The Socialist 12 October 2001
War Against Afghanistan
Bush And Blair's War: What We Say
Q. Why does the Socialist Party
oppose this war?
A. AS SOCIALISTS we are totally opposed to the methods
of terrorism and the indiscriminate killing of innocent
people. We immediately condemned the horrific attacks on the
World Trade Centre (WTC) and
Pentagon which resulted in the deaths of so many.
But at the same time we do not support Bush and Blair's
war. Military action is not a solution. On the contrary it can
only exacerbate an already unstable situation worldwide.
Ordinary, poverty-stricken Afghans will be the innocent
victims of attacks on their country. Even before 11 September,
as many as five million were dependent on food aid to fend off
Millions had already fled to squalid, disease-ridden
refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Now thousands more
are desperately trying to escape death from famine or US
missile attacks. Bush talked about bombing Afghanistan back to
the Stone Age but it is already there. A humanitarian disaster
of epic proportions is now facing the Afghan people.
Workers internationally will also pay the price for Bush
and Blair's war through job cuts, attacks on public spending
and tax increases. The events of 11 September aren't the cause
of the crisis in the US and world economy as some have tried
Both were slowing down before 11 September, but the
fall-out has had an aggravating effect. Employers in many
industries are taking advantage of the situation to push
through mass redundancies. Thousands of jobs have been slashed
in the airline industry alone and thousands more are
threatened in other sectors.
The ruling class in the US and elsewhere are also using the
attacks to justify a serious undermining of democratic rights.
Repressive legislation is being passed to supposedly combat
terrorism but will be completely ineffective in doing so.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act was introduced as a
knee-jerk reaction to IRA bombings in England in the early
1970s. It did not defeat the IRA, but it was responsible for
miscarriages of justice such as the Guildford Four and
Repressive laws will undoubtedly be used against legitimate
anti-globalisation/anti-capitalist protesters and workers
taking action to defend their interests.
The attacks have also fuelled racism against Arabs and
Muslims around the world. In the US, people have been shot in
racist attacks and in Britain an Afghan taxi-driver was
Thousands of other incidents of threats and violence have
been reported. The politicians have made speeches preaching
tolerance, fearful that the situation could get out of
control. But their racist policies, on asylum in particular,
have contributed to the backlash which has taken place.
Asylum seekers will be targeted by Blunkett's new
legislation. They could be denied asylum and deported under
mere suspicion of being linked to terrorism.
Attacks on Afghanistan will have a destabilising effect
throughout central Asia and the Middle East. The military
regime in Pakistan, for example, has given backing to Bush's
war aims for its own economic and strategic reasons. But in
doing so, it risks a backlash from Islamic fundamentalists
within the army and society in general. This in a country
which possesses nuclear weapons.
If there is any attempt to broaden the war beyond
Afghanistan, this could provoke mass unrest throughout the
Arab and Muslim world and risk further retaliatory strikes.
Q. Surely something must be done about terrorism ?
BUSH AND Blair hypocritically wage 'war on terrorism'. But
it's the bloody policies of the capitalist system, which they
represent, that are responsible for creating the very
conditions which allow terrorism to flourish.
George Bush senior helped arm, train and finance bin Laden
and Islamist groups to wage a guerrilla war by proxy against
the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Now bin Laden is public
enemy number one.
Whenever US imperialism's economic and strategic interests
or prestige are threatened, it has readily wreaked its own
terror on countries around the world.
Over a million civilians were killed in the Vietnam War.
100,000 Iraqis died in the Gulf War and the suffering
6,000 Iraqi children die every month from hunger and
disease - the same number as died in the attacks on the WTC
Global capitalism is based on obscene inequalities of power
and wealth. The assets of the 200 richest people are more than
the combined income of the poorest 2.4 billion. More than one
fifth of the world's population live on less than one dollar a
And now the World Bank estimates that, as a result of the
economic crisis, ten million more people will be pushed below
this level worldwide and 40,000 more children will die.
The major imperialist powers, with the US at their head,
use their economic dominance to exploit the poorer countries
of the world, subjecting millions to poverty, starvation,
disease and war.
The wealth ratio between the richest and the poorest
countries in the world, which was three to one in 1820, was 74
to one in 1997.
