New Hampshire Peace Action’s annual meeting today in Sanbornton featured a presentation by Mike Prokosch of he New Priorities Project on the national campaign to alter federal budget priorities away from militarism and toward social justice objectives.
“We are not necessarily the prime movers,” Prokosch said to the assembly of more than 40 members of the statewide peace group. “We need to be allies with the people who will benefit the most.”
Prokosch’s recounting of the movement to transfer federal spending from war-making to programs that meet human needs referred back to the 1970s “transfer amendment” and demands from black leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. for the government to turn away from war and toward the needs of poor communities.
For me, his message conjured up memories of several decades of “fair budget coalitions,” “fair budget action campaigns,” priorities projects, and the like, none of which seem to have made much of an impact on the federal budget.
The new effort, which began in the period following the 2008 economic collapse, might be different, Prokosch suggested. Bringing the peace movement together with community organizing networks, faith groups, and organized labor at a time when competition for federal resources is fierce, the latest “move the money” movement is built on a “long term, grassroots, and big tent” approach, he said.
“It’s clear we have a long term fight on our hands,” he said, and “the peace movement doesn’t have the strength to do this alone.”
In fact, under its current leadership, the US House of Representatives is already trying to “move the money,” but in the wrong direction, from social programs toward more militarism. But this creates an opportunity, Prokosch insisted, for peace activists to build relationships with people who care about the victims of austerity budgets.
The type of organizing that’s needed requires more than slogans and graphs. It has to be done “in a deep way,” taking peace activists outside their comfort zones, for example building alliances with military production workers who might understand that budget politics and world changes will put pressure on the Pentagon to reduce spending. The corporations that profit from weapons production won’t drive the transition to a new economy, he said, but workers who care about the futures of their communities have incentives to consider alternatives.
A agenda focused on jobs, services, fair taxes, and cuts in Pentagon spending can provide common ground for a coalition that can achieve long-term change. To illustrate the potential, Prokosch described last years’ “Budget for All” referendum in Massachusetts, where voters endorsed a “move the money” resolution by 3:1 margins in diverse districts, including ones that chose Mitt Romney for President.
NH Peace Action’s Will Hopkins said the organization is planning to bring similar resolutions to NH Town Meetings next year. (Contact him for more information.)
The Peace Action members also held a brief business meeting at which they elected their board for the coming year. NH Peace Action is a statewide membership group, affiliated with the NH Peace Action Education Fund. Board Chair John Lamperti did a good job explaining the relationship between the two entities and the tax categories that limit what they can do and affect how they raise funds.