"What is lacking today is a permanent, populist,
broad-based political force to challenge the worldview of the serial globalizers
and the advocates of endless war. The Peace Party can be that force. The global
crisis we face today makes the old Left-Right arguments over public ownership
and tax rates irrelevant. Let's have those debates later, but first let's get
rid of those who threaten us with Armageddon."
In March 2003, on the eve of the war against Iraq, I wrote in The American
Conservative of the urgent need for a permanent Left/Right alliance to challenge
the dominance of the warmongers who have seized control of the government and
opposition parties on both sides of the Atlantic.
The response to my article, an Anglicized version of which later appeared in
the British left-wing weekly The New Statesman, took me completely by
surprise. I was inundated with e-mails and letters of support and questions
as to how such an alliance could be brought about.
The idea for a new Left-Right "Peace Party" first came to me after
attending the big antiwar demonstration in London in September 2002 – and
then reading an article by Stuart Reid in the Guardian, six weeks later.
Reid, deputy editor of the London Spectator, occasional contributor to
Chronicles and The American Conservative, and self-confessed hard-core
paleo, wrote of "feeling a little unloved" after attending the largest
antiwar demonstration in Britain's history. "The organizers boasted that
the event had attracted men and women from all walks of life," he wrote,
"teachers, social workers, trade unionists, students, and members of the
Muslim community. There was no suggestion that among the 400,000 or so who turned
up there were also soldiers, lawyers, civil servants, gentlemen farmers, quantity
surveyors, bookie's runners, sub postmistresses, self-employed plumbers, or
– heaven forbid – Telegraph Group journalists. As far as the organizers
were concerned, this was a respectable left-wing gig." Having marched alongside
Stuart Reid and other antiwar conservatives that day, I knew exactly what he
meant. It really did seem as if the march's left-wing organizers had been taken
by surprise at just how widespread opposition to the war in Iraq was.
Attending the march, and the later one in February 2003, convinced me that
we were witnessing the first, unofficial steps toward a new political realignment:
the emergence of a cross-party, radical new peace movement that consisted not
just of the "usual suspects," but of true-blue conservatives
and establishment figures too. But how could we make the alliance a reality?
After hours of discussions with like-minded friends from across the political
spectrum, a "Regime Change UK Conference" was organized for May 2003.
The conference's aim was "to unite all those who challenge the worldview
of the advocates of endless war" and to "discuss ways of achieving
democratic, meaningful regime change in the UK." Over 200 invitations were
sent out, but getting prominent antiwar figures from both Left and Right
to sign on to our draft declaration did not prove easy. The Times columnist
and former Conservative MP Matthew Parris wrote to say that although he was
interested in our plan, he "just didn't sign joint declarations";
Tariq Ali and Harold Pinter both failed to respond. Campaigning journalist John
Pilger sent us his best wishes, but unfortunately could not attend as he was
out of the country filming, while military historian Correlli Barnett also sent
us a generous message of support.
In the end, less than 50 people attended the London conference, but it still
proved a stimulating event. Among the speakers, veteran peace campaigner Dr.
James Thring talked of the illegal nature of the war in Iraq; William Spring
of Christians Against NATO Aggression on the way both Blair and
Bush had misappropriated the Christian message; Adolfo Olaechea, a London-based
human rights campaigner, on the need to attract the support of Britain's traditional
conservative establishment; while I spoke of the challenge of countering the
disproportionate influence of the war lobby in the British and American media.
We went away from the conference in high spirits: at least a start had been
made. Our spirits rose even higher when we saw that the idea for a new realignment
seemed to be gaining support on both sides of the Atlantic. "Those who
want to save the country, whatever party they are now trapped in, should begin,
now, to consider the formation of a new movement that will give voice to the
millions who look from one corner of the House of Commons to another, but can
see hardly anyone who understands their fears or knows their needs," declared
Peter Hitchens, the authentic voice of British conservatism, in the Mail
on Sunday, one month later.
Across the pond, Web sites like Antiwar.com and Counterpunch were also starting
to sing from the same hymn sheet. "A few principled leftists realize that
they need to broaden the appeal of the movement to oppose the war and that the
only reliable allies they can hope for come from the anti-interventionist Right,"
argued Antiwar's Justin Raimondo. "If the Left can ever reach out to this
[populist, antiwar] Right … we'll have something," was the view of
Counterpunch's Alexander Cockburn.
