Thursday, 28 October 2004


Paul Anderson, Tribune column, October 29 2004

Like most readers of Tribune, I’m hoping John Kerry wins the US presidential election next week.

I don’t like what George W Bush has done at home — massive tax cuts for the rich, a big squeeze on America’s already inadequate welfare state, favours to big business on every front — and I don’t like his foreign policy. The way the Bush administration has gone about its “war on terror” since 9/11 fills me with despair. Cosying up to the Israeli right; the extraordinary failure to prepare for the “morning after” in Afghanistan and, particularly, Iraq; the vile abuses of human rights in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib — time and again the Bush administration has proved itself irresponsibly short-sighted, incompetent and brutal. It’s time for a change.

Yet although I’m rooting for Kerry, I’m doing so in a manner so low-key it’s barely perceptible. OK, I’m writing this column, which of course will sway opinion throughout the world thanks to Tribune’s amazing syndication deals — aka me posting it on this weblog after the paper went to press.

Otherwise, however, I’ve done sweet FA. I’ve followed the US election campaign in the British newspapers and on TV, but far from obsessively. I’ve been to see Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11 and was underwhelmed. And I’ve continued the boycott of American fast-food chains I began immediately after visiting Kentucky Fried Chicken for the first time in the 1970s. Well, they back the Republicans, don’t they?

But I’ve done nothing so bold as sport a Kerry campaign badge, let alone contact an American voter in a swing state urging support for Kerry. The Guardian set up a scheme to do just this last week, encouraging readers to write letters to 14,000 voters in Clark County, Ohio, putting the case for removing Dubya. The stunt has, er, certainly had an impact: it was picked up big-time by the US media, and for a while last week the Guardian’s website was one of the most visted on the planet.

But all publicity is not good publicity. Rather a lot of the American response to my favourite daily’s initiative was elegantly summed up by the disgruntled recipient of a letter who wrote back: “Hey, England, Scotland and Wales, mind your own business. We don’t need weenie-spined limeys meddling in our presidential election. If it wasn’t for America, you’d all be speaking German.”

One reason for my inactivity is that I take the point: we limeys — weenie-spined or otherwise — have no more right to intervene in US elections than have Americans to intervene in elections over here. More important, I can’t think of anything I could do that would make a blind bit of difference to the result on November 2.

But if I’m going to be completely honest, the biggest reason for my atrophy isn’t political realism. I’m as game for hopeless causes as the next dreamer — anyone for socialism, European federalism or proportional representation? The truth is that I don’t believe that the outcome of this election is quite as important — at least for anyone living outside the US — as most commentators seem to think.

Now, I’m not arguing here, as some Leninist crazies do, that there is no difference between Bush and Kerry because they're both capitalist imperialists. There is a gulf between them on domestic policy — on healthcare, on education, on workers’ rights, on pensions, on taxation. And there are at least grounds for believing that a Kerry White House would be rather more Realpolitik-oriented than a Bush White House — less adventurist and more enthusiastic about working through international consensus.

But the differences between Kerry and Bush on foreign policy (except on the environment) are not huge.

On one hand, Kerry is no dove: as Edward Luttwak argued cogently in the Sunday Telegraph last weekend, those peaceniks who think he would adopt a policy of non-interventionism simply haven’t examined his record, which is consistently hawkish (including voting for war in Iraq). Certainly, a Kerry victory would not – thankfully – mean a rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

On the other hand, it’s at least plausible – I would say likely — that a second-term Bush administration would be much more cautious on foreign affairs than the first-term Bush administration has been. The neo-conservatives who lobbied successfully for the invasion of Iraq have also been responsible for everything that has gone wrong since, and their star is on the wane. What’s more, the scale of the US commitment in Iraq — and the likelihood that it will not be brought swiftly to an end — makes it extremely unlikely that any administration will seek out further targets for pre-emptive action.

Maybe I’m complacent, but I just don’t buy the scenario that has Bush marching into Iran or North Korea. Sorry if this sounds like heresy, but I think the world could live with a Dubya victory.

