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The International Resistance
The new anti war movement has had as its yardstick the struggle against the war in Vietnam over 3 decades ago
From this yardstick two contrasting views of the movement were advanced before the outbreak of war. One, the ‘optimistic’ view, declared that the movement was already bigger than the early protests against the slaughter in Vietnam and that it would grow rapidly to force a halt to the killing. The other declared the movement ‘a mile wide and an inch deep’ – the view here being that the lack of political consciousness among the protesters would lead to major problems that would result in the movement being fractured by the reality of war.
In many of the details the pessimistic view has been sustained. Many critics of the war have made it abundantly clear that they will not press their opposition when it leads to outright confrontation with the imperialist system that unleashed the war – a classic case being the Irish trade union movement in the North which balances opposition to the war with support for ‘our boys’. Yet the movement has proved more resilient than might have been supposed. While it remains able to launch major protests it is clear that it must resolve many political questions ignored earlier if it is to advance.
We have now reached the limits of purely moral opposition to the war. By this point simple chants of ‘Peace Now’ are as likely to be met by a rapid US victory as any other way. The truth, that many of the movement have yet to express politically, is that we need a US and British defeat. It is worth continuing to struggle for this because the war extends in space well beyond the borders of Iraq, involving a global attack on workers rights, and it extends in time into an indefinite ‘war on terror’ in which ‘those who are not with us are against us’. Working people across the globe are the target. Not fighting back is not an option.
The US is the dominant military superpower on the planet. It has been suggested that the alternative superpower unmasked by the anti-war movement is global public opinion. We in Socialist Democracy would argue that in fact the alternative superpower is the working class organised globally. The task is to move from a moralist movement led by the lowest common denominator of opinion to a political movement willing to deal real blows to imperialism.
If we are to begin to build such a movement we must take a broad view and look at the existing opposition. What becomes immediately apparent is that not all those claiming opposition to the war are of any use. We should put no faith in the UN and its supporters. It’s an organisation that remains dominated by the US; that has rubberstamped many US adventures; that oversaw a decade of slow starvation for the people of Iraq due to sanctions and that would be involved in the war today if the US had been willing to share out the spoils. Many calling for UN involvement after the war simply want a UN stamp of approval on an imperialist victory. For similar reasons we should put no faith in a capitalist opposition led by France, even today involved in its own military adventures in Africa, which at no time has declared opposition to the war in principle.
Much of the initial opposition to war has rested on anti-globalisation networks arguing that ‘a different world’ is possible. We should welcome any opposition currents against the war but socialists should firmly assert their belief that the only alternative world that is possible is a socialist one led by the working class. Socialists should be involved in building a specifically anti-imperialist opposition that supports Iraqi resistance and seeks the defeat of the US and British forces.
The international movement must develop and move forward or it will go into reverse and decline. The anti-war movement that met in London just before the invasion was unable to agree anything more than a general statement of opposition to war and common dates for protests. The situation has moved on. The demonstrations of February 15th showed the power of mass demonstrations but the claim was made by the organisers that mass protest alone could stop the war. This is clearly not the case and has exposed both the political weakness and strategic vacuum at the heart of the movement. The plan B strategy is to continue with plan A and demonstrate again.
We can only devise a Plan B by identifying the local allies of the war mongers and by being prepared to drop diplomatic alliances within the movement to place demands on all participating organisations to take real action. This for example means rejecting any idea that an anti-war campaign can support the troops doing the killing. We must demand they go home now. It means calling on trade unions to turn words into actions and for all political parties to break all connection with the US and British administrations and their war machines. For the moment the international movement appears politically diffuse with no clear political message beyond one of protesting against the war. In fact it is made up of different elements of resistance across the world.
It should be self evident that a major element of the resistance is the Iraqi fight against the invaders. We should not be confused by the nature of the regime. The Iraqis have the right to defend themselves. The imperialists have nothing progressive to offer – a colonial occupation followed eventually by a clone of the Saddam regime. The reality is that the greater the extent Iraqi workers break from Saddam the greater the extent to which they will successfully resist. Even at this stage we can see that popular small-scale resistance has been more effective than the state military machine designed to suppress internal revolt. This resistance will not end when the war is ‘over’ and indeed will grow, as the nature of the new colonial occupation becomes clear. Will there still be a movement in the rest of the world to support it?
Iraqi resistance stretches into the Arab world as a whole. Here too its effectiveness depends on breaking with ideas of religious or political unity with the Arab ruling classes, which are in hoc to imperialism and secretly in support of the invasion. Here again the closest enemy is at home and ‘unity’ with establishment political forces is a recipe for failure and defeat.
The other decisive resistance is the one in the United States. The political character of US resistance does not appear to be very different to its European counterpart, but they face a much more serious and determined right wing enemy determined to punish them by removing civil and democratic rights. Under these circumstances it is difficult to see how the movement can avoid becoming politicised.
This process is unlikely to occur however if the US resistance is isolated. Iraqi resistance needs to continue if the initial euphoria and right-wing fervour are to be replaced with a grim realisation of the real nature and costs of the war. A mass European movement could help to highlight the collaboration practiced by governments supposedly in opposition to the war. It could isolate the US government and drive home the political lessons about the nature of the war to the American population. If we get this far then we can hope to link up with working-class forces in the Middle East and expose the bankruptcy of an Islamic opposition that previously worked with the US and tries to fight imperialism with the weapons of feudalism.
We cannot underestimate the ambition or the difficulty of building a mass international opposition, but we should celebrate what has been achieved and realise that we must have our own plan to re-order the world as an alternative to the plans of George Bush.
On the borders of Iraq sit an arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons. Beside them sit weapons of ‘overwhelming force’ – that is, conventional bombs made so large that they mimic the effects of nuclear weapons. They have not been used so far because the US believes that the political cost in terms of a global uprising against their war would be too great. This proves that there are some things more powerful than Bush’s weapons of mass destruction. Our task is to go further and build a movement that takes all the weapons off him.