Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Friday, February 15, 2008

The World Against War

Today marks the fifth anniversary of one of the most glorious days of my life - the mass Stop the War demonstration in London on February 15 2003. The sheer numbers of people on the streets of London was remarkable - a magnificent manifestation of 'people power' - power that day really did lie in the streets (the London Metropolitan police were stretched so thin that huge swathes of the march took place without a single policeman in sight). It was bitterly cold, but the fraternal spirit among those marching kept people warm. The sheer weight of numbers meant that the march was one of the slowest I have ever been on - it took ages to get to Hyde Park and for me to catch Jesse Jackson, Ms Dynamite and Tony Benn speaking. On anti-war demonstrations in Britain up to that point, official Stop the War and Socialist Worker placards tended to dominate, but on this day there were firstly not enough placards of any description to match the demand for them, and as well as a multitude of fantastic and imaginative home-made ones, mainstream parties like the Liberal Democrats and mainstream newspapers were desperately trying to get in on the act. Daily Mirror placards saying 'No War' were most common, but even the reactionary and pro-war Daily Mail tried to jump on the bandwagon, producing a special issue of their paper to give out free to those protesting, highlighting that the demo proved that apparently 'the silent majority was on the march'. In fact, from the mass of Daily Mails later seen floating down the River Thames, it seems that the 'silent majority' found their voice on that day - and spoke loudly and clearly against the warmongers and racists. It was a truly historic day, not simply the biggest public demonstration but the biggest act of mass civil disobedience and mass direct action in British history, and one to remember and draw inspiration from still. Nor, contrary to rumours that have been greatly exaggerated, has the anti-war movement died since then - indeed in a month's time, on March 15 to March 22, to mark the fifth anniversary of the war on Iraq, there will be international demonstrations under the banner The World Against War, calling for the troops to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan and for solidarity with Palestine. Everyone should try to do something that day to remember the innocent victims of the bloody 'war on terror' and to make sure that the Project for the New American Century continues to falter and fail, as it deserves to.



At 4:13 pm, Blogger Roobin said...

Snowb, I fink riight, someone should do a comprehensive history of the movement (the official oral history wasn't bad, but it could be bettered). OK, so it wasn't so grand compared to past movements, but I think back and some of the stuff I used to do was nuts, amazing stuff, especially compared to my life before then.

Do it, for the politics, for the history, for warm-glow factor.

At 2:02 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

I agree a comprehensive and ideally international/comparative history of the stop the war movement to date would be very useful and valuable. Compiling such a thing would be rather time consuming and difficult (even with the help of the internet). There was so much activity and a lot of it never got reported or was illegal (I remember people going off after one of the local demos to chuck loads of red paint over the offices of the local Labour party for example - traces of it are still there) - but there is a multitude of great stories out there waiting to be told - agreed.

At 10:51 am, Blogger Roobin said...

I've been thinking about it over the weekend. I realised I'd have to speak with people from the old Sheffield, Nottingham and Hackney groups to recall most of the finer details. Another good starting point would be a collection of leaflets, posters, petitions and pamphlets made at the time, especially local ones. Unfortunately these are the things you throw in the bin first.


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