Finding hope during an unjust war
For those of us who oppose the invasion of Iraq by the US and Britain, it is easy to be discouraged by recent events. The war has started, both on the ground and through the air. There is little doubt that the US will emerge militarily strengthened in the Middle East and possibly the world. An era of unilateral US domination of the world in which might makes right seems in the making. Those of us who acknowledge the genocide, massacres and oppression that earlier US domination brought have reason to be concerned.
For much of the last century the US held much the same position that it now seeks worldwide in a more limited sphere of influence in the Western Hemisphere. US invasions of Latin American countries to secure US economic interests were routine and often brutal prior to the Cold War. During the Cold War, the US backed bloody dictatorships to stave off socialist revolutions sparked by rampant poverty. In several cases the US backed outright fascist governments (Guatemala in the 1980s is a prime example) that rounded up and killed their civilians much as the Nazi's did in Europe.
So I am somewhat surprised that I don't feel completely gloomy about current events. I am saddened by the unnecessary death and worried that US expansionism will mean intensified economic suffering for millions. But other events have given me some hope. First and foremost, overwhelming majorities (read 80-90%) of the populations of most countries that I have heard reported oppose the US/British war. Second, even in the US a substantial minority opposed the war outright (maybe 30%) and many more wanted UN approval prior to the attack.
Although their elected leadership ignores the majorities in many countries, in others the governments of traditional US allies - Germany, France, Canada, Mexico and others - have staunchly opposed the war. This has set up a counter-pole to US hegemony that might make further US international interventions less likely. There is also the possibility that elected leaders who went against their population will suffer in future elections.
Of greater importance to me is the growth of a coordinated worldwide protest movement. There have been demonstrations across the globe in dozens of countries on the same day. There have been demonstrations in some countries that exceed in size any but a handful of rallies in my lifetime. In the US at least, a new generation of young people are being politicized. And those of us who are older and hadn't been marching much recently are back in the streets.
There is POTENTIAL here, but it must be realized if it is to be more than a flash in the pan. While I think that it is early to say what might galvanize the movement past the immediate war, I have a couple of ideas that would help. One is to not repeat the sectarian infighting that hobbled earlier movements. This means that us old timers must not repeat past mistakes, but it also means trying to pass on to the youth that building unity in the movement and a broad united front is critical. No one genuinely inside the united front should be treated as badly or worse than our true opponents.
Secondly it seems to me vital that the anti-war movement link with the cause of poor people everywhere. I think that an argument can be made that the fate of low-income strata of the US working class and the vast millions of impoverished workers in the developing countries hangs on the outcome of US capitalism achieving world domination. These low-income workers are mostly women, mostly young and mostly People of Color. Their emancipation could be the great civil right/labor movement of our time.
As I marched in a demonstration in Boston the day that the bombing started, I felt an energy that I had not felt in years. Us middle aged folks hung around the edges and did not beat the drums or chant as vigorously, but we were there with the young people. And I saw plenty of folks from the generation older than me as well. It seems to me that we are at a turning point in history. One way leads to international injustice. The other leads to international democracy. From the signs and slogans, many seem to understand the significance. Yet, it remains to be seen whether this movement can forge a sustained and victorious campaign. I, for one, hope that it can.