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Commentary :: Globalization : International : Labor : Organizing : Politics : Technology : War and Militarism
The donkey won't fly: How to end the war, for real
20 Jan 2007
Peace parades can't stop the surge and slaughter
Answer imperialist war with class war
From the February 2007 edition of Working Class Emancipation

The donkey won't fly: How to end the war, for real

by Yosef M.

The assumption inside the coalitions that comprise the US antiwar movement is that the Democrats can be counted on to do the heavy lifting involved in putting an end to the senseless, endless war of aggression against the peoples of Iraq. Now the US antiwar movement has maintained that position, of counting on the professional politicians, the Congressional Democrats, to do what is necessary to end the war, and now, for that reason, the antiwar movement faces an imminent crisis, as the Democrats in the House and Senate persist in doing what they have consistently done since the war began, seeing to it that Bush has the money he needs to continue devastating Iraq. Even with a majority in both Houses of Congress, even as the reported civilian body count from military intervention approaches 60,000, (, and statistical estimates point to ten times as many Iraqi war deaths, Democratic Party politicians are supremely reluctant to do anything to force the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. The hope that the US antiwar movement and a majority of voters placed in the Democrats, that after five years of acting as Bush's enablers, in their support of the PATRIOT Act and the war, when they joined Bush in a conspiracy against the Constitution, the hope that somehow the Democrats would grow a backbone, would cease to be deaf to the voice of conscience, would choose to serve the US population rather than Bush and the military and corporate interests that benefit from the war - these hopes were all in vain.

Even before taking office, leaders of the Democratic Party promised Bush and his corporate masters they would not demand immediate withdrawal, would not block the nine billion dollars the war consumes each month, would not seek impeachment of perhaps the worst President of the last half-century, who unleashed such anarchy in Iraq that 100 civilians a day are dying. So far, what the Democrats plan to do is hold hearings, providing a platform for the Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to continue misleading the public, and cast symbolic votes against Bush's latest, unconscionable escalation, the "surge" that will lead to a bloodbath in Iraq.

What, then, is to be done? We can learn a lot from people who work, about power in society, about who has it, how to get it, and how to use it to change what desperately needs changing. The workers know how the world works, and they absolutely know how to stop a war. Two months before Bush launched his attack on Baghdad, a teeming civilian center of five million inhabitants, Scottish workers took concrete steps against the coming war.

On January 8, 2003, a train carrying military supplies, was scheduled to be driven to a huge NATO munitions dump buried in a hillside in Scotland, at a place called Glen Douglas. Sensing that an imperialist attack on Iraq was imminent, the Scottish train drivers of the Motherwell depot steadfastly and courageously refused to move the military supply train.

This valiant action by workers forced the British imperialist Ministry of Defense initially to delay and then to cancel the train's trip to the Glen Douglas munitions dump. The Scottish train drivers' firm antiwar stand forced the imperialist military to convey the weapons by truck, causing a delay in the US/UK preparations for their aggression against the peoples of Iraq. These class-conscious Scottish workers displayed considerable courage and determination against the pro-war Labour government's reprehensible attack on Iraq, winning the support of fifteen of their fellow workers at the Motherwell depot. Their action affected the shipping of supplies destined for a British aircraft carrier soon to join US military forces in the Persian Gulf.

A somewhat similar incident took place in Italy the following month, February, 2003, when the first of 26 convoys carrying US troops and military equipment destined for the war against Iraq, was blocked by antiwar protesters occupying the tracks. The initial blockade, near Padua, was followed by blockades in six Italian cities. More than once, the blockades forced trains to turn back or change direction, only to be confronted by new blockades. At one point, in a place called Migliarino, a passenger train driver decided to use his train to block the tracks, preventing the military convoy from proceeding further for some hours. This was an indescribably brave act by a single worker in a strategic job in transport. The example of Scottish and Italian train drivers underscores the truth that society only functions when workers decide to do their jobs. Ultimately, opposition by railway workers who were expected to accompany the US military convoys led to the calling of a strike on February 26, 2003, by the Italian CGIL trade union federation, to support dock workers who were refusing to load military goods. The following month, on March 21, 2003, as Bush's military began its assault on the Iraqi people, the big three Italian union federations called a two-hour general strike across Italy against the war.

Our bulletin has already reported on the strike at Goodyear: 17,000 workers, organized by the United Steelworkers, carried out a strike at sixteen Goodyear plants beginning on October 5, 2006. The workers' issues were union busting, since Goodyear planned to close a unionized plant in Texas, and defense of their health care benefits, which Goodyear wanted to slash. The workers were not actually thinking about the war in Iraq when they walked out, but their strike cut Humvee truck tire production by 35%, forcing the US Army to limit distribution of tires badly needed in the war. Strike action also threatened production of tires for airplanes. The workers' direct action had such an effect on war production that the US Army was considering legal steps to smash the strike. This reminds us of Trotsky's comment that the class struggle is the struggle against imperialist war. The Goodyear strike shows that US workers and the peoples of Iraq face a common enemy, the exploiting class of capitalists in the US, those who own and control everything, including their political puppets in the White House and Congress.

There is convincing speculation on the Web that the next big action by the US imperialists, after the senseless and bloody troop surge, will be a US attack on Iran, which will intensify suffering and broaden the reign of chaos in the region. We have already witnessed the sad spectacle of Congressional Democrats being unable or unwilling to take any concrete measure to limit, let alone stop, Bush's war making. This strongly suggests that Democratic complicity will continue as US aggression batters the Iranian people. If Democrats in Congress cannot bring themselves to oppose a war against one country that never attacked us, how could they summon enough courage finally to break with Bush as he assaults two countries? They clearly are not up to the task, which makes it imperative for the antiwar movement to turn to the workers and promote labor strikes against the war. As we have seen, workers have the social power to shut down the war machine and impose a withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. This is the only real solution, and it comes from the workers themselves.
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