Building the Alliance for Peace (part 2)

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There is even very strong opposition to Bush from within the heart of US power structures. Richard Clarke, a central figure within US state put the anti-Bush case very well when he said invading Iraq after 9/11 was like invading Mexico after Pearl Harbour.

It is true Kerry supported the conquest of Iraq, and that the coalitions that make up the Democratic and the Republican Parties are similar. But they are not the same. Clinton was better for the world, especially Ireland and Kerry, warts and all, will be better than Bush. A Kerry victory will be a victory for all those forces opposed to war capitalism. A Bush victory will mean the majority of Americans support Imperialism. A Bush victory will mean an attempted military conquest of Cuba, Iran and any other state that opposes the rule of the American Empire. A Kerry victory will not, or at least is less likely.

It is therefore crucial that powerful and growing anti-war movement coalition in the US, continues to grow and ensures that Kerry wins. If Kerry wins, he will seek to get more troops from other states to go to Iraq especially in Europe to help maintain their Empire.

The peace movement coalitions throughout the world ensure their states do not send troops to Iraq. The reality is the economic figures show that on their own, the American Imperialism has only defeat to look forward to and that without global support the American Empire is finished whether Bush or Kerry leads it.

In short, the global progressive forces need to agree to be part of the coalition than brings together as broad an alliance as possible, including corporations that do not support Bush, to in effect isolate, the war capitalists. Defeat Bush first. Then move on, to ensure Kerry withdraws the US army from Iraq.

After the US withdrawal, there could be a role for a peacekeeping force directly under the auspices of the United Nations, which could play a similar role that it did in East Timor after the withdrawal of the Indonesian army of occupation. The credibility of the UN has suffered by its decision to endorse the illegal conquest of Iraq. A reformed United Nations, reflective of the 21st century, rather than the mid 20th, is needed to create global governance. A global institution is the required institution for global peace and security. A regional grouping, such as the EU/US block will not provide security. It only provides instability as other regional groups are formed to act as counterweights. Any lasting peace must be based on the concept of inclusive and agreed global institutions.

It is this process of global coalition building that is central to the defeat of war capitalism.

When Bush visited Ireland on his election campaign, PANA helped to organise major demonstrations against him. The fact is that in this globalised world, the outcome of the election in the US will have a profound effect on the rest of the world, including Ireland, and it was important to Americans, especially Irish Americans, to see that unlike Clinton, Bush was not welcome here by except the Irish elite.

In Ireland the elite are already strongly supportive of the US version of neo-liberalism. Harney has openly supported the Boston rather than the Brussels version of capitalism, McDowell has stated his support for inequality and Ahern has destroyed Irish neutrality by turning Shannon airport into a US airforce base. The Ahern led FF/PD Government is the most right wing, neo-liberal incompetent in history.

Our purpose in the longer term (say 12 years) in Ireland is to ensure the formation of a government in an all Ireland Republic committed to Irish Independence, neutrality and democracy. We seek to ensure that this Irish Republic would be part of a EU, which a Partnership of Democratic States, legal equals, without a military dimension. That objective is only worth it, if it is part of a struggle for global justice and democracy.

It is to develop an alternative to the institutionalized war economy now on offer from the neo-liberal elite, not just in Ireland, but also globally, by linking up with similar organizations throughout the world. Their vision is global, and if their vision is to be defeated, then our vision has also to be global. The massive demonstrations of over 15 million people that took place on the 15th of February 2003 throughout the world, was their first indication of the potential of our future, the first indication of their weakness, the first indication of our capacity to win.

PANA was one the groups that helped to organise the 125,000 strong march in Dublin. It was a real indication of the potential for building an alternative political coalition throughout Ireland that would defeat Ahern and the rest of the Irish war capitalists. Before the march, PANA had also played a role in gaining a 38% No vote to the Amsterdam Treaty and a 54% no vote to Nice 1 and a 38% no vote to Nice 2 Treaties, treaties that were steps towards integrating Ireland into the EU/US military structures.

