The war on Iraq and its prolonged aftermath are now determining the political agenda.
The fallout has damaged the British establishment and looks set to worsen as the situation in Iraq rapidly deteriorates.
It is equally clear, although never acknowledged by the mainstream media, that the global mass movement against the war was the crucial factor in building popular resistance, which in turn made a critical stance more acceptable in ’official‘ political circles. The Stop the War Coalition crystallised popular anger against the wider neoliberal project, and against the betrayals served up by New Labour. The article by Salma Yaqoob (September SR) is an important contribution to the wider discussion we need about the way forward for the movement, as was some of what came out of the People‘s Assembly on 30 August. What the Coalition has achieved so far has been impressive, but we also need a clear idea of the problems we face.
The anti-capitalist movement provides the inspiration for many millions worldwide, but lags behind in the UK. Anti-war activity can help build a more vibrant anti-capitalist movement here, but we must also provide a bridge from simple opposition to the war to opposition to capitalism. At the People‘s Assembly Tony Benn correctly identified fear as something to overcome. There is great fear and insecurity. Not, as the media wants us to believe, fear of terrorism, but fear of what the system will do to you next. Will it fire you, close down your pension scheme, care home or school? Will it saddle you with debts? Will it insist you work till you are 70? It is through the fight against the war that we overcome this, that we draw people into struggle and give them hope, undercutting the Nazis and racists, and providing inspiration for workers themselves to begin to resist attacks at work.
But, crucially, the left must break with its own pessimism and sectarianism, and with the narrow perspectives it inherited from the defeats of the 1980s and 1990s. The Socialist Alliance isn‘t perfect but at least it‘s an attempt to forge some unity on the left, and to put forward anti-war politics. It is up to the wider movement to develop this, to change it, to help turn it into something broader. But to do this, people must really believe that a new world is possible. Salma rightly says that of all the things which have been robbed from people over the last two decades ’the most important one is their imagination‘. We must be creative and audacious about putting forward our ideas, while also being patient and persevering, and allow the energy and imagination of the movement to come through. The next period will see a global struggle develop against imperialism and neoliberalism, in which the anti-war movement will be central. Bush‘s permanent war on terror means that we must become involved in permanent resistance.