The view from Manchester

In Britain there seems a surprisingly large opposition to both the bombings of Iraq and of Yugoslavia. Where I live - Manchester - there was a march against the bombings and sanctions imposed on the Iraqi people last month, led by considerable hundreds. Tony Benn, radical Labour MP (not to be confused at all with Tony Blair!) - ah, always good to hear his voice when so many are yelling for so much blood - has made quite a stand against both the Yugoslav and Iraqi bombings. The man is never afraid to be what is deemed by the bourgeois press as controversial (they make a thing about condemning him and his fellow rebel Labour MPs as 'the loony left'). Also making a stand was, as Louis' extract reported, MPs such as Jeremy Corbyn.

Trade unions - notably the TUC, the largest union which represents the public sector workers - have also made a stand against both conflicts. Workers were expressing their solidarity with the Iraqi working class a few months ago. Lord Hugh Jenkins, a friend of the family (by the way, for those who think 'lord' and immediately think big manor house, fox-hunting and boring old reactionary farts, is considerably Leftwing and deadly enemy of Blair - though it's all relative!) resigned as a House of Lords whip as the raids began. As Tony Benn, he remembers heroic Serb resistance against the Nazis.

A popular Leftwing comedian called Jeremy Hardy has also added his voice to the anti-war camp. Plaid Cymru - though a Welsh nationalist party, it has been called 'Old Labour' in the past, and is much to the Left of this disgusting bourgeois New Labour - and the Scottish National Party (who are certainly not socialists, but are Left of the Labour leadership, though that says little) are also enemies of the bombing. As I said in a previous post, Alex Salmond - leader of the SNP - sparked quite a political storm by denouncing the bombing as "folly".

Activity amongst the Left parties is very big. The Socialist Workers Party - the biggest of the radical parties - have organised marches of tens of thousands against the Iraqi bombing specifically in the past. It seems that one positive aspect of this whole gloomy imperialist venture is that the radical parties - currently divided into Trotskyist, Stalinist, Maoist, non-aligned, Leninist and so forth - seem to be getting closer together, in that they are cooperating in demonstrations and meetings.

I would say, though, that the bombings have also divided much of the Left. We have people such as Ken Livingstone (he is much to the Left of the Labour leadership, and the most popular choice for the new Mayor of London, though being blocked for standing by the rightwing Blairites) and leftwing Guardian newspaper columnist Francis Wheen back the bombing.

The divisions are showing, on a more personal note, within my own family. Both of my parents are Trostkyists - my father was once on the Central Committee of the Militant Tendency, the Trotskyist organization within Labour which once gained many members as MPs - and both were active during the 60s. However, my mother totally opposes the bombing, whereas my father (admittedly reluctant) backs them. I have had many a heated debate with him, but he is spouting the need to "stop the Serbs."

I do feel that opposition - and action with it - is growing within the radical left of British society. There are workers who are politically radicalised who are voicing their beliefs loudly. The longer the war, the more action will grow, not just here, but also in the rest of Europe.

--Owen Jones

What's the point of being rich, if you can't think what to do with it? (Jarvis Cocker, PULP)