On 15 March millions of people marched against imminent war in over 2,000 cities worldwide. Below we carry reports from CWI members of important protests in Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Japan and Greece.
No to war in Iraq.
Millions demonstrate worldwide on 15 March
The US based media agency, CNN, reported that protests took place in 98 countries. Protests took place throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Millions marched in Spain and Italy, 100,000 came out in Berlin; 150,000 in France; 40,000 marched in Brussels. Around 100,000 marched in Washington, 100,000 in San Francisco and 50,000 in Los Angeles.
60,000 demonstrate against war in Brussels
One month after the huge 15 February demonstrations there was another national mobilisation for an anti-war demonstration in Brussels. Despite the short time span in which this demonstration was organised, 60,000 came to express their anger at the forthcoming war in Iraq.
The CW in Belgium, LSP/MAS, and in the International Socialist Resistance, distributed a leaflet and sold stickers raising over €1,000. We also sold 113 T-shirts with the slogan ‘No War for Oil’ and 208 copies of the paper of LSP/MAS.
It was a lively demo with many young people and also a bigger presence of trade unionists. In the contingent of the CWI in Belgium, the LSP/MAS, and in the International Socialist Resistance, there again were many young people shouting slogans against Bush and Blair, but also against capitalism. Also, in other contingents of unorganised young people, slogans like "Verzet, verzet, internationaal tegen de oorlog van het kapitaal" ("Resistance international against capitalist war") were very popular.
Amongst those present were contingents of all the parties who are in government. This time there even were a handful of MP’s of the VLD (right-wing liberals). Several MP’s and even some ministers were present. This is highly hypocritical given the ban on every anti-war action in Antwerp where the docks deal with shipments of military hardware to the Gulf. On 1 March, 150 anti-war activists were arrested when they wanted to protest against the transport of military material through Belgium. The government, who now are posing as anti-war protesters, leads this repression!
The demo had a smaller turnout than a month ago. This is mainly because it was organised at such a short notice. This meant there were not many posters in the streets.
Local anti-war committees
We also need to build a stronger local resistance against the war. National demonstrations are not enough. With local anti-war committees we can hold local actions and reach more people. This was made clear with a school student strike we organised in Sint-Niklaas on 14 March (see separate report below) in which 1,500 took part.
On Day X, International Resistance will organise local actions. Already, in 12 cities there are actions planned.
Another important action will be the day of protests on 21 March called by the ETUC (European Trade Union Council) and backed by the unions in Belgium. In some cases the protests have extended to become calls for strikes. The unions have called on school students and students to strike and take part in the national demo. We support this appeal. With a strike we can have a stronger impact. The strike of 21 March and the actions on Day X could mean a new step forward for the anti-war movement.
On the anti-war demo of 15 March LSP/MAS and International Resistance had had a strong contingent. Pictures of the CWI contingent are accessible online at: http://users.pandora.be/zottelorre/temp/153/153foto.htm
Geert Cool, Belgium
1,500 youth demonstrate against war in Sint-Niklaas
1,500 school students in Sint-Niklaas went on ‘strike’ for one hour to demonstrate against the coming war in Iraq. Because of the long campaign we have already had under the International Socialist Resistance banner calling for a students’ strike on Day X, we have been able to put pressure on the schools and the mayor to allow our action. They accepted the action and asked us to organise it practically. Perhaps they hoped that through allowing this action they could avoid future actions, especially on Day X (the mayor has called for his own anti-war demo on Day X).
During speeches made by ISR members, we made clear that it is important to strike on Day X and we got a very good response to that. Besides the speeches we shouted slogans like ‘International resistance against capitalist war’.
In the speeches we also opposed the double standards of the Belgian government. On the one hand, they present themselves at anti-war rebels in NATO while, on the other hand, they help the US army’s preparations for war. Even the Sint-Niklaas mayor, who was at the demo, is not clear on his position. He protested in the press against the presence of US soldiers in the city, but he did not even start a real debate about this in his own party (the social democratic SP-A) who are in government.
A school student, Maxim, spoke for the anti-war committees in the schools. He said we need a continuing resistance against this war, which is only in the interests of the profits of oil multinationals. He said it is vital to build anti-war committees and ISR, to discuss an alternative to the capitalist system that leads to war.
It is clear that ISR in Sint-Niklaas has built a strong position in its first year of existence.
Jan Vlegels, LSP Sint-Niklaas
30-40,000 rallies in Sao Paulo
Between 30-40,000 workers and youth marched through Sao Paulo on 15 March in protest against the war against Iraq. The demonstration started as a small march of about five thousands but grew and grew as workers and young people arrived to join the march. People left bars and cafes to join the protest. A very positive aspect of the demonstration was that it was called in protest against the war and also as an act of solidarity with the anti-war movement in the USA. Anti-war committees are being organised at university campuses. Trade unions are organising meetings to rally support for opposition to the war as the anti-war mood continues to grow in Brazil and Latin America.
The third anti-war protest in Santiago, Chile, saw over 3,000 people take part – twice the number that turned out for the first protest on February 15th
Tony Saunois, CWI
CWI members handed out 900 leaflets in Japanese, which were well received¸ on the anti-war demo in Osaka on Saturday 16 March.
There were about 3,000 on the demo, the biggest so far. The majority where demanding peace, particularly so amongst the youth. The union contingents were present and the general political level of their members is higher than the non-unionists.
It was inspiring to see so many youth take part.
John McNeill, CWI Japan
Four different anti-war rallies took place in Athens on Saturday 15 March. On the Greek Social Forum (GSF) event, 5-7,000 took part. The Communist Party demo saw 7-8,000 participate. Around 1,000 rallied at the Maoist sponsored event, and 500 turned up at the ‘Stop the War Coalition’ protest.
The CWI in Greece had a very good contingent on the Athens GSF rally – about 300 people. It made a big impression on people. It was big, lively, youthful and innovative.
Workers from a hospital where a CWI member is the president of the union turned up with their banner. Many people noted this.
We sold at least 160 papers and at least 100 school student papers.
In Salonica there was a rally too. Around 5,000 attended. CWI members sold 100 papers. CWI members led the university student contingent, of about 300.
On Sunday 16 March, a rally was called in one of the towns in Northern Greece, Tyranvos, against the EU Ministers of Security and Internal Affairs who are meeting there. CWI members from Salonica, Volos and from other towns in northern Greece took part in the protests.
Unfortunately the 14 March 14 Greek TUC call for a 30-minute general stoppage of work was not a success unfortunately, as expected. The Greek TUC leaderhip put nor real effort into organising the stoppage at local level and the action was not seen by many workers as doing anywhere near enough. Workers therefore largely ignored it.