AFTER THE magnificent events of 15 February, many hoped that worldwide demonstrations of tens of millions would halt the warmongers Bush and Blair in their tracks.
No to war in Iraq.
Step up action against the war
The demonstrations have provoked a sharp political crisis both globally and in Britain. But, the new resolution from Britain and the US to the UN Security Council is, in the words of former New Labour Foreign Office Minister Tony Lloyd, "a de facto declaration of war".
Now, a weight of expectation has fallen on the shoulders of the leaders of the anti-war movement. Stop The War Coalition national steering committee chair Andrew Murray has said: "There is a massive responsibility on the committee to come out with a clear plan of action."
If Blair and Bush won’t listen to demonstrations of millions then what will make them listen? As well as ongoing demonstrations, protests etc, the Stop The War Coalition is planning mass civil disobedience on Day X – the day after war is declared.
Part of this mass campaign are plans for some type of action in the workplaces – as well as action in colleges and protests in the communities.
Demonstrations are constantly taking place across the country and will be called in towns and cities at 6pm on the day after war starts; another mass demo is planned in London on the Saturday after war starts and a People’s Parliament will be assembled in Westminster on 12 March to show mass opposition to war.
These are all important initiatives but the key now is to turn mass demonstrations into an effective mass anti-war movement, with a serious attempt to involve, as far as possible, the majority of those who marched on 15 February into representative, democratic and effective coalitions at local town, city and regional level.
School student walkouts and protests, initiated by ISR, an affiliate of the Coalition, and other groups will take place mainly on 5 March. This will be an important preparatory test for action in schools and colleges on Day X.
However, the most crucial aspect of delivering a body blow to the Bush/Blair war plans is to organise effective and sustained action in the workplaces.
This industrial action must show how widespread the opposition to war is. Particularly, it needs to be organised on a mass scale that can make the war unsustainable – such as the action of the Motherwell train drivers who are refusing to transport material intended for the war drive.
Stop The War Coalition, through the support of Left trade union general secretaries – like Bob Crow of RMT, Mick Rix of Aslef and Mark Serwotka of PCS – has campaigned for a reconvened TUC to declare opposition to war and possibly organise industrial action for Day X.
Whilst collective strike action organised through trade unions at national and local level would be the best way to concretely mobilise millions of workers against war, and must be fought for within the trade unions, it would be wrong to place all the eggs in the basket of the TUC taking this step.
It’s more likely that the TUC would fudge the issue of action while making soft protests against the threat of war.
In that situation, the Left trade union leaders and the leaders of the Stop The War Coalition have to argue and campaign for effective industrial action to be built for from below.
Such a call would fall on fertile ground (see report below). Workers will also be inspired by what the Australian trade unions have done against the war. (See page 5)
In many workplaces and trade unions, workers will now want a clear lead. There will be many ways that action can be taken, including stay-aways and mass sickies, as well as collective workplace strikes. The Coalition agreed at its meeting last week to "popularise all forms of industrial action" in an attempt to cut across the war drive.
The strongest form of action would be officially sanctioned strikes, which could happen in many workplaces, but a call must also be made for all workers to stay away in protest on Day X.
That can then be built on, if war proceeds, into a movement that can make military action unsustainable.
Editorial from The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, the CWI in England and Wales
Iraq after Saddam
Washington shuns democracy
HUGE ANTI-war demonstrations have forced Tony Blair to try to justify his bellicose position. He complains that people don’t understand the ’moral case’ for attacking Iraq.
Blair says that even a million demonstrators are still less than those who died in wars that Saddam started. Is he right to say that socialists and democrats should back any action to remove a dictator who locks up, tortures and kills his opponents, impoverishes his people through wars and oppresses national and religious minorities?
Saddam deserves to be overthrown but that’s a job for the Iraqi people. Bush plans to invade and occupy Iraq just for the benefit of US power and oil riches.
