Thousands march against war

On Saturday October 19 15,000 marched in Glasgow against the impending war on Iraq. There were several feeder marches from various parts of the city. Coaches arrived from towns across Scotland to join what the organisers, the Scottish Coalition for Justice Not War, claim was the biggest peace demonstration Scotland has ever seen. It was certainly bigger than previous anti-war demonstrations in recent years over Afghanistan and Kosova, which brought 3-4,000 out onto the streets. Coming just three weeks after the 300,000-strong demonstration in London, this provides another example of the potential of the anti-war movement - especially if there is unity. The leadership of the Scottish Socialist Party did nothing to build the London demonstration. They had their own arts event on in Glasgow that day. Mobilisation was left almost entirely to the Socialist Worker platform (plus smaller groups such as the Republican Communist Network and the CPGB). The SSP is clearly intent on putting its nationalist agenda into practice even if that means weakening opposition to the existing British state. The composition of the Glasgow demonstration was similar to the London event. There was a high turnout from the islamic community and the CND pacifist milieu, but the left was out in force too - although you could not tell at first sight. There were a few SSP and trade union banners, but the majority of activists were carrying green Coalition for Justice Not War placards or messages of Palestinian solidarity. This reflects the desire of the majority of the left to tail current consciousness and thus merge in with the anti-war movement. The need to put across a socialist position on the war is surely all the more crucial, given the reactionary politics of a significant portion of the islamic community. At the rally Tommy Sheridan called for the anti-war movement to be linked with the fight against poverty, condemning a government that is willing to spend millions of pounds on killing innocent Iraqis, yet claims it cannot afford to pay firefighters a decent wage to save lives - a point echoed by Labour MSP John McAllion. Other speakers included representatives from the Stop the War Coalition (England and Wales), Scottish TUC and Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. The speaker from the Muslim Association of Britain urged a boycott of both Israeli and American goods - a backward and entirely counterproductive call, which, even assuming it was possible or desirable, imagines that political solutions can be achieved by individual consumers, not collective organisation. The Scottish Nationalist Party representative looked to the UN to solve the situation and argued that Blair should consult the Scottish parliament on whether to go to war, because "the voice of Scotland will be the voice of peace". Presumably the 300,000 that marched on the streets of London are an irrelevance. However, the majority of speakers made clear arguments against the war, highlighting the hypocrisy of attacking Iraq in the name of humanity when the US government continues to fund the Israeli state's assault on the Palestinian people. They reminded demonstrators that the state most guilty of employing weapons of mass destruction was not Iraq, but the USA, and correctly noted that if the US-UK were successful in removing Saddam Hussein they would impose an equally oppressive leader who better suited the interests of western capital. Sarah McDonald