On the 11th of June 2004, Fianna Fail (or should it be Fianna Bush) suffered it worst electoral defeat since the 1920’s. The Fianna Fail/PD government, the most right wing neo-liberal and incompetent government in our history suffered a hammer blow. They have lost control of local councils throughout the country and have only 4 MEPS in the European Parliament. Even more important, the political parties that led the opposition to the Fianna Fail decision to support the imperial conquest of Iraq; the Green Party, the Labour Party and Sinn Fein, as well as radical independents, overall increased their vote.

Since PANA’s objective is to seek an Independent Irish foreign policy and Irish neutrality for all of Ireland it is worth looking at the results of the EU Parliament elections on an all-Ireland basis, as our objective can only be achieved if it supported by the majority of the Irish people, from whom all power derives.

FF: 523,000 (23%)
FG:495,000 (22.4%)
SF: 342,000 (15.5%)
Labour: 188,000 (8.5%)
GP: 82,000 (3.7%)
SP/SE: 32,000 (1.4%)
Ind.: 345,000 (15.6%)
DUP: 176,000 (7.9%)
UUP: 91,000 (4.1%)
SDLP: 88,000 (3.9%)

These figures show that while FF has suffered its worst electoral defeat in decades it remains a formidable political force, as is Fine Gael. Sinn Fein has decisively replaced the Labour Party as the major political party on the left, and the Green Party, the SDLP and the far left retain small but significant support from the electorate.

While the DUP has replaced the UUP as the largest party. Together, they have the support of a significant 12% of the electorate. In an all Ireland context they would be a major political force, far greater than they now are within the British state.

Independents also constitute a sizable percentage of the electorate and while it is difficult to categories them on an imperialist/anti-imperialist spectrum, a 50/50 divide is probably reasonable.

The figures also show that to gain the support of the majority of Irish people for a United Independent Irish Republic with its own foreign policy remains a formidable task. Yet power derives from the people. No group can claim the right to speak for them, and they express that power by voting in elections and referendums. Those of us, who wish to establish the Republic, have to gain their support through the democratic process.

On the crucial issue of support for the Imperial war of conquest of Iraq, only the neo-Redmondites of FF/PD alliance and the unionist’s parties actively supporting it. FG formally opposed the war, although they refused to take part in the marches because to quote Gay Mitchell, "it was organized by PANA and Sinn Fein".

A breakdown of 54% against the war and 46% in favour is probably accurate; it also probably is not coterminous with party affiliation as many FF/PD and unionists supporters oppose the war while many FG supporters support it. One way or the other however, there is enough evidence from the marches, elections and public opinion polls to suggest that a majority of the Irish people do not support this Imperial war and that the Green Party, the Labour Party, Sinn Fein, the SDLP, and radical Independents that led the campaign against it have largely benefited by increased electoral support already and as the war continues, can confidently expect that support to grow at the expense of the FF/PD’s and unionist parties.

The nearest historical parallel is when Ireland supported an Imperial war was 1914-18. At the commencement of that war the political parties that opposed the war and that supported the Irish Neutrality League’s foundation in October 1914, only had the support of a small minority of the people, about 5-10%, but by 1918 they had formed an alliance that replaced the Home Rule Party that had dominated Irish politics for decades.

Ahern’s Fianna Fail, however is not the same as Redmond’s Home Rule Party. They have been in power much longer via state structures. Their supporters are in positions of power and influence throughout every level of society. They have integrated and co-opted the trade union leadership and whole layers of NGO’s and community groups through partnership agreements and financial donations via the state. It will be a lot tougher to destroy them.

However, they have made their decision. They supported the conquest of Iraq. Fianna Fail is now an Imperialist party. The Irish Imperialist tradition has been restored, and in the person of Ahern, Redmond has been reborn. FF is the party of war capitalism in Ireland. Imperialism in Ireland cannot be defeated until Fianna Fail has been removed from power. The results of the elections of the 11th of June needs to become the first major step in ensuring that Fianna Fail suffers the same fate as the Irish Home Rule Party.

However, the major opposition party, Fine Gael also openly advocates the destruction of neutrality and the integration of Ireland into the EU/US military structures. They only opposed the Iraq war because they decided to support the then dominant opposition to the war by the then majority of the EU states. Until there is a coherent anti-Imperialist alliance, which has a creditable possibility of providing an alternative government, or at least providing a majority in a coalition government as a stepping stone, then the option of voting for Fianna Fail rather FG will always be the least worst option for many people who otherwise would vote for parties that opposed the war.

Therefore the real question is can the parties, the Green Party, the Labour Party, Sinn Fein and independents that oppose war capitalism, form a government? Can the parties and Independents to the left of the Labour Party substantially increase their electoral support to ensure that a left majority government is an option at the next election rather than the FG/Green/Labour government that is the favoured option of FG and of many in the Labour Party?

Our short tem objective is to build an alliance so that:

  •  An Irish Government in the 26 county Republic that would be committed to adding a Protocol to the proposed EU Constitution, similar to that achieved by Denmark that would exclude Ireland from involvement with the ERRP,
  • Enshrine Irish neutrality into our Constitution
  • Withdraw from the PfP
  • Focus on a reformed US as the institution through which Ireland would pursue its security concerns.
  • Terminate the use of Shannon airport by the US and its allies.

Since the Green Party, Sinn Fein and radical independents already support these objectives, the key question is can the Labour Party alter its current support for a militarized EU? Can it revert to its critical attitude to the EU it had in the late 60’s, early 70"s? Will its opposition to the Iraqi war result in its willingness to take part in a broad anti-war alliance including Sinn Fein, the Greens and Independents on a more formal basis? Can such an alliance gain the support of the majority of the people so it can form a government?

While the election results show it is not now an option, as the war drags on and on, the possibility of such an option becomes more and more real. As the war capitalists in EU, seek to gain support and send more troops to Iraq, such an option becomes more and more a realistic. It is in building opposition to the militarisation of the EU and in again and again pointing out the EU/US military links that will undermine the imperialists within the Irish Labour Party and gain more and more popular support both within it, and among the general population, for the formation of a Green/Labour/Sinn Fein/Independents government.

The first campaign fought by the Peace & Neutrality Alliance was the Amsterdam Treaty referendum held at the same time as the Good Friday Agreement. Both referendums played a significant role in the process towards achieving our objective. For while the elite saw the Agreement as an end in itself, a defeat for Irish Republicanism, a mechanism of drawing Republicans into supporting the EU/US military structures, the rise of the No vote to the Amsterdam Treaty together with the result of the Good Friday Agreement, instead, strongly indicated a growth in support for Irish Independence, in the desire for structures that would deliver, peacefully and democratically, an Independent and United Irish Republic. This growth of support among the people for National Independence and Democracy increased in subsequent referendums.

In the context of Irish integration into the emerging European Empire the Amsterdam result was a major blow for the EU Empire Loyalists, especially in the context of growing support for Irish Independence and when compared with previous referendums.
Year: No vote
1972: 16.9%
1986: 30.00%
1992: 30.9%
1998: 38.3%
2001: 53.1%
2002: 37.1%

Thus Amsterdam marked a decisive shift towards Irish Independence and while we went on to win Nice 1 and lose Nice 2 it created new plateau of 37/38% electorate support for anti-imperialists, and it was one in which the issues of Irish neutrality, Independence and democracy rather than religious divisions which were central to the debate on the future.

Now we are not only to have another referendum on the EU Constitution, but for the first time there will be a referendum in all 32 counties, and hopefully at the same time.

The EU Constitution creates the legal framework for the creation of an Imperial nuclear armed, neo-liberal, centralized superstate. The EU Constitution, rather than our own Constitution will be the "fountainhead of all law", and the European Court of Justice rather than the Irish Supreme Court will the final arbiter in interpreting the EU Constitution. To date, as each of the EU Treaties were ratified, only the provisions of those treaties became part of the Irish Constitution. This EU Constitution is a completely different concept. The EU itself, as distinct entity, acquires legal personality. The EU itself, rather than the member states will be the sovereign legal authority via the EU Constitution.

It legalizes the transfer of power from, not only the Irish people, but also all the people’s of Europe to a EU political elite. A EU elite that makes decisions in secret in the EU Commission and at meetings of the Council of Ministers. A EU elite that is building its own distinct army via the European Rapid Reaction Force. It is why they support it. It is why all democrats in Ireland and throughout the EU should oppose it.

The EU Constitution is another Act of Union. It destroys the legal basis for Irish National Independence in the same way the Act of Union with the British Empire did at the end of the 18th century. It is the European Union, rather than the British Union, which is now the main opponent of Irish Independence and democracy.

However, just as the Act of Union did not destroy the desire for Irish National Independence, neither will the EU Constitution. It is merely another battle between Irish people that support Irish Independence, Irish Democracy and Neutrality on one side and Irish people that support Imperialism on the other, another battle in a conflict that has raged for generation after generation, and will continue no matter who wins the referendum on the EU Constitution.

Our objective is to defeat the EU Constitution, while accepting that some affiliates are still discussing their attitude to it. Since the latest MRBI survey showed that 51% of the people in the 26 county Republic want more independence from the EU and since the vast majority of the people living in the 6 counties support parties that have declared their opposition to the EU Constitution, then a victory, as in Nice 1, a decisive no vote in all Ireland referendum, is a perfectly reasonable and achievable objective.

We need to continue to build a broad alliance of all those progressive forces, including those sections of business, which do not have a vested interest in war. Such an alliance, like in the US should be based on progressive and inclusive values. There is no doubt that there are political forces that oppose the EU from a reactionary perspective. Political groups that seek to stir up religious or racial hatred and division in opposition to the emerging EU Empire. Political forces that look back and seek inspiration from old Imperial values. Any coalition we participate in will have no role for reactionary elements.

However, we have to accept that many of those who will be supporting those opposing the Empire from a reactionary position are our potential allies. Unionists might see they are supporting a British state, that like the 26 county state, is to become only a small part of a European Empire to which they, no more than Irish Republicans are willing to die for. The British Union, a state to which they give their allegiance, is ceasing to exist. In that context, a United Independent Irish Republic in which they would be 12% of the electorate could become a more attractive alternative than an European Imperial state, where the Irish, will be the cannon fodder in Iraq and elsewhere, for the EU/US elite.

In Ireland PANA has co-operated with two other broad based alliances, the NGOPA and the IAWM both of which, like PANA reject religious or racial hatred. It was this broad based alliance and all the groups affiliated, which provided the leadership to opposing the conquest of Iraq. PANA would seek to ensure that a similar broad based alliance by in the first instance gaining their support to opposing the militarisation of the EU, by opposing the EU Constitution. A Constitution which would bind Ireland into supporting the progressive framing of a EU defence compatible with NATO’s defence policy, more arms production and appoints an EU Foreign Minister.

We need to continually point out that the concept that the EU can develop as an alternative centre of power to the US is not a realistic option. Even if it were, it’s not an option for any progressive forces in Ireland or any other EU state. If history teaches us anything, there is no such thing as a "good Empire". One can be better than the other, as there is no doubt that the 3rd German Empire under Hitler was worse than the American Empire under Roosevelt, but they both remained Empires and the victims of Hiroshima would not have appreciated any great distinction.

A EU State, which includes states such as Belgium, Britain, France, Holland, Italy, Germany, Portugal, and Spain, which have such strong Imperial traditions, cannot but be tempted to revive their imperial traditions. It could be a case of "Empires, united, Shall never be defeated".

