Re An open letter to the Communist Party of Australia

Peter Boyle peterb at
Thu Jul 31 22:30:28 MDT 2003

Below is a draft of an article submitted to Green Left

Unity and the anti-war movement

The anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima takes place in a
year that has been marked by the biggest mass anti-war
protests ever to take place before a war had been launched.
Some 30 million people took part in the February 14-16
international day of action against the war on Iraq making
it the biggest ever global protest against an imperialist
war. In Australia, more than a million took to the streets
that weekend.

After the invasion, the war seemed to gain more support in
the US and Australia. However, more and more of the
imperialists’ lies about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction
were exposed while their occupation continued to provoke
resistance from Iraqis. Just three months after the
invasion, this unraveling of the justification for the war –
combined with the mounting death toll of US and British
soldiers occupying – provoked another shift in public
opinion in the US.

A Gallup poll published on July 1, for instance, found that
US citizens were increasingly dubious about the benefits of
the war on Iraq. In mid-April, after the US had taken
control of Baghdad, 73% said it had been “worth going to war
over” with 23% disagreeing. Three months later, 56% of
respondents said the war was “worth” it, while 42%

In most other Western countries, there had never been
majority support for the war. In Australia, even after the
collapse of the Baathist regime, the polls showed the
population evenly divided. A Newspoll poll published in the
July 22 Australian found that 67% believed that the Howard
government had misled them on Iraq’s weapons, and 36% said
that they thought it had done so knowingly.

As the Iraqi opposition to occupation continues to grow, and
the body-bags are returned in greater numbers, more
questions are being asked – particularly in the US which has
some 146,000 troops in Iraq and which is currently spending
more than US$3.9 billion a month on its occupation force. A
new coalition, Military Families Speak Out, has just
launched a campaign – Bring the Troops Home Now! – in
conjunction with various Vietnam War veterans’ groups. This
type of outcry from the troops (who have been threatened
with courts-martial) only happened at the height of the
Vietnam War in the 1960s. We can expect that the
anti-occupation sentiment will grow and provide the anti-war
movement with new openings to galvanise mass dissent. Our
challenge is to defeat the imperialists’ attempts to justify
keeping their armies in the Middle East and in their other
staging posts for aggression, and make sure that future such
aggressions have as little popular support as possible.

Splitting the movement

In this context, it’s incomprehensible that some leaders of
the peace movement in Sydney are trying to split the

Two of the three convenors of Sydney’s successful Walk
Against the War Coalition – Hannah Middleton (Communist
Party of Australia) and Bruce Childs (former ALP senator) –
organised an invitation-only meeting on July 7 to set up a
new organisation, the Sydney Peace and Justice Coalition
(SPJC). They did not advise the third coalition convenor,
Nick Everett (Democratic Socialist Party), nor many of the
coalition’s 66 affiliates of this meeting.

The leaders of SPJC claim that difficulties working with
members of the DSP, the International Socialist Organisation
and Socialist Alternative prompted the split. The reality
was that, despite the heterogenous nature of the Walk
Against the War Coalition, a number of very impressive mass
rallies were organised, sometimes in quick succession such
as happened after the bombing war began on March 20.

Despite disagreements on a variety of tactical and strategic
matters, the coalition held together because most affiliates
felt there was a political imperative to maximise opposition
opinion to the Iraq war and because disunity the previous
year had clearly limited the movement’s political potential.
(Three peace groups – the Palm Sunday Committee, Network for
Peace and No War on Iraq – decided in September 2002 to form
the Walk Against War Coalition.)

SPJC claims to have approached the No War on Iraq group for
an “amicable reoorganisation of the peace movement” and that
it “rejected this approach”. In fact, a fait accompli was
offered to No War – to take a third of the money, accept
that Walk Against the War was to be wound up without a
meeting of its affiliates and accept exclusion from the new
group. This is hardly “amicable”.

The right to form new organisations is not in question here.
What is, is the exclusion of some forces on political
grounds. Any successful united front organisation – such as
the Walk Against the War – comprise a range of groups and
individuals with different political outlooks but which are
united on a political course, in this case to stop the war
on Iraq.

This, as we know, wasn’t achieved. However, the raison
d’etre for the movement hasn’t disappeared. Its next focus
has to oppose US occupation and promote self-determination
for the Iraqi people.

A debate has arisen – here and overseas – over the role, if
any, of the UN in Iraq today. No-one would disagree with the
UN putting more effort into providing practical assistance
to get basic services functioning across Iraq or to assist
in ensuring free and democratic elections. But this does not
require the blue berets.

The founders of the SPJC have placed the UN Charter at the
centre of their founding statement which is written in vague
enough terms to be interpreted in a variety of ways. It
supports a “strong UN oversight of the transition to Iraqi
self-rule and national sovereignty”, but says nothing about
opposing the US occupation of Iraq.

UN debate

The peace movement, here and internationally, is discussing
its stand on this question. In the current context,
promoting a greater UN role in Iraq simply provides greater
cover for the US occupation forces. In fact, the UN is
already complicit in the occupation of Iraq and the carve-up
and privatisation of its vast oil resources.

In this debate, it’s useful to remind ourselves of the
precise role of the UN in Iraq. At the behest of the US, it
was responsible for enforcing 12 years of sanctions that
took more than 1.5 million Iraqi lives and caused untold
misery and destruction.

The US, Britain and Australia flouted international law by
invading Iraq. But the UN refused to call the invaders to
account as the bombing started. On May 22, the UN Security
council adopted UN resolution 1483 which legitimised the
US-British occupation of Iraq and approved the entire
dismantling of the Iraqi nation and the looting of its
resources by US multinationals.

The European governments calling for UN troops to go to Iraq
– France and Germany – capitulated to the US once the
bombing had begun with French president Jaques Chirac
announcing that France would assure smooth passage of US
bombers across its airspace, and the German government
stating it hoped for the rapid collapse of resistance to the
invasion. Russian president Alexander Putin also expressed
his support for a decisive coalition victory in Iraq.

Now, as the casualties mount (some 243 US troops have been
killed) and the costs of occupation increase, some US
officials want other countries to share the load. Washington
officials are currently touring the world trying to force US
allies such as El Salvador, India and Pakistan to foot some
of the bill and send troops.

So long as no real power is ceded by the US in its
UN-approved occupation of Iraq, and as long of the overall
framework of resolution 1483 is maintained, the US has
everything to gain from an ex-post facto blessing by the UN
of its aggression and occupation.

Having said that, the difference over the role of the UN in
Iraq should not be used as a pretext to split the peace
movement. The fact that there have always been differences
over this question, and many others, are no grounds to split
what had become a powerful social movement.

There is broad agreement on calling on the US occupation
forces to leave Iraq, and for a rapid transition to Iraqi
self-rule. There is also broad agreement to campaign for
freedom and justice in Palestine, to eliminate all weapons
of mass destruction and to end the arms race and arms trade.

But placing agreement with a particular perspective on the
role of the UN in Iraq as a pre-requisite for joining the
SPJC unnecessarily restricts broad unity in the peace
movement. In Walk Against War, differences over these sorts
of questions did not restrict the coalition’s ability to
call and organise the major anti-war demonstrations this
year and last.

Those interested in supporting the call for a united peace
movement can ring Nick Everett on 0409 762 081 and should
come to the Walk Against War meeting at Trades Hall on
August 18 at 6.30pm.

[Pip Hinman is a member of the Democratic Socialist Party
and has represented Action in Solidarity with Asia and the
Pacific in the Walk Against the War Coalition.]

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