Greetings to this conference from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Britain. It is a moving experience to be here in this city, so symbolic of our great struggles for peace.
We are working for peace and nuclear disarmament in a new context. We continue to demand and campaign for global abolition of nuclear weapons, yet at the same time we are facing an ever greater struggle against the real danger of their use. Since September 11th 2001, the world has been confronted with an intensified drive towards the notion - and indeed the reality - of pre-emptive war; we have seen the total disregard of international law; and we have seen the consolidation of nuclear first strike policies. We must rise to the challenges presented by this new global context for much depends on our effectiveness. Yet at the same time as facing great dangers and challenges we also have the greatest possible asset - mass popular backing for the cause of peace, and a huge anti-war movement across the globe, in which there is an increasing comprehension of the real factors at play in the world.
In Britain we place a real emphasis on an understanding of what is going on in the world, and how we can develop appropriate strategies to advance our movement. So what is the new global context and how can we help develop this great movement and prevent the possibility of further pre-emptive wars and the real danger of nuclear strikes?
The war against Iraq has shifted the balance of power in the world further in favour of the United States. It is clear that this is only the latest stage in a process of US-led wars, which is part of a conscious US strategy. The recent war against Afghanistan has already consolidated US power in central Asia; the war against Yugoslavia in the 1990s had already consolidated US bases in the Balkans. In fact, in military terms, there has been an enormous advance for the US since the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War in 1991. Yet although the US is in some senses at the height of its powers, there are some contradictions within the situation that we should consider, in order to understand the overall situation. The first issue is that while the US is militarily very powerful, it has some fundamental economic problems as evidenced by its enormous balance of payments deficit. Between the Second World War and the mid-1970s, the US economically subsidised the non-socialist world and so it had real hegemony. Since the mid-1970s the situation has reversed and the US has subsidised itself at the expense of the rest of the world, which has given rise to real antagonisms. So the US has a pre-eminence in the world which is real, but it is sustained by sucking in wealth from the rest of the world. But on that basis they are not going to get the kind of consent to domination that they got in the post-war decades. Now US domination has to be established by force and the major factor in this is to ensure the economic wherewithal for the US economy. Thus US domination of the Middle East is a crucial factor because of the importance of oil to the US economy. US domination has also been enforced through the introduction of neo-liberal globalisation, which has also led to the development of considerable world-wide opposition, and these forces have allied with and strengthened the peace and anti-war movements during the current global crisis.
So whilst the US appears to be at the peak of its global dominance in fact it is losing hegemony, because the consent of peoples and even nations who have traditionally backed the US, is being withdrawn.
So over this war against Iraq, the US faced massive popular protest on a world wide basis. This opposition built on and consolidated opposition that already existed, against neo-liberalism and globalisation in many parts of the world. More people than ever before have realised what the real agenda of the war was, and are not taken in by pretexts like supposed weapons of mass destruction or arguments about humanitarian war. But the war also led to an unprecedented development which is of great significance - deep divisions in the advanced industrialised countries, leading to a split within NATO and within the European Union, between those countries who have opted to try and stay in the US framework and those who have tried to draw the line at further US economic and military domination, which will negatively affect their own economies and interests, like France, Germany, Russia and so on.
However, this loss of consent from peoples and states does not mean that the US is about to roll over and give up. On the contrary, its level of military power appears to be such that it can just go ahead. Indeed, the indications are that it is going to go ahead again and that its sights are on Iran. If it can't bring about regime change through interfering in the political framework it will no doubt resort to wars. We make it very clear in our campaigning that this is not some conspiracy theory on our part, but that this overall approach by the US has been clearly articulated by the US administration, and an understanding of this has strengthened the arguments of the anti-war movement. There are three areas in particular which we highlight in our campaigning, where the perspective of global dominance is clearly spelled out.
Firstly, the Project for the New American Century - the neo-conservative think-tank whose goal is to promote US global leadership. It includes Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, which argues the fundamental propositions that US leadership is good for both America and the world, and that such leadership requires military strength. The origins of this approach date back to the early 1990s when Defence Secretary Cheney was setting out his 'peace through strength ' policy based on an aggressive and unilateral approach to secure US domination.
Two military policies fit into this overall framework. Firstly Full Spectrum Dominance, outlined in the US Department of Defence Joint Vision 2020 document which spelled out how the US will achieve full spectrum military dominance on land, sea air and space. The US national missile defence programme is clearly a facet of this which will allow the US to make pre-emptive nuclear attacks on other countries without fear of retaliation. CND does considerable campaigning around this issue. Secondly, the Nuclear Posture Review submitted to the US Congress in December 2001 which lays out the direction of US nuclear forces for the next five to ten years. This constitutes a change in approach of US nuclear forces, effectively abandoning any kind of deterrent notion and embracing offensive strike systems and nuclear first use policies. Pre-emption and unilateralism are the predominant trends in these policy developments and this is also a key area of campaigning.
Understanding these issues makes our campaigning more effective and understanding the contradictions and weaknesses that exist for the US and UK help us to work out our own strategic approaches. Exposing the nuclear hypocrisy of our government, which went to war on the suspicion that another country possessed weapons of mass destruction, when Britain has its own which it is prepared to use even against non-nuclear weapons states, was extremely important in building the opposition. People were very aware that our government accused the Iraqi regime of non-compliance with international treaties, when we know that the British government is not complying with its own treaty obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to get rid of its own nuclear weapons. There is an increasing understanding of all these issues, and how they link together, and that has enormously strengthened the peace and anti-war movements in Britain. Understanding the global scale of the issues - the common threats that we face - has helped forge links between countries and between different types of activists, campaigns and social movements. The International Anti-War Coordination, which helped to build the global dimension of the demonstrations on February 15th, emerged from the meeting of the European Social Forum in Florence in November 2002. Throughout the world people are realising the links between social problems and war, between globalisation and war, between resource interests and war. This can help us build a movement of unprecedented breadth and depth, socially and politically. One of the great strengths of the British anti-war movement has been the central role of the Muslim Association of Britain, together in the great mobilisations along with CND and the Stop the War Coalition, and these alliances will be strengthened and maintained. We have a responsibility to rethink our conception of campaigning, to have new scope and scale in our strategies and objectives. Let us help develop and work with all forces - the key to our success is unity, diversity and international cooperation.