Southwark SA

Combating war drive

Southwark Socialist Alliance held its regular borough-wide meeting on September 17. The first part of the meeting, appropriately, was devoted to a fairly wide-ranging discussion of the implications of the bloody suicide attacks by islamic fundamentalists on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The debate lasted for nearly an hour, with Socialist Workers Party comrades apparently keen to restrict discussion lest too many disagreements on questions of policy and programme ?put off? non-aligned participants. Disquiet was expressed by a number of comrades, including SWP members, that nearly a week after the tragic incidents, the Socialist Alliance had not yet got its own press statement out about September 11 - in contrast to all the various components (in fact, the SA statement, drafted by Mike Marqusee, was being prepared for release as we discussed the question).

A number of speakers, including the Southwark SA chair, Nick Wrack, and comrades from the CPGB, International Socialist Group and the Socialist Solidarity Network, spoke about the need, if we are to seriously campaign against the Blair/Bush ?anti-terrorist? imperialist warmongering drive, to roundly condemn the vicious murder of aircraft passengers and crew and civilians in and around the World Trade Center. Only one comrade ventured to challenge this view and defend the ?official? SWP line - that the use of the word ?condemn? was not ?appropriate?.

The rest of the comrades were more concerned with discussing and analysing the implications of the rhetoric coming from Washington and London and their threat of a ?long war? against ?terrorism? worldwide. In particularly, comrade Suzanne, the local SWP full-timer, made an interesting contribution about the significance of these events in allowing US imperialism to potentially overcome the crippling effects of the so-called ?Vietnam syndrome? - the fear of the US population of being involved in a war involving large-scale casualties - and the significance of this for the possible effectiveness of the coming imperialist world offensive.

Comrade John Mulrenan, SA candidate for Camberwell and Peckham in the general election, spoke about the need to focus on the defence of ethnic minorities from racists and chauvinists, who have been emboldened by the hysteria of the western governments. It was generally felt the alliance should be playing an initiating role in anti-war activities in its own right, and not leaving it up to the component organisations to take initiatives independent of their partners, thus defeating the whole purpose of the alliance.

A number of other matters were discussed, including local campaigns around housing privatisation, and the upcoming December conference of the SA. It was agreed in principle to organise proper discussion meetings with invited speakers from all trends in line with the policy of the national executive, with the Southwark executive to work out a concrete timetable for such discussions to take place.

It was also agreed to make a substantial donation to SA funds, and to henceforth make a significant regular donation to the national organisation, both to help offset the debts the alliance incurred during the general election campaign and as part of the drive to put the national body on a firmer financial footing.

Ian Donovan