The strength and determination of the anti-war movement in Britain was demonstrated at the Stop the War Coalition’s annual conference held in London last Saturday.
Over 300 delegates from local groups, peace campaigns, trade union branches and universities across Britain attended.
Opening the conference Stop the War president Tony Benn talked about how the people of Iraq and Afghanistan had the right to self-defence against imperialist wars and how religion was being misused to justify the “war on terror”.
Jeremy Corbyn MP spoke about the need to campaign and organise. He said Afghanistan will be Obama’s Vietnam – and Pakistan his Cambodia.
Lindsey German launched a national petition calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
Rose Gentle from Military Families Against War talked about the continuing campaign for a public inquiry into why the troops were sent to Iraq.
Daud Abdullah from the Muslim Council of Britain spoke about the fact that Labour minister Hazel Blears called for him to resign his position after he signed a declaration denouncing the Israeli attacks on Gaza. He said this was symptomatic of the pressure being placed on Muslims not to express their opinions.
Craig Murray spoke of the need to campaign to defend our civil liberties as it “isn’t just Muslims, it’s all of us being attacked”.
The conference reflected Stop the War’s support in the universities – with many new and established student groups talking about how they won concrete support for the people of Palestine through the university occupations.
Many speakers talked of how we saw unprecedented numbers of people take to the streets in support of Palestine and the re-emergence of a large and confident section of the Muslim community becoming active.
Speakers also talked about the destabilisation of Pakistan as a result of the “AfPak war” and the effects this was beginning to have on Pakistanis here in Britain.
Others went on to talk about the effects of the changing political situation around the recession and the G20 demonstrations.
There was general agreement that there are new opportunities to open up the coalition to many more people around the country – and there is a need for the coalition to connect with these people.