A handful of giant multinational companies control
four-fifths of world output and more than two-thirds of world
Through capitalist institutions such as the IMF, World Bank
and World Trade Organisation, the imperialist countries impose
cuts in social spending, privatisation, job losses etc. on
already impoverished neo-colonial countries. The IMF is in
fact running at least 75 of the poorest developing countries
in the world.
To further their own interests, the imperialist countries
have no qualms about propping up and fostering dictatorial and
oppressive regimes worldwide. Saddam Hussein in Iraq,
Milosevic in Serbia and Pinochet in Chile were all at one time
courted and backed by US imperialism.
In Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East
imperialism rides rough-shod over national, ethnic and
religious rights and aspirations. Over 700 have died in the
year-long intifada, most of them Palestinians. Yet the US
continues to back the Israeli ruling class financially and
US imperialism hopes to take advantage of the 11 September
attacks and the 'war against terrorism' to assert itself
around the globe in defence of its own interests.
Blair's belligerent speech to Labour Party conference
raised the prospect of intervening in every international 'hot
spot', regardless of the wishes of ordinary people in those
Under capitalism, It is not possible to rid the world of
terrorism and conflict. Even if the US succeeds in capturing
bin Laden and destroying his bases in Afghanistan, the
conditions which give rise to terrorism - poverty, corruption
and oppression - will still remain.
War, poverty, violence and instability are rooted in the
very nature of this class-ridden system, which is based on
exploitation, inequality and the ruthless pursuit of profit.
It's only by eradicating capitalism worldwide that these
horrors can be ended.
Q. How do we stop the war?
US OPINION polls at first showed overwhelming support for
military action. But there is also disquiet about the prospect
of innocent Afghans being killed, of casualties amongst US
soldiers and of action provoking further attacks, making a
volatile situation even more unstable.
In Britain a majority say they would oppose military
strikes if they harm civilians. Bush and Blair say they will
do everything possible to avoid "collateral damage".
But in the Gulf War, 40% of so-called 'smart' bombs were not
so smart after all, missing their targets and killing and
Past wars show that the popular mood can shift rapidly
especially when the full consequences begin to hit home (see
article on Vietnam War page eight). Anti-war movements have
sprung up quite quickly in the US, Britain and elsewhere.
Many of those participating, especially students and young
people, were also involved in the anti-globalisation/anti-capitalist
protests. They have made the connection; that a system which
leads to global poverty and environmental destruction is also
responsible for violence, war and conflict internationally.
Members of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI),
to which the Socialist Party is affiliated, are campaigning in
the US, Britain and elsewhere to build democratic, inclusive,
broad-based anti-war coalitions. In particular we would look
to involve workers organised in the workplaces so that they
can add their collective, social strength to the anti-war
Bush and the US administration have tried to build a broad
'pro-war' coalition to back any action they take against
'terrorism'. But this has proved far from straightforward.
There have been divisions within the US administration,
between the 'doves' who want to limit action to Afghanistan
and the 'hawks' who want to go further and attack any country
'harbouring' or 'supporting' terrorists.
Top of the list would be Iraq, where they would like to
'finish off' the Gulf War. However any attempt to widen the
conflict could inflame Arabs around the world. The reactionary
regime in Saudi Arabia, for example, has had to state openly
that, unlike in the Gulf War, it won't let its military bases
be used to attack Afghanistan. This is because it fears unrest
amongst Islamic groups within its own country.
Despite these divisions, Bush has acted against
Afghanistan. However there are clearly worries about what
could happen next. Capturing Osama bin Laden and destroying
his bases would be virtually impossible without overthrowing
the Taliban. But what to put in its place?
A coalition involving the Northern Alliance would be
extremely unstable. Their record on human rights and women's
rights is as bad if not worse than the Taliban's.
Ordinary Afghans have to decide their own future. Only a
government of working people and the rural poor, as part of a
socialist federation of Middle Eastern states could rebuild
A serious weakness internationally at the moment is the
absence of mass workers' parties which could play a role in
There have been recent examples internationally, where mass
movements involving the organised working class, removed
unpopular regimes. In Serbia, for instance, ordinary people
succeeded where imperialist bombs failed in removing
But because no party existed with a clear idea of how to
build an alternative society, merely switching government has
solved none of the problems which ordinary Serbs face.
Because mass parties have not provided an alternative to
the poverty, corruption and oppression of capitalism, sections
of youth in the Middle East and other regions have turned to
the blind alley of terrorism as a way out of the crisis.
