Mass Demonstrations Against the War in the US
- US OPPOSITION TO THE WAR GROWS
100,000 Marched in San Francisco, 200,000 in Washington and thousands
more in other cities
In the largest outpouring of opposition to Bush war drive to date, more
than 300,000 people demonstrated in the US against the impending war
against Iraq. Over 200,000 people braved the freezing winter in
Washington, DC to march from the Capitol to the Navy Yard after hearing
a long list of speakers and performers. Over 100,000 people jammed the
streets of downtown San Francisco. Market Street was so crowded from
Embarcadero to Civic Center that nothing could move for hours, not even
Who's against the war?
Of course, the usual peaceniks, Greens and environmentalists that showed
in force both in Washington and San Francisco. The left parties marched
as well, but it was very difficult to see them, so swamped were they by
the huge masses of people.
And then, in what constituted a first for this new anti-war movement,
labor groups marched with their own banners in small but significant
numbers: teachers, public employees, health care workers, service
employees, transportation and longshoremen. This is not yet the heavy
infantry of the working class, but a beginning.
A large segment of the crowds were Democrats, including some luminaries
from Hollywood like Martin Sheen, who spoke in San Francisco, and Jesse
Jackson, who spoke in Washington, DC. Some Democratic legislators also
showed up to speak and support the demonstrations, predominantly from
the African American caucus in the House of Representatives. This was
good news, since it represents the first signs of Democratic Party
dissension against the war drive. The bulk of the Democratic Party
leadership and elected officials still back Bush's political and
military offensive against the world.
Moreover, proof that Bush's War Party is starting to have problems on
the home front is the fact one could distinguish groups of "Republicans
for Peace" and "Conservatives Against the War" in the crowds. Perhaps
more significantly, suburban white couples, families with their kids in
strollers and soccer moms were also visible marching, particularly in
San Francisco where the weather dispensed a warm and sunny day.
Why are they against the war?
Many in the crowds were marching not against the war per se, but against
the "unilateralism" and arrogance of the US government. Many signs and
conversations during the events, as well as speeches reflected this
mood: the US should not act alone, and should give the UN inspectors a
chance to work and disarm Iraq.
This confidence in the UN, led by the ruling class of a handful of
imperial countries, is a double-edged sword. It demonstrates a faith in
the ability of the ruling class of the US, Russia, France, Germany,
Italy and the bureaucrats in China to act properly and responsibly,
unlike the way the Bush administration is perceived to have acted so
How many of those holding these ideas will remain committed to peace or
anti-imperialist actions in the event that the US launches its
pre-emptive war or the UN inspectors uncover some "smoking gun" (either
real or fabricated)? Once the shooting starts, the American population
has demonstrated itself to be easily manipulated by the enormous
ideological apparatus of the corporate media. The left must make it a
key task to win these people over to an anti-imperialist position or at
least guarantee that the left are not squeezed out of the movement by
more pragmatic peaceniks.
We characterized that, after September 11, a reactionary conjuncture
took hold of the US. For months, this reactionary conjuncture was
virtually unopposed. The ruling class and its government were allowed to
proceed with their long planned military/economic/political offensive
against working people and the oppressed. The demonstrations on April
20, last October, and now in January are steps towards reversing this
However, we are hesitant to change our characterization of the
conjuncture just yet. This is because of the lack of anti-imperialist
consciousness in the US and the fact that the bipartisan agreement is
still intact in its essential features.
The absence of mass based workers' parties on the left, the
predominantly pro-imperialist and decaying top labor leadership, and the
imperial policies of the Democratic "opposition" are still formidable
obstacles to the development of a sustainable anti-imperialist movement.
These forces will serve as the cover for many supporters of the UN today
to return to the corral of the policies of the ruling class when the war
It is of the utmost importance to develop an alternative leadership in
the unions, consolidate the left and workers' movement and to help vast
sectors of the Democratic Party base to break with it and form a left
party based on the working class and the oppressed. That will not only
help sustain the opposition to this war, but to the multitude of attacks
in which the US government is presently involved.
Even if the US ruling class is stopped in Iraq, they have plenty more in
store for us: their attempts to overthrow the Venezuela government of
populist Hugo Chavez, their present conflict with North Korea, the
growing tendency of the White House to boycott the recently elected
left-leaning governments of Brazil and Ecuador, its growing military
intervention in Colombia, its support for the Israeli ruling class in
its fight to smash the Palestinian resistance as well as its continuous
military and economic campaigns in Central Asia and elsewhere .
This military-economic offensive of the US ruling class is out to
guarantee their appropriation of the scarcer resources of oil, water and
raw materials, as well as to preserve the prestige of the US as the
hegemonic imperial power of the world to maintain its senile system.
Iraq is just one of the planned battlefields.
What is needed is a consistent, sustainable and deeply rooted mass
movement against the neo-imperial aspirations of the layer of the ruling
class represented by George W. This can only be built by a determined,
broad, democratically-based new left party of the working class and the
oppressed that will clearly raise the alternative to the capitalist
system of war, oppression and exploitation. It is just not enough to set
a date and build stages for more demonstrations. While demonstrations
must continue and should be even bigger, the organizing in communities,
workplaces, schools, and even in some parts of the military must be
Both the demonstrations in Washington, DC and San Francisco dissolved in
a very disorganized way; speakers were either liberals or confused and
made no proposals for the next steps for the movement and offered no
alternative to the parties of big capital and war, Democrats and
Republicans, some ultra leftist rhetoric notwithstanding.
The war has not started yet, however, and the powerful display of
opposition on January 18 - mostly minimized by the media - can no longer
be ignored. This was reflected in the polls before the demonstration
that showed the popularity of George W. and the confidence in his
government dropping to 56% from the whopping 88% in the months following
When it comes to the war against Iraq, only 42% believed Bush was
handling the situation properly while 42% strongly disagreed. The
tendency for Bush's popularity to continue to drop will essentially
depend on the level of organizing, mobilization and conscientious
education of those who, for whatever reason, are today opposed to the
The Chicago City Council approved an anti-war resolution this week by a
vote of 46-1, adding its powerful weight to a growing number of cities
around the country, which did the same. Their argument was clear: Bush
intends to pay for this war with either further cuts in social services
or augmenting the Federal and states' deficits which in turn will force
cities to cut further in their already tightened budgets pummeled by the
Chicago is not a bastion of the liberal left like San Francisco, Seattle
or Minneapolis, but a mainstream, mid-west mega-urban center. This vote
constitutes, with all the compromises and economic reductionism in its
written text, a powerful symbolic event in how deep, even if initial,
the turn to opposition is in the country.
The trend certainly is going in the opposite direction since the attacks
against Afghanistan, when only 8% of the population opposed the war. To
maintain that progressive trend, the left must clearly articulate their
anti-imperialist message. That does not preclude the unity in action
with the peace, environmental, Green movements and the growing
discontent layers of the trade unions and the Democratic Party. On the
contrary, the movement, if anything should be the broadest possible, but
without submerging or watering down the organization and education of
Other demonstrations on January 18, 2003:
--Portland, Oregon: 5,000 marched in Downtown.
--Des Moines, Iowa: 150 demonstrated
--Indianapolis, Indiana: A crowd that reached 600 huddled at the base of
the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in temperatures in the teens for a
--Florida: A St. Augustine protest drew 200 people. About 400 people
assembled in Venice. About 500 in Tampa rallied outside the gates of
MacDill Air Force Base, home to U.S. Central Command, which would
coordinate an Iraq war.
--Albuquerque, New Mexico: About 800 protested near the University of
New Mexico campus; 500 marched downtown to rally outside an Army
--Lansing, Michigan: Several hundred marched 20 blocks to the Capitol.
--Montpelier, Vermont: About 3,000 marched.
--Houston, Texas: About 300 came out.
--Orange County, California: About 300 marched to the Nixon Presidential
--Richmond, Kentucky: Demonstrators laid out life-sized dolls
representing dead Iraqi children.
--Las Vegas, Nevada: Tourists gawked and motorists honked as 200
protesters rallied on the Strip. One sign: ``Elvis hates war.''
--Blacksbourgh: 100 demonstrated in this little town
-- Salt Lake, Utah - 1,000 marched and rallied.
-- Tucson, Arizona: 3,000