Issue 98 of INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM JOURNAL Published Spring 2003 Copyright © International Socialism
Activists from the anti-war and anti-globalisation movements joined forces with delegates from across the Arab world at a historic conference in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on 18-19 December 2002. The Egyptian government tried to ban the conference, but was forced to allow it to go ahead. The Cairo Sheraton cancelled the conference venue even as the 400 delegateswere arriving, but they reassembled in the Conrad hotel on the banks of the Nile.
There were delegates from across the Middle East, but the delegates from Egypt were the core of the event. They included socialists, academics and artists, some Islamic groups, and supporters of the political trends established by modern Egypt's founder Gamal Abdel Nasser--some of them MPs from the Egyptian parliament.
Crucially, the conference was focused on building action and solidarity with the international anti-war movement. The illegal demonstration on the day following the conference was announced from the platform by the conference organisers and many at the conference were also on the streets.
The conference established the International Campaign Against US Aggression on Iraq to organise anti-war activity and promote the Cairo Declaration, the test of shich follows here. The co-ordinating committee's president is Ahmed Ben Bella, leader of the great struggle for Algerian independence and the country's first president. He urged that links be made with anti-globalisation movement that had so impressed him at Novemeber's European Social Forum in Florence, when one million marched against the war. He spoke passionately at the conference of the need to build a movement in the Middle East as big as that seen in Europe.
The Cairo Declaration's strength is its insistence on the connection between neo-liberal globalisation and war, and on the need to build international action with the widest numbers possible to take on the warmongering privatisers. Hundreds added their names in support of the declaration in the first weeks of -publication--including 80 members of the Russian Duma, trade union leaders, acadmics from as far afield as South Korea and Canada, and hundreds of working people from all over the globe. This is a vital political initiative that needs the support of everyone who is opposed to an attack on Iraq.
The international meeting organised by the Egyptian Popular Campaign to Confront US Aggression was convened in Cairo on 18 and 19 December to launch the International Campaign.
We, the participants, reaffirm our resolve to stand in solidarity with the people of Iraq and Palestine, recognising that war and aggression against them is but part of a US project of global domination and subjugation. Solidarity with Iraq and Palestine is integral to the internationalist struggle against neo-liberal globalisation. The Cairo meeting is not an isolated event, but an extension of a protracted international struggle against imperialism, from Seattle and Genoa to Lisbon and Florence, to Cordoba and Cairo.
The US provides unlimited support, and even justification, to the Zionist perpetrators of genocidal crimes against the Palestinian people. The suffering of the Iraqi people under a regime of genocidal sanctions lasting over a decade, and the aggressive militarism which they face today is but a logical outcome of the structures of power asymmetry of the existing world order:
The US monopolises political, economic and military power within the framework of capitalist globalisation, to the detriment of the lives of the majority of the world's people.
The US imposes control through naked aggression and militarised globalisation in pursuit of its rulers' interests, all while reinstating the characteristic direct occupation of classical colonialism.
The US global strategy, which was formulated prior to 11 September 2001, aims to maintain the existing unipolar world order, and to prevent the emergence of forces that would shift the balance of power towards multipolarity. The US administration has exploited the tragic events of 11 September, under the pretext of fighting terrorism, to implement the pre-existing strategy.
Attention to this global context helps explain current world developments:
First: Capitalist globalisation and US hegemony:
Prioritise the interest of monopolistic capitalist circles above those of the people, including Europeans and US citizens.
Integrate the economies of different countries into a single global capitalist economic system under conditions which undermine social development and adversely affect the situation of women, child health, education, and social services for the elderly. In addition, unemployment and poverty increase.
Generalise the culture of consumerism and individualism, to the detriment of a sense of collective responsibility, whether towards the thousands of infant and child deaths in Iraq resulting from polluted water, malnutrition and deficiencies in medical supplies, or towards the victims of AIDS, malnutrition and famines around the world. Among millions of people standards of living have deteriorated while unemployment and poverty have become widespread. Globalisation has resulted in the marginalisation of entire peoples who can no longer acquire the basic necessities to sustain life.
Second: In the absence of democracy, and with widespread corruption and oppression constituting significant obstacles along the path of the Arab peoples' movement towards economic, social, and intellectual progress, adverse consequences are further aggravated within the framework of the existing world order of neo-liberal globalisation.
Admission to restrictions on democratic development in Iraq in no way constitutes acceptance of US justifications for continuation of sanctions, and now preparations for war. Without disregarding longstanding restrictions on democratic development in Iraqi society--as is the case in all Arab societies--it is evident that the US-imposed sanctions have had a devastating effect on Iraq's development. Whereas Iraq had once enjoyed a relatively positive profile according to certain human development indicators, its people now suffer severely as a result of the sanctions regime. Iraq has witnessed a significant rise in child mortality rates, the spread of several diseases, reduction of opportunities in education, and a marked deterioration of the standard of living. As human suffering increases it generates a sense of defeatism.
The Palestinian people are suffering as a result of the loss of their land and continued Zionist aggression, which the US supports militarily, economically and politically, making its administration a de facto accomplice in the crimes committed against the Palestinian people. The US protects Israel from condemnation in international forums under the pretext of combating terrorism, and it asserts additional false claims, such as when it equates the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people to resist occupation, liberate their land and return to their homes, on the one hand, with terrorism that we all abhor, on the other.
The policies of structural adjustment associated with neo-liberal globalisation have precipitated global crises manifest in a widening wealth gap, increase in poverty and unemployment, and general deterioration of standards of living.