In the 'developed' countries, parties like New Labour have
gone completely over to supporting big business and global
capitalism. Blair in particular has flown round the world,
doing Bush's dirty work, at times sounding even more war-like
than Bush himself.
The Socialist Party and the CWI have been campaigning for
the building of new mass parties to represent the interests of
workers, young people and oppressed groups in Britain and
internationally. Building an effective anti-war movement and
building new working class parties are interlinked.
And mass workers' parties will play an important part in
the task of eliminating war in general, which can only be done
by ending the unequal, exploitative and oppressive capitalist
Q. What's socialism got to do with it?
BASED ON production for profit for the privileged few,
capitalism is incapable of meeting the needs of the majority
of the population worldwide.
Socialism is about planning production for need not profit.
This would eliminate the contradictions of the current system
which lead to global economic crisis and conflict. Socialism
is about working-class people, the majority of society, owning
and controlling the economy and democratically deciding how
resources should be produced and allocated for the benefit of
all, in an environmentally sustainable way.
This would be very different from the top-down,
undemocratic planning which existed in the bureaucratic,
Stalinist regimes of the ex-Soviet Union and Eastern Europe
until just over a decade ago. Genuine socialism would mean
ordinary people having maximum control over every aspect of
Globalisation has meant that capitalism is economically
more integrated than at any time in history. This means that
the struggle to change society has to be an international one
if it is to end poverty, disease and environmental destruction
and transform ordinary people's lives.
Based on co-operation rather than ruthless competition for
profit, privilege and prestige, socialism is the only system
capable of bringing about an end to violence and war on a
The Socialist 12 October 2001 [Top]
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From the archive: 28 September 2002 mass demonstrations
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Anti-War Protest - A Defining Moment
THE 28 September 'Don't attack Iraq' demonstration was
an immense display of opposition to war.
With up to 400,000 protesters marching through London, this
was much bigger than anything that took place in Britain
against the Vietnam war in the 1960s and bigger than the
sizeable CND demos of the early 1980s.
Involving tens of thousands of people, especially young
people, who had never marched on a demonstration before, it
was reminiscent of recent huge protests in other European
countries such as Italy and France.
Coming at a time of renewed industrial militancy, with
firefighters, tube and rail workers, local authority workers,
teachers and lecturers all taking or preparing to take action
over pay and a shift to the left at the top of many unions,
this marks a new stage of struggle in Britain.
Opinion polls show that Blair's dossier has had little
effect in denting opposition to war against Iraq.
According to an ICM/Guardian poll, 44% disapprove of a
military attack compared to 33% in favour. A 'hardcore' of
around 40% would oppose war even with a UN resolution. This is
an unprecedented level of opposition to war, especially before
military action has even begun.
There was a pale reflection of this mood even at Blair's
sanitised Labour Party conference, where 40% of delegates
voted in favour of a resolution opposing war under any
circumstances. The NEC, under pressure, withdrew a resolution
which would have left open the question of 'go it alone'
action without UN authorisation.
If Blair were to back Bush in unilateral action against
Iraq it would create turmoil within the party, leading to a
haemorrhaging of party members and even open splits.
An attack on Iraq could unleash a massive explosion in
growth in the anti-war movement, which could potentially
coalesce with anger against pay, privatisation and other
issues affecting working-class people and could even result
ultimately in the end of Blair himself.
Day of action
The struggle to provide a political alternative to New
Labour's anti working-class, pro-war policies therefore needs
to develop alongside a movement against the war.
The Socialist Party's call for a new mass party to unite
workers, young people and all those opposed to this current
system could gain increasing support.
The 28 September demonstration marked an important stage in
the development of a mass anti-war movement. The next
immediate step is to build for the 'Don't attack Iraq' day of
action on 31 October. In the schools, colleges and
universities students should be organising for protests and
occupations on that day.
We also need to take the campaign into the workplaces. The
rally following the demonstration was addressed by speakers
from six national trade unions. The newly elected 'Left'
leaders support the anti-war movement and voiced opposition to
war at the TUC conference.
They should use their authority to call for protests and
stoppages on 31 October which trade union members can build
for in the workplaces, making the link between opposition to
low pay and the selling off of public services and opposition
The 31 October day of action itself should be used as a
springboard for organising wider action, including strike
action, in the event of a military attack on Iraq.
