From Solidarity 3/21, 11 January 2003
No support for the Iraqi government
The Stop the War conference in London on 11 January is due to feature applause for the "Cairo Declaration" adopted by an international conference in Cairo, Egypt, on 18-19 December.
The conference opposed the planned US war in Iraq - but from a standpoint of solidarity with "Iraq" (the Iraqi government), rather than with the workers and peasants of Iraq against both US militarism and Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Saad Hammoundy, the Iraqi government's ambassador to the Arab League, was a keynote speaker.
According to a conference report by US activist Sara Flounders, the conference was organised by "the Egyptian Popular Campaign to Confront US Aggression, a broad coalition including political leaders identified with the movement started by the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser and also both secular left and Islamist forces".
Flounders is from the Workers World Party, known as "the Marcyites" after their late leader Sam Marcy, who split from the Trotskyist movement in 1957 because he supported Russia's 1956 invasion of Hungary, which of course the Trotskyists vehemently opposed. The "Marcyites" have developed from that to the idea that states like North Korea and Iraq today, though not 100% good and admirable, are nonetheless to be supported as "anti-imperialist" countervailing factors to the USA. They are best known by way of Ramsey Clark, former US Attorney-General in Jimmy Carter's administration, who is now close to the WWP. They lead an anti-war campaign in the USA known as ANSWER.
The Egyptian government was inclined to ban the conference, but backed down. In addition to the Iraqi ambassador, Clark and Flounders, speakers included some former UN officials who have resigned in opposition to sanctions on Iraq, former Algerian president Ahmed Ben Bella, and George Galloway, a Labour MP with good connections in top Arab circles.
The long "Cairo declaration" refers delicately to "restrictions on democratic development in Iraq", presumably in order to placate participants who opposed Saddam's murderous dictatorship as well as the US war plans. However, it defines the issue as "US global strategy" seeking a "unipolar world order", whereas it would be desirable to "shift the balance of power towards multipolarity". It speaks for elite forces who want a more even sharing of hegemony between different regional centres, as against US hyperpower, rather than for working people who stand for international solidarity against all ruling-class hegemons, whether multi or unipolar.
It also calls for a boycott of Israeli goods to assist Palestinians to "liberate their land" and secure "the right to return", rather than for Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories and an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
While socialists might well take part, with their own politics and slogans, in demonstrations called in Egypt by the Cairo conference organisers, to sign up to the "Cairo declaration" is a different matter, a political identification which socialists should resist.
Tasks for the anti-war movement
By Colin Foster
As the USA moves closer and closer to war against Iraq, two tasks are priority for the anti-war movement in Britain.
First, to root itself solidly in the trade unions, in the labour movement, and among youth. If the war is to be stopped, at this late stage, trade union action will have to be the way to do it.
Second, while keeping its broad political basis simple and clear - Stop The War - to develop agitation and advocacy for that demand which maximises solidarity by being clearly for consistent democracy, against both the US war plans and Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. To taint the anti-war movement with complaisance towards Saddam, or with the reactionary ideas of Islamic fundamentalism, is to cripple and marginalise it.
From that point of view, the anti-war movement in Britain so far is a mixed bag. The Stop The War demonstration in September did draw large contingents of trade unionists and students, but it was co-sponsored with the Muslim Association, British offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the main Islamic-fundamentalist party in the Arab world. The Muslim Association's message - "Zionists out of Palestine" (in chants) and "Keep Palestine Tidy" and a Star of David being binned (on stickers) - tainted the demonstration.
The Stop The War Coalition conference in London on 11 January (10am to 5pm, Camden Centre, opposite St Pancras station) should be a chance to work these issues out. Unfortunately the seven-hour conference agenda allots only one hour to debate on resolutions, and the Stop The War office says that a motion from the Alliance for Workers' Liberty against having the Muslim Association co-sponsor Stop The War activities should be ruled out for technical reasons.