace wide open” and have it reach its full potential.

Al Marder, a Peace and Solidarity Commission member, spoke about the history of the Communist Party in the struggle against imperialist war, fascism, colonialism and neocolonialism, and stressed the role of the Party in bringing the labor movement into its rightful place in the leadership of the peace movement.

“We understand how central the issue of peace is to the struggles of working people both here in the U.S. and around the world,” Staggs concluded. “We are internationalists as well, so as we build the movements for peace, we also stand in solidarity with working people the world over as they fight for freedom and independence. We shall overcome. ¡Si se puede! ¡Venceremos!”