Anti-war movement in Australia

Peter Boyle peterb at dsp.org.au
Mon Dec 2 19:59:26 MST 2002


There is a high chance that in a few weeks the US and
imperialist allies will begin the next phase of their war on
Iraq. Fortunately in many imnperialist countries, including
Australia, a mass anti-war movement has begun to get
organised.

These were our estimates of the turnout at anti-war rallies
(around the main demands, No War on Iraq, No Australian
Involvement) around Australia last weekend:

Adelaide (Nov 30) 2000, Brisbane (Dec 1) 500-1000, Canberra
(Nov 30) 500, Darwin (Nov 30) 250, Lismore (Nov 30) 350,
Hobart (Nov 30) 350, Melbourne (Dec 1) 10-15,000, Sydney
(Nov 30) 15-20,000. So that comes to up to 40,000 around the
country, which is a pretty good show considering that this
was done with not much institutional support or mobilisation
from the ALP-dominated trade union movement or the official
student movement.

Of course there are some practical reasons from this, such
as the fact that campuses are all but finished for the year
and in Victoria there was a state election on November 30.
But the main reason -- and Bob Gould can howl all he wants
-- is the ALP does dominate the trade union and student
unions and the ALP federal opposition does not support the
demands of the movement. As John Pilger said at the Sydney
rally, there is no democratic opposition in parliament it is
out in the streets. At best, he added, the Labor opposition
in parliament tries to nuance the Howard Liberal-National
government's pro-war position. This basic statement of
political fact received the biggest applause at the rally.

This gives rise to an interesting challenge in the anti-war
movement. We need to try and win as broad support as
possible for independent mass mobilisation against the war
and Australian involvement but some of the key movement
institutions are controlled by a funadmentally pro-war party
(not one serious political commentator in Australia doubts
that if Labor was in government in Canberra, they would
support Bush and Blair's war drive).

There is some dissent within the the unions and in the ALP
but it is weak.

Anyway all around Australia the DSP and socialists are
working in coalitions with those in the ALP and the trade
unions and others who are willing to organise against the
war. negotiations and concessions are being made all the
time, but the irritable Bob (whose self-proclaimed mission
is to "knock some sense" into the "lunatic" and "crackpot"
DSP -- that must make him a lunatic or a fool, by his own
definition) wouldn't know half of it.

You see while Bob collects left gossip and excitedly
regurgitates it on this list, DSP members are working in the
anti-war coalitions. In Sydney, where as Bob has noted an
important step forward has been made in breaking the attempt
by some old lefts (mainly ALP and ex-CPA) earlier this year
to exclude the DSP, Socialist Alliance, ISO and Socialist
Alternative from an invitation-only anti-war committee, DSP
leaders Pip Hinman and Nick Everett have been working pretty
much full-time alongside other ex-CPA, ALP left, left
independent and Greens activists to build the November 30
rally. If there were not more DSP people in the various
organising committees it was in order to please the very
people who are quick to scream that the DSP is attempting to
stack the committee!

In what is unfortunately a characteristic tactic of slander
through distortion, Bob Gould tried to imply that the "far
left" was mostly focussed on selling their papers while the
Labor lefts and others did all the anti-war movement
building in Sydney. That's crap. The far left has also done
much of the postering and leafletting for the rally for
months. Sections of the old left dominated the marshalling
and money collection on November 30 because they wanted to
do these jobs.

DSP members all around the country will continue to buid the
broad anti-war coalitions. They will make all necessary
compromises to keep the coalitions as broad as possible but
they will also keep pushing to open up the organising to
newer forces -- because the movement needs their energy to
grow bigger. The old left is ageing and it needs the help of
younger activists who cannot find a way in to overly
bureaucratic, invitation-only anti-war committees. After the
failed attempt to exclude the socialist groups from the
anti-war coalition some in that section of the left now
realise that it is better that we work together.

DSP comrades -- and others -- will also continue to fight to
keep the movement's clear political focus on opposition to
war on Iraq and opposition to Australian intervention. It's
the only way to go.

As we roll into what seems like the inevitable new war on
Iraq, the anti-war committees and coalitions around
Australia will carry on their work. Last weekend's turnout
and the polls that still show 53% opposition to war indicate
that the mobilisations will get bigger. Meanwhile Bob Gould
will roll up to the odd anti-war meeting in Sydney and move
the odd motion, and *never* volunteer to do any of the hard
work in between. But he will continue to slag off at the DSP
for not doing the right thing in the movement, we can all be
sure of that.

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