Socialist Worker

The arguments against the war

Opposition to the bombing of Afghanistan goes deep inside the working class. Socialist Worker talked to trade unionists, from general secretaries to rank and file members.

Issue No. 1772

WE WANT the bombing of Afghanistan stopped. Our members were devastated by the events of 11 September. There were 343 firefighters among those who lost their lives. We do not want that tragedy to be followed by another tragedy.

With every day that passes there is more evidence that the bombing is wrong. They are hitting the Red Cross, killing old people and children. Firefighters are in the business of protecting and saving lives-and we are disgusted at the hypocrisy of the US government. Their foreign policy is the source of much hatred. Their sanctions are murdering kids in Iraq.

Most Afghan people have not heard of the World Trade Centre-they do not know where America is. All they know is poverty and hunger. The slaughter of more innocent people won't bring back the dead. Our union stands for justice, equality and peace. We don't want the blood of innocent victims on our hands through any misconception that we want revenge for our fallen comrades.

I was on the demonstration against the war in George Square recently. It was a very impressive show of the feeling against the war, with lots of trade union representation - branches of UNISON, GPMU, GMB, and others.

The Daily Record ran a disgraceful article that said our opposition to the war was causing uproar inside the union. The journalist who wrote it based the story on a single anonymous individual.

Of course there are differences of view. But I am very confident that when members hear the truth about what we say then they will agree.
KENNY ROSS, brigade chair Strathclyde Fire Brigades Union


Argue and win

I WORK in a chicken processing factory - a very ordinary, hard job. People at work know I'm against the war and some of them don't like it. We have had a couple of stand-up rows.

That doesn't worry me. You don't get anywhere if you don't stand up for your views. If you keep arguing then you can win people.

One woman was all for nuking the Afghans at the start. Now she is against the bombs. She can see that it's going nowhere except more suffering. All the time there's more dissent. I have two ways of arguing. One is to read and watch the news, and to find a new fact every day.

The other is to show that the people who run the war are still doing us over with privatisation and so on. They are nasty at home and abroad.
JANICE HILL, TGWU steward, Powys (personal capacity)


There is lots of questioning

STRAIGHT AFTER 11 September there were a lot of people saying, 'Let's sort them out-let's get bombing.' It's different now. Not everybody is against the war of course-you wouldn't expect that, especially in a yard which does military orders.

But there is a lot of questioning. If you are prepared to argue, there are people who will listen.

In the tea hut there are ten or 12 of us, and we talk about the war every day. There are a few people who wish we'd shut up, but we won't! Who is the enemy? Look at the pictures of who gets blasted and burnt. They look like our kids, our families and our friends.

We have Socialist Worker out on the table every day. It's there for the arguments and to show people the material they can't get elsewhere. The demonstrations against the war are bringing together new groups of people. Across Britain millions of people agree with us. We have to try to get them supporting the demonstrations.
IAIN JOHNSTON, EPIU member and contract electrician at BAe Govan yard, Glasgow


It's about capitalism

THIS WAR has nothing to do with justice, humanitarianism or the interests of ordinary people in the region. It is about the world being made safe for capitalism.

It is about the US and Britain reminding everybody that they have the strength to take on anyone opposed to them. Blair's speech at the Labour Party conference was completely hypocritical. You can't have bombs and bread. You can't smash up a country and claim to care for its people at the same time.

It has not been easy over the last month. At the start there were anti-Muslim incidents from some individuals. The company wanted to deal with that by disciplinaries. We had to be very hard against anything anti-Muslim, but at the same time prevent the idea that the company can sort these issues out.

We had to talk to people, to discuss, to argue. And I think we have achieved some success.
STEWARD, BMW Oxford


Bombs must stop

WHAT HAPPENED at the World Trade Centre was a tragedy. But what the US and Britain are doing is completely overstepping the mark. Innocent people are being slaughtered in revenge for something they had no control over.

What is now being carried out not only kills people directly through the bombing, but means many millions are threatened with starvation. Afghanistan is now facing famine on a biblical scale.

I totally oppose the Taliban, but who built them? It was the US and Pakistan in order to fight the Russians. It isn't the Taliban leaders suffering now. It is ordinary Afghans. The bombing has to stop.
ADRIAN RALPH, convenor MG Rover, Longbridge (personal capacity)


Union backs anti-war movement

WE CONDEMN the terrorist attacks in the US. Acts of terrorism do not advance the cause of working class people and the poor.

We believe, however, that the response of the US government to wage an unending military campaign against terrorism across the world constitutes a serious threat to the lives, liberties and livelihoods of the peoples of the Middle East and elsewhere.

The military actions by the US and Britain will result in further countless civilian deaths. These actions will not provide the basis for political and economic solutions to the conditions that feed terrorism, such as the continuing lack of a just peace in the Middle East or desperate poverty in large parts of the world.

We reject calls such as that for a 'crusade in defence of civilisation' which have intensified anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiments, and racism in general. We call upon the British government to pull back from war. ASLEF has voted to affiliate to the Stop the War Coalition.
MICK RIX, general secretary ASLEF

Do you have stories about organising against the war at work and the arguments you face? Phone us on 020 7538 0828.

The Stop the War Coalition Trade Union Group brings together union members who want to oppose the attacks on Afghanistan.


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Article information

Features
Sat 27 Oct 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1772
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