The Socialist Alliance in England held its biggest ever conference in London last Saturday. Nearly 700 people came together to discuss how to turn the Socialist Alliance into a more effective, outward looking organisation. The day kicked off with an anti-war rally. There was an enthusiastic reception for guest speaker Gennoro Highore from the left wing Communist Refoundation in Italy.
Just how bad is the economic situation?
It is very, very serious indeed. You have for the first time in 20 years a simultaneous downturn in all three major sections of the advanced capitalist world. That is a recession in the US, a recession in Germany and across continental Europe, and a recession in Japan.
We saw the pictures of the victims of the 11 September suicide attacks. We heard the stories of their lives and glimpsed the pain of their relatives.
We may never know how many women have been blown to pieces in Afghanistan by B-52s and cluster bombs. That has not stopped Laura Bush and Cherie Blair proclaiming that their husbands' war in Afghanistan is motivated by the high ideals of women's liberation.
Remember the military briefings and media headlines at the start of the war. All the talk was of "smart weapons"-supposedly infallible Cruise missiles and precision "bunker-buster" bombs.
Do you think ordinary people are being told the truth about the war in Afghanistan?
Far from it. This is clear from material that emerged in the US recently. A lot of the military operations have been exaggerated, lied about and totally faked as a public relations exercise.
US Defence Secretary William Cohen claimed during the Balkan War two years ago that 100,000 Albanian men of military age were missing, adding, "They may have been murdered." The media, and even some people on the left, dutifully repeated the wartime propaganda.
Sections of the US media are trying to create a climate where the FBI and CIA can get away with torturing anyone they accuse of terrorism. Jonathan Alter, a columnist on Newsweek magazine, wrote earlier this month, "In this autumn of anger even a liberal can find his thoughts turning to torture." He added that he was not necessarily advocating the use of "cattleprods or rubber hoses"-only "something to jumpstart the stalled investigation of the greatest crime in American history".
The packed lecture hall could have been anywhere in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken part in similar meetings, counter-conferences and teach-ins to build an international anti-capitalist movement. What was crucial about the World Forum on the WTO in Beirut in Lebanon last week was that for the first time the anti-capitalist movement had come to the Middle East.
What happened on 11 September was a historic event-not, unfortunately, because of its scale. It is unpleasant to think about, but the scale was not that unusual. It's a historic event because there was a change in the direction in which the guns were pointed.
HAWAII, 1893: seizes by force.
Three decades ago a mass movement against the Vietnam War shook the US ruling class to its core. At its height 750,000 people marched in Washington and 100,000 in London. The growth of that movement holds vital lessons for the struggle against the US-led war on Afghanistan today.
In 1995, in the first wave of local elections after the end of apartheid, he was elected as an African National Congress (ANC) councillor for Pimville in the giant township of Soweto near Johannesburg. He served for four years, and was then suspended for speaking out against privatisation.
"Are you a socialist?" I asked a fellow speaker at an anti-war rally the other day. I knew the answer was yes. The speaker had taken the whole of his time exposing the dreadful gap between the world's rich and poor, between the handful of billionaires on the one hand and the "world pining in pain" on the other. He had said more than enough to convince me that he didn't believe these frightful facts were caused by accident or sent by god. On the contrary-they were connected. The poor are poor because the rich are rich, and vice versa.
The horror of the war has become clear in just the first few weeks. No one knows the precise course it will take. It is by nature unpredictable. But opposition to the war is developing internationally, and in Britain has already gone further than in the last two major US-led imperialist wars-in the Gulf in 1990-1 and in the Balkans in 1999.
The movement against the war is spiralling. Even the mainstream media feels forced to reflect the growing opposition to Bush and Blair. Meetings and protests took place in cities and towns across Britain last week. All were focused on raising the anti-war banner locally, and mobilising single-mindedly for the mass national anti-war demonstration in London a week on Sunday.
George W Bush and Tony Blair say they are waging war against "terrorism" and for "democracy" and "civilisation". In private their language and motives are very different. Long before 11 September the US state was clear that its real aims are those of global military and economic dominance.
"Saudi Arabia is a good and dependable friend to the civilised world." That is how Tony Blair referred to the West's key ally in the Middle East last week. The US is desperate to maintain that relationship with Saudi Arabia during the war on Afghanistan.
German socialist Karl Liebknecht stands out as one of the most inspirational figures in the history of the socialist movement. He spent much of his life on the extreme left of the Social Democratic Party, the German equivalent of the Labour Party, before breaking from it and helping to found a revolutionary organisation.
The number of people in Eastern Europe and Central Asia living on $1 a day or less leapt from seven million to 24 million from 1990 to 1998. That is the backdrop to the conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in the Gulf state of Qatar next week.