Saturday's Stop the War Coalition international conference was an important and timely gathering of anti-war activists
Saturday's Stop the War conference discussed some of the biggest issues we are currently facing - and what we can do to make this world a better place. It is a disturbing realisation that the 'War on Terror' has outlasted both world wars combined and we still face myriad crises and challenges.
The conference, attended by several hundred people, demonstrated a real determination to continue the struggle against the war machine in every way possible. It reflected on, and drew strength from, fifteen years of tireless campaigning for peace and justice.
Together with Friday night's 'One Big No' cultural event, the conference was a fitting testament to fifteen years of anti-war campaigning. But it was also a chance to take stock of the current turmoil in global politics and discuss the movement's priorities. A new 10-point Anti War Charter was agreed, focusing on the big current challenges, and it will be used as an agitational tool in the months ahead.
The conference took place at the same time at the Stand up to Racism conference which was also a huge success. The fact that so many people are committed to anti-war and anti-racist politics is tremendous, as is the fact that they are organised by grassroots campaigns which cut across political parties.
It was especially significant that the conference heard Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott. The Leader of the Opposition and the new shadow home secretary both speaking at Stop the War's conference - and also at Stand up to Racism's conference - sent a powerful signal that the Labour leadership will work with the movements. They are right to commit to these sorts of campaigns and it is an inspiration to those of us involved in them.
Corbyn and Abbott both reasserted their longstanding opposition to war and racism, and their ongoing support for the anti-war movement. They received repeated ovations in a packed TUC conference hall.
We are at a turning point, as Stop the War convenor Lindsey German argued. She posed the question: do we want racism, war and growing levels of inequality, or do we want a society based on freedom and equality? These conferences help us to be build the latter.
The left will be defined by who has a serious attitude towards campaigning and unity in these protests and events. Those, like the tiny number who protested over Syria against Jeremy Corbyn at the conference (and who want military intervention from our government there), have really no connection with this wider left.
They were given every opportunity to speak but still heckled and chanted. One at least is connected with the government-backed Quilliam Foundation. It became clear that they were cynically orchestrating barracking of Corbyn in a bid to create a 'bad news story' for the Labour leader.
Stop the War has always faced opposition for its principled anti war position, and these people have always found friends in the press and government. Predictably, the media zoomed in on this aspect of the day.
Despite the media focusing on the few individuals that heckled Corbyn, they did not take away from the success of the day nor the spirit of the people attending. The "No more war" chant that began organically and grew into a roar that silenced those trying to disrupt messages of peace and solidarity is testament to that.
This country's anti-war movement has been sustained very effectively. It's also clear - with the prospect of a Clinton presidency, tensions between Nato and Russia, fresh political attacks on migrants and Muslims, and the ongoing Trident debate - that we now need to step up a gear.
More articles from this author
- Stop the Tory attack: Kill the bill
- We will not be silenced: list of #KillTheBill protests around the country this weekend
- Every issue in school is a union issue - Staffroom Voice Bulletin April 2021
- Stop the Tory attack: Kill the bill - Counterfire freesheet April 2021
- The RCN is getting ready to fight – are you? - News from the Frontline
- Aberystwyth Kill the Bill protest taps into the history of Welsh resistance
- Starmer has nothing to offer Teesside