Stop The War launched

The SWP insists that the anti-war coalition should be established along the lines it determines. Tina Becker reports

Tuesday September 25 saw the official launch of the Stop The War Coalition. Around 400 people attended the gathering in Friends Meeting House, London - an extraordinary turnout for what was billed as an organising meeting. This shows how overdue the setting up of this campaign was.

Tony Benn opened the meeting. He reminded the audience that we should not fall into the trap of believing that the World Trade Center ?was attacked for religious reasons. This has to do with politics and American domination in large parts of the world.? His solution to this political problem, however, was rather simplistic: he wants the general assembly of the United Nations to be convened and has written letters to this effect to ?close colleagues, former and current heads of states?. Fidel Castro, Michael Gorbachev, Ted Heath and Mary Robinson will all receive his statement. He concluded: ?The peoples of the world should come together to solve this problem.?

The peoples of the world are unfortunately not represented at the United Nations. Just like the peace group, Arrow, he suggested that we should turn to the leaders of our countries and demand they follow the ?proper legal procedures?. This position could lead the left onto very dangerous ground. What if the US government finds enough evidence to prove that Osama bin Laden did order the attack (which in all likelihood he did)? What if we are presented with proof that the Taliban knew about and supported this terrorism (which again is pretty likely)? What if the US government did follow all the ?proper legal procedures??

War is the continuation of policy by other means. And the US and its allies will have no problem finding legal justification for their ?war against terrorism? in pursuit of their policy. The working class must not rely on the UN (or Fidel Castro for that matter) to ?control? the US. We should fight for the defeat of our own ruling class in the same way that we should encourage the people of Afghanistan to overthrow their own reactionary regime. The main enemy is at home.

Tariq Ali put forward a slightly better formulation. He suggested our main slogan should be a pacifistic ?We are not at war?, highlighting that this ?war against terrorism? is not being fought in the interest of the American or British people, but for political reasons and in the interests of their ruling classes.

Jeremy Corbyn was by far the best and most coherent speaker of the evening. He highlighted the problem of the restriction of civil liberties. ?Don?t believe that the introduction of ID cards is the worst thing. The government has far bigger things up its sleeve which they don?t talk about yet,? he warned the meeting. He further urged us ?to be quite clear about one thing: we have to absolutely condemn these terrorist acts.?

The statement put forward by the SWP of course is far more ambivalent than that. It states: ?We in no way condone the attacks on New York and we feel the greatest compassion for those who lost their life.? This formulation is no accident. In the official Socialist Alliance statement on the war, the SWP tried to have the words  ?condemn these terrorist acts? deleted. Luckily, they were outvoted by the other organisations present.

Things are different in this coalition, however. Currently, the SWP alone calls the tune. However, the founding statement allows for the participation of all sorts of organisations: islamic fundamentalists, for example. The SWP was happy to march alongside Serb nationalists condemning the bombing of Serbia - because they decided to sacrifice any kind of principled position and instead make the size of a demonstration/campaign a priority. Just like then, when the question of self-determination for Kosova was conveniently forgotten, the SWP will now try to pick up as many recruits as possible from the anti-war movement.

The call to straightforwardly condemn the terrorists was later echoed by Darrell Johnson from the Green Party and a comrade from the Worker Communist Party of Iraq, who put it forward as an amendment to the statement. Chair Lindsey German, however, ruled this out of order, because she had already pushed the statement to a vote.

After only an hour, the meeting split up into working groups, which discussed - amongst other things - press work, further public rallies, fundraising and workplace meetings.