Socialist Worker

Build on popular anti-war mood

Issue No. 1813

GEORGE BUSH and Tony Blair are more isolated than ever over war on Iraq. But the madman in the White House is determined to press ahead, and a Downing Street spokesman insists the prime minister is 'not going wobbly'. The scale of opposition to the war shows the potential to make Blair more than wobble.

More than two thirds of people in Britain are against attacking Iraq, according to an opinion poll in the Daily Telegraph on Monday. It found 54 percent of voters think 'Mr Blair looks increasingly like President Bush's poodle'. The poll confirms news last week that confidential results from New Labour's beloved focus groups show Bush's unprecedented unpopularity in Britain and majority opposition to war.

The Times said last Friday, 'Tony Blair faces international humiliation at the hands of his own party next month amid signs that Labour's annual conference will vote against British involvement in a military attack on Iraq.' The paper also reported government fears that the TUC could pass an anti-war motion at its conference two weeks before New Labour's conference.

Labour leaders and TUC officials are quite capable of manoeuvring to prevent or fix a debate, or Blair could ignore the conferences, as previous Labour leaders have. But he would pay a very heavy price.

Nine national unions have affiliated to the Stop the War Coalition. Unison, the biggest union with 1.3 million members, has thrown its weight behind the 28 September anti-war demonstration. Anti-war feeling extends into the traditionally conservative Church of England. Even some ex-generals and diplomats are speaking out against a war on Iraq. And Peter Mandelson, one of the main architects of New Labour, has murmured his doubts about Bush's plans.

The likes of Mandelson do not share the principles guiding the anti-war movement. They are concerned mainly with whether the US will win a war, not whether it is right. Or they want to see the European powers club together to launch their own military adventures.

But the cracks in the establishment should further encourage everyone to become part of the anti-war movement.

Divisions at the top lead wider layers of people to question the war drive. In the US senior senators in the Democratic Party and Bush's own Republican Party are raising concerns about attacking Iraq. The political consensus Bush exploited after the 11 September attacks has broken. None of this, by itself, will stop Bush.

But it can feed the kind of mass movements that can. A powerful anti-war movement in Britain can kick away one of the war's main planks - Blair's craven support for Bush.

Protest can stop war - click here.

Linking up the battles

NEW LABOUR'S focus groups have also found that key government policies over privatisation and its resistance to public sector pay rises are deeply unpopular. The government is worried about opposition over what it is doing here, as well as abroad.

Deputy prime minister John Prescott worked behind the scenes to try to end the council workers' dispute as the government was threatened with more days like 17 July, when hundreds of thousands of workers struck. He met the leader of the firefighters' union last week to try to head off national strikes over pay in the autumn.

Whether or not the union leaders call strikes, the feeling to fight over pay and against privatisation is growing. That has been shown in the Glasgow health workers' victory, reported on page 16. Socialists need to build on that mood, deepen the anti-war movement and draw the connections between the two.

Many firefighters will be wondering why we are meant to cheer the British army into the Gulf when it is preparing to smash their pay fight at home. Opponents of the war will ask why there is apparently no money for public sector pay and services, yet there is a blank cheque for attacking Iraq.

Blair's nightmare is war on two fronts - a mass anti-war movement, and serious battles by workers. We should organise to make that a reality on the streets and in the workplaces.

Stop the War Coalition

Demonstrate 28 September Assemble 1pm, Embankment, London, march to Hyde Park
called by Stop the War Coalition and Muslim Association of Britain * supported by CND 07951 235 915

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Article information

What We Think
Sat 17 Aug 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1813
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