OVER 6,000 people defied torrential rain to demonstrate outside the Labour Party conference in Brighton on Sunday. They marched behind a banner that read 'People not profit-peace not war', carried by school and further education students.
The defiant and buoyant protest was a springboard for the major anti-war demonstration a week on Saturday called by CND. Anti-war slogans rang out from every section of the Brighton march. Some residents hung anti-war banners from their windows.
The protest had originally been called against New Labour's neo-liberal policies by anti-capitalist group Globalise Resistance, the Socialist Alliance and the Green Party. That was still a strong message on Sunday, despite Tony Blair's efforts to use the war to defuse rows between the unions and the government over privatisation. But as a delegation of post workers from Romford and the surrounding area said, 'We are not going to let the bosses and the government get away with pushing through privatisation under the cover of war.'
A Sikh post worker added, 'And of course we've got to stand up for humanitarianism against all this war talk, which will only hurt people in Afghanistan.' His white workmates nodded and agreed.
Alison Meeds, a member of the TGWU union in Waltham Forest, said, 'There are different views in our branch about military action. But I know I'm reflecting what people think when I say that despite the escalating drive to war, we are not going to abandon the interests of working people, which are different from those of the government and business.'
Opposition to the war and the way big business is exploiting it also came from delegations of firefighters, tube workers, council workers, health workers, teachers and others A group of civil servants marched behind a 'Civil servants against the war' banner.
There were banners from dozens of campaigns as well as trade union branches. CND had mobilised to bring an anti-war message to the protest, and many people brought their own anti-war placards, banners, puppets and props. 'We are saying we do not want war,' Darren, a school student from Hove, told Socialist Worker. 'It's the same people and the same system who take money from the Third World who are now pushing for war. How can killing innocent Afghan people do anything about the killing of 7,000 people in America?'
A London firefighter said, 'There is a real debate about the war at work. 'But people want to discuss it seriously. I think there can be a big turnout for the anti-war demonstration on 13 October.'
Pointing to the massive and intimidating police presence, pensioner Alice Schofield told Socialist Worker, 'I've seen this before. They always try to silence dissent when they are up to something that could bring opposition onto the streets. My advice is to redouble our efforts. They couldn't shut us up today and they won't in future if there's enough of us.'
That was the message people took back from Brighton-all-out mobilisation for the demonstration on 13 October, and support for everyone battling against the attacks people face at home.
POLICE DRAGGED seven people off the march and arrested them while the protest was assembling in a park. If you saw anything, please phone Globalise Resistance on 020 8980 3005.
Speaking out against war
'MANY PEOPLE have said to me, 'Why are you supporting this demonstration in this time of crisis?' But I reply that it is precisely at this time we need this demonstration. We have to be here to say to world leaders, 'What you are doing is not in my name.' If Tony Blair won't come to the people, the people will come to Tony Blair.'
CAROLINE LUCAS, Green Party MEP
'I HOPE this demonstration can be the start of building an anti-war movement in this country and around the world. We have to tell people about the reality of war and explain that going to war won't stop terrorism, won't end hunger, won't solve anything. I think if we put those arguments then many people will start to worry about the war. And if they see large masses of people on the streets against the war, those people may have the confidence to speak out themselves in favour of peace.'
ELLIE WHISTON, supporter of World Development Movement and Jubilee 2000, London
'WE SHARED the horror at the deaths of 11 September, but unlike the words coming from the mealy mouths of Bush and Blair, who pursue policies which create the conditions for terrorism, we are not hypocrites. A war against Afghanistan will cause thousands of people to die. And it will have the opposite effect of those who claim it will be against terrorism.'
DAVE NELLIST, socialist councillor in Coventry and national chair of the Socialist Alliance
Build for Saturday
'CND HAS called a march and rally against the move to war for next Saturday, 13 October. We urge everyone to join us to make this march as big as possible.' So said Carol Naughton, chair of CND, to huge cheers from the crowd. Anti-war groups and activists need to pull out all the stops for the demonstration in London, and the one in Glasgow called by the Scottish Coalition For Justice Not War on the same day.