Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
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
Grace Blakeley investigates the curious case of Carillion: how the company’s slow decline and abrupt liquidation reveals the nature of modern capitalism.
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns