Issue 262 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published April 2002 Copyright © Socialist Review
Building blocks of protest
Some 500,000 people demonstrated in the streets of Barcelona against a Europe of capital and war. This demonstration shows that the movement is not at all dead, but alive and growing. People from Barcelona and the rest of Spain and Europe showed their strength, and their capacity to draw in more and more people from different backgrounds to participate in this rally. The demonstrations in Barcelona were the biggest ever, and have become a turning point in the struggle following on from Genoa and Seattle.
In the demonstrations were three blocks. The first one integrated many different organisations, from the revolutionary left such as En Lucha [member of the International Socialist Tendency] to the more reformist wing of Attac in the 'Campaign Against a Europe of Capital and War'. The second one, the 'Catalan Platform', was formed by the radical left wing nationalist organisations from around Spain such as Batasuna in Euskal Herria or Endavant here in Catalonia. The last one was formed by the traditional left of the big unions and reformist parties such as the social democrats from Catalunya, PSC or EuiA, a coalition inside the PCE, the Spanish Communist Party. The demonstration was so huge that this last block could not actually move around the route of the rally because they couldn't move forward! These three blocks show and prove that unity in action, even if not in a perfect way, is the way to go for coming demonstrations.
The great success of the campaign, and the 500,000 people who came to Barcelona, was a surprise for many of the people and organisations here, such as ours, En Lucha. The vision of a mass demonstration brought even more strength to the red block that we set up for the rally. We had a block of 400-500 people that had a great impact.
We were supported by Globalise Resistance and some comrades from the SWP in Britain. We were one of the most lively groups all through the demonstration, shouting slogans, and screaming that another world is not just possible but necessary. Our slogans included 'Globalització és privatització' ('Globalisation is privatisation'), 'A-anti-anticapitalista', or the most shouted one, 'One solution--revolution!'
The next challenge to the anti-capitalist movement around the world and for En Lucha here in Spain must be to be able to pass from this important but symbolic victory in the streets to a real fight against neoliberalism. We must also connect with the working class to involve them in the anti-capitalist movement.
The next important EU summit in Spain will be in Seville in June. We must start to work in committees in every workplace, in every neighbourhood, in every university and everywhere else. See you soon in Seville--the fight is not over (la lucha continua).
War is a key issue for the unions, but how are we going to mobilise them? Tony Benn's call to stop the city on the day they bomb Iraq is a brilliant opportunity for activists. But it is also a serious challenge-we need to start organising now if we are going to deliver action on the day.
First and foremost, this means holding workplace meetings to discuss Bush and Blair's war drive. Union branches need to decide what action they will take on the day, whether it's calling an immediate stoppage, a 15-minute lunchtime meeting in the canteen, or gathering to spread the word about local street protests.
We need to pile the pressure on our national union leaders to back members' action. Resolutions and petitions need to be landing on their desks without delay. Even where the union is weak, you can still pull good workplace meetings. Get a good, confident speaker by contacting your local Stop the War Coalition group. Get a union rep or official if you know they are against the war. Book a room nearby-in a pub, for example, or even at the back of a sympathetic bookshop or cafe. Build the meeting by taking round the Stop the War Coalition petition against bombing Iraq. Ask for small donations to cover the cost of the room. Media Workers Against the War is organising a series of lunchtime workplace meetings in London, starting with Tony Benn and Lindsey German speaking to workers at the Guardian newspaper.
We hope these meetings will be springboards for anti-war action in the media.
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Paul Foot says that Shakespeare's sympathies were probably with Mark Antony, and against the conspirators, in Julius Caesar (March SR). This is usually the view that is taken, but it is also one that can be questioned.
There are good reasons to believe, when we look at the context in which Shakespeare wrote the play, that perhaps his attitude towards the conspirators was more complex. In a classic essay the Marxist historian Christopher Hill has examined the role of censorship in 17th century drama. He points out that Shakespeare switched to writing Roman plays from history in 1599, at a time when English history plays were being more and more heavily censored. This increased censorship was the response of the absolutist state at a time of growing political and economic crisis.
