A SUCCESSFUL and important conference took place in Cairo in Egypt last weekend.
The Second Cairo Conference Against Capitalist Globalisation and US Hegemony brought together anti-war activists from across the world. The conference discussed how best to support the Iraqi and Palestinian resistance movements, and how to challenge the US drive for power.
As the news of Saddam Hussein's capture spread, delegates reaffirmed their support for the Iraqi resistance that will continue against the US occupation.
Hamdeen Sabahy, an Egyptian MP, said, 'The resistance in Iraq is not based on Saddam Hussein. It will continue after Saddam Hussein. It is there because there is an occupation. As long as there is an American occupation there will be resistance.'
Over 1,000 people attended the event, mainly from Egypt. This is much bigger than last year, when 400 people attended. Activists from across the Arab region, and many other countries, travelled to Cairo. Around 100 people went from Britain.
Left wing groups, Arab nationalist groups and the Muslim Brotherhood organised the conference. It was supported by a number of trade unions and many young Egyptians attended.
The conference came out of the huge anti-war movement that Egypt saw in March. Some 50,000 people took to the streets of Cairo on 20 March, the day that war on Iraq broke out. Egyptian police battered the movement off the streets. But there was still a huge feeling to resist the US attack and its occupation of Iraq.
There is also a mood for fundamental change within Egypt itself. President Hosni Mubarak did not feel confident to repress the Cairo conference. Despite a heavy police presence outside, the conference passed without any state attempt to stop it.
In the opening session John Rees, from the Stop the War Coalition in Britain, received loud applause when he said, 'We stopped George Bush from launching his re-election campaign in London last month. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary people poured onto the streets. People have come from Britain in solidarity with you. This is not merely because we sympathise with your struggle, and that of Iraq and Palestine. We come because your struggle is our struggle, your enemy, our enemy. In the last year we have created an international mass movement. We will not let the rule of profit and arms destroy our world. Only ordinary people can stop the political elites.'
Sona' Allh Ibrahim, a famous Egyptian writer who turned down a major award recently in protest at the Egyptian government, also addressed the conference. He said, 'My generation was brought up on the dream of international solidarity-the joint national struggle against Zionism and racism. There were victims of the struggle, defeats by the US-Israeli alliance. But my generation is lucky. We are seeing the expression of a new internationalism, born in struggle against the US empire.'
Other speakers in the main session included the former Labour MP Tony Benn, the former United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Denis Halliday, Salma Yaqoob from Britain and Ramsey Clark, the former US attorney general.
THE CONFERENCE released the second Cairo declaration, calling for opposition to capitalist globalisation and US power.
It also urges support for the Iraqi resistance to US occupation and the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against Israeli occupation.
The declaration states its support for building a united international movement that stands against imperialism and capitalism.
The conference agreed to establish a committee to continue the campaign over the coming weeks and months.
The full declaration, and any further information, will be available on www.cairocampaign.com
'We want a world without Bush, Blair, Sharon and Mubarak'
A longstanding Egyptian socialist activist, Ahmed Nabil Al Hilale, told the conference, 'There is a global popular movement developing against war, imperialism and aggression.
'We have established the Egyptian branch of the struggle against capitalism. The internationalisation of capitalism can only be met by the internationalisation of struggle. Our battle seems unequal. But it is not desperate. Great energies come out in confrontation. The resistance of the people is stronger than the enemy. When the darkness increases it means the dawn is about to appear.'
Kamal Khalil, from the Revolutionary Socialists group, created an electric atmosphere in the audience when he called for opposing the US, and a fight to bring down the Egyptian regime. He said, 'I am speaking in the name of thousands of Egyptians who were in Tahrir Square on 20 March. They chanted against the imperialist aggression but they also chanted against the Egyptian state and the Mubarak regime.
'We want a world without Bush, Blair, Sharon and Mubarak. Let's link the struggle against imperialism with the struggle against dictatorship and oppression. When the fingers of the Americans burn in Iraq and Palestine, the fingers of the dictator in Egypt will also burn.'
Some delegates, particularly from an Arab nationalist background, attempted to argue that the conference should support Saddam Hussein. This led to heated arguments. But the conference was clear that it was united in support for the Iraqi and Palestinian resistance movements.
George Galloway received huge applause when he said, 'Our enemies are laughing about the capture of Saddam Hussein. But I don't believe it will be the last laugh. I believe the Iraqi resistance will continue. In some respects it may be stronger.
'Those who did not back the resistance because they did not want to see the return of Saddam Hussein but hate the foreign military occupation may now join the resistance. The country in the days and months ahead will see a greater resistance to the occupation. We stand by everything we have said at this conference.
'We are with those resisting the foreign occupation of Palestine and Iraq-today, tomorrow and until victory.'
Voices from conference
'IT IS very important for the movement in Egypt to be related to the international anti-war movement.
Those of us who organised the conference never thought it would be so huge. Hopefully, it will give a push forward to the anti-war movement here.
We are a bit isolated in Egypt, so it's important for us to know what's happening outside of Egypt and the Arab region. We need to be connected to this bigger movement.
We are not used to big demonstrations like you have in Europe. This is because of repression. But we had 50,000 people on the streets on 20 March.'
'I AM Palestinian. I feel that the suffering of every people in the world is our issue. I get a good feeling when people here-the British, the French, Australians, South Americans-say that Palestine and Iraq are their issue too. I think that we can have an effect.
I make documentaries about poor people in Egypt and Palestine. By myself I cannot have an effect. But there are a lot of people all over the world thinking like me.
I have a hope to fix all these problems. In the last four years there have been many changes in the world. Millions of people have demonstrated in Europe, Asia, Latin America, North America.'
BASHAR OMAR, student at MUST university in Cairo
'A FEW of us have come from Lebanon to make a point about how to form a new left within the Arab countries.
We need to fight against imperialism and the Arab regimes. It is not a fight limited within the Arab region. It is an international fight. There needs to be an international movement.
Oppression has no borders. Neither should we.'
BASSEM CHIT, Al Yasari (the Left) group
THE EGYPTIAN state is persecuting five socialist activists it accuses of organising the Revolutionary Socialist Group. The trial of Ashraf Ibrahim is currently taking place. Four other activists are in hiding.