These groundhog day cattle drives through empty streets when the left goes marketing crazy in a confined space as you run a gauntlet of newspaper sales, recruitment drives etc always has the heavy potential to demoralise. So I thought I'd lower my expecations and set myself limited political objectives for the day. To be honest, I go to these things primarily to socialise and catch up with old comrades from campaigns of daze gone by.....
If yet another groundhog day cattle drive through the empty streets of London is not a relevant response 5 years into this war - what is?
Basically, nonviolent resistance to the war and proactive solidarity with nonviolent resistance is relevant. The war has never had popular support but there is little visible oppostion either.
I believe if 1% of those who marched against this war in 03 had gone into nonviolent resistance in the spirit of Ghandi and King to the point of imprisonment and the other 99% commited to proactive solidarity with the resistance (help feed the cat, pay the rent, deal with the hysterical parents, spread the word) we would now have a vibrant anti-war culture and movement and not be reduced to these biannual holy daze of obligation marches and the government would have a lot of trouble prosecuting this war. (It was interesting how many people I asked on Saturday "Why are you here?" who had the repsonse "I'd feel guilty if I didn't come!") If this campaign of civil disobedience had occured it would have had a dissident response from within the British and U.S. military.
The people who organise these rallies (the Labor Party - yes they happen to be the government presently blowing the crap out of Iraq & Afghanistan, the Trotskyite Socialist Workers Party who have all the fervour and single mindedness of evangelical christians on speed but who in praxis (when you strip away the chanting & posturing) is pretty moderate, and the mainstream NGO's who like the others see the war and the anti-war movement as an excellent opportunity to promote their brand in a target audience) DON'T support or mention nonviolent resistance to the war or promote solidarity with nonviolent resisters before the courts , in prison or preparing for more NVDA.
So last Saturday, I set off for the march to increase awareness of the upcoming Raytheon 9 trial in Belfast in May www.raytheon9.org . This is a significant resistance trial of 9 irish activists who nonviolently disabled the mainframe computer at Raytheon in Derry - during the 06 bombing of Lebanon. The Israeli military used Raytheon equipment extensively in their indiscrimate bombing that summer.
I got to the rally and their were thousands (maybe 10 max, down from 2 million in 03) passively milling about in Trafalger Square. I had brought with me my homemade "Free the Raytheon 9 - Disable the War Machine! www.raytheon9.org " placard and unaccustomed as I am to wait for the official anti-war leadership - I began steet (soapbox without the soapbox) speaking to small clusters of folks about the Raytheon 9. Those not interested drifted away, those interested came in tighter. I did this 6 or 7 times before the main rally started and the amps drowned me out. People were excited to hear about the Raytheon 9 and they were exicted by the spontaneity and initiative of street speaking. They were probably relieved I wasn't trying to sell them anything or recruit them (although a R9 info leaflet would have been handy for those interested!). Nonetheless, lots of them wrote down the Raytehoen 9 website.
As I walked around the crowd with my placard during the rally I had lots of conversations with many people (some seasoned anti-war activists) who had never heard of the Raytheon 9, their action or their trial.
The Socialist Workers Party/Stop the War Coalition are well placed to make the Raytheon 9 trial very widely known throughout Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales and internationally and encourage support for the defendants. They have chosen not to!
It is an important trial and should be a show trial of the arms trade in Ireland and Britain.
My pathetic cardboard sign and a few goes at street speaking to the assembling crowds was the only mention of this trial at the rally this past Saturday
When an SWP member took a break from selling the paper to ask me "How are those people doing?" My resolve not to get pissed off, by employing the praxis of lowering expecations of the rally, finally broke.
I responded "You tell me, three of them are your party members looking at years in jail. Why aren't they mentioned at this rally etc etc?"
A fairly heated debate ensued.
The debate concluded with my reponse "For all if it's rrrrrrrrrrrevolutionary rhetoric, your party are a bunch of moderates who rather provide a platform for Labor Party politicians than support anti-war resisters before the courts. You have hung out your own people to dry etc."
This was my experience in Ireland as we went through 3 trials for $2 1/2 million criminal damaage to a U.S. war plane being refueled at Shannon www.peaceontrial.com
The groups who organise these rallies primarily see the anti-war movement/ these biannual rallies as marketing/brand profile lifting opportunities for their party, newspaper selling and recruitment. They are the first line of policing of the anti-war movement. Whether they have been infiltrated (as were similar groups in the '60's) or whether such a strategy of groundhog day rallies, cattle drives through empty streets, centralisation, deflation and dissipation just dovetails into their short term aims - it probably makes little difference.
A good anarcho critique of the SWP, authoritarian and moderate left screwing the anti-war movement in Ireland can be found on the following link.....
Meanwhile from the platform ex Labor Party/Respect parliamentarian George Galloway suggests during his speech that maybe the movement has been "too peaceful and too legal" over the past five years hinting that Stop the War Coalition are going to start breaking the law and unleash civil disobedience soon…
This seemed to be an echo from five years previous when Tony Benn stated “I never thought I would say this but we have to take whatever steps necessary to stop this war. If that means taking direct action like blocking the roads and railways then so be it!” Five years on Tony Benn is sitll giving entertaining speeches but has avoided being busted while a million Iraqis 4,000 young Americans and 150 Brits have died.
Rather than Galloway and Benn flirting, posturing, teasing about NVDA as a response to the war....they should simply support the nonviolent resistance that is occuring (Raytheon 9, Trident ploughshares, my 2 CW community members who are being sentenced to day for Dsei resistance etc etc). It is the Socialist Workes Party/Stop the War Coalition policy to censor and marginalise nonviolent resistance to this war!
Nonviolent resistance can be the most empowering experience of your life or the most disempowering - it's all got to do with spirituality and solidarity. The resister's spirit is subjective terrain but solidarity is something we can all contribute to.
17 years ago I, and three others, broke into a B-52 Base in upstate New York on the eve of Gulf War 1. We were able to put a B-52 Bomber, on scramble alert, at Griffis Airforce Base out of action for three months. It didn't get to drop its naplam, cluster bombs and fuel explosives on the people of Iraq.
5 years ago I joined another 4 good folks in Ireland to disable a U.S. war plane at Shannon Airport.
The '91 crew were the longest serving political prisoners in the U.S. for resisitng that war. the nine of us have come out of those experiences, including 13 months in U.S. jails, three trials in Ireland, deportation from the U.S. etc - stronger than we went into it. We came out stronger because of our spirituality and the culture of solidarity that surrounded us!
As we grow as a movement to stop this war, the reistance is going to spring from the most unlikely of places! Our movement is going to be so big and broad that we are going to have different hairstyles, musical tastes, politics and spiritual traditons. Resistance is going to come from country and western fans in the U.S. military
it's going to come from rad Salvation Army kidz
socialists and republicans
We have to develop a movement that whenever resistance goes down - we reach out to the resister offering proactive practical solidarity. The more solidarity the resister experiences, the easier the resistance is going to be. The more likely the resister will be back with more resistance!
We have to reject the censorship of anti-war resistance by those who try to manage the anti-war movement and organise these rallies.