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
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
We need a society built on openness, community and equality to truly defeat everything that trump stands for, writes Nick Dearden.
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry