ACROSS THE world this Saturday people are marching against Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq and ‘war on terror’. An appeal to march on this day came out of the 50,000-strong European Social Forum in Paris last November, and the 100,000-strong World Social Forum in Mumbai, India, in January.
These protests will be the biggest day of international demonstrations since millions joined the anti-war marches on 15 February last year. A number of activists told Socialist Worker why the anti-war movement is still going strong
Protests in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles and cities across the US BUSH CHOSE this date for worldwide protests when he initiated the war on Iraq. As well as big regional demonstrations there are going to be hundreds of protests in the US from Alaska to Florida.
If you look at our election process in the US, we have two pro-war candidates. The Democrat candidate John Kerry voted for the war. It’s clear that to stop the war we need a mass movement. We can’t look to the political structures. The anti-war movement was right when it took to the streets last year. The war was based on lies. It was all about a colonial occupation and plundering Iraq. Soldiers and Iraqi people are dying every day. The US should pull out immediately.
We have squandered $100 billion on this war. That is desperately needed for healthcare and creating jobs.This war has profited a small group of individuals, notably the Halliburton company. While US soldiers are dying every day, much greater harm has been done to the Iraqi people, and other victims of imperialist domination like Palestine and Haiti.
Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ speech was a list of US targets. His people are mad with ambition, greed and imperial arrogance. We will continue with our protests and other actions. This isn’t a one-time deal. It’s about building a movement to challenge the war-makers.
DUSTIN LANGLEY, national media coordinator of the US anti-war ANSWER coalition and former US veteran, New York
WE ARE having a national demonstration in Rome to have the strongest political impact. It is clearly a march against the right wing government. It used the Italian soldiers who were killed in Nassiriyeh in Iraq last November to create a strong emotional effect to support its continuing presence in Iraq.
The peace movement has to get back the initiative. It is very important that people continue to march from the bottom of society, that our voices are heard on the streets. In a vote in the Italian parliament last week the moderate left, which participated on 15 February last year, abstained over the issue of financing the Italian troops in parliament. We have to say we don’t accept this vote.
But a section of the moderate left voted no, against what their parties told them to do. This is because of the presence of the anti-war movement. After 20 March we could again have the possibility of a movement that doesn’t leave the parties alone because, if we do, they move to the right.
LUCIANO MUHLBAUER, national executive member of the Sin. Cobas union, Italy
GENERAL ELECTIONS to the Indian parliament are just around the corner. The right wing party in power, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has started a media blitz with the slogan ‘India shining’. The message is: forget the job losses, poverty, illiteracy, destruction of natural resources, the increasing cost of living and services. Just ‘feel good’ about your country.
If India shone recently, it was at the World Social Forum 2004 in Mumbai. It was the first such event in India which brought together diverse groups in an unprecedented show of strength. Given its success, it is not surprising that the 20 March call against the war on Iraq has been taken up so enthusiastically.
In Mumbai there will be a campaign from 10 March involving street plays and songs. It will culminate in a demonstration at Hutatma Chowk, the city’s business district, on 20 March.
People will march in Delhi and Calcutta, West Bengal. In the state of Tamilnadu, in the south, there will be demonstrations in all the 30 districts. The World Social Forum in India will hopefully result in greater interest in global unity and action throughout the country.
MEENA MENON, prominent anti corporate globalisation campaigner and activist in textile workers’ union
WHEN BUSH came to Africa he made sure that he stopped over in South Africa, where he anointed our president, Thabo Mbeki, his ‘point man’ in the continent. As the South African left and anti-imperialist democrats, we are strongly opposed to this unholy alliance. We oppose the role the South African government wants to play in world politics.
That is, to be a sub-imperialist power in Africa, collaborating with US and British imperialism to keep Africa open to further capitalist exploitation. Behind the bloody carnage in Africa is the hunger for diamonds, gold, oil and other riches. Organisations such as the Anti-Privatisation Forum are part of the Anti-War Coalition here.
They have made a strong connection between imperialism, war and the attacks on the South African working class. Enough is enough!
TREVOR NGWANE, leading anti-war and anti-privatisation campaigner
WHILE WE are opposed to the occupation of Iraq, we have added other demands and issues. We will have speakers from the Congo, where three and a half million people have died in the last ten years, and Mauritius, where people were evicted from the Diego Garcia island to make a US base.
Solidarity is vital. The role of international solidarity in bringing down the apartheid regime is not lost to us. In the past year the term US imperialism has become common talk on the streets. There is major feeling against US imperialism.
SELIM VALLY, one of the organisers of the South African Anti-War Coalition, Johannesburg
THERE IS a strong anti-imperialist feeling here. People know that the US government and its policies are against the Third World, the people and the world in general. On 20 March there will be demonstrations across Brazil that will denounce war. We will also be protesting against the government in Brazil deciding to send troops to be part of the occupation of Haiti. Some of us will also be there as part of an organised group in favour of a new left party.
In Brazil the economic situation is very bad. There is a recession, unemployment is growing and people’s salaries are going down. These policies and the problems of the war are connected. The Workers Party is on the other side now. Instead of being an obstacle to the plans against the people, it is now applying these plans.
It has abandoned the needs of the workers in favour of the market. There is a big hole for a new party to fill. People are asking about the new party like public servants who have been hit hard by the Workers Party, and students.
Also very important intellectuals have left the Workers Party. I feel there is a good space to build left opposition to Lula’s government. The 20 March is a chance to show the profile of a new party, that it is also internationalist and anti-imperialist.
LUCIANA GENRO, Brazilian MP expelled from the governing Workers Party for opposing pension cuts
WORKERS AND students will take to the streets of Montevideo on 20 March to say no to the war and the occupation of Iraq. Montevideo won’t be alone in Latin America, because other demonstrations are being prepared in all the big cities. In Buenos Aires in Argentina there will be a meeting under the slogans ‘Imperialists out of Iraq’, ‘Solidarity with the Iraqi people’ and ‘No to free trade’.
In Santiago in Chile there will be a demonstration under the slogan ‘The struggle for peace continues. Another world is possible’. As its organisers say, ‘The war could not be stopped, but the power of the mobilised global citizenship emerged in the world.’
In Lima the Peru Social Forum is organising similar actions and activists from the whole country will gather. Actions are planned in Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia and the other countries.
The anti-war movement was for many activists in Latin America the contact point with the global protest. They had already led revolts against their governments in Ecuador, Argentina and Bolivia, or great workers’ and students’ strikes in Brazil and Uruguay. The anti-imperialist spirit can be the spark that ignites new and bigger struggles.
MARINA RIVERO, Izquierda Revolucionaria activist, Uruguay
THE 20 March demonstration is important because imperialism and neo-liberal policies go hand in hand. Almost 100,000 state enterprise workers marched last week against the planned privatisation of the Electricity Generating Authority. They are backed by some trade unions in the private sector and groups from anti-dam and anti-slum movements. At the core of the 20 March demonstration is a new left-leaning alliance of students and the textile workers’ federation, but we are trying to build a broad front. Protesters will be drawing the links between privatisation and war, and will be demanding that the Thai government withdraw troops from Iraq.
GILES UNGPAKORN, anti-war activist in Thailand
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