GEORGE W Bush's press secretary said last week, 'If the UN fails to act against Iraq we will work with our coalition.' There is only one leader who the White House can point to as loyally backing the war drive - Tony Blair. It would be a great blow against war if Blair had to pull back from supporting Bush.
So what the anti-war movement does in Britain can make a real difference. The 400,000-strong demo in London organised by the Stop the War Coalition and the Muslim Association of Britain was a landmark in British politics. The Coalition has called for Thursday 31 October to be 'Don't Attack Iraq Day'. From Bangor to Broadstairs, from Stratford-upon- Avon to Dundee, towns and cities across Britain are planning protests.
They will range from college occupations to meetings, protests and walkouts in workplaces to blockading roads, street theatre to showing a video. In some workplaces simply asking groups of people to wear anti-war badges can transform the atmosphere. Already there are many events organised.
Activists in Birmingham will meet early in the day and drop banners with an anti-war message off bridges around the town. In Dulwich, south London, campaigners will leaflet schools in the morning and then hold a candle-lit procession and a video showing in the evening. Campaigners in Huddersfield were so uplifted by the 28 September demonstration that they held a local protest last Saturday. Around 150 people took part in a loud march that defied pouring rain.
One activist has made a video of the London demo, and plans to show it round workplaces and colleges in the town to build support for 31 October. Over 120 people turned up to an anti-war meeting in the small town of Ullapool in the Scottish Highlands a few days after the march.
In Rawtenstall, a small town near Burnley, three people who had been on the London march decided to show the Not In My Name video to launch a local group. They put posters around local shops and leafleted the mosque. On the night 50 people, young and old, Asian and white, turned up.
They are now planning more activities for the day of action, while in Burnley a march is planned to set off from the Peace Gardens at 5.30pm. Simon from Nottingham told Socialist Worker, 'We are discussing walkouts, a street cavalcade with speakers and face painting for kids, and a die-in.'
A lecturer at Westminster University in London told Socialist Worker, 'After a lecture on ethics I told the students I opposed the war. They broke out in applause. It's the first time that's ever happened to me.' He has set up an anti-war group at the university.
In Cambridge a rally is due to be addressed by a district secretary from the firefighters' FBU union. In Hull, as 31 October is Halloween, activists are planning to demonstrate wearing skeleton masks.
Richard Searle, the communications officer for the Manchester Stop the War Coalition, told Socialist Worker, 'We are producing 30,000 leaflets and 4,000 posters to advertise the whole range of activities being planned for 31 October. We are holding a rally with George Galloway and John Rees to build for teach-ins, rallies, petitioning and demos. Workplace anti-war groups have been set up, for example in Hope Hospital in Salford.'
Lynne, a health worker at Selly Oak hospital in Birmingham, told Socialist Worker, 'I am hoping to show the Not In My Name video, and I know about ten other workers will help me organise it.' Megan works at a London publishers.
She says setting up the anti-war group was easy, even though no union is recognised: 'It began on the anniversary of 11 September. There was a big debate about whether a minute's silence should also mark the deaths in Afghanistan. There are now 12 people involved, circulating articles to each other. In the run-up to the demo on 28 September we leafleted the local tube. In the run-up to 31 October we are planning more leafleting and hope to join the media workers' protest and march.'
Tube Workers Against the War have issued a special badge and are encouraging tube workers to wear them on the day of action. Anti-war activity is sweeping across the colleges with occupations and teach-ins being discussed in many universities.
Ian from SOAS in central London told Socialist Worker, 'Last Saturday around 250 students and staff came to a fantastic teach-in against the war with a range of speakers. After the general debates there was a special session held for student activists to discuss taking direct action on 31 October. The closing rally gave support for college occupations, and called on students and staff in London to march to Westminster in the evening to protest against Tony Blair's pro-war position.'
Students from London universities have set up a London Student Stop the War Coalition, and plan a wave of occupations, teach-ins and the London march. The London School of Economics is buzzing. Students have already met to plan their occupation.
For more information on how to get involved in activities in your area phone the Stop the War Coalition on 020 7053 2155 or visit www.stopwar.org.uk