Whose democracy?

An enthusiastic crowd of about 800 anti-war protesters gathered in Swansea on February 28 to greet Tony Blair, who was paying a flying visit to the conference of the Welsh Labour Party. Most were seasoned lefties, including a couple of dozen each from the Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Party. However they were not only hampered by appalling weather: the local police had a go as well. At the last minute they refused the Stop the War Coalition permission to set up a stage and sound system, as planned. Labour rebel George Galloway MP was forced to address the rally with a wobbly umbrella over his head in the middle of a grassy area, which quickly turned into ankle-deep mud. Speaking without notes, he gave a slightly rambling, but well-received speech, which climaxed in his now well known call to "rebuild the Labour Party. We will not stand by and watch Tony Blair destroy our party." However, he did not spell out how exactly he is planning to challenge Blairism or what he would like to see in its place. A speaker from the Muslim Association of Britain addressed us "in the name of god, the merciful almighty". He eloquently questioned the morality of the war, and quite rightly predicted that "going to war would be the best recruitment agent for terrorism in the region". He was followed by Alan Thomson, member of the SWP, who - maybe surprisingly - spoke for the Welsh Socialist Alliance. The dire state of the WSA was well evident in the lack of any visible presence. There were no banners. No leaflets were given out. No new members recruited. The WSA has been operating on a extremely low level since the SP walked out a few months ago. However, comrade Thomson certainly did a good job. He quite rightly concentrated on the current crisis of representation and - unusually for an SWP member - complained about the lack of democracy: "Tony Blair and the whole parliament are ignoring the democratic wish of the people. Well, we ignore their democracy when we take to the streets, occupy colleges and walk out of workplaces when they call a war." The most controversial speech was made by Peter Black, a Liberal Democrat member of the Welsh assembly. His entire speech questioned the "legality of this war. Yes, Saddam Hussein is an evil dictator, but it is not legal to attack him." He pushed for "justice through the United Nations". Unsurprisingly, this was greeted by only lukewarm, polite clapping and a couple of heckles. Credit goes to the chair of the rally, who asked the crowd after this speech: "I think we need to clarify something. Do we want a US war?" To which the crowd shouted, "No!" She then asked, "Do we want a UN war?", which was of course greeted with the same response and a lot of relieved laughter. While it was a mistake to give the Lib Dems a platform, the chair did well in exposing their soft and inconsistent anti-war stance. Tina Becker