The argument about the significance of the 15 February 2003 anti-war march in London has been going on ever since – and got serious again with a flurry of polemics to mark the 10th anniversary earlier this year.
Peace News journalist Ian Sinclair’s oral history is part of that argument. The very fact that he spent years producing this book shows that he thinks the demo was very important, a point he makes explicit in his introduction.
He has put in an impressive amount of work – more than 70 face-to-face interviews, dozens of email exchanges and a trawl through the clippings – and The March That Shook Blair provides fascinating insights into the thinking of a lot of the key people in the anti-war camp. This includes several who are critical of the role of the Socialist Workers Party in the Stop the War Coalition, which organised the giant march. Future historians of the British left will mine this book shamelessly.
It isn’t perfect. It could have given more space to demonstrators who were neither involved in the organisation of the march nor old hands in the peace movement and the left. The left pro-war argument gets a look-in only through reproduction of old clippings. And there’s no room at all for waverers or people who fell out with Stop the War (of whom there are quite a few).
There could also be more to contextualise the anti-war movement of 2002–5. Yes, it was primarily a reaction to the Bush administration’s ‘war on terror’ after 9/11 and Tony Blair’s support for it – but that’s not the whole story. Most of the key players interviewed by Sinclair had been around for ages before, but few talk about their previous formative experiences – the collapse of the Communist Party and the Labour left and marginalisation of CND in the late 1980s, the 1990–1 Kuwait war, the giant left bust-ups over Bosnia and Kosovo, the Socialist Alliance.
All the same, this is an important document of political and social history. It deserves to be widely read – even if it’s not the last word.
#226 Get Socialism Done ● Special US section edited by Joe Guinan and Sarah McKinley ● A post-austerity state ● Political theatre ● Racism in football ● A new transatlantic left? ● Britain’s zombie constitution ● Follow the dark money ● Book reviews ● And much more
And you choose how much to pay for your subscription...
Two well-known voices on the British left, Paul Mason and Aaron Bastani, have outlined what they see as the revolutionary potential of technology. K. Biswas reviews their visions
Suki Ferguson reviews the XR guide to climate activism
A collection of essays which could be a key resource for those seeking to create economic alternatives, edited by Catherine Samary and Fred Leplat. Reviewed by Derek Wall
A book that systematically unpicks the myths that are spread in order to preserve the status quo, written by Nesrine Malik. Reviewed by Leah Cowan
Letters between Leslie Parker and Paul Zalud, edited by David Parker. Reviewed by Mary Kaldor
Finding a Voice: Asian women in Britain, by Amrit Wilson, reviewed by Maya Goodfellow