International anti-war movement.
A war by Bush against Iraq will cause untold human misery and huge destruction. Working people and radical youth are appalled of course and are voicing their opposition. It is estimated that millions of people will protest against war on 15 February, and similar numbers on ’Day X’ (the first day of a US war), possibly making these the largest single day protests in world history.
The CWI is to the forefront in campaigning against imperialist war plans and will step up this work, as conflict looms more likely. The following reports from around the world give a taste of the anti-war campaigns. CWI online.
CWI campaigns for 15 February
England and Wales
The movement against the war in Iraq is going to huge, and it is also likely to be the biggest youth movement in Britain for decades. Even the police estimate that the February 15 demonstration will be 500,000 strong. If their estimates are correct (and it could be far bigger) it will be the biggest anti-war demo in Britain’s history. Like the last demonstration last October, many different sections of society will be present, including trade unionists, Muslims organised by the mosques, and many others. However, the biggest section of the demonstration is going to be young people, most of who will travel to the demonstration independently.
The 15 February demonstration will not be like other demos. On the September 28 demo we sold over 2000 papers and raised over £1000 fighting fund.
ISR/Youth Against the War
The idea of strike action against the war is spreading like wildfire in the schools and colleges where we have raised it. ISR is receiving tens of emails every day from school students asking questions like "can you send me leaflets and posters about the walkout?" and "how long are we meant to walk out for?" In one sixth-form college in London two older SP members had so many offers to help set up a group in the college that they just had to ask the students to star their own names on the petition. ISR is building for a day of action on February 14, which in some areas will involve strike action, but in most will consist of lunchtime protests, ballots etc. However, they are building for all out strike action in schools, colleges and universities on March 7 and on Day X (the day the war starts). We encourage all young people we meet to set up Youth Against the War Committees in their school or college as a means of building for the strike action and beyond.
War with Iraq is the key issue dominating the news. Only 6% support a ’unilateral’ attack by the US. The Howard government however has despatched thousands of Australian troops to aid the US build up in the region, which is much more military aid than had been expected. The Labour Party is opportunistically opposing the war.
In the second week of January, Socialist Party members and others picketed an army recruiting office in Melbourne, and handed in the results of a public ballot they held on the war. This has received good media coverage.
Socialist Party comrades have launched a Youth Against War campaign. YAW has called a schools’ strike in Melbourne on 14 February to coincide with a Peace Network mass demo on the same day (the SP are also part of the Network), which could be as big as 100,000.
YAW will call students out earlier in the day, hold rallies and occupations and other stunts and then organise the students to join with the large rally later in the day. YUAW has already started approaching unions for backing.
Youth comrades handed out seven thousand leaflets advertising the strike at an annual rock concert in Melbourne held last week.
We have had three great anti-war meetings recently. All three meetings exceeded our expectations. We had 18 in attendance at our meeting at the 519 Community Centre in Toronto, including nine people we had never seen before. There was a good discussion. All signed up for more information and several indicated a willingness to consider joining.
Our noontime meeting at York University attracted 16 people, including four comrades. The discussion was very exciting, with several students raising socialism. One student, Boris, a young worker who returned to school after being laid off from his job as a city worker, was so excited by our meeting that he also came to our 6pm meeting at University of Toronto that night (on the other side of town) and brought a friend with him (he actually called three friends inviting them to the meeting).
Our University of Toronto (U of T) meeting also attracted 16 people and several people again expressed interest in joining!
All in all we are very excited by the past week: five very successful meetings in two cities garnering us up to 40 fresh contacts, almost a dozen of whom have expressed a willingness to join.
Last week, we also held an anti-war meeting at Kingston University, about two hours drive from Toronto, and 26 people attended. This also marks a breakthrough in that campus.
Andy Lehrer, Toronto
The CWI in Finland initiated Youth against War campaign in Oulu, Finland on 30 January, with a public meeting whose main speaker was Jonas Brännberg from Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI in Sweden).
Twenty-five people participated to the meeting, despite the very cold weather and there was not much advertising as the meeting was organised very quickly.
The meeting discussed organizing anti-war work in schools and launching an appeal by the International Socialist Resistance for international school strikes/walkouts. Youth against War give its support for the appeal and we are now trying to get support for it around country and organising walkouts from local schools when war begins.
The eagerness of the youth to support the campaign was also shown in their financial support to help cover the travel costs of Swedish comrades from Luleå and the booking of the meeting place. After the anti-war meeting there was more informal meeting on socialist ideas where eight-person participate.
We are preparing for anti-war demos, including translating an article on ’war for oil’ from the Socialist for use as a leaflet.
The anti-war mood, and also anti-government protests in Portugal against neo-liberal policies, has led to new interest in the CWI. For example, a student joined us recently a group of higher education students Lisbon.
We took part in an anti-war demo a few weeks ago in Moscow, organised by the CP, and attracted 500. On 15 February, a broad anti-war campaign will hold a demo against US war plans. We will take part in the protest. It is mainly organised by a campaign against the Chechen conflict.
Generally there is a growing anti-US mood, mainly due to the war plans for Iraq.
We helped established a broad anti-capitalist forum in December last year, an offshoot from Attac, called Moscow Anti-Globalisation Movement. A first conference was held on 7 December and 100 people attended, many new people who saw posters.
State repression is increasing. The Russian media is now the ’second most dangerous’ to work for in the world, after Colombia. A US trade unionist was deported over the Christmas period for giving aid to air traffic controllers who were in dispute with the government. A planned strike before Christmas was banned and the workers went on hunger strike. After four days doctors said it was not safe for them to work any longer. Soon afterwards the government gave a pay rise.
A new members’ school takes place in Moscow this month. Amongst other issues, the school will discuss ’What is organisation?’
The all-CIS EC will hold an extended meeting at the end of February/early March. Included on the agenda will be a review of structures/the paper etc.
CWI members participated in the Social Forum meeting in Athens last weekend, which had an overall attendance of 1,000. Christina spoke to an audience of 500 (a special leaflet was distributed) criticising the illusions of the Social Forum leaders in PASOK (the right wing social democratic party) and the trade union leaders. She got some very good support from the ranks and the leadership was then compelled to sidle up to the CWI comrades, saying that they agreed with Christina’s points "but you should not make so much noise"!!
Youth Against War (a campaign launched by Socialist Youth, the youth wing of the Socialist Party) organised a march of 250 people in Cork, the second city in Southern Ireland, on Saturday 1 February.
The event had originally been organised as a kerbside protest on the city’s main bridge but organisers proposed to march when the numbers swelled.
The march was made up mainly of school students, slightly older anti-capitalist youth, some older activists and members of the city’s small Arab population.
On the day, one person joined the Socialist Party, three joined Socialist Youth and more than 100 asked to be contacted about future Youth Against War campaign events.
SP members in Dublin collected €430 on an anti-war stall last Saturday.
Joe Higgins speaks out against war
Socialist Party TD (member of parliament) Joe Higgins have received widespread media coverage for his speeches in the Dail (parliament) during a debate on US plans for a war and the right wing government’s allowing Shannon Airport to be used by the US military (’Motion for Dáil Debate in Private Members’ Time Wednesday 29 January and Thursday 30 January 2003’).
Full coverage of Joe’s Dail speech has been given elsewhere on the CWI website. The London Guardian newspaper (4 February 2003) also reported the "emotional debate" in the Dail:
"The Green Party stormed out, brandishing placards spelling out ’No to War’, while the Socialist Party leader, Joe Higgins, accused Mr Ahern of having ’blood on his hands’.
The following extract from the article indicates the media response in Ireland:
Representatives from the British and American embassies in Ireland followed the debate from the public gallery. Bertie Ahern, the Irish Prime Minister (or Taoiseach), found himself cornered by the interventions of Joe Higgins and other TD’s. The Irish Independent newspaper gave a vivid account of the debate and the exchange in a piece entitled, ’Higgins scores heavier hits than Green’s paper tigers’
"Then Joe Higgins got stuck into the Taoiseach about the American military landing at Shannon. (…) Bertie muttered away, saying you could refuel and have a nice rest and something to eat in Shannon, and he caused an exasperated Higgins to bring the house down with a description of what it’s like trying to get a straight answer from the Taoiseach. ’It’s like trying to play handball against a haystack. You hear a dull thud and the ball doesn’t come back. It goes all over the world but it doesn’t come back to the person asking the question.’ Everyone laughed, even on the government side – they couldn’t help themselves. Because it’s true. Bertie got annoyed and mixed up as Joe turned the screw, and said the Taoiseach would have the blood of the Iraqi people on his hands if he supported an invasion. ’Sudam, Sudame’ stuttered the Taoiseach…"
(30 January 2003)
The anti-war work is beginning to take off. The 15 February demo in Belfast will probably up to 2000, one of the biggest the city has seen for a long time outside some of the large trade union anti-sectarian demos. Socialist Party members will have a contingent and will bring banners and megaphones.
Russian and the Ukraine
In Russia, since the Moscow Theatre siege last year, which left over one hundred hostages and Chechen hostage-takers dead after a deadly assault by Russian special forces, there has been a marked increase in activity against the war in Chechnya.
The CWI in Russia, ’Sotsialisticheskoe Coprotivleniye’, has successfully participated in both demonstrations organised by human rights groups and made a big impact. The first demonstration, held late last year, saw five or six hundred people in attendance. It was addressed by a CWI member who explained that the war was inextricably linked to the restoration of capitalism in the former CIS. These remarks annoyed the neo-liberal politicians in attendance. They try to present the war as a consequence of Russia’s "socialist history".
At the second demonstration, last Saturday, attended by about 1,000 people in minus 15 temperatures, two political groups competed for dominance. One was made up of official organisers, human rights groups and neo-liberals whose main banner called on the US and Europe to intervene to stop the war in Chechnya. The other political group was the Left, gathered around Sotsialisticheskoe Coprotivleniye, who made the call for an end to war in Chechnya and Iraq and used the slogans ’No war for oil’ and, ’The enemy is not in Chechnya but in the Kremlin’. FSB (Former KGB) officers and police followed our delegation and at stages attempted to arrest one of our comrades who lead the chanting. Some of the neo-liberals wanted us kicked off the demo but the only Chechen speaker intervened to say that we had already done a lot against the Chechen war and stated, "The Left must stay".
The press coverage of the demonstration concentrated on Sotsialisticheskoe Coprotivleniye. Two of the main papers had big articles on the events. One headline called the demo ’Trotskyist’ and another spent most of the article discussing how the Left (with Sotsialisticheskoe Coprotivleniye as the main component) is becoming more prominent. If it had not been for the crash of the US shuttle an hour after the end of the demo there would have been a lot of TV coverage.
The threat of war against Iraq is also beginning to meet with opposition. A demonstration organised by the Communist Party outside the US Embassy mobilised over 1,000. Sotsialisticheskoe Coprotivleniye members sold papers and handed out leaflets. The protest on 15 February will be key for us. We are the initiators and main organisers of a demonstration to go through the centre of the Moscow on that day. It will not be on the scale of some of the other international protests, such as is expected in London on the same day, but we hope it will be well attended by Moscow standards. The protest is called under the main slogan ’No war for oil’ and is backed by us (Sotsialisticheskoe coprotivleniye), and also independent trade unions, independent lefts, anarchists and some human rights activists.
1,500 on Ukraine demonstration
CWI comrades in the Ukraine (’Rabotnichii Sprotiv’) have also taken part in important protests against Bush, including a demonstration of over 1,500 outside the US Embassy on 1 February. The demonstration was organised by a coalition of the different communist parties. The Rabotnichii Sprotiv comrades also had two representatives in the coalition organising body. Comrade Marichka spoke to the demo. Members of Rabotnichii Sprotiv expect to sell many papers and to hand out many leaflets during the march planned on 15 February.
Rob Jones, Moscow
An anti-war demonstration took place last December in Basel, reports David. Approximately 500 attended, which is not bad for a city of 160,000 residents. They were overwhelmingly young people. The crowd also included Muslims, and immigrants from Turkey, Bosnia, India and Sri Lanka.
Once the Davos World Economic Forum meeting finished in January, and the protests surrounding this coming together of representatives of capitalism, activists turned their attention towards the anti-war movement. A public meeting took place in Basel on Friday 31 January, organised by the Basel Alliance Against the War. This body has also called for a local demo the day war breaks out (Day X).
There will be a national demonstration in Bern on 15 February. German comrades are helping in the production of a CWI leaflet for this important event, which will cover the war for oil, the Palestinian issue and will also provide a socialist alternative. By these activities the CWI can grow in Switzerland.
Although 80% of the population is against a war with Iraq, and the government says it is against a ’unilateral attack’, the possiblity of Chirac and the government making a U turn on the issue is very real. One government minister indicated the profit drive thinking of French big business, when he said recently, "after a war with Iraq, the economy will grow again." No doubt a section of French capitalism is tempted by lucrative ’post-war construction’ contracts in Iraq and will want to be on the ’winning side’.
The anti-war sentiment is very high in opinion polls but has not yet materialised on the streets in a largescale manner. There appears to be illusions that the present stance of the governments in France and Germany will stop a war.
However an anti-war committee in Rouen has taken off and has organised action. The CWI comrades are involved in the anti-war campaign in a local Rouen university and in some schools.
The PC (communist party) is trying to build the anti-war campaign but on a sectarian basis. Another reason for the low level of activity of the anti-war movement is the general state of dissaray that both the LO and LCR (Trotskyist groups) find themselves in. The PS (socialist party) is speaking out against the war but has not dared to appear at anti-war demos.
On the trade union front, things are picking up. Last week there was a demonstration and strike by teachers. On Monday 3 February, a demonstration took place against proposed pension ’reforms’. Le Monde reported that in more than 10 different cities about 350,000 to to 500,000 took part in the protests (based on estimates from the organisers and the police), called by the three main trade union federations.
By members of Gauche Revolutionnaire
Reports compiled by CWI online