BUSH AND Blair threatened war on Iraq within days as Socialist Worker went to press. Tony Blair cannot miss the scale of opposition to war. He saw two million march in London, he watched 122 Labour MPs rebel, he knows that this is the greatest crisis inside the Labour Party for over 70 years. Any lingering belief that he still had the majority with him must have been dispelled on Monday night.
He was slow-handclapped by a studio audience as he appealed on television for people to back him over Iraq. Members of the audience who had lost friends or relatives on 11 September told Blair not to put other families through the same horror. Blair desperately hopes that once the fighting begins then the opposition will evaporate and almost everyone will ‘get behind our boys’. He may be right about layers of people in parliament.
But the millions who back the anti-war movement see the start of war as an outrage, an undemocratic and unjustified decision to murder. Everyone who opposes war has to organise now to turn that anger into a new and much more militant level of mass activity. If Blair takes us to war, we will take to the streets.
The barbarism which Bush and Blair are planning has to be answered by strikes, work stoppages, student occupations, school walkouts and flooding the streets with people. When the Stealth bombers and the cruise missiles are incinerating Iraqi civilians, millions of people across Britain will not want to just get on with normal life.
In some workplaces trade union branches have formally decided what to do. The CWU post and telecoms union has called on its members to take protest action when war begins. The Natfhe lecturers’ union has called for breaktime meetings which can then decide on further measures.
In east London workers in job centres and benefit offices have voted to support those who feel they cannot work normally when war begins. The RMT regional union council for workers on London Underground has backed anyone who wants to take action when war starts.
The European TUC called for stoppages in work everywhere across the continent on Friday this week at 12 noon (although disgracefully the British TUC failed to get behind the call). Motions to take action when war begins were being discussed in union meetings up and down the country. It is excellent to get official backing. But nobody should be held back by thinking you always have to go through the official trade union machinery.
If, in an office of 60 or 70, there are 20 people who want to stop work, they should plan now to do so and try to win as many others to join them. Even a small number of people can act as a focus which, on the day, can draw others behind them.
What to do depends on individual situations. Perhaps you can stop work entirely for the day, or hold a token stoppage, or pour into the street outside work for a while, or start a meeting in a break and then extend it far beyond the usual time.
Everywhere you can join up with people in neighbouring workplaces, streets or estates and together rage through the streets to an evening protest in the town or city centre.
Such protests can win support from local people working, living or passing nearby and swell in size as a result. We need marches streaming in towards town and city centres across Britain. In London blockade the streets around parliament. Don’t just go yourself to a protest. Try to take united action with dozens or hundreds of others.
Our watchwords must be boldness, energy and initiative. We have to measure up to the anti-war feeling that has produced the greatest popular movement for decades. Do not give Blair a moment’s respite. Do not let the warmongers kill without reaping a whirlwind.
THIS EDITION of Socialist Worker went to press on Tuesday, on the eve of the People’s Assembly called by the Stop the War Coalition in London for Wednesday. The next issue of Socialist Worker will carry full reports on the People’s Assembly. And if war starts before our next normal weekly press time we will be doing all in our power to rush out a special issue of Socialist Worker.
ON THE FIRST SATURDAY FOLLOWING
ASSEMBLE 12 NOON EMBANKMENT, LONDON
Called by Stop the War Coalition Saturday 22 March is a very possible date for this demonstration Anti-war groups should investigate transport provisions now
Newcastle Saturday 15 March, assemble 10.30am, Civic Centre
York Saturday 15 March, assemble 12 noon, Clifford’s Tower
Exeter Saturday 15 March, assemble 12 noon, Belmont Park
Leeds Saturday 15 March, assemble 12 noon, Art Gallery, Headrow
Tower Hamlets Saturday 15 March, assemble 12 noon, Altab Ali Park, Whitechapel
National Student Stop the War Coalition strike Wednesday 19 March-phone 07815 790 913
Bosses unleash misery on ordinary people