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Anti-war movement learning from Vietnam experience


At the recent Stop the War Coalition conference Socialist Unity caught up with Hilary Wainwright, editor of Red Pepper, and asked her a few questions.

 

SU: How do you feel the day's been progressing so far?

HW: I think most important has been the contributions of the Military Families Against the War. That is going to have a huge impact in terms of taking the campaign forward. Simply repeating the same tactics as before and not broadening the base I think would have been a problem.

MFAW really strikes at the heart of Tony Blair's position because these are people who did believe a lot of his rhetoric and are the people who feel most let down by the lies they were told. Their active participation as part of the campaign against the war and as part of the coalition I think is really really decisive. Its been really encouraging to hear from Iraqis themselves, that was very powerful. I'm hopeful that the coalition is moving in an effective direction. I think coming together of the coalition with Occupation Focus is a really good move.

The potential has always been, since February 15th, to build a lasting, cumulative campaign, that is beginning to be realised and any sectarianism or exclusiveness is being overcome by people's recognition of what's at stake.

SU: In terms of action against the war what role do you feel direct action and civil disobedience have to play in the wider movement?

HW: I think it's important, I think you need action at all levels from the refusals of soldiers to fight, individual refusals to collective direct action against military bases for example. Leafleting of TA sites, recruitment offices through to mass demonstrations then to lobbying of MPs - all those levels are necessary.

SU: A controversial issue within the movement concerns attitudes towards the Iraqi resistance. How do you feel we should approach this issue with particular regard to the killing of civilians and Iraqi trade unionists?

HW: Our basic thing is that Iraqi's have the right to resist and we should support that resistance but we shouldn't lift our morality and socialist principles in our support. So where there is behaviour like beheadings of aid workers or kidnapping journalists I just think that's wrong and we should say so.

SU: And, final question, the war on Iraq has often been referred to as a new Vietnam, how far do you feel these parallels go?

HW: Well I think in terms of American imperialism or the role of the Americans obviously there are many similarities; the reasons, the drives are particular to the present conjuncture, the present era. But the drive to dominate, whatever the reasons, are basically the same.

I think the nature of the movement, the movement against war in Iraq was beginning long before the war had even begun. In Vietnam the movement developed with the war so I think that people learned from Vietnam, history never repeats itself so people have its lessons in their minds.

I think it's interesting the soldiers we have just heard have been very influenced by the Vietnam experience and recognise that that war was stopped by the people themselves, by the soldiers and so people are learning from Vietnam and creating a movement that potentially is going to be as effective in a different context. 

 

April 2005

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