Anti-war demo sweeps London
Even the mainstream media was forced to acknowledge Sunday's marvellous anti-war demonstration in London. TV news and papers had to carry images of the tide of people from all over Britain who poured on to the streets. Yet alongside those images almost all the media repeated the absurd police claim that only 15,000 people had joined the march.
The real figure was nearer 100,000. The head of the march was already in Trafalgar Square as the tail of the march was still leaving Hyde Park two and a half miles away. Young people came from schools and colleges across Britain. They mixed with trade unionists, peace activists, socialists, Greens, CND groups, Muslim organisations, pensioners groups and many, many more. Over 40 coachloads came from Birmingham in a mix that reflected the city's population-black and white, Muslim groups, workers and campaigners. Many other delegations travelled to London-from Edinburgh, the north east of England, Scarborough, Wales and Penzance.
Workers in councils, hospitals and colleges marched behind UNISON union banners. A lively contingent from Camden in north London had council workers, teachers and their schools' students all marching together. Tube and rail workers marched with their unions' banners. The London black cabs were amongst the TGWU union delegations. There were Media Workers Against the War, Artists Against the War, Lawyers Against the War, Scientists Against the War, and Speech Therapists Against the War.
Colombian and Palestinian groups joined the march to voice their anger at what US imperialism has done. There were banners from the Indian Workers Association and several Pakistani community groups. The Jewish Socialist Group marched in unity against the war with Palestinian groups. Rallies at the start and finish of the march saw thousands of people standing for hours to hear the case against the war, and US and British imperialism. Journalist George Monbiot summed up the demonstrators' mood when he spoke:
'Tony Blair thought he'd seen the end of us. He's hardly even seen the beginning of us. A few days ago our rulers said it was the 'end of history' again. But this war cannot work. It will not work because we stand between them and their plans. We will stand against them until we have built a world on the principles of justice, not war. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfield, key figures in George Bush's cabinet, have identified 50 nations that are the next targets in the US's sights. There are people in Washington preparing for World War Three. The campaign to stop them will be the biggest challenge our generation will face. Before I came here today I was worried that we didn't have the courage, that there wouldn't be enough of us-but I'm not worried any more. The future of our world depends upon the people in this square. Don't give up. If we don't do it nobody else will.'
Everyone on the march went away with renewed determination to continue building opposition to the war and challenging what our rulers are doing across the world.
THERE ARE still a few Socialist Worker Stop the War T-shirts available for £10 each. All proceeds to the Socialist Worker Appeal. To get your T-shirt phone 020 7538 2707.
'We are sending another powerful message to 10 Downing Street and the White House,' Labour MP Paul Marsden told demonstrators at the end of the march. 'We are not going to stand by and watch atrocities of 11 September be replaced by atrocities in Afghanistan. This great victory the West proclaim means that Afghanistan is left to the warlords' mercy and the innocent continue to suffer. Our cause is just-it is freedom from hunger, war, and for a decent life for all. We see things as how they could be, and ask why not.'
Veteran campaigner and former MP Tony Benn said, 'What is happening in Afghanistan is terrorism. US imperialism is coming to take the place of British imperialism. We are building a world for the next generation, so they don't have to have wars.'
'Our leaders say that 'we' have to carpet bomb the poorest country in the world,' said Paul Mackney, the general secretary of the lecturers' NATFHE union. ' 'We' have to support gangsters and rapists to stop terrorism. We are not part of their 'we'.
'The money spent on bombs should be spent on education, transport, health, public services. This war is about the assertion of US power-stop the war now.'
Paul called for the taming of Israel and the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state to great cheers from the crowd. 'Blair is standing shoulder to shoulder with the world's biggest terrorist state, the US,' said George Galloway, the Labour MP. 'Until justice prevails in Palestine and for all those suffering under imperialism there will be no peace. 'Every month in Iraq more children are massacred by US sanctions than died in the World Trade Centre.'
'This demonstration is not just against war but the policy of this New Labour government,' said Tariq Ali. 'Stay active-fight these politicians so they can't make wars again.'
'George Bush appears to think that 'civilisation' consists of US multinationals being able to impose their will on the world,' said Jeremy Corbyn, the left wing Labour MP. 'Thousands died in New York. Thousands have died in Afghanistan. How many more are going to die? What kind of peace is this?' Express journalist Yvonne Ridley, who was held for ten days in Afghanistan by the Taliban authorities, said, 'Before I was captured I spent two days in Afghanistan meeting fantastic people.
'Now Afghan people have been demonised by the West. This has been done to justify horrendous, indiscriminate bombing.' Houra Khadir from the Scottish Stop the War coalition said, 'As an Afghan woman I want to condemn the terrorism of Blair, Bush, Putin and others.
'How can Afghan people trust a coalition that offers military occupation? The CIA, the SAS and the Russian special forces will not be used for humanitarian purposes.'
Weyman Bennett, who spoke for the Socialist Workers Party, said, 'This war is not in our name. So in whose name is this war? 'It is BP, the oil company, and McDonald's. 'When there is no justice, there is no peace. There is no justice in Afghanistan or Palestine. So there will be no peace.'
'Unlike what you are told in the press, there are Americans, and American trade unionists, against the war. On 7 October 10,000 New Yorkers took to the streets against the war. New York City Labour Against The War has put together a statement now signed by around 400 trade unionists. It condemns the 11 September attacks but tells George W Bush that war is not the answer. Many in the US see this war as terrorism. And we know that ordinary people will bear the burden of recession.'
MICHAEL LETWIN, New York City Labour Against The War
'We cannot become weary. The vultures who will benefit from this war will not become weary. People are gloating of 'victory'-but they should be ashamed at the bombing of innocent people by the richest nation in the world.'
SALMA YAKOOB, Birmingham Stop the War Coalition
Protest across full spectrum
John Pilger spoke at the rally, saying, 'My greatest accolade as a journalist is to be called a traitor by Murdoch's Sun. We have to identify the real enemy in the world. There is a force that has been opposing human rights, maintaining poverty since 1945. That is not in a cave in Afghanistan, it's in Washington and Downing Street. Unless we do something about it then an attack on a country like Somalia will be the practice run for the final destruction of Iraq. We need to stand up to Blair, to come out in our tens of thousands, like this wonderful demonstration today.'
Lindsey German from the Stop the War Coalition said, 'This is not a war for justice for those who died on 11 September. It will make the world more dangerous. It is not a war for democracy, as was shown by the US missile attack on the Al-Jazeera studio in Kabul, an independent media voice. It's not a war for women's rights-the US and Britain back Saudi Arabia which is equally oppressive to women as the Taliban. The war has one purpose, strengthening the economic and military power of the US throughout the world, establishing 'full spectrum dominance'. The US and Britain have proclaimed victory in three wars-in the Gulf, in the Balkans and now Afghanistan-and each time they have left bigger problems and no democracy. We need to build a movement around the world against the war and which says welfare not warfare. The demonstration in Brussels next month is a chance to protest against the war. We will have a contingent from Britain that shows that people here do not support Blair.'