Unifying the Rage Against the War Machine

Recalling the disparate groups who came together for the massive anti-nuclear demonstration in New York City on June 12, 1982, Chuck Zlatkin recommends the same unity of purpose on Feb. 19 in Washington. 

By Chuck Zlatkin
Special to Consortium News

I’m going to the Feb. 19 Rage Against the War Machine in Washington, D.C., at the Lincoln Memorial  because I’m an anti-war activist. I’ve been going to marches and rallies since 1963.  In that time, I have attended events where I have not liked the sponsors or some of the speakers or groups attending, but I cared about the issue: no to war!  Feb. 19 is not an exception regardless of who organized it.

There are two main reasons why I see the world this way.  My experience as a union shop steward has had a profound impact on me.  It was an honor and a privilege to represent my co-workers and to have them respect me as their shop steward even if we had disagreements on politics or even if they disliked me personally.  I gained their respect because I did the job.


If there was an issue with management, one that impacted on the rights of my members, if their safety and health were threatened, I understood early on that our success against the bosses was insured by our unity.  We needed everyone to stand together regardless of our differences. 

I was not shy about my personal politics, but as shop steward my job was to represent all the workers, even those who may be racist, homophobic, misogynist or anti-Semitic, not that there were many of them.   The point is what was our goal?  To defend all of us from the abuse by our bosses.  

Another situation that made me focus on the goal was the  June 12, 1982, Nuclear Disarmament March and Rally in New York City’s Central Park.  I worked on helping to organize the event which attracted over a million people. 

I helped organize a “feeder” march from Greenwich Village and Chelsea to the main rally.  Over 10,000 people participated in that feeder march, including two groups that added some unanticipated excitement to the day.

The feeder march stalled because participants were screaming at each other. There was an evangelical group that was anti-nuclear weapons and anti-abortion with signs expressing their views, which were basically Dan Berrigan’s positions. And then there were women’s groups from the Village who were both strongly anti-nuclear weapons and pro-choice. 

I came upon this scene and quickly realized that if this wasn’t resolved our feeder march was in trouble.  I said to both groups,  “Why are we here today? It is because we want to abolish nuclear weapons.  What can we do to make this happen?”

Both groups shared this goal in common and I suggested that we could all march if the two groups didn’t march next to each other.  They agreed and separated from each other, but continued together in the same march. 

Even though I have been angry at The New York Times for over 40 years for its underreporting the number of participants that day, I did recently go back to read its coverage of June 12, 1982.  In a front-page article, “Throngs Fill Manhattan to Protest Nuclear Weapons” by Paul L. Montgomery, I found the following:

“The vast parade and rally, organized by a coalition of peace groups, brought together pacifists and anarchists, children and Buddhist monks, Roman Catholic bishops and Communist Party leaders, university students and union members. There were delegations from Vermont and Montana, Bangladesh and Zambia, and from many other places. The smiling, hand-clapping line of marchers was more than three miles long, and the participants carried placards in dozens of languages.”


“Among the marchers, there was a profusion of placards: ‘Choose Life’; ‘Bread Not Bombs’; ‘No Nukes’; ‘Reagan Is A Bomb – Both Should Be Banned’; ‘U.S. Out of El Salvador’; ‘Freeze or Burn’; ‘Build Houses Not Bomb Shelters’; ‘A Feminist World Is a Nuclear-Free Zone,’ ‘Arms Are for Embracing.’ A little girl carried a sign saying, ‘I Hate Nuclear War,’ and one marcher had an inflated rubber whale with the legend ‘Save the Humans.’ ”

Now, over 40 years later, an anti-war, anti-nuclear weapons rally and march is scheduled for Washington, D.C., on Feb. 19 and major peace and anti-war groups will not participate. They won’t be there because they have problems with who called the march or who was invited or not invited to speak.

In other words, they have made it clear that their main goal is something other than stopping war or preventing nuclear annihilation.  They have made the job easy for the powers-that-be to divide this movement.  These groups and the warfare state now have the same goal to make the Feb. 19 anti-war rally as small as possible.


Chuck Zlatkin is legislative and political director, New York Metro Area Postal Union (APWU) and founding member of NYC Free Assange.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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22 comments for “Unifying the Rage Against the War Machine

  1. Mark Stanley
    February 18, 2023 at 07:40

    I have been studying the early 20th century for a story. The Balkan Wars went from 1908-1913, a hideous prelude to WW1. The Bulgarians, Armenians, Serbs, Greeks and others formed a coalition and fought with the Turks, but before they were done with that, they fought with each other. The suffering of the civilians in the region was appalling–largely due to religious differences.
    Tomorrow, an anti-war rally is scheduled to be held in D.C. There has been quite a bit of chatter concerning some groups that will not be attending due to differences in ideology, religious, and political stances. Here we could use historian Barbara Tuchman’s theme of “A Distant Mirror” to highlight this.
    Are we really like a bunch of monkeys that can’t help but fight with each other? If we can’t get along because of petty differences of opinion then what’s the point? Perhaps this is the underlying theme to the entire event. It causes me to reflect on myself.
    How feisty am I?
    As a child, my father took us to a Unity Church on Sundays. At the end of the service they always sang the same tune—that one with the chorus, “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”

  2. Gloria
    February 17, 2023 at 15:18


  3. Observer
    February 17, 2023 at 08:22

    – Which “major peace and anti-war groups” specifically refused to participate?

    – What important anti-war demonstrations have they organized in recent months?

    – Could it be that people like Medea Benjamin couldn’t find more “natural allies” to organize an important demo, because they do not really oppose NATO/EU warmaking?

    – Have these groups been equally rigorous in refusing to collaborate with supporters of Killary Clinton and left-of-center Democrats?

    Interested parties want to know!

  4. Sharon
    February 16, 2023 at 21:54

    Watching this fracas reminds me of the phrase “herding cats.”
    What an insult to cats.

  5. JoeSixPack
    February 16, 2023 at 15:54

    “They have made the job easy for the powers-that-be to divide this movement. ”

    Yes blame the people who were not invited to the rally. What kind of anti war movement do you have when you don’t invite other anti-war groups. You have a political rally.

  6. William F Johnson
    February 16, 2023 at 14:22

    We are in desperate need of an effective anti-war movement unlike the one that disappeared in 1975 after the defunding of the Vietnam War. We had a great opportunity then but as I’ve said before, disco and cocaine blunted our collective efforts and people just went their own way as was their right to do. Point being, we must expect a reaction from the empire when we become effective or from their point of view, a threat.
    How to organize is the question of our time and planning that is certainly something I need help with accomplishing.

  7. Daniel Dujardin
    February 16, 2023 at 13:33

    Bring BALLOONS

    • MommaMaura
      February 16, 2023 at 15:27

      Corporations are ruling this country and set the rules….maybe these balloons belong to them….
      “Send in the clowns” lyrics playing?

  8. Marie-France Germain
    February 16, 2023 at 12:23

    How is one to change another person’s mind about an issue if one refuses to speak to the other in order to compromise. Life is very miserly without compromising with others. I advocate more talking to those with whom we disagree.

    • William F Johnson
      February 16, 2023 at 14:13


    • JMMorgan
      February 16, 2023 at 22:35

      I agree.

  9. Caliman
    February 16, 2023 at 11:40

    “Now, over 40 years later, an anti-war, anti-nuclear weapons rally and march is scheduled for Washington, D.C., on Feb. 19 and major peace and anti-war groups will not participate. They won’t be there because they have problems with who called the march or who was invited or not invited to speak.”

    The victory of identity politics over our common humanity … by people who may not even believe in any such thing as “common humanity.”

  10. J Anthony
    February 16, 2023 at 10:58

    Typical USAmerican factionalism, even in the face of potential apocalypse. We never seem to learn….it’ll only change when the bombs start dropping here.

  11. Rebecca Turner
    February 16, 2023 at 04:24

    No. This socialist hasn’t the slightest wish to ally myself with the far right or libertarians. From WSWS:

    “The primary organizers of the rally are the Libertarian Party, led by Angela McArdle, and the “People’s Party,” led by Nick Brana.

    The platform of the Libertarian Party is the demand for the full and unrestrained right of the capitalists to exploit the working class. It is virulently opposed not only to socialism, but to all social reforms. One of the main speakers at the rally is the former Libertarian Party candidate for president, Ron Paul, who has advocated the elimination of income taxes, minimum wage laws, unemployment insurance and Social Security.

    In recent years, under the direction of McArdle and the “Mises Caucus” of which she is a member, the Libertarians have made a more direct orientation to the fascist right and the anti-Semitic groups involved in the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. In early 2021, McArdle defended the invitation of an anti-Semitic provocateur to the Mises Caucus convention in California, writing that a “truth-seeker” who asks “the question about whether or not Jews run Hollywood” is not an anti-Semite.

    Among the featured speakers is Jackson Hinkle, a supporter of Trump and promoter of “MAGA Communism,” who has said it is his aim to “finish the job of Donald Trump” by “uprooting liberalism from America and getting rid of the globalists out of the MAGA movement.” Another participant is Jordan Page, a libertarian who in 2015 wrote the fascist “Oath Keeper” anthem, entitled “Arm Yourselves.””

    • robert e williamson jr
      February 16, 2023 at 17:50

      I am fairly familiar with a few who claim themselves libertarians. The best that can be said of those I know is that they are out of touch with their own politics, the worst I can say is that they are totally devoid of any compassion for their fellow man.

      The fiscal conservative, social liberal claim is clearly bull shit!

      I have this to say about socialism, adherence to the sure does not seem to bother the corporate socialist in the very least. So I’m all for dumping the corporate socialist on a national basis and letting us liberal socialist secure the profits these gravy sucking corporate socialist have sucked up since, lets say, the 1940’s.

      I suspect if that happened this country would become a much better place for the average human to live in.

      SEE and watch the current fiasco unraveling in Ohio and watch closely to see how the Norfolk and Southern Railway Company fairs. Corporate socialism lives a charmed life when it comes to railroads and chemical companies, or it has so far.

    • stephen kelley
      February 16, 2023 at 20:15

      i agree with you. alliances with the like of nazis is like making a pact with the devil. this type of strategy is quite dangerous.

    • shmutzoid
      February 17, 2023 at 21:44

      The most trenchant socialist response to this event can be found at wsws.org. There is a history of how right wing elements usurp leftist goodwill and objectives to further their own aims. In the end, the libertarian/right wing “anti-war” stance is not a principled one.
      ….. Capitalism and its proclivity for more and more war can only be fought from a socialist perspective.

  12. Drew Hunkins
    February 15, 2023 at 17:43

    Journalist Michael Tracey was recently tweeting that this Sunday’s rally is not truly an anti-war protest bc some of the speakers support Russia’s “invasion.” Therefore they can’t be genuinely anti-war.

    The problem with this argument is that Tracey’s definition of anti-war likely means World War 3 and a nuclear holocaust. And it certainly means a Global American Empire totally surrounding Russia and tens of thousands of more dead ethnic Russian civilians in the Donbas.

    Russia had no choice but to embark on its liberating SMO. It bent over backwards trying to reach a diplomatic agreement (anti-war) for 8 years but was blatantly and admittedly stabbed in the back by France, Germany, UK and the Washington-Zio-militarist empire builders.

    The Rage against the War Machine rally is exactly that — it’s a demonstration against the biggest global hegemon that’s ever walked the face of the earth.

    Being anti-war starts with confronting the biggest purveyor of war and destruction across the world.

    • firstpersoninfinite
      February 16, 2023 at 12:37

      Well-said. After forty years of emptying the mid-west of this country of manufacturing, one can only imagine that if it came back it would all be military-industrial work only. We can all work for the war machine instead of just paying taxes to keep it flush with money. But at least such work will be inclusive by default. That’s more important than trying to stop millions of humans dying needlessly. I’m sure the ancient Egyptians let anyone die while working on the pyramids. For thousands of years, they were “exceptional” also.

      • Drew Hunkins
        February 16, 2023 at 15:01

        Great commentary.

    • JMMorgan
      February 16, 2023 at 22:42

      Thanks Drew, you speak my mind.

  13. cj
    February 15, 2023 at 16:01

    Idiots! They play right into the hands of the MICIMATT and the Empire they protect.

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana. Or they do so by choice.

Comments are closed.