No To Nato: joining the dots between Palestine and Western imperialism

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The Nato summit due to take place in Newport and Cardiff will be met by a week of demonstrations. rs21 spoke to Adam Johannes, secretary of Cardiff Stop the War Coalition, about the protests.

So what exactly is this Nato Newport summit? Who is going to turn up and what will they be getting up to?

It’s like the scene in The Godfather when the five families meet. The Nato summit at the Celtic Manor in Newport will be the largest gathering of international leaders to ever take place in this country. It hosts 60 world leaders, including Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, François Hollande; 70 foreign and defence ministers; 2,000 delegates; and 7,000 journalists.

There are only 28 countries in Nato but over 60 will be present at the summit. Nato is the nuclear-armed military alliance binding Europe’s foreign policy to that of the US, policies that are increasingly being rejected all over the world.

What kind of protests have been lined up? What are the main themes of your response to Nato?

Everything kicks off on Saturday 30 August with an eve-of-summit march through Newport city centre as people flock to Wales. Protesters will set up tents, kitchens and peaceful barricades for a week of international actions, including the weekend march and counter summit, a week-long peace camp, alongside protests and direct action on the summit’s opening day.

artwork2 (1)War is the enemy of the poor, and money into war is money out of our communities. From Ukraine to the Middle East our message is: no new wars. To Nato leaders we simply say: stop arming Israel.

On Sunday 31 August, Cardiff County Hall will host a counter summit to discuss alternatives. It’s important to share experiences from different European states.

Austerity is sharpest in southern Europe and Ireland. Escalating tensions between Nato, the EU and Russia are felt more immediately in Eastern Europe. There is a new Europe of extremes caught between radicalism and racism, evidenced in electoral advance for both the radical left and the radical right.

Our own movement has lessons to share. The British anti-war movement has fought Islamophobia more robustly and with higher Muslim participation. It also has a harder anti-imperialist edge, taking up the issue of Palestine far more decisively than most Western anti-war movements.

Thursday 4 September will be the opening day of the summit. At high noon we will meet at the Cenotaph in Newport to remember victims of war and empire before, as is traditional at summit demonstrations, attempting to march on the summit.

Later we will reconvene on the streets of Cardiff at 6pm to get as close as we can to the Castle where Obama and other world leaders will be holding their banquet – a dinner of death, as we call it. They dine while in our city many are forced to rely on food banks – and this in one of the richest economies on the planet.

What will the Nato summit be arguing about?

The key arguments will be around Ukraine, Afghanistan and military spending. The US will pressure European governments to increase their already bloated military budgets at a time when poverty and inequality are soaring.

Imperial failure over the last decade has opened up divisions within each ruling class. Foreign intervention is harder to sell at home. Some sections want to rein back, others think increased belligerence will solve things. The chaos and blowback from past failed interventions has sent Western foreign policy spiralling into incoherence. This is triggering new fractures.

The divide over Ukraine runs along the lines of each country’s economic interests and trade situation with Russia. The US and Britain are the most hardline in their calls for intervention. Our protests hope to put pressure on them and on public opinion to de-escalate global tension rather than ramp it up further.

Reports say 9,500 cops have been drafted in to police the summit. What do people in Cardiff and Newport make of all this? And what do you see as the next steps for the anti-war movement in the wake of Gaza and the No To Nato demonstrations?

In Cardiff the city centre, castle and central park are currently ringed by Nato’s steel fences, blocks and barriers. An entire city of 350,000 people is being disrupted for a handful of politicians. Workers have faced delays of up to an hour on their commutes over the last fortnight.

£50 million is being spent, a bigger security operation than the Olympics, with police drafted in from every force in the UK and all night court sessions in Newport for the duration of the summit. The powerful will make sure their voices are heard at the summit. We must make sure another voice is heard – that of millions around the world who demand peace and justice.

The last month has seen a new movement emerge around Gaza: new people, new social forces and new ideas have come into the struggle. We have to educate and be educated by these new activists. We need to join the dots between Palestine and wider processes of imperialism and anti-austerity struggle the Middle East.

The rapid growth of the BDS movement over the last month is extraordinary and must be built upon. We also need alliances to oppose Islamophobia, defend civil liberties and stop the government from treating Muslims as a suspect population. We also need thorough collective discussion and debate on Ukraine, Syria and other areas of disagreement.

I hope the No To Nato protests can help reinvigorate and renew anti-war organising in towns and cities across the country, and make them part of a wider struggle for social change. Britain is an oppressor nation that is oppressing many other nations – and as Karl Marx once said, a nation that oppresses another cannot be free.

• For more information on the No To Nato protests see the Stop the War Coalition website

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