[Marxism] Re: US SWP participation in UK anti-war protests

Peter Evans peterevans at wyddfa.fsnet.co.uk
Sun Nov 23 10:12:46 MST 2003

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I sent my original message on Wednesday in reply to Walter Lippmann's
orginal posting, but I mistakenly used my work email address so it only got
through very late. I attended the latter half of the demo as well.

Philip Ferguson says that the BBC coverage he saw showed a large anti-Blair
presence on the demo. In reading my previous post I see that I wasn't at all
clear in what I was trying to say about the placards: there were many
anti-Blair placards, but they were mainly in an anti-US framework rather
than an anti-imperialist framework. I'll try to explain what I mean.

In a (very) schematic sense we could analyse three main groups competing for
influence over the overwhelming majority of the demonstrators (whose
anti-Bushism and sometimes anti-Americanism is a positive, if inchoate, part
of their revulsion to what is going on the world).

There is a consciously pro-British imperialist element who called for
support for the demo, including the Daily Mirror (circulation approx. 2
million), the Liberal Democrats, many within the Labour 'Left' and some
Tories. They represent a minority, but a significant minority, of the
British bourgeoisie. In their view there are 'American' and 'British'
interests, and Blair is acting not in 'our' interests but in the interest of
the US. Although there are many 'Little Englanders' amongst them, the most
forward looking orientate to the Germany/France European axis. As well as
the question of steel and other tariffs, as has already been mentioned, this
takes the form of support for an independent European rapid response
military force, supported by Germany and France and argued for by many
amongst the British capitalist class. Consequently this current peddles the
line that Blair is 'Bush's poodle'. They want to exploit the anti-Bushism of
the demonstrators to drag them into their pro-Britain camp. (Just to avoid
any false arguments, I don't think we should 'exclude' these forces from
demonstrations, but we need to recognise what they are.)

There are the bulk of the organisers of the demo, in particular the SWP(UK),
who while clearly not in the same camp as the Mirror etc, fail to
differentiate themselves from them on many basic questions and adopt many of
the same slogans without apparently realising their import. (I did notice,
however, that this week's Socialist Worker had the headline 'Blood
Brothers', which must be considered a small step forward. In the main,
however, they have been pushing the Bush's Poodle line and I think the
popular 'Monkey and the Organ Grinder' placard was one of theirs). These
groups provided the overall 'tone' of the demonstration, organised the
speakers, placards etc. Whatever their aims, they reinforce the pressures
that push people in the direction of the pro-Britain camp by their echoing
of the main arguments of the far more socially powerful pro-Britain camp and
their failure to popularise any specifically anti-British imperialist
questions within the demonstration, including in their own propaganda, (such
as the central, to Britain, question of Ireland). I'd call this centrism,
but the term doesn't seem very popular on this list.

Lastly, there are the small forces of communist activists who attempt to
explain, by what Walter Lippmann seems to think is nasty sectarian activity
as selling books by such as Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara
etc, by raising such slogans as demanding the withdrawal of Britain from
Ireland, that to be successful the anti-Bushism of the demonstrators has to
be converted into opposition to British imperialism.

There were of course, many who don't fall into any of these schematic
categories and many who fall into both. I've met members of the SWP(UK), for
example, who raise the question of Ireland whenever they can, but their
organisation doesn't.

I think this analysis explains why, as David Amis wrote, this demonstration
was treated in a different way than many others by the media and police.

Pete Evans.

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