Iraq: No to war in Iraq – Britain – Stop work to stop the war

DESPITE THE biggest demonstration in the history of Britain and unprecedented anti-war protests, Blair is determined to go to war with Iraq over the next few days. Like Bush, he believes that vital capitalist interests are at stake. He will only be stopped if a movement develops in Britain that threatens the interests of the capitalist class which he represents more than not going to war.

No to war in Iraq.

Stop work to stop the war

We need to continue to organise mass protests, student strikes and civil disobedience at a national and local level. Most importantly, we need to prepare for industrial action and protests in the workplaces. Strikes bring everything to a halt. They demonstrate that it is working-class people who create the wealth and have the real power in society.

The European TUC has called for mass walkouts for Friday 14 March. Several other European unions have called for a day of workplace solidarity against war on 21 March, as well as calling for mass action on Day X – the day that war is declared.

In Britain, the national executive of the communication workers’ union CWU passed a resolution, moved by a Socialist Party member, calling for protest action against the war on Day X. Workers will have been inspired by the thousands of young people who walked out of schools and colleges last week. Schools are already planning to walk out again on Day X.

The next few days should be used to test the mood through meetings, consultative ballots etc in the workplaces and to give confidence to workers that they can take collective action against war. At the same time, we should campaign for the Left union leaders to come out decisively in favour of industrial action and to give their backing to any groups of workers who walk out against the war.

Action in the workplaces will vary depending on the level of organisation, leadership, preparation, confidence and mood of workers. Some will be prepared to take action for a day, others for part of the day. Some will leave work early to join local demonstrations, others will organise lunch-time protests.

On the magnificent 15 February demonstration and other protests, anger against the war combined with discontent against privatisation, low pay etc, to create the potential for generalised strike action. By linking these issues together we can build for mass workplace action to stop the war.

Blair’s war crisis

AS WE go to press, it’s unclear whether or not Bush and Blair will have secured even the fall-back figleaf of a majority vote on the UN Security Council to ’justify’ their imperialist war with Iraq. Either way, the UN’s credibility has been seriously dented.

Any support for the war would not be a ’coalition of the willing’ but a ’coalition of the bullied and the bribed’. The last few weeks have completely borne out The Socialist’s description of the United Nations as a club of the rich imperialist powers – with the US on the one side and France on the other trying to manipulate the smaller ’swing states’ to suit their own interests.

With or without UN backing, this will be a brutal war waged for the power and prestige of US imperialism. The full might of the US military will be pitted against Iraq, to secure the oilfields for the big multinational corporations and reinforce US imperialism’s military and economic dominance worldwide.

There’s no doubt that because of its overwhelming superiority the US will ’win’ a war with Iraq from a military point of view. However, this will not necessarily be as easy as some US war planners imagine and could result in many US casualties.

And it will be at enormous cost in terms of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who will be killed, injured, starved or forced to flee their homes; the economic costs, the brunt of which will be paid for by workers and poor people around the globe, and the huge instability that could be unleashed in Iraq, the neighbouring region and worldwide.

Under pressure

HERE TONY Blair could also become a casualty of war. Millions have voiced their opposition to war with Iraq. Even Labour MPs, feeling the heat from the anti-war movement, have felt compelled to speak out. Clare Short has accused Tony Blair of being "extraordinarily reckless" and threatened to resign as a minister if he went to war without a clear UN mandate. According to reports another ten ministers looked set to follow, including at cabinet level.

With as many as 200 MPs threatening what the Financial Times called an ’insurrection’ against him, Blair could be forced to rely on Tory votes to wage a war that the majority of the population are opposed to.

Whatever the outcome at the UN, Blair is worried that Labour MPs will have acquired a ’habit’ of rebellion that they won’t be able to kick. It’s not just war that he’s coming under pressure about – there’s foundation hospitals, the firefighters dispute (see page 13) and many other issues, all of which are coalescing with the anti-war mood to create a crisis for Blair and New Labour.

Blair is hoping that a short war, with a minimum of casualties and a stable post-war Iraq, will allow him to ride out the storm and boost his credentials as the man who helped ’liberate’ Iraqis from the hated dictator Saddam. However, even with a short war post-war Iraq could be far from stable.

At home, Blair’s standing has already been seriously damaged by his arrogant disregard of public opinion and craven support for Bush’s war to firmly enshrine US imperialism as the dominant global superpower.

Many Labour MPs are already speculating about a ’post-Blair scenario’. But a Labour Party headed by Brown, the ’preferred successor’, would still be a party that serves the interests of big business and the profit system, which is the root cause of war, conflict and poverty.

The anti-war movement, which has mobilised millions, provides an important opportunity to build a new, mass political alternative to the pro-capitalist programme of New Labour and the other major political parties.

We have to discuss now, in the anti-war movement, in the trade unions and in the communities the steps that need to be taken to build a broad, democratic party that can give a political voice to the millions, not just the millionaires and provide a socialist alternative to capitalism and war.

From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, the CWI in England and Wales

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March 2003