http://indymedia.org.uk/en/2005/02/304942.html here's another view of the Bristol STW rally on 7 Feb.
The turnout of 700+ was amazing, and testament to BSTW's ongoing independence and hard campaigning work. However, a lot of people were drawn to see their old MP Benn, and will they have been motivated to do anything else after this meeting?
I had arrived earlier, running the gauntlet of left-wing sects outside. The main hall was bedecked with 19.03 demo posters, plus a few anti-war & union banners. Every chair had a Respect party flyer on. There were stalls at the back (out of the way) and along with Respect, Bookmarks & Defend Asylum Seekers campaign, were a couple of the few signs of independence seen all evening - stalls from Palestine Solidarity/ISM, and Bristol G8 Dissent (who were also struggling to give out flyers on the door amidst the deluge of paper sellers). There was also a trio of Bristolian sellers outside, hopefully not overcome by the irony of the event!
At 7.30pm we were off, with Lucas, the Green MEP, giving a surprisingly strong anti-war speech. Like all good pros she knows her audience, and plays to it, within the confines of her position as a member of the political ruling class.
She was followed by John Rees. He was introduced as from the national STW, although the advance flyposted publicity said he was from Respect. Split personality perhaps, but the speaking style (hand-chopping motions!) was a giveaway. His speech really focused on motivating people to go to London on 19 March for the national demo. Another demo to stop the war/bring the troops home...just like the last one. No change of tactics then, 2 years after 2 million marched against a war that had not yet begun, but continues today.
After a brief speech by an anti-war ex-soldier, that was well received, we were at 8pm onto the main event – Tony Benn, who spoke for some 25 minutes. Benn is an older pro than Lucas, with a much greater grasp of history, and a much longer association with Bristol – first elected in 1950, he was a Bristol MP for some 33 years. Is that democracy? Benn had much to say about democracy, and colonialism in its various forms, and the way that ‘terrorists’ from the old colonies often ended up having tea with the Queen, once they have reached ‘head of state’ status.
Benn also spent time encouraging people to remain within the Labour Party, to ‘reclaim’ it, and ignore the left-wing sects outside it. I recall Benn 20 years ago in London, at a ‘Defend Militant’ (the Tendency, since disappeared) rally, trying to defend Labour as a broad church with a historic mission to win socialism through parliamentary means. 20 years on he repeats the call, ignoring all the evidence that NewLabour has moved further to the right than his worst nightmares could have told him, giving out peerages & patronage whereas once they welcomed those who gave them up.
After Benn the meeting was opened to the floor for contributions. A brief succession of rants; of vote for me; or don’t vote for them; with a very few calls for action – peace camp at Brize Norton, rally about the pensions scandal. The meeting ended at 9pm, after 10 minutes of Lucas (vote Green), and Benn (vote Labour…with no illusions…as if!).
Where were the independents who have made BSTW a worthwhile campaign? Where was the ‘Bristol’ speaker, explaining what BSTW had done, the Bristol demos & vigils and direct action, the local targets? Where was the anger and desire to act after the way we have been misled, lied to, our civil liberties & freedoms curtailed, our brothers & sisters killed?
This was a missed opportunity to take the 700 people present beyond an election rally and another pointless march around London where you are showered with another deluge of ‘vote for me’ propaganda, and onto something more effective. Whilst BSTW are to be congratulated for what they have managed to do so far, we have all failed to take the anti-war campaign to a level where it may actually succeed.
If you are interested here are some ideas:
- support the Bristol peace vigil
- go visit the arms dealers and bankers who profit from war
- harass the armed forces recruiters at your local jobsfair
- target the oil companies & multinationals killing the planet
- harass those who demand your vote, only to vote for wars
- vote with your feet, not with a five yearly cross! Do it yourself – our leaders cannot be trusted.