Organise people's assemblies

George Bush and Tony Blair lost the diplomatic battle hands down. No UN security council majority. No second resolution. So the dogs of war have been unleashed without UN legitimacy. The first casualty of Gulf War II is the UN and the post-1945 world order. Unsurprisingly Saddam Hussein has not vacated his marble palaces and opted for the precarious life of the isolated exile. Nor have his pampered sons. Attacks began on Thursday morning. Within a week or two the thousands of cruise missiles and Moab, JDAM, bunker busters and other bombs - smart and dumb - will have done their dirty business. Targets - military and civilian - across Iraq will lie in smouldering ruins. Of course, most victims - and it is predicted there will be well over 100,000 of them - are not going to be members of the Ba'athist elite. Rank and file soldiers and ordinary citizens will bear the brunt. Next comes the land invasion and the drive to capture Baghdad. General Tommy Franks, the US commander, promises a lightening victory. Solely due to the US the 'coalition of the willing' possesses overwhelming military superiority. In hardware terms this is the early 21st century confronting the antiquated 1970s. However, war is an art. Not a science. Iraqis face conquest, not liberation. The morale of the Republican Guard might instantly collapse. On the other hand, maybe they will put up stiff resistance. Then again, the people could find the opportunity to deal with the Saddam Hussein regime using their own, revolutionary, methods. Would Bush order his troops to crush a liberated Baghdad? Politics decide. Quite clearly this war is not about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, supposed links with Osama bin Laden or any threat to the US or Britain. The US seeks undisputed global hegemony. After September 11 2001 the so-called war on terrorism excused massive increases in arms spending and the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive military strikes. Iraq was picked upon not because of its military strength. Rather because of profound weakness. The country suffered near total defeat in the 1991 Gulf War. Since then sanctions have strangled the life out of Iraq and the impoverished country has been effectively dismembered - a Kurdish autonomous region and northern and southern no-fly zones. Moreover, because of vast oil riches Iraq can pay for its own conquest. That is all Clare Short's much vaunted 'humanitarian' programme of 'reconstruction' amounts to. No wonder millions flood the streets. Estimates for February 15 are between 30 and 100 million worldwide. This unprecedented people's movement has exposed the severe limitations of what commonly passes for democracy. Not least in Britain. The Guardian reports that only 38% support the war. Despite the patriotic fever being fuelled by the government and the media, those who oppose it stand at 44% (March 18). The Sun gives a much bigger, 63%, figure. Yet in the House of Commons Blair got a thumping majority - 396 to 217 - thanks in part to the support of Iain Duncan Smith's Tories. So there exists a yawning democratic deficit. What should we in the anti-war party do? Relying on a totally unrepresentative parliament to stop the war was never on. Nor can we wait for the next scheduled general election. That will be far too late. Nor can we bank on forcing an unscheduled general election. The Westminster parliament is only quasi-democratic. It exists not to express, but to block, frustrate and hollow out popular initiative and control from below. The Stop the War Coalition's 'numbers strategy' and policy of playing down or sidelining political differences have failed too. In London two million marched. A month later Britain is at war. Furthermore, those irresponsibly given a platform and handed an undeserved anti-war reputation by the STWC have predictably betrayed. Charles Kennedy says he will loyally rally to the flag "when fighting commences". Likewise the Daily Mirror "unequivocally" supports "our servicemen and women" (March 18). In other words the anti-war party has seen capitalist allies fall away and return to the patriotic fold. Good riddance to bad rubbish. The anti-war party must be quite clear. Our main enemy is a home! Hence we prefer the defeat of the British military to their victory. Demand Britain and the US out of Iraq! Does that mean backing Saddam Hussein? Certainly not. Communists offer the Ba'athist regime support of no kind whatsoever. Stopping the war is bound up with and inexorably leads to a constitutional challenge. After all, we constitute the majority. Getting rid of Blair - as stressed by the Socialist Workers Party - is not enough. He would eagerly be replaced by another presidential prime minister - a Gordon Brown or a Charles Clarke. Britain needs something much more radical and enduring - regime change. The anti-war party is not only against war and imperialism. The anti-war party is implicitly a movement for democracy. That is why we must present our alternative to the Westminster charade. Communists say: annual elections, the recallability of all elected representatives, cap their pay to the level of the average skilled worker, abolish the second chamber, sack Elizabeth Windsor and abolish all royal powers. For us this programme is only a beginning. While there are wage slaves, the battle for democracy remains uncompleted. A cabinet coup or a parliamentary bill that relies on the House of Lords and royal assent cannot achieve that. Militant, extra-parliamentary methods are required and are palpably the order of the day. So far, school and college students have brilliantly and inspiringly taken the lead. Their strikes and occupations serve as a social barometer, but cannot deliver the decisive blow. For that the organised core of the working class must act. However, the working class moves at a slower, more deliberate, pace before committing itself. But when it does ... Our main efforts must be directed at encouraging the working class. One real step, however modest - a lunchtime meeting - is worth any number of empty resolutions demanding that the TUC call the general strike. That necessitates higher and higher forms of organisation. The anti-war party needs its own media - in this period of greatly accelerated politics that means a daily paper. Criminally the SWP and its fellow Workers Power, Alliance for Workers' Liberty and International Socialist Group liquidationists effectively voted to close down the Socialist Alliance for the duration. Other avenues must therefore be found. And, having gone along with the March 12 People's Assembly for Peace, the SWP seems bent on dropping that excellent initiative. Yet here is the very type of body that can be generalised from the top to the bottom, used as the national debating forum for the anti-war party and, as their social weight grows, begin to parallel parliament as a centre of power. The STWC cannot do that. It has been frozen as a single-issue campaign. That is why communists say, organise people's assemblies everywhere - schools, colleges, workplaces, boroughs, towns and cities. Jack Conrad