Tens of Thousands of Europeans March Against War
By Marian and Anthony Brain
Tens of thousands Europeans marched on the streets of London on October 17 demanding: End the War on Iraq! No to Racism! No to Privatisation! and for a Europe of Peace and Social Justice! Those were the official slogans of the European Social Forum (ESF) rally at Trafalgar Square. Objectively what was important was it linked up the fight against imperialist wars and against privatisation with the struggle against racism. This potentially weakens the right, wing populists and fascists in Western Europe who are using xenophobia and racism to build a base for themselves. But in order to grasp the possibilities, the crisis of Revolutionary leadership in the British and West European workers’ movement has to be resolved.
On the demonstration there were banners from the major British unions such as UNISON (public services union) and Transport and General Workers Union. Also represented on the London march were French and Portuguese Unions such as the Portuguese Workers’ Association. Representation of Parties such as the Communist Refoundation Party (PRC) of Italy were on that march. Opponents of the Iraqi War within the British Labor Party also participated. A banner of Labor Against War was on the demonstration. The Muslim Association of Britain was heavily represented on the march. The key banners were “Withdraw British Troops from Iraq.”
At the rally one of the co-chairs of the Stop the War Coalition pointed out how the imperialists were looting Iraq’s natural resources. A woman member of the Welsh Assembly from the Plaid Cymru (Party of Wales) made an impassioned plea for Blair to be impeached in Parliament for taking Britain into an illegal War with Iraq. This is a reflection of the mass feeling against the war, and the feeling that Blair must be held to account for the war.
Paul Macknee, general secretary of the lecturers union (NATHE), pointed out the dangers of Bush and Blair trying to reorganise the world order. The implications of his comments is that a Third World War could break out. He showed how 10 percent of taxpayers’ money is wasted on militarism. This money, he stated, could be spent on improving schools; hospitals; and public transport. Finally he finished by saying that high tuition fees had to be fought. (Tony Blair’s Labor government introduced fees for university students and stated that there would be no Top Up Fees during 2001 in the Labor Party’s manifesto. The Blair Government broke their promise and started drawing up legislation two years later.
Lee Jasper from the National Assembly against Racism (NAR) gave greetings to the rally from London Mayor Ken Livingstone. He pointed out how fascism was growing in Western Europe due to growing xenophobia and racism. To defeat fascism, he correctly argued, needs the defeat of racism and xenophobia. During his speech he announced a demonstration in early April 2005 against racism. This is very important in the British context where xenophobia has been growing rapidly for five years, due to the crisis of British capitalism. That April 2005 demonstration could begin seriously mobilizing on the streets against xenophobia.
The mobilizations against the Iraq War have strengthened the anti-capitalist movement within the imperialist countries. In order to make the maximum gains for a revolutionary socialist alternative to capitalist barbarism requires maintaining certain principles; programmatic points; and tactics associated with classical Trotskyism such as working class independence.
We have in Britain a deepening radicalization that reflected itself in the Conservative Party in 1997 facing its worse electoral defeat in 150 years, and the biggest landslide for the Labour Party in its history. A deepening of the radicalization was expressed when 2 million demonstrated against the Iraq War in London on February 15, 2003. That was the biggest demonstration in British history. On the same day, there was also a massive demonstration in Glasgow, which ended outside the Labor Party’s spring conference. Many delegates to the Labor Party conference both from the Constituencies and the Trade Unions participated in the demonstration.
The radicalization around the antiwar movement needs to link up with the growing militancy of the working class to defeat the offensive of Blairism.