The building of a movement against war was given an enormous boost at a marvellous rally in central London last Friday. At just a few days notice over 2,000 packed into Friends Meeting House opposite the capital's Euston station. There hasn't been a meeting like that in London for at least 20 years.
Speakers like journalist George Monbiot and Jeremy Corbyn MP spoke to the 1,200 people crammed into the main hall. They then hurried across to address 300 people in an overflow hall, and yet more hundreds who gathered outside.
LINDSEY GERMAN, editor of Socialist Review, chaired the meeting in the main hall. 'We are meeting for reasons we all understand-the terrible events in Washington and New York,' she began. 'Most people reacted with horror and fear to those events, and feeling for the thousands of people who died. But many people are also fearful that the response of George Bush and Tony Blair will not be to deal with the problems which caused the attacks, but to cause the deaths of tens or hundreds of thousands more people. They are threatening the destruction of Afghanistan, and possibly a wider conflagration in the Indian subcontinent, Iran and the Middle East.'
A key theme echoed by most of the speakers was that the meeting proved a large and serious anti-war movement was now possible.
Veteran peace campaigner BRUCE KENT argued, 'This meeting is the answer to all the media people who say that there is no opposition to the war.'
He spelled out what most in the hall also felt: 'I have a horrible feeling about the intentions of Bush and Blair. Some unfortunate Afghan person is going to lose his wife and children. We have to show that common sense and decency exists. We are not alone. As one of the parents of someone who died in the World Trade Centre said, 'It is not the way to go. Not in my son's name, please.' 'There are millions of Americans who think exactly like this.'
JEREMY CORBYN is one of the Labour MPs who has spoken out against the war. He said at the meeting, 'I have been reading of people around the world organising peace meetings and rallies-all over the US, in Europe and in India.' He added, 'The media reporting is deeply dangerous. It unleashes the forces of racism. This is not the work of Islam. But if people use the language of a war of 'civilisation' against 'barbarism', then lower forms of life in the US and Europe will then get the message and take it out on mosques. We have to stand shoulder to shoulder with all victims of racism.'
JOHN REES of the Socialist Workers Party said, 'I don't think that any of us in the peace movement will have watched those live TV pictures of the disaster at the World Trade Centre without human sympathy for those who suffered.'
He went on to ask, 'How could something like this take place?' and explained, 'There have been hundreds of thousands of lives lost around the world of people whose graves are unmarked and unmourned. Those people-Iraqis, Palestinians, Serbians-died because of the policy of the US. There has been no minute's silence for the 500,000 Iraqi children killed by sanctions.'
And he argued, 'This war will make another human catastrophe. The biggest military state in the world will savage a poor, desperate country. The whole region will be destabilised. The recession will be made worse.'
The arguments put by these and the other speakers shown on this page gave people the confidence to go out and carry the anti-war message to as many people as possible.
'THE VIETNAM War ended after the death of millions of Vietnamese people because of the resistance of the Vietnamese and the revolt against the war across the US and Europe. I'm so pleased that thousands of people across this country and around the world are opposed to this war. The meeting is a call for action-no blank cheque for Bush, no to bombing, no to revenge. We have to look to the causes of this act. A quarter of the world's population is in poverty. Global corporations dominating the world is not the solution. The world could be run differently. It could be a fairer place. It is up to us to remember those who have marched and met for peace. Stop us descending into Armageddon, because that is what is on offer if George Bush is allowed to get his way.'
JEREMY CORBYN MP
Arms dealers eye profit
'WHOEVER was responsible for the attacks in the US should be brought to justice. But I believe in the rule of law, not summary execution on the say-so of the CIA. They argue we must punish countries that harbour those responsible. This is the doctrine used to punish the people of Iraq, to justify the bombing of Belgrade. It is the same logic as that used by those responsible to justify their attack on New York-people get punished for the crimes of their government. Now the US is going further. People can now be punished for the crime of someone who may or may not have lived among them. If that is so then the people of Vietnam, Cambodia and Chile might all have a case against the US for harbouring Henry Kissinger. There is one group who expect to benefit from war. There was one event not cancelled last week-the arms fair in London's Docklands. The arms manufacturers and dealers stand to profit. They have a vested interest in war, and they are some of Bush and Blair's best friends. The Socialist Alliance is committed to playing the fullest possible part in building the broadest possible movement against the drive to war. We will not be silent when innocent people are killed.'
LIZ DAVIES, Socialist Alliance
'I AM not as a rule a political activist. But what I fear now is that a lot of children on the far side of the world will be killed by governments that nominally we support. We can reach out to the wider population who are confused by some of what they are hearing. I also speak as an Anglo-American. It is crucial we distinguish between the US people and the federal government of the US.'
WILL SELF, writer
Send aid not bombs
'I DON'T like the term war - if America retaliates it will be indiscriminate murder. Retaliation will not bring back any loved ones. The most sensible thing I've heard is an aid worker who urged the US to send planeloads of relief to Afghanistan, not planeloads of bombs. The US bases in Britain will be used to back up what Bush and Blair plan to do. I carry a banner on all of the demonstrations outside US bases. It reads, 'George W Bush the godfather of Ballistic Missile Defence, the armed wing of globalisation.' We need deeds, not words, to make it clear to Bush and Blair that we will not allow this country to be used as a springboard for murder.'
HELEN JOHN, vice-chair Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament