The kind of antiwar movement we need

Michael Keaney michael.keaney at
Thu Nov 28 06:46:01 MST 2002

Johannes asks:

Does this mean we should join Schroeders SPD, white-wash German imperialism
and forget everything Karl Liebknecht has taught us where to find our enemy.


It is exactly because of his unpopularity that Schroeder has to use
oooposition to the US in a demagogic way.


This is a false dichotomy and does not reflect at least what I understand
Lou to be saying, which is that we should not close doors to those elements
within bourgeois left parties that are willing to work against the war as
part of a coalition. I don't think for a second that Lou is saying that
anti-war campaigners in Germany should *join* or support the SPD. In
Britain, as I've argued before, leftists should support the courageous
efforts of people like Alan Simpson, Jeremy Corbyn, Ken Livingstone et al.
Whatever their flaws, the fact that they are refusing to fall into line is
something to be applauded and supported. Endorsement of George Galloway is
not an endorsement of the Labour Party, and certainly not of its leadership.

Secondly, US imperialism is hegemonic, and shapes and conditions those
sub-imperialisms with which it competes and collaborates. Attacking
imperialism at its head seems to me to be a good strategy, and while
nationalism is not exactly my cup of tea the fact that others might adopt a
"national sovereignty" line in their opposition to US diktat at least opens
up the question of just what are our leaders for? Or, rather, who are they
for? The existence of formally separate states muddies the waters of
internationalism unfortunately, but we must somehow try to reconcile our
internationalism with the fact that the state-defined space within which we
find ourselves is that in which we must act. And in Britain, certainly, and
I imagine Germany too, there are strong grounds for challenging the
capitulation to US imperialism over and above the expressed will of the
British and German peoples -- the latter most emphatically, given Schröder's
victory on the back of his stated opposition to the Iraqi "adventure", as he
called it.  If nothing else it highlights the contradictions at the heart of
bourgeois democracy as it stands in 2002 -- i.e., that, all claims to
popular sovereignty and electoral accountability aside, bourgeois democracy
yields precious little of either.

And, regarding the discussion of left "leaders" in Britain, Domhnall is
absolutely correct to distinguish between the formal leadership of
organisations and movements and that offered at a moral level by the likes
of Tony Benn and George Galloway. As Phil Ferguson has highlighted here
before, it was individual left social democrats like Benn and Livingstone,
and not the "leaders" of, say, Militant, who were challenging British
imperialism vis-a-vis the Malvinas/Falklands by campaiging against a British
military adventure. Benn's recent sell-out (as in ticket sales) nationwide
tour has been quite phenomenal, considering his age, his lack of an
organisational base, his utter sincerity and his ability to reach out to all
age groups capable of getting involved in any political movement. That tells
us something about the widespread hunger for some sort of left political
alternative in Britain today. But it also tells us a lot about the
inadequacy of existing parties whose traditional organisational models are
geared to fight the battles of the 1920s (and lose) when instead they should
have long ago abandoned what has been referred to here as the "Zinovievist"
modus operandi.

Michael Keaney

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