US: Revival of Seattle anti-war movement

There was a 300-strong rally and march against the US military occupation of Iraq in Seattle on 6 October. The protest was primarily organised by the Seattle branch of ‘Not In Our Name (NION)’.

The crowd was overwhelmingly white. It contained both middle class and working class people, as well as young people and some people of color. There were a few anarchists, feminists, and a few socialist organisations with literature tables, including Socialist Alternative (SA – CWI in the US).

A majority of the people protesting probably regard themselves as left Democrats. They responded enthusiastically to many of the left-liberal speakers who promoted the idea that we have to focus the next 12 months on getting Bush out of office (which, although they do not openly promote it, they implied focused on getting a Democrat president elected).

Many of the protesters carried “Impeach Bush” signs and a few held “Kucinich for President” placards. However, there was also a significant minority who were open to discussing breaking from the Democrats. They were interested in the SA public meeting flier and ‘Justice’ (SA’s newspaper) articles about the question of breaking from the Democrats.

Demonstration chants found an enthusiastic, energetic response from people who have been emboldened by recent events that are working against the Bush administration. Bush is being exposed as having lied about Saddam’s supposed weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaeda. Bush’s approval ratings are now the lowest since he took office – 50% – even lower than pre-9/11 levels! Iraqi resistance to the occupation continues, and the costs for US taxpayers and soldiers are piling up.

Significantly, this was the second and the largest anti-war demonstration in Seattle since the anti-war movement collapsed when Bush declared victory against Iraq in May. (There was another smaller protest of about 125 people in Seattle organised primarily by the campaign, ANSWER, last week, that was less well publicised.) As we predicted in the two issues of Justice that were published after Bush declared victory, the President would encounter enormous difficulties in Iraq and the economy would continue to lag. These factors, we argued, would revive the anti-war movement.

Although the anti-occupation movement is clearly much smaller than the massive anti-war movement, those involved have become politicised and radicalised since 9/11 and Bush’s wars. They are approaching these issues from a higher level of political understanding. Interestingly, when one chant on the Seattle demonstration said, “What is the solution? Revolution!” about half the crowd chanted along.

Socialist Alternative members and supporters sold 37 papers on the protest and other literature, as well as raising fighting fund. We handed out about 100 leaflets for our meeting, entitled, “How we can BEAT BACK BUSH”. Our banner read: “Money for Jobs and Education, not War – Socialist Alternative.”

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October 2003