We must carry our message onto the streets and into the trade unions, while pushing back against the attacks on us from the Starmer-state bloc and its facilitators

As warmongers gathered in Madrid for the NATO summit this week, anti-war activists took to the streets in towns and cities across Britain for the International Day of Action For Peace In Ukraine.

On Saturday June 25th, over 30 local groups participated up and down the country with London co-hosting a protest with CND outside the Ministry of Defence.

It comes as Boris Johnson urges other world leaders to hold firm in their long-term support for Ukraine, meaning amplifying arms supplies and deploying more troops. As belligerents bang the drums of war, the anti-war movement sends its counter message to the government.

Lindsey German, Stop the War Coalition’s convenor addressed the 100 strong crowd paying particular attention to NATO’s role in driving the conflict in Ukraine;

“This war has everything to do with what NATO is doing as well as what Russia is doing. It expanded in terms of its aggression, it was involved in wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Libya. And when you hear that NATO is a movement for peace that is a lie— it is a movement for war.”

From the very beginning StWC’s policy on the Ukraine war has been clear: condemning the Russian invasion, opposing NATO enlargement and the West’s role in stimulating the conflict, as well as warning of the dangers of escalation.

In advance of the summit the NATO General Secretary Jens Stotenberg said the alliance would significantly increase the number of forces on high alert on the eastern flank to 300,000, up from 40,000, as part of the biggest overhaul of the alliance’s so-called “defences” since the Cold War.

It was also confirmed that allies will expand troop deployments in NATO countries that sit closest to Russia.

Commenting ahead of this announcement, Kate Hudson, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament general secretary, said “We need to move beyond NATO and have a new security architecture internationally to create a situation of peace and justice. We know NATO will be talking about their new strategic concept. And, every time NATO has a new strategic concept they are expanding the remit of NATO, whether it’s going into Latin America, Africa or Asia. As activists it is essential we raise public awareness about what’s going on. We have a responsibility to get that information out there.”

Indeed, the Stop the War Coalition continues to get the message out there. It now has a higher level of political activity round the country than it has had for the last ten years, with more groups campaigning and out on the streets. On Saturday, over 30 local groups engaged in the Day of Action with an array of activity from protesting and marching, to stalls and speak outs, as well as other forms of action including
music and poetry.

Around 30 protesters in Glasgow demanded, “Scrap Trident, no to nuclear war” with similar numbers in Dorset. Local organiser, Candy Udwin reported back; “Over 25 people joined a lively protest and march pledging to build the StWC network in Dorset and to meet and protest again.”

Brighton StWC came out in full force with rousing anti-war songs, moving poems, applauded speeches for peace. The day paid close attention to the impacts of war and conflict on diaspora communities as well as expressing solidarity with workers demanding welfare not warfare.

Boris Johnson recently said the financial cost of providing long standing support to Ukraine was “a price worth paying for democracy and freedom”. As the British government pumps billions of pounds into the war in Ukraine, the UK is suffering the biggest cost of living crisis in decades.

But it’s impossible to ignore the mass fight back amid the summer of discontent. The International Day of Action for Peace in Ukraine coincided with the biggest rail strike in 30 years.

On Saturday 40,000 rail operators walked out over working conditions, job cuts and pay freezes. Stop the War Coalition rallies sent messages of solidarity to the RMT acknowledging that the emancipation of the working class goes hand in hand with the priorities of the anti-war movement.

Local groups, including Nottingham, took peace blocs to RMT rallies organised across the country.

As well as protests, local groups from each corner of the country held stalls including Sheffield, York, Wisbech and Hull. Southampton held a rally with speeches and live music including a stirring rendition of Bob Dylan’s 1963 classic ‘Masters of War’ which was “every bit as relevant as it was when he wrote it,” according to local anti-war activist, Jethro Bor. It follows the group’s relaunch meeting earlier in the week which had 26 attendees.

The huge turn out and level of engagement on the streets reflects how public opinion is ever moving in favour of our position. Our peace camp is growing because of the seriousness of the situation and fears of nuclear escalation.

Throughout the day, World Beyond War, a global nonviolent movement educating and mobilising to end war hosted 24-hour live online Peace Wave for Ukraine moving west around the planet every two hours.

Stop the War Coalition and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament kicked off the non-stop round the clock global rolling rally in London.

There was a great line-up of speakers including: Lindsey German, Convenor StWC; Andrew Murray, Vice President StWC; Symon Hill, Peace Pledge Union; John Rees, Don’t Extradite Assange; Abdelrahim Abayazid, Sudan Activist in UK; Jim Roche, Irish Anti-War Movement; Kate Hudson, CND general secretary; and musician Sean Taylor.

Russia’s war in Ukraine is becoming a dragged out proxy war; Boris Johnson has played a particularly crucial role in discouraging negotiations, telling President Zelensky on his May visit to Kyiv that ‘no negotiations are possible’.

The weekend’s Day of Action was about showing there is another way. We must carry our message onto the streets and into the trade unions, while pushing back against the attacks on us from the Starmer-state bloc and its facilitators.

Looking at our history, and the growth of the movement there is no doubt that we can rise to the challenge.

27 Jun 2022 by Shadia Edwards-Dashti

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