Ten years on – where are we?
A decade has passed since 2 million people demonstrated in London against the invasion of Iraq. Those who marched on 15 February 2003 felt inspired, almost sensing our strength – the slumbering power of the working masses. But what was our programme? Where was the really disciplined unity? How were we to implement our goal?
Even as we filed past parliament, the Labour government – content that we posed no threat – was laying invasion plans, and dismissing the significance of this huge demonstration. A month later, British troops were in Iraq. Ten years on, 4 million Iraqis are dead and 6 million are refugees. What conclusion did the average worker draw? That marching was useless; that the movement was over; that we had failed. But why?
How to destroy a movement
Contrary to their claims, it was not Stop the War who mobilised the masses that day but the section of capitalists who felt that invading Iraq wouldn’t serve their ends. On 14 February, the corporate, capitalist-owned Daily Mirror told us: “A war won’t save Britain from terror” and ran its printing press all night to make placards for the demo!
Britain’s arms, oil and banking capitalists came out on top, though. And, once British jackboots were on the ground, the ‘anti-war’ capitalists fell into line, relying on StW’s self-appointed leaders to stifle any funny ideas about workers really obstructing war.
Since that 2003 high, our movement has been on a downward spiral. StW’s resources have been controlled by a tiny clique of Trotskyites and revisionists who have consistently pushed the illusion that the only ‘protest’ methods open to us are such tame activities as lobbying MPS, petitioning governments and marching (at the weekend, and with plenty of notice to the state).
Desperate to do something that might actually stop the wars, delegates at StW’s national conferences repeatedly and overwhelmingly called on StW to mobilise workers for a programme of active non-cooperation. If every union made it their policy to refuse to cooperate with the wars, then workers could refuse to make or move munitions or supplies, could refuse to write or broadcast propaganda, and could refuse to fight in the forces. The wars would collapse!
But instead of putting these plans into action, StW’s executive quietly shelved them and got on with pushing pointless busywork onto a dwindling band of activists. In stopping the movement from doing its job, StW’s leaders have demotivated and demoralised hundreds of thousands of people who really do want to end imperialist war.
We don’t have to look far for to find out why StW’s leaders act this way. They are all members or supporters of the same Labour party that launched the genocidal wars against Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan! They ask us to believe that Labour – a true-blue, union-jack-waving, immigration-scaremongering, gun-boat-toting, cruise-missile-dropping party of imperialism – will somehow protect our class interests! Is it really so surprising that such people want to scupper the building of the mass campaign of non-cooperation that is so desperately needed to stop the war juggernaut?
Unity: who with and what for?
As the economic crisis deepens, capitalism sees no way out except destruction. Millions are turned out of work as production becomes unprofitable and services are cut, vandalising the lives of a generation.
There is no solution under capitalism, but our rulers are still trying to dig their way out by intensifying the exploitation of workers at home and the looting of the oppressed peoples abroad – backed by military force wherever resistance threatens the profiteers. Imperialists are becoming ever more parasitic, and the cut-throat competition between them is growing, even as they try to push Russia and China out of the global economy.
That is why we are seeing such a relentless drive toward more and more war.
A million British children go hungry each day. More than 8 million people of working age, a million of them under 25, are unemployed. And the crisis is only just beginning. The billionaire parasites are out of their depth and out of control. Our domestic woes and Britain’s bloody rampages abroad are two sides of the same coin – symptoms of the impending collapse of a dying system.
The job of workers and oppressed people all over the world is to work together to push it over the precipice. But StW tells us that, in order to maintain our ‘broad unity’, we must not call for the victory of anti-imperialist forces abroad. Instead of uniting with the millions of our brothers and sisters who are fighting for their lives against the British exploiters’ guns, StW wants us to be ‘unified’ with the tiny clique of Labour careerists in our movement who serve those exploiters!
This same opportunist gang cheered on Nato’s bombing of Libya. A little retrospective wailing over the 50,000 deaths and wholesale destruction of Libya’s hard-won independence and freedom will not wipe out the stain of collaboration.
At the crucial moment, StW organised demonstrations in support of Nato’s war, and against the Libyan people’s resistance. This shameful betrayal, which neutralised opposition to the war, was the beginning of the end for StW.
Libya’s enlightened society and modern industrial infrastructure brought the highest living standards in Africa, until the head-banging CIA and MI6-backed jihadists were forcibly installed. Now the entire country lies in ruins, while its wealth is hijacked by western financiers. ‘Democracy’ in action.
No sooner had Libya fallen under Nato’s heel, than the same fundamentalist Al-CIAda army transferred its murderous rampage to another vital pivot in the axis of anti-imperialist resistance: Syria. Right on cue, in waded StW, with heartfelt denunciations of ‘brutal dictator’ Assad and strident support for this ‘popular revolution’!
Once again, there’s not a hair’s breadth between the imperialists’ pro-war propaganda and that of our allegedly anti-war leaders. Ignoring Nato’s criminal, barbaric assault on an independent and sovereign nation, they seem only to worry that open bombing by Nato might strengthen the unity of the anti-imperialist forces inside Syria!
Indeed, StW would much rather we ignore Nato’s current war altogether, and focus on denouncing a possible future war against Iran – ignoring the fact that the destruction of Syria is a vital first step in that next attack!
A century ago, Lenin pointed out that we won’t beat imperialism unless we also take on those who serve imperialist ends within our own movement. If we really want to stop war, we must get rid of the posers who pretend to be ‘friends of the people’ while binding our movement to the war chariot of imperialism.
See also: Stop the War Coalition ten years on (Red Youth blog, February 2013)