Afghanistan: cwi anti-war activities – Washington

War in Afghanistan

CWI anti-war activities

Thirteen thousand on Washington anti-war protest

There were around 13,000 people at the September 29 Washington, DC demo, reports comrade Carlos (Socialist Alternative, US section of the CWI). The media and police say about 6-7,000 people attended. It is fair to say that there were probably 10,000 plus, which is not a small number if we consider that the pro-war sentiments and propaganda is at its peak.

Socialist Alternative (SA) comrades from our Oberlin Branch travelled to Washington DC for the anti-war demo and linked up with SA members there. Over 200 people from Oberlin College went to the demo. The comrades sold about 200 newspapers/statements on the WTC/Pentagon bombings and against war.

There was around 5-6,000 in SF on an anti-war demo, about 800 in Los Angeles, and other demonstrations around the country.

Over one thousand people attend a Chicago demonstration

On Saturday, there was a demonstration in Chicago called by the city wide anti-war coalition, reports SA member, Holger Frauenrath.

Slightly over 1000 people attended three rallies and the demonstration (which went through Chicago’s main shopping area). There were also quite a number of young people there who were not organised. It seems that a number of colleges in Chicago had some sort of small "contingents" at the demonstration. We distributed 400 copies of our anti-war leaflets as well as selling copies of the paper.

Six thousand protest in Amsterdam

SIX THOUSAND people gathered to protest in Amsterdam yesterday (Sunday 30 September 2001), reports Patrick Zoomermeijer from Offensief (Dutch section of the CWI). It was organised by a very broad ‘anti-war’ committee: 150 groups and organisations were involved, basically all of the Left, including the Dutch Socialist Party, the peace movement, and us. It was in many respects a great success, and showed the new spirit!

The police said 6, 000 people were present; the stewards said it was almost 10,000. It was in all the news, although reported briefly, and denounced by the Minister of Foreign Affairs as "too anti-US".

It was the biggest demo or protest on that spot since the Euro-marches in 1997. Since then there has not been a single demo with more then a 1,000 people – even during the bombings against Yugoslavia in 1999. Everybody was surprised with this turn out.

There were many new faces, young and old, immigrant and Dutch, but also a few activists we knew from the past who had not been seen at any demo in the past five years or more.

We from Offensief produced a statement on the terror attacks in the US and against the war plans of Bush and Co., of which the 500 copies were handed out in a few minutes. We sold many copies of our paper. Comrades could not recall the last time in recent years we sold an amount like that – probably not since the heydays of the Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE) in the Netherlands in the early Nineties! On top of that we got a few names from people who are seriously interested in joining us.

The reason why we did so well was because we were the only ones selling a clearly socialist/anti-capitalist paper, recognisable as such by our huge headlines.

The speeches made were about peace, which of course we all want, but did not in any way refer to the ’new world order’ we live in, the effects of globalisation, the capitalist society that produces these conflicts, etc. They just presented moral arguments: "violence will produce violence", and "the innocent will be hurt as well". Some organisers were quoted in the media saying that they would support attacks on terrorist bases "as long as the innocent would not be hurt…"

But what is even more interesting, besides the unexpected big turn out and the many new faces, was the atmosphere. Just to give two examples. We hardly needed to approach people to buy our paper – they approached us! Just standing at one place and holding up the paper was often sufficient.

We also sold a few copies of the ‘Socialist’ as well (the "No To War" headlined issue).

One comrade was interviewed twice for Dutch national TV.

There is a great eagerness for radical ideas (not necessarily socialist, yet), in the face of the chaos in society, and the protest was proof of that!

I think it is right to say that a new period, a radicalisation, seems to have started, with great opportunities.

Thousands demonstrate outside New Labour conference

BRAVING TORRENTIAL rain, several thousand anti-capitalist protesters marched along Brighton’s streets on Sunday 30 September to protest outside the Labour Party annual conference, reports Dave Carr, England and Wales (Socialist Party).

Originally the protest was against Tony Blair’s neo-liberal attacks on the working class but following the events of 11 September it developed an anti-war theme.

Despite the weather, Socialist Party members distributed hundreds of copies of a special anti-war leaflet and sold around 100 copies of the ‘Socialist’ and significant quantities of our literature.

Armed police were notably visible outside the conference centre and the march itself was heavily policed, with officers for the first time carrying dangerous pepper spray.

Earlier, Dave Nellist (Coventry Socialist Party councillor and Socialist Alliance National Chair, addressed the marchers.

