Some 400 people attended the Time For Change “alternative conference” organised by the Stop the War Coalition in Manchester on Sunday - the day after the Time To Go demonstration and on the first day of the Labour Party conference.
The theme of the Stop the War conference was to outline an alternative agenda to the policies of continual war, anti-Muslim racism and attacks on civil liberties promoted by mainstream parties.
It opened with a session on the situation in the Middle East. Respect MP George Galloway outlined three fundamental changes in foreign policy that were preconditions for peace in the region.
First, the government’s position on the Israel-Palestine conflict had to be reversed, he argued. It is the Palestinians whose rights should be acknowledged, and Israel that should be treated as a terrorist state.
Second, governments should end their support for corrupt pro-Western dictatorships in countries such as Libya and Saudi Arabia. Thirdly, and most pressingly, the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan must end immediately.
Jeremy Corbyn, the left wing Labour MP, also voiced his anger at the continuing plight of Palestinians. John Rees of the Stop the War Coalition highlighted how US imperialism has now got Iran in its sights.
The “war on terror” had become stuck in a quagmire in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, and strengthened Iran’s position as a regional superpower.
The neoconservatives want to “shoot their way out” of this hole by escalating the war and attacking Iran. He urged anti-war activists to ratchet up the pressure on Tony Blair - and his successor - to prevent Britain from lending any support to such an escalation.
Other sessions included a session on Islamophobia with Paul Mackney of the University and College Union and Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan who was sacked for speaking out over the foreign office’s complicity with torture.
Craig Murray described how the Uzbek dictatorship demonised Islam in order to paint its political repression as part of the global “war on terror”.
Opposition activists are regularly smeared as “Islamist extremists”, tortured and murdered - all with the tacit cooperation of the US and British governments, he said.
Another key session looked at the humanitarian costs of war. Photojournalist Guy Smallman, who recently travelled to Lebanon for Socialist Worker, presented some of his photos of the devastation caused by Israel’s aggression - and the resilience of the Lebanese people.
Richard Horton, editor of medical journal The Lancet, tore into Blair’s supposed “humanitarian” justifications for war, while Hani Lazim of Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation and Nick Dearden of War on Want described the situation in occupied Iraq.
The conference ended with a rally involving Rose Gentle of Military Families Against War and John McDonnell, the left wing Labour MP who is challenging for the leadership on an anti-war and anti-privatisation ticket.