On 18 January, the growing anti-war movement in the US took another important step forward when a crowd estimated at over 200,000 braved the cold and marched on the Naval Yard in Washington DC. The protest was very diverse with large numbers of high school and college students but also many veterans of the 60s antiwar movement and many people who had never been to a demonstration before in their lives. Meanwhile, another 50,000 people rallied in San Francisco, and thousands more demonstrated in Portland, Oregon and other cities across the US.
The anger against the Bush administrations relentless drive towards war against Iraq was palpable in Washington DC. Increasing numbers of people clearly see the war preparations as having little or nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction and everything to do with control of the oil supplies of the Middle East. Opposition to the war is also being fuelled by domestic factors including the state of the economy. Almost 200,000 jobs were lost across the US in November and December alone. Large sections of the population are deeply uneasy when they see the estimates of the possible costs of the war running into the hundreds of billions of dollars.
On top of this is the reality that it will not be the rich who will have to fight and possibly die on the streets of Baghdad but working class and minority youth. It is very significant that a number of trade unions and labour councils including, for example, the Washington State Labor Council and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers Union (UE) have taken a strong stand against the war. Recently, 100 delegates representing over 2 million organized workers formed US Labor Against the War at a meeting in Chicago. The resolution passed at this meeting declared that "the war is a pretext for attacks on labor, civil, immigrant and human rights at home; and…serves as a cover and distraction for the sinking economy, corporate corruption and layoffs." They also add the point that the war could actually increase the threat of terrorist attacks rather than reduce it.
Unfortunately organised labour was not particularly visible in DC. More prominent were various religious and pacifist groupings. Among the keynote speakers were Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton who invoked the memory of Martin Luther King without mentioning King’s increasing opposition to capitalism at the time of his assassination. Not a word was heard from the platform against the Democratic Party who, despite their occasional differences with the Republicans, are every bit as tied to big business and who have prosecuted most of Americas imperialist wars in the past.
The arguments of Socialist Alternative which is part of the Committee for a Workers International, and which calls for the building of a new political party which could represent the interests of working people and all the oppressed in America, were well received. Over 450 copies of our paper, Justice, were sold.
The next major anti-war protest in the US will be in New York City on February 15 and this could potentially be even bigger than last Saturday’s DC demo. It will also be part of a coordinated international day of protest against the war which aims to mobilize 10 million worldwide.