The Forthcoming War and Public Opinion

Paul Flewers hatchet.job at
Thu Jan 2 14:08:46 MST 2003

Reading the responses to my original posting, I guess I placed insufficient
emphasis on the positive side of the lack of mass support for the Second
Gulf War. It means that the left, as small as we are, are in an advantageous
position to explain to people what this war is about. We won't be able to
stop it starting, nor will we be in a position to stop it half-way through,
but thinking people will be more open to debate than in the previous Gulf
War and the wars in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. We will be in a better
position to expose the imperialists for what they are, whether the war goes
well for the USA and Bush gets a puppet government in Baghdad and starts
bossing around the Middle East, or whether it goes badly for him and the
Middle East partly or even wholly goes up in flames. We will be in a better
position to expose this humanitarian intervention line that has been making
inroads in radical and some left circles.

In a sense apathy is better than jingoism, people not supporting an
imperialist adventure is better than their supporting it. However, the
political apathy that has been growing in Britain has a real down side that
cannot be ignored. People can only abstain from politics for a while, and at
some point or another they will react to problems around them, and if there
is not a political culture in existence in which ideas are discussed with a
left-wing input, mass politicisiation -- particularly if, as it is, the left
is weak -- can go immediately in a reactionary direction. Newly-politicised,
or re-politicised, people can move our way spontaneously to some degree or
another, and we can intervene successfully to ensure that they go our way
fully, but I feel that it's more likely that more will go towards right-wing

Already fascist groups have made some inroads, not major ones and not always
lasting ones to be sure, in broken-down demoralised white working-class
areas in Britain, often on the grounds, quite spurious but genuinely
believed by poor white unemployed folk, that non-white people in Britain are
better off, get more welfare, etc, than they do (the grass always seems
greener elsewhere). This often takes a strongly anti-Muslim line, mainly
because of historical reasons, but this could intensify if al Qaeda bombs go
off in Britain. Ironically, the main fascist party in Britain opposes the
Second Gulf War because it's being fought, they say, for Jewish-American
interests, but it's also very anti-Muslim as well. And so the fascists could
play an anti-American, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim line simultaneously, and
key into a crude politicisation of currently apathetic people should
something drastic occur, such as al Qaeda bombs, sudden oil price rises or
general economic crisis emerging from this war.

Bush's war offers the left some real opportunities, but we cannot be
complacent about the dangerous side of apathy.


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