As we celebrate the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King this week, tens of thousands of U.S. troops are being deployed to the Persian Gulf for war on Iraq and our country is rocked by an economic and civil liberties crisis.

King’s stand against the war in Vietnam linked that war with the denial of the urgent needs of poor and oppressed people here at home. Today, the U.S. people in the millions are beginning to question the wisdom of war with Iraq and its relationship to the crisis hammering every aspect of our daily life.

The horrific events of Sept. 11 have caused many in the U.S. to think deeply about security, foreign policy and the use of weapons of mass destruction by our own government as well as others. Many are saying, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” This week a Knight-Ridder poll showed overwhelming opposition to unilateral U.S. military action despite a right-wing/media pro-war blitz. Polls are consistently showing that most people do not want war and favor continuing UN inspections to avoid the deaths of American soldiers as well as Iraqis. With the Bush administration’s continued assault on civil liberties, fears about an endless war on terrorism are growing. There is increasing suspicion about who will profit from a war, starting with the oil companies. International cooperation to safeguard the planet from war, terrorism and destruction is increasingly seen as not just a good idea but a necessity.

Peace sentiments among the American people are bolstered by mounting international anti-war feeling, leading governments that have been Bush’s staunchest supporters to express hesitancies about his drive for war.

Reflecting the mounting international and domestic pressure, differences in the Bush administration are surfacing, although the differences revolve around how and when to go to war, not on whether to go to war or not. Nevertheless, these differences can provide opportunities for the peace movement to win victories in delaying and ultimately preventing war. The belief that the war can be stopped is the strongest foundation for organizing a winning peace majority.

Broad new elements are emerging daily in the rising peace tide, invigorating the traditional peace movement. The most dramatic upsurge is seen among the religious community, in the labor movement, in the fight to defend civil liberties, and in cities across the country.

The National Council of Churches, U.S. Catholic bishops and new ecumenical coalitions have led vigils, lobbies, peace services and delegations to Iraq. Their moral leadership sharply challenges the Bush administration’s demagogy.

Over 100 resolutions have been passed by labor bodies, and a national labor peace group has been formed, U.S. Labor Against the War.

More than 30 city councils have adopted resolutions against war, showing a growing awareness at the community level of the direct connection between the human and financial costs of war and the spiraling economic crisis besetting cities, counties and states.

The future rests on bringing these millions together into a mighty peace majority that can stop war and turn back the ultra-right policies of the Bush administration. Coordination of all these voices to maximize the movement’s clout is on the agenda. The emergence of United for Peace and Justice is an important step in that direction. But we cannot be satisfied yet. To build a winning popular movement for peace, the left and activists must involve the vast numbers of people in the political center whose thinking has been shaped by Sept 11 and who are worried about the mounting economic and civil liberties crisis.

Coordinating the peace initiatives of labor, communities of color, women, youth and students, faith-based groups, environmentalists, immigrant rights groups, civil libertarians and others will require patience, sensitivity and receptiveness to the multiplicity of forms and spontaneous expressions. Most important, it will take a commitment to mobilizing the full fighting power of the entire labor movement, communities of color and other people’s movements alongside traditional peace groups in united grassroots action to stop the war and defeat the ultra right agenda.

The Communist Party is dedicated to helping build a broad nationally coordinated people’s movement for peace. At the same time, we place special emphasis on activating people at the grass roots, in neighborhoods, union halls, places of worship, campuses and wherever people can come together to give voice to their yearning for peace.

An all-people’s peace majority is emerging that can stop the Bush warhawks in their tracks. In the process, a broad people’s movement is coming into being against the waste and destruction of militarism, and for a foreign policy of peace and cooperation and a humane, just and democratic society. United, we can win!

Judith Le Blanc is a vice chair of the Communist Party and works with United for Peace and Justice. She can be reached at jleblanc@cpusa.org