FEAR OF anti-war protests has already hit George Bush's attempts to turn his visit to London next month into a political triumph. The British government has abandoned plans for Bush to parade with the queen down the Mall during his visit to Britain in four weeks time.
The warmonger is said to be 'disappointed', and no wonder. The procession was supposed to be the high point of a state visit. A senior Buckingham Palace official said detailed plans had been made for the procession.
'But,' added the official, 'Downing Street, anxious about possible anti-war protests from the start, has now decided to pull the plug on it. We are liaising with the White House and they have made no attempt to hide their disappointment. They saw it, obviously, as a great photo opportunity.'
Bush's visit is supposed to mark the launch of his campaign for re-election next year, allowing him to pose as a great statesman, respected wherever he goes. The Stop the War Coalition is coordinating the protests that are already forcing Bush and Blair to change their plans. Coalition convenor Lindsey German told Socialist Worker:
'The downplaying of Bush's visit shows how frightened the government is of the anti-war movement, and it is right to be frightened. We are determined to have three days of mass protests when Bush comes here. The response we are getting is tremendous. It can only be compared with the build-up to the two million strong demonstration on 15 February. We expect to have one of the largest weekday demonstrations for decades. We are going to make sure that George Bush does not have any favourable coverage to send back to the US to help his election campaign. He will be treated as the war criminal he is.'
Fears of a boycott by MPs are reportedly responsible for Bush not being invited to address parliament. But he will still be offered high-profile photo opportunities and the government is pressing ahead with the visit.
That arrogance is fuelling opposition to the visit across Britain. At a packed 350-strong meeting in Birmingham called to discuss the future of the left, cheering erupted when John Rees from the Stop the War Coalition read out press reports of the procession's cancellation.
Other speakers included Tony Benn and Salma Yaqoob. Lots of different activities were planned in the city to protest against George Bush.
Students are at the head of the campaign
IN THE colleges, the radicalisation growing over the last few years is focusing on the Bush visit. 'Cambridge Students Against the War had a meeting of over 130 people last week,' says James Cranch.
'Lindsey German and George Galloway were the speakers, and they made clear the need to take industrial action and organise mass protests when Bush comes here.' Jonathan from York reports, 'Activists hope an anti-war gig put on by York Students Against the War, which attracted 200 people, will be the launch to our 'Stop Bush' campaign.'
Even in colleges with no great tradition of anti-war activity, students are on the move. Over 50 students turned up to a Stop the War planning meeting at Kingston University, south west London. Simon from west London reports, 'Some 35 people attended a lively organising meeting in Imperial College last week. We discussed everything from banner making, throwing peace frisbies over the gates of Buckingham Palace, to setting up sound systems and a protest camp in the college.'
Anti-war campaigners are finding new, imaginative ways to build the protests including 'Bushfire' parties planned for 5 November.
Ieuan Franklin from Swansea reports, 'Our Burn Bush event will involve a bonfire on the beach with Bush as the guy, and with food, unplugged musicians, etc. Earlier that day, there is a rally planned at the university and a mock trial of Blair and Bush involving the law and debating societies. We are holding weekly banner drops on the union building.'
Amy Lane reports on what school students in Leeds are planning: 'We have already brought together five schools and colleges and are now moving forward to walkouts and occupations on the first day of Bush's visit. We have ambitiously booked a large hall for a conference the week before Bush's visit-equipping students to take positive action when he arrives. Our target is to have over 200 students there.'
Nicola Owen from Scotland says, 'Students at Edinburgh University organised an activist meeting of 60 people last week. Glasgow University had 30 at their meeting. Both meetings discussed shutting down the universities, organising protests on Bush's first day here and going to London for the Thursday. Socialist Alliance councillor Michael Lavalette from Preston was invited to speak at the Scottish Socialist Party's Socialism 2003 event. He set a lively tone by opening the first rally with a call for everyone to get mobilised against Bush.'
Movement is on the up
IN TOWNS and cities across the country, activists are coming together to plan their welcome for Bush. There are many who helped put two million on the streets against the war last February, and lots of new people are getting involved in the campaign for the first time.
Rozina Giga told Socialist Worker, 'Over 70 people attended a planning meeting in Manchester. There were those who had been part of the stop the war activities over the past year or so and also many new faces. I believe that Bush's visit can bring out even larger protests than the anti-war demonstrations.'
And the movement is not restricted to big cities. Huw Williams from South Wales told Socialist Worker, 'Over 100 people came to a public meeting in the small town of Blackwood, South Wales, to listen to George Galloway, Lindsey German and others. This was one of the biggest public meetings in the area for 20 years. We decided to send a coach to London.'
And around 35 people came to the first stop the war meeting in the historic town of Stamford in the east Midlands. They also plan to lay on a coach to the Bush demonstrations.
Tim from Weymouth reported last weekend, 'We had a petitioning in Weymouth today, me, my son (aged 12), and one other activist. We got an unprecedented response-brilliant.'
Mike from Clapton, east London, told Socialist Worker how his Stop the War group gave out over 1,200 leaflets last week: 'We leafleted the mosque, the post office, the sixth form centre, Clapton School for Girls, Clapton station and shoppers on Saturday. It's a start.'