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From: The Socialist issue 289, 28 February 2003: Stop The Countdown To War

Search site for keywords: War - Unions - Trade unions - TUC - Stop the War Coalition - Government - Iraq - Anti-war - Britain

Editorial:

Step Up Action Against War

AFTER THE magnificent events of 15 February, many hoped that worldwide demonstrations of tens of millions would halt the warmongers Bush and Blair in their tracks.

The demonstrations have provoked a sharp political crisis both globally and in Britain. But, the new resolution from Britain and the US to the UN Security Council is, in the words of former New Labour Foreign Office Minister Tony Lloyd, "a de facto declaration of war".

Now, a weight of expectation has fallen on the shoulders of the leaders of the anti-war movement. Stop The War Coalition national steering committee chair Andrew Murray has said: "There is a massive responsibility on the committee to come out with a clear plan of action."

If Blair and Bush won't listen to demonstrations of millions then what will make them listen? As well as ongoing demonstrations, protests etc, the Stop The War Coalition is planning mass civil disobedience on Day X - the day after war is declared.

Part of this mass campaign are plans for some type of action in the workplaces - as well as action in colleges and protests in the communities.

Demonstrations are constantly taking place across the country and will be called in towns and cities at 6pm on the day after war starts; another mass demo is planned in London on the Saturday after war starts and a People's Parliament will be assembled in Westminster on 12 March to show mass opposition to war.

These are all important initiatives but the key now is to turn mass demonstrations into an effective mass anti-war movement, with a serious attempt to involve, as far as possible, the majority of those who marched on 15 February into representative, democratic and effective coalitions at local town, city and regional level.

School student walkouts and protests, initiated by ISR, an affiliate of the Coalition, and other groups will take place mainly on 5 March. This will be an important preparatory test for action in schools and colleges on Day X.

However, the most crucial aspect of delivering a body blow to the Bush/Blair war plans is to organise effective and sustained action in the workplaces.

This industrial action must show how widespread the opposition to war is. Particularly, it needs to be organised on a mass scale that can make the war unsustainable - such as the action of the Motherwell train drivers who are refusing to transport material intended for the war drive.

Stop The War Coalition, through the support of Left trade union general secretaries - like Bob Crow of RMT, Mick Rix of Aslef and Mark Serwotka of PCS - has campaigned for a reconvened TUC to declare opposition to war and possibly organise industrial action for Day X.

Whilst collective strike action organised through trade unions at national and local level would be the best way to concretely mobilise millions of workers against war, and must be fought for within the trade unions, it would be wrong to place all the eggs in the basket of the TUC taking this step.

It's more likely that the TUC would fudge the issue of action while making soft protests against the threat of war.

In that situation, the Left trade union leaders and the leaders of the Stop The War Coalition have to argue and campaign for effective industrial action to be built for from below.

Such a call would fall on fertile ground (see report below). Workers will also be inspired by what the Australian trade unions have done against the war. (See page 5)

In many workplaces and trade unions, workers will now want a clear lead. There will be many ways that action can be taken, including stay-aways and mass sickies, as well as collective workplace strikes. The Coalition agreed at its meeting last week to "popularise all forms of industrial action" in an attempt to cut across the war drive.

The strongest form of action would be officially sanctioned strikes, which could happen in many workplaces, but a call must also be made for all workers to stay away in protest on Day X.

That can then be built on, if war proceeds, into a movement that can make military action unsustainable.


Building the anti-war campaign in the workplace

THE FOLLOWING motion was passed by the AGM of CWU London South West Branch (the branch of postal workers which serves the Houses of Parliament and other important places (reports Peter Redfarn):

"This branch opposes the war on Iraq. We recognise the war is being driven by the needs of American imperialism to grab the oil resources of the Middle East. The Blair government is following America's lead in the hopes of rescuing Britain's slumping capitalist economy and to strengthen his government's power.

"This branch recognises that this war will affect the lives of every CWU member. We ask who will pay for this war? The answer is that as Blair declares war on the people of Iraq this government is declaring war on the public sector unions at home. We see this in Prescott's plan to impose dictatorial rule over the FBU. First the FBU then us. We believe the people of Iraq and British people face the same enemy in the form of the Labour government.

"This branch applauds the Scottish railway workers who took action by refusing to load MOD war equipment. We call upon the leadership of the CWU to give its full support to all workers and unions who take industrial action against the war and to fight for this position in the TUC."

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