Students in Britain demonstrated against the war on March 5, as part of the international day of action called by the NYSPC (National Youth and Student Peace Coalition). The demo in Britain was on a much smaller scale than student demos in most other countries, but showed a change in the mood among the active layers of school and university students.
In London 500 students demonstrated in Whitehall, the seat of government. An estimated 400 students demonstrated in Sheffield, 300 in Leeds, 400 in Birmingham and many other smaller lobbies were organized up and down the country. This action, although relatively small shows that the youth are becoming more radical, and want to become more involved in politics; the most active will be searching for revolutionary ideas, something that in the past was questioned by skeptical and tired people.
The demos included school and university students. In London, for instance, we had students from Brunel University, Imperial College, SOAS and the LSE (London School of Economics). The lobby was organized by the Stop the War Coalition and the NUS (National Union of Students). The relatively low turn out stands in contradiction to the mood among young people. If the action was properly organized it could have been much bigger. At the current time the NUS, with millions of members across Britain, do not seem to regard anti war activity as a priority. This is something which will change in the future as the NUS comes under increasing pressure from a left moving, radicalized student population.
Students from other schools in London organised solidarity meetings and handed out leaflets on the same day, but expressed their concerned about being victimized by the school authorities. “If the demos were bigger, would have major coverage and the kids would not be so scared of getting into trouble” said a student who was not able to attend the demo.
The police were generally rude, and over reacted by bringing in mounted officer to intimidate demonstrators. At the end of the demo, the horses surrounded the protesters only allowing them out in groups of two. These scenes were reminiscent of the Mayday demos in London a few years ago. Of course smaller demonstrations can be treated “less respectfully” by the police. Only a more organized walkout, and demonstration can prevent the police behaving in such manner.
This day of action should be used to build up for a walkout in the schools and universities on the day war breaks out. This should go hand in hand with a massive campaign of mass meetings in schools and universities.
The reports of Pakistan, Spain and America should be studied in order to develop a mass movement of the students and working class youth to stop the war.