What next after the war?

Submitted by martin on 16 May, 2003 - 10:43

By Sacha Ismail
War in the Gulf and mass opposition to it have inevitably raised big questions about the nature of our society. Why were Bush and Blair so intent on attacking Iraq? Are the US and UK governments really accountable to those they claim to represent? If two million people on the streets can't stop a war, what force can?
The fact that the leaders of the Stop the War Coalition, themselves socialists but snuggled up in a cosy alliance with Lib Dems and religious fundamentalists, were not interested in posing these questions should not deter anti-war activists from doing so. With the threat of war against Syria and North Korea; with Iraq occupied by coalition troops for the foreseeable future; with Iraqi workers beginning a struggle to rebuild the powerful labour movement destroyed by the Ba'athist regime - the need for a movement which goes beyond simply opposing this or that war is obvious.
Solidarity has consistently argued that the war on Iraq, like all wars, was a continuation of politics by other means - that it represented the new consensus in a US capitalist class increasingly hawkish in its determination to make the world safe for international trade and investment. In Britain, too, the war-drive has been accompanied with a stepping-up of the Blairites' anti-working class policies: witness "foundation hospitals", the extension of PFI and cuts in education. At the same time, it is the working class, organised in the trade unions and labour movement, that has the power to stop Blair in his tracks.
That's why the magnificent movement which coalesced around Iraq needs to look to the labour movement if it is serious about stopping not only the next war but the conditions that breed all war - and why the thousands of students and young people active in it should keep campaigning, not just as anti-war activists but as members of the labour movement and as socialists.
Of course, that's easier said than done. The vast majority of young people are not members of a trade union; the labour movement, though starting to revive, is not the force it could be. Even words like "solidarity" need a lot of explaining. But these facts makes it all the more important that young people help to rebuild a powerful, fighting labour movement now.

* Join a trade union. Readers almost certainly don't need telling about low wages, crap working conditions and bosses dedicated to squeezing workers as hard as they can. Trade unionism is the only real way to protect yourself and fight for your rights at work; and the unions are potentially the key force in building a movement for a better society.
Yes, the trade union movement is dominated by a bureaucracy which puts its power and privileges before the needs of its members and working-class people generally - which is why, for instance, every union rep on the Labour Party executive voted to support the war. So get involved and fight to change that!

* Join No Sweat. No Sweat campaigns to abolish sweatshop labour and win free trade unions everywhere through international workers' solidarity. This year, it raised more than £5,000 for the Indonesian workers' movement; it is currently launching an appeal for garment workers' trade unions in Mexico and a campaign in solidarity with the fledgling Iraqi labour movement.
Many towns and campuses already have a No Sweat group you can join. If yours doesn't, why not set one up?

* Fight for socialism. We won't "stop war" until we put a stop to capitalism's relentless drive for higher profits - until the working class movement remakes itself in order to remake the world on the basis of solidarity and democracy. The Alliance for Workers' Liberty organises activists in the workers', student and anti-war movements to fight for socialism - read more of our publications, come to our meetings and, if you agree with us, join us!

Wednesday 21 May, 7.30pm, Sheffield University. Details: Mickey on 07979 838061 or Camila on 0114 233 7231.
Thursday 22 May, 8pm, University of Kent at Canterbury. An open forum hosted by UKC AWL students. Sessions include: Is it enough to be anti-war? and What is Marxism? Details: Sally on 07736 836068.
Thursday 22 May, 7.30pm, Leeds University. "Is Another World Possible? What way forward for the anti-capitalist movement?" Details: Samantha on 07812 606022.
Sunday 1 June, 12-5pm, The Ship pub, Borough High Street. (Tube: Borough). A dayschool hosted by London AWL students. Sessions include Capitalism and the roots of war, a revolutionary history of the 20th century and Can the working class really change the world? Details: Sacha on 07796 690874.

Shameless Tories say they'll scrap tuition fees

In a shameless attempt to have at least one policy people might like, the Tories have announced that if they win the next General Election, they'll scrap university tuition fees.
The National Union of Students leadership has, predictably, welcomed the Tories' plans. They've got short memories.
The Tories were, of course, the people who in 1996 set up the Dearing Review of higher education - which recommended tuition fees, just as they'd planned. They were the government that introduced student loans and began the process of scrapping maintenance grants.
And they haven't had a miraculous conversion since then. Their populist plan will end tuition fees - but at the cost of thousands of university places. They explicitly say that too many people are going to university, who - in their elitist view - shouldn't be. They want more people to do training courses which will give them the skills to make bigger profits for British business. The university teaching unions warn that thousands of jobs would go in the higher education sector under the Tories' plans.
Meanwhile, New Labour isn't doing much better. Education Secretary Charles Clarke has been telling academics at University College Worcester that the "medieval" concept of universities as a group of scholars seeking after truth is not a justification for the state to fund them. We already knew that truth wasn't one of Labour's top priorities - but now we have it officially.
Clarke says in return for state funding universities should concentrate on research which benefits the economy. Hang on, isn't that what the Tories just said?
* Contact the Campaign for Free Education - http://www.free-education.org

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