Another ZNet Update. 

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First, we have a bit of current news... 

We just got some new tracking software and while it is too soon to be
sure, it looks we are doing somewhat under a quarter of a million users
viewing a bit under million pages a week, not counting the forum system.

Less positively, response time for accessing pages on ZNet has been
rather slow for a few weeks, which has reduced traffic somewhat. We
apologize. It is a problem our is correcting, and things should speed up
by the end of this week. 

We are still experimenting with the top page. Those of you using
Netscape may have had a few troublesome days this past week, but
hopefully we fixed that, compliments of Chad Macy's volunteer labor.
Further refinement of the design and layout of the top page may occur,
but we will try to keep inconveniences to a minimum. 

And now, a bit of future news.

Each year we pick a time to send daily Sustainer commentaries to
everyone on our Update List for two or three weeks. This year we will do
it in early February. The idea, we unabashedly admit, is to addict you
to the high quality daily sustainer program commentary mailings. They
will prove so valuable to you, we hope, that receiving them for a couple
of weeks will induce you to become a sustainer, donating at a level you
choose, and receiving the daily commentary mailings and access to the
sustainer forums to show our gratitude for your support. 

If you want to know more about the program already -- just access
http://www.zmag.org/Commentaries/donorform.htm anytime to read about it,
and, if you like, to join it.

Finally, we are preparing very heavily for this year's World Social
Forum in Porto Alegre Brazil, where Z/ZNet is hosting a forum within the
forum, called Life After Capitalism. Many ZNet folks will be there, and
our reporting will be extensive. You can check out www.zmag.org/lac.htm
to see the agenda we are setting up.

Of course, updating ZNet content occurs many times daily, which means
there are many new articles since your last visit. Rather than list new
items, however, let's instead assume you will go soon to the ZNet top
page and see for yourself and here get on to the main reason for this
message. Here is an essay to make this update mailing more substantive.
A plea from one of our ZNet Commentators from London, George Monbiot...


The Time For Talking Is Over 
George Monbiot

The rest of Europe must be wondering whether Britain has gone into
hibernation. At the end of this month our Prime Minister is likely to
announce the decision he made months ago, that Britain will follow the
US into Iraq. If so, then two or three weeks later, the war will begin.
Unless the UN inspectors find something before January 27, this will be
a war without even the flimsiest of pretexts: an unprovoked attack whose
purpose is to enhance the wealth and power of an American kleptocracy.
Far from promoting peace, it could be the first in a series of imperial
wars. The gravest global crisis since the end of the Cold War is three
weeks away, and most of us seem to be asking why someone else doesn't do
something about it. 

It is not often that the people of these islands have an opportunity to
change the course of world events. Bush knows that the Americans'
approval of his war depends, in part, upon its credibility overseas:
opinion polls have shown that many of those who would support an
international attack would withdraw that support if they perceived that
the US was acting alone. An international attack, in this case, means an
attack supported by Britain. If Blair pulled out, Bush could be forced
to think again. Blair will pull out only if he perceives that the
political cost of sticking with Bush is greater than the cost of
deserting him. Bush's war, in other words, depends upon our
indifference. As Gramsci remarked, "what comes to pass does so not so
much because a few people want it to happen, as because the mass of
citizens abdicate their responsibility and let things be". 

There are several reasons why most British people do not seem prepared
to act. New military technology has removed the need for a draft, so the
otherwise unengaged young men who might have become the core of the
resistance movement are left to blast imaginary enemies on their
Gameboys. The economy is still growing, so underlying resentment towards
the government is muted; yet we perceive our jobs and prospects to be
insecure, so we are reluctant to expose ourselves to trouble. 

It also seems that many people who might have contested this war simply
can't believe it's happening. If, paradoxically, we were facing a real
threat from a real enemy, the debate would have seemed more urgent. But
if Blair had told us that we had to go to war to stop Saruman of
Isengard from sending his orcs against the good people of Rohan, it
would scarcely seem less plausible than the threat of Saddam of Iraq
dropping bombs on America. 

These factors may explain our feebleness. They don't excuse it. It is
true that our chances of stopping this war are slight: both men appear
determined to proceed, with or without evidence or cause. But to imagine
that protest is useless if it doesn't lead to an immediate cessation is
to misunderstand its purpose and power. Even if we cannot stop the
attack upon Iraq, we must ensure that it becomes so politically costly
that there will never be another like it. And this means that the usual
demos will no longer suffice. 

There have, so far, been many well-organised and determined protests,
and several more are planned over the next six weeks. On January 18,
demonstrators will seek to blockade the armed forces' joint headquarters
at Northwood, in North London. Three days later, there'll be a mass
lobby of parliament; at 6pm on the day the war is announced, protesters
will gather in almost every town centre in Britain. On February 15,
there'll be a massive rally in London. These actions are critically
important, as they'll demonstrate the level of public opposition. But
they're unlikely, by themselves, to provoke one of Blair's famous
sweats. We must raise the temperature. 

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has already tried one bold and
unprecedented measure: seeking to persuade the courts to rule that
attacking Iraq without a new UN resolution would be illegal. But on
December 17th, the judges decided that they do not have the power to
interpret the existing resolution. It seems that we now have few options
but to launch a massive, though non-violent, campaign of disruption. 

CND and the Stop the War Coalition have suggested an hour's stoppage on
the day after the war begins. Many activists are now talking about
building on this, and seeking to provoke wider strike action, or even a
general strike. 

This is, of course, difficult and dangerous. Some general strikes have
been effective, forcing the tsar to agree to a constitution and a
legislative assembly in 1905, for example, reversing the Kapp Putsch in
Berlin in 1920, and overthrowing the Khuri regime in Lebanon in 1952.
Others have been counter-productive, in some cases disastrous. When the
French general strike was broken in 1920, the labour movement all but
collapsed. Mussolini used the announcement of a general strike in 1922
to represent himself as the only man capable of restoring order; he
seized power, with the king's blessing, after the fascists had routed
the strikers and burnt down the Socialist Party headquarters. If we call
for a strike and almost everyone goes to work, Blair will see this as a
sign that he can do as he pleases. 

But this is the scale on which we should be thinking. If we cannot
mobilise the workforce, there are still plenty of means of concentrating
politicians' minds. We could, for example, consider blocking the roads
down which Blair and his key ministers must travel to meet their
appointments, disrupting the speeches they make and blockading the most
important public buildings. Hundreds of us are likely to be arrested,
but that, as the Vietnam protesters found, serves only to generate
public interest. Non-violence, however, is critical: nothing did more
harm to the anti-war movement in the late 1960s than the Days of Rage
organised in Chicago by the Weathermen. 

But peaceful, well-focused and widespread nuisance, even if it irritates
other members of the public, forces the issue to the front of people's
minds, and ensures that no one can contemplate the war without also
contemplating the opposition to the war. We must oblige people to
recognise that something unprecedented in recent times is taking place,
that Bush, assisted by Blair's moral slipstreaming, is seeking to summon
a war from a largely peaceful world. We will fail unless we stage a
political drama commensurate with the scale of the threat. 

All this will, of course, be costly. But there comes a point at which
political commitment is meaningless unless you are prepared to act on
it. According to the latest opinion poll, some 42% of British people -
against the 38% who support it - want to stop this war. But if our
action is confined to shaking our heads at the television set, Blair
might as well have a universal mandate. Are you out there? Or are you
waiting for someone else to act on your behalf? 

Details of the actions already planned can be found at


Michael Albert
ZNet / Z Magazine


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