Opposition to war

There was more controversy over a proposed statement on the planned US-UK attack on Iraq, says Tina Becker

At the last preparatory meeting of the ESF in Brussels a month ago, comrade Chris Nineham from the SWP and Leo Gabriel, an independent Austrian comrade, presented a statement which originally contained the formulation, "This war will be a catastrophe first for the people of Iraq, second for the Palestinian people."� It was pointed out by an Italian comrade that a war might be a catastrophe for the re-emerging Israeli peace movement as well. A brief, but very heated debate broke out, in which comrade Nineham showed his contempt for the Israeli people as a whole: "I refuse to mention the Israelis at all,"� he declared. "I'm sure a war would actually be good for the Israeli people, because the big majority of them support the war and the oppression of the Palestinian people."� As a compromise the formulation "the people across the Middle East"� was then adopted (see Weekly Worker September 12). It seems that was not the only criticism comrades had about the statement. Apparently, together with some Italian comrades, comrade Nineham revised the document and presented it again in Barcelona. This time, a new controversy broke out, when comrades from France quite rightly raised the need to criticise Saddam Hussein's regime. Supported by Leo Gabriel, who helped draft the first statement, they insisted on inserting a formulation mentioning the Iraqi regime. Jonathan Neale from the SWP (in his Globalise Resistance disguise), however, defended "the need for a statement which can be accepted as the absolute minimum. This statement does not condemn Saddam Hussein and it does not condemn George Bush,"� he claimed absurdly - the whole statement is a condemnation of Bush's war drive. "The one thing we have learned from the anti-war movement in England [sic] is that we cannot condemn both sides. We got 400,000 people on last week's demonstration, because we refused to do so. We want the pacifists on our marches, we want the religious people and we want people who support other wars, but not this one,"� he said. "In countries where the movement has condemned both sides, the demonstrations are very small. In countries where only one side was condemned, the demonstrations have been huge. That is what we have to learn."� This approach seems pretty dubious to me. As far as I know, the Italian left, for example, condemned both the imperialist attack on Afghanistan and the brutal and reactionary Taliban regime. Yet they mobilised hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets. Also, it surely matters what kind of movement you are actually building. Yes, we want to have religious people, liberals and pacifists on our marches - after all, it brings them into direct contact with the ideas of the 'hard left'. An ideal opportunity to convince them of the need for a consistently democratic and secular programme. However, the comrades from the SWP seem happy enough to leave these people as they are. Whereas reactionary chants and slogans go unchallenged by the SWP, organisations that openly criticise islamic fundamentalism are excluded by the comrades: In November 2001, the CPGB and Alliance for Workers' Liberty were removed from the Stop the War Coalition for this reason only. So the fight over this statement is hardly over semantics or "the minimum we can all agree on"�. It shows that the comrades from the SWP have a different, tailist approach to politics in general. French comrades suggested inserting a rather tame sentence that at least mentions Saddam Hussein. This suggestion seemed to have the support of most comrades present, although the SWP members looked disgruntled. Eventually, it was decided not to vote on the final draft, but to present it to the ESF in Florence, where "the movement"� will decide in a series of meetings. Tina Becker Draft ESF statement To all citizens of Europe Together we can stop this war! We, the European social movements, are fighting for social rights and social justice, for democracy and against all forms of oppression. We stand for a world of diversity, freedom and mutual respect. We believe this war, whether it has UN backing or not, will be a catastrophe for the people of Iraq [proposed insert: who are already suffering under the sanctions and Saddam Hussein], and for the people across the Middle East. It should be opposed by everyone who believes in democratic, political solutions to international conflicts because it will be a war without resolution with the potential to lead to global disaster. There is massive opposition to war in every country of Europe - hundreds of thousands have already mobilised for peace. We call on the movements and citizens of Europe to start coordinated, continent-wide resistance to war with a day of mass demonstrations on November 10 to demand: 'Don't attack Iraq'.