US military presence in the Arab region, and its dictates to governments of sovereign nations of the region, have compounded the suffering of the Arab people. Interference in the internal affairs of these nations now extends to demands of educational reform, and insistence on 'democratisation'. Ironically this is occurring at a time when civil liberties in the US are clearly under siege, especially with regard to Arab and Muslim Americans, along with other minorities. The US administration also violates international law by its inhumane treatment of the POWs in Guantanamo. Also evident is the wealth gap in the US, which is the widest among the industrial nations of the world.
Far from secretly, the US intends to partition Arab countries into smaller entities on an ethnic or religious basis. This would enable Israel to become the dominant regional power within the framework of the Middle East project, to the peril of an Arab project of equitable development and regional unity.
The suffering of the Arab people and US unwavering support of the system of apartheid imposed on the Palestinian people will undoubtedly fuel conflict and lead to the escalation of violence in one of the most sensitive areas of the world. Such danger can easily extend to neighbouring Europe, Asia and Africa. Continued preparation for war on Iraq in spite of its acceptance of a UN resolution of aggressive inspection of its armament, as well as civilian industries, signals a predetermined intent to control the Arab region, its oil and indeed the entire world supply of oil.
Third: For all these reasons we declare our total opposition to war on Iraq and our resolve to continue the struggle against US policies of global domination. We strongly believe in the urgency of mobilising against these policies. All democratic forces in the world that are for genuine peace and justice must join together within the framework of an international campaign against neo-liberal, US-centric globalisation and promote an alternate globalism based on equity and justice. This would mean better utilisation of the world's resources and protection of the environment. Together the people of the world are quite able to combat aggression and all forms of injustice, prejudice and racism, and make a better world possible.
The Cairo conference against war on Iraq and in solidarity with Palestine represents the launching of an international popular movement that creates effective mechanisms for confronting policies of aggression. The participation of international activists who are prominent for their struggles for human dignity, rights and justice, as well as intellectuals, authors, unionists, human rights workers, journalists and artists--from Egypt and the rest of the Arab world, Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the United States--will no doubt accelerate this noble endeavour in spite of the numerous obstacles that we have to confront.
Fourth: It is important that this international popular initiative of solidarity with Iraq and Palestine proceed according to an action plan which includes clearly defined priorities:
(1) Condemnation of US military presence on Arab land along with pressuring the Arab governments that allow US military bases on their territory to close them down, and not to provide air, naval or land facilities.
(2) Develop co-operation among popular organisations of the South to reinforce solidarity in confronting the policies and practices of neo-liberal globalisation and US hegemony.
(3) Work towards co-operation with the international anti-globalisation movement of the North and South, and participation in activities and meetings organised by this movement.
(4) Promote the unity of democratic forces and popular organisations in different parts of the world, and form solidarity committees which oppose war on Iraq, and the genocidal crimes faced by Palestinians, supporting their right to resistance and struggle for liberation.
(5) Under the banner 'Together against globalisation and US hegemony' add Iraq and Palestine to the agendas of international progressive meetings, particularly the next Social Forum at Porto Alegre.
(6) Invite Arab and international human rights organisations to evaluate humanitarian conditions in Iraq and disseminate their findings worldwide.
(7) Prepare to send human shields to Iraq.
(8) Introduce the boycott of US and Israeli commodities in solidarity campaigns in support of Iraq and Palestine, with emphasis on the right of return for Palestinians.
(9) Elect a steering committee to follow up on the implementation of the Cairo Declaration, and co-ordination among organisations which commit to its principles, and enhance awareness through appropriate actions ranging from the preparation of posters to organising marches and demonstrations in solidarity with Iraq and Palestine.
Signatories to the Cairo Declaration include: Jeremy Corbyn MP; George Galloway MP; Tony Benn, former MP and cabinet minister; Susan George, writer and ATTAC activist; Bob Crow, general secretary RMT; Mick Rix, general secretary ASLEF; Julie Christie, actor; George Monbiot, journalist; Harold Pinter, playwright; Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader Muslim Parliament of Great Britain; Ken Loach, film director; Mark Serwotka, general secretary PCS; Shahedah Vawda, Muslims for Just Peace; Tommy Sheridan MSP, Scottish Socialist Party; Brian Reade, columnist Daily Mirror; Jane Loftus, national executive member CWU; Paul Mackney, general secretary NATFHE; Dr Ghada Karmi, research fellow Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter; Tariq Ali, writer and broadcaster; Stop the War Coalition, Britain; Petros Constantinou, Campaign Genoa 2001-ESF, Greece; Nader Fergany, lead author Arab Human Development Report, director Almishkat Research Centre, Cairo; Paul Foot, Campaigning Journalist of the Decade, Britain; Emerita Professor Hilary Rose, University of Bradford; China Miéville, author; Lindsey German, convenor Stop the War Coalition; Andrew Murray, chair Stop the War Coalition; Sabah Al-Mukhtar, president Arab Lawyers Association, Britain; RMT London region executive; Helen Salmon, national executive member NUS; Hilary Wainwright, editor Red Pepper; Dave Hutchinson, AMICUS national executive member for Yorkshire and Humberside; Ali Mallah, president Toronto Canadian Arab Federation, vice-president Ontario New Democratic Party; Sabby Sagall, Committee to Free Vanunu, Britain; Professor Alex Callinicos, York University; Lesley Lababidi, author, director of MENA Youth Leadership Initiative, Giza, Cairo; Boris Kagarlitsky, writer and activist, Moscow; Associate Professor Ji Giles Ungpakorn, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok; Peter Dwyer, post-doctoral fellow, Centre for Civil Society, Durban; Mike Davis, author, San Diego (all individuals in a personal capacity).
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