British and Iraqi antiwar leaders, speaking to the Respect Party, that unity is essential to prevent the looming attack on Iran. Andrew Murray, chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, and then, the remarks of Iraqi peace activist Sami Ramadani.
"The big lesson from the last few years is that we can only advance in unity.
"Everything that we are proud of having achieved in the Stop the War Coalition – the massive demonstrations, the unprecedented Military Families Against the War campaign, the huge mobilization of Muslims alongside the left, the trade union support, the action in the schools and colleges – we achieved together. Labor left and Green left, Communist left and Trotskyist left, religious left and secular left, libertarian left and slightly more disciplinarian left, working in unity.
"And, because the left stopped shouting at each other for a while, we were able to talk to the millions of British people who do not believe that they are on the left but wanted to march alongside us — for the first time in a generation.
"That history cannot be rewritten. It is important that everybody involved on all sides of the dispute in Respect says that the present controversies should not affect the anti-war movement.
"I know that we all mean that sincerely. But, if anyone goes forward with the attitude that George Galloway is the enemy, or John Rees is the enemy, or that good socialists should have no business dealing with the one and that good Muslim activists have no place in the same room as the other, then it cannot but affect the Stop the War Coalition to some extent or other.
"And that is a division that we cannot afford, for our work is not done. If there were no danger of continued war, then we could all set about each other with a will and no regard for the consequences and let the anti-war movement’s achievements bathe in the afterglow of posterity. But we are not in that position. We have the real menace of a fresh war. And we have real enemies.
"Such as Tony Blair, the Middle East peace envoy whose only contribution so far has been to urge a further war — and in the Middle East. Blair is, we read, submitting himself to an interrogation by David Aaronovitch about his years in office. That should not be too taxing. Aaronovitch will not ask the questions that we want to hear answers to. Such as, why did you lie to the British people about the attack on Iraq? Are you proud to have started more wars than any British prime minister since Palmerston? And when are you going to hand yourself in to the war crimes tribunal for justice?
"Or Gordon Brown. We have a responsibility for Gordon Brown. We helped put him where he is today. For 10 years, he was coveting the top job, but was always afraid to strike, incapable of moving against Blair no matter how deep the public anger.
"It was the mobilization against the Israeli attack on Lebanon last year, when the Stop the War Coalition took more than 100,000 people onto the streets once more, which finally pushed even the jost supine Labor MP into telling Blair that it was time to go. And Brown inherited our accomplishment.
"Now, we must hold Brown to account. The continuing deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are on his account now. We will demand of him what we demanded of Blair – get all the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, break with Bush and oppose any attack on Iran. "Which leads us to Dick Cheney. A dangerous man, sitting at an undisclosed location, looking at the situation in the Middle East and saying that we need more war — they are looking forward to it. And they are planning war against Iran with the same lies and threats that they used in 2002 and 2003.
"This would turn the disaster in the Middle East into a global catastrophe and we need to say to every politician here in Britain that, if you support such a war, you are finished in politics. So that is why we must maintain our unity. The next year will be one of exceptional danger while Cheney and Bush remain in charge. We must maintain our perspective.
"jost of us on the left have gone through splits in the course of our political lives. Some are worthwhile, far more are not and it’s never clear which is which until several years later. So, remember our responsibilities to the British people, who will look to us for a lead if war against Iran threatens, and to the people in the Middle East, in particular, who have told us so many times what a source of hope and strength our movement has been.
"If the gap between the two Respect conferences today, between the Bishopsgate Institute and the University of Westminster, seems to you like a gulf, seen from Beirut and Basra, Tehran and Ramallah, it is invisible.
"People there understand what we forget at our peril, that the unity and strength of the anti-war movement is a part – and not a small part – of the margin between life and death for tens of thousands of people across the world.
"Lose sight of that and we are redundant. But put that understanding front and center of all our political work and, when history asks us what we did to oppose the great crimes of imperialism in the 21st century, we will not only be able to say that we did our best, we may even be able to say that we were victorious."
Peace campaigner Sami Ramadani of the British-based Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation also urged Respect to maintain unity in the British
anti-war movement to fight the real enemies:
“The Stop the War Coalition is one of the brightest stars in this gloomy world. It is giving hope and strength to the brave people of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Just as I saw in the other Respect conference, I see here many people who have devoted much of their lives against imperialism and particularly in support of Iraqi people. So, this movement really matters.
“I would appeal to you all, when it comes to the antiwar movement, to work together and keep the unity going. The US is determined to turn Iraq into
an outpost for its future imperialist wars against Iran, Syria, and, through Israel, against Lebanon. They are now dividing Baghdad into 30 military
zones, in tactics they learned in Vietnam. They know, if they can isolate an area and surround it, they can crush all the resistance within it.
“The argument that a withdrawal from Iraq would result in a civil war is a lie. Iraqis want the occupation out now – lock, stock and barrel."