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(en) Freedom 6403 8 Feb, 2003 - A question of strategy

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 24 Mar 2003 09:47:45 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

The final preparations have plainly been made for an
invasion of Iraq. All that remains is a bit more fine
tuning and softening up of domestic and international
opinion so that Tony Blair can appear morally justified
when the inevitable happens. As if there's ever been a
point along the way when the British state might not
have gone to war! This, of course, makes for a bland
reading of events, but the assessment and response
from opponents of the war have been equally bland and
depressingly familiar.

The Stop the War Coalition (StWC) is a united front of
various leftists, social democrats, peace and religious
organisations. Anarchists and libertarian communists
have largely avoided involvement in it unless they've
been outside the larger towns and cities (where
revolutionaries are few and where some form of
dialogue was felt to be the only feasible option to
isolation). It bases its opposition on the old populist
formula of saying and doing anything that will get
people along to its demonstrations - a tactic which
isn't too dissimilar, in fact, to the one the warmongers
use to mould western opinion to their war effort.

If the StWC is to be believed, it seems, politics is best
left out at a time when we should be working together
for the false bourgeois prophet, unity - that is, the
unity of progressive liberals and left-wing capitalists.
It's not surprising, then, that anodyne demands like
'peace not war' marches from A to B, and various other
alienated forms of (non) political action have been the
order of the day so far.

Many readers may agree that this criticism is justified.
But in making it, do we fail to acknowledge fatal flaws
in our own approach as revolutionaries? How does one
go about answering the likely counter-charge from
StWC supporters, who ask what match a minuscule
number of revolutionaries are for the immensity and
ferocity of the American and British states and their
allies. How do revolutionaries avoid falling into the
trap of making their anti-war strategy the mere
attempt to win over public opinion? Indeed, even if it
were possible to seriously counter the propaganda of
the bourgeois media, would this be enough?

When the marching's over
To date there have been variously successful attempts
by activists to 'take action' against the war. Direct
action types have called local, regional and national
mobilisations. There have been pickets, banner drops
and occupations at military recruitment centres,
die-ins on Whitehall, blockades at Northwood, Fairford
and elsewhere. Fylingdales spy base has had its fair
share of harassment, and individual acts of sabotage
continue against the war industry on other sites. The
No War But The Class War discussion group still
meets in London, as do a couple of similar groups in
other cities. Last month, members of Disobedience
(another mainly London-based collective) hosted an
anti-war day school to discuss current, and perhaps
future, activities within the context of a revolutionary

Still, despite these numerous events, it's hard to
imagine that many activists think the war effort can be
halted, at least not by their efforts alone. So it's
significant that the past twelve months have also seen
an upsurge in labour militancy. This has come at a
crucial time for British preparations. It remains to be
seen if it's been the start of a more generalised and
continued rise in combativity, but the fact that certain
sectors are rediscovering their collective strength after
many years of retreat is a promising beginning.

There's nothing yet to suggest the rise in struggles
won't continue. Local authority workers, transport
workers and health service workers have all devised
imaginative ways around laws on secondary picketing
in order to support the firefighters. Indeed, the NHS
could be a major site of struggle this year. The
government is under immense pressure to control the
wages bill there, with an inflationary crisis threatened
if workers don't toe the line. And this in a relative
period of class peace!

The Direct Action Against the War Now group
(DAAWN) have said "only direct action can stop this
war", but this begins to become self-evident only in
times of wider social conflict, when workers can see
the results of their struggles linking up and so gain
confidence and the strength to take part. Direct action
must mean mass direct action.

War and revolutionary opposition
The implications of re-emerging domestic struggle
across sections of the economy at a time when war is
on the near horizon are all too apparent. These are
interesting times and, as revolutionaries, the question
we must answer is what type of response it's possible
to make. A way forward, in my view, lies in neither the
existing groupings nor in a new kind of anti-war group.
Both of these would essentially reshuffle the same
deck of political activists. It's by fighting the war on
the home front that a revolutionary response might
begin to be articulated.

More effective than targeting military institutions
might be to co-ordinate efforts at tangible strike
support and to make links between struggles. We need
to engage with other workers, offering a revolutionary
critique to the war, drawing out historical and
contemporary parallels and encouraging further acts of
solidarity across sectors. A revolutionary opposition to
war must emerge from a widening social movement.
A tall order? Yes indeed, but the last six months have
demonstrated the fragility of the house of cards when
it's faced by workers in struggle. The firefighters know
well the implications of withdrawing their labour, with
troops who should be training and mobilising for
warfare kept instead in their barracks, waiting for a
call-out. Now military top brass, alarmed at
'aggravated morale problems' in the armed forces, are
pressing for 'significant pay increases', no doubt fearful
that discontent may spread into the army, more poorly
paid still than the firefighters.

It should also be clear that support doesn't, and
shouldn't ever, mean uncritical support. Unfortunately
it's sometimes the case that anarchists and
libertarians have ended up cheerleading events as they
currently exist, leading to quietism when faced with
the opportunity of advancing a vociferous, consistent
and revolutionary perspective.

Something more is needed, more than simply
supporting existing struggles. It's necessary, first of all,
to give a robust critique of the unions in their role as
brokers of labour power. Secondly, in terms of an
anti-war message, we must openly challenge the leftist
currents which would turn a revolutionary approach
into one that ends up supporting every tinpot dictator
by their simplistic, anti-imperialist answers to
everything and their promotion of bourgeois, 'national
liberation', struggles.

Coming back to the present, it's not my intention to
suggest that existing anti-war groups and networks
should dissolve themselves. It's important that
revolutionaries maintain a forum for discussing,
clarifying and developing a more rigorous
understanding of the causes of war and the potential to
end wars. But nor is it the case that a social movement
will spontaneously emerge without the involvement of
revolutionary workers inside it.

This line of argument runs the obvious risk of being
charged with abstraction and a failure to deal with the
concrete conditions of the present. There may be truth
in this, but it's equally true that those of us dissenting
now are impotent to affect the British government's
commitment to another capitalist war, whether it's by
affinity group actions or rallies in Hyde Park (or
wherever people do finally end up on 15th February). I
make the modest proposal that we begin to redefine
our focus - towards class struggle at home - as the
surest method of reducing the British state's bellicose
contribution to the mass murder of the Iraqi working
Top Cat

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