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The Biggest Anti-War Demo In Britain - Ever
A SEA of up to 400,000 protesters flooded into the
Embankment, London on 28 September to say 'No' to war against
It was the biggest anti-war demonstration in Britain ever.
People came from all over. Trade unionists, socialists,
Muslims and others came as part of organised groups and
There were those like the protester who said he hadn't been
on a demonstration since the miners' strike of 1984/85 but
felt so strongly about war in Iraq that he just had to come
But tens of thousands had never been on a demonstration
before in their lives. School students, college students,
university students and young workers who had made their way
with friends or even on their own to make their voices heard.
Sellers of The Socialist reported being surrounded by
protesters eager to read our leaflets and buy our paper with
the slogan "No war for oil"
The demonstration was so enormous that many didn't even get
to hear the speakers at the rally in Hyde Park. The speakers
included representatives from six national trade unions.
Film director Ken Loach summed up the mood of most of the
protesters when he said: "We can't get involved in this
war, we can't consider murdering another 100,000 Iraqis simply
to pursue America's interest in the oil and their dominance in
Speakers called for a "Don't Attack Iraq" day of
action on 31 October. Labour MP George Galloway received the
biggest cheer of the day when he called for protests and
occupations of schools and colleges on that day.
The 28 September demonstration was a massive show of
anti-war feeling. But it was just the beginning. Now we have
to go back to our workplaces, schools and colleges and make 31
October a day of action that Blair will never forget.
Voices From The Demo
I'M AN Iranian. During the Iran/Iraq war Saddam
used chemical weapons against us. My family live in
Tehran and my sister has had heart and kidney problems
because of the gas. I'm here because we need to get
rid of Saddam but the ordinary people of Iraq aren't
my enemies. Helen
I FEEL strongly about the war. I think it's all about
controlling resources in the Middle East, whilst innocent
people are killed. Saddam is a tyrant but the poor people
of Iraq have suffered long enough. PCS member from
WHAT ATTRACTED me to your table in the first
place was the mention of oil, which is the root cause
of all the conflict in the Middle East. If it wasn't
for oil then the area wouldn't be fought over so much.
The epitome of all that is Mr George Bush and
his cabinet - the whole executive branch of the
government is all for oil. Steven, San Francisco
I'VE COME down from Derby because I'm opposed to any
sort of war but this one is just about what America wants.
They have their weapons but they won't let anyone else
But the main reason I'm here is to support the
Palestinians who have been suffering for so long. Being
Muslim I feel I should speak out for them. Rabiya
I THINK it's disgusting that
all this money will be spent on war when it could be
used to feed the world. Sunara, Coventry
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War plans against Iraq:
Stop Bush & Blair's War
GEORGE BUSH'S war plans against Iraq are now well
advanced. US arms manufacturers are working round the clock to
build up stocks of deadly cruise missiles; oil reserves are
being boosted; merchant shipping is being commissioned to
transport troops and equipment.
dictator Saddam Hussein is hoping that by opening discussions
with the United Nations (UN) on readmitting arms inspectors
this will delay Bush's war drive by dividing the US
But, US secretary of state Colin Powell has reiterated that
the American administration's objective remains "regime
A US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq to effect Saddam's
removal could involve as many as 275,000 US and British troops
and result in the death of thousands of Iraqi civilians.
Iraqis already suffer the effects of punitive UN trade
sanctions on their country on top of a monstrous dictatorship.
This war has nothing to do with bringing about a democratic
Iraq. It's about US imperialism asserting its economic and
military dominance in the oil-rich Middle East by removing the
rogue dictator and former Western ally, Saddam Hussein.
You only have to look at nearby Afghanistan to see what the
West has in mind for Iraq. Post-Taliban Afghanistan is headed
by a pro-US regime in the capital Kabul which is dependent on
Allied troops for its survival.
Outside Kabul ethnic-based warlords fight for control of
the regions. Millions of Afghans remain 'displaced',
unemployed and dependent on aid for their daily survival.
But if George Bush and his 'poodle' Tony Blair think that
this war will create a politically stable region compliant to
US demands then these Western leaders have badly
The rotten pro-Western, semi-feudal regimes in the Middle
East are already teetering as their impoverished and oppressed
masses look to bring about 'regime changes' of their own.
