Stop the War meeting in Handsworth

Last night (31/1/2007) we held a meeting organised by the Stop the War Campaign in Birmingham and which I was invited to chair. Forty to fifty people came along to the newly built Laurel Road Centre, once the local HQ of the Sandwell Ward Labour Party. Those who came together were at one times comrades in the Labour Party but now had gone to the four winds. Respect, Socialist Labour, Socialist Alliance as well as Labour and probably others – it would be a considerable force if all came together.
Walter Wolfgang from Labour’s National Executive was the main speaker. It’s not too usual to see someone with universal respect within Labour these days. Phil Murphy, now Honary Alderman, and my former comrade as Sandwell Ward Councillor kicked off with a philosophical and historical perspective citing Marx’s comment on the failure to learn from history with Iraq the new Vietnam. Helen Salmon represented the Stop the War Campaign in place of another indisposed speaker. Yet another contributor was missing only to turn up at the end of the proceedings. Asad Baig had been giving an interview to the BBC on the day’s events in Birmingham telling us that a ninth person had been arrested on the motorway. Asad is a resident of Alum Rock and a leading figure in resitance to terror raids. He asked those present for solidarity with Moslems who badly need moral support given the attention anyone who wears a beard or Islamic dress gets.
Walter Wolfgang addressed Iraq and Trident. While there are many reasons for not having a new generation of nuclear weapons he was deeply concerned at their proliferation and saw the need for Hans Blix’ proposal for a global summit. He saw the situation as more dangerous than it was during the cold war when at least both sides recognised each others position. Now the situation could easily run out of control. Another generation of nuclear weapons wil do nothing to ease the situation, rather it will encourage others to act in the same way.
Walter Wolfgang said that the continuing presence of foreigners in Iraq made the chance of anyone making a compromise to scale down violence wa less likely. There were in the order of 650,000 Iraqis dead, but there were no official body counts which was itself scandalous.

It’s not just the arrests, it’s the theatrical manner in which they’re conducted. The people who have been taken into custody are described as peaceful family men, so why was it necessary to go in first thing in the morning, battering down doors? The police are putting out leafletts intended to reassure local people, but actions speak louder than words.

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