Working class approach
The Stop the War Coalition was launched last Friday before a packed audience at Friends Meeting House. With the main hall full to capacity, the meeting spilled over into several smaller meetings outside. The chair, Lindsay German, reported that there were over 3,000 people in and around Friends Meeting House and certainly it was an impressive event in many ways.
Politically, however, it was weakened by the absence of a clear working class agenda. The platform was packed - eight speakers - with not one representative from the trade union movement. Bruce Kent from CND spoke first and put forward, as would be expected, his own particular brand of pacifistic liberalism. He argued for an international criminal court to try those behind the US attack and believed it was necessary to set up an ?institution of global justice? (under the United Nations?) which could deal with these questions.
He was followed by journalist Will Self, who argued for a non-partisan campaign - a cross-party coalition. To his credit he pointed out the dangers of ?knee-jerk anti-Americanism?, and said this would weaken our ability to relate to people. Then came another CND speaker, Helen John, whose main purpose seemed to be to shame us all into accepting individual responsibility for the US attacks. She said the events in the US were a lesson for us ?that we have all had it soft in the west for too long?. Later in the meeting George Monbiot, darling of Globalise Resistance, implored us to recognise that ?we must stop committing crimes against humanity?, further reinforcing the notion that ?we are all guilty?.
Such sentiments - to be expected from the likes of John and Monbiot - will find reflection in many who oppose the war. However, they need to be fought by the left, not pandered to. The anti-war movement needs a working class programme that puts to the fore the militant resistance of the war here in Britain. Unfortunately the Socialist Workers Party - the main organiser of the meeting - seems only too keen to accommodate such backwardness.
In many ways Tariq Ali was the best speaker of the night. He spoke about the attacks on the right to free speech and the need to resist them. He stated that it was for the masses of Afghanistan to get rid of the Taliban, not the US. He called for the end of the bombing of Iraq, now going on for 11 years, but argued that we should not defend Saddam Hussein, whose Ba?athist regime had wiped out the Iraqi Communist Party. Again it was for the masses themselves to take on their own ruling class. He argued for political solutions in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Liz Davies spoke on behalf of the Socialist Alliance. She pledged the SA?s full commitment to the anti-war movement and said that it would play as full a part as possible. She also said it was essential that we condemned the attacks on the US and stood against those who wanted to polarise the world on a religious or ethnic basis. She argued for industrial action as well as peaceful protests against the war. Her contribution was most welcome in emphasising the role of the SA and the need for political unity.
Jeremy Corbyn MPwas encouraged by the numbers present and condemned his own government?s warmongering. To his credit he is clearly not afraid to stand up to Tony Blair on this question - something that should be applauded in the current atmosphere of witch-hunt.
John Rees for the SWP criticised the official three-minute silence for the victims of September 11 and the hypocrisy of the state-organised events to mourn the dead. He argued that there had been no such commerative acts to mark the deaths of Iraqi children killed in the Gulf War. Although he too expressed his horror at the attacks in the US, he attempted to downplay its scale by comparing it to examples of imperialist slaughter.
While he found an appreciative audience, it is nonetheless wrong to virtually exonerate the actual perpetrators of any responsibility for the 6,000 deaths in the World Trade Center. This totally avoids the question of the anti-human regime that the masses of Afghanistan have been living under for decades. It gives no answer for these people who are now fleeing in fear and carries with it the implication that the reactionary and fundamentally anti-working class islamicists of Al Qa?eda are just misguided anti-imperialists - basically on our side.
We need a consistent working class approach, not a reactive defensive one.
Anne Mc Shane