The US sold many weapons of mass destruction to Saddam after US President Carter invited Iraq to attack Iran, then America’s main enemy in the Gulf, in 1980. The "Carter doctrine" said clearly that US imperialism would intervene militarily to safeguard their access to oil. Only when Saddam started opposing US interests did they notice that he was a vicious dictator.
Bush’s ’moral’ plans were shown in 2000 when a blueprint was prepared for Bush and his advisers to take military control of the Gulf region regardless of whether Saddam stayed in power.
The blueprint’s writers, right-wing think tank Project for the New American Century said: "The US has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."
Power and profits
THE BUSH administration is even arguing with Iraq’s mainly capitalist opposition because US imperialism, obsessed with questions of profits and power, wants to impose a military regime on Iraq for at least 18 months.
Far from waging a "war for democracy", Bush’s preference post-victory would be for a "palace coup". Their aim is merely to remove Saddam and some of his closest sidekicks. Saddam’s Ba’ath party would remain in control of the state machine.
If US imperialism get their way there will be no revolutionary change and no real democracy. The Kurds and other minorities, along with the working class, peasantry and the poor, would be frozen out of power.
You only have to look at Afghanistan which was delivered from the cruel, vicious Taliban into the hands of violent, feuding warlords and drug traffickers.
Later on in Iraq, US imperialism may allow at best a puppet regime of wealthy capitalists and landowners but the country would still be run from Washington with American oil giants still allowed to steal its oil wealth.
Capitalism makes profits, prestige and power its first priority. Socialists would put the welfare and interests of the workers and poor at the top of our agenda.
Socialists would encourage workers and the poor, persecuted national minorities and oppressed groups to form political parties, trade unions and community organisations as democratic alternatives to the structures of the rich.
We would help build solidarity with mass parties of the working class and poor as well as fighting for a socialist transformation of society.
Such a ferment would build mass movements that would shake out dictators like Saddam. In 2000, the masses of Serbia removed dictator Slobodan Milosevic in one week of strikes and protests. In 1999, a brutal 78 days of bombing by NATO had failed to dislodge him.
Unfortunately the movement did not go on to fight for socialism so the same pro-capitalist and nationalist forces that had exploited splits within Serb society for their own interests could still have an influence.
Nonetheless many of the world’s worst dictatorships have been removed by the mass action of their own peoples. Stalinist dictatorships in countries like East Germany, Ceausescu’s Romania and Poland faced heroic workers’ struggles. In South Africa black workers battled against ferocious laws and a repressive state apparatus to bring the apartheid regime down.
Capitalism cannot solve any basic economic, social and political problems in Iraq or any other poor nation. The main ’freedom’ US imperialism intends to maintain is the freedom to rob the people of the world and to dominate the globe.
Socialists put their trust in the working class to end all tyrannical rule, including the dictatorship of the imperialist powers.
THE US is using its huge economic power to threaten and cajole opponents of its drive to war. Most prominent ’victims’ have been those European powers, such as Germany and France, whose governments dare to reflect some of the mass opposition in those countries to an assault on Iraq.
As a result, the US and particularly Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, has attacked them as part of "Old Europe", whilst complimenting the countries of Eastern Europe, who are acceding to European Union membership, as the "New Europe".
Reportedly the US will remove some or even all of its 42,000 troops from Germany, possibly relocating to countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic or the Baltic States. Such a move will cost the German economy millions of dollars.
"We are doing this for one reason only," a source told The Observer, "to harm the German economy." Similarly, some US congressmen have suggested applying trade sanctions on French products such as wine and cheese.
The US has a long history of rewarding its supporters and punishing opponents of its foreign policy. In 1990, Yemen was the only country in the UN Security Council to vote against the path to the Gulf War. The very next day, the US cut all of its $70 million aid to the country, the poorest in the Middle East.
Now, the US is trying to cajole Turkey into accepting its troops onto its soil as a base from which to invade Northern Iraq. 90% of Turkey’s population opposes the war, and the government and military are worried about the effect of US troops in the country.
After the Gulf War, Turkey’s economy suffered badly, so the new AKP government has asked for economic assistance from the US to prevent economic collapse and placate opposition to the war. They were offered $4 billion to $6 billion in cash aid, plus $20 billion in ’loan guarantees’.
None of this was in writing! The Turkish government went back asking for a package worth $92 billion and received a flea in their ear from Bush!
The US uses its economic muscle to bribe friendly governments to accept their policies, but their largesse goes only so far. However, even the US State Department (foreign ministry) is worried that such bullying and bribery might prove counter-productive.
Undoubtedly the masses opposed to war in both Europe and America will not be taken in by such blatant attempts to thwart the antiwar movement.
Will the Kurds be betrayed again?
BEHIND THE crumbling façade of high moral values, George Bush is locked into grubby horse-trading to swing Turkey’s rulers into supporting his war on Iraq (see article below).
One deal has already been struck with Turkey’s and other rulers in the region – a US commitment to ’maintain the integrity of Iraq’ ie a denial of Kurdish rights for self-determination.
’Regime change’, Bush-style, will mean the replacement of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and his immediate circle of cronies with US commander Tommy Franks and his lieutenants. There will be no independent Kurdistan and Kurds won’t get their hands on the northern oil fields. The latter will no doubt be exploited by US and British based energy corporations.
It’s also assumed that Turkey will be allowed to carve itself a swath of northern Iraq to suppress Kurdish national aspirations.
In effect George W Bush is shafting the Iraqi Kurds as George Bush senior did during the 1991 Gulf War. Then, Iraqi Kurds and the southern Shia population were encouraged by the US president to rise up against Saddam only to be betrayed and left to the mercy of the Iraqi Republican Guards when the US feared that the dismemberment of Iraq would increase the power of neighbouring Iran.
Since the end of the Gulf War an area of northern Iraq has been protected from Saddam’s forces by a Western ’no-fly’ zone. This largely Kurdish enclave (also containing Turkoman and Assyrian minorities) has been run by two warring and pro-capitalist right-wing parties – the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
The centres of oil production in northern Iraq, however, remain under Saddam’s control, (who over the years has tried to demographically dilute the Kurdish majority with a policy of ’Arabisation’).
In 1996 the PUK and KDP engaged in a civil war with the PUK backed by Iran and the KDP by Iraq’s central government. Although a US-brokered agreement tempered the factionalism, Saddam’s fall could lead to renewed fighting between the two parties.
In 2000 the ’social-democratic’ PUK clashed with the Turkish-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The latter is headed by imprisoned Abdullah Ocalan and has dropped its demand for an independent Kurdistan in favour of ’cultural autonomy’
IN 1988 during the decade-long deadly and costly Iran-Iraq war, when rebel Iraqi Kurdish groups linked up with Iranian troops in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Saddam’s airforce bombed the large Kurdish town of Halabja with nerve gas killing some 5,000 people, mainly civilians.
Blair and Bush repeatedly use this incident to show what a despicable regime Saddam’s is and therefore why a war to occupy Iraq is justified.
But these moral custodians fail to mention that both US and British governments at the time (along with France, Germany, Israel, the USSR, etc) in the full knowledge of the Halabja atrocity, continued to assist Saddam with loans, trade and arms (despite an embargo) in order to prevent an Iranian military victory.
Clearly, the plight of Iraq’s Kurds shows Western imperialism’s reactionary nature – democratic rights come a distant last behind its strategic interests and capitalist profits.
Socialists support the right of self-determination for Kurds.
All Kurds in each part of ’Kurdistan’ must be free to take a democratic decision on their own future, including whether they wish to form a unitary state or a federation of Kurdish states.
A democratic socialist society, using the region’s oil wealth linked to an international plan of production, could pull the population out of poverty and end exploitation and oppression. Then it would be possible to implement a genuine equality between the different nationalities.
Lesley Woodburn tells The Socialist about how her attempt to join the 15 February NYC demo turned into a Nightmare
In the land of the free
WHILE MILLIONS marched in the historic worldwide 15 February demos, I was being ankle-cuffed for nearly 18 hours at New York’s JFK airport.
So how did I miss out on the world’s biggest ever peace marches? On Valentines Day I traveled from Heathrow as a Virgin Vex Courier, a contractual arrangement where I take documentation on board my flight and hand it to a Virgin representative at JFK. I’ve done this before for various airlines.
Having lived in the US, I’d made life-long friends and meant to go on the march on the United Nations HQ in New York.
At JFK, the courier took me to immigration, where an official looked over my EU passport and sent me to the immigration office. There an immigration official called A Depaurde took my passport and asked if I could recall a three-day overstay on a USA visa some seven years ago.
I said yes, although I’d re-entered the country, with a run up to Canada and back to NY, paid the US officials my fine for my overstay (no receipt was given) and had returned several times since.
"I’m sending you back", Depaurde cut in. Stunned I asked why? "That’s an improper way of re-entering the States lady", said Depaurde’s sidekick, a guy I’ll call Basin Cut as he didn’t wear the obligatory name tag.
"So why did the US authorities let me in subsequently", I asked. "We don’t care about that, I’m sending you back. Now I want you to swear a statement. Raise your right hand", Depaurde announced.
"Swear?" I asked. "To me and to God", said Depaurde. Even if I was religious I’d have a problem with that statement. "I want to phone a lawyer and doctor, if you are now questioning me," I said in an ’I know my rights’ tone.
"What the fuck are you talking about lady", piped up Basin. "Do you have money for a lawyer or a doctor?" I said I was adequately insured for both and won’t be swearing to anything without one. "You’ll be waiting a long time then ma’am".
"You want me to swear to you and to God? I’m not a US national, I’m not in a US court of law, and I’m not religious. I want a phone call". "Not until you answer my questions". I answered some questions but wouldn’t sign the statement.
Strangely, my parents became a topic of conversation. Depaurde insisted they were Jamaican residents in the UK. "Actually my dad’s dead but both were and are British nationals".
Eventually I was allowed to give the Virgin rep the certificates and fulfil my contract but I was truly a Vexed Courier. The people in this room, Asian, African, US black nationals (and French!) were compulsorily fingerprinted and told "We don’t want you here, we are sending you back home".
Meanwhile, Virgin did not have room for me on their outgoing flight. I told them: "I fulfilled my end of our contract, now you get me on any flight to the UK and get me out of here".
Depaurde smirked and said I was lucky if I got out tomorrow as Virgin flights get pretty full up. I spent a miserable night sitting bolt upright in a plastic chair with ankle-cuffs cutting into me.
Democracy and human rights
In the morning the room starting filling up again. Irene, a Lithuanian woman, had been wearing her cuffs since 4pm the preceding day. Abdul and Raheem behind me had been cuffed for two days.
Soon we were joined by Jeanette and Marsha from Ghana and Elizabeth from Gambia. They inquired about our cuffs – a female official dangled two shiny ankle-cuffs in front of them. They looked at each other and began crying.
Soon others joined us, overwhelmingly Hispanic, Asian, African, Caribbean, eastern European and US black nationals. Some were released, some detained, most were fingerprinted, and a healthy contingent joined us in our chain gang.
A British consulate official rang me – from New York’s UN building, surrounded by tens of thousands of anti-war protesters. But he was no help. Another couple of calls then an immigration official said: "No more calls for you. You’ve had far too many". "So how many’s too many?" I asked. "You’ve had it".
17 hours later I was deported on Virgin’s 7.30pm flight to Heathrow. Virgin officials kept my passport saying "It’s procedure". At Heathrow I met Rachel, a Heathrow immigration official, who was shocked by my treatment.
"How do you treat those detained at Heathrow?" I inquired. "Well our law doesn’t let us handcuff or place leg restraints on anyone detained and we must offer them something to eat and drink hourly".
Traveling back from the airport, listening to radio reports of the peace marches I felt I’d missed out big time. And isn’t the war supposed to be in defence of democracy and human rights?
Articles from The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, CWI in England and Wales