Manchester: Propaganda organ

The March 29 Manchester demonstration, which targeted BBC north-west headquarters, was a vast improvement on last week's affair. On both occasions, the sun shone and the scene was set for good turnouts of around 3,000, but this week's demo was far more upbeat. On March 22 the longish march meandered down the back streets of the city centre to conclude with barely audible speeches, made through a hand-held loudhailer. This week, the march featured a large contingent of Iraqi exiles. It was also heartening to see members of the Labour Party marching in direct defiance of the leadership. This is the first time rank and file members have come out so publicly in support of the anti-war movement in Manchester. The SWP lead speaker, Mark Krantz, condemned the BBC for its role as Blair's lackey. He recommended that comrades obtain the satellite TV station, Al Jazeera, as an alternative (if you speak Arabic, that is). Such advice speaks volumes for the SWP's substitutionism and reveals a distinct lack of ambition. James Frazer Leigh: Promotion beckons On Friday March 28 almost 80 people crowded into Leigh Liberal Club to hear a heated debate on the war featuring local Labour MP Andy Burnham. He told the meeting of his "agonising dilemma" in the recent Commons debate on Iraq. He had ended up voting for military action in the belief that there was no other course of action open. He hoped the war in Iraq would be short and casualties kept to a minimum. The shouted response of "One death is one too many" drew cheers and applause from the floor. Credit should be given to the Leigh member of parliament, for very few other MPs would be as brave as to face a room full of angry anti-war protestors. When the debate was given over to the floor, a World War II veteran questioned the sensibilities of those present. How was anybody to know what was right for Iraq? Only the Iraqi people knew the answer to the question. "Well, are there any Iraqis in the room?" he asked, mockingly. And there he stood, in a denim jacket and with a sullen face. "I am from Iraq," he began. "My family now live in Baghdad". It was emotional, not only for him, but for all those present. Clearly upset, he wished the war would stop. "But not everything is black and white. There are grey areas. We do not want Saddam Hussein, nor do we want America." Nick Redmond Cardiff: Stella Artois nationalism A few hundred demonstrators marched through Cardiff city centre, and rather uncomfortably past a plethora of beer gardens, in which drunken football fans questioned the 'Britishness' of the marchers, with abuse particularly thrown at the muslim contingent. "Support the troops!" boomed one fan, as we made our way back to the City Hall for the speeches, which seemed to follow the general limited line of 'Blair out!' Protestors ranged from the organised left to the usual dove-carrying peaceniks, but particularly encouraging was the number of school and university students who turned out on an action-packed sunny afternoon. If the march did nothing else, it proved how the evils of nationalism, particularly when mixed with Stella Artois, serve to distort the truth and the real issues behind such bloody imperialist adventuresl Ben Lewis Swansea: High profile Up to 200 people demonstrated in Swansea on March 29. A cross-section of activists were present, ranging from the Greens and CND to the left generally and the local branch of the Welsh Socialist Alliance. Swansea WSA used this opportunity to build its campaign in the town for the Welsh assembly elections in May. Both seats are being contested, with Alun Thompson standing in Swansea East and Leigh Richards fighting Swansea West. Bob Davies Guildford: His lordship regrets On March 28, about 120 people gathered at the University of Surrey in Guildford to debate 'Iraq - the way forward?' with a rather interesting panel of speakers. Surrey Stop the War Coalition organised the meeting, and was represented on the platform by its secretary, Jeremy Butler of the CPGB. He was joined by John Gladwin, bishop of Guildford; human rights campaigner Lord Nazir Ahmed; Dr Scilla Ellworthy, director of the Oxford Research Group; and Lord Howell, MP for Guildford and member of Thatcher's cabinet between 1979 and 1983. Lord Howell is now the Conservative's opposition spokesman for foreign affairs in the House of Lords, and attended to defend the war. He did this on the well worn grounds that it was a deeply regrettable necessity to displace Saddam's evil dictatorship, and that Iraq had become a "lynchpin of terror" and "danger to the region". Perhaps throwing a bone to a clearly uneasy audience, he acknowledged the war's "unpopularity". He blamed "Bush's speech-writer", for the fact that, whenever the president spoke, his lordship was "really turned off". We are a polite lot in Guildford, and listened quietly. Some even applauded, presumably impressed by his willingness to turn up. And then, from their various different standpoints, every other speaker attacked the war as unjust and Lord Howell's arguments were torn to pieces. Manny Neira * Send your reports to weeklyworker@cpgb.org.uk