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Successa dn failure of September 28 A small media splash and not one single politician's head turned. So why was September 28 so important and so powerful? Discussion on this list and in the Sheffield stop the war coalition show there is a lot of confusion about this, fuelling calls that we "go beyond, do more" than merely stage huge peaceful demonstrations. September 28 was important primarily because it started to turn us into the sort of people that we need to become in order to be able to stop the war. This effect is less pronounced for people who are already ideologically formed and set in their ways than it is for young people and others for whom this was their first act of resistance and protest. September 28 gave us a sense of our potential power, of our unity and amazing diversity; a glimpse of real politics, which is when millions of people decide they can no longer remain passive and silent. September 28 powerfully helped to break down barriers between generations and races and cultures and creeds. That 200,000 or 400,000 was not enough to strain the Bush - Blair alliance is obviously no surprise. Only those who have illusions in politicians could be disappointed that they have done their best to ignore it. But there is an important sense in which September 28 was a failure, or at least a missed opportunity. No-one knows what is going to happen, but the anti-war movement and the Stop the War Coalition should be working on the basis that we have maybe seven weeks before the firestorm begins. In which case, why was the next national focus for action projected for October 31, almost five weeks after September 28? And the form of action chosen for this date - a day of "direct action" - will inevitably involve far fewer numbers than mass peaceful protests. September 28 was a stepping stone, but the next step has been placed too far away, and is too narrow for everyone to get on. And uprooted trees and boulders are being swept towards us. I have mixed feelings about "direct action". The term encompasses a great diversity. Many creative and imaginative things are done in its name, and this will again be true on October 31. But it can also be a vehicle for all kinds of ultra-left impulses, for actions which increase the distance between the movement and the masses, such as calls to occupy the Town Hall, proposed by SWP members and anarchists at a Sheffield coalition meeting four days after September 28... Opportunism, and frustration at the inexorable approach of horrific war, are two of the reasons why people want to take short cuts to building a mass anti-imperialist anti-war movement. Last weekend in Italy, regional demonstrations against war on Iraq attracted an estimated 1.5 million people. The coordinators of the Sept 28 demo should have said to everyone who came that we do the same in three weeks. Instead, the momentum has been fumbled. The next date for mass peaceful demonstrations has not been set and will probably be fitted in so as not to clash with the European Social Forum in Venice. "Key activists" won't be around, you see. Which means late November. The 23rd, not the 16th, is most likely, because people will still be recovering from jet lag. By this time, jet aircraft may well be inflicting a different sort of discomfort upon the people of Iraq. The idea that we have six weeks to build the biggest mass protests against the next step towards world war seems to be lost amid competing party-building opportunities. The SWP, who are a guiding force in the StWC, bear a lot of the responsibility for the failure of the StWC to help us all to take the next step. But we all share this responsibility, and what I say about the SWP is not intended as an "attack" on anybody. I have the highest respect for the hard work and integrity of SWP members I work with in the coalition. But we only have a few weeks in this precious stage of pre-war, and we could not afford to make strategic mistakes. This is the next in the series of wars which the US will wage to shore up its declining empire. The world anti-war movement will be around until the empire is finally defeated and dismembered. If we draw the lessons of September 28, we won't make the same mistake again. John Smith, Sheffield _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk