|Volume 52 Number 2, February 13, 2022||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
The demand for an anti-war government is deeply significant. Rather than a simple shift in policy, a policy objective, bringing into being an anti-war government will be history-making. It will realise an entirely new form of democracy and move us out of the factional infighting into which the present cartel-party system has descended for good. An anti-war government will end the division of the polity into ruler and ruled and allow people to govern themselves directly by speaking in their own name. The battle for an anti-war government will reveal these deep-going constitutional ramifications as it continues to unfold, in opposition to the pro-war status quo that blocks the desire for peace and democracy at every turn.
The necessity for an anti-war government arises out of the conditions of the present; it is what the times call for. Most immediately, it poses itself as essential in the struggle to end British crimes against the peace, the intervention and warmongering that are so destructive and fraught with danger.
Anti-war government is a form of decision-making constituted to harmonise interests, the interests of individuals, collectives, and whole societies, and provide the right to peace with a guarantee.
The present period is one where anarchy, unpredictability and violence prevail, and politics is dominated by pro-war government. One could say that pro-war governance is the current mode of rule, which does not only mean a policy of war internationally, but is also manifested at home as rule by police powers. Pro-war government is a form that is not constituted with the aim of harmonising interests, but is rather aimed at various interests achieving dominance through usurping power by force.
In the previous period, the period that began with the October Revolution and ended with the events of 1989-91, the possibility of anti-war government opened up in the aftermath of the Second World War. The Charter of the United Nations expressed the demand of the whole world's people for an end to resolving international conflict through military force.
In the conditions of the time, the bipolar division of the world, the camp aligned with the US pursued a pro-war stance under the banner of opposing communism. The atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Cold War was declared in Churchill's iron curtain speech. Brutal intervention was inflicted in Greece, where napalm was first used against the democratic forces, followed by Korea, Vietnam, and other places around the world.
In the present, however, the Cold War is over and the times are significantly different. The present period is one where capitalism has declared victory and assumes free rein to act as it pleases. Capitalism is aggressive in its position, and ruthless in eliminating any threat to its existence.
The general evolution of capitalism to ever-greater monopolisation has reached the point of oligarchy. Nothing stands in the way of the oligarchies, which have overwhelmed the public authorities and civil societies that used to operate in nation states under the old political model. They operate globally, above states, and drive forward supranational arrangements in their favour as they fiercely compete for control over the world's political and economic corridors.
The October Revolution had ruptured the capitalist world and divided it into two camps: that of socialism and that of capitalism. That period is over, and with the fall of the Soviet Union, the US emerged as the single world superpower, both financially and militarily. That is now increasingly being challenged. The US remains as an imperial power, trying desperately to cling onto its role as indispensable to all aspects of world affairs. This role of the US itself is now in the service of and subordinate to various sections of the global oligarchy.
The present period is characterised by war in a way that is new. Nowadays, wars are less wars of geopolitics than a result of the chaos and anarchy. The US is trying to seek a new world order as a continuation of the old, dominated by itself, but is failing to do so. Everything is very unstable. Against this whole background, there are forces at play within Britain, which see Britain's role within this context, again in a manner that will serve various powerful interests.
Indeed, one of the first major events of the present period was the Gulf War, the first Iraq War, launched by George Bush Sr in 1990. Later that decade, Tony Blair and New Labour rose to power in an electoral coup d'état in Britain, spearheading the so-called Third Way, and represented a new kind of pro-war government. They gave the ideological backing to George Bush Jr's "war on terror", as the closest partners of the US in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. They put forward the "domino theory of failed states" as a pretext for intervention aimed at regime change where wherever they pleased in the world. Hand in hand with this was Tony Blair's ruling by conviction: what holds sway is the will of the leader.
