BRITAIN: ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT MEETS TO PLAN CAMPAIGN AGAINST ATTACK ON IRAQ

Ben Courtice benj at connexus.net.au
Mon Jan 13 03:05:45 MST 2003


I'm not a supporter of Workers' Power, but I thought the news might be interesting. This
from www.workerspower.com

Ben Courtice

>>BRITAIN: ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT MEETS TO PLAN CAMPAIGN AGAINST ATTACK ON IRAQ
     Workers Power Global, London

On Saturday 11 January 500 delegates and observers from the British Stop the War coalition
came together for its first conference in London. The date turned out to be highly
significant as that very next day the aircraft carrier Ark Royal was leaving Portsmouth
for the gulf as part of the British preparation for invasion of Iraq.

The Stop the War coalition in Britain has been an undoubted success, not only organising
the September 28th 400,000 strong demo against the war, but in drawing in significant
numbers of British trade unions at a national and regional level into the coalition, as
well as important Muslim organisations.

The conference applauded the report of Scottish train drivers refusing to move a Defence
ministry train carrying munitions for troops heading for the middle east. The defence
ministry was forced to send the arms by road after some delay rather than confront the
drivers. This is the first direct action by trade unionists against a British governments'
war plans since London dockers blocked arms heading to anti-Bolshevik forces in the
1920's.

The conference itself represented the local organisations of the Stop the War movement. A
short set of rules for the coalition was adopted, including a roughly annual conference
and election of a steering committee. A considerable number of resolutions were submitted
and debated in an open and democratic fashion.

An attempt by the Alliance for Workers Liberty to expel the Muslim Association of Britain
from the coalition was roundly defeated. The AWL argued that because the Muslim
Association was associated with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and was 'anti-woman, and
anti-working class' the stop the War movement should not allow them to participate. A MAB
representative in reply denied they were anti-women or anti working class. In the debate
that followed the Chair, Andrew Murray, speaking for the steering committee, made clear
that the coalition was a united front of various groups coming together around key, action
demands.

These include no war with Iraq, ending sanctions, fighting the racist backlash against
minority communities and defending civil liberties. The coalition, comrade Murray pointed
out, was a secular movement and the MAB, like other groups in the campaign, had made no
attempt to impose its own views on the campaign but actively participated in support of
the coalitions activities and demands.

A black Fire Brigades Union representative drew the connections between Britain's attempt
to invade Iraq and its role around the world as imperialist oppressor, especially in the
Caribbean. Later former Algerian resistance leader Ahmed Ben Bella arrived to rapturous
applause.

He spoke about the growing inequality brought about by globalisation and reminded
delegates that General Motors now has an income of $122bn per year, Exxon $150bn while
Egypt's annual income is only $33bn. He asked which was worse: Bin Laden's reactionary
cause or the fact that 35 million people who die from hunger each year in the South due to
inequality under capitalism.

Other speakers included George Galloway, a Labour MP with a track record of opposing
sanctions on Iraq. Galloway gave an extremely optimistic view of the strength of
opposition to intervention in Iraq in the Parliamentary Labour Party, claiming at one
point that not only 'hundreds' of Labour MPs opposed the war, but that the Cabinet was
'united against Blair' and against war. If ministers are having doubts it is only because
of the massive opposition in the country to tamely following unilateral action of George
Bush. If the US bullies or bribes the UN Security council into going along with an attack,
most of these 'opposition MPs' will become warmongers over night.

Delegates from all around Britain reported on the growing local protests and actions
against the war. One delegate reported that the anti-war protest at Portsmouth docks had
been met with no hostile reaction from the families of the sailors bound for the Gulf,
reflecting the widespread public unease against the war which extends even to individual
soldiers and their relatives.

Local delegates called not only for marches, a European wide day of demonstrations is
planned for February 15th, but also for stepping up direct action against British and US
bases in Britain. The giant Fairford base which has recently been upgraded, now hosts
stealth bombers as well as B52s to carry out bombing raids against middle east targets.
This base has already been a target of a 5000 strong demonstration and short sit down
actions on its runways.

Delegates went away to organise actions and teach-ins in workplaces, schools and colleges
and on the streets - the aim to stop Bush and Blair's war against Iraq.
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