Issue 256 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published October 2001 Copyright © Socialist Review
Are we heading towards a Third World War? This is the fear that many people feel as George Bush and Tony Blair take us to the brink of catastrophe.
People were horrified by the events of 11 September in New York and Washington. Acts of individual terrorism kill innocent people and make it easier for right wingers to go on the offensive. In the US the government and the military are already making some cold calculations in the wake of a period of mourning. Many of them see a green light to show the rest of the world who is in charge and to extend the economic and military power of the US.
It is a war, we are told, that can go on for many years, where either 'you are with us', says Bush, 'or you are with the terrorists'. Furthermore, this is a war to be waged, not simply against the individual terrorists, but against whole states which are said to protect and encourage them. The target is set to be Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries on earth where the build-up to bombing has already created a humanitarian disaster. But talk in the US is of extending the 'war against terrorism' to countries in the Middle East, especially Iraq.
The horror of 11 September is therefore matched by horror at a response which will kill many more and which will potentially lead to war across large parts of the world. No wonder then that the voices of dissent and anger have been felt throughout the world. The sentiment of many is that we want to mourn the victims but not create further victims.
Anti-war movements have sprung up around the world, not least in the US where a minority has from the very beginning called for peace. Many thousands of people have taken to the streets in anger and are equally determined to ensure Bush and Blair do not lead us down the road to disaster.
In just a few days over 2,000 people came together in central London to rally opposition to the war. A demonstration of over 4,000 outside Downing Street took place the following day. Over 1,000 joined an anti-war rally in Glasgow, 400 in Manchester and over 300 people in Birmingham, all at short notice with very little publicity.
There have been protests of over 10,000 in Italy and over 5,000 school students in Germany as well as thousands in other German cities and many other protests elsewhere in world. In the US there have already been protests in nearly 150 colleges, and demonstrations of thousands in California and Portland.
The size of the protests and the speed with which they have been built are impressive. They have brought together many of those who were involved in anti-war and peace movements of the past with a new generation of young people who are equally determined to stop the world being destroyed. The anti-capitalist movement which has grown over the last 20 months is now breathing life into the anti-war movement. In Britain the Stop the War Coalition, a broad umbrella campaign, has brought together activists, trade unionists and peace campaigners.
Tony Blair would prefer us to rally behind him and not raise objections to his and Bush's neoliberal policies. He wants us to forget opposition to privatisation. He wants to continue to scapegoat refugees while bombing the countries they have been fleeing from. He wants to wage war on us at home, just as he loves to do abroad.
Socialists and those everywhere looking for a better world can have only one response: to oppose war and and to oppose the neoliberal agenda which gives rise to it.