Socialist Worker

People's Assembly reaffirms opposition to Blair's war - full report

by Esme Choonara
Issue No. 2043

“We here at this assembly represent the opinions of the people far more than those in houses of parliament,” said Tony Benn, president of the Stop the War Coalition, to hundreds of delegates at the People’s Assembly held in central London on Tuesday.

Organised by the Stop the War Coalition as part of a series of global events to mark four years since the invasion of Iraq, the assembly brought together over 1,000 delegates from trade unions, schools and colleges, stop the war groups, Muslim organisations and other campaign groups to hold “the debate that parliament won’t have”.

The assembly was addressed by a number of MPs as well as leading figures from the anti-war movement. Delegates also spoke from the floor.

Fakey, a part-time student from Glasgow, was one of about 20 people who came to the assembly from the city. He told Socialist Worker that he had been on several anti-war demos but had only recently got involved in the stop the war group in Glasgow. He said that he was really impressed with the People’s Assembly.

“It’s great to see such a broad range of opinion united in pushing forward against the occupation of Iraq.

“I think the next task for the movement is to stop an attack on Iran,” he added.

Asim Haneef from Croydon told Socialist Worker, “I really like the idea that we can come together at this assembly and have a voice.

“If you look at the opinion polls, most people in Britain are against the war and against Trident but the government goes ahead with these things regardless.

There were three sessions at the assembly – on Iraq, on Iran, and on foreign policy after Blair.

Many delegates from the floor joined calls for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.

Katy Clark Labour MP for North Ayrshire and Arran told the assembly that being against the war was one of the reasons she was selected by Labour party members in Ayrshire as their candidate. She said, “We have no military role to play in Iraq and should get out.”

Many delegates and platform speakers warned of the impending threat of a military attack on Iran by the US or one of its proxies. Speakers also condemned the recent parliamentary vote to renew the Trident nuclear weapons system.

Michael Meacher MP told delegates, “We should establish our own agenda of peace – not the George Bush agenda of a ‘war on terror’. This is a bogus war – a cover for extending US power across the globe.”

Nazira, a delegate from Newham Unison union branch, told the assembly, “I left Iran when I was 16. Many of us have suffered under the Iranian government.

“But there is no excuse for an attack on Iran.

“The threat to Iran is not about atomic weapons – it is about the US showing they are the only world power, and it is about oil.

“It is important that trade unions do whatever they can to stop an attack on Iran – petitions, lobbying MPs, strikes, demonstrations.”

The assembly voted to adopt resolutions from the three sessions. The resolution on Iran called for mass civil disobedience in the event of an attack.

Chris Nineham, an officer of the Stop the War Coalition, said, “If there is an attack on Iran, we will call civil disobedience in every community, walkouts in every school, protests and strikes in every workplace.

“If Bush bombs Iran, we should bring this country to a standstill – and we are asking everyone to prepare for this escalation.”

John Rees, secretary of Respect, spoke in the final session of the assembly. He argued that the key question for the future of war and the future of the movement is the balance of forces, pointing out that currently the anti-war movement is on the advance and the warmongers are retreating.

Delegates applauded as he said that the anti-war movement in Britain needs to “break the link between this government and US foreign policy.”

To read the resolutions from the assembly, go to www.stopwar.org.uk


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