Socialist Worker

The next step

Issue No. 1839

AT LEAST one person from each of 1.25 million households in Britain marched last Saturday, according to a survey in the Guardian. They showed on the streets the anti-war feeling of the clear majority of the population.

The biggest demonstration in British history must now give birth to a gigantic movement if we are to stop this war. In workplaces, schools, colleges, and localities in even the smallest towns in Britain there are people who marched and many more who know the government is wrong.

The three stories at the foot of this page show how such people could be drawn together before the great demonstration. That happened in a minority of areas before Saturday. Now much more is possible, and it can happen everywhere. Speed is of the essence. We have days to galvanise the anti-war mood and organise it.

It must be organised to counter the torrent of pro-war propaganda from the government and most of the media. In every area people need to be able to answer the latest lie or scare story. If up to two million people can march in London, then thousands can harry every government minister wherever they go.

Hundreds can descend on the surgeries of MPs who refuse to speak out against the war. Their silence equals consent for slaughter. And if Blair dares take us to war alongside George Bush, defying world opinion, there must be a wave of civil disruption across Britain to stop it. Normality cannot reign while they bury democracy and kill in our name.

Such a revolt cannot happen without organisation. What everyone does over the next two weeks will determine what actions are possible. There need to be meetings in each area to plan what to do following the demonstration. The anti-war feeling is such that meetings of people from just a few streets or a couple of tower blocks draw unprecedented numbers of people and are the best way of involving the most people. In many universities and colleges there already are Stop the War groups.

That now needs to spread to every site, hall of residence and course. It is a similar story in schools. In further education and sixth form colleges lecturers and teachers can help students organise meetings.

More people oppose the war and more want to do so actively now than before Saturday's march. Most trade unions are against the war. People opposed to the war need to be drawn together in groups in every workplace.

A plan of action to oppose the war should be agreed at every union branch. Organising now is the key to the road blockades, walkouts and college occupations that can make it impossible for Blair to pursue war. Millions of individuals do not want to stand idly by while Blair goes to war.

As individuals we are powerless. Saturday showed what can be achieved when we come together. Now that lesson needs to be taken into every corner of Britain.


Act quickly

'THE demonstration has had a profound effect. Now we have to build on it, and quickly. We want people to go back and organise in every area. We need thousands of local Stop the War groups, in workplaces, colleges, on every street. We need grassroots organisation. Where I live pubs and shops have anti-war posters.

In towns and villages where there have never been political movements there is a chance to build this kind of activity too. Everyone can do something - organise in your area, do leafleting, postering, organise local rallies and demonstrations, sit-downs.

We must increase the pressure on the government. If Blair does dare to go to war despite the opposition then we are asking people to prepare to do specific things:

We want people in workplaces to strike against war.

  • In the colleges we want people to occupy buildings if war starts.
  • In every area we want people to occupy the town or area centre. In London we plan to occupy the whole of the Westminster and Whitehall areas.

    We want every day that war goes on to see mass civil disruption. We need to make sure that if Blair goes to war then the whole country will erupt in a wave of anger against him.'
    Lindsey German, convenor Stop the War Coalition


    In your workplace

    'I WORK in the council house, the town hall, in Birmingham. I organised video showings over the war before the demonstration. I got a copy of a Panorama programme and of the Rory Bremner show from the local Stop the War Coalition.

    I'm a Unison union rep, and the union supports the anti-war movement. Because it was backed by the union I was able to book rooms and use video equipment. I got the union office to photocopy leaflets and posters. I put leaflets in people's pigeon-holes. I also got a couple of people to help and we gave out leaflets outside offices. Until a few days beforehand there were only a few people booked on coaches from the council, but in the end we got two coachloads!

    We have contact sheets from the coaches, so we can get in touch with people who went. Now I want to see if I can get hold of a video of Saturday's demonstrations and have a meeting in the council. I spoke to people at work on Monday morning about the demo.

    I talked about how we should organise walkouts if war starts. If you'd asked me a few weeks ago I'd have thought that no way would people be willing to do that. But I was really surprised. People said yes, that's a good idea, maybe we should. Now we have to organise to see if we can do it.'
    NIMITA SRIVASTAVA, Birmingham


    In your neighbourhood

    'EVERYONE CAN build a local Stop the War group. In the streets in Dalston in east London where I live I started on my own a few weeks before the demo. I contacted a local community centre/cafe and got a time when we could meet there. I made a very basic leaflet on my computer.

    I photocopied around 200 and put them through people's letterboxes on two streets around where I live. There is a cinema nearby so I asked if I could leave some there too, and in the community centre.

    At the meeting 13 people turned up, all from the local area. We got a map of the area out and people agreed to leaflet all the streets. We got people putting up posters as well. We decided to meet each Tuesday in the cafe. In the run-up to the demo we ran a stall at a local shopping centre every Saturday, and leafleted the railway station.

    We've had around 40 people in contact with each other. Almost all have never been involved in political activity before. There are lots of people who must have gone on the demo from around here who we don't know.

    So we are planning to have a video showing and to advertise it so we can reach them and get more people involved in activity locally. We are also organising to take action if Blair and Bush go to war - things like blocking local roads at key junctions and doing banner drops.'
    SUE JONES


    In your college

    'I'M A student in University College London. It's not a college with a big tradition of militancy, but things have really taken off with the anti-war movement. Since last September we got activists together. At first there were about ten to 15 of us. But we ran stalls, organised meetings.

    We got lecturers to help book rooms. We collected money to pay for photocopying. We got a motion passed at a student union meeting that it should support our activities.

    We signed up people on stalls to an e-mail list which now has hundreds on it. There must have been 400 or 500 from the college on Saturday's demo. That has really shifted the mood. We were meeting this week to discuss what next.

    We'll continue stalls and meetings. We are going to organise a night with bands and music to raise funds. We passed a motion in the student union meeting that if war breaks out then we will immediately boycott lectures. We want people to walk out of lectures and hold a teach-in.'
    VIREN SWAMI, University College London student


    Spain

    'MORE THAN 4.5 million people demonstrated in Spain last Saturday. That's 10 percent of the population taking part in over 350 marches. There were over one and half million people in both Barcelona and Madrid. That is 30 percent and 25 percent of the populations of those provinces! These are by far the biggest demos in Spanish history.

    The figures coming in from all around the country are incredible. There are reports of 250,000 in Seville, 150,000 in Granada, 70,000 in Cadiz, 500,000 in Valencia, 200,000 in Oviedo, 160,000 in Bilbao, and many more. The picture above shows the 70,000 who marched in Malaga. Even the Canary Islands towns of Las Palmas and Santa Cruz had 100,000 and 60,000 each.'
    EN LUCHA (In Struggle), Spanish sister paper of Socialist Worker


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    Article information

    What We Think
    Sat 22 Feb 2003, 00:00 GMT
    Issue No. 1839
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