Many critics have identified a parallel between the ageing and decrepit figure of Julius Caesar and Queen Elizabeth I, then approaching the end of her long reign. Discussions about republican Rome were also at that time a way of masking criticisms of monarchy, in a society where open criticism was impossible. As Paul points out, although the play is ostensibly on the side of Caesar, Shakespeare also devotes a lot of time to a detailed portrayal of the hopes and fears of the conspirators. It could be argued that even to present Brutus and Cassius in this way was quite risky.
Just as Mark Antony defies the censorship imposed on him in his famous funeral oration, indirectly accusing the conspirators through his praise of Caesar, it is also possible that Shakespeare indirectly uses a play defending Caesar (and monarchy) to air certain views about political motivation and revolutionary action in a sympathetic way. It seems from Paul's review that this has been the line taken at the Barbican. Of course this is all speculation, but I see no reason why we should simply accept the establishment view of Shakespeare's ultra-conservative sympathies, when there is no real evidence for that either.
Thank you for sending copies of Socialist Review to my penfriend, who is currently on death row in Texas.
The men and women on death row in Texas have no access to television. They are locked up in purpose built (no bars) six foot by nine foot cells for 23 hours a day. They have inadequate diets which can only be supplemented if they have access to sufficient funds. They are subject to barbaric and retaliatory 'lockdowns' which can be declared at the whim of the state governor (Bush had the whole of the system on lockdown during the election). And even for the 'best behaved' prisoners there are no contact rules, and extremely limited phone calls and access to stamps for postage.
My penfriend has been receiving Socialist Review for several months now, and as a result he is able to have access to information and a perspective on the world beyond the mainstream media (although the odd newspaper clipping gets smuggled into the prison). He told me in his recent letter to say thanks to you lot for getting the magazine to him.
The vast majority of inmates in Texas are from ethnic minorities, and/or from poor and deprived backgrounds--and, suffice to say, so many of them have been stitched up by a corrupt and right wing police force working to the agenda of US careerist politicians. However, my penfriend says that the articles contained in Socialist Review always lead to many interesting debates between the inmates (during the one hour a day where two of them are allowed to speak to each other in the exercise yard), and that your magazine is really valuable in prompting the inmates to challenge their conditions and the agenda that the current world situation is running to.
For comrades who are interested in signing my penfriend's petition, you can read his letters and thoughts and sign his petition to get a fair hearing at www.anthonynealy.com
Other interesting websites on the conditions on death row in the US include www.lifelines.org and www.deathrow.at/ welcometohell
When I was at the Berlin conference against deregulation and for labour rights for all, I was given quite a nice video of May Day 2001 in London and a protest against tube privatisation. These are two separate films on the same video. These were filmed by Alex Klute of Vereinte Dienstleistgungs-gewerkschaft (ver.di), a German trade union. I have one video and one digital tape which are available on loan free of charge. Please contact me if you would like to see them.
Secretary Brent TUC
The campaign to save York City Football Club is a good example of fans resisting the trend whereby people who own professional football make a financial killing with no regard to fans or players' livelihoods.
Owner Douglas Craig's contempt for the supporters and his refusal to sign up to the Kick Racism Out of Football campaign had combined to make him deeply unpopular with York City supporters. In December Craig announced his intention to sell the club or close it. Days later he revealed that he would sell Bootham Crescent, the club's ground, to house builders for £4.5 million, evict the club and resign from the football league.
Two years previously Craig had transferred ownership of the stadium from the football club to a new holding company. This move sidestepped Football Association (FA) rules meant to protect clubs from asset strippers. FA officials remained scandalously silent, sending a security guard to receive a 6,000-signature petition.
As well as organising two large demonstrations and huge public meetings, supporters moved quickly to set up a supporters' trust. Aided by Supporters Direct, fans launched this mutual society with the aim of buying the club. In the short term the trust decided to back John Batchelor's bid for the club in return for 25.1 percent of the equity, two seats for elected supporters on the board, and a promise that in the long term he will turn the club over to the trust.
Professional football 'clubs' are in fact companies owned by wealthy businessmen. However, the fight waged by fans of York and other clubs may have begun to redress the balance.