Only the World Working Class Can Halt Imperialist War

February 15th 2003

Reflecting on the failure of the huge demonstration in 2003 to stop Britain going into Iraq, Andrew Murray, Chair of the Stop the War Coalition, argued that even though the demonstration had not stopped this war it might stop the next. It would be comforting if it were true, but unfortunately it is not. Worse, he is fostering illusions that our ruling class’ concession of the right to demonstrate is anything other than a safety valve for the system.

In fact the truth is the opposite. The biggest demonstration in British history on February 15th 2003 exposed the hollowness of capitalist democracy’s claim to be “free”. As the two main political parties both supported the war this was the only way in which opinion could be expressed but the Government went ahead with the already planned attack and over a million people have since lost their lives. It underlines the fact that peaceful demonstrations and rhetorical speeches do not threaten our rulers enough to halt them in their murderous tracks.

In fact the only thing that will halt them is actual physical resistance beginning by people refusing to work for the state and its war machine. It was noticeable that the TUC refused to take any position on the war and thus, despite the exemplary actions of individual groups of workers here and there, there was no call for strike action to halt the war machine. Given the history of the trades unions as mobilisers for the “nation” in two world wars this should not surprise anyone. It simply underlines the fact that a real class fight cannot rely on the existing so-called “workers organisations” who long ago made their peace with capital and accepted their role of policeman of the workforce for the British state. In fact in the Iraq War the unions’ apathy was not challenged because the British working class, in common with the working classes of most advanced capitalist countries, have found themselves reeling from the attacks of the capitalist state. The destruction of manufacturing jobs, real wage cuts and the restructuring of the workforce have all but destroyed the cohesion and solidarity of the working class.

Only the International Working Class Can Halt Imperialist War

However the same capitalist crisis which has provoked this new period of imperialist conflict is also bringing back a new spirit of resistance, which we have seen voiced increasingly over the last few years in strikes and demonstrations in various countries, both at the centre and the periphery of the global capitalist system. In Britain 5 million public sector workers have just received yet another real wage cut and are preparing to fight. At the moment they are divided by the unions, who don’t intend to let a collective resistance to the cuts develop, beyond the narrow guild interests of each group. This year every British worker needs to work for 70 days just to pay the interest on debts and the subprime mortgage crisis will eventually wash up here in the form of more attacks on our living standards. As the cuts increase and inflation gets worse workers will be forced to fight together. From this comes confidence and inspires other workers to fight too. Last year Britain saw the biggest number of days lost through strikes for a decade. Small beer now but if this trend continues it will change the current assumptions of our ruling class that they can get away with anything, including barbarous war. Ultimately it won’t be demonstrations or speeches which will save humanity, but the united international action of workers everywhere that will halt capitalism’s drive to never-ending war. In so doing we have to recognise that we must get rid of the system in which individual greed spawns massacres for millions. The question for humanity remains the same as that posed by socialists at the start of the last century - socialism or barbarism. History never stands still and there is no third way.

Aurora (en)

Aurora is the broadsheet of the ICT for the interventions amongst the working class. It is published and distributed in several countries and languages. So far it has been distributed in UK, France, Italy, Canada, USA, Colombia.