GEORGE BUSH and Tony Blair may preach hollow words of peace and goodwill this Christmas and New Year. But their policies have ensured millions of people around the world live with hunger and fear.
Bush and Blair are determined to wage a savage war against Iraq. Twenty million people there face having their lives, homes and families blasted to smithereens by the most powerful military machine in the world. Our leaders claim to have 'liberated' Afghanistan. But hundreds of thousands of people are still enduring chaos and destruction created by war.
Aid agencies report that thousands in Afghanistan are on the brink of starvation this winter. Last month 41 children died from the cold in an Afghan refugee camp. Blair now claims to be seeking peace in Palestine. But he and Bush have given free rein to Ariel Sharon to impose a reign of terror on the Palestinians.
It is 18 years since Band Aid released their famous single, 'Do They Know it's Christmas?' in response to a famine in Ethiopia that killed one million people. Earlier this year Blair pledged to try to heal 'the scars of Africa'. But today some 15 million people in the Horn of Africa face famine and the prospect of a cruel, painful death from starvation.
Bush presides over the capitalist system that creates inequality, terror and injustice in every part of the globe. In Britain millions face fears about their jobs and pensions, and stress from long hours, unsociable shifts and making ends meet.
But over the last year there has been growing opposition around the world. Half a million marched against capitalism and war in Barcelona in March. A 400,000-strong demo against war on Iraq took place in London in September and a million protested against war in Florence in November.
Only last weekend 20,000 people took to the streets of Copenhagen in Denmark to protest against the leaders at the European Summit. In Italy right wing prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is so desperate to crush the movement that he has arrested 42 leading activists and charged them with serious political crimes.
A campaign has been launched in Britain to defend those arrested in Italy (see page 14 for more details). This new year we urge our readers to throw themselves into building this growing movement against capitalism and war.
That means going all out to build a massive mobilisation for the anti-war protests that will take place in every European capital on 15 February (see statement below).
'Unite against war'
ACTIVISTS from 11 European countries, the US and the Philippines came together in Copenhagen to coordinate Europe-wide action against war on Iraq:
'WE ENDORSE the anti-war call launched at the assembly of social movements in Florence in November. We believe that a war on Iraq, with or without UN support, would be a disaster for the people of the Middle East and beyond.
'It is clear there is majority opposition to war in almost every country in Europe and across the world. That is why this war cannot be fought in our name. This is also why we believe it is vital to build the broadest possible anti-war alliances everywhere around the demand No War on Iraq.
'Our meeting showed that the movement against the war is gaining strength. All the countries represented have called action on 15 February. We reinforce the decision to protest in every country immediately war starts, to hold national protests the following Saturday and to organise coordinated mass national demonstrations in capital cities on 15 February.
'To this end we have decided to continue our coordination at a European level, to set up a Europe-wide anti-war website, and to have a common banner on each of our demonstrations demanding No War on Iraq. We are committed to spreading anti-war coordination both inside and beyond Europe, and to holding another meeting after the 15 February demo. We urge the movements in countries not represented at our meeting to join in our initiatives.
'We urge every organisation that opposes this war to work for a massive mobilisation on 15 February. Together we can stop the war.'
Israel keeps up the terror
Bethlehem closed down for Christmas - by Israeli army
I HAVE just returned from a week's visit to Palestine. The Holy Land is closed this Christmas - Israeli checkpoints and curfews are cutting off whole Palestinian areas. Bethlehem is completely closed - people can't come or go. For Palestinian Christians Christmas is very important, but the Israelis are collectively punishing all Palestinians.
'Can you explain to me why I can't bury my mother in Bethlehem or grieve with my brothers and sisters at Christmas?' one woman asked me in tears. There are scenes of constant violence, harassment and arrest at Israeli checkpoints. I saw Palestinian men wired together at the ankles. It was like they were on a chain gang.
The Israeli checkpoints have one purpose - a vindictive attempt to disrupt all normal relations and people's lives. West Bank Palestinians can't go to Jerusalem without permission, which is almost always refused.
Israeli troops pick up hundreds of Palestinians every week and hold them in an enormous open-air prison. The Israelis have reduced the headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to dust and refused to let him attend mass in Bethlehem on Christmas Day. This is an attempt to humiliate him and his people. This is the atmosphere Palestinians are living in.
A Socialist Worker reader, North London
Don't attack Iraq
Saturday 15 February 2003, 1pm, central London
Stop the War Coalition 020 7053 2155/6 Mass lobby of parliament, Tuesday 21 January 2003
Socialist Worker wishes all our readers a happy holiday. The next issue of Socialist Worker will appear on Friday 3 January. All reports need to arrive by 12 noon on Monday 30 December.