All photographs by Andrew Hastings (unless otherwise stated)
On Sunday 6th March 2022 a Stop the War protest was held in Canterbury, in conjunction with Stop the War rallies and marches taking place throughout the United Kingdom. Around 150 people attended on what was an unseasonably cold day. They marched from the assembly point in Westgate Gardens, along the High Street, to Dane John Gardens, where there was music from Elephant’s Eye and speeches and read out statements by various interested parties.
Following are some of the speeches made that day. We present them here as a record of the early protests both against the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine, and of western imperialist interference in the region, which helped stoke the fires that have set the war raging.
Thanks to Mary Sullivan for organising the protest, and for reading out the statements of Jackie Walker and Hugh Lanning, to Unite the Community Kent for their donation, and to everyone who attended. You are the seed of a new movement for peace that will finally overcome the scourge of war.
Apologies to those we could not include in this piece. There could very well be a follow up.
Speech by Jon Flaig
One of the founder members of East Kent Stop the War.
Good to see so many old and new friends here today.
First thing that needs to be said: Putin get your troops out of Ukraine!
The Russian state is clearly the aggressor. We have seen the brutality of war in this conflict on rolling news which has shown the impact on the people and how they are making desperate decisions to stay alive. Once again: halt the barbarity, Russian troops out.
But, at the same time, we have to look to our own rulers.
The NATO alliance is a Cold War bloc that refused to dissolve once the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, when the Warsaw Pact (the other side) disbanded. It was, were were told, “The End of History”. So why was NATO not disbanded at this point? In fact, as the former Soviet Union came apart, NATO expanded and has threatened to continue to do so.
NATO has lived on and grown and is now a provocation for a HOT war, both in proxy wars in Africa and elsewhere, but also on our own continent. So, to balance the statement “Putin’s troops out of Ukraine” we also have to say: “NATO back off and commit to end expansion“.
So why is Ukraine important for both western and eastern capitalism?
Ukraine is a massive producer of grain, the so-called “bread basket of Europe”, and huge amounts of investment has gone into the country from western business.
The invasion and war – as with many others around the world and on different continents – is down to a modern imperialism and a capitalist system where the logical conclusion is war. War is the norm, not the exception; not an accident or down to a so-called “madman”. Let’s stop equating mental health with the cruel logic of capitalism. Not only war, but this system brings us environmental destruction, famine and pandemic.
So what of the West’s response, the so-called sanctions?
Be careful not to applaud the economic war being unleashed against the ordinary and – for all we know – anti-war population of Russia. It won’t be the Russian oligarchs who bear the brunt of this, or the British, EU or USA oligarchs. Both at home, and across Europe and Russia, it will be the working classes that are set to pay for this war through economic hardship or with our lives.
Don’t accept Boris Johnson’s war plans. Don’t accept cuts to services to fuel the war machine. Don’t accept Truss’ warmongering or her Pound-Shop Thatcher posturing.
Finally I want to say that we must stand with refugees and asylum seekers – yes, pouring in in their hundreds of thousands from Ukraine BUT also, with equal emphasis, from all the wars and disaster areas of the world. Many of us have so much, and many of them so little.
We have to rebuild our anti-war groups in every city and town. Mobilise again the anti-war majority that can halt the barbarism of capitalism and war.
Poem by Kay Marsh
Human rights activist.
Say NO to War These are fights fought by men who sit safe in their ivory towers Men who use the poor like toy soldiers in war For reasons they don’t quite understand But they’re sure They’ll return safe as heroes, when peace reigns once more They fight To fill the need to feed the greed that breeds the disease Believing that somehow The blood shed will ease The unrest. But it’s just a test To see if we’ll maim and murder at their behest These are not our fights to be won The people gain nothing When the fighting is done Just more lost loved ones Fathers and sons We as the people must oppose all these wars We must refuse to buy into the cause Of death and destruction just to even the scores So let the bell toll for all those in power, Who sit in safety of that ivory tower Sanctioning death, hour after hour. We must stand with our brothers and sisters, side by side Believe in humanity and not in the lies Fed by the media to keep us all blind. So be the solution Be the light in the darkness Offer help and support to people regardless Don’t be inspired by these men so heartless Strength is in numbers And their numbers are few When you take away the support from people like you And we bring humanity back into view Don’t wait till the fighting lands at our door When the need for love and compassion seems more Start today, And welcome those who arrive on our shore. And continue to stand up for peace And say no to war.
Speech by Leah Levane
Co-Chair of Jewish Voice for Labour; Anti austerity activist, speaker/activist for peace & justice in Palestine & Israel.
How do we make the slogan “neither Washington not Moscow” meaningful?
I expect others will talk about the ways which NATO is not a defensive force and give examples of aggression by NATO and the hypocrisy of the West, especially the mainstream media commentators who have been so compassionate about this war in Europe (as though that has never happened before) and people fleeing who look “just like us” (sic – well perhaps some of us).