One significant thing that began with Bush and Blair, and continues to the present, most brazenly in the cases of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, was the tearing up of norms, and the breaking of taboos. Since that time, successive British and US governments have considered themselves above the rule of law. They flout international norms regarding peaceful relations and national sovereignty, demolishing whole countries, their material resources and cultural heritage. At home they cast constitutional norms aside, concentrate power, even expel whole sections of their own parliamentary parties to maintain rule. It is this mafia-style factional rule, the cartel-party system, that Anglo-American imperialism is insisting is the model that must be imposed in all territories without exception, as it supposedly accords with "universal values". All of this serves the oligopolies, as this form of government both reflects and furthers the usurpation of the public authority and all decision-making by private interests. The "credible threat of force" is essential to this situation.
At the same time, the present is also characterised by profound democratic demands developing amongst the people themselves, in contradiction with rule by dictate and war, anarchy and violence. A space for change has opened up on the question of rights, decision-making, and the use of force to settle conflicts. The present is characterised by the struggle for real democracy, peace, economic well-being, human rights, and the protection of the environment. In this period, an anti-war government means the product of the battle of democracy.
When Bush and Blair launched their attacks first on Afghanistan in 2001 and then Iraq in 2003, the people responded with the largest demonstrations in British history. The march of some two million people in London on 15th February 2003 on the eve of the invasion of Iraq was a defining moment.
Not only did people say "No to War", declaring that another world without war is both possible and necessary, they condemned the war as "Not in Our Name".
It is no coincidence that it was the anti-war movement that first gave rise to this incredibly significant slogan, which people in action have since used in various other situations. It singles out the question of what it means to speak, decide and act in one's own name, or to rule in the name of someone else or something else. This question emerged as central, and cuts to the heart of the system and constitution, because it hits directly at its ideological foundation, the Hobbesian covenant thesis.
The covenant thesis was first put forward in developed form by Hobbes during the English Civil War period in the 1600s, when the democratic revolution broke out in earnest. It served to create a form that would accommodate the conflicting factions so as to put the lid on open civil war, while at the same time blocking the growing demand from the masses of people to participate in decision-making, such as was expressed by the Levellers and others. It put forward its vision of the appropriate democratic personality: the fictitious or artificial person of state, in which sovereignty lies and to which all must submit for the good of all (the covenant). It is on this conception that the notion of representative democracy is based: it is made to appear that those elected represent their electors and through this form generate an aggregate popular will; but in reality, the elected represent the person of state. The concrete reality behind this fictitious personality are the powerful interests at play in society - in the modern world, these are the global oligopoly interests. In reality, the people are prevented from participating in governance, from deciding their own affairs, and are reduced to mere voting cattle every few years.
In Britain, the person of state is embodied in the monarch. The Prime Minister and Cabinet of the day can, using the Royal Prerogative, declare war, sign treaties, even declare a State of Emergency and suspend all rights, without even consulting parliament, let alone the electors. After the February 15 march, when Blair simply ignored the will of the people directly manifested in that demonstration and joined the US invasion of Iraq regardless, it simply showed how far the executive power was at odds with the will of the people, and the authority is out of step with the times. The invasion of Iraq put Britain in a war context, and the New Labour Third Way revealed itself to be a programme of aggression and war, and at home set a direction to what by now has virtually openly become arbitrary rule by police powers.
Democratic renewal is needed, or to put it another way, there is a need for a modern democratic personality. The democratic revolution began in the 17th Century requires completion. There is not one question or one issue facing people right now that is not a question of who decides and who is in control. Every issue from what is happening in workplaces, through to what is happening in politics of the country, through to what is happening internationally, has this issue at heart.
The battle of democracy is the struggle over the very meaning of the word democracy; it is the battle over the content of democracy and the forms that fit that content. Giving rise to an anti-war government is part of the battle of democracy. The act of being of the modern democratic personality is to harmonise interests, which necessitates being anti-war and being opposed to the use of force to settle conflict. The modern democratic personality expresses itself in the form of an anti-war government. It is a matter of necessity that people bring an anti-war government into being, based on meeting the needs of people and in a manner that is in step with the times.