Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/938/24805
Debates on building the anti-Trump movement
Sarah Sachs-Eldridge, Socialist Party national organiser
Protest has been a major feature of the first months of 2017. On 21 January, the day after Donald Trump's inauguration, a five million-strong surge of resistance exploded on to the streets of 673 cities and towns worldwide. And thousands have marched and protested since.
The marchers are predominantly young. For this generation, hit hardest by student debt, lack of housing and unemployment, austerity has been the status quo their whole lives.
In response to the bigoted billionaire's divisive policies, the marchers, largely mobilised through their need to act rather than any specific organisation, raise slogans of solidarity, fighting racism and sexism and defending all our rights. Internationalism is a feature of the movement.
The ideas of mass civil disobedience, including strikes, are starting to be debated in the movement and there is enthusiasm for Socialist Students' call for school, college and university walkouts on 'Day X', when Trump dares to visit.
The Socialist Party's bold socialist slogans found an echo with an important section of this incipient movement. They want an alternative to the capitalist system that Trump, Clinton, May and the Blairites represent and ideas about how to fight them.
In the US the movement to support Bernie Sanders, a self-declared 'democratic socialist', showed the enormous enthusiasm that exists for an alternative to big business politicians. That's why Socialist Alternative (our co-thinkers in the US) called for Bernie to continue his run for president when he failed to win the Democratic nomination.
Here in Britain the support for Jeremy Corbyn's leadership challenges revealed the appetite for a break with austerity and Blairism. Socialist ideas - democratic planning and public ownership of key enterprises to meet the needs of all, and the crucial role the working class can play when organised in changing the world - are needed.
However, there are two rival groupings vying for the leadership of the new potential movement, neither of which offers a clear way forward. On the one hand you have Guardian columnist Owen Jones attempting to build the Stop Trump Coalition.
The list of names Owen has gathered for his coalition includes Tim Farron MP, now leader of the Lib Dems which formed the vicious Con-Dem government with the Tories.
Establishment politicians see the widespread anger against Trump as an opportunity to try to rebuild their authority, proposing a fair capitalism - but no such thing exists. That just eight billionaires own more wealth than half the world reveals the inequality at the heart of capitalism.
In 2003, then Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy spoke to the millions-strong 15 February anti-war demo. But it has since been made clear that neither he nor his pro-capitalist party was anti-war. Against the objections of the Socialist Party representatives on the Stop the War Coalition committee, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and its allies unfortunately pushed the decision through the committee to give a platform to Kennedy without any public criticisms.
They also refused to allow any speaker on behalf of a socialist organisation. This undoubtedly helped to build up the Lib Dems' 'radical' image, contributing to Cleggmania and the formation of the Con-Dem Coalition.
While 'Farronmania' is unlikely, it is a mistake to give these anti-working class politicians an uncritical platform, especially while arguing as Jones does, that Stop Trump is exciting "because it isn't dominated by any groups or sects for their own interest".
Leading a movement should mean helping the most effective ideas that get thrown up become widespread and organising to realise them. Owen Jones has already proved himself incapable of this - he called for Sanders supporters in the US to switch to Wall Street candidate Hillary Clinton instead of building a party of the 99%.
When the second wave of support to defend Jeremy Corbyn against the Blairite coup last summer started to coalesce around the call for deselection of Blairite MPs, something the Socialist Party had been putting forward as invaluable in the civil war in the Labour Party, Owen Jones attacked and belittled the idea.
The SWP-dominated Stand Up to Racism is the other campaign attempting to control this new movement. But the SWP, in practice, does not put forward a bold socialist programme and shows itself incapable of a democratic method of organising.
We in the Socialist Party stand for the right of all left trends and ideas to have the chance to be heard and for genuine debate. We have a tradition of allowing other left groups to speak in our meetings.
In the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition - with the Socialist Party, the SWP and the RMT transport workers' union as the constituent organisations - the Socialist Party is a stalwart defender of democratic decision-making methods. These groupings of Owen Jones and the SWP offer no such opportunity.
It is usual for Socialist Party members to be excluded from speaking at meetings the SWP have organised. In the current anti-Trump movement they have taken that method further by attempting to physically block Socialist Party activists from distributing our leaflets, papers and placards. They will not succeed in this but their methods are utterly wrong and, like Owen Jones's, will not be of use to the new movement rising.
In The Socialist 1 March 2017:
Socialist Party women
What we think
Socialist Party feature
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist readers' comments and reviews