United left response

The threat of a Gulf War III eventually produced a united response in Manchester, with the launch of a Coalition against War in the Gulf, after two previously separate campaigns joined together last week.

Public meetings had been called, by chance, on the same date, and at the same venue, by Greater Manchester Socialist Alliance, and by the Socialist Workers Party (jointly with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament).

Those attending the meetings needed little persuading that a united front was the most effective way to start to build a movement that can take on the warmongering Blair government. The 150-strong gathering agreed a strongly worded statement and went on to accept a programme of action commencing with a mass street meeting in the city centre. This was intended to build upon work done over the previous four weekends, with the support of the GMSA, and upon the previous Saturday’s ‘Welfare not warfare’ activity by SWP. Plans for an immediate response in the event of a military strike taking place were also outlined, and agreement was given in principle to “direct actions” as appropriate.

The steering committee elected was dominated by the SWP, although the meeting did act to counterbalance this bias by deciding that future mass meetings would elect a chair on each occasion.

The need for such a check was demonstrated just two days later, when the first leaflet produced to list the forthcoming events included the SWP, but excluded Socilaist Alliance speakers for the proposed rally.

At the close of the inaugural meeting, an impromptu march took place to the regional BBC studios. The entrance hall of Broadcasting House was occupied and we demanded to be interviewed by the northwest regional TV news. Our protest agreed to disperse after receiving a promise of coverage of the anti-war movement. Readers will not be surprised to learn that, at the date of writing, the pledge remains unfulfilled.

On Saturday, about 70 people participated in the city centre street activity, with most of the left groups represented. The anti-war coalition showed that it is possible for the left to engage in joint work. It provided a forum for communist intervention, not only in order to argue for deeper, organisational, unity of revolutionaries, but for the perspective of working class hegemony as the only way to permanently defeat imperialist militarism and its high-technology barbarity.

Derek Hunter