Iraq is the issue that Gordon Brown would like to avoid. But campaigners are determined that their anti-war message will be heard when they protest outside parliament as MPs return from their summer break on Monday 8 October.
The Stop the War demonstration will demand that all troops are brought home from what General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the British army, last week called the “bloodstained earth of Iraq and Afghanistan”.
As many universities and colleges start the new academic year, students across Britain report a new wave of interest in Stop the War campaigns.
In Manchester last week around 450 people joined the Stop the War society at the Manchester university freshers’ fair, while around 150 students joined at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).
Seth Taylor, a foundation year student at MMU, told Socialist Worker, “A lot of people who were involved in Stop the War left university last year so we are pretty much starting from scratch.
“We held an organising meeting at the end of freshers week and 15 people came along – all wanting to get involved.
“We are making plans for the term and organising to get people to London for the 8 October demo. I’ve already got a group of friends who want to come and other people from the Stop the War group are also organising to get people along.
“It seems to me that students in the 1960s and 1970s were very radical and that there has been a bit of a lull since then.
“But the war is an issue that many students feel very strongly about and more and more people are getting involved in Stop the War.
“After all, it is our world that is getting messed up and we have something to say about the future.”
If anyone was in any doubt about the continuing brutality of the occupation in Iraq, the shooting last week of eight Iraqi civilians by US security firm Blackwater should stand as a stark reminder.
Blackwater is the biggest private security firm in Iraq. In 2005 it circulated a staff newsletter that said “actually it is fun to kill some people”.
British firms are also making money out of private security in Iraq. British firm Aegis struck a $475 million two-year deal with the US Pentagon earlier this month – the largest single security deal in Iraq.
Some estimates of the numbers of Iraqis killed since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 now stand at over one million deaths.
This month has also been one of the bloodiest for British and US troops in Iraq since the start of the occupation in 2003.
Raymie Kiernan from Glasgow university told Socialist Worker, “Over the last month people have seen reports nearly every day of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war isn’t going away as an issue – if anything it is becoming more important.
“That’s why so many new people are getting involved. At our freshers’ fair over 300 joined Stop the War. This is double the number who joined last year.
“We also made good links with other societies on campus – lots of other groups are interested in working together to campaign against military research on campus.
“Around 50 people came to our first meeting of term – on the second day of the freshers’ fair. About two thirds of these were new people.
“Lots of people want to get involved and there is a lot of interest in going to London for the demo on 8 October.”
Amy Gackowska, a second year student from Liverpool
university, says that many students she speaks to are making direct links between government policies on Iraq and on education.
“People know the war is pointless and wrong,” she says.
“A lot of students also feel the government have got their priorities all wrong. We are facing huge debts and we see the money spent on war and on Trident when it should be spent on education.
“We are holding a Stop the War meeting this week to get people together, to discuss the issues and to organise getting people to the demonstration at parliament.”
Bring all the troops home now – demonstrate Monday 8 October — assemble at Trafalgar Square, 1pm
World Against War Conference – an international peace conference with delegations from across the Middle East, South America, South Asia, the US and Europe. Saturday 1 December, Westminster Hall, London. To book phone Stop the War on 020 7278 6694. For details go to » www.stopwar.org.uk