The masses in these countries see their oil-rich repressive
rulers collaborating with imperialism - the system that arms
and finances Ariel Sharon's Israeli government which is
oppressing the Palestinians.
A US-led war could ignite a conflagration of social
upheaval in the region with massive counter-productive
consequences for Western capitalism.
And it is this system of capitalist exploitation, not only
the rotten ruling regimes, that must be changed. That means
building mass workers' organisations and parties that can
unite the region's impoverished masses to fight for a
socialist alternative to the horrors of war, poverty and
US Imperialism Gambles On Iraq War
GEORGE BUSH'S planned attack on Iraq is looking
decidedly frayed at the edges as many of his allies distance
themselves from the US president's war option.
While many in Bush's administration remain gung-ho about
effecting a "regime change" in Iraq, others question
the wisdom of US imperialism invading a Middle Eastern
country, preferring instead a policy of
Even Bush's European lap dog - Tony Blair - has recently
cooled his enthusiasm for war, reassuring the worried
Jordanian ruler King Abdullah that a UN resolution would be
sought before any military attacks.
Nonetheless, Blair remains adamant that British MPs won't
have a vote on pursuing a war against Saddam Hussein. In any
event a majority of Labour MPs reportedly support this
military option. Yet according to a Daily Mirror poll of
21,884 people, 91% opposed going to war.
Recently leaked Pentagon plans have envisaged a massive
invasion force of 250,000 US troops supported by 25,000
British troops. Civilian casualties have been estimated at
In the White House, while Bush's propaganda machine
continues to pump out unfounded horror stories about the Iraqi
dictator's "weapons of mass destruction" and his
terrorist links, the consequences of removing Saddam and
replacing him with a stooge regime remain troubling for US
If surrounding Arab states allow US and allied forces to
launch their attacks from their territories, the political
fall-out in the region could be counter-productive for
imperialism. Even in Turkey, the only predominately Muslim
country in NATO, its ailing prime minister, Bulent Ecevit, is
urging the US not to use military action.
The ruling regimes in countries such as Jordan and several
of the Gulf states enjoy little popular support. And by
supporting the US - Israel's main backer - while Ariel Sharon
continues to oppress the Palestinians they will further enrage
the impoverished masses of the region who could in turn force
a "regime change" in their own countries.
Even in Saudi Arabia, whose reactionary and repressive
rulers have sought to distance themselves from their US
allies, they too could find themselves overthrown by a mass
movement of dispossessed Saudis. This could result in a more
reactionary, Islamist regime being installed and - ironically
for the US - a regime that would be sympathetic to the aims of
Osama bin Laden, i.e. the expulsion of Western influences from
But, assuming that these semi-feudal regimes cling to
power, would a post-Saddam Iraqi regime produce the stable
democracy that George Bush and Tony Blair hope to see emerge?
If the post-Taliban regime in nearby Afghanistan is
anything to go by, with assassinations of government ministers
and rampaging warlords, then this expressed aim of Western
governments will remain unfulfilled.
Indeed, the motley crew of pro-imperialist exiles that make
up the Iraqi National Congress and other opposition groups are
hopelessly split and remain tainted in the eyes of Iraqis as
former members of Saddam's political and military elite.
And the chances of such a disparate band reaching an accord
with the equally split pro-capitalist Kurdish nationalist
forces in northern Iraq are also utopian. Any pro-Western
regime in Baghdad would, therefore, be dependent upon US army
troops to remain in power.
Behind the US propaganda about its former ally, Saddam
Hussein, lies the strategic aims of imperialism - to maintain
its hegemony in the region, secure its oil supplies and to
have a non-belligerent regime in power in Iraq.
But if Bush temporarily suspends a military invasion and
continues the US policy of "containing" Saddam, this
will result in a continuation of the misery and suffering
ordinary Iraqis have endured due to the crippling effects of
The long-suffering masses of the region cannot look to Bush
and Blair for an end to their crushing poverty and the
overthrow of their oil-rich reactionary rulers.
There is no capitalist escape route for the working class
and rural poor in the Middle East out of their plight. Only by
creating independent workers' organisations with a socialist
economic programme of nationalising industry under democratic
workers' control and fighting for an internationalist solution
to the problems of nationalities, can the enormous oil wealth
be redistributed poverty eliminated and wars banished.
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