And to see pictures of Israeli men praying for peace draped in Ukrainian flags rather than their usual prayer shawls (tallisim) while less than two miles away Palestinians are being thrown out of their homes in Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah, is another sign of hypocrisy.
While Ukrainians bravely confronting Russian tanks with Molotov cocktails are called “resistance fighter”, Palestinians throwing stones at Israeli armoured vehicles are called “terrorists – even at the same time we have seen media images of a bombed tower block in Gaza, and Ahed Tamimi’s standing up to an Israeli soldier being mistakenly used to illustrate conditions and resistance in Ukraine. These things matter.
These things do no become irrelevant because Russia is now committing these heinous acts, murdering Ukrainians and further threatening the people with its military might as Ukraine is calling for more support from NATO forces.
One among many reasons why we must keep up the criticism of our own governments and the hypocrisy of, for example, implementing sanctions against Russians within five days of the invasion (actually several years too late) but not doing so on Saudi Arabia with its bombing of Yemen – with British weapons – is that the effective legitimisation of invasion into sovereign countries, and the lack of of effective response to the ongoing colonisation and oppression of Palestine and Palestinians, will lead to more tragedies, such as the Ukrainian one, in the future and everywhere on our planet.
And we are right to call out the hypocrisy when western governments correctly call out Russia for violating international law, while having carried out their own violations – cited by Russia as “justification” – in Kosovo, Iraq, Libya and Syria.
Of course Noam Chomsky sums up why analysis is important even now. As he says; “It’s easy to see why those suffering from the crime may regard it as an unacceptable indulgence to inquire into why it happened and whether it could have been avoided. Understandable, but mistaken. If we want to respond to the tragedy in ways that will help the victims, and avert still worse catastrophes that loom ahead, it is wise, and necessary, to learn as much as we can about what went wrong and how the course could have been corrected.”
It is important to recall what has been said by the Stop the War Coalition and many others about how things were developing and the need for the west NOT to contribute to a new Cold War. NATO needs an enemy, needs an implied threat to justify its existence and, indeed, the existence of the Military Industrial Complex.
And Putin and Russia, for far too long, have continued with an imperialist approach, as though there was some “right” for Russia to also control at least some of its neighbours. We cannot condemn western imperialism and ignore Russian imperialism.
AND we need to address how we can help end the war. Negotiation is vital. An understanding of the dynamics is vital.
We need to think about what solidarity looks like and act accordingly. Today we stand not only with those resiting in Ukraine – and elsewhere! – but also those courageous Russian peace protesters taking real risks – not only those on the streets, but the 17,000 arts sector workers who signed an Open Letter opposing the war, and the TV journalists who resigned rather than pump out Putin supporting propaganda. And it is my duty, as a socialist, to ask how does my perspective as an internationalist reconcile with that of socialist internationalists who live in the region? And when I have looked, they are not that happy with the left in the west. We must do better.
We call on our government to do all it can to de-escalate the situation, to support Ukrainian refugees AND to recognise the importance of stopping the noxious Nationality and Borders Bill that will make it difficult, if not impossible, for refugees fleeing such wars to even seek asylum here, let alone be granted it. And while we are at it, we must stop the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill, which, among other things, will make a demo like this one potentially punishable by ten years imprisonment, which is three years more than what Russians risk under Putin.
And it is not divisive or a distraction from the war in Ukraine to demand free speech within, and beyond, the Labour Party – which has a leadership that forbids allowing left MPs (and members) from noting that NATO must bear some responsibility for the terrible situation in Ukraine. This is not as issue of hindsight. Warnings were given as far back as 1998.
None of this removes one iota of responsibility or culpability from Putin. We cannot fall into backing rhetoric that is effectively “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.
We must continue to oppose the warmongers and the whole war machine – in the east as well as the west. Capitalism seeks profits whenever it can and war and the threat of war are very profitable, not only in selling arms, but in postwar reconstruction. Look at the horrors not only of the war in Iraq, but also in the corruption of its so-called reconstruction.
We must make all of these important points even in the middle of the war, even when we know that in the here and now Ukrainians do need to fight against the Russian invasion.
What does solidarity look like? It looks like this march and protest. It looks like demanding our governments welcome ALL refugees. It looks like the Kent and Cheshire dockworkers who have refused to unload Russian oil. As we did against the Iraq war, they are saying “not in my name”.
And there are no easy answers. I can do no better than to conclude with Chomsky’s words:
“The options that remain after the invasion are grim. The least bad is support for the diplomatic options that still exist, in the hope of reaching an outcome not too far from what was very likely achievable a few days ago: Austrian-style neutralization of Ukraine, some version of Minsk II federalism within. Much harder to reach now. And — necessarily — with an escape hatch for Putin, or outcomes will be still more dire for Ukraine and everyone else, perhaps almost unimaginably so.