Friday, 15 October 2004


Paul Anderson, Tribune column, 15 October 2004

Welcome, comrades, to the European Social Forum in England’s London! On this weekend, the activists from all over the Europe and total globe involve and celebrate wildly in a festival of talks and actions against the capitalism and the globalisation. You can meet all progressives of the continent, no kidding — every tendency left on the shelf, pretty much 57 varieties like the Heinz company say! As delegate from the Slavka Movement of the Oppressed Minorities and member of the Slavka Revolutionary Workers’ Party central committee, I salute you!

It is naturally minus the imperialist pro-war social democracy, the opportunist poodler Blair and his co. But it is naturally also embracing the comrades semi-detached from any serious tendency but in struggle against what in the German it calls “the real politics”. I think here of the Red Pepper, Mrs Wainwright’s magazine, in forefront of anti-reality left here, with links to same currents in Brazil and elsewhere, with international circulation and many readers in proletariat!

As well there are — of course! — the Muslim brothers, in historic new alliance against the imperialism. Perhaps they can hook up with the lesbian sisters and come together for peace, like John Lennon sings in Beatles? It is festival against the war and the racist hate — solidarity with the martyrs against criminal Zionists and illegal occupiers of Iraq!

Make no mistake about it, we are one in struggle against imperialism. It is one struggle, one fight against mad dictator Bush and the corporate cronies who bring capitalist “civilisation” in ruins of Iraq.

We salute Respect coaltion, which is rocking the bourgeois politics to foundations in Hartlepool, Leicester and Aldgate East, all famous battles in this year of struggle, followed by comrades worldwide.

We salute also Comrade Scargill, leader of the struggling National Miners’ Union, in headlines this week for famous proletarian unity move. The knees of Blair and fellow scum are trembling in their bed!

The comrades you can listen this weekend are also the most famous top dogs in Britain for struggle.

Biggest dog of all is Comrade Galloway, partisan of anti-imperialist struggle and staunch friend of Iraqi people. He is leader of British proletariat against the lying so-called Labour Government! So what if bourgeois press say he takes shilling of Saddam Hussein? We say there is one solution only, death to bourgeois press scum!

Almost equal supreme dog is Ken Livingstone, leader of London workers. He too is the great anti-imperialist fighter. Many years, he backed the late Comrade Healy against the Pabloite revisionists and degeneration of workers’ international; now he struggles with class-fighters of Socialist Action who are staff of the revolution at City Hall!

But let us not forget the lesser dogs! Comrade Murray, leader of innumerate masses who march against Iraq war last year and rigid member of the mass-party, Communist Party of Britain. Mrs Comrade Chairman, second-in-command of the mass peace movement, militant of the mass-party, Social Workers’ Party. And many other dogs of other mass proletarian tendencies too numerous to mention!


Aaargh! OK, I can’t keep this nonsense up for the whole of a column. I’m no Craig Brown. I admit defeat. And I apologise if it’s not very funny. But seriously — how can anyone take this beano as in any sense politically important?

The participants represent no one but themselves. The overwhelmingly dominant factions on the British organising committee, who stitched up the agenda for the big plenaries, are the dinosaur sects of cretino-Leninism — the SWP, the CPB, Socialist Action. They couldn’t save a deposit in a general election and their politics stinks. The Respect Coalition, the nearest thing they have to a political project, is a principle-free alliance of leftist posturing and Islamist reaction fronted by a charismatic egomaniac.

OK, Ken Livingstone has given the shindig his backing — but that is the London mayor at his most Machiavellian, making sure he never has a challenger from the left however long he continues to pursue the boring gradualist social-democratic capitalist politics that are his (and our) only hope in the real world.

Perhaps if 50,000 people turn up to the ESF, as the organsiers initially predicted, the sheer weight of numbers will give it an unpredictable dynamism. But that is looking rather unlikely: even the organisers are now predicting only 20,000, and the best intelligence is that the actual number will be half that.

