SALMA YAQOOB chair Birmingham Stop the War Coalition
I AM clear in my mind that the anti-war movement laid the foundations for radically shifting the political agenda. It has drawn together in an unprecedented manner a huge number of people representing all sections of society.
More and more people are drawing the conclusion that simply protesting against what we don't want in the hope that those in power will be persuaded is not enough. Instead, it is time for a genuine alternative in which the real wishes of the people are reflected. We want an alternative that proposes both ethical domestic policies and ethical foreign policies.
One that aims to integrate just economic, social and environmental policies at local, national and global levels, and which stresses cooperation not confrontation, and people not profit as its priorities. Unless such an alternative is proposed, our politicians can afford to be complacent in the knowledge that there is no real choice for people, and very little will change.
However, if people build on the powerful working alliances formed within the anti-war movement, and begin to work together for other important issues, it is highly likely that a new political force can emerge in this country. For too long we have not allowed ourselves to believe a real alternative is possible. Of all the things that have been stolen from people in the last few decades, the most important one is their imagination. Even as we begin to hope for a better world, the thought is killed.
We are told there is no alternative to privatisation of our public services, there is no alternative to endless wars, but there is. These are all man-made systems, and there is nothing 'natural' about them. I believe a real alternative is not just an aspiration of many people, but is attainable.
DICK DUANE acting brigade chair Essex Fire Brigades Union
FIREFIGHTERS FEEL sold out, not beaten. We had a nine to one vote for strike action and overwhelming public support. But when the government stepped in, in the form of John Prescott, everything changed.
We made a good argument for some change within the system, but then we came up against a government the union leaders supported. Some said Andy Gilchrist lost his bottle, others said he was bought off. I think that when the Labour government flexed its muscle, Gilchrist and the executive had no alternative strategy because they are wedded to Labour. They never used the rank and file's strength. They used our vote and our strikes as bargaining counters. They never let us make decisions about whether to suspend our strikes.
I know it could have been different - I am sure of it. Other workers, like the tube workers, were prepared to offer us physical solidarity. We had a strike day pencilled in for 15 February. There could have been 20,000 striking firefighters on the anti-war demo and this would have shaped the dispute.
If Gilchrist and the executive were not wedded to New Labour, Prescott couldn't have pulled the strings as hard as he did. Our union leaders used the war on Iraq to dent the confidence of the members. In the end, after so many suspensions, firefighters just felt there was no leadership capable of winning the dispute in the way they wanted. Now there is an incredible bitterness against the FBU leadership and local resistance will continue.
We need a real political alternative to Labour - one that represents working class people. Lots of firefighters I know are already involved in helping to build alternatives to New Labour.
OMAR WARAICH black officer SOAS student union, Stop the War Coalition and Globalise Resistance steering committees
No wanton weapons and no warm welcome in Iraq - could there be a greater vindication of the anti-war movement? Indeed this movement, and the millions around it, are now beginning to ask a new set of questions. Where do we go from here? What political alternatives do we have? How do we stop the next war?
One of the great scandals of the war on Iraq was the failure of scores of venal Labour MPs to represent their constituencies' opposition to it. They have blood on their hands, and heads should roll.
Add to this the putrid attacks on George Galloway and John McDonnell along with the innumerable failures of New Labour, and you find millions looking for a political home within which they can find a voice. There is a powerful and defiant yearning for something that can both accommodate their great diversity and champion their common concerns. In regards to the predicament of the Iraqi people, I feel that there is a real need for serious solidarity work.
One thing is sure - this movement must not let up. As Albert Camus once taught us, 'We rebel, therefore we exist.'
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