Archive article from The Socialist Issue 293
Day X: Millions walkout against the war
WITHIN HOURS of cruise missiles exploding in Baghdad a wave of anti-war demos and protests, involving millions of people, has swept around the globe.
As the reports below from Day X show, often the best protest response was from school students.
In the US, Britain and Australia - whose governments initiated this imperialist war and are the only countries to deploy combat troops - there has been no let up in anti-war action, despite the patriotic propaganda by the state and the capitalist mass media.
In Italy, whose right-wing Berlusconi-led government is backing George Bush, the trade unions staged a two-hour strike, with protesters blocking roads and railways.
A European-wide and even a worldwide one-day general strike (in all sectors, including students and school students), would unite the opposition to war and could open the way to bringing down those governments who support the war.
In New York city an estimated 250,000 people marched against the war and there were smaller demos in many other US cities. In San Francisco over 2,100 anti-war protesters have been arrested in ongoing civil disobedience actions.
In Greece, a huge 150,000-strong demo marched through the capital, Athens, to the US embassy. And 60,000 protesters rallied outside the US consulate in Thessoloniki.
In Spain, where the government of Jose Maria Aznar's Popular Party is a staunch supporter of Bush and Blair, protesters blocked a motorway in Barcelona (see report page 7)
In Madrid, reactionary police (some of whom sported Franco-era Spanish flags on their guns) fired rubber bullets and beat protesters in an unprovoked attack on a mass anti-war demo.
Similarly, in Cairo, Egypt, riot police used water cannon and batons against over 5,000 students who were marching to the US embassy. In many Arab and Muslim countries there were angry protests directed at the US and British governments. In Yemen, an eleven-year-old died as police clashed with thousands of anti-war demonstrators.
The Committee for a Workers' International (the socialist international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated), which has members active in 36 countries, initiated and helped mobilise many anti-war activities. A flavour of these actions on Day X is given in the following articles.
Reports featuring Portugal, Italy, Czech Republic, Canada, Sri Lanka, Republic of Ireland and more, are available on the CWI's website www.socialistworld.net
Germany: 150,000 on schools' strike
YOUTH AGAINST War (JgK, a campaign of school students, students and apprentices, initiated by members of Socialist Alternative, SAV) and International Resistance (the German section of International Socialist Resistance), brought out more than 150,000 school students on 20 March.
Sascha Stanicic, SAV (CWI, Germany), Berlin
In a magnificent show of anger against Bush's war, school students stopped their lessons and took to the streets. In some cities headmasters tried to lock them into the schools. This prompted youth to shout "freedom for the political prisoners". In other cases, teachers joined in the strike and took their whole classes to the demos.
JgK speakers on many occasions called on the trade unions and workers to follow their example and take strike action against the war on Iraq.
In Hamburg, JgK co-organised a half-hour stoppage of work by apprentices in the defence company Airbus. Hospital workers in some southern German cities also stopped work for 30 minutes against the war.
One of the biggest school student demonstrations took place in Berlin with 70,000 on the march. Stuttgart followed with 20,000 in the second school strike within a month. Bremen saw 13,000 while Kassel, Cologne and Saarbrcken saw 10,000 each on their demos. In Aachen there were 4,000. Demos and strikes also took place in Siegen, Dueren, Tbingen, Nuremberg, Moenchengladbach and other cities.
Belgium: CWI leads countrywide protests
TENS OF thousands joined the Day X protests in Belgium. The Linkse Socialistische Partij/Mouvement pour une Alternative Socialiste (LSP/MAS - the Belgian section of the CWI), played a key role in all the biggest demonstrations.
Geert Cool, LSP/MAS, Belgium
On Day X we phoned around from 4am onwards. At 4.30 am our first press release was sent out. At 8am the first demonstrations started from the schools.
In Gent, a demo organised by International Socialist Resistance (ISR) and the Belgian CWI, started to demonstrate around 8.30am with 500 school students and students and grew to 5,000!
In Leuven, we were the main organisers of a 3,000-strong student demo. In Antwerp, a spontaneous school students' demo started early in the morning. We joined in this demo and built for our own starting at noon. In the morning some 700 were on the streets, on the noon demo there were 3,000, and again LSP/MAS members led the demo.
In Brussels, we started from the French-speaking university ULB at noon. This demo grew with students from the Dutch-speaking university and school students. There were some 3,000 present. The demo received huge support from people on the streets.
