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We failed to stop the war. Yet we mobilised a new power: a global majority for peace and justice. In the end this majority was powerless even in so-called democracies. Polls indicate that only 20 per cent of the US electorate would have supported ‘pre-emptive’ aggression had the US gone alone. And it would have been alone had Blair listened to the wishes of the British people.
This gulf between popular sentiment and the decisions of the world’s only superpower points to the direction that the anti-war (or pro-peace and social justice) movement has to go. In our resistance to war we have created diverse forms of direct democracy: new coalitions, stronger independent media and means of spreading information, people-to-people connections with those struggling for democracy across the Middle East and more effective forms of international co-ordination. The short-term need is to carry on campaigning against war – in Palestine and now, unthinkably, Syria. The long-term need is to use this democracy of resistance to achieve democratic institutional and political change.
The first institution that has to change is the ‘special relationship’ between the US and UK. It is glued together by shared belief systems, language, mutual elite interests, power and a cynical view of human nature. Its pernicious consequences for democracy on both sides of the Atlantic is rarely challenged.
If we are ever to have democratic control over foreign policy this relationship must end. The best way to end it is by pressing the government to make two absolutely essential stands. First, it must insist the UN has complete control over the reconstruction of Iraq and its transition to democratic self-government (see \’Who rules the peace?\’). And second, it must exert effective pressure on Ariel Sharon. With respect to the second point, the US depends on British military bases. Our government could use this dependency to insist that the US exerts its massive financial and military leverage to get Israel to stop the settlements, to acknowledge the rights of Palestinians (including the right of return) and to get peace negotiations underway.
These are issues on which we can make common cause with the peace and democracy movement in the US. They also provide the basis for united action across Europe. We cannot leave the job of creating a counter power to the US government to the self-interested diplomacy of the French, German and Russian governments. Building for the next European Social Forum in Paris needs to be a process of creating Europe-wide pressures to democratise European politics and pull it away from US militarism and neo-liberal economics. We must also use Europe-wide organisation to lobby for the transformation of the UN into a genuinely democratic global institution. The World Social Forum shows such thinking is possible. The human and political disaster we have just lived through shows it to be imperative.
Then there is democracy at home. However impressive some of the speeches during the Westminster debate about the war there was something phoney about the occasion, just as there was about the arms inspection process. The fact of the matter was that the US war plans had been laid and agreed by the British, the troops had been sent, and the March deadline determined by military logistics. All the flaws of the British political system were concentrated into one moment: the power of the executive precludes any effective challenge to the PM.
We need to maintain the spirit of 15 February. We need to avoid differences in political allegiance damaging unity on political principles and campaigning demands. We need to build a movement that can focus on particularly urgent issues – i.e., ending the US occupation of Iraq or fighting the racism fuelled by the war’s anti-Islamic rhetoric. That process needs to provide space for thoughtful debate about long-term direction, and it needs to make connections between the different threats to democracy from corporate, financial and military power. Another world really is possible.
From our archive: Five years on
Five years ago Red Pepper published a number of articles on the Iraq war, we’re reprinting a selection here covering the period March to June 2003
Regime change without war
Those of us who oppose war should not allow ourselves to be seen as defenders of the status quo in the Middle East says Mary Kaldor
Tony Blair, in the name of peace and democracy, go
Tam Dalyell on why Tony Blair should reconsider his position as leader of the party
The warfare state
Now that the fog of war has lifted David Beetham assess the implications for British democracy
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference
Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki
Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle