For UK regime change

Main enemy is at home

Tony Blair's government faces a crisis of historic proportions. Blair rightly admits that he may be "risking everything" after boxing himself into a position of automatically supporting a US overthrow of Saddam Hussein. This subordinate - Atlanticist - strategy has not only pitted Blair against fellow European Union governments in Germany, France and Belgium and brought Nato to an impasse. Blair is also opposed by the overwhelming majority of the British people. Opinion polls put those supporting Blair's Iraq policy at less than 20% and falling. Over 40% solidly oppose a war - reflecting a growing body worldwide - and 40% would only be won over if Hans Blix discovers a "smoking gun", which is duly followed by a second United Nations security council resolution sanctioning the use of force. That adds up to an anti-war majority of over 80%. Disquiet in Russia, France and China - permanent members of the security council who have a veto - makes a second resolution far from certain. Though, needless to say, the US is going all out to change minds amongst self-interested big powers and tin pot dictatorships alike by doling out threats and largesse in equal measure. No one - not least George Bush's military advisers - know exactly what will happen if the US and Britain go ahead in a "coalition of the willing" and invade Iraq. Saddam Hussein's forces show no signs of repeating the disastrous blunder of 1991 and leaving their troop formations and armoured divisions exposed in the desert like sitting ducks, to be pounded by B52 carpet bombing and picked off by satellite-guided precision targeting. The war - so promises Saddam Hussein's propaganda machine - will be fought in the streets of Baghdad. The elite Special Republican Guard awaits, primed for urban warfare; trenches are ubiquitous; sniper emplacements, ambushes and booby traps are ready; and a large civilian militia is mobilised and pledged to repel any attack. Of course, it is quite possible that the Iraqi masses will suddenly find their opportunity to rise - the main enemy is at home. We communists fervently look towards such a scenario - first deal with the Ba'athist government, then, from a position of strength, the imperialist invaders. On their side US and British strategists forlornly hope for a general's coup and the surgical removal of Saddam Hussein and his immediate circle from above. But nationalism is an unpredictable and elemental force. Fear and hatred of the US could momentarily eclipse fear and hatred of Saddam Hussein. If that happens - and it might - the war against Iraq will be no pushover. Indeed taking a city the size and population of Baghdad - house by house - will cost US and British forces dear in terms of casualties. In such circumstances air control and tanks no longer prove decisive. As shown by the hell hole the Nazi armies fought themselves into at Stalingrad during World War II, such conditions can turn into a killing field for both sides. The anti-war movement in Britain has before it great opportunities and great responsibilities. Undoubtedly our available forces are being multiplied many times over and our strategy must be to link together as many struggles as possible against the war. An obvious example is the firefighters' dispute. However, mass demonstrations and even political strikes - as threatened by Bob Crow, Mike Rix, Billy Hayes and Paul Mackney - cannot be an end in themselves. Communists and their Socialist Alliance allies in the anti-war movement must not only concern themselves with economic demands - ie, calling for spending on pay, jobs, education and health, not the war. Stopping the war with Iraq must feed into a direct challenge to the United Kingdom's constitutional monarchy system. A system which makes such a war possible without any popular mandate - either in the form of a parliamentary vote or a referendum. Blair can, and in all probability will, simply resort to the royal prerogative. Communists and revolutionary socialists do not only concern themselves with convincing the advanced section in and around the working class that New Labour is rotten, and that the war on Iraq is not against tyranny, but is designed to consolidate the US-dominated new world order and give it control over vital oil reserves. The task of communists and the Socialist Alliance also consists in helping to mobilise the widest numbers - not just the solidly anti-war 40%, but the vacillating 40% - into an active movement which can learn through its own experience that the UK urgently needs a regime change. That means not a mere alteration of government through a general election, let alone a cabinet coup in which Blair is replaced by a Gordon Brown or a Peter Hain. The constitutional monarchy system - the monarch, the elected or unelected House of Lords, MI5, the presidential prime minister, appointed judges, the standing army, etc - must go. In its place must come a fully democratic federal republic of England, Scotland and Wales brought about using the most militant tactics objective circumstances allow. The establishment faces a huge problem. Neither of their main parties represents, let alone heads, the anti-war movement. That leaves the system - political and economic - extraordinarily vulnerable to those below. Iain Duncan Smith and his Tory Party is virtually indistinguishable from Blair and New Labour. If it is possible, they are even more craven in their attitude to the US. However there are the Liberal Democrats and Charles Kennedy. The Lib Dem leader opposes the war and he is set to march on February 15. Kennedy is though inconsistently anti-war. He would readily back an invasion of Iraq with a second UN resolution. More to the point, he is a danger within. The liberal wing of the ruling class is fearful that things might easily get out of hand. Kennedy is therefore looked to as a safe pair of hands. The Guardian believes that this "should be a Charles Kennedy moment" (editorial, February 8). Meanwhile the paper rounds on what it calls the "predictable leftist groups" who, its says, "attach themselves to every such protest": actually the left groups - the Socialist Alliance and especially the cadres of the Socialist Workers Party - can claim with justification much of the credit for building the February 15 demonstration. Either way, Kennedy is envisaged as an anti-war leader who can mislead the mass anti-war sentiment back into the fold of 'normal' politics. We should therefore give Kennedy neither credit nor a platform. To move things forward after February 15 the left has a particularly pressing responsibility of its own - overcoming our division into amateurish and narrow-minded confessional sects. Concretely what we communists will propose at the Socialist Alliance's March 15 AGM is timetabling a campaign for a democratic and effective Socialist Alliance party, which alone can develop enduring roots in the working class. Without building such a party - brought about in the first place by launching a common weekly or daily paper - popular anger against the war drive will inevitably be dissipated and diverted into various dead ends. Equipped with such a tried and tested weapon, we can not only force Britain out of the "coalition of the willing", but rid ourselves of the constitutional monarchy system. This would be a blow for extreme democracy and a step towards a new international order which knows neither war nor the exploitation of one by another. James Marshall