SocialismToday           Socialist Party magazine

Issue 72, February 2003

International anti-war movement grows

THE BUILD-UP to war against Iraq is sending shockwaves of anger and horror around the world. Significantly, that mood is being translated into action, already on a large scale even at this early stage. Millions of people are expected to demonstrate on 15 February.

The new year has already opened with mass protests taking place – notably on the weekend of 18/19 January – in Japan, Germany, Turkey, Egypt, Syria and Pakistan, and others which CWI members report on below. The rally to mark the opening of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, was over 100,000 strong, twice as large as last year – and its central theme was opposition to the impending war, linked to US economic and military domination.

In Washington DC, USA, more than 200,000 marched on the naval yard, reports Tom Crean from Socialist Alternative (the CWI US section). There were large numbers of high-school and college students, veterans of the 1960s anti-war movement and many people who had never protested before.

The anger against the Bush administration’s relentless war drive was palpable. Increasing numbers of people 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 is also being fuelled by domestic factors including the state of the economy – almost 200,000 jobs were lost in November and December alone. Large sections of the population are deeply uneasy when they see the estimates of the costs of the war running into 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. A number of trade unions and labor councils, including 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 two million organised 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". It adds that the war could 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 and the keynote speakers were Jesse Jackson and the Rev Al Sharpton. No one on the platform voiced any criticism of the Democratic Party which, despite its occasional differences with the Republicans, is every bit as tied to big business and has prosecuted most of American imperialism’s wars. That is why Socialist Alternative calls for the building of a new political party to represent the working people and the oppressed in America. The next major anti-war protest will be in New York City on 15 February.

The anti-war rally in San Francisco, USA, was also the biggest there to date. Around 80,000 people were on the march. Thousands more demonstrated in Portland, Oregon and other cities across the USA.

Over 10,000 assembled in Toronto, Canada, braving sub-freezing temperatures, writes Andrew Messing from the CWI Canadian section. Protesters included trade unionists from the Canadian Auto Workers, the UNITE textiles union, steelworkers, teachers and others, church, Muslim and Jewish groups, war veterans and pensioners, high-school and university students and left-wing organisations. Organisers had booked the 1,200 seat Convocation Hall for an indoor rally, which was only able to accommodate a minority of protesters.

Thousands of people took to the streets in Christchurch, New Zealand, and more than a thousand marched in Dunedin, South Island – three times the number expected by the organisers, report members of the newly-formed CWI group, Socialist Alternative. This followed a demonstration just two days earlier outside the US embassy in Wellington that attracted 200.

Noticeably absent from the protests, however, were the trade union leaders who, despite a New Zealand Council of Trade Unions resolution opposing a war, did nothing to mobilise for the event. Therefore, most of the speakers were members of the local establishment, such as the mayor and the dean of the Anglican cathedral. In contrast, Tim Bowron from Socialist Alternative emphasised in his speech from the platform, that "a new war with Iraq, if it comes, will represent not just the work of one crazed individual – George W. Bush – but rather the logical outcome of a system that puts the needs of the wealthy few before the lives of millions of ordinary people… As long as this system remains in place we will never be rid of war, poverty and oppression. That is why we say that opposing a war with Iraq – while it is a good first step – does not go far enough. We must also begin to build a socialist alternative".

An organising committee meeting is planned for 28 January to step up the anti-war action and build the movement.

On 19 January 10,000 people demonstrated in Brussels, Belgium, reports Geert Cool from LSP/MAS, the Belgian section of the CWI. The collaboration of the Belgian government in US war preparations, by allowing US troops to use Antwerp harbour, and news of the huge international demonstrations on the previous day, helped towards the turnout.

There were slogans against Bush and Blair and the war for oil, but also against Ariel Sharon, who is using the so-called ‘war against terrorism’ as an excuse to attack the Palestinian territories. People are angry at the hypocrisy of the Belgian government, which claims to be opposed to war but said it might support UN-backed military action.

There was a contingent from Trade Unionists Against the War, which is based around the Movement for Trade Union Renewal – a campaign started by workers of Forges de Clabecq who were engaged in an important fight against factory closures from 1996-97 (see Socialism Today No.67). LSP/MAS and International Socialist Resistance has begun to set up anti-war committees in cities, schools and universities to prepare action for ‘Day X’ – the day the war starts.

And in Melbourne, Australia, members and supporters of the Socialist Party (Australian CWI) joined with the Victorian Peace Network to hold a protest outside the army recruitment office on 17 January. The purpose was to present the results of a ballot of Victorians held in 16 suburbs of two cities over the past few weeks. A massive 87% voted against the war plans of Bush. The ballots ended up being tipped over the head of a security guard when he refused to take them.


Home About Us | Back Issues | Reviews | Links | Contact Us | Subscribe | Search | Top of page