Global marches put power on the agenda
15/2: Global marches put power on the agenda
15 February 2003, the day that millions and millions of people around the globe, marched against an Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq, will come to be seen as a turning point in world history.
In Europe alone, more than six million demonstrated against the warmongers led by Bush’s White House and the New Labour government under the increasingly demented Blair. The million and more who marched in Britain made it the largest protest of its kind in the country’s history.
In 600 cities and towns across the world, ordinary people came out to reject the lies and propaganda that Bush and Blair have used to try to “justify” an invasion of Iraq. The significance of what happened on the streets will reverberate in government circles everywhere.
What will frighten political leaders is a willingness shown by masses of people to act independently in order to shape the course of history. It is not a revolution, but neither is it just an anti-war movement. The message rang out loud and clear: people will not sit back and allow regimes in Washington and London to start a war for the basest of motives with totally unpredictable consequences for humanity.
For all Blair’s talk about a “humanitarian” war to save the Iraqi people from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, or the need to disarm Iraq, people know that the true reasons behind an invasion concern access to markets and energy resources. The aim is to make Iraq safe for corporate-led globalisation.
As for bringing democracy to the country, even the American-financed Iraqi opposition have condemned this as a fraud. The United States government intends to impose a series of military governors in the country’s administration while retaining the present structures of the Iraqi regime.
What happened on 15/2 was itself a reflection of the globalisation process. A global consciousness has emerged as a result of the closer integration of economic and political processes internationally. That is why we have a truly global response to the threat of war.
Neither was this a protest in the traditional sense. Instead it was a political statement by millions that they reject the authority and legitimacy of national governments, particularly in Britain and America but also in Spain and Italy, where far-right governments back the war plans. Three million took to the streets in Spain and more than a million marched in Rome.
In countries like Britain, people are questioning the democratic value of a political system that blatantly ignores the views of the vast majority. It is clear that fewer and fewer people believe what New Labour says on a whole range of issues. Most, for example, think that the presence of the army on the streets of West London last week was part of an orchestrated campaign to scare people rather than stop a terror attack.
War cannot be halted by protest and marches, however big they are. For war is a symptom of a deep-going crisis within the capitalist social system itself. Profit and war go together, especially at times of economic and political crisis like we have today. Bush and Blair are determined to have their war, come what may. The talk among capitalist construction corporations, for example, is of who will win the lucrative contracts for “reconstructing” Iraq after America and Britain have finished bombing the country to pieces.
The potential clearly exists for going further than protest. When people take to the streets in the numbers seen, it is a clear indication that the old political order is in difficulties. This breaking point is even reaching into international institutions like the United Nations and Nato. We have to turn our minds to what should replace a political and economic system that is essentially undemocratic and based on exploitation for profit.
Answers to these pressing issues do not emerge spontaneously out of marches. But the ground is fertile for going beyond the status quo. Many of those who marched in London voted New Labour in 1997, anticipating a radical change. Disappointed with what actually happened, huge numbers stayed at home in 2001. Two years later and they are on the streets demanding that their voices are heard.
To achieve this means going beyond New Labour and the fraudulent political system that passes for democracy. It requires a new political movement that aspires to transfer political and economic power to the majority, removing it from the unaccountable elites that have it now. The scale of the demonstrations indicates how power can actually be won. The authorities are powerless to resist such numbers.
This movement will not go back into the bottle. At the same time, huge social movements have developed in South America against the policies of global capitalism imposed on Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador by the International Monetary Fund. In Brazil, a new president was driven into power by masses who rejected the IMF.
In Britain, as elsewhere, the issue is one of leadership. There are those on the left who want to restrict the great movement that has emerged. Instead of calling for the removal of the Blair government, the Socialist Workers Party, for example, is content to hold debates called “Where is New Labour going?” As if the warmongering isn't proof enough that the've got there already. Others who reject New Labour, like the rail union leader Bob Crow, say that workers have only their unions to fall back on.
This all very conveniently leaves us where we are, speculating if New Labour has a future or ignoring the building of an alternative. This is to miss the real significance of 15/2. The issue is one of power: who shall decide questions of peace or war – governments that are pawns of the corporations or the mass of the people? When elected leaders are exposed the way Bush and Blair are, their removal, along with their governments, becomes both a possibility and a necessity.
In Britain, the first step is to open the discussion about what replaces New Labour in terms of political representation and what objectives such an organisation should have. That is the agenda for the 12 April conference sponsored by a number of organisations and leading trade unionists. Make sure you attend it.
for a Socialist Future