Since the EU leaders have just elected Barroso, a strong supporter of the Imperial war in Iraq and a hard line neo-liberal, President of the EU who has in turn appointed neo-liberals to the three economic Commissions and is a strong supporter of the US/EU alliance, there is no evidence that the majority of EU elite want to oppose US Imperialism. The fact that the EU states Britain, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia have troops in Iraq supporting the US occupation shows that there is ample evidence that a majority of the EU elite now support Imperialism and neo-liberalism and collaboration with, rather than opposition to, American Imperialism.

This is not to say we should not recognize that EU is not the US. The political forces that seek to develop social market capitalism as distinct from the neo-liberal version are much stronger in the EU than it is in the US.

We should recognize that many political activists involved in seeking woman’s rights, as well as trade union and environmental activists are well disposed to the EU that has been for many decades very supportive. We also should recognize that the Imperialist governments in Europe do not have the support of their peoples. It is not just PANA that opposes the EU Imperialist project.

We need to make it clear that we support environmentalists, trade unionists and woman’s rights activists. We have to make it clear that we believe these rights are best protected and developed by promoting Irish Democracy, rather than by destroying it. We have to make it clear their environmental rights, their trade union rights, their woman’s rights, their civil rights, will be destroyed if they support the institutionalization of EU militarism if this EU Constitution is accepted. The neo-liberal Imperialist agenda of the EU is no friend of democratic rights.

We need to ensure that we build an opposition alliance to the militarisation of the EU via this EU Constitution throughout the EU by building up links with similar groups throughout Europe. PANA is already affiliated to TEAM and the European Peace & Human Rights Network. Our slogans in the campaign are, Yes to Europe-No to Superstate, as well as, Support Irish Neutrality, Democracy and Independence. To PANA, the European Union should be a partnership of Independent Democratic States, legal equals, without a military dimension. By advocating such a vision of Europe is to be truly European, but Europeanism that rejects its imperial traditions.

A victory would mean that a different future for the European Union is possible. If we can successfully be part of a EU coalition that has rejected militarisation and Imperialism then we can help build an alternative future for Europe, we can become part the dominant pro-European political alliance.

Even if we defeat the Imperialists, defeat the Empire Loyalists, and win the referendum on the EU Constitution, that victory will not ensure the formation of a Green/Labour/Sinn Fein/Independents government, but it would go long way. For once the broad framework of a vision of a future, United, Independent, inclusive and democratic Irish Republic, a member state of the EU, which is a Partnership of Democratic states, has been seen to have the support of the majority of Irish people, then the formation of a government based on those principles becomes an option. Gaining majority support for such a government would not be easy. All the parties have to develop policies on heath, education, transport, housing and other issues within an economic framework that rejects Imperialism and neo-liberalism. These are major tasks but achievable But since the alternative on offer would be the neo-liberal Imperialists of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, victory is an a real possibility.

Finally, may I again repeat that this campaign on the EU Constitution is just another battle against Imperialism, and in favour of Irish Independence, Irish Neutrality and Irish Democracy. Win or lose, it is a struggle that has been waged for generations, and we, in waging that struggle are only standing on the shoulders of giants such as Desmond Greaves.

Internationally, the issues of democracy and Independence, of Imperialism and war go back for generations, to ancient Greece, Egypt and what is now Iraq.

In our generation, we are unique, in that we the first to live in an era of weapons of mass destruction, first used in Hiroshima. Now that more and more states are acquiring such weapons, war and Imperialism, which were once able to kill millions, can now obliterate all life on this planet.

If Imperialists like Bush, Blair, and their lackeys like Ahern are not rejected people, then there might not be next generation. It would be more than ironic if all civilization came to an end as a result of a war where in a region where civilization began. So lets hope we win and they lose.

Roger Cole (Chair),Peace & Neutrality Alliance
Speech to the Desmond Greaves Summer School, August 2004.


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