OPINION

Reactions

Yesterday’s almost spontaneous anti-war demonstration in Athens may have been the largest in the world, but it was not the only one. From the impressive gathering of more than 40,000 people in Melbourne and the anti-war petition by 1.2 million people in Madrid to the spontaneous assembly of 50,000 school pupils in Berlin and massive rallies in Paris and other European capitals in the afternoon, ordinary people showed their displeasure and rage at the American-British attack on Iraq and the unilateral manner in which it was decided. Yesterday’s meetings and mobilizations were not as large as the rallies held around the world on February 15, but they are as meaningful because those who participated yesterday did so largely on the spur of the moment. They did so because they felt genuine rage at the current face of the Western world, and they followed their feelings, despite being bombarded with television messages of war propaganda and indirectly placatory reports which present the American attack as being deplorable but inevitable, and that there is nothing to be done but hope it will be over quickly. The political ferment which resulted in the attack on Iraq (which Washington had already decided on) led people to two conclusions: that the powerful do not hesitate to bypass international justice and international institutions; and that governments such as those of Britain, Spain and Italy had no compunction about adopting a line that was obviously contrary to public feeling in their countries. Both aspects indicate a lack of popular legitimation at the international and national level, and show the need to rouse citizens to bypass the officially formulated will of the state. Though such mobilization risks creates an atmosphere of conflict, it is the only weapon citizens have to make their governments, the media and economic figures see reason. In a world of mass societies and economies, even a spontaneous, unorganized reaction, such as instinctively abstaining from consuming products of a certain origin, can achieve results if it becomes widespread. People seem to be waking up. And the cause is such that no reasonable person can speak dismissively of «the street» and superficiality. When it comes to a sense of justice, the protesters have already won the battle.