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Preface and Introduction

posted 22 Mar 2011, 09:02 by Admin uk   [ updated 22 Mar 2011, 09:30 ]

War and Resistance is a translation of the Swedish book Draksådd, originally published in 2004. It offers a Marxist analysis of the most important wars of the past hundred years; examines the role of UN, civil disobedience and many other failed attempts to stop war. And as a contrast explains why other forms of resistance to war have been successful.

The book starts in Scandinavia at the beginning of the 20th century, goes through the two world wars, including resistance in concentration camps, then goes on to the conflicts in the Indian sub-continent, the Middle East, Vietnam and East Timor, and ends with contemporary wars in ex- Yugoslavia, Africa and Iraq.

Contrary to expectations after the collapse of Stalinism in 1989 this subject remains as relevant as ever, most recently in the light of renewed imperialist intervention in Libya. We will regularly publish chapters from the book, starting with the introduction today.

The authors of the book are Kerstin Alfredsson, Jonathan Clyne, and Lena Ericson Höijer, all longstanding activists within the Swedish Labour Movement. They would appreciate any comments about the book.

Worldwide                              admin@karlmarx.net
Sweden, Martin Lööf          martin.loof@gmail.com


Over the weekend of the 15 and 16 February 2003, people gathered all over the world to try to stop the war against Iraq. It was the largest array of coordinated demonstrations ever seen. According to the BBC between six and ten million people took part in protests in up to sixty countries; other estimates range from eight million to thirty million. The biggest demonstrations were in countries where the government backed the wari.

According to the most conservative estimates over 100 000 people took part in New York, 750 000 in London (the largest demonstration ever seen in the British capital) and 660 000 protested in Madrid. Some 650 000 gathered in Rome (although the Guinness Book of Records lists it as the biggest anti-war rally ever, with three million participants). In Sweden, with its relatively small population, demonstrations were held in at least 36 places. And so on.

The massive protests cut right through the politicians talk. Young people, workers and pensioners around the world were going out to protest against American imperialism. Suddenly, it could be seen that while governments squabbled with each other, many people were totally united against the war. Their message was crystal clear: This is not our war!

The breadth of the opposition to the war was also shown in opinion polls. In Germany 81% were against the war and in France 66%. In Britain, Blair could only count on the backing of 10% unless the UN approved the invasion, which it didn’t. In Russia, only 12% were in favour of the war, with or without the UNii.

The main reason for the size of the demonstrations was neither the fact that information can be rapidly passed around the globe via the Internet, nor because Iraq was the target. Anger was being released that had been bottled up for decades – against widening gaps in society, against the reckless actions of the US government, against everything people had had to put up with since the arrival of the ‘New World Order’. This is what the protests drew their strength from, and they began to acquire solidity when union leaders called sympathy strikes.

In spite of this, Iraq was attacked. The mass protests had not prevented the war. Did the protests achieve anything at all? Anything that will be of importance in the future? Yes! They did.

One result was that a whole generation of young people were politicised and joined the struggle for a better society. Also, it became clear that national borders are no obstacle when people share a common cause.

Moreover, the anti-war movement succeeded in pressurising a number of governments. In Turkey, traditionally a reliable ally of the US, over 90% opposed the war. The Turkish Parliament turned down a request from the US to land troops in Turkey as a prelude to invading Iraq from the north. In Sweden, the late foreign minister Anna Lindh had to change her tune. At first she opposed anti-war demonstrations – she claimed that they strengthened Saddam Hussein – but on 15 February she came to speak at one. Spanish anti-war sentiments played an important role during the popular revolt that brought down the right-wing government of Aznar. One of the first things the newly elected socialist government did was to withdraw the troops from Iraq.

Of the big powers in the UN Security Council, only Blair’s government in Britain gave its full support to Bush. And Blair had to pay a political price for his loyalty. At one with the protest movement, 121 Labour MPs voted against him on the war issue in March 2003. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook was the first of several ministers to resign, creating a sensation. Cook delivered a tough resignation speech, opposing the war.

Of paramount importance was the fact that Blair also encountered strong resistance from the unions. The left-wing candidate, Tony Woodley, was elected secretary general of the Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU), one of the largest unions in the country, in June 2003. He, and other union leaders, talked about the unions moving in and ‘recapturing’ the Labour Party. After that the situation got worse for Blair. Among other things, there was a spate of resignations in protest against Blair remaining party leader. Widespread opposition to the war was not an insignificant reason for Blair resigning before he could fulfil his ambition to “serve a full third term”.

The demonstrations had another important effect. They put pressure on fundamentalist leaders of the Muslim world. According to the fundamentalists, the principal conflict in the world is between Muslims and ‘infidels’, i.e. between Muslims on the one side and Christians and Jews on the other side. Their propaganda has been nourished by Bush’s talk of a crusade, the fanatical anti-Islamic stance of especially the American right, and Harvard professor Samuel Huntingdon’s theories that the world is divided into civilisations – the Christian West and the Islamic East – which are essentially incompatible with one anotheriii.

Although Muslim fundamentalists express a hatred of US imperialism that is shared by many other Muslims, there is no real popular support for a jihad, a holy war. The earlier Western protests against the war in Afghanistan caused a stir in Muslim countries. The demonstrations of 15 February 2003 provided further overwhelming evidence that the fundamentalists were wrong. Here were millions of people in Christian countries demonstrating against a war against a Muslim country. How could these people be viewed as enemies?

When fundamentalists in Pakistan tried to gather a million people to march against the Iraq war on 10 March 2003, they failed, despite deep-seated opposition to the war. As Lal Khan Editor of Asian Marxist Review explained: “they were at least 950 000 short…People were against American imperialism but they saw that the fundamentalists’ theories were wrong, so they refused to join their demonstration.”iv

Sunday 15 February was a historic day. But questions of vital importance remained. If such giant demonstrations could not stop the US – what can? And, what are the causes of war?

To answer these questions we delved into the history of the major wars of the twentieth century. The deeper we dug, the more we discovered facts that were not generally known about war and resistance. Therefore we decided to turn this book into an alternative historical narrative of the events spanning almost 100 years, from 1905 to 2003. It not only tells the story of those who decided upon war, but also of those who fought back.

i http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/February_15,_2003_anti-war_protest

ii Pew Research Centre, 22 January 2003

iii http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_P._Huntington#The_Clash_of_Civilizations

iv Lal Khan: Speech in Barcelona, July 2003