"No to war and capitalism…What we need is socialism!" was the chant of the 500 or so young people on our ISR youth contingent on the anti- occupation demonstration on Saturday 19 March.
With Flags and placards raised high, we marched into Trafalgar Square singing the Internationale, the traditional song of socialist struggle. On the second anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq, over 100,000 people turned out to show their continued opposition to the war and occupation. Six and a half weeks before a general election, many people saw it as an opportunity to let Blair and New Labour know that their lies about the war, and their theft of pensions and services, don’t go unnoticed.
ISR and Socialist Students had planned their contingent for weeks. As well as spending days to make flags and banners, bibs and placards, we organised teams of members who would concentrate on stewarding, raising money to fund our campaigning work, and recruitment to the ISR. Chants and short speeches were prepared, and finishing touches were put to our sound system, to ensure that our section of the demonstration was not only the loudest but also the most political.
Socialist Students national organiser, Zena Awad, lost her voice by the time we got to Trafalgar Square, as she heroically kept the chanting going throughout. Toby Harris, from ISR in Wincester, spoke on the megaphone about the role of US imperialism. Michael Wainwright from Brunel University spoke about the campaign against cuts in education that Socialist Students is organising, and led us with their chant of "No cuts! No fees! No more redundancies!"
Socialists of the anti-war movement
Our plan was to make it clear to all that we are the socialists in the anti-war movement. Many of the people we spoke to described themselves as anti-capitalists. Opposition to the war has led many young people to draw the conclusion that we need to get rid of the system that breeds war and exploitation. Those who were drawn towards our red flags and socialist chants wanted to get active in our campaigns against low pay, against racism, and against top-up fees. But they also wanted to discuss what it is we are fighting for.
Behind our ‘Fight for Your Future’ banner marched members and supporters from universities and schools all over England and Wales, as well as many young workers. These are young people who have been convinced that we need to replace the capitalist system with a system that is planned and democratic. And this intervention showed how confident they are to argue the case for socialism.
Many members of ISR and Socialist Students are also members of the Socialist Party and the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), to which the Socialist Party is affiliated. As members of the CWI we are able to learn from our sister organisations around the world. Our red bibs were supplied to us by CWI members from Belgium, and the CWI in Brazil inspired us to make the red flags after seeing their vibrant colourful contingent at the World Social Forum.