Iraq: 15 February – Two million march shakes Blair government

Around two million participated in the anti-war activities in London on 15 February: making it the largest political demonstration in British history.

15 February. No to war in Iraq. cwi reports from around the world. Britian.

Two million march shakes Blair government

This demonstration clearly shook the British government and the following day’s media reports showed the power of the demonstration had clearly affected all the media commentators.

Blair’s speech to the Labour Party spring conference in Glasgow on the same day clearly was defensive and at the same time hypocritically trying to recapture ’moral high ground’. It’s doubtful whether his speech will have much effect. In fact, early indications show it is reinforcing the anti-war movement and anger at the government. Obviously, the scale of the demo will have far-reaching implications in Britain.

The composition of the London demo was incredibly mixed, as you would expect. There were groups of protesters who you would never have imagined seeing alongside each other.

But, there is no doubt that the working class were there in hundreds of thousands. Probably a majority had never been on a demonstration before.

Although the organised working class did not stand out as a visible presence that dominated the demonstration, trade union banners were there all along the demonstration, but like every other group were subsumed by the scale of the demonstration.

Left speakers get best applause

Although the consciousness of the demo was varied, the biggest applause of the day went to Left Labour figures, George Galloway, Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn.

Mo Mowlam, a former Labour Cabinet member and Charles Kennedy, leader of the Liberal-Democrats got a polite response but nowhere near as warm as Galloway, Benn and Corbyn.

There were hundreds of thousands of youth on the demonstration and the Socialist Party (CWI) and International Socialist Resistance (ISR) got a great response from them.

The SP has a brilliant participation. We sold our paper, gave out leaflets and go people to join the party. We also erected great party displays, hoardings etc at key areas of the march, like Embankment and Hyde Park.

Overall hundreds of SP members took part, and ran 22 stalls along the route of the two feeder demonstrations. So far, we know (through reports from less than half the country) that we sold 3,121 papers, raised £900.00 (approx) Fighting Fund, and got 140 SP join cards filled in. 37 people joined ISR at just one stall. The SP’s Black and Asian paper, Nidal Eshteraki, sold over 280 copies.

As these figures show, we had a brilliant participation during this historic demo. SP members worked tirelessly throughout the day. Two people gave individual £40 donations.

One SP member from London sold 211 papers at Embankment. A few other comrades sold over 100 papers each.

SP members felt inspired by scale and determination of the London demo. There is a general feeling in society that the ’quiet’ period of the 1990s in Britain is now definitely over. We plan to seize the opportunity now presented to us.

We will publish full eyewitness reports from the London demonstration over the next few days. CWI online.

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February 2003