The Guardian March 5, 2003


New dimension of internationalism

It has never happened before in history. An unprecedented unity has 
arisen against the threatened war against Iraq, not because people are 
supporters of Saddam Hussein or even particularly of Iraq, but because they 
are opposed to an aggressive and unnecessary war. The protective slogan, 
"NO WAR", has encircled the earth.

The people's demonstrations are remarkable for their size, for the wide 
diversity of those taking part and for the fact that they have taken place 
before a war has started. That is also new.

The people of many countries that have not taken part in such actions 
before are now taking to the streets in their millions.

They have become so powerful that they can influence or even change the 
decisions of governments. The failure of the Turkish parliament to agree to 
the use of Turkish territory by the US military to launch an invasion of 
Iraq from that country is an important win for the huge anti-war 
demonstrations there.

The people's voice is not yet strong enough to force a change in the 
warmongering governments of Britain, Australia and the US but that may 
come. If they do not change they must be thrown out!

Some issues ago The Guardian ran a headline "People's Power can stop 
the war" and this may yet prove to be prophetic.

Of course, this worldwide movement did not come out of the blue. There have 
been working class solidarity actions for many years. International trade 
union support during the maritime dispute of 1998 is one example. There 
were the movements to "Ban the Bomb" and to force the abandonment of 
nuclear weapons. People in many countries opposed the dirty US invasion of 
Vietnam. Demonstrators took to the streets to protest the illegal bombing 
of Yugoslavia and the invasion of Afghanistan. The OECD was forced to 
abandon its Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), and the World Trade 
Organisation and the International Monetary Fund are feeling the pressure 
of the many actions against their policies. But the present actions surpass 
all of these in their breadth and in the numbers taking part.

One weakness of the peace actions in Australia remains the limited 
involvement of the trade union movement. Although the slogan, "Peace is 
Union Business" was adopted during the Vietnam War, it still remains an 
empty and meaningless slogan for many trade unions.

This comes about because the policies of the ALP remain dominant in the 
trade union movement and ALP leaders (with some notable exceptions and 
widespread rank and file opposition) are equivocal in their opposition to 
the war. One is left with the impression that their marginal disagreements 
with the Howard Government are more about point-scoring than genuine 
opposition to the Government's war policies.

Their leadership does not strengthen the trade union movement as the rapid 
decline in trade union membership shows. It weakens and even strangles the 
union movement. It often channels the justified anger of workers into the 
sand. This was the case when the campaign against the NSW State Labor 
Government's workers' compensation legislation was called off.

The strong opposition of some trade union and ALP leaders to those trade 
unions considering industrial action if Australia becomes involved in an 
illegal war against Iraq is the latest example of their misleadership.

Why shouldn't the working people who will suffer the consequences of war in 
many countries and will do the dying take action against the policies of 

They claim that "we have to support our boys". Yes, support them by 
stopping the war and bringing them home.

There is an appeal by the US veterans of the first Gulf War that says: "As 
troops we were ordered to murder from a safe distance. We bulldozed 
trenches, burying people alive. The use of depleted uranium weapons left 
the battlefield radioactive. Massive use of pesticides, experimental drugs, 
burning chemical weapons depots and oil fires combined to create a toxic 
cocktail affecting both the Iraqi people and Gulf War veterans today.

"Now we see our REAL duty is to encourage you as members of the US armed 
forces to find out what you are being sent to fight and die for." (Go to

Is this treachery? No, it is real patriotism.
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