[Marxism] Is the Anti-War movement in decline

Lenin's Tomb leninstombblog at googlemail.com
Wed Nov 14 02:32:35 MST 2007

On Nov 13, 2007 11:57 PM, <Jscotlive at aol.com> wrote:

> But the demoralisation that set in among many once the bombs and the
> missiles began raining down reflected a belief that these huge
> demonstrations  could
> actually force Bush & Co to think again and stop the war.  This married to
> the
> mantra of 'support the troops' really did derail the  movement
> significantly,
> which it has never been able to recover from.

I think we have to say that we very nearly did prevent Blair's entry into
the war, but you're right to say it was always going to be extremely
difficult to stop the war before it was launched: it is only the combined
activity of the antiwar movement and the Iraqi resistance that can stop the
occupation of Iraq.  It is those who think we can write off the antiwar
movement's role that I take issue with.

Once the war began objective material conditions changed, yet the  antiwar
> movement continued with the same tactics - revolving almost solely  around
> permitted marches and demos.

This isn't quite right.  These were the big events, but this doesn't
constitute the only means of organising, and I suspect you must know this if
you are even occasionally involved in your local StW group.  We can describe
various activities, including local protests, counter-recruitment campaigns,
college campaigning (there has been a surge of recruitment this year in the
colleges), trade union activity, building links with the pro-Palestinian
movement, arranging cultural events, speaking tours for victims of
Guantanamo like Moazzam Begg, etc etc.  The range of activity is extremely
broad, and they all help keep the movement alive and its arguments reaching
new people, whereas you seem to be speaking only of the kinds of things that
get a spot on BBC News.

> As it continued down this path, the  numbers dwindled,
> moving up briefly in the UK last year in response to Israel's  attack on
> southern Lebanon, and even the hardcore activists grew increasingly
>  demoralised.

Don't gloss over this: the response to the attack on Lebanon (wasn't only on
Southern Lebanon as you state) was brilliant, and not merely a brief uptick
in the movement.  It came amid a sustained period of activity and pressure
on the government, including a very large lobby at the Labour Party
conference.  And it was decisively this moment that forced Blair to
prematurely announce his resignation.

> in my view his and their
> continued assertion that they, Stop the War, was responsible for forcing
> Blair
> from office is simply preposterous.

That is because you insist on avoiding what actually transpired, both at the
AGM and in the months preceding Blair's departure.  Blair did not leave
office because of a renewed wave of pressure from the Iraqi resistance,
about whom we hear next to nothing except when they're demonised.  Blair
left office after a threatened cabinet coup, because the swift response to
the invasion of Lebanon and Blair's sickening support for it proved that the
antiwar movement had not gone away and that Blair was destroying his own
government.  Rees didn't say that the StWC was solely responsible, and in
fact he took on critics in the audience who said it was the Iraqi resistance
alone who did it.  He pointed out that without the antiwar movement, the
occupiers could use every filthy weapon and tactic in the book that they
have so far been restrained from using, and kill even more than the
1.2mpeople that they have.  The resistance is being cut up and
shredded to
pieces and burned alive by the biggest military power in the world every
day, and that could continue indefinitely if the antiwar movement doesn't
act.  By diminishing the role of the antiwar movement, you consign those
people to years of near-genocidal violence and eventual defeat.

>  That  the British
> troops have been drawn down in Basra is due to the  increasing pressure
> being
> placed on them by the Iraqi resistance.

The military leadership has inevitably urged the political leadership to
respond to the realities on the ground.  However, you are kidding yourself
if you think the British army couldn't take the Basra resistance to pieces.
If there weren't an antiwar movement, I suspect they might have taken the
Iraqi south to pieces and killed many more than they have.  Secondly, the
resistance in the south has been far less active and determined than that in
Baghdad and the so-called Sunni Triangle: so why should it be in the south
that the pressure makes itself felt?  Because a combination of factors make
it more pressing for the British to withdraw than to fight and win.

> The mantra that is most repeated when the leadership talks about the
> movement is the need for breadth - as if they are talking about
> cultivating  a rose
> garden, something to be admired from afar. The focus has been as the
>  movement
> as an end in itself rather than as the means to the end. In both the US
>  and
> the UK quality has been sacrificed for breath and neither has been
>  achieved.

Once again, you overlook the salient facts.  The antiwar movement has
unprecedented breadth, and is no threat to quality.  Wars are usually most
unpopular among women and ethnic minorities.  This war is unpopular among
military families (MFAW is an unprecedented development in the UK), mainly
white and male trade unions, and so on.  There is plenty of room for
hardened anti-imperialism in the movement, but there is no room for the
purists who want to reduce the movement to that.  It is further unclear what
you mean by 'quality' - the quality we seek is to put the government under
sufficient pressure to force an end to their support for the 'war on
terror'.  No one in their right mind can claim

Simply put, after the war began the movement moved right to  appease the
> weaker elements, such as in the UK CND, when it should have moved  left
> and
> adopted more of an avowed anti-imperialist position, connecting the war
>  in the
> Middle East with the attacks on the working class and immigrants at home

The StWC has never "moved right": this is sheer fantasy.  If anything the
arguments in the movement have radicalised: it is now almost taken for
granted that the war is part of the same global drive as neoliberalism.  The
StWC has indeed supported the right of Iraqis to resist the occupation, and
connected the war to attacks on immigrants and Muslims at home.  The latter
is one of the key planks of its programme.

>  - this
> in line with Malcolm's dictum that 'you can't understand what's going on
>  in
> Mississippi until you understand what's going on in the Congo'. In so
>  doing
> there would have been more of a likelihood of deepening the consciousness
>  of the
> working class and most oppressed sectors of society in the hope of
>  bringing
> them into the movement, rather than excluding them for the radical
> intelligentsia, students and disparate peace activists.

I'm sorry, but this reads like an extended formulaic exposition on behalf of
substitutionism rather than an analysis of what has actually happened.  I'm
not sure what you think the process of 'deepening consciousness' involves,
but it doesn't happen simply because the leaders of the antiwar movement say
something that people might not have heard.  Secondly, having attained said
'deepness', what then?  You say you're unhappy with protests and so on, and
I would agree that these are inadequate in themselves even if they don't
really exhaust the range of antiwar activity: so what would you wish the
upshot of this deepening to be?

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