Our democracy against their war

Tony Blair is fighting for war against Iraq on two fronts. Meanwhile he and his government look increasingly beleaguered and vulnerable to the growing anti-war party outside parliament. At home Blair and his ministers have given up trying to win the battle of ideas. Claims of Iraqi links with al Qa'eda, supposed stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons hidden in presidential palaces, the pretence that Saddam Hussein poses a threat to civilisation akin to Adolf Hitler, etc carry no conviction. Nor do these lies persuade anyone with a modicum of intelligence. So the panic-mongering. The mock "dirty bomb and gas" exercise on London's underground system on Sunday March 23 is designed not to protect the population, but scare them into submission. Abroad there is desperation too. Every means is being employed to secure what is for Blair a vital second UN security council resolution. In Chile, Pakistan, Mexico, Angola, Guinea, Cameroon, etc, arms are being twisted, bribes offered, threats made. Yet the signs do not augur well for the warmongers. France and Russia - permanent security council members - have consistently pleaded for Hans Blix and the weapons inspection team to be given more time. Conceivably the joint US-UK-Spain resolution will fail to gain a UN majority. The reason for this sudden outbreak of pacifism amongst the world's rulers - big and small - is undeniable. There is unprecedented mass opposition. George Bush its therefore losing allies, not winning them. The US-led "coalition of the willing" basically consists of Britain. Italy, Spain, Australia and the "new Europe" of Poland and the Czech Republic are due to make little more than token contributions. Addullah Gul, Turkey's Justice and Development prime minister, has repeatedly failed to deliver a majority permitting US forces to launch a northern front from Turkish territory. Unless the 11th hour 'request' from the country's military high command advising another vote - to be followed by a resounding 'yes' - is taken up, US general Tommy Franks will have to fall back on to plan B, which involves ground troops invading Iraq from Kuwait alone. A strategic blow. At home around 57% of the population oppose an invasion of Iraq with or without a UN resolution. Another 30% would only support a war with a UN go-ahead. Never before has a British government faced such overwhelming domestic opposition, as the armed forces poise ready for war. As a direct result the parliamentary Labour Party is split down the middle. The call by Labour Against the War for an emergency Labour Party conference must be supported. Likewise a special congress of the TUC. If bureaucratically blocked, the minority of militant trade unions - along with sympathetic MPs, the constituency grassroots and the whole of the left - should press ahead with a Real Labour conference. The aim - thoroughly purge the labour movement of Blairism and the pro-capitalist contagion, widen still further the anti-war party and give it industrial teeth. Blair now cuts a pathetic figure. A sorry 2003 combination of 1931 and 1956 - Ramsay MacDonald and Anthony Eden. The country is against his foreign adventure. In parliament Blair relies on the Tories. If things go wrong in Iraq militarily he will soon become a mere historical footnote. The anti-war party has agreed the next stage of the global campaign - an international meeting took place in London on March 1 with representatives from 26 countries. Blockades of military installations and the blacking of munitions have been called for. Simultaneous protests are due on March 8 - International Women's Day. Then on March 15 there will be demonstrations, protests and mass civil disobedience in solidarity with the 'Converge on the White House' demonstration in Washington. March 21 has been designated a day of workplace assemblies and other forms of industrial action. No-one knows exactly when the war against Iraq will start. Not even George W Bush. Though the expectation is some time in the second half of this month. Demonstrations in every town and city are to happen the day hostilities break out. They will culminate the following Saturday in the capital cities. The aim in London must surely be to double the numbers of February 15. The war drive against Iraq has exposed Britain as quasi-democratic. Parliament is cumbersome, arcane and no longer represents the people. Nor can the people impose their will by recalling MPs or demanding a referendum. As everyone knows, Blair will in all probability not even bother with a parliamentary vote. Constitutionally he can simply use the royal prerogative. The March 12 people's assembly organised by the Stop the War Coalition in Central Hall Westminster is therefore a great opportunity. This, our counter-conference, must of course be used to attack the predatory aims of the war party and the lack of a popular mandate. The assembly for peace must also grow into a people's parliament. A forum where the anti-war party meets, debates, decides our tactics and strategy and monitors both successes and shortcomings. The anti-war party is a movement for democracy. Our protests are against the war but also against the undemocratic way in which we are ruled. Britain urgently needs regime change. That means nothing as prosaic as the end of Blair. Already one hears excited talk amongst Westminster insiders of replacing him with Gordon Brown - or a 'stop Brown' candidate, such as Charles Clarke or Alan Milburn. That would be a case of 'The presidential prime minister is dead - long live the presidential prime minister'. What is needed is a genuine alternative, a thorough-going democratisation. Stop the war and sweep away the whole constitutional monarchy system. Sack Elizabeth Windsor and abolish all royal powers. No to a reformed House of Lords. No to any kind of second chamber. Make the judiciary democratically accountable. Yes to the right to self-determination for Scotland and Wales. Yes to unity in a federal republic of England, Scotland and Wales. Extend democracy again and again - annual elections, the right to recall all elected representatives, limit their pay to the average skilled worker. Replace the standing army with popular militias. Introduce workers' control over industry, transport, administration and banking. Demand not formal, but substantive, equality between men and women. As proven by history, the only consistent fighter for such a programme of extreme democracy is the working class. Suffice to say, full democratisation creates the conditions necessary for working class self-liberation and the world leaving behind once and for all the bloodsucking, decaying and crisis-ridden capitalist system that engenders and normalises the horror of war. Jack Conrad