We had many placards on the demo and shouted slogans like: 'Pas de guerre pour le petrole' (No war for oil).
There also were actions in Ostend with 1,500 present and in Sint-Niklaas some schools threatened sanctions against school students who wanted to strike. Despite this, 250 joined the demo organised by ISR. In other cities there were smaller school student actions with a few hundred on each.
March 20 evening protests
IN THE evening there were big demonstrations once again. In Brussels, 10,000 gathered in front of the US embassy. The police attacked the demo and used a water cannon.
In Gent, there also was a 10,000-strong demo. In the speeches from our van we stressed the need to go further than demonstrations. A European-wide general strike would be a huge step in fighting capitalism, the system that has caused this war for oil and prestige.
In Liege, in the French-speaking Walloon area where 3,000 demonstrated, LSP/MAS played a key role in the demo as it did in many other towns and cities including Antwerp, Mechelen, Leuven, Kortrij and Brugge.
Austria: Education not bombs
Between 10,000-15,000 school students took to the streets on day X in Vienna following the call of ISR and the official school student rep-resentation in Vienna. The GB (trade union federation) youth sector joined the mobilisation.
Franz Breier Jun, Sozialistische LinksPartei,Vienna
One of the main slogans alongside "strike against war" was "education not bombs". Also the far right Austrian government was attacked for its policy of militarisation.
In the evening another demo with 8,000 people took place in Vienna and there was a 2,000-strong evening demo in Salzburg with the ISR playing a leading role.
The Sozialistische LinksPartei (SLP - CWI, Austria) also intervened in the anti-war-rally in Linz, an important industrial city.
Australia: 50,000 protest in Melbourne against Howard's war role
AS THE bombs started falling on Baghdad, over 50,000 people gathered spontaneously in Melbourne, Australia, for the first of many rallies to come.
Denise Dudley, Melbourne
On 19 March, the right wing Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, committed around 2,000 Australian troops to fight in the conflict. Howard, like Blair, had already committed his government to a US-led imperialist war months ago with the pre-deployment of Australian troops to the region.
The anger and disbelief of Australians has been growing daily as Howard continues to refuse to listen to anyone except George Bush. On 20 March the Senate passed a resolution condemning Howard's commitment of Australia to the war.
THE SOCIALIST Party in Melbourne had a fantastic political response at this first rally.
As at a previous anti-war rally, we hired a truck and had live bands on the back. We had many stalls at the main rally as well as two at the High School strike that was attended by around 1,500 students.
Socialist Party members worked with Youth Against War at this rally also and have been involved in the preceding weeks to build the rally. We sold around 250 papers and hundreds of badges and stickers. 15 new members joined on the day.
AFTER THE main rally finished at the Australian Defence Barracks in the city the Socialist Party led a march to the US Embassy where around 1,000 protesters listened to speeches by members and music.
The protests in Melbourne will continue throughout the next week on a daily basis.
The Victoria Trades Hall in Melbourne has called a two-hour strike in the city on Friday 21 March. This will see all the building sites in the city shut down as workers walk off jobs to show their anger at the US, Australia and their Allies in their quest for imperialist dominance.
Youth Against War has been officially invited to speak to the strike rally organised by the Trades Hall.
Mass action shuts down Catalonia
THE BOMBING of Iraq was met by outrage, walkouts, road blocks and demonstrations involving up to 50,000 university and school students in Barcelona.
Chris Ridge, Catalonia
The A7 motorway to France was blocked in both directions by thousands of students who walked out of the Universitat Autnoma (UAB), following meetings in the various faculties.
In Barcelona, the UAB students met up with students from the other Barcelona universities blocking roads and staging their own demonstrations.
In waves, beginning with students from the Theology Faculty (!) they marched on the Partido Popular (PP) offices to vent their anger at Aznar and his government. Another target was the Delegaci del Govern, the Spanish government offices in the Catalan capital.
These mass protests were echoed in towns and cities across Catalonia and the rest of Spain.
At 7pm the anti-war campaign 'Aturem la guerra' (Stop the War) organised protests in the squares outside council offices.
In Barcelona the Plaa Sant Jaume filled with 35,000 people, calling for an end to the bombing, in front of the Generalitat (Catalan Regional Government). They spilled into the side streets when the square filled to overflowing. Reports say 10,000 assembled in Valencia, 4,000 in Taragona and Girona.
