By Dan Nichols
An "activists' conference" held by the Stop The War Coalition in central London on 16 June was sparsely attended. Only a few activists from outside London turned up, and those from London were mostly SWP diehards with a small sprinkling of pacifists and people from other activist-left groups.
The campaign seems to be pinning most of its hopes on a CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) demonstration against war on Iraq, on 28 September in London, which it is helping to build, and a week of action in July.
The focus at the 16 June conference was, rightly, on preventing a US attack on Iraq. The slowing-down of the US drive for such an attack would obviously create problems for keeping the Coalition lively even with the best tactics. Recent press reports claim that the US will probably try to use covert action to get rid of Saddam rather than start a full scale attack.
However, a broad-based campaign, drawing in many trade unionists who grudgingly accepted the Afghan war but are horrified by the prospect of a US attack on Iraq, could make a big impact - round this year's union conferences for example. Instead, around the country, STW has been continued as an all-purpose vehicle for SWP agitation on international issues.
Our impression is that Stop The War groups continue, mostly, where the local SWP branch has decided to make Stop The War its main activity, and fade elsewhere. During her report, the treasurer of the STW campaign announced that the national office of STW has no fewer than three full timers working at it. This compares to only one at the Socialist Alliance office. However, many people on first coming across STW now must be puzzled. "Stop The War"? Which war do they have in mind? Since the collapse of the Taliban in Afghanistan, STW has given a large part of its attention to agitation against Israel.
If STW is to continue as a multi-purpose broad-scope campaign, then what it needs is a set of positive demands to reshape the world, countering Bush's relentless drive against "terror". However, STW's organisers resolutely keep the campaign's official basis as blandly anti-war, pro-peace, leaving it to the SWP to introduce the "big politics" into the movement (i.e., use the words "imperialism" and "Zionism") while the rest of the campaign plays the role of an audience.
This, of course, is the SWP perspective for all the other "united fronts" it dominates, even the Socialist Alliance which is supposed to be much broader and democratic in its scope. It is up to the thinking left to fight this type of bureaucratic dominance by a single, monolithic "party".
Solidarity readers may remember that both Workers' Liberty/ Solidarity and the CPGB (Weekly Worker) were excluded from the steering committee of STW when it was set up last autumn because we argued that the anti-war movement should oppose Islamic fundamentalism. We were told that our approach would cut the movement off from radicalising British-Asian youth.
Stop the War: www.stopwar.org.uk
By Dan Nichols