Afghanistan: cwi anti-war activities – Gent, Florence, Amsterdam, Berlin, New York, Prague, Finland, Austria, Nigeria, Portugal

International Resistance, the anti-capitalist youth campaign initiated by the Left Socialist Party (the Belgian CWI-section) organised a school strike and an anti-capitalist youth march in Gent, on Friday 19 October. The main slogan of the demo was against the war and against capitalism. In total, 2, 500 youth attended the demo! They went dancing and shouting through the city. Geert and Els from report the Left Socialist Party (LSP).

War in Afghanistan.

 

CWI activities around the world

Gent Florence Amsterdam Berlin New York Prague Finland Austria Nigeria Portugal


Gent

Thousands protest against EU-summit

The European Union organised an informal EU-summit in Gent on 19 October. Prime Minister Verhofstadt announced they would discuss a EU position towards the war in Afghanistan.. The summit was confronted with huge opposition. Our party played a key role in the protests. We organised school students’ strikes in 13 different cities in Belgium. In Kortrijk we were able to get the socialist union ABVV to organise an action against the visit of Berlusconi, Schüssel, Aznar, and Juncker, as representatives of the European People’s Party (the faction in the European parliament which also contains the British Conservatives, the German CDU, and other Christian democratic parties). In Kortrijk, 300 demonstrated against privatisations but also against the repression of Berlusconi’s government during the Genoa protests. The union leaflet protested against the shooting of Carlo Giuliani in Genoa. In Antwerp, 150 demonstrated, while in other cities there were small demonstrations as well.

We were the only organisation calling for this radical demo. All the other left wing groups said we should not have such a radical platform, however the young people present gave their most enthusiastic applause to socialist demands.

In the afternoon an official union demo took place in the same area. The unions booked a well-known singer to entertain the demonstrators. Slightly less than 10,000 turned up.

The biggest event was the evening demo organised by a broad coalition of political groups and non-governmental organisations. Quite a lot of trade unionists joined in. We had a very lively delegation, with over 200. The daily paper, ’De Gentenaar’, said: "The most loud group surely was the extreme left International Resistance". Other papers mention our presence as well. We had a big van playing music, hundreds of placards, and thousands of leaflets.

We sold 161 papers, and raised almost £100 Pounds Sterling. Around 15 people immediately joined International Resistance, and we collected around 80 addresses of young people who want to become members of IR. We raised £560 Sterling for the LSP fighting fund. 48 people filled out forms to join the LSP.

We made the point that we want to build a strong anti-war movement and that we want to make the anti-globalisation movement more concrete. It is not enough to have vague slogans like, "Another world is possible". This was shown earlier last week when a small group of radical fascists, closely linked to groups like Combat 18 and Blood and Honour, organised a small demonstration with 50 participants under the same slogan as the unity demo of 18 October. "Another Europe, for another world". We organised a counter action against the fascists, who had a banner calling for "Nationalists against Globalisation". We exposed their real programme and made clear who is behind this group and their close links to the Vlaams Blok. We mobilised 200 students even though all the others on the Left opposed this demo arguing we should "ignore" the fascists. All the so-called revolutionary groups actively campaigned against the demo!

The week of actions and demonstrations proved to be very successful for the LSP and CWI. Hundreds of comrades and supporters have played an important role in building for this success. We now will continue with a meeting in Gent next week to launch our new party name.

Some brilliant pictures of our demo and our delegation can be found at: http://www.student.rug.ac.be/als/verzet/jomars.html and http://www.student.rug.ac.be/als/verzet/manifeest.html


Florence

Social Forums

Last weekend, 20 – 21 October, the Florence Social Forum hosted a national conference of more than 100 local Social Forums from all over Italy to discuss the next stage of the ’No Global’ movement in Italy. Henry Silke and CWI representative Clare Doyle report from Florence.

More than a thousand people, predominantly young, attended the conference and its working groups for the full weekend, with at least as many again passing through at some time or another. It was held in a massive disused railway station and, especially on the second day, the mood became more and more militant as speaker after speaker urged full support for the coming strikes and demonstrations against war and against the policies of the Berlusconi government.

The Social Forums are organising for a big demo in Rome on November 10, the same day as Berlusconi is calling one to support the US intervention in Afghanistan! Agnoletto, the accepted spokesperson of the Genoa Social Forum, says the aim is not to "challenge’ the demo of the right, but a lot of young people will see it that way!" There is going to be an education general strike on 31 October, but students and school students are walking out of classes and organising demonstrations and occupations every day!

The CWI ran a stall throughout the weekend of the Florence conference. It generated a lot of interest mainly because of the international aspect, as we were displaying papers from our sections around the world. (The CWI paper from Israel attracted particular admiration).

Fifty people expressed an interest in the CWI. Some are considering travelling to Belgium for the anti-EU protest and the ISR conference in December, including a group of youth from Perugia and a music group who played rousing revolutionary songs at the beginning of the conference.

We gave out hundreds of copies of the CWI anti-war leaflet used on the Perugia to Assisi peace march on 14 October and the ISR invitation letter for the founding conference in Brussels (both in Italian). We gave out all the copies we had of the CWI statement "Italy after Genoa" (about 150) also in Italian.

On the Saturday afternoon, we intervened in an anti-war protest called by the CPA – the local ’Social Centre’. This particular CPA is very radical and is currently facing eviction. (It is based in an abandoned factory). The local D.S. council and the COOP group want to build a shopping centre there.

This "small" demonstration (by central Italian standards) consisted of around 1,000 mainly young people singing, dancing, and waving red flags through the suburbs of Florence. A large brass band and a sound system kept it moving. We distributed our ’No to War’ leaflets.
On the Sunday afternoon of the conference, Clare Doyle got the chance to speak to the final plenary session. The speech went down extremely well, with even the interpreter showing an interest in our ideas afterwards!

We will be holding a CWI public meeting in Florence in around two weeks time, to explain the aims and some of the history of the CWI. Before then, we will have individual discussions with the most interested.

We will also be visiting workers in local strikes and protests. There was a one-day strike by train and station cleaners on Monday. The strikers occupied the station, including the rails, and blocked all trains out of Florence, including a few Eurostar and airport trains!

Clare also spoke at a meeting organised in the south of Florence by a branch of another cultural/political group – ARCI – attended by about 40 people, including one or two extremely good youth and Rifundazione members.


Amsterdam

Largest demonstration in Amsterdam for several years

Last Saturday, over 10, 000 people rallied and marched in Amsterdam, in protest against the attacks on Afghanistan, writes Patrick Zoomermeijer. Many protesters brought along colourful home made placards denouncing Bush’s war. A local theatre company exposed the hypocrisy of US foreign policy with the use of mulitiple televisions. Many passersby stopped to listen to watch the rally in Dam Square, including interested tourists from all over Europe.

The march was even bigger than the previous Amsterdam rally, held on 30 September. These two events have involved tens of thousands, whereas for years there have not been many big protests in the city, with the exception of the Euromarches demonstration in 1997 (around 50,000, and mainly involving people from outside the Netherlands).

The 20 October demonstration was both in size and atmosphere very impressive. Many of those present were Left and peace activists. There were also groups of youth that turned up independently, and many people from the minority communities, such as Turks and Morrocans. Dutch working class people also marched. For the first time in years the Dutch Socialist Party (a broad Left party, which holds five seats in parliament and hundreds of council positions) seriously mobilised for a demonstration and succeeded in getting several hundred of its members along. The SP has been the only parliamentary party to condemn the war.

The broad campaign that organised the event (the Platform Against the New War) is made up of 170 different groups. Offensief, Dutch section of the CWI, is part of that Platform, and also represents a Left trend within the Socialist Party. Members distributed around 2,000 leaflets during the Amsterdam protest and sold 30 papers. We were only the Left group that clearly condemned the war, as well as the attacks on the World Trade Center, and at the same time argued for socialism. Unfortunately, most of the platform speakers said nothing beyond making general declarations for peace.

During the lively march around the canals in the city centre, Offensive members’ displayed their our own flag. At the Offensief public meeting afterwards, Niall Mulholland, from the CWI, spoke on the socialist alternative to war and capitalism.


cwi Germany

Four thousand at German ATTAC conference

The German ATTAC congress was a tremendous success, reports Sascha from SAV. According to ‘Süddeutsche Zeitung’ there were around 4,000 people in attendance. It was certainly the biggest Left-wing congress for around 20 years.

The composition was very mixed. Many students and completely new people attended (only a few school students). There were many older ex-activists from different campaigns, like the peace movement or the women’s movement. The participation from trade unionists was limited. There were no trade unionist stalls (apart from the Netzwerk in ver.di [the broad left we lead in the public sector and service union]). Greetings were given to the conference by the vice-chair of ver.di and by a member of the IG Metall Executive Committee, who also came out against the war.

The mood was very good and combative. There was a feeling that this was "a new beginning". Generally, we had the impression the participants were to the left of the ATTAC programme. The mood against the war was very strong. Radical remarks got the most applause, as well as points against the war. There was a widespread openness towards anti-capitalist and socialist ideas.

At the same time it was also apparent that there still is a lot of confusion. The mood for unity is strong and amongst a layer of people there is resentment towards proposals that go beyond the minimum consensus.

Around 55 SAV members from almost all branches were present and spoke during the discussions. We organised a meeting on the ‘Alternatives to the market economy’ with more than 80 present. A meeting by International Resistance on Brussels had 25 present, this was partially due to a venue that was hard to find and the fact that simultaneous meetings were taking place on similar topics.

We sold around 160 papers, and raised around 250 Deutschmarks for the SAV fighting fund. We sold books for around 180 DM. 18 people are interested in joining SAV. 15 people want to stay in touch with our broad Left organisation in the ver.di trade union. We also collected signatures and money for the Berlin school students’ committee against the war. We do not know the exact results yet but at least 300 DM was raised for this and up to 1,000 signatures were collected. Amongst those that signed were Lafontaine, Stephan Heym (a famous East German ‘socialist’ author), Horst Schmitthenner (IG Metall EC), Margaret Mönig-Raane (vice-chair ver.di). The only declaration that was read out at the congress and agreed by acclamation was a solidarity resolution for the school students’, written by a comrade.

SAV election results

We received 875 votes (0.5%) for the SAV slate in the local district council elections in Berlin-Pankow and 631 votes in the three constituencies in Prenzlauer Berg where we stood as candidates of Democratic Left (between 0.9 and 1.1% in these constituencies).

Given that we had largely stopped our election work over the last few weeks because we concentrated on the anti war movement this was a successful result. Our target for the district elections was 600. 875 votes is a doubling in comparison to 1999, but this time the electorate was much bigger so our percentage is lower than in 1999.


cwi New York

College organises against the war

In less than one week a coalition of student groups from Stony Brook college in New York State organised a ‘Peace Rally’ with the demands "End the War" and "Stop the Bombing", reports Billy Wharton from Socialist Alternative (CWI section in the US). Though several groups "officially" endorsed the demo, only a handful of people including myself, actually mobilised on the ground, i.e. leafleted and held discussions with other students, for the event. In all, perhaps 7 students carried out the bulk of the work.

The initial and most politically important parts of the organising effort were conducted in an almost secretive environment. Though my department is considered the most Leftwing ideologically none of us knew of the meetings. At first, I thought this was due to some type of sectarianism.

I was able to attend the last few meetings and discovered that the secrecy was not for sectarian reasons but reflected the collective fear of the coalition. The group was made up of a handful of Phd. students with some experience organising, one member of the SWP, and a group of young undergrads who were organising their first rally. The PHd. Students, particularly one leader of the coalition from the Philosophy Department, were scared after receiving threats by groups of pro-bombing students and being harassed by the police.

The young people picked up this fear and it led to a series of bizarre decisions at the final meeting. Despite the vehement objections of the SWP person and I, the coalition voted to call for the maximum police presence and even give the cops a chance to speak on stage prior to the beginning of the rally! Thankfully, the cops practically laughed in our faces when a rep asked them to speak

I agreed to organize internal security for the march and held a quick marshal training for six people on the morning of the march. In total approximately 150-200 students (the coalition added 80 names to its email list) attended the demonstration. The speakers were very old and occasionally very long-winded. The general environment on-stage was a 60’s revival yet offstage other more interesting things were going on. There were many young Arab students, male and female, as well as many young people generally many of who were attending their first rally.

We distributed around 75 leaflets and sold a number of copies of our anti-war statement. The rally was very diverse, with college students from many different backgrounds. All 20 pamphlets were sold

Many people were interested to hear different interpretation of what is going on and were not afraid to hear a socialist viewpoint. To my knowledge this is the first demonstration at Stoney Brook since the Vietnam War and

I made multiple contacts in the coalition and plan to continue attending meetings. I found the more militant members of the coalition, both undergrads and grads, completely open to discussions on Marxism and a revolutionary solution to US imperialism. At the end of the march I pushed for another organising meeting as soon as possible and perhaps even an open mic speak out in a public area.

A major defect of the rally was the previously mentioned 60’s revivalism. There was simply no connection between the youth in the crowd and the "Where have all the flowers gone?" folk singers. Instead, there was really disconnection and some level of alienation. I am becoming increasingly convinced that a new movement will not be built with old cultural tools. Instead of digging up old reference points we should seriously consider examining and utilizing the more militant features of hip-hop, alternative and punk/ska music as a cultural model to organise a new anti-war movement


cwi Prague

One hundred on humanist rally

Around 100 people attended yesterday’s (19 October) Humanist Movement rally in the centre of Prague. Most people belonged to the Humanists, Christian groups, Anarchists, and Left groups, reports Alexandra Geisler from the Czech Republic CWI section.

