[Marxism] 2000 in Sydney protest against Iraq war

Ozleft ozleft at optushome.com.au
Sun Mar 20 06:44:17 MST 2005

Successful demonstration in Sydney against the Iraq war

By Bob Gould

I've just come back from a 2000-strong antiwar rally and march in
Sydney. The numbers were modest compared with the 500,000 two years
ago, before the war, but nevertheless it was an important and
effective demonstration.

It was largely organised by the ISO and the DSP, which clearly
collaborated in the preparation of the protest despite the
increasingly sharp conflict between them inside the Socialist

The march was successful despite the split in the antiwar movement in
Sydney engineered by the Stalinists, some of the Labor left and some
religious personalities.

The Troops Out Coalition rally started in Sydney about noon, and the
breakaway official left coalition had a rival protest in the western
suburbs at Parramatta, starting at 2pm with a religious service.

The official left protest drew on the long tradition in Sydney of
Palm Sunday rallies organised by the official left. The Palm Sunday
rally a couple of years ago, held in central Sydney, attracted an
audience of 15,000, so clearly from the few hundred at Parramatta,
the mobilising capacity of the official left alone, in competition
with the younger forces in the inner city, has declined dramatically.

Despite the relative success of the more leftist coalition's protest,
relative to the more conservative one, the political lesson is that
we need, if possible, to overcome the split and the leftist coalition
ought to make strenuous efforts from its position of relative
strength to try to heal the split.

A united antiwar movement in Sydney would obviously be much bigger
than the sum of its parts, as the split probably discouraged a lot of
people from going to either protest. Nevertheless, the 2000-strong
protest was an important victory for the antiwar movement.

The main speakers at the rally were Greens Senator Kerry Nettle and
John Pilger.

The composition of the marchers was mainly youngish and the
atmosphere was a bit like the smallish but vigorous and militant mass
protests of the start of the agitation against the Vietnam War, in
which I was involved way back then.

The dominant slogan was troops out now.

I used the occasion to give out about 500 flyers about the Ozleft
website. One of the problems in the march was the perennial one I
remember from the Vietnam demonstrations that I helped organise. The
vigour of the mainly youthful protestors led to a very fast marching
pace. I was up near the front, as I often was in the Vietnam
protests, trying to slow it down a bit so older people (who now
include me) to catch up, but I didn't have much success.

I think considerable credit is due in this instance to the ISO and
DSP who bore the main responsibility for organising the protest.


The Werriwa federal parliamentary by-election, made necessary by the
resignation of former Labor leader Mark Latham from parliament, took
place on March 19. Werriwa is a safe Labor seat. The Liberal, rather
shrewdly, decided not to contest the seat, leaving it to conservative
independents to fly the flag for the right.

In that kind of by-election there's often a swing against Labor,
which lost the seat of Cunningham a couple of years ago in a similar
situation. There was early newspaper propaganda asserting that
private polling showed a swing to the Liberals.

In the event, there was a substantial swing to Labor, which went from
50 to 55 per cent, and the Greens increased their vote from about 3
per cent to about 6 per cent.

Scrutineers agreed the two-party preferred Labor vote was almost 70
per cent, which makes Werriwa one of the safest Labor seats in the

The swing to Labor and the Greens in Werriwa was an extremely good
result for the Labor movement and all progressive people.

Clearly the Liberals were hurt by the recent rise in interest rates,
and the electoral outcome was obviously affected by the extreme
unpopularity of the Howard Liberal government's decision to send more
troops to Iraq at a time when other countries are leaving Iraq.

The socialist sectarians of the Socialist Equality Party won .69 of
the vote and the Progressive Labour Party got about 1.6 per cent.

The lesson of Werriwa is that for the foreseeable future the
electoral allegiance of the left half of society in Australia is
clearly focussed on Labor and to a lesser extent the Greens, and that
socialist groups are nowhere in the electoral calculations of the

The eccentric assertions of some socialist sectarians about the
disappearance of the Labor vote are clearly self-serving hopeful hot

 From these electoral circumstances flows the obvious necessity for
socialists to adopt an active strategic united front orientation
towards Labor and the Greens.

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