OVER 600 people attended the Stop the War Coalition's activist conference held in London on Saturday. 'The size of today's conference shows that the anti-war movement has not gone away,' said coalition convenor Lindsey German. 'That is also clear from public meetings up and down the country. They are drawing in hundreds of people. Some areas are having bigger meetings than they did in the run-up to the war. The war is also continuing in Iraq. It is continuing in that they are making threats against Iran. So our movement must continue. People feel that we were vindicated in opposing the war. Now we have to continue to build on that. They have a project for the new century. We should have our own project based on peace and justice.'
Other leading figures in the movement also addressed the conference, including Jeremy Corbyn MP, Tony Benn, Stop the War Coalition chair Andrew Murray and many others. George Galloway MP won an especially warm response when he spoke. Debates and workshops took place on issues including civil liberties, Palestine, Iraq today and the Labour movement and the war.
Throughout the conference there was a sense that the anti-war movement is still winning wide support. Richard Searle from Manchester told Socialist Worker, 'There are six anti-war stalls happening across Manchester today. Our group in north Manchester kept growing and growing after the 15 February demonstration. More people are getting involved. We do leaflets in different languages and activities like banner making.'
Chris Fuller from the York anti-war coalition explained, 'We do our stall in town every Saturday for a couple of hours. It's not quite as busy as it was at the height of the war, but we still sell lots of badges and get lots of support. 'We are planning a 'Question Time' event with our local MP, who is pro-war, and Asad Rehman from the national Stop the War Coalition.'
People crammed into a workshop to discuss Civil Liberties and the War on Terror. Les Levidow from the Campaign against the Criminalisation of Communities argued, 'All the new powers brought in since 11 September are aimed at intimidating communities, stopping people protesting against repressive regimes and clamping down on activists. These laws are about suppressing political dissent.'
A speaker from the Kurdish Federation explained, 'The suppression of immigrant and refugee communities is about suppressing the population as a whole.' A packed session on the labour movement and the war heard many examples of how the Stop the War Coalition had won trade union backing.
Moira Nolan, a teacher from south east London, said, 'We should focus on getting the feeling of the anti-war movement into trade unions and workplaces. At my school we held anti-war meetings, inviting in speakers. That meant we held a protest by 30 staff on the day.'
Tube driver Oliver New from the RMT union in London said, 'There are all sorts of ways we can make the links between the war and other issues with our workmates. 'Bechtel is part of one of the consortiums taking over part of the tube. It is also the US corporation taking on work in Iraq.'
Stop the War Coalition chair Andrew Murray summed up the workshop saying, 'Our aim should be not only to draw the labour movement into the anti-war movement. 'It should also be to take the spirit of the anti-war movement into traditional working class organisations as a way of reinvigorating them.'
The coalition now plans to reconvene the tremendously successful People's Parliament that attracted over 1,500 delegates to its first gathering in March. The next People's Parliament is being planned for the end of August or beginning of September.
And the coalition is planning a national demonstration in London on 27 September. Everyone should mark that date in their diary now, and begin organising to mobilise the biggest possible numbers.