Today (Friday 21 March) the protests have continued. I went to a union meeting and at midday the union offices emptied as my union, the Workers Commissions, (CCOO) and the UGT union organised a human chain around the Delegaci del Govern. We were joined by several hundred school students who blocked part of the road.
When I got home to Granollers, a town of 50,000, I saw on the news that school students had demonstrated in the centre during the morning. And tomorrow (Saturday) there promises to be another mega-demonstration in Barcelona.
The students' union has called on the CCOO and the UGT more than once to organise a 24-hour general strike. Next Wednesday (26 March) the two big unions are calling a second 15-minute stoppage.
It's clear that a longer stoppage, properly prepared with preparatory meetings, is required to channel this enormous anger into a movement capable of forcing the Aznar government to back-track or resign.
Sweden: School students against the war
'SCHOOL STUDENTS against the war' prepared for several months for Day X. 10,000 school students packed the central square in Stockholm.
Elin Gauffin, Stockholm
There were also 3,500 protesters in Gothenburg, 1,000 in Umea, 600 in Kalmar, 500 in Lulea, 350 in Eskilstuna, 300 in Skelleftea, 300 in Hudiksvall and 125 in Sundsvall. This was all part of the international strike of school students.
The day before the protests, the school students won support from the chairperson of the Swedish TUC, Wanja Lundby-Wedin. She said that 'School students against the war' were doing a "great job".
"There is something dangerous happening in the world. There is a country led by a 'power mad' leader that uses weapons of mass destruction. And it's not Saddam Hussein I'm speaking of - it's George Bush", said Maia Hansson, who brought out 120 students from her school.
In some places school principals tried to stop students from attending the strikes. In Eskilstuna, a bureaucrat from the council sent out a media announcement against the strike. That led to a storm of protests from school students and parents and compelled him to send out a new message saying that the strike was "a success and positive"!
'School students against the war' is a fast growing and well supported campaign started by the socialist youth movement Elevkampanjen (ISR in Sweden), after an initiative from RS (CWI, Sweden) youth.
Greece: Historic demos against war
A TOTAL of 400,000 to 500,000 people demonstrated over three days in Athens alone when the war against Iraq began. Over 100,000 protesters in Salonica and many tens of thousands in other Greek towns.
Andreas Payiatsos, Athens
In Athens the rally on Thursday, started soon after the news of the war broke out. It was as big as the 15 February rally, at least 150,000 people. The number of school students was stunning - it was basically a school student demo.
The rally on Friday surpassed any other demo over the last 25 years! (with the exception of the election rallies in the 1980s which were of a different character). There were probably around 250.000, bringing to memory the rallies on the anniversary of the Polytechnic revolt in the first years after the fall of the military regime in 1974.
US: police dogs used to stop students protests
THE OBERLIN branch of Socialist Alternative started an anti-war coalition at the beginning of this school year. Through this coalition we organised a walkout for Day X at both Oberlin College, and at Oberlin High School.
Ted Virdone, Socialist Alternative, Oberlin, Ohio
About 1,000 people attended a protest in the central square with official speakers from Socialist Alternative. (Oberlin College only has 2,800 students, and the high school has 300 students).
Some high school students attended by having their parents come and take them out of school early but the rest of the students were unable to walk out because of the repression of the high school administration who declared a lock in.
They brought in state police with dogs to prevent the students from leaving. The police were authorised to use force to keep the students in school. Then the entire school was moved into the auditorium in the centre of the building and locked there for three hours.
From the rally in the center square of Oberlin we marched to the high school and started a very militant demonstration chanting, "walk out" and "unlock the doors."
Seattle: Planned college walkouts are big success
STUDENTS FROM over 30 Seattle colleges, high schools and middle schools walked out on 20 March receiving much media coverage.
Philip Locker, Socialist Alternative, Seattle
There was a north side rally of around 800 students at the University of Washington (UW), and a south side rally of 2,000 students at Seattle Central Community College (SCCC). Both rallies than marched to downtown Seattle and had a city-wide student walkout rally there.
The Seattle branch of Socialist Alternative (CWI, US) played the decisive role in initiating and organising these walkouts, campaigning for such action since October. And we had official Socialist Alternative speakers at all three rallies.