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Developing the anti-war movement

here is an interesting short piece, written just after sept 11.

Developing the anti-war movement.

Bob Myers.

These ideas are only partially thought through. I am circulating them because I think a clearer idea can better emerge from a collective discussion.

Underpinning a lot of the anti-war protest is a conception of US imperialism that is inadequate or wrong. It sees US imperialism as nothing different from a previous age when the great powers simply went about the world taking control of territories through military power. It is with this picture that the anti-war protestors denounce the US/UK attack on Afghanistan.

I am not here going to try to say what is wrong with this «imperialism». People who think this is an adequate picture needn't read on.

These anti-war protests do attract a growing number of people and this, of course, is very good. But it fails to connect with millions of other people, who are agitated by what is going on. And the inability to connect with this wider population will ensure that the anti-war movement has no effect on the course of events, neither able to impact on the present reality nor able to build a lasting movement for the future.

By attacking an «imperialism» of an earlier period the anti-war movement leaves Bush/blair et al to occupy the moral high ground in most people's thinking - for democracy against the Taliban etc. No amount of detailing the Bush/Blair hypocrisy or past attrocities of US policy will overcome this ( though this propaganda is both right and needed). All this leaves unanswered the question on everyone's mind «What to do to get a safe world?». Anti-war yes but pro what? Bush/Blair have a plan. We have nothing but words about «a better world» which cut little ice. And so with the cold war division of people at an end a new division between people opens up. The oppressed masses in huge parts of the world drawn to Islam and the rest supporting a war against terrorism.

Now it is very difficult to answer this question of how to break this alliance of people with Bush/ Blair/ Islam exactly because of the past failure of the revolutionary/radical/anti-capitalist movement. If the middle east oppressed turn to Islam it is above all because of the terible history of the «communist party». But the anti-Stalinist left also has to share some responsibility. My own ex- «party» - the WRP - in the past had terrible relations with many middle east dictators and dressed this up as «anti-imperialism». This rotten past means that the present war takes place with a huge gap between the kind of internationlist movement of practical solidarity that the Afghans (and other ) need and that which exists.

So there is no magic wand that can be waived to make contact with the anxious millions. But we must make a start and I think that means a radical shift in the anti-war cmapaign.

As demonstrations etc against war we must develop a practical initiative that allows all the concerned and anxious people to do something themselves to reach for the «safer» world rather than just being spectators as things get worse.

Why do we anti-capitalists leave the «humanitarian» campaign to the awful charities that cannot defend humanity because they are so tied to the governments that fund them. Isn't the need of Afghans for food, education material, medicine etc etc - isn't this our concern - not separated from a political campaign against capital and war but inseperably linked up with it.

I am not saying exactly what such an intitiative of practical solidarity should be. Maybe it depends on local campaign conditions - maybe we can develop an international framework but this is like the great campaign to fight fascism in spain in the 30's - this went from sending fighters right through to collecting food and clothes. Clearly here and now we are not talking about sending fighters.

For example people will know about the Revolutuionary association women of Afghanistan. I am not naming this group because I have a particular political brief for it but because its basic work - against Taliban, Northern Alliance, US bombing etc means that it is a voice of independence crying out for support. And I mean support, not using it to simply bolster our existing «anti-war» propaganda.

Against Bush/Blair's coalition to fight terrorism we should develop our own international co-alition that by its combination of political perspectives and practical solidarity begins to show people another world - of co-operation. Its only in such a practical initiative that we will be able to overcome the scepticism of the millions that they can do anything. Words and demonstrations alone are not enough.

So maybe- just as an example - we could start an international cmapaign to collect money, food, medicines, and educational material to be delivered to RAWA. How is this different from all the «humanitairan» efforts under way already? Because our inititiative would have at its heart the self organisation and mobilisation of people to give direct solidarity to a political element in Afghan society that sees a way out of the chaos - not something to simply feed hungry people so they can starve or be killed tomorrow. We are strengthnening the international movement for a different world.

The greatest impact of this campaign in the first place is not so much in Afghanistan itself but here in all our countries. To begin to change the outlook and activity of people here. In the midst of such a practical cmapaign we can invite speakers from RAWA etc to come and explain to people. Its in this way that people will best be able to hear what they say and to learn. Its in this framework of activity that the Pilger type propaganda about past crimes of US etc will really make sense and be understood.

Bob Myers.
Workers Aid

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