A good day

While the Socialist Alliance was being put to the sword in one part of the University of London Union, the Labour left met elsewhere in the same building in the shape of Labour Against the War

I have often described the difficult situation the Labour left finds itself in. For example, in my last column for this paper I wrote of the need to approach our tasks in 2005 with "gritted teeth rather than starry-eyed naivety" (Weekly Worker January 20). With this in mind, the Labour Against the War AGM on February 5 was a positive event. Readers will know what I have written about the hard position facing those on the left of the party. We are in the run-up to a general election in which the dominant voice in our party - New Labour - will all but drown out the voice of the anti-war elements. This is despite the fact that these trends probably constitute the majority view with Labour and the trade union movement. The LATW AGM brought together just over 100 party members, determined that their voice would not be silenced in this general election. The morning session was particularly informative, with excellent contributions from Sami Ramadani (Iraqi exile and lecturer), Ewa Jasiewicz (journalist), Milan Rai (Justice Not Vengeance) and Michael Meacher MP. Michael Meacher's comments in particular are worthwhile highlighting. He outlined why the recent elections in Iraq were nothing more than a charade, a parody of democracy that leaves real power - military and economic - in the hands of the United States. The AGM overwhelmingly passed a statement recognising the continuing occupation of Iraq as unjustifiable and calling for "an early date for withdrawal of British forces". Now passing such resolutions in a meeting of like-minded people is one thing. The afternoon session turned its attention to the much trickier problem of turning that meeting's political resolve into concrete action in the party in the weeks up the general election. Jeremy Corbyn MP, Jerry Doherty (general secretary of the TSSA), Tony Benn and Alan Simpson outline the required tactics. A number of these comrades took care to emphasise the practical problem facing us that is set down in the resolution itself. Labour party membership has fallen to its lowest level for 70 years and party members are demoralised, with many unwilling to play any part whatsoever in the election campaign. But, on the other hand, we saw 140 Labour MPs voting against the war and the majority of the party membership still remaining firmly anti-war. So there is clearly space for an anti-war message to be heard coming out of the ranks of this party. The AGM ratified a number of aims. First, we will build the largest possible Labour party contingent in the Stop the War Coalition demonstration on March 19 in London. Second, we intend to circulate details of Labour anti-war campaigns to ensure that party members who would otherwise be silent are able to both play a principled anti-war role in the general election and at the same time be relevant. Also encouraging were the new parliamentary candidates who addressed the meeting "“ one from Brent East and the other from Billericay. It was refreshing to hear new anti-war voices being raised from these layers in the party. All in all then, a good day for anti-war activists and the left of the Labour party l