In Glasgow last Saturday Tony Blair fled from the anti-war anger that swept towards Labour's spring conference. Around 100,000 people marched through Glasgow to the exhibition centre where the Labour Party was meeting. It was the biggest demonstration in the city since the 19th century. Tony Blair was scheduled to speak at 2pm - the demonstration was scheduled to be outside the centre to meet him. Instead Blair sneaked into Glasgow at 10am, spoke to a closed meeting and scurried off before the march began. Margaret Thomson was on the march, carrying the 'Sighthill United Against War' banner.
'Blair's run away,' she said. 'He's scared to face people protesting against the war. He's just following Bush around like a dog. 'Never mind taking out Saddam - I think we should get rid of Bush and Blair.' Thousands came from the smallest corners of the country - 70 crossed over on the ferry from the town of Rothesay, 60 more came from the island of Arran. In Arbroath, on the east coast, the coaches were full. Dundee sent 12 coaches down. Monifeith School in the city booked its own coach. More than 1,000 travelled by coach from Aberdeen.
Trade union banners flashed and bloomed in the bright winter sunshine. The firefighters from north west Merseyside and Cheshire had sent six people to Glasgow and 60 to London. Steve, a firefighter from Cathcart in Glasgow, said, 'We're lobbying the Labour Party against this immoral war. There are a lot of angry firefighters here today.'
The banners and flags announced that every group of workers was represented. When Jimmy Reid, one of the key figures in the workers' occupation of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, spoke at the final rally he recalled the march in support of their fight for jobs. That was in 1971, and 80,000 marched on that day. Some of the trade unionists on the march were delegates to the Labour Party conference. They had planned to stage a walkout when Blair began to speak and join the march.
Instead they had joined the demonstration from the start. There were a dozen or more banners from constituency Labour parties. When one delegate tried to get into the conference wearing a stop the war T-shirt he was thrown out.
Khushi Usmani, from the West End of Glasgow, said, 'I feel ashamed because I voted for Labour, and I've been a member of the Labour Party for umpteen years. I feel ashamed that Blair doesn't listen to his party members and even Labour MPs.'
The march brought an enormous range of people together. From the South Side of Glasgow a feeder march of 500 grew to over 1,000 as it drew in more and more young people, many of them Muslims. In May Scotland faces parliamentary elections. The Labour Party and its leader, Jack McConnell, will not be able to deny their complicity in Blair and Bush's war plans.
After the great Scottish demonstration they know what the majority of working people in Scotland want - no war. 'It's been an important opportunity for each and every one of us to understand what 100,000 people represents,' Tommy Sheridan, the Scottish Socialist Party MSP, told the final rally.
'According to the World Health Organisation, after the US and the UK drop 800 cruise missiles in two days on the people of Iraq, the number of civilian casualties is estimated at between 100,000 and 500,000.'
'Look around you - look at ordinary people who you've never met before, from all walks of life. Look at each and every one of those ordinary citizens who are the equivalent of the people who are going to lose their lives in Iraq if we allow this war to begin.' Brian Quail of Scottish CND said:
'We are not the appeasers. We are the resistance.' Any war won't be in our name, the marchers said with their horns, their whistles and their colourful banners. For one young mother, there with her two children, this was a time to be angry but also to celebrate. 'This is what globalisation should be,' she said.
Mike Gonzalez, Dave Sherry and Mark Brown