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March 2003 • Vol 3, No. 3 •

Disarm the Criminals, Not the Victim!

By Carole Seligman

On February 15th an historic event shook the world when millions of people on every continent (yes, even Antarctica!) demonstrated to stop the U.S. attack on Iraq. Several cities, including London, New York, and several European cities had demonstrations of unprecedented size. And, even during the Vietnam War, which was also opposed by the majority of the world’s people, there were never internationally coordinated demonstrations in so many countries and of such scope and size on a single weekend.

The U.S. government has continued the massive build up and planning for imminent war and has made no indication that it will even consider the clear majority opinion of the world population. Even the New York Times, a major media mouthpiece for U.S. ruling class policy, acknowledged the counterpoised forces of U.S. might vs. world public opinion.

At least a quarter of a million people participated in the Feb. 16th demonstration against the war in San Francisco, California. Even the police estimated 200,000 and they are notorious for understating peace demonstration estimates. The local mass media all put the demonstration at massive numbers but, subsequently, the San Francisco Chronicle decided to revise their size estimate down to 65,000 with a several-page explanation of how they arrived at their new estimate (using the services of an aerial photography outfit who does military contracting as well!).

Even the police scoffed at the Chronicle estimate as being only slightly more than the stadium capacity of PacBell Park, the S.F. Giants baseball stadium. In probably one of the most reliable figures available, a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) official reported that 150,000 more people rode BART trains on Feb. 16th, 2003 than on the same day one year ago. (And of course tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands didn’t travel to the demonstration by BART).

The historic significance of the Feb. 16 San Francisco event was that it was part of the global actions. Because it took place one day after the massive February 15th demonstrations around the world, people attending the S.F. march really knew they were part of a massive world peace movement. The most forceful speaker at the San Francisco demonstration was a Labor member of British parliament, Jeremy Corbyn, who had spoken at the London demonstration the day before. He brought the powerful idea of international workers solidarity into the S.F. rally and was loudly cheered for his description of the biggest demonstration in England’s history the day before and for his uncompromising stand against the U.S./British war on Iraq. He opposed the war on any grounds—unilaterally, multi-laterally, or with the blessings of the United Nations.

The San Francisco demonstration, (as well as many others around the world) took place only one month after the January 18th march of 200,000, and yet it was bigger with far less organizing time. San Francisco has now had three gigantic mobilizations since October 26, 2002, each larger and broader than the previous one, and all three to stop an impending war before it has begun.

After Bay Area United Against War initiated and put out the call for the S.F. demonstration, all of the major anti-war organizations came together to co-sponsor it, winning media coverage for days before the march and tremendous unity of purpose of the antiwar activists and organizations. This factor also accounts for the huge size of the S.F. demonstration.

Most promising of all, the co-sponsoring organizations, Bay Area United Against War, International A.N.S.W.E.R., Not in Our Name Project and United for Peace and Justice, have agreed to continue working together to stop the war. They all have co-sponsored actions and demonstrations inititiated by each other such as the March 5th National Moratorium to Stop the War, and the March 15th Convergence to Stop the War (initiated by International A.N.S.W.E.R.). And, as of a meeting on Feb. 28th, the Bay Area co-sponsors of Feb. 16th agreed to initiate the call for a united future action after March 15th.

Unprecedented scope of world antiwar movement

The U.S. war mobilization has not been stopped. But the signs are that a massive antiwar movement of unprecedented depth and size will continue to grow and act. In the United States, as well as around the world, there is a growing realization that the severe economic problems facing working people cannot be solved while the wealth of society is spent on destruction and war, bombs, bullets, tanks, rockets, fighter planes, aircraft carriers and all the materiel of war.

Working people and students are linking their job insecurity, education cutbacks, lack of housing, the poor health care system and all the problems of reduced social services with the role the United States government is playing as world cop and imperialist war maker.

The antiwar movement must take the lead in making these connections and offering the alternatives of Jobs, not War; Books, not bombs; Housing and Healthcare, not destruction; Preventing and treating AIDS and other epidemics and not funding Israel and other repressive regimes and their nuclear arsenals.

Inherent in the struggle against war is the question of which class shall rule society, the capitalists who profit from war, or the working class who benefits from peace? These unprecedented antiwar mobilizations will bring new forces to socialist conclusions as millions of demonstrators make the connections between the social and economic system of capitalism and its reliance on war to maintain its system of private property and profit. The knowledge that oil and empire are behind the U.S. moves on Iraq is widespread and growing. “No blood for oil,” is a slogan used all around the world in demonstrations against the war.

Tests for the U.S. antiwar movement

In the U.S. the first tests of the new antiwar movement are: To resist all forms of war (unilateral, multi-lateral, U.N.) and all U.S. demands on Iraq for disarmament. Calling for Iraqi disarmament is calling for the conditions under which the U.S. corporations can march into a sovereign country, Iraq, and take over its most valuable resource—oil.

The demand for disarmament should be aimed at the most highly armed force in the world and the force that has used its arms most in the world, the United States government. The demand for nuclear disarmament should be aimed at the only force that has used nuclear weapons and their derivatives against civilians and countries— the United States.

Associated with the need for uncompromising opposition to war on Iraq in any form is the need for the movement to stay independent of, and opposed to, the ruling political parties (Democrats and Republicans) who have both approved the expenses and budget for war. The movement must resist the efforts of the Democratic Party to co-opt it into supporting demands like “Impeach Bush” or other efforts to support capitalist politicians. While there is a totally correct revulsion at the Bush administration’s acts of war and trampling upon the U.S. Constitutional guarantees of civil liberties and freedom, the Democrats offer no alternative and, in most cases, have supported the administration’s most reactionary plans for war on Iraq, war on Afghanistan (and previously war on Yugoslavia), as well as the establishment of the Homeland Security program, the passage of the USA Patriot Act and all the other attacks on immigrants and the Constitutional rights of U.S. residents and citizens.

The antiwar movement must stay completely independent and build its power in the streets. It must invite all who oppose the war to join in ever larger actions until a movement grows so large, and so powerful that it can engage in the kinds of actions, such as strikes and work stoppages, including by soldiers, that make it impossible for the war to be prosecuted. All that we do now to build such a movement is critical to its future success.





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