Today, 24th February, people have travelled the length and breadth of Britain to protest at the continuing bloodshed in the Middle East.
No doubt many will be veterans of the mass protest in London 4 years ago which attracted almost 2 million people - people fully aware at the time that the events of 9/11 had no link to Saddam Hussein and that he posed no military threat to the West. Likewise, the many who marched to Hyde Park that day were right in believing that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction—a fact that has now been proved—and that any war in Iraq would fully destabilise the country. And you would have been in a minority had you not realised the link between the intended war and the fact that beneath the sands of Iraq lay huge oil resources.
Undoubtedly, after over four years of campaigning you will be revolted by the incessant lies of the Blair government as it has tried to justify the occupation of Iraq and its further plunge into chaos. Week in, week out, the government has distorted the truth and sunk to all manner of low tactics to justify its position. And now, after all of your campaigning efforts, the meetings and demos you have attended, the petitions you have signed, the umpteen arguments with your friends and neighbours, you are here protesting again, having been proved right, marching today, demanding a withdrawal of US and British forces from Iraq, hoping to halt a looming attack upon Iran, and calling for no replacement for Trident.
Four years of solid protest and your cause is not one inch further forward! Indeed, the anti-war cause has taken a step back. For, paying no heed to the hell that has been let loose in Iraq, Labour and the Tories are all too ready to escalate the war and support a US-led attack on Iran, even if this means the use of nuclear strikes.
Whoa, hold on! Do you not think you might just be wasting your time here today? Granted, the Iraq War has resulted in the deaths of 660,000 and innocent Iraqis are still being killed every day. And yes, Blair has increased the British troop presence in Afghanistan and he even kept schtum during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. But do you not think you’re asking the wrong questions, making the wrong demands? Repeating the mistakes of the past? We’re not saying you are wrong for asking questions, only that you do not ask enough. Indeed, question everything! We’re not suggesting you are demanding too much today—in truth, you are not demanding enough!
Whilst this march demands the withdrawal of western forces from Iraq and pleads that Iran is not attacked, it supports the very system that creates war by not questioning the premise of war. War is a bedfellow of the system we know as capitalism, being waged over trade routes, areas of influence, foreign markets, natural resources and the profits that can be had via the same. By not taking issue with the nature of capitalism, and the root of war, this gathering is making the mistake of every previous anti-war demo and meeting and paving the way for more in the future. Wars will continue as long as capitalism exists. By demanding the British and American governments listen to us today we further give them legitimacy by acknowledging their right to make war and indeed end it.
Now we’re not being churlish here. It is heartening to see so many here today, united in common voice - it reveals the workers can be mobilised around issues they feel are important. But from our experience - and we’ve had 100 years’ experience of observing campaigns and demonstrations and protests around every kind of reform and demand imaginable (we’re the oldest existing socialist organisation in Britain, having been formed in 1904) - we can confidently say that this demonstration is just one of hundreds over the years that address the symptoms, not the cause of the problem, and will make no significant difference to the established order, either here or in Iraq, or to the way politicians think. Four years ago, two million marched all over Britain; there were demos and vigils every night in opposition to the war. Over one-hundred Labour MPs voted against Blair’s war, and to top it all the push for war received no UN sanction, but still the troops were sent. So much for one of the biggest protest movements in labour history!
Consider this. Across the globe there are literally hundreds of thousands of campaigns and protest groups and many more charities, some small, some enormous, all pursuing tens of thousands of issues, and their work involves many millions of sincere workers who care passionately about their individual causes and give their free time to support them unquestioningly. Many will have campaigned on some single issue for years on end with no visible result; others will have celebrated minor victories and then joined another campaign groups, spurred on by that initial success.
And, considering the above, two things stand out: firstly, that many of the problems around us are rooted in the way our society is organised for production, and are problems we have been capable of solving for quite some time, though never within the confines of a profit-driven market system; secondly, that if all of these well meaning people had have directed all their energy—all those tens of billions of human labour hours expended on their myriad single issues—to the task of overthrowing the system that creates a great deal of the problems around us, then none of us would be here today. Instead we would have established a world without borders, without waste or want or war, in which we would all have free access to the benefits of civilisation with problem-solving devoid of the artificial constraints of the profit system.
If you are now confused forgive us if we come across blunt, but which part of “to end war we must end capitalism” do you not understand? Its simple! Every aspect of our lives is subordinated to the requirements of profit - from the moment you brush your teeth in the morning with the toothpaste you saw advertised on TV until you crawl into your bed at night. Pick up a newspaper and try locating any problem reported there outside of our “can’t pay—can’t have” system. Crime, the health service, poverty, drug abuse, hunger, disease, homelessness, unemployment, war, insecurity - the list is endless. All attract their campaign groups, all struggling to address these problems, and all of these problems arising because of the inefficient and archaic way we organise our world for production.
You’ve got it! We’re unlike any other group here today out to reform capitalism, who beg governments to be just a little less horrid, who ask our masters to throw us a few more crumbs from the bread we bake. We are not into the politics of compromise and we certainly are not prepared to be satisfied with crumbs. We demand the whole bakery!
We are here today to urge you to stop belittling yourself and your class by making the same age-old demands of the master class. Demand what until now has been considered “the impossible”! Join us in campaigning for a system of society where there are no leaders, no classes, no states or governments, no borders, no force or coercion; a world where the earth’s natural and industrial resources are commonly owned and democratically controlled and where production is freed from the artificial constraints of profit and used for the benefit of all; a world of free access to the necessaries of life. Wouldn’t such a campaign movement not only address the real root of every campaign and protest currently being waged?
The choice is yours – the struggle for world socialism and an end to our real problems or a lifetime attached to the ‘pick-your-cause’ brigade and the certainty you will be retracing your footsteps here today in years to come.