The first steps towards forging an effective opposition to the imperialist war drive on Teesside were taken on Tuesday September 25. In light of the international situation, a scheduled Socialist Alliance meeting was postponed in order to bring together a wide range of activists in opposition to Bush and Blair.
Two dozen attended the meeting in Middlesbrough to hear speakers from the Green Party, Socialist Alliance and muslim community present their interpretations of the events of September 11 and beyond. All united in their condemnation of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and the ensuing jingoism. However, contention arose over the details of exactly how the issue of anti-war work would be taken forward.
Some comrades voiced a wish to combine the Socialist Alliance?s anti-racist work with the anti-war drive. Mehdi Husaini, a representative of Teesside?s islamic community, warned that a ?climate of fear? was enveloping the muslim population in the area, and Alan Docherty of the Socialist Alliance pointed out that the state?s policy of ?divide and rule? would only heighten racial tension and provide a pool of reaction from which fascist organisations could attract support. Comrade Docherty also affirmed that the phenomenon of imperialist war could only be fought effectively as part of the struggle to supersede the society in which it was conceived: ie, by fighting for socialism.
Another SA comrade suggested solidarity with workers made redundant in the airline industry. However, there was a strong feeling from the majority - the Socialist Workers Party joining forces with the non-socialists - that any group formed should have a single-track anti-war agenda, in order to build the broadest possible unity and avoid contention between those opposing the war from a working class or liberal/pacifist perspective.
Bill Wennington, a Green Party spokesperson, recommended that the group be formed in the cast of the national Arrow anti-war organisation, to which we should then affiliate. Arrow?s ?Core principles for cooperation?, however, provoked opposition. The group?s demands for the western world to recognise the UN Charter and the ?normal channels of extradition law? - ie, to demand that the warmongers play by the rules of the bourgeoisie - were too much even for the SWP comrades, although they did not raise any objection to the commitment contained in the ?Core principles? to oppose war using exclusively peaceful means.
There was no final agreement as to the principles upon which Teesside Against War would be based - a larger meeting is to be held next week, with the intention of finalising these. In the meantime an e-mail discussion list is in the process of being created.
The unity of socialists, greens and other activists on Teesside against the trans-Atlantic pro-war consensus promises to evolve into an organisation of considerable size.
Socialists must fight to ensure, however, that positions which serve only to strengthen the grip of the bourgeois state, such as tailing the UN or pacifistic opposition to ?all war?, are exposed through debate as poor substitutes for a working class-led campaign.