But I’ve got better things to do even if 100,000 arrive. Ipswich are playing at home, and I can’t stand Leninist bores.

Friday, 1 October 2004


Paul Anderson, Tribune column, 1 October 2004

Like Ian Aitken in last week’s Tribune, I’m amazed at how little has been made of the Daily Telegraph’s revelations the week before last that Tony Blair was warned long before the invasion of Iraq — by none other than Jack Straw — that the US had done little or nothing to plan for the “morning after”, and that as a result there was a serious risk of replacing Saddam Hussein with something just as bad or even worse.

For Straw’s warning was and is the most convincing argument against the war — that its aftermath was irresponsibly ill-thought-through.

There were and are other anti-war arguments, to be sure. In the months before the invasion took place, the most potent (lest we forget) was that it was dangerously reckless to take on a mad dictator who was probably armed with chemical and biological weapons and had previously been prepared to use them.

If the American and British governments were right about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction — and nearly everyone at the time thought they were, including Dr David Kelly, whatever his doubts about the presentation of the evidence — taking Saddam on in battle was crazy. It wasn’t quite as bonkers as, say, responding to the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 with an ultimatum to the Kremlin, but it wasn’t far off. Even a last-ditch use by Saddam of “battlefield” sarin nerve gas weapons against civilian targets would wreak terrible damage, the peacenik Cassandras warned (myself among them).

In fact, of course, it turned out that we were wrong — and so were the US and UK governments. The invasion was easily accomplished by the American-led coalition. Saddam’s army crumbled away, and he didn’t use those feared WMD. Indeed, it transpired that his chemical and biological weapons didn’t exist (or at least couldn’t be found).

Subsequently, the anti-war lobby changed track. It plugged away relentlessly with two claims: one, that the US and the UK went to war against Saddam on a premise they knew was false, that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and lied to us all; and two, that the invasion was illegal in the absence of a new UN resolution supporting it.

This line of argument is still very much alive — it was restated last week by Tribune’s leader column, and I’m sure it was very much to the fore in the minds of anti-war delegates at the Labour conference as they prepared for this week’s debate on Iraq in Brighton (still to take place as I write).

There's no doubt that this case against the war is superficially strong. It has been clear all along that Saddam’s supposed possession of WMD — or more accurately his refusal to co-operate with the UN inspectors charged with ensuring that he had given up the WMD he once had — was not the real reason the Bush administration decided to take Saddam out but was rather the pretext it chose to clothe with legitimacy its goal of regime change. It is certainly true that WMD was central to Blair’s public case for backing Bush. No one can deny that the WMD have not so far been discovered. And the second UN resolution was not passed.

But so what? It doesn’t follow from all this either that Bush and Blair knowingly deceived us about WMD or that they went to war illegally. It’s far more plausible that the US and British governments simply put the best gloss they could on the evidence available at the time — which with the benefit of hindsight turns out to have been shonky, but, well, no one knew that then. And the invasion of Iraq is at very least defensible in terms of international law because of the UN resolutions on WMD that Saddam blatantly defied, even if the WMD didn't actually exist.

More fundamentally, there’s the problem that international law is an ass. It makes the sovereignty of any state — no matter how unjust, undemocratic or bloody — pretty much inviolable so long as it stays just the right side of genocide or invading its neighbours. Even if the invasion of Iraq was against international law (and I don’t think it was), that in itself wouldn’t make it wrong. Regime change, as long as it resulted in a free democratic Iraq and was achieved with minimal casualties, was a worthy goal.

What the documents leaked to the Telegraph show, however, is that Blair backed Bush even though he was warned by Straw that the US administration simply hadn’t thought through what regime change should entail beyond smashing up Saddam’s state machine, and that the result of this lack of "morning after" planning could be chaos or a new dictatorship. In ignoring his foriegn secretary’s advice, Blair showed himself to be an extraordinarily rash gambler who is blind to the consequences of his actions. It's for this reason rather than any other that we should question his fitness for office.