Fight war hysteria

Nothing will prevent us attacking Iraq' - that is the unmistakable message coming from the United States administration. Even before the US received its copy of the mammoth, 12,000-page Iraqi declaration on weapons of mass destruction, Bush let it be known that it would not be worth the paper it was written on. Preparations for a full-scale assault are being accelerated and the atmosphere is being ratcheted up with scare stories of the latest terrorist threat to Washington and London. Then there is the emergency programme of vaccinating one million US citizens against smallpox - from the president himself to the GIs who are being deployed in the region. Though it is almost inconceivable that Saddam Hussein's regime possesses the virus - the US and Russia hold the last remaining specimens in tightly guarded labs - it does serve to create popular hysteria. Why give so many people jabs if Saddam Hussein is not intending to vengefully infect New York or Washington? To further increase hysteria - and taking advantage of it at the same time - the US administration has issued a directive authorising pre-emptive strikes against any "rogue state" said to be "close to" obtaining "weapons of mass destruction" or their delivery systems. Terrorists or their leaders can now be officially assassinated by such strikes and there is much talk of recognising torture as a legitimate weapon in the 'war against terror'. Apparently its use is "not incompatible" with the US constitution. The purpose of all this is to persuade the doubters that things must really be bad if such methods have to be employed. Of course, imperialism has never hesitated to brutalise and murder its opponents whenever it has deemed it necessary - usually covertly or through the use or third parties - but by discussing such matters openly it has now raised the stakes. The restraints on the state are being loosened. At present it is the likes of Saddam and bin Laden that Bush has in his sights. But there should be no doubt that, once class combatively starts to rise and the threat to capital's hegemony comes from another quarter, it will be the 'enemy at home' - the organisations of the working class and their leaders - who will be in the firing line, under attack from Bush and Blair (the British foreign office merely stated that it was "not for us to comment" on its ally's open 'shoot to kill' policy). So the battle lines are drawn up. On the one side is the US and UK, with a whole range of other states following behind with varying degrees of enthusiasm for an attack on Iraq. But this side is by no means united in its approach and has not yet been able to convince (or sufficiently bribe) the leaders of many imperialist as well as 'third world' capitalist countries that war is necessary. Public opinion outside the US remains highly sceptical. With good reason. The categorical assertion that Iraq is in "material breach" of UN resolutions through omissions and inaccuracies in its weapons declaration does not sit easily alongside the statement of Mohamed el-Baradei, head of the UN atomic energy agency, that his staff would need "something like a year" before they could come to a "credible conclusion" on Iraq's nuclear capability. Baghdad has played the innocent party, overloading the UN with statistics and detailed information to back up its claim that it has none of the weapons, manufacturing capabilities or components that Washington alleges. The challenge by Iraqi officials - 'If, as you say, you know there are facilities we have not declared, why don't you send your weapons inspectors to prove it?' - seems to have left Bush with no answer. Similarly the refusal to hand over the full, unabridged Iraqi declaration to the non-permanent (and non-nuclear) members of the security council, on the grounds that it would give away too much relating to the production of nuclear weapons, is difficult to square with the accusation that it does not reveal enough. Having been persuaded to go along the road of UN resolutions and weapons inspections in order to establish some kind of united approach, there are obvious risks for Bush in simply ignoring UN advice and report-backs. Nevertheless he is determined to launch his war - US superimperialism must be consolidated and US oil supplies guaranteed - but it will not be easy to keep on board the sceptics and marginalise the opposition, particularly outside America itself. That is where we, on the other side, come in. Already mass anti-war demonstrations have been held across Europe and the Middle East, as well as in the US itself. The 'war against terror' is a war without end - Iran and North Korea might be next and it is no certainty that the anti-war movement can be drowned in a sea of chauvinism every time cruise missiles are launched and smart bombs are shown exactly hitting their intended targets for the TV audiences. In these circumstances the left has an opportunity to advance. In Britain the Stop the War Coalition, with the Socialist Workers Party at the helm, has established its leadership over the anti-war movement. The opportunity must not be wasted. We need to: * Build a broad alliance against the imperialist warmongers. Christians, muslims, environmentalists and liberals must all be welcome at demonstrations, marches and rallies. But the working class and the trade union movement must form the core and cutting edge. * Promote our politics. To be effective socialist politics are essential and that also means taking up demands for democracy. The Socialist Alliance national council agreed at the weekend to "promote our own distinctive socialist politics" within the anti-war movement, but, absurdly, rejected the call to "promote the need for secularism, democracy and freedom of religion as part of our genuine anti-imperialism". This is to reduce our socialism to meaningless platitudes and leave the field clear for non-socialist forces such as the pacifists and islamists. * Fight the main enemy, which is at home. There must be no call to 'Defend Iraq' - ie, take sides with Saddam Hussein's reactionary 'anti-imperialism'. The demonstration organised by the Worker-communist Party of Iraq outside the US-sponsored gathering of Iraqi oppositionists in London set a good example - the WCPI opposes both Saddam and Bush from an independent working class perspective. * Stand four-square against reactionary terrorism. The overwhelming majority of muslims, including those mobilised by the Muslim Association of Britain, are not islamists. A recent poll showed that in their overwhelming majority they both oppose the US war on Iraq and condemn the terrorism of al Qa'eda. The SWP alibis political islam and refuses to condemn the attacks on New York, Washington and Mombassa. This is a profound mistake. * Forge a working class fightback on all fronts. Link up the fight against the war with union struggles such as the firefighters' dispute and other campaigns for democracy and resisting Blair's neoliberal attacks - against privatisation, for decent housing, in opposition to the Terrorism Act, in defence of asylum-seekers. The most effective way to win each of these single-issue campaigns is through uniting them into one movement under a working class programme * Fight for a working class party. The logic of the Socialist Alliance points in that direction. If the SA is kept imprisoned in the SWP's electoral "united front of a special kind" cage, the anti-war movement itself will be held back. The struggle to transform the Socialist Alliance project into the single revolutionary party the working class needs must be the top priority for all communists and revolutionary socialists. Peter Manson