Thursday, 18 November 2010

The achievements of the anti-war movement

On the eve of another important national anti-war demo, I thought I'd re-post a very useful assessment of the movement's achievements from John Rees (posted on the comment thread for this article today).

'I think the achievement of Stop the War Coalition was more than the Feb 15 demonstration. It was precisely the sustained campaign and its results over a decade that should be assessed. These are:

1. We permanantly changed public opinion, and sharpened it politically, over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.We re-introduced the idea of imperialism to a mass audience for the first time since the Vietnam war. We provided the environment in which a majority began to support the Palestinians not the Israeli state.

2. We broke Blair's prime ministership. He wanted to stay in power until 2009-2010, as he said in a speech after the 2005 election. When he refused to call for a ceasefire when Israel attacked Lebanon in 2006 we mobilised 100,000 at a week's notice. The following Monday 6 government aides resigned and wrote to Blair saying he had to promise to be gone within a year. This he was.

3. We helped create the political environment in which Britain quit Iraq before the US. That is why there are no British troops in Iraq now.

4. Bush and Blair, as Bush's memoirs show, wanted to attack Iran but have been inhibited so far by the anti-war movement.

5. The STWC provided the framework for the largest ever political mobilisation of the Muslim community in alliance with the left. This has created a permanent barrier to the Islamophobic discourse generated by the establishment to justify the war and taken up by the BNP and EDL.

6. The attacks on civil liberties have been repeatedly contested by the STWC and we have contributed to the political failure of some of these attacks, like the Prevent scheme, the use of control orders and the most severe attempts to lenghten detension without trial.

7.Our record of direct action (on the day war broke out, the biggest nationwide co-ordinated moment of direct action in the last decade, the school student walk-outs, on the Gaza protests) remains an inspiration to the students and school students.

8. We supported the limited but effective industrial action that took place against the war. For it to have been greater than it was would have required action by the Trade Union leadership, which was not forthcoming.

9. The STWC model will not be repeated exactly, of course. But its general principles~a broad united left response which simultaneouly mobilises beyond the left and is still radical~is precisely what has been missing in the left's response to the economic crisis.

This is why so many people who are involved in STWC have launched the Coalition of Resistance. If this proves to be even more radical than STWC, good. But you have to construct a boat before you can steer it anywhere!'


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