Globalise Resistance ‘conference’

Socialist Party members intervened into the ‘Globalise Resistance’ (GR) counter-conference [to the annual Labour Party conference] held on Saturday 29 September, which was organised by the SWP, reports Jim Horton. In reality the event was a series of rallies with limited time for discussion and debate. Ideas were pitched at a basic level; the two main slogans used by SWP members, were ‘People not profit’, and ‘Peace not war’. But this does not raise the wider questions concerning the

The turnout was around 5-700. The vast majority of those attending the counter-conference were either SWP members or members from other Left groups, the Green Party, and Liberals. The event also failed to attract the same numbers of youth as previous GR meetings. New people were thin on the ground but we had good discussions with some of them.

There was not one mention of the impending war on the literature advertising the counter conference material. In the event, every session did discuss the war, but the political content of the SWP was often poor. When SP comrades raised the need to take up people’s fear of terrorism and argue the case for a socialist solution to the capitalist roots of war and terrorism they were accused of "petty squabbling" by leading SWP member Chris Bambery.

Veteran Left Tony Benn (retired Labour MP) and campaigning journalist John Pilger made compelling arguments against the war.

London anti-war meeting

About 400 people turned up at London anti-war meeting on 25 September, reports Ken Smith. The SWP and their circle dominated it overwhelmingly. There were also Greens and CND members. About a quarter of the meeting opposed the SWP or abstained on some of the contentious votes.

The SWP were not prepared to argue their corner on any issue. Their aim in the meeting was to get through a statement that expressed "compassion for relatives of victims on 11 September" and did not condone the attacks but neither did the statement condemn the attacks.

A number of speakers later criticised this and made some good points, including Mohammed, Chaudary, an Asian member of FAIR (Fight against Islamaphobia and Racism), who had a cousin who was on the 106 th floor of the WTC, and a Kurdish-Iraqi woman. But they were shouted down and heckled by and given no more than 30 seconds to develop their points. Some even sneered that they "were playing into the hands of Bush and Blair".

The statement agreed that all groups could pursue their own campaigns but the ‘Stop the War Coalition’ (the proposed and later agreed name) would be an umbrella body to co-ordinate anti-war campaigns. The plan is to have weekly open meetings, with working groups like Media Workers Against the War, students, trade union groups etc.

Because of pressure from the Movement for Justice Campaign and others, the SWP were forced to accept relatively mild additions about "stopping the racist backlash" and "Defend Civil Liberties".

The biggest opposition came against the SWP proposal for a list of the nominees for an organising committee. A number of people reflected the disquiet about this proposal and the way it was brought into the meeting. Opposition also came from a Communications Workers’ Union member, and Darren Johnson, the Green’s Greater London Assembly member. Johnson asked for any decision on a committee to be delayed for a week or two.

Despite most other speakers getting only one or two minutes, both John Rees and Chris Harman [leading SWP members] were brought in to oppose the opposition.

After these proposals were hammered through, with a lot of confusion about what was actually being voted on, the meeting then broke up into smaller working groups. There were some non-aligned youth in the students’ working group.

People after the meeting said they had found it frustrating. Many of them were involved already in a political group or campaign (like CND).

The anti-war movements need to work in a genuinely inclusive manner with proper discussion and democracy, if it is to develop a large base amongst youth and the working class.

Anti-war protests begin in the Czech Republic

People were shocked by the WTC bombings, but this quickly led to divisions in society, writes Vasek Votruba of Socialisticka Alternativa BUDOUCNOST, Czech section of the CWI. Around 60% support the Czech government and its pro-US position, and 49% do not support a war.

Fascists have attempted to use the crisis, even ‘celebrating’ Osama bin Laden.

‘Globalise Resistance’ (GR) called an anti-war demonstration. There were around 50 people on it, mostly from Left organisations. Around 10 were new people. GR did not sell any literature. In fact, we were the only ones with a new paper and pamphlet.

The next day there was an "organisational" meeting to discuss the anti-war movement. There were only people from GR (made up of Workers’ Power, an SWP group and a tiny Christian group) with the Communist Party as observer, and us. GR compared the anti-war movement with the campaign against the Vietnam War. I explained that we have to be conditional on this. We can prepare for a mass movement, but the situation could develop in another way.

There will be another demonstration, called by the Humanist Movement, on 19 October. We will mobilise for this. There will be demonstration on the day US action against Afghanistan starts, and also the day after.

We have already sold 237 issues of our new paper and 60 pamphlets on the US bombings and war, mostly on regular CP rallies, but also on GR demonstrations. We are doing a street stall and sale on Thursday. We also sell papers to our friends and people around us. People are looking for new information; they have had enough of all the government propaganda, and a media that largely ignores critical and oppositional voices.

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October 2001