Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/402/4574
Stop the War Coalition's missed opportunity
SOCIALIST PARTY members on the Stop the War Coalition (STWC) steering committee moved a resolution at its meeting this week. It called for a "demonstration within the next few weeks/as soon as practically possible to show that the anti-war movement is opposed to terrorism, opposed to the war and occupation and opposed to any racist backlash or erosion of civil liberties in the aftermath of 7 July."
It was also suggested that the main slogans should be 'United against terror' and 'United against war' as well as calling for the withdrawal of troops and opposing any racist backlash or erosion of civil liberties.
Despite arguing that anti-war movement faced a new, urgent situation in Britain after the 7 July bombings the Socialist Party's position was supported by few others on the committee.
Instead, most of the committee's leading lights, including members of the Socialist Workers Party (the dominant trend in the leadership), the Communist Party and Labour Lefts argued it was not possible to organise a demo at such short notice in the summer period, arguing that the coalition was short of funds. This was despite a £2,000 donation from the PCS union last week.
Although most present accepted that this was not the time for the anti-war movement to be silenced, they felt that protest vigils and public meetings - as well as sympathetic articles in the media - were enough to put across the anti-war movement's position.
Unfortunately, the vigils and meetings, which have been relatively small and mixed in their aims, will not be enough to send the clearest and strongest message that people are opposed to the war and occupation as well as the atrocity of the terrorist attacks.
The Stop the War leaders' reluctance reveals, unfortunately, that they have been intimidated to some degree by the onslaught of Blair, the establishment and the media after the London bombings. In the past, STWC leaders have been eager - sometimes too eager - just to call demos to build up the pressure on Blair.
Now, when the situation most demands a swift response they argue it is too difficult to organise a demo. Instead, they are calling a demo this autumn calling for the withdrawal of British troops by Christmas. The Socialist Party supports this demo but would not agree with those who argued that the withdrawal of troops is the only issue the STWC should focus on in the weeks and months ahead.
However, it is also true that some of the STWC leaders - whilst being prepared to condemn the London bombings - are not prepared to sign up to the slogan of "no to terrorism, no to war". And, rather than stating this openly the SWP and others prefer to skirt around the issue by advancing other slogans and saying that everyone knows the STWC are opposed to terrorism so "we don't need to state the obvious".
Yet, there has been a long struggle inside the anti-war movement to ensure that it takes an unequivocal stance against terrorist bombings and it cannot be taken for granted in the current climate that this is 'obviously' understood.
Unfortunately, the STWC decision is a missed opportunity, particularly in the absence of opposition inside Parliament, to give a clear lead and intensify the campaign for withdrawal of British troops and end Britain's role in Iraq.
In The Socialist 21 July 2005: