Another report on the Stop the War Coalition conference.
nigel_irritable at yahoo.com
Sat Jan 18 07:31:51 MST 2003
The report below is from this weeks issue of the
"Socialist", the newspaper of the Socialist Party.
Is mise le meas
Building A Mass Anti-War Movement
"This movement today, not Tony Blair, is speaking for
the British people," declared Aslef member Andrew
Murray, opening the Stop the War national conference.
800 activists came from local coalitions, political
parties, trade unions and peace groups, along with
some new young people getting active for the first
In a rousing speech, Tony Benn said, "We speak for
humanity. This is an argument between the people of
the world and the rulers of the world."
Former president of Algeria, Ahmed Ben Bella, who at
the age of 86 has just become president of the
newly-formed International Campaign Against US
Aggression on Iraq, spoke to a standing ovation. He
said, "There is terror in the world - the terror of
George Bush... The world system keeps 85% of the
population in poverty and dependency." He called on
the British anti-war movement to "take the smile off
Tony Blair's face."
There were cheers as George Galloway MP paid tribute
to the train drivers in Motherwell who refused to
drive trains with ammunition intended for use against
Iraq. The conference agreed to campaign within the
trade unions for such decisive action on a mass scale
to stop the war.
Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist called on the
recently-elected left trade union leaders to plough at
least some of the money they currently give to New
Labour into the anti-war movement and to drive on this
Later in the day, an announcement that soldiers in the
north of the country were refusing to go to Iraq was
met with huge applause.
Build for action
The conference agreed that the immediate priority is
to aim for an unprecedented turnout on the national
demo on 15 February. On that day, there will be demos
in most European capitals and in many other countries
as well. George Galloway said, "It's hard to imagine a
more important day in any of our lives so far. Nothing
but death can be an excuse to not be in London on
Delegates were also urged to build for action the day
war breaks out, for a demo in every village, town and
city. Workers were asked to take at least one hour of
protest on that day - for "a massive howl of protest
and rage, so that the government are more frightened
of us than we are of them."
The Socialist Party is organising stalls, leaflets,
posters, meetings, local protest actions and stunts
all to help build up momentum for the demo on 15
But when war starts we want to see mass occupations,
walkouts and strikes at schools, colleges and
workplaces all over the country. We are using pledge
sheets, ballots and resolutions to help build the
confidence of workers and students to take action.
On behalf of the Socialist Party, Dave Nellist argued
that "demonstrations alone won't shift a capitalist
government like New Labour, wedded to the political
and economic interests of the US. Only sustained,
organised mass civil disobedience can stop a war in
progress and force a government to retreat."
Dave gave the example of the campaign against the poll
tax, led by the Socialist Party (then called
Militant), which was rooted in estates, schools,
colleges and workplaces, and was organised through
democratic structures locally, regionally and
To great applause, he also stressed that as well as
fighting against this war, "we have to raise an
alternative, and be just as determined to build a new
world, in my opinion a socialist world".
This was an optimistic and enthusiastic conference. 26
resolutions were debated, plus two composite motions
on policy and trade union work. All three resolutions
put forward by Socialist Party members were passed.
However, unfortunately it was very difficult for
ordinary delegates to intervene in conference
discussions unless they were moving resolutions. The
Socialist Party will be putting proposals forward on
this and other issues to try and ensure future
conferences are more inclusive.
To build a successful anti-war movement now will
require the development of democratic and open local
coalitions, not dominated by any one group, brought
together in elected and accountable regional and
The newly elected steering committee of the coalition
has representation from political parties, trade
unions and peace and other campaigns involved in the
coalition, plus some individuals.
Clare James from International Socialist Resistance
(ISR) was elected (despite a recommendation against
her from the officers of the Coalition) because the
majority of the conference wanted more young people
Socialist Party delegates voted against the tiny
number of delegates who argued that the Muslim
Association should not be asked to co-sponsor
activities. The Stop the War Coalition is a broad
coalition based on support for three minimal demands:
stop the war, no to a racist backlash and defend civil
The Muslim Association has agreed to these demands
and, via the mosques, has mobilised tens of thousands
on anti-war demonstrations. This has strengthened the
anti-war movement and has also, from the Socialist
Party's point of view, given an opportunity to reach a
wide layer of Muslims with socialist ideas.
We supported the resolution which "unreservedly
condemns terrorist attacks", which was opposed by the
Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and was defeated at the
conference. We think it is a serious mistake for the
coalition to take this position.
We understand that it is brutal conditions and
imperialist oppression that lead some to turn to
terrorist acts in desperation. However, such attacks
are completely counterproductive, particularly when
they involve the killing of many innocent people - as
with the September 11 and Bali attacks.
Surely it is clear by now that September 11, far from
undermining US imperialism, made it possible for Bush
to dramatically step up US oppression of the
If we are to build a mass movement in Britain against
the war, it is imperative that anti-war activists
condemn attacks which directly harm working-class
people, deepen divisions and provide imperialist
governments with an excuse to step up repression. The
way to fight not only war but the system that
perpetrates such injustice is mass action, not
individual acts of terror.
Socialist Party members will now be out campaigning to
make the 15 February demo a massive success; building
in every section of the community for mass action
against the war.
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