After the war: Issues for the movement

Submitted by Anon on 1 May, 2003 - 11:31

It is good that Saddam's totalitarian regime has been broken. It is bad that it was done by the US/UK invaders, in their own way, pursuing their own interests.

Out of the anti-war movement we should now build a movement in solidarity with the working people of Iraq, upholding the democratic rights of the peoples of Iraq and, especially, the struggles and the rights to organise of the workers of Iraq.

To do that, we must first recognise that most of the ideologues in our anti-war movement got the war wrong.*

They said 'victory to the resistance'; or 'victory to Iraq'; or 'victory to the people of Iraq; defeat US/UK'. Or they applauded efforts by 'Iraq's beleaguered appeal over the heads of the reactionary Arab rulers... [for] support for Iraq'. Or they just condemned the brutality of the invasion while being quiet about Saddam's regime and the position of the Kurds.

In one way or another, they presented Saddam Hussein as fighting a national liberation war against the US and UK, one that should be supported even though they rejected Saddam's politics (as they did). They now stand convicted of supporting an abstraction 'Iraq', or 'the resistance' as against the actual people of Iraq.

Would it be good if Saddam should now miraculously reappear with strong forces and drive out the US and UK, reconquering Baghdad, Basra, Mosul and Kirkuk, repeating what he did after he suppressed the uprising of 1991? It would not.

'No to war, no to Saddam', support for the 'third camp' of workers and oppressed peoples against both warring powers, was the right approach. By siding with Saddam in the war, the ideologues fell down on their internationalist duty to the peoples of Iraq, discredited themselves with any thinking person, and wrong-footed themselves for the tasks of solidarity with the peoples of Iraq now facing us.

Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a regional-imperialist state. It represented the rule of a section of the Sunni Muslim Arabs of the central areas over the Shi'ites of the South and the Kurds of the north. It sought to grab other areas: Kuwait (1990), territory from Iran (1980-8). It sought to dominate the Gulf. By 2002 it was a very weakened, shattered imperialism. The weakness explains why US hyper-imperialism felt so confident about going to war, and why victory for Saddam was always improbable. It did not make victory for Saddam desirable.

A lot of diplomatic agitation now will be around how much role the United Nations has in Iraq, or whether the USA will freeze the UN out.

The Iraqi people will need massive aid to reconstruct their country now, and it is reasonable that they demand it both from the United Nations which imposed sanctions on them, and the USA.

It would be wrong for anti-war activists to get ourselves drawn into fighting the corner of France, Russia and Germany (all with their own records of crimes) against the USA.

The UN is not a democratic world government. It is a diplomatic thieves' kitchen. The peoples of Iraq should decide their future – not the USA, and not the UN.

For decades the Iraqi working class has been suppressed and denied a voice. From within the Ba’athist state we have not been able to hear even the reports of sporadic and persecuted strikes and demonstrations which are audible from, say, Iran, or were audible from the USSR in its later years.

But the Iraqi working class also has great traditions. We cannot know what legacy and memories remain. But Iraq certainly has a large working class. Iraq has the raw materials for a powerful workers' movement, which could be leader in organising a democratic accommodation between the different communities in Iraq, and which could upset all the USA's plans. .

Solidarity with the Iraqi workers' movement in the first place, with the right to organise trade unions and political parties, should be a priority.

The best way to build the anti-war movement was always through class struggle 'stopping work to stop the war!

This war, like dozens before it, was driven by the rival desires of big capitalist interests for a world, or regions, cleared of all obstacles to their profit-making.

To cut the roots of war we must fight to replace capitalism, driven by production for profit and competition for maximum profit. The alternative is a world regulated by human (in the first place working-class) solidarity and by consistent democracy in economic as well as political life.

The way to that world of solidarity and democracy lies through international working-class solidarity in struggle now. Anti-war activists can take that cause forward now through campaigns like No Sweat, which unites workers across the world in fighting sweatshop labour conditions and multinational exploitation.

Tony Blair's public standing will be boosted by the US/UK's relatively easy victory. There is no point in denying that. It does not at all follow that he can regain his previous monarchic authority in the labour movement.

A 'Labour Against the War' conference on 29 March, with 350 activists, many of them delegates from union branches and Constituency Labour Parties, voted three to one against strong opposition from the platform to campaign for no confidence in Blair as Labour Party leader.

It also took up the fact that union representatives on Labour's National Executive, including those from anti-war unions like RMT, CWU and UNISON, backed Blair slavishly throughout the runup to war and the war itself.

The struggle for democracy and accountability, and to build rank and file movements, in the trade unions, is an essential follow-up to our anti-war activity.

After the war, we must continue the struggle against the system of global profiteering which generated this war, will generate others if we don't overthrow it, and exploits and pauperises all across the world.

No Sweat builds solidarity with sweatshop workers across the world organising for their rights. In 2001 it brought Indonesian trade union leader Dita Sari to tour Britain, and has since collected thousands of pounds for her movement. Last year it brought Mexican trade unionists from Nike subcontractor Kukdong/ Mexmode on tour. Now it is campaigning in solidarity with Mexican workers at a subcontractor for Puma.

Contact No Sweat at,, 07904 431 959 or P O Box 36707, London SW9 8YA.

  • Note: the slogan 'victory to the resistance' was the Socialist Workers Party's. 'Victory to Iraq' came from Workers' Power; 'victory to the people of Iraq; defeat US/UK...' from the CPGB (Weekly Worker). The praise for efforts by 'Iraq's beleaguered appeal over the heads of the reactionary Arab rulers... [for] support for Iraq' was by Resistance (sponsored by the ISG). The Revolutionary Democratic Group had a similar attitude to Workers' Liberty; the Socialist Party's attitude, although somewhat blurred, also seems to have be closer to ours than to the 'victory to Iraq' camp.

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