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Why mass actions are key to stopping war

March 7, 2003 | Page 4

Dear Socialist Worker,

The worldwide protests on February 15 and 16 represented a major step forward for the antiwar movement. With half a million people in the streets of New York, 200,000 in San Francisco and tens of thousands in smaller cities all over the United States, there is no question where a growing number of Americans stand on Bush's war against Iraq.

Students are at the core of this growing movement. I was thrilled to be marching with the 150-person-strong San Francisco State University Students Against War contingent, along with several other northern California campus contingents.

We made up a contingent of some 800 students, all joining forces together against this war. People around us were able to identify that there was a strong organization of angry students that had come together as a group.

Anyone who attended the march on Sunday could see what a mistake it is to believe that marches cause no change. They break down the barriers of isolation and alienation thrown up by daily life and give people a sense of their collective strength--a strength that gives people the confidence to challenge the system.

During the 1960s, antiwar activists teamed up with civil rights activists to stop the war and fight for equality for Blacks and women. Mass demonstrations also played a huge part in stopping the Vietnam War. All these victories came to pass because of grassroots organizations preparing multiple mass actions as well as sit-ins and sometimes boycotts.

This weekend's marches were an important step in the movement that is still very new and growing. Whether and when it is time to use other tactics is a question that must be discussed on an ongoing basis.

You can't just wish a strike into being--and a small sit-in or direct action that the cops can take down in a few minutes is no more radical or effective than 200,000 people saying "No!" in one voice.

Organizing is key to putting on protests, rallying strikes or encouraging walkouts. In order for this antiwar movement to grow and thrive, it is up to everyone to take on leadership roles. We can only stop Bush if we are equally if not more serious about organizing together to stop this war on Iraq.

Sarah Levine and Elizabeth Terzakis, San Francisco

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