27 September Demo: Anger At Blair But Where Next?

THE LARGE demonstration on 27 September against the occupation of Iraq was a strong expression of anger at New Labour and Tony Blair but frustration about what can be done next.

Alison Hill and Judy Beishon

During the rally, some of the demonstration organisers were pointing towards Bush’s state visit to London in November as an important opportunity for more demonstrations and protests.

But people also wanted to hear about how the war could have been stopped and how the horror of the present occupation can best be ended, issues that none of the anti-war leaders speaking at the rally were able to deal with.

Jeremy Corbyn MP rightly made the link between capitalism and war, but then went on to just call for a fight for “peace and justice”.

Some speakers, like Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas, and Mick Rix of rail union ASLEF, concentrated on leading chants of: “Blair must go.”

Everyone wanted Blair to go, but what about the rest of New Labour? Bob Crow of the RMT rail union took up that question by saying: “It’s no good just calling on Blair to resign, where was the rest of the cabinet on the war? …We should be calling on the Labour leadership to resign immediately”.

But rather than supporting the urgent need to build an alternative to New Labour, by building a new mass workers’ party, he offered a further lifeline to them by saying: “Unless New Labour changes its ways dramatically, we will be supporting other political parties who fight for peace and socialism.”

This reference to possible future support for anti-war and socialist parties is very welcome, but with no sign of any dramatic change to New Labour on the horizon, the earlier an alternative is built, the better.

Unfortunately, the Stop the War Coalition chairperson of the rally, welcomed a speaker from the Liberal Democrats as being the “speaker from the anti-war party”.

Other rally speakers, such as from the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), also welcomed the ‘anti-war’ stance of the Liberal Democrats.

The Liberal Democrats however are a party that supported the war once it had begun, and they don’t now oppose the occupation of Iraq by foreign imperialist forces.

The Liberal Democrat speaker offered no alternative to the occupation, but just declared the need for: “peace and truth against poverty”.

The position of the MAB led them down the path of helping a Liberal Democrat candidate achieve victory in the Brent East by-election, despite the fact that the Liberal Democrats are a pro-big business party that has carried out many cuts in workers’ living standards when it’s been in power in local government.

Potential growth

TONY BENN was cheered enthusiastically before he started and when he declared: “We are the united nations”, in a reference to the vast spread of the anti-war movement internationally earlier this year.

Paul Mackney, General Secretary of the lecturers’ union NATFHE also referred to the anti-war movement when he congratulated the school students who went on strike in protest against the war, and called for support for the National Union of Students “Grants Not Bombs” demonstration on 26 October.

It was noticeable that the many young people who actively participated in the anti-war movement before and during the war have not gone away. A significant proportion of this demonstration against the occupation consisted of young people.

The potential exists for a growing movement against the occupation of Iraq, with young people putting their energy into it as well as other sections of society.

In the course of building this movement, it’s important to recognise that the three mainstream capitalist parties have no alternative to offer to the occupation, in fact they all support the big business interests that hope to profit from the oil and other business ‘opportunities’ in Iraq.

So it is vital that we raise the need for a new workers’ party in the movement. It is also essential to raise socialist ideas within it.

Very few of the speakers on the 27 September demonstration raised the need for socialism, but we will never get rid of the prospect of war until we have got rid of capitalism, and it is only socialism that can guarantee a future free of both war and exploitation.