We set up a big information-stall and placards. There were only two other small tables, one from the Humanists and one from Globalised Resistance.

One of our members spoke on the Humanist platform. We sold 26 issues of our paper, ‘Budoucnost’, and gave out 30 special brochures about the war and also brochures in English with reports from the CWI and four Trotsky pamphlets. Dozens of people signed our petition and seven people expressed an interest in us.

Since September 11 and the start of the war we have sold over 330 issues of our paper and have had to produce an additional 100 (as well as over 100 special brochures about the war up until now).

We advertised our public meeting/rally on the 24 October, handing out around 300 leaflets. We plan to speak about the international anti-war protests and will have a speaker from the Iraqi opposition in exile. We will also discuss the next steps to build a movement against the war.


cwi Finnish

Peace procession

October 24 – A peace procession in Oulu (the fifth biggest city of Finland) involved over 200 participants. It was organized by very wide number of groups/individuals, including, Jari-Pekka Raitamaa, from the CWI, who sits on the organising committee

The platform had a largely pacifist character. There were speakers from the Lutheran Christians (the state church) and Orthodox Christian churches, and one Islamic speaker.

150 CWI leaflets, "War is no solution – Stop the War", and the same amount of International Resistance leaflets, were given out Hopefully, this will lead to more visits to the CWI Finnish website. The only other group distributing leaflets was the Communist Party, but its leaflet did not even mention even war.

There have been no other discussions about further processions/demonstrations in Oulu. The CWI argues that an effective anti-war/peace movement cannot be built by having only one event (in some other cities have been already several demonstrations).

The CWI will attempt to organise new events, and to hold a meeting about war from a socialist perspective.


cwi Nigeria

DSM calls rally against war and religious and ethnic clashes

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) – Nigerian section of the CWI – is holding a mass rally on 30 October, in Lagos, against the war in Afghanistan, and also to protest against the recent ethnic and religious riots in parts of Nigeria that have claimed hundreds of lives.

The DSM says: "The main purpose of the rally is to fashion out a democratic working class alternative to both terrorism and the war, build unity amongst the Nigerian poor working masses, and against ethnic and religious divisions and clashes".

The main slogans are:

  • Stop the war againsts Afghanistan!
  • No to terrorism and ethnic religious hatred!
  • For working people’s unity and solidarity!

cwi Austria

‘Bus tours’ against the war

The Austrian CWI section decided immediately after 11 September to change the emphasis of its work.

A planned campaign for a 24-hour general strike was put aside and campaigning started instead on a ‘No To War’ campaign. This meant a number of street activities, the production of 3 special editions of the paper (we have sold nearly 1,000 copies), and a number of public meetings. We have collected names of people who want to get active against the war, and have started a special email address list for anti-war activities (to whom we mail about once a week with dates of activities). We have changed the title and programme of our ‘socialism weekend’ (26-28 October) to "No to war – international socialist resistance".

The preparation and mobilisation for this is the main activity at the moment, including leafleting schools and the university.

We have raised the call for a public meeting in the name of ‘School Students Against the War’ to discuss about possible steps, including a school student strike.

In general, the anti-war mood is only at the beginning. The anti-war movement until now has mainly been made up of the organised Left, especially those from the 1980s peace movement. But there is a small layer of youth, including immigrant youth, who are becoming politicised by the war. We approach them under the name ‘International Socialist Resistance’.

The next activity is a "tour against the war" on 25 October. We will be using a loudspeaker bus, and holding small rallies in different places in Vienna. We are working for the ‘socialism’ event and a day of action on the 9 November.


cwi Lisbon

Anti-war demo called

The Portuguese Left Bloc [a broad Left party that holds elected council and parliamentary positions], the Communist Party, trade unions, and social and community organisations, have called an anti-war demo for next Tuesday, October 30, in Lisbon. Alternativa Socialista (CWI Portuguese section) is supporting the demo and producing a special anti-war leaflet, reports Francisco.

We are involved in discussions with some college students on the way to successfully build an effective anti-war movement. We also are discussing with others on how to resist the new far right party, Partido Nacional Renovador (National Renovation Party). This party has put up posters in Lisbon with a clear racist message. They call for the "defence of [the] Portuguese". They have also put forward a slate for Lisbon’s Council elections in December.

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