Tuesday, 15 February 2011

15 February and all that

In the wake of large-scale student demonstrations - with the broader anti-cuts movement growing - it is helpful for activists to learn from previous experiences of building mass movements.

In recent years the pre-eminent example is the anti-war movement, which most prominently mobilised massive numbers in active opposition to the invasion of Iraq - both prior to it and after war commenced. It has also organised against war in Afghanistan, rising Islamophobia and Israeli invasions of Lebanon and Gaza. The recent rallies in solidarity with the Egyptian uprising, while relatively small, are one reminder of the continuing relevance of the Stop the War Coalition.

In sheer scale the anti-war movement dwarfs anything else in the last decade. Indeed the largest demonstrations in British history were in 2002/03. Most famously, an estimated 2 million people marched in London on 15 February 2003, but there had previously been a demonstration of 400,000 in September 2002. There was a similar number again - at very short notice - on the Saturday following the outbreak of war in March 2003.

These demonstrations, and many others, were principally organised by the Stop the War Coalition - founded in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 - with the involvement of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and Muslim organisations. The coalition was initiated by the radical left, but increasingly involved broader forces.

The protests were part of global movement unprecedented in scale: the mega turnouts of 15 February built on existing campaigning, co-ordinated to make a huge worldwide impact on that day (and all without assistance from Twitter and Facebook).

Read the rest of my new Counterfire feature article 'A mass movement we can learn from: the record of Stop the War'...


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