Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/291/14016
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.
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.
US Construction Bosses Welcome War...
THE LOOMING US-led war on Iraq is causing uncertainties for capitalist investors. However, one section of big business hopes that a post-Saddam Iraq will become a lucrative venture.
According to the Wall Street Journal the Bush administration has dangled a $900 million reconstruction contract in front of five civil engineering firms. One of these is Halliburton whose chief executive officer (CEO) from 1995 to 2000 was Dick Cheney, the current US Vice-President. The other four firms are the Bechtel Group Inc, Fluor Corp, Louis Berger Group Inc and Parsons Group. Bechtel rebuilt the Kuwaiti oil fields after the 1991 Gulf War.
Cheney and Halliburton are no strangers to controversy. Last year a US pressure group, Judicial Watch, filed a lawsuit against Cheney accusing him of defrauding shareholders when he was CEO of Halliburton.
It's alleged that he overstated profits by $445 million during the period 1999-2001 leading to big losses by shareholders. Coincidentally, in 1996 Cheney made a promotional video for Andersen, the disgraced accountancy firm at the centre of the Enron bankruptcy.
Halliburton has also profited from George Bush's 'war on terror'. It was awarded a $9.7 million contract to build an additional 204-cell detention camp at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for Al Qa'ida and Taliban prisoners.
Less well publicised were $73 million worth of contracts signed between Iraq and two Halliburton subsidiaries to supply oil production equipment, again when Cheney served as CEO. Initially, Cheney denied any trade deal but then said he didn't know about the deal.
...but workers organise against it
Strikes in Italy and Germany
TRADE UNIONISTS in Europe have been calling for protest action against the US-led war on Iraq.
In Italy the unions have called on their members to stage short strikes this week in a show of opposition to the war. Italy's prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is one of Bush's fiercest allies but polls show that 70% of Italians oppose war, even if 'sanctioned' by the United Nations.
Italy's port workers are to strike for the last few hours of their shifts. Berlusconi's backing for war means that Italian ports are being involved in the plans for military operations by shipping war equipment out to the Gulf.
In Germany the DGB (German TUC) are calling ten-minute token protests against the "high speed move of the US and British war machines to the Iraqi borders."
Unfortunately the rest of the DGB statement merely appeals for the rule of law. But workers taking action will put their own interpretation on the threatened war and these protests could have a far bigger impact then the DGB leaders were looking for.
Hackney UNISON plans protest on Day X
THE BRANCH Committee of Hackney UNISON has passed a resolution on how it can react to the threat of war with Iraq.
The committee calls on UNISON's national executive to support co-ordinated strike action. If there is no agreement among the TUC, they call on UNISON to organise protest action up to and including strikes against the war under the slogan: "Invest in Public Services" and "Decent pay - not bombs".
In the meantime, the BC is committing itself to organise protests, including possible forms of industrial action for "Day X", the day after bombing starts. This has to be done in such a way that individual workers cannot be singled out for disciplinary action.
The branch committee will call for:
A five minute silence at 12 noon and a protest at the Town Hall at 12.30pm on Day X.
Then depending on the turnout, organise a demonstration.
In preparation for this the committee agreed to organise meetings in the workplaces and discuss this resolution with members and test the mood for action.
What you can do
- Organise a Stop the War meeting in your workplace.
- Pass a resolution at your union branch calling for industrial action.
- Organise a consultative poll/petition/ pledge form in your workplace to test support and build for action on Day X.
AT LEAST 50,000 people said "no to war on Iraq" on 8 March when they marched through Manchester.
Hugh Caffrey, Manchester Socialist Party
Despite terrible weather, tens of thousands gathered from all across Greater Manchester and rallied to hear speakers such as George Galloway, who called for strike action on "Day X" - the day war starts.
The demo was called immediately after the 15 February national demo, and in the three weeks since then the demo has been built for by giving out thousands and thousands of leaflets. This was reflected in the massive turnout, which is a real step forward in the anti-war campaign in Manchester.
There were people coming up to us to take leaflets, taking bundles of leaflets for their mates.
Robin Dasgupta says, "From 9am on, we ran both an International Socialist Resistance (ISR) and a Socialist Party stall, with literature, leaflets etc. on the stall and banners on the rails and walls surrounding us. As the front of the demo had to go past our stalls, so demonstrators took leaflets as they entered the park."
Our task now is to build college, school, and area-based anti-war groups, as well as building ISR and the Socialist Party.
ON 8 March up to 2,000 people gathered on Forest Fields in Nottingham to protest against the impending war with Iraq.
The Socialist Party's slogan of 'no blood for oil' went down well and many people were coming up to the stall, signing the petition and buying a copy of The Socialist. Altogether 75 Socialists were sold and several young people said they were interested in joining ISR.
THEY CAME from all directions. Several feeder marches from local anti-war groups fed into a 4,000-strong demo - Sheffield's biggest for decades.
About 500 had marched down from Hunter's Bar (an area of Sheffield) where the anti-war group had only been set up the week before!
School students were present in big numbers, inspired by their strike. Many gave Youth Against the War their contact details to be involved in Day X walkouts.
In The Socialist 14 March 2003: