Democracy And The Stop The War Coalition

At the Stop the War Coalition (STWC) steering committee on 7 October, I moved the following motion on behalf of the Socialist Party:

“For all future national STWC demonstrations the speakers’ list drawn up by the officers should be put to the steering committee for ratification before the demonstration takes place”.

Hannah Sell

This was the procedure followed for the STWC demonstration a year ago, in September 2002. However, since that time the speakers nominated by the STWC have been decided by the small group of officers alone (the co-organisers CND and the Muslim Association of Britain also nominate speakers).

When another delegate to the meeting suggested that the resolution should be amended to allow for last minute changes to the platform, I accepted that amendment. The resolution now read:

“For all future national STWC demonstrations where possible the speakers list drawn up by the Officers should be put to the Steering Committee before the demonstration takes place”. Nonetheless, even this very minimal democratic resolution was voted down by 13-9 (seven of those voting against were Socialist Workers Party members).

The balance of speakers on platforms of national demonstrations can be very important. The Socialist Party argued, for example, that, on recent demonstrations, the uncritical attitude to Liberal Democrat speakers was a mistake.

We also argued that Karl Debbaut, the international co-ordinator of ISR, who is currently threatened with imprisonment for defending the right of school students to strike against the war, should be allowed to speak at the demo for two minutes.

However, the resolution we moved did not ask for agreement on these points but only that the Steering Committee, which is the nationally elected leadership of the STWC, should have the chance to discuss similar points for future demonstrations before, rather than after, the demonstration takes place.