Socialist Worker

We'll hold Blair to account, vow 1,000 delegates

by Hazel Croft
Issue No. 1867

'AS ONE who cast doubts about the wisdom of holding a People's Assembly against the war before the end of August I apologise.'

That was how left wing Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn reacted to the huge turnout last Saturday at the second People's Assembly organised by the Stop the War Coalition.

Up to 1,000 people joined the inspiring day of discussion at the Friends meeting house in London.

People came from stop the war groups in many areas of Britain-from Dundee in Scotland to Dorset in the south of England.

The event took place the day after the resignation of Blair's spin doctor Alastair Campbell.

As the chair of the coalition, Andrew Murray, put it when he opened the Assembly: 'Alastair Campbell is the first political casualty of this dreadful Iraq war.

'The war has been a political disaster for the government. Instead of the Baghdad bounce, there's a crisis of trust and democracy.'

The day was a great demonstration that the anti-war movement had not gone away. Everyone felt determined to build for a huge turnout for the demonstration on Saturday 27 September.

As Lindsey German, the convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, said, 'Some say what was the point of marching and demonstrating when they still went to war.

'They did, and it's a regret to us all. But it's also true that the anti-war movement has had and is still having a huge impact on politics in this country.

'If there had been no demos, there would be no Hutton inquiry.

'Tony Blair is a dead man walking. In the opinion polls the number of people who believe what he says is just 6 percent.

'It is now not just the people who opposed the war and marched on 15 February. Millions who reluctantly supported the war now can't believe a word the government says.'


Back on the streets

Lindsey added, 'Three months ago the warmongers told us we should apologise. No one dares suggest that now.

'We want people back on the streets on 27 September to demand an end to the occupation, no more war lies and freedom for Palestine.'

Delegates spoke about local activities, building for the national demo and of ongoing debates.

Richard Wanless from Blair's Sedgefield constituency said, 'We've managed to organise 500 people at public meetings. We want the prime minister to resign.' School student Maria Underwood, from Hayes, said, 'Thirty of us walked out of school on the day war started.

'Like all of you, we've carried on leafleting and petitioning against the occupation of Iraq. We've built a Hayes school students against the war group.

'We can do this together-we can end the occupation of Iraq and see the end of Blair and his war lies.'

Lucy Carolan from Bournemouth urged people to join them demonstrating when Blair addresses Labour's conference there next month.

'We want to remind them that they are accountable. We will be picketing the Bournemouth International Centre daily.


Debates and arguments

'A busload of drummers are coming from London to beat some sense into Blair.' She added, 'One coach is coming from Bournemouth to the 27 September demonstration. One from Dorchester and Bridport, one from Blandford Forum and one from Shaftesbury.'

People also raised debates and arguments-for example over the most effective way to protest, what will happen if the troops leave Iraq and over the nature of the United Nations.

Lesley Docksey from Dorset said, 'People are saying that if the troops leave Iraq there will be a bloodbath. 'Here is a quote from Gandhi, 'There is no people on earth who would not prefer their own bad government to the good government of an alien power.'

'I don't know what is best for Iraq-but I am not Iraqi. I only have the right to tell my government to stop interfering in Iraq.'

Many argued the government should be put in the dock not only over Iraq but all its right wing policies.

Salma Yaqoob, chair of Birmingham Stop the War, said, 'A Labour government with Tory policies is just as unpalatable as a Tory government with Tory policies.

'The Labour government has been consistent in its unethical foreign policies and it's been consistent in its unethical domestic policy.

'There is a bigger gap between rich and poor. There's tuition fees, moves to privatise the NHS through foundation hospitals. The indictment of this government must be viewed in a wider context.'

Delegates overwhelmingly passed a declaration which demanded 'an end to the illegal Anglo-American occupation of Iraq' and the withdrawal of all British and US troops from Iraq.

You can download the full declaration from www.stopwar.org.uk


Truth haunts Blair's government every day

JEREMY CORBYN said, 'Those that voted against the war on 18 March in parliament did so because we believed the war to be wrong.

'Some of my parliamentary colleagues were hauled into the prime minister's room in parliament and told across the table, 'Trust me-I'm the prime minister, I know.'

'At one parliamentary Labour Party meeting the muppets and the sycophants were lined up one after the other to prevent Tam Dayall, Alice Mahon and myself from contributing.

'One got up and said, 'Well done, Tony,' but then slightly quizzically said, 'I hope you've got it right.'

'That in some ways was the most telling question of all-because we were misled, we were conned, because a lot of MPs chose to be conned when they knew the truth was there were no weapons of mass destruction.'

He added, 'The World Trade Organisation summit will soon take place in Cancun. There will be a unity of the Western nations to oppress the poorest in the world.

'It's got everything to do with Iraq. The war was to occupy-to take the oil.

'But above all it was to demonstrate to the rest of the world that the Bush administration cares not a fig for international justice, cares not a fig for international legality or order.

'It cares a great deal for the power of principally American owned multinational corporations to exploit the poorest round the world.'

Hans Von Sponeck, a former UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, came from Switzerland to address the Assembly.

He castigated US and British policy in Iraq for the past 13 years of bombing raids and sanctions.

He said of the UN's 'oil for food' programme, 'During six years $47 billion was available for humanitarian supplies.

'What arrived in Iraq was $28 billion for a population of 23 million. That's just $183 per person, per year for all food, medicines, electricity, water, education, everything. That's 50 cents per person per day.'

Other speakers included lawyer Louise Christian, who spoke of the plight of those still incarcerated by the US in Guantanamo Bay.

'If you had set an exam question and you said that the US was holding people in cages, with no access to lawyers, allowed no visitors and that they were all Muslim men and from countries other than the US you would not believe it.'

John Pilger spoke about his forthcoming TV programme in which he has interviewed some of the most right wing 'neo-cons' in the Bush administration.

Lecturers' union leader Paul Mackney and journalists' union leader Jeremy Dear both spoke, and CWU union general secretary Billy Hayes sent a message of support.

Other speakers included Mark Curtis, author of Web of Deceit, and John Rees from the Stop the War Coalition, who both spoke about the role of British and US imperialism.

But most of the day was given to delegates' contributions from all over Britain.


'We have to be a thorn in their side'

'I'M ANGRY about Blair's ignorance of public opinion. There is a lack of trust. We've had marches and stalls. People are still unaware of the situation in Iraq. The media is a big block to people. 'We have to be a big enough thorn in their side to get attention. I want more civil disobedience.'
Nigel Green production worker from Kettering


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Features
Sat 6 Sep 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1867
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