On the Sydney (Australia) demonstration of 18 March, as well as London’s, there was a voice for the Iraqi labour movement. Members of Workers’ Liberty Australia and other supporters of “Aus-Iraq” distributed a leaflet headed: “No to occupation, no to ethnic and sectarian division, yes to the civilising, unifying power of Iraq’s trade unions”.
The Sydney demonstration, however, was small — fewer than a thousand. There were 800 in Dublin, 450 in Warsaw, and according to the Los Angeles Times 1000 in New York, 7000 in Chicago, 200 in Washington. 1000 in Stockholm, 2000 in Copenhagen.
The London demonstration was estimated by its organisers at 80,000 to 100,000. But then they estimated the September 2005 demonstration at 100,000, and the March 2005 one at 200,000. Police estimates were 15,000 on 18 March 2006; 10,000 in September 2005; and 45,000 in March 2005. The demonstrations are dwindling.
Why, when opinion polls show fewer and fewer people believing Bush and Blair about Iraq?
The politics of Iraq, in Western countries, are becoming like the politics of Ireland in Britain in the 1970s and 80s. There was mass, even majority, support in Britain for the call "troops out of Ireland". Yet the demonstrations on the issue, and their ability to restrain British brutality in Northern Ireland, remained very small.
What activists called the Daily Mirror “troops out” sentiment was more British-nationalist, even anti-Irish — “get our boys out and let them kill each other” — than pro-Irish. Short of huge British troop casualties, that sentiment was never going to create real political pressure on the government. It was disconnected from any positive answers.
On Iraq, as Ireland then, we need positive answers to create a solid movement.