Welsh Socialist Alliance

Overcome hesitancy

The anti-war movement has rapidly become organised in Wales. However, unfortunately, the Welsh Socialist Alliance has as yet failed to develop a strategy for winning the leadership of the movement for working class politics.

Encouragingly, large meetings to establish a coalition against the imperialist war drive took place in both Swansea and Cardiff last Saturday. As well as most of the various affiliates of the WSA (curiously, though, the Socialist Party was absent from both meetings), in attendance also were members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Labour, Plaid Cymru, the Greens, Socialist Labour Party and supporters of the anti-capitalist movement. Indeed, throughout the length and breadth of the principality anti-war activity has commenced. A demonstration against the war is planned to take place in Cardiff on Saturday October 6.

The response from the WSA has been so far mixed in terms of a collective response. On the plus side, the campaign for the WSA candidate for the national assembly by-election in Swansea East, Alan Thomson, has distributed thousands of anti-war leaflets. Also in Newport on Saturday the Gwent branch of the WSA organised a stall against the war.

Elsewhere, the collective response from the WSA has been patchy, to say the least. This is largely to do with the fact that once again the WSA officers appear unable or unwilling to take the lead. As yet, it seems that they have been unable to agree a form of wording against the threat of war.

This lamentable situation was a result of disagreements that arose after a WSA national council meeting in Swansea on September16. Although there was little disagreement about a statement at the meeting itself, comrade Alec Thraves of the Socialist Party subsequently took issue with a draft version written by a national officer.

Although I have yet to see this draft statement (and at the time of writing an official statement from the WSA has yet to appear on its official e-group) the comments of comrade Thraves seem to be correct. He argued that the WSA needs to roundly condemn the attack on September 11, whilst ensuring that the WSA must link our struggle against war to the struggle for a socialist alternative internationally. One leading member of the Socialist Party in Wales told me that not having even a statement has left the WSA paralysed in the face of the drive to war.

Obviously, the question of whether we condemn the events of September 11 is the source of the paralysis. So far the response of the Socialist Workers Party in Wales has been mixed. At a meeting of the Gwent branch a lead-off by independent socialist and general election candidate Steve Bell condemned the attack on US citizens, while correctly asserting that the main enemy remains at home. SWP members at the meeting did not beg to differ on these points. On the campaign literature of comrade Thomson (an SWP member) the attack was also condemned.

Yet in the anti-war meeting in Cardiff on September 22, a petition drafted by SWPers and presented to the meeting rejected this approach. An attempt by the CPGB to amend it so that the petition condemned the attack, but also emphasised the need to defend asylum-seekers and civil liberties, recognising that the main enemy is at home, was ruled out of order. Instead the meeting was given a choice between a CND motion and an SWP one. So much for democracy.

It would be disastrous for the WSA if it did not present itself as the organisation capable of leading the movement. For all its weaknesses, the WSA has the potential to mobilise people in a way that the separate organisations pushing their distinctive stances cannot possibly achieve. The seriousness of the present situation demands unity in action.

An agreed position must be arrived at. If we were able, by and large, to achieve this in the election, then surely we can do so again under the threat of war. If the WSA took the lead now, it could establish itself as a pole of attraction for all those working class forces opposed to New Labour. We must aim far beyond the contesting of elections, and seek to lead struggles against fascism, privatisation and, above all, the fight against imperialist war.

The sheer horror of September 11 means that, in order to win people away from the acceptance that the USA, Britain and its allies have the right to retaliate, simple slogans (vital as they are) will not be enough. To win people from pro-war or ambivalent positions requires that socialists offer a political explanation as to why Bush, Blair and co can, under no circumstances, be supported.

Pacifist arguments will be wholly inadequate. So will the anti-war movement if it is led by the CND-type pacifism. Only a united left, rallying to a working class programme, will be able to mobilise an effective response. If particular socialist groupings think they can do better on their own or, alternatively, drop socialist arguments against the war, then, in their contrasting ways, they will be acting as a brake on the building of the kind of anti-war movement we need in Wales, as elsewhere.

Does this mean only conscious Marxists can participate in such a movement? Of course not. But, equally the slogan ?No to war? on its own will be insufficient. The WSA can win people in CND, Labour, PC, the Greens, the anti-globalisation movement, trade unions, etc to fight side by side with us in a movement against the war that bases itself on anti-imperialism and the international working class.

Cameron Richards