RETURNING FROM the World Social Forum (WSF) at Porto Alegre in Brazil, I feel as if I have just emerged from a vast, multicoloured sea that swept all the participants along in a great exuberant wave.
QUESTION TIME is the kind of TV show that spends much of the year trying to drum up support for itself. Anxious trails from David Dimbleby tell us that we'll be lucky enough to hear the views of a panel made up of cold sponges, wet towels and old flannels. It's as if he's warning us not to switch over to Newsnight or we'll miss hearing from someone as thrilling as Margaret Beckett - a politician sadly afflicted by a strange illness.
What happens in Britain in the next few weeks will shape history. Everyone in the anti-war movement can be part of making that history. The clock is ticking relentlessly towards war. On Monday chief United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix reported that his team had found no evidence of any Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction". We cannot trust the UN to block the war.
THERE WAS a small revolution in St Albans last week, one that should give Tony Blair pause for thought as he shackles Britain to the chariot wheels of US imperialism. A meeting called by the Stop the War Coalition turned out to be the biggest protest meeting the city has seen in living memory.
IT'S A fair bet that when Doreen and Neville Lawrence accepted their OBEs in the new year they had no idea the report they had fought so hard for would be tossed into the bin by the home secretary.
THE BIGGEST day of anti-war protests the world has ever seen took place last Saturday. But instead of listening to the majority around the world who oppose war on Iraq, Tony Blair sent a quarter of the British army to the Gulf. Support for the war in Britain has fallen to a new low and outright opposition has risen to new heights, according to a poll in the Guardian that has tracked opinion since August.
THE WEEKEND'S newspapers had some of the most uplifting coverage for ages-and some of the most disgusting. On the one hand, there was extensive coverage of the mushrooming anti-war movement across the globe. On the other, there was a deluge of bile against asylum seekers, linking them with terrorism and whipping up a frenzy whereby every refugee could be a killer with a vat of ricin in their flat.
THE ASIAN Social Forum (ASF) held in Hyderabad in India ended last week with a closing rally of over 10,000 people. It was followed by a demonstration that drew in thousands more. Trucks and coaches from across the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh arrived with people who had made the trip to demonstrate their opposition to imperialism and war.
I REMEMBER it like it was just yesterday-the day 14 years ago when four men carrying hammers walked into the nightclub I was DJing in and proceeded to smash up the record decks. Apparently these hammer-wielding psychopaths came from a rival sound system which wanted to put us out of business. It was my first and hopefully my last brush with the activities of the criminal underworld.
LAST WEEK'S Socialist Worker outlined the "troubles ahead for New Labour" this year. That issue had not even hit the streets when Tony Blair issued his grim new year message. He spoke of a year of war, recession and insecurity-a far cry from New Labour's 1997 election theme song, "Things Can Only Get Better". The message was devoid of any sense of personal responsibility for what he called the "difficult and dangerous" problems the rest of us face.
TALK OF empire is everywhere. Right wing historian Niall Ferguson is presenting a TV series on Channel 4 celebrating the British Empire. American neo-conservatives like Charles Krauthammer openly boast that the US has acquired a global empire since the end of the Cold War.
"TROOPS IN the Philippines have rescued a kidnapped Italian priest who had been held on the southern island of Mindanao for six months. He was kidnapped in October by a gang of bandits called the Pentagon Gang. The military says the group is mainly made up of former members of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Philippine President Arroyo said Father Pierantoni's rescue was a big step towards achieving peace in the troubled southern Philippines. " 'Give them no quarter. Annihilate these criminal gangs. I appeal to the people, to our Muslim brothers, to help us end this scourge of kidnapping,' she said."
"THERE IS every reason to think we are about to enter the most dramatic year in the story of New Labour." "At home and abroad in the year ahead the prime minister and New Labour will be tested as never before." These predictions (from key articles in the Financial Times and the Observer) are spot on.
TWO IMPORTANT social forums took place at the end of last month. Activists met at the Palestine Social Forum in Ramallah, which is under Israeli occupation. It called for support for the international day of action against the war on Iraq on 15 February.
ACTIVISTS FROM the anti-war and "anti-globalisation" movement joined forces with delegates from across the Arab world at a remarkable conference in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, in late December. The Egyptian government tried to ban it. Then it was forced to allow it to go ahead. The 1,000-strong demonstration that followed the conference was surrounded by riot police and armoured cars.
"YES, BUT what do you think it achieves?" If you took part in the marches and demonstrations against the Vietnam War in the 1960s, this was a question that you would be asked over and over again. It didn't come from people in favour of the US bombing peasant farmers but from people who were, let's say, uneasy.
GEORGE BUSH and Tony Blair may preach hollow words of peace and goodwill this Christmas and New Year. But their policies have ensured millions of people around the world live with hunger and fear.
THAT SMALL portion of the media not obsessed with Cherie Blair has been rhubarbing about how "historic" last weekend's European Union (EU) summit in Copenhagen was. It was in a way, but not primarily because the EU has finally decided to expand to incorporate ten new member states, mainly relatively poor countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
WHAT PLANET are Tony Blair and New Labour on? One thing's for sure - it's not the one the rest of us inhabit. There are top-up flats for their kids and top-up fees for ours. As the Cheriegate furore grew this week, Blair again lashed out at public services and the workers who keep them going.
THE UPPER classes of Venezuela, in South America, last week launched another desperate attempt to overthrow the government of president Hugo Chavez. Their last attempt to do so, in April, ousted him from office for only three days before hundreds of thousands of poor people poured into the centre of the capital, Caracas, and forced the army to reinstate him.