Reports from the massive anti-war demos on February 15th 2003 in the USA, Czech Republic and F.Y.R Macedonia.
The media were forced to admit to historically unprecedented numbers of protestors in many countries, but significantly they played down the numbers in the United States. Were they trying to do Bush a favour? The fact is that probably around three quarters of a million Americans protested against the war. This comes on top of the huge January 18 mobilisations that we have already reported on. This movement is bound to grow as the reality of the situation sinks into the minds of millions of ordinary working Americans. Opposition is also significantly high in the ex-Yugoslav Republics, as the report from Macedonia clearly shows. A decade of ethnic conflicts has led the workers of youth of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Slovenia… to understand the real interests that lie behind imperialist wars.
USA: mayor tries, but fails, to stop half a million strong antiwar rally in New York
We, the comrades of the Workers International League in the USA, would like to take this opportunity to report on our recent interventions in the anti-war movement and the mood of the American public as a whole. It is important to remember that in the period prior to September 11 the youth and anti-capitalist activist layers in the USA had begun to organize at grass-roots level as an "anti-globalization" force. Since then this movement has been largely absorbed into the anti-war protests. In many ways, this movement has the same ends and demands, and involves the same layer of activists, because both movements arise from the same objective material conditions. Our position has remained the same: to urge those taking part in these movements to adopt a class understanding.
This country has seen a number of mass mobilizations since our “un-elected” President began his bellicose rhetoric on Iraq. The first mass demonstration that we took part in was on January 18. We were there distributing our journal, the Socialist Appeal and handing out flyers. We found a significant layer of youth who were interested in the ideas of Marxism. We also received compliments for our banner with the slogan "No war but the class war!" As we marched through the freezing streets of Washington DC, we felt the mood was upbeat, hopeful, and excited.
On February 15, we intervened in many protests around the country. In Fargo a crowd of 200 gathered. This may sound small, but it was a sizeable number to anyone familiar with the city! In St. Louis a crowd of 2,300 turned out. Again, there was huge interest in Marxist ideas and we sold out of all our material! In Melbourne, Florida, there was a crowd of 400. In San Diego there was a protest of over 3,000. In Philadelphia we sold out all the papers we had brought at a demonstration of 10,000.
We also intervened in the hugely successful New York City demonstration, where up to half a million protestors gathered. (Not the 100,000 the newspapers reported!) New York Mayor Bloomberg refused the permit to march on the UN headquarters. Instead, at the last minute, he granted a very restricted permit for a stationary rally. During the process of litigation the organizers and protestors alike understood that the march would continue - no matter what. And it did! Despite the NYPD blocking off streets, arresting hundreds of protestors, and generally trying their best to disorientate the protestors, the streets of New York resounded with the cry of "Whose streets? Our streets!"
Overall there were more than 200 demonstrations in different parts of the country. Although the media almost completely ignored this huge protest on the part of US workers and youth, they cannot the fact there is huge opposition to the war in the USA. Apart from the huge demo in New York there were also 100,000 who marched through San Francisco and 50,000 in Los Angeles. February 15 represented a serious step forward in the direction of growing militancy of the anti-war movement, and we are very proud of our modest but bold intervention in the US antiwar protests on February 15.
North of the border, in Canada there was also a strong protest with rallies and demonstrations in about 70 towns. In Toronto 80,000 turned out. In Montreal the 150,000 turnout was one of the biggest mobilisations, and possibly the biggest, in the history of Canada.
Now, in the USA, another mass protest is scheduled for March 1, in Washington DC. Also, on March 5, students are planning strikes at their schools to commemorate the National Student Strike that day. We will demand that our schools officially take an active stance against this war otherwise their classrooms will remain empty.
We are very excited at the prospects of being able to intervene in such a key process. and also very proud of being part of an international movement that defends the genuine ideas of Marxism, the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky.
Revolutionary Regards,Workers International League (USA)
Macedonia (and all the ex-Yugoslavia): massive opposition to the war while 10,000 march in Zagreb
As an organizer of the local Social Forum, I was happily surprised to see so many people demonstrating against the war in Iraq. Skopje and Macedonia joined the international protest on February 15. Around 500 people, mostly youth, marched through the streets of Skopje shouting "Enough with wars, enough of destruction". There were banners such as the one that read "we know it's for oil", "stop the war" etc. As the demonstration passed through the streets the people on the sides watching applauded and showed their support by bipping their horns and raising two fingers. On the protest march there were some anti-militarists, left-wing organizations like Peace Action, the Social Forum, MCMS, Committee for Peace Initiative... Some liberal-bourgeois NGOs, nationalists and several radical Moslem decided to organise a separate picket in the central square.
At the same time as all this was going on the railway workers had started their strike. The tobacco farmers are also protesting, and there is a strike in one big loss-making factory. The workers on strike outnumbered by many times the protestors on February 15. However, recent polls from various research agencies show that Macedonia is one of the European countries where opposition to the war is highest among the population. The workers and students in the ex-Yugoslav republics have experienced the horrors of war directly. In fact in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, about 10,000 marched against the war. There were also demonstrations in several other cities of Croatia. In Mostar, where some of the bloodiest fighting took place in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a small but significant protest took place. And in Belgrade, also, there was a small antiwar rally.
The people of the ex-Yugoslavia are not taken in by the propaganda of the imperialists as they prepare for war. They can also can see through the empty and meaningless words of the imperialists when they speak of so-called "humanitarian actions", "pre-emptive strikes", and “peace-keeping forces".
Let all the workers of the world unite in shouting ‘Stop the war! Drugarski pozdrav’
Alek in Skopje
Czech Republic: largest mobilisation since the November anti-NATO protests
The February 15 protests in the Czech Republic were the biggest mobilisations against the war since the anti-NATO Summit protests last November. The biggest demonstration was organised in Prague. There were also demonstrations in Ostrava and Brno. The main demonstration in Prague (there was also a smaller minor demo) was organized mainly by the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia in Wenceslaw Square. Around 3000 people turned up. The rally with speakers was held first and then the demonstration marched through the Old Town to the US Embassy, where the demonstrators sang the International and a petition was handed in. The main slogans on the demonstration were: "War on war!", "We want peace!", "No men for Bush!", "Stop the war!".