The move toward a historic Left-Right realignment, though gathering momentum
in cyberspace, was still not reflected in the official antiwar movement. In
Britain, Stop the War had done an excellent job in getting the people on the
streets in the two big prewar demonstrations, but under the influence of groups
such as the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party seemed reluctant to take the
next logical step. The Respect Party, founded by renegade left-wing politician
George Galloway in 2004 after his expulsion from the Labor Party, also failed
to achieve a breakthrough. Instead of pitching his appeal as widely as possible,
to transcend class, race, and political affiliation, Galloway instead went for
the Muslim inner city: a strategy that provided him with a seat in Parliament
at the last general election and a launchpad for a lucrative media career, but
that failed to make Messrs. Perle, Frum, and Feith lose too much sleep. Last
year though, there were encouraging signs that Stop the War was beginning to
grasp the need for a radical new departure. The group's chairman, Andrew Murray,
wrote to me to ask if I would be able to help find two or three conservative
antiwar speakers for the antiwar rally planned for that September.
Only bad luck prevented us from pulling it off. Former Minister of Defense
Lord (Ian) Gilmour injured his back at home and was unable to take part; Dr.
John Laughland, trustee of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group and a regular
contributor to The American Conservative was away on his honeymoon; while
Peter Hitchens, although in principle in favor of a new realignment, had reservations
about the pro-multicultural nature of the event and its attempt to link the antiwar
struggle with the issue of Palestine.
Also in 2005, there was an exciting new development in Boston: the formation
of the Antiwar League, with its mission "to mobilize opponents from every
corner of the political spectrum against the plans of our Republicrat rulers
for perpetual war." The League, under its energetic organizer Doug Fuda,
has plans to set up chapters across America and campaigns not just for the return
of U.S. troops from Iraq, but for the dismantling of what it calls the "highly
centralized war-making power of the federal government." Of similar mind,
San Francisco's Stephen Pender, writing in Antiwar.com, argued that the Anti-Imperialist
League, formed in opposition to the U.S. aggression against the Philippines
in 1898, could be the blueprint for a new cross-party antiwar movement. "One
can begin to see the outlines of a movement in which ordinary persons of conscience
from Left, Center, and Right can coalesce around specific issues against the
neocons," he wrote.
As we pass the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, it is time to bring
all these new, positive approaches and ideas under the umbrella of one transatlantic
organization. In time, the group can extend to other countries and become a
truly international antiwar movement, but first and foremost the most pressing
task is to reclaim our own democracies – in Britain and the U.S. –
as it is our governments, not those of Belgium, Bolivia, or Thailand, which
pose the greatest threats to peace today. The Peace Party would not be a party
in the traditional sense of the term (it would not put candidates forward for
public office) but a high-profile pressure group where all opponents of war
would feel at home – regardless of their views on abortion, public ownership,
fox-hunting, or capital punishment. Affiliated groups or organizations would
be able to keep their own identity and individual programs, but would agree
to cooperate on a mutually agreed set of common principles.
The principles would, I suggest, be the following: the rejection of all forms
of imperialism, whether they fly under a military, financial, or human rights
banner; opposition to the international rule of money power and global corporate
governance; support for the rule of international law, national sovereignty,
and the principles of the UN Charter; opposition to the War Party's attempts
to curtail our age-old civil liberties under the pretext of "The War on
Terror"; and last, but certainly not least, our rejection of war as a method
of solving international disputes.
For anyone agreed with most of these points – whether a disciple of Ayn
Rand or Karl Marx, Russell Kirk or Tony Benn, Jesus Christ or Mahatma Gandhi,
the Dalai Lama or Lew Rockwell – the Peace Party would be a home.
"A Left-Right alliance of viscerally antiwar liberals and nationalist
'America First' conservatives will naturally evolve over time as the horrible
consequences of this war come home to roost: they will find themselves moving
ineluctably toward one another, in program if not in spirit. The only problem
is that, by that time, it will be too late," wrote Justin Raimondo in 2003.
With those who planned the disastrous invasion of Iraq now clamoring for what
would be an even more calamitous military confrontation with its more powerful
neighbor, it's still not too late for us to make a difference. For the sake
of the vast majority of decent, peace-loving citizens in the U.S. and Britain
– and the millions of people throughout the world threatened by the aggressive
actions of our governments – let's finally make it happen.
This piece originally appeared in The American Conservative.