Europe: NO to War on Iraq - the masses are on the streets

Belgium: an explosion of anger pushes youth into the streets

The indignation of tens of thousands of young people exploded in the streets of many Belgian cities Thursday morning. At breakfast many families had heard the reason for their revolt: the US and UK armies had started to bombard Baghdad. In many schools the students had become restless. Some schools did not even need a walk out because many students had refused even to enter school. Not today, no way! Not only immigrant youth of Arab origin felt angry - many young people did.

The indignation of tens of thousands of young people exploded in the streets of many Belgian cities Thursday morning. At breakfast many families had heard the reason for their revolt: the US and UK armies had started to bombard Baghdad. In many schools the students had become restless. Some schools did not even need a walk out because many students had refused even to enter school. Not today, no way! Not only immigrant youth of Arab origin felt angry - many young people did.

In Oostend on the coast, 2,000 youth (mainly school students) filled the streets. The local anti-war committee had called for this demo and strike on Day X. In the evening 700 people demonstrated. But in many other places, especially in the small cities actions were largely spontaneous despite the fact that the two main anti-war platforms had planned for actions and demos. In Ghent 5,000 young people marched in the morning and in the evening a new demo gathered the same number of youth. In Antwerp the demos started from 9 o'clock in the morning until 8.30 in the evening. The highpoint of the actions in Antwerp was the demo organised by the anti-war committee set up by the Marxists around Vonk. Some 5,000 marched in a very tumultuous and combative mood through the city. The anti-war protesters had an extra reason to demonstrate: the night before a new military convoy of US war materiel had arrived by train in the port of Antwerp and was shipped on US ships sailing for the Middle East. This despite the 'peace' diplomacy of the Belgian government. Many people were angry about the hypocrisy of the Belgian government. They considered it to be a real provocation to ship this military hardware that same night before the ultimatum of Bush had expired.

In Brussels many small demos started again early in the morning. They came together in front of the US Embassy. In the evening some 5,000 people gathered here. The mood was very angry and combative.

In the southern cities of Belgium, thousands of people rallied against the military aggression of the US/UK army against Iraq.

In general the trade unions were largely absent as an organised force from those demos. Surely individual trade unionists were present and active. In one city, Hasselt for instance, the civil servants of the regional administration and of the Ministry of Finance decided to walk out at mid-day. They hung a large banner against 'the war for oil' on the façade of the offices and then went for a short demo in the city.

We are convinced there is large potential for a trade union involvement in the anti-war activity as proven by the success of the 10 minutes stoppage last Friday at the demand of the ETUC. Unfortunately the concrete modalities of this action were designed to make this potential invisible and difficult to materialise. The antiwar committees set up at the initiative of Vonk are calling for a workers' stoppage against the war. They say that if the workers want it they can stop the whole war machine.

Today there was also a national trade union demo for a 'Social Europe'. This was an activity planned in advance by the European TUC independently from the anti-war agenda. Nevertheless the demo rapidly developed an anti-war character, when many trade unionists carried little paper hats with the slogan of the US anti-war movement 'Not in my name'. Others shouted, 'together we are strong in our fight for jobs and against the war'.

Tomorrow there will be a new national demo in Brussels, and next week many other actions are planned. The danger is that an explosion of unconcerted and uncoordinated actions will only serve to let off steam. Therefore we are calling for the youth to organise and to develop a strategy designed at involving the workers in the factories and other workplaces.

Erik Demeester

Austria

Yesterday there was a strike of students of many schools in the capital of Austria, Vienna. 8,000 students joined the demonstration, which started at the Stephansplatz, in the center of the city. The mood of the students was full of anger against the war.

The demonstration took its way through the city to the Embassy of the United States, where slogans like "Hey, Hey, George Bush has got to go" and "Stop the war on Iraq" were shouted.

In the evening there was another demonstration of 9,000 people to the US embassy.

There were also demonstrations in Graz, Linz, Bad Ischl, Krems (Lower Austria), Salzburg, Innsbruck, Feldkirch.

Michi Pils, Gernot Trausmuth, Der Funke Editorial Board, Vienna.

Denmark

Comrades!

In Denmark we also had demos today.

In Roskilde the SUF (Socialist Youth Front) branch, took the initiative to go out and protest against the war. We called for a spontaneous demo, which was attended by some 70 students. But most important of all was that in the students' lunch-break, we visited all the main educational institutions in Roskilde and distributed a pamphlet made by SUF-Roskilde, which is actually a very short version of The in Defence of Marxism Manifesto. This pamphlet also appealed to readers to visit www.marxist.com

We also visited our local union and they were very enthusiastic to resist the war, but I don't think they will call a strike.

In Copenhagen student demos and strikes emerged, actually quite spontaneously - I heard there were about 2000 or something like that. Tomorrow there will be more strikes of that kind.

Right now demos are taking place in many cities, our comrades are also attending with material, papers, etc. I think these demos will be quite big.

I don't know if you are aware of the action made by some anarchists against the Danish Prime Minister, Fogh. The case is, that these activists threw red painting all over him, and said "you have blood on your hands", just after Denmark decided to support the war. This was an action that took all attention from the mass-resistance movement. It was a typical anarchist action, which damaged on the movement, because people felt sorry for Fogh. This just confirms our Marxist view on individual actions. But of course, this cannot prevent the mass-movement, and the thirst for ideas which really exists among many youngsters, but which is actually also growing in the work places, as hasn't been seen for many years. Our task is to intervene in this movement with our Marxist programme, and tactics.

Comradely

Andreas, Socialistisk Standpunkt Editorial Board

Anti-war demos in the US

Despite the hysteria of patriotism and calls for national unity (see What Sort of Unity?), anti-war demonstrators in the US came out in large numbers to protest the formal beginning of the war. In solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of protesters around the world, the citizens of the world's most powerful military power protested the actions of their ruling class. In cities large and small across America, the anti-war movement made it clear that although hostilities have commenced, the movement is not going to be cowed by the pressure of the media and government. In New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, San Francisco, and other large cities, traffic was brought to a halt, and in many cases, confrontations with police were ugly. 122 were arrested in Pittsburgh; over 1,000 were locked up in San Francisco.

It is inevitable that the majority of American society will rally around the calls to "support our troops" at the beginning of the war. Even if the war goes well, the post-war period can quickly turn into a nightmare. Already there have been US and British casualties, and the real fighting has yet to begin. The anti-war movement will be dampened somewhat by all the pressure, but this will not last. Patriotic jingoism can and will turn into its opposite at a certain stage. The only response to perpetual war is a perpetual anti-war movement. We must continue to build our forces, drawing in the broader labor movement (despite of the craven trade union leadership), and look to the actions of the European working class for inspiration. Conditions here in the US will continue to deteriorate, which will accelerate the change of mood. Bush and the ruling class have taken a major risk in starting this war so arrogantly - the world working class must prepare a lesson for them!

By John Peterson

The status of the peace movement in Cleveland

Today on March 20 over 500 students walked-out of classes and came downtown to Public Square where they staged a loud anti-war demonstration, it was all organized by the youth of Cleveland, mostly college students from the local universities and high schools. Everyone was welcome to give speeches, and many youths spoke out against the system of Bush and the hypocrisy of the supposedly democratic situation in America. After the speeches the youth walked in a march through the downtown. It was a beautiful event. More information on it can be found on http://cleveland.indymedia.org.

Comradely, Alexander