BLAIR GETS SHORT SHRIFT
by Elizabeth Farrell and Daphne Liddle
OVER A THOUSAND people gathered in Westminster Central Hall last Wednesday to voice their opposition to Anglo-American imperialism’s war drive in the first session of the “People’s Assembly”.
The Assembly, an initiative of the Stop the War Coalition, was attended by representatives from trade unions, peace groups, political parties, schools, churches, community groups - as chairperson Andrew Murray said “by everyone who opposes the war on Iraq”.
Murray opened the session by declaring that; “We wish to represent the views of the millions of people who marched on 15 February. The vast majority of people are against this war. Their voice will be heard.”
Veteran campaigner Tony Benn addressed the crowd, demanding “the restoration of democracy in Britain and the restoration of international law.”
He added that “The Prime Minister has released us from our moral obligation to accept decisions and we are now free to follow our consciences”.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow urged delegates to embark on a campaign of civil disobedience. He called for “the election of people who oppose the war” in the forthcoming council elections.
“We must do everything we can to stop this war”, Crow said. “If that means demonstrations, sit-downs on roads, occupying factories - so be it!”
The People’s Assembly was attended by a large delegation of schoolchildren, who all got a chance to speak. One said: “We are children it is our future that Bush and Blair are destroying. The media attacked us for walking out of school to protest last week. But the reason we did it is that we want to grow up in a peaceful world.”
Labour MP Alice Mahon also spoke. “There is no evidence whatsoever that Saddam Hussein is a threat to anyone outside his own country”, she declared. “I am against war with or without UN backing”
Alan Simpson MP, chair of Labour Against the War, sharply criticised Blair. “This will be a war to start a series of wars that will be about regime change”, he said. “I am not interested in regime change in Iraq”, Simpson continued, “I am interested in policy change in the Labour Party and in the Government.” He urged everybody opposed to the war to make their voices heard. “No struggle was ever won by those who walk away from them.”
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn told the Assembly that “a war against Iraq would be wrong, immoral and illegal. It would cost the lives of many very innocent people.”
George Galloway MP added “a British-US invasion would be an absolutely illegal act.”
But he was confident the people will be able to prevent it from happening. “We are many, they are few”, he said. “If they start the war we will stop the country, and we will change the regime in 10 Downing Street”.
The crowd cheered and clapped as Galloway shouted: “We say no to war and no to any Government that takes us into it”.
The assembly agreed to reconvene and adopted a statement condemning the war, calling for non-violent direct action and calling for Tony Blair to resign if war should go ahead. It agreed to form People’s Assemblies in towns and cities throughout Britain to organise and build the anti-war movement.
Prime Minister Tony Blair’s future now hangs by a thread, whatever he does next as discontent within the parliamentary Labour Party over the plans to attack Iraq became more open and confident.
Two weeks ago 122 MPs voted against Blair’s war plans. Then last weekend a Cabinet member, the International Development Secretary Clare Short, announced that she would resign if Blair led the country to war without a United Nations mandate.
In any normal situation, a Cabinet member openly defying the policies of the Prime Minister would be sacked at once. Blair has not sacked Ms Short – he dare not, he knows that too many others in his party think exactly the same way.
Labour MP Tam Dalyell voiced the feelings of many when he said: “I don’t think it is possible to exaggerate the degree of concern about the illegality of what is proposed.”
John McDonnell, speaking for the Socialist Campaign Group warned that Blair’s “reckless ambition” could tear the world apart. “It is time for the Prime Minister to consider his position in the interests not just of the country and his party but in the interests of maintaining the framework of world order.
“This is now more serious than one individual. This has gone beyond the career of Tony Blair. If the Prime Minister is not prepared to stand up to George Bush and call for a peaceful resolution to this crisis, he must make way for those who will.
“Blair is not the issue, the future of the UN is.”
A number of MPs have called on Blair to quit, including Hilton Dawson, MP for Lancaster and Wyre.
Tam Dalyell made it clear that if the attack on Iraq goes ahead without UN sanction and is supported by Blair, many constituencies will immediately call for a special conference of the Labour Party to be convened to consider Blair’s leadership.
Such a move will probably have the backing of all the major trade unions with members on the party’s national executive committee: the GMB, Amicus, Usdaw, GPMU, RMT, TGWU and Unison.
United States Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld almost gave Blair an escape route last Tuesday when he said that the US could quite easily go ahead and start the war all on its own, without British backing.
Labour MP Graham Allen commented: “The cat is out of the bag. They can do it without us and have given Tony Blair the chance to get out of the hole if he wishes.”
But instead of using this as an opportunity to back down, Blair was thrown into a flap and on the phone to Washington to make it clear he did not want Britain to be left out of the war plans.
Blair’s declared aim has been “regime change” in Iraq – he may soon find regime change much nearer to home.
Bush against the world
ANGLO-AMERICAN IMPERIALISM stands totally isolated in the world. France and Russia have made it clear that they are going to veto the war motion Tony Blair has cooked up with the Americans, if it doesn’t fall through lack of support on the UN Security Council. Bush and Blair’s emissaries are touring the world trying to browbeat and bribe six Third World countries currently on the Council to avoid diplomatic humiliation.
US imperialism only pays lip-service to UN institutions when it suits its purposes. When the Americans can use it to rubber-stamp their plans the world organisation is supported. When it is no longer of any further use to them, like now, it is ignored and discarded.
Tony Blair thinks he can do the same in his quest for a “moral majority” on the Security Council which this supreme hypocrite believes will fool people in his own party into believing that imperialism still has international authority to invade Iraq and seize its oil-fields. So while it is all right in Blair’s world for British and American imperialism to have a veto - a right the United States has exercised 73 times mainly to protect Israel - it is not okay for France, Russia or Peoplle’s China to do the same.
Bush, of course, doesn’t care. He represents the most reactionary and aggressive sections of the American ruling class: people ready to take the world to the brink in pursuit of world domination.
The doctrine of Hitler
They call it “the new world order”. It was coined when Bush’s father was in the White House soon after the Soviet Union fell. It was more than a Freudian echo of Adolf Hitler’s “new order for the world”. Like the Nazis, American imperialism demonises anyone who dares to stand up to them as savage and insane fanatics. Like the Nazis this is used to justify the torture of Afghan tribesmen at Bagram air base or the American concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay. Like the Nazis, Bush makes one demand after another on those American imperialism seeks to destroy. When the first demand is met another soon follows until eventually, like the Fuhrer, Bush’s “patience” is exhausted and war is threatened. Like the Nazis Bush has elevated the theory of “pre-emptive war” to justify American aggression and the surprise attack against anyone considered weaker than themselves. Like the Nazis, the American imperialists think they can rule the world but the Thousand Year Reich lasted little more than twelve. It ended in world war, the deaths of millions upon millions and destruction on a global scale.
Blair must go
The crisis in the Labour Party has now spread to the Government. Some junior ministerial officers have resigned. One member of the Cabinet, Claire Short, has publicly said that she will resign if Blair goes to war without a UN mandate - a policy she denounced as “reckless”. Opposition to the war against Iraq and unease and fear at the consequences that might follow if war comes is rising. There’s disgust at the spectacle of a British prime minister reduced to the role of run-around for George W Bush. There’s unease at the sight of the British army in the Gulf reduced to the role of hired hands for American imperialism like the sepoys of the old East India Company. Even sections of the bourgeoisie and the ruling class are opposed to the war and this is reflected in the position of the Liberal Democrats and the small but growing band of Tory MPs. But Blair & Co have determined to serve one section of the ruling class, the most reactionary and imperialist exploiters who believe that British imperialism’s world-wide interests can only be protected by the might of the American armed forces.
Tony Blair has turned his back on parliament, the people and the Labour Party he claims to lead. The time has come to turn our backs on him.
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