Opening with Masters of War, Bob Dylan’s tirade against the military-industrial complex, this poignant documentary considers the 15 February 2003 anti-war march in London – the largest demonstration in British history.
Clocking in at 26 minutes, directors Uzma Hussein and Iain Bruce focus on the experience of just a few of the more than one million people who protested against the looming invasion of Iraq. “It was the most inspiring day of my entire life”, explains Kate Connelly, at the time a sixth form student in Cambridge. “It was a huge political education – understanding how to organise things democratically, understanding world politics, understanding protest movements.” Having travelled down on one of the 200 coaches sent from Birmingham, David Hughes remembers it took over four hours for him to march from Euston to Hyde Park. He missed the speeches – a few of which are highlighted here. From the stage then Labour MP George Galloway warned Blair the UK should not act like the 51st state of the US. Harold Pinter memorably stated the US “is run by a bunch of criminal lunatics, with Tony Blair as a hired Christian thug.”
The second half of the film considers the march’s legacy. Former Respect leader Salma Yaqoob rightly points out that Tony Blair’s political career was effectively terminated by the crisis over Iraq. Lindsey German, the Convenor of Stop the War Coalition, laments the failure of Respect to capitalise on such a large-scale mobilisation. Interestingly, she goes on to argue Caroline Lucas’s election victory in 2010 was partly a product of the anti-war movement and peoples’ disillusionment with Labour. The consistently anti-war Green MP has certainly repaid the debt and more, recently securing a six-hour debate in the House of Commons to mark the tenth anniversary of the war.
“The legacy is that it will become very difficult to convince the British people of any other escapades of this sort”, notes Tariq Ali, who spoke in Hyde Park on 15 February 2003. “New wars are going to be difficult to pull off – and they know it.” They certainly do. Writing in the New Statesman in March Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, noted “Iraq has permanently raised the bar of public legitimacy for future interventions, whichever government puts them before Parliament.”
Thoughtful and inspiring, Million Man March (10 Years On) is a welcome record of the “shared humanity” of that momentous day. With the Government currently pushing hard to arm the Syrian rebels, we need an active, broad-based and effective anti-war movement once again.
Million Man March (Ten Years On) is being shown at 9:00 pm on Sunday 14 July 2013 at the Marxism 2013 festival in London. www.marxismfestival.org.uk.
Ian Sinclair is the author of ‘The march that shook Blair: An oral history of 15 February 2003’, published by Peace News Press.