How can a small group make a difference with genocide-level violence happening half a world away? When some of us faced that question in 1971, we learned something about leveraging our power. We also learned something new about how people from different classes can form an alliance.
President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger denied that the U.S. was sending weapons to Yaya Khan, the Pakistani dictator who was waging massive war against the Bengalis who wanted to secede. Our Philadelphia Movement for a New Society (MNS) collective soon learned the truth: a Pakistani freighter was at that moment on its way to Baltimore to pick up a shipload of weapons.
MNS members went to Baltimore to see what could be done. They first visited the ships’ pilots association, asking that the pilots refuse to bring the Al Ahmadiinto the Baltimore harbor. The answer was no.
The next step was to go to the bars where longshoremen (dockers) congregated, and sound them out. They had a power we didn’t. Maybe they would refuse to load the weapons.
East Coast longshoremen have traditionally had somewhat right-wing politics. The workers we talked with thought U.S. policy was wrong on this one. Still, the workers’ families counted on the daily wages, and the men said they would need to load the ship when it arrived.
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