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The Anti-War Movement in Britain

Liam McQuade

25th March 2003

We have received the following report on anti-war activity in London from Liam McQuade who is a supporter of the British paper ‘Socialist Resistance’

Tony Blair’s support for the American imperialist adventure is having unexpected consequences for New Labour. The few days preceding the war had seen large numbers of walkouts and demonstrations by school and college students all over Britain.

The day after the shooting started saw a phenomenon without precedent in British political history. Thousands of school students walked out of school in protest at the war. In a small number of cases they had received support and encouragement from their teachers. For the most part though they had organised themselves. I saw one group of 300-400 schoolgirls walk chanting to join a demonstration which grew to more than a thousand. This then met with another demonstration so that by the end there were about 4000 school and college students marching along the Whitechapel Road in East London in opposition to the war. No adult could have organised this. It came from the students themselves.  From there they marched down to the House of Commons and brought their protest to the heart of the New Labour lie factory.  That square was occupied by young demonstrators for the afternoon and evening. You had the feeling that a new generation was entering politics for the first time.

The London demonstration against the war was at least 200 000 strong. It had been called on the previous Sunday, giving less than a week to advertise it. The fact that so many people turned up with so little notice was breathtaking. The demonstration was different in tone from the march the previous month.

The participants were marching against a British government engaged in an imperialist war of aggression. They were disregarding appeals to unite for the sake of the professional killers of the British Army. There was little evidence of sympathy for the “bring our boys home” attitude.  It was the largest anti-imperialist demonstration Britain has ever seen and the appetite that marchers had for political leaflets and papers was an indicator of this. Demands for Blair’s resignation were loudly cheered and there was an overwhelming hostility to New Labour.

The anti-war movement in Britain has passed its first major test. It shed the Liberal Democrats and remained cohesive and determined after the shooting started. Its leadership and local activists are keen to maintain their activities. In the process a new generation of youth is being brought into conflict with the police and with imperialism. Politics in Britain is interesting again.



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