The packed lecture hall could have been anywhere in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken part in similar meetings, counter-conferences and teach-ins to build an international anti-capitalist movement. What was crucial about the World Forum on the WTO in Beirut in Lebanon last week was that for the first time the anti-capitalist movement had come to the Middle East.
What happened on 11 September was a historic event-not, unfortunately, because of its scale. It is unpleasant to think about, but the scale was not that unusual. It's a historic event because there was a change in the direction in which the guns were pointed.
HAWAII, 1893: seizes by force.
Three decades ago a mass movement against the Vietnam War shook the US ruling class to its core. At its height 750,000 people marched in Washington and 100,000 in London. The growth of that movement holds vital lessons for the struggle against the US-led war on Afghanistan today.
In 1995, in the first wave of local elections after the end of apartheid, he was elected as an African National Congress (ANC) councillor for Pimville in the giant township of Soweto near Johannesburg. He served for four years, and was then suspended for speaking out against privatisation.
"Are you a socialist?" I asked a fellow speaker at an anti-war rally the other day. I knew the answer was yes. The speaker had taken the whole of his time exposing the dreadful gap between the world's rich and poor, between the handful of billionaires on the one hand and the "world pining in pain" on the other. He had said more than enough to convince me that he didn't believe these frightful facts were caused by accident or sent by god. On the contrary-they were connected. The poor are poor because the rich are rich, and vice versa.
The horror of the war has become clear in just the first few weeks. No one knows the precise course it will take. It is by nature unpredictable. But opposition to the war is developing internationally, and in Britain has already gone further than in the last two major US-led imperialist wars-in the Gulf in 1990-1 and in the Balkans in 1999.
The movement against the war is spiralling. Even the mainstream media feels forced to reflect the growing opposition to Bush and Blair. Meetings and protests took place in cities and towns across Britain last week. All were focused on raising the anti-war banner locally, and mobilising single-mindedly for the mass national anti-war demonstration in London a week on Sunday.
George W Bush and Tony Blair say they are waging war against "terrorism" and for "democracy" and "civilisation". In private their language and motives are very different. Long before 11 September the US state was clear that its real aims are those of global military and economic dominance.
"Saudi Arabia is a good and dependable friend to the civilised world." That is how Tony Blair referred to the West's key ally in the Middle East last week. The US is desperate to maintain that relationship with Saudi Arabia during the war on Afghanistan.
German socialist Karl Liebknecht stands out as one of the most inspirational figures in the history of the socialist movement. He spent much of his life on the extreme left of the Social Democratic Party, the German equivalent of the Labour Party, before breaking from it and helping to found a revolutionary organisation.
The number of people in Eastern Europe and Central Asia living on $1 a day or less leapt from seven million to 24 million from 1990 to 1998. That is the backdrop to the conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in the Gulf state of Qatar next week.
"This is the beginning of the rebirth of the left in the Middle East." That is how a Lebanese socialist describes the atmosphere surrounding a major anti-capitalist conference taking place next week. For many, Beirut summons up images of shootings, kidnappings and seemingly endless civil war.
'The thought would turn my stomach. I will not talk to people who murder indiscriminately." That is how then Tory prime minister John Major responded in parliament on 1 November 1993 to suggestions that his government should talk to representatives of the IRA. Similar words about "not conceding to terrorists" came from every British prime minister in the previous two decades of conflict in Northern Ireland. But as Major spoke eight years ago, his government was already in secret discussions with IRA leaders.
"IT IS the paper's general policy not to cover marches." That was what the Guardian newspaper admitted this week, explaining why it hadn't covered the huge 50,000-strong protest against the war in London two weeks ago.
WE WANT the bombing of Afghanistan stopped. Our members were devastated by the events of 11 September. There were 343 firefighters among those who lost their lives. We do not want that tragedy to be followed by another tragedy.
"THERE IS a stunned atmosphere in the plant. Some of the workers have been there all their working lives. Almost everyone in Burnley has some connection with Michelin. It was the place to work."
"In a Western democracy if you lose touch with your people then you lose elections. In a monarchy you lose your head." The words were those of Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US. Revolution usually seems to most people a distant prospect. It is easy to conclude that all that we can do is resign ourselves to what exists, at most pushing for marginal reforms.
SOCIALIST WORKER is proud of the role we are playing in helping to build opposition to Bush and Blair's war. We have thrown all our resources into ensuring posters, placards and stickers carrying the anti-war message are out across Britain. We hope our readers share our pride in Socialist Worker's role in carrying the facts and arguments to challenge the warmongers' lies, and in arming people with the arguments, reports and analysis to build the movement.
"MR BLAIR made the extraordinary admission that the West was in danger of losing the propaganda war. A senior aide conceded that Osama Bin Laden's broadcast had found a receptive audience in the Middle East." That was the Guardian reporting on Tony Blair's tour of the Middle East last week.