Tuesday, March 11, 2008

five years on- Why are we still marching?


Back in 2003 the Stop the War Coalition had two tactics to prevent war in Iraq: marching from A to B and then going home, and marching from B to A and then going home. Neither of these cunning plans worked, but they seemed so good to Tony Benn, Lindsey German and their friends it is all the StWC’s done to stop the war. This may let them claim the moral high ground: but how many divisions can that muster? Any superiority this might give them has, anyway, been squandered by their adherence to tactics which have failed to achieve their stated objectives. The British state has faced StWC down once and knows it can do so again if, for example, it chooses to partner the US in an attack on Iran.


Thankfully not all protestors followed the supine policies of the StWC. School and college students walked out of their institutions, disrupted traffic, and showed a willingness to wrestle with the police. When demonstrators travelled to disrupt the Fairford airbase, there was no ‘right’ to demonstrate, only the illegal actions of the police. Clearly they recognised the threat posed by direct action to the Government’s war plans, even if the StWC could not.


Gordon Brown is committed to the neo-conservative project. Those who celebrated Tony Blair’s resignation ought to consider that he handed over at a time of his choice to the successor of his choice who shares his politics. Britain remains in the missionary position and will remain so regardless of whether Bush, McCain, Obama or Clinton’s on top. Given this, a militant anti-war movement is as necessary as ever. Sadly the StWC is as impotent now as five years ago.


To cover up its flaccid nature, the StWC has as many excuses as an incapable lover. Their 2008 pamphlet begins with the following astonishing claim by Viscount Stansgate (Tony Benn): ‘The Stop the War movement is the most powerful and influential popular political movement of my lifetime and possibly of any period of our history’. If the last five years have been a victory, we would have hated to see a defeat! Such lies can also be found amongst the witterings of the SWP leadership, with John Rees informing us that ‘Tony Blair was Britain’s worst ever prime minister’ (has he never heard of Margaret Thatcher?) and that ‘we [the StWC] had driven him out of office’. This is nothing short of collective delusion and helps explain why the 1.5 million marchers in 2003 have been followed by ever decreasing turnouts. Working class people are used to being lied to by mainstream politicians – we do not need such lies from the self-proclaimed leaders of the anti-war movement as well.Given it has been such a flop when it matters, the Stop the War Coalition needs a good dose of Viagra. We are calling on demonstrators today to let the Stop the War Coalition leadership know their feeble approach satisfies only the state and the war-mongers.

1 comment:

Jim Jepps said...

I'm totally sympathetic to this - and agree that the stwc squandered it's "window of opportunity" However, I think you've been slightly unfair too.

You mentioned the school students wlakouts - well that was backed by stwc and in fact in most areas organised by stwc supporters. It's a myth that stwc have been opposed to direct action always and in all cases.

It was initially opposed to direct action by small squads of special people in favour of mass action - and it did that in a very clumsy way - but I have been part of a number of direct actions organised under the stwc banner.

Where the stwc have some soul searching to do and (as you say) they need to take a more self critical assessment of their organisation that simply proclaiming themselves to be gods others in the anti-war movement have to do the same.

Direct actionists need to think about why their tactics never gained the popularity they would need - despite their correct criticisms of the futility of constant marches.

Trade unionists need to think about why there has never been any significant strike action against the war despite overwhelming opposition tot he war among tu members (there has been some tu action, just not much to write home about)

Also alternative anti-group grouping (like IOF) who have organised interesting conferences and done a few nice things need to think about why, if stwc has been so sterile and intellectually dead, were they unable to gain greater prominence in the movement.

I think these are difficult questions that take the kind of hard edged self assessment that you're rightly asking of the stwc but it's difficult to do this when applying the same criteria to ourselves.