“Very remote from justice. But when has justice prevailed in international affairs? Is it necessary to review the appalling record once again?
“Like it or not, the choices are now reduced to an ugly outcome that rewards rather than punishes Putin for the act of aggression — or the strong possibility of terminal war. It may feel satisfying to drive the bear into a corner from which it will lash out in desperation — as it can. Hardly wise.
“Meanwhile, we should do anything we can to provide meaningful support for those valiantly defending their homeland against cruel aggressors, for those escaping the horrors, and for the thousands of courageous Russians publicly opposing the crime of their state at great personal risk, a lesson to all of us.”
Speech by Rory Heap
My name is Rory Heap and I am chair of the Kent Unite the Union Community branch, which is a sponsor of this event. First of all a bit about Unite Community, my trade union. We are an organisation for the benefit of people not in work. We are a non-sectarian community-based branch of Unite the Union. There are a fair number of our members present here today and one of the organisers of the march, Mary Sullivan, is one of our members. Being a member of a trade union is important whether you’re working or not, so I would encourage anyone here who is not working and not a member of a trade union to join Unite Community. I was told on Friday by our regional secretary that Unite the Union is affiliated nationally to the Stop the War Coalition, so is supportive of its activities unlike another very well known large labour movement organisation!
I shall be recommending to our branch that we follow suit and affiliate to Stop the War. We should all encourage our trade union branches to do the same thing. On a personal note, it was interesting to hear our singer this afternoon saying that people of a certain age would remember songs like Masters of War. I certainly do. It’s amazing to think that it is 60 years since the Cuban missile crisis. I was shit scared then, and I’m shit scared now! Every time I hear a police siren, I’ve got a clench in my stomach. I wonder whether the next siren I will here will be a fucking air raid siren, followed by a flash and the final big bang! These are very scary times, but war, and particularly nuclear war, is no way to resolve the situation. We must play our part in stopping this madness. Solidarity from Unite the Union and this march to the Stop the War campaign. Thank you for listening.
Statement by Hugh Lanning:
Labour Candidate for Canterbury constituency in 2015, retired Deputy General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, ex-Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
First, congratulations on – amongst all the propaganda and vitriol – getting up and standing up.
Secondly, apologies on not being here, but I had a previous commitment.
Thank you to the organisers on giving me the opportunity to make a statement, now is not the time to be silent. Progressive voices in all parties and organisations need to consistently challenge the cant and hypocrisy we hear on the media.
For me there are four principles we should be following:
- Our first and overwhelming objective is to stop the war – this requires the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all aggressive forces, of all Russian forces on Ukrainian soil. Wars never bring about peace, only suffering by the people, not of the leaders who call for war. Therefore, I also oppose all calls for military escalation and aggression, such as no fly zones and the expansion of NATO.
- Self-determination by the people is the solution, not invasion and occupation – all of Ukraine should be returned to its people to determine its future. But calls for peace are not credible when uttered by those guilty, such as Johnson and Biden, of supporting wars and invasions in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan or the Yemen. Self-determination is a right for all, not just some peoples.
- Open all our borders to ALL those fleeing war. The UK should welcome and support Ukrainian and all other refugees. There are not good and bad refugees – Ukrainian refugees are not better than those fleeing from the Yemen, some Ukrainian refugees are not better than others. Racism has no place in our support for and welcome to refugees fleeing from war, famine or other disasters.
- Sanctions should be applied for breaches of international law – invasion and occupation of another country is wrong and must never be accepted. But the Russian people are not our enemy – sanctions should be aimed and targeted at the Russian state, the oligarchs and its military machine. However, sanctions need to be applied consistently, not just now to Russia, but to all other countries guilty of war crimes or breaches of international law – be it the US and the UK, Myanmar, Israel, Saudi Arabia or China.
As a long-standing member of the Labour Party, trade unionist and supporter of the right of Palestine to self-determination – I am proud to stand up and shout “Stop the War”, not just this one in Ukraine, but in solidarity with all those fighting injustice. I stand in solidarity with the people, the victims of war – not those hypocrites talking of peace whilst profiting from war.
Speech by Richard Sawka
Richard Sawka, Professor Emeritus of Russian and European politics at the University of Kent also spoke on the day. Unfortunately we were unable to get a transcript of his speech, but the following interview, for the Not The Andrew Marr Show was given the week before, and contains much of the same material:
Oliver Stone-produced “Ukraine on Fire” moves to Rumble after YouTube censorship:
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The most absorbing analysis of where we are and how we got here. (see link video)
I dont agree with all this professor says but he says the problem is that ~after~ the Pygmalian delusion (that Russia would beocme a democracy failed) Then we continued western expansion that (he says) Yeltsin signed up to
“Don’t accept Truss’ warmongering or her Pound-Shop Thatcher posturing”.
Very nicely put. I have to say, Truss as the ‘Pound-Shop Thatcher’ made me chuckle even though it’s deadiy serious.