Blair promotes panic mongering

Last weekend's Stop the War Coalition conference gave Tony Blair notice that he will not have an easy ride in his role as cheerleader for the threatened US-led assault on Iraq. Around 800 delegates, individual STWC members and observers packed into London's Camden Centre on January 11. Overwhelmingly they were leftwing, the Socialist Workers Party accounting for the largest contingent, but also present were a substantial number of CND-type pacifists and Labour members, as well as christian and muslim representatives. It was a timely conference, for the 'toxic substance' that really poses a serious threat to British society is "¦ officially sponsored panic-mongering. As part of its build-up to war, the government is on the look-out for any event that can be used to corral a still deeply sceptical public into support for the conflict. The stabbing of special branch officer Stephen Oak in a raid in Manchester's Crumpsall area on January 14 is a perfect example. Both the political affiliation of those arrested and what they were planning (or not planning) to do is more or less irrelevant, as far as the establishment is concerned. Detective constable Oak is mourned as Britain's first home front casualty of the so-called 'war against terrorism' that began on September 11. So DC Oak becomes a victim of bin Laden, not of a botched police raid which actually uncovered no physical evidence of terrorist links or the manufacture of ricin, anthrax, cyanide gas, al-Qa'eda handbooks or even a pair of spiked Nikes. Blair has already tried to link war against Iraq with the 'war against terrorism' on the basis that it is inevitable that sooner or later some 'rogue state' will supply a terrorist group with weapons of mass destruction. In an echo of his master, assistant police commissioner David Veness offered the opinion after the Manchester incident that "An attack in Britain is inevitable. It is not a question of if, but when." The message is clear "¦ panic, panic, panic. And there can be no doubt that the propaganda offensive has only just begun. However, we not only need to build an anti-war movement that exposes the government's lies and fights every encroachment of civil liberties associated with the 'war against terrorism'. The anti-war movement must be broad but it must also be politically strong - otherwise it will shatter or collapse when things get really tough. That is why democracy, full debate and inclusivity are vital. Sadly the STWC has many shortcomings here. The SWP in particular is prone to sideline or suppress serious debate and has ensured that dissenting elements such as the CPGB and the Alliance for Workers' Liberty are kept as far away from leading committees as possible. This is not only an organisational weakness. It is a political weakness which, unless rectified, will wreak serious consequences. Certainly the STWC should not be viewed as any one faction's private property. What is at stake allows for no such childish nonsense. Communists and revolutionary socialists in the anti-war movement certainly bear a particular responsibility. It is up to us to supply the essential ingredient of emancipatory working class politics that alone can defeat the warmongers - on a permanent basis. The fight against war and the fight for socialism are in fact inseparable. And the more that movement becomes real, the more we can send islamic fundamentalism packing. Political islam is attractive for millions of desperate and alienated people around the world because at present there is no viable socialist alternative. Halting the US drive to war against Iraq through an anti-war movement that marches under the banner of international socialism will choke off an important source of the rationale for the islamists' existence - that the peoples of western Europe and the US are corrupt oppressors, indistinguishable in terms of outlook and politics from their rulers. There can be no doubting the anger and growing momentum in Britain and across the world against the war drive. February 15 will see millions of people simultaneously marching on the streets of New York, Oslo, Berlin, Bangkok, Ramallah, Rome, Cairo, Copenhagen, Manila, Amsterdam, Paris, Stockholm, Glasgow, Athens, Antwerp, Skopje, Barcelona, Helsinki and Belfast. In London up to 500,000 people are expected - this country's largest ever anti-war protest. This growing pressure from below finds expression in splits, divisions, doubts and vacillations above. Some oppose the war because it will act as recruiting sergeant for the ranks of islamist terrorist organisations. Others insist upon following a strictly UN path, while Blair and other warmongers are prepared if need be to risk going it alone along with the US. However, our task is to support neither the pacifist nor the sceptical wing of the bourgeois political establishment. We must pursue an independent working class agenda which links the fight against war to the fight for socialism. Tina Becker and Mark Fischer