Antiwar reports from around the world
February 28, 2003 | Page 4
Socialist Worker readers from Britain, Italy and New Zealand describe the demonstrations that brought out 10 million people around the globe on February 15 and 16.
Britain was changed
Dear Socialist Worker,
Britain changed on February 15. Some 2 million people from across the country descended on London for what became a carnival for peace. Young Muslims marched with old Christians, Greens marched with anarchists, trades unionists with students.
Hundreds of thousands who had never before joined a protest joined together with seasoned campaigners in a magnificent show of defiance toward the warmongers in the White House and Downing Street. The largest human gathering in the history of the British Isles--plus another 200,000 in Glasgow, Dublin and Belfast--had united to say no to war.
The chants were passionate. We were passionate. We felt we could make the difference. I witnessed people in tears--overcome by emotion and solidarity. As the scale of the protests, here and across the globe, began to dawn on us, we realized that we were now the real "international community"--not the stuffed shirts and generals lurking behind the United Nations (UN).
Opinion polls in the UK now show a majority of the population opposed to war, regardless of whether it's backed by the "thieves and beggar's kitchen" at the UN.
What was remarkable about February 15 was that it was built almost entirely from below--in streets and schools, colleges and workplaces. It was built by individual activists who understood that what they did could make a difference. Now, 2 million people have had a taste of what it is like to be part of a truly mass movement--a taste of their own power.
The next few weeks and months will provide socialists with the opportunities to reshape the political landscape of Britain. We will be working to build the peace movement even bigger--but also to counter the racist lies and vilification which are being heaped on asylum-seekers and refugees by the media and mainstream political parties.
The socialist vision of a world without war and poverty was a beacon of hope during the 20th century. At the start of the 21st, it has never been more relevant--and last Saturday, we took one more inspirational step towards making it a reality.
Clive Searle, Manchester Socialist Alliance, Manchester, UK
Italy says "no" to this war
Dear Socialist Worker,
Three million people marched down the streets of Rome last Saturday for the International Day for Peace to say "No!" to war on Iraq. Along with the regular crowd of the political left, students, trade unions and activists were elderly people, mayors from hundreds of cities across Italy, veterans of the Second World War, schoolchildren and people not associated with any party or group.
Much like in the U.S., this downpour of people down the streets of Rome shows how Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (who gave his full support to Bush in the war on Iraq) represents only his government--not his people.
It took several hours for the whole demonstration to arrive at Piazza San Giovanni, the biggest square in Rome, where the march ended. At the end of the march, Heidi Giuliani, whose son Carlo was killed by police during the G8 protests in Genoa, Italy, in July 2001, read a communiqué from the Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos.
Marcos denounced the imperialist nature of the war on Iraq, calling it a "money war" and saying that Bush "does not care about Iraq or Hussein he cares only about showing that he can commit his crimes in any part of the world, at any time, and that he can do so with impunity."
People went down the streets knowing that the state network and the official press were going to minimize the protest. The head of state television (who is appointed by the prime minister) denied the march live coverage on grounds that it would "influence the Parliament." As a protest, some media workers at state television wore a white headband over their eyes at work to symbolize the blindness of the media institutions.
Across Europe, the biggest demonstrations were in Rome, London and Barcelona, signaling that even the governments that have given full support to the U.S.--the "new Europe" vs. France and Germany, the so-called "old Europe"--are not representatives of any majority.
Claudia Andreozzi, Rome, Italy
Inspiring protests in New Zealand
Dear Socialist Worker,
It is so inspiring to read about the antiwar movement in the U.S. Here in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, the International Socialist Organization was one of many groups that built for the February 15 protests.
We were blown away by the 7,000 people who came out to march against Bush's war. But even better was the mood of the crowd. "1,2,3,4, we don't your dirty war!" went the chant, and the general feeling was that we would oppose this war, whatever the United Nations decides.
It was great to be able to show people articles from your newspaper and to say, "There are Americans against Bush and against the war." We've got plenty more actions, demonstrations, teach-ins and marches planned, so remember: The resistance to war is global!
Dougal McNeill, International Socialist Organization, Wellington, New Zealand