Sunday, 14 February 2010
7 Years On...
I thought it would be appropriate for some political reflection of the past 7 years. It was 7 years ago today that saw 2 million people (including myself) on the streets of London and 35 million worldwide. Demonstrating against the prospect of an invasion of Iraq. An invasion which unfortunately did happen and the occupation that continues until this day, As this was the beginning of my political activity the fact that not only the invasion happened but that the misery continues to this day is something which pains me everytime I think of it.
The day also had a personal significance to me, it was the day I joined the Socialist Party, which is not inconsequential on the matter. The demonstrations were an eclectic selection of people and individuals, significantly though there was a significant amount of young people involved this was where my generation who up until this point had not been politically involved but burst on to the scene in the biggest demonstration in British history, many demonstrators including myself were not at this point old enough to vote.
Unfortunately though over the years we have seen that despite the anger against the war the demonstrations have got smaller and smaller, we have seen national demonstrations go from the size of millions to a few thousand. It is not something that we as anti-war activists should just except but something we just learn from in order to avoid these mistakes again. Days after the demo the New York Times dubbed world public opinion "the second global superpower" Yet although the potential was there for the anti-war movement it become a superpower it was unable to. For a superpower doesn't just walk the streets and threaten no further action than that ultimately the anti-war movement did not provide any reason not to go to war other than public opinion and we all know that public opinion does not concern the government.
Whilst my peers around me slowly stopped coming to demonstrations because it seemed that they were not making a difference, the demonstrations starter getting smaller and consequently there was a domino effect where we had national demonstrations with only a few thousand despite pubic opinion remaining high against the war. I can only assume that those who simply stopped demonstrating because they felt that it was not working and indeed it wasn't, so the question you ask is why did I stay.
As I already mentioned this was the same time as I had joined the Socialist Party, the members I discussed with explained al this to me at the time so I was prepared to for it,but crucially they also presented an alternative strategy for a way forward, explained the need to escalate action,such as A call for a political strike at the 2 million strong demonstration. If that happened then the course of events could have been drastically different. Subsequently in the years following up until this point I have been arguing for the rebuilding of the anti-war movement and to learn the lessons from the past, i.e. it is pointless to resign ourselves to demonstration after demonstration with no prospect of further action.
The need to learn the lessons from reason history is something I have raised within the Stop the War Coalition, unfortunately some have responded to me by saying that the anti-war movement did not fail and that it achieved so much. This is the kind of response given to me about the rise of the BNP which you can read here. Now although saying things like this is done with the intention of keeping spirits high, it would be correct to say it is a lie. What is more it is clear that we have failed, Iraq was invaded and occupied and 100,000s have died. So we need to learn the lessons and re construct the movement rather than painting a huge defeat as a victory as unfortunately some do.
I would attribute the fact that so many youth left the movement whilst I stayed to my membership of the Socialist Party, because it was through this party that I was given and extremely good political education explaining the need to escalate action on the movement would die a death. Although one might say a pessimistic outlook, it was a honest appraisal of the situation which not only prepared me for the inevitable demoralising decline on the anti-war movement but more importantly gave me a strategy of how to fight for this to be prevented.
7 years on from the biggest demonstration in British history, it is time we learn the lessons. So that we can end the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.