A People's Assembly?

Submitted by Anon on 17 March, 2003 - 6:07

The Stop The War Coalition is calling a 'People's Assembly for Peace' on Wednesday 12 March (Central Hall, Westminster, 10am to 5pm). Publicity for it suggests that it is modelled on the 'People's Convention' called by the Communist Party to oppose World War Two, in the period of the Stalin-Hitler pact.

After Hitler invaded the USSR on 22 June 1941, the Communist Party would become fervently pro-war, and oppose any strikes or trade-union action which it thought might hinder the war; but before then it argued that Hitler really wanted peace and that all 'progressive' people should unite to press Britain to make peace with Germany.
Saddam Hussein's Iraq is not a continent-conquering power as Hitler's Germany was. Does that make enough difference that a 'People's Assembly' is now a good idea?

The Independent Labour Party and others criticised the People's Convention as a swindle. The ILP's New Leader, for example, argued (28 December 1940):
"Every Socialist who wants the war to be ended by the victory of the workers over both Nazism and Imperialism looks forward to united action by all sections of the Workers' Movement which accept this aim
"But... the so-called 'People's' Convention is none of these things..."

And (11 January 1941): "The Convention Call summoned support from 'all progressive and democratic organisations." The [Communist Party's] Daily Worker addresses itself to 'progressive people' - actors, doctors, artists, clergy, etc."

The People's Assembly call is along the same lines. The Assembly is "to put forward the authentic voice of the people". Worse, it is to feature delegates from "mosques, churches and other representative organisations" as well as from trade unions and Stop The War groups.

What happened to the democratic principle of separation of church and state? If the People's Assembly has people represented through "mosques and churches", then it is less, not more, democratic than the House of Commons.

To gather anti-war people together is good, but on that level the 'Assembly' is just a small demonstration, adding nothing to other demonstrations. If it is meant to represent 'the people', it is a fake.

Far better for the anti-war movement to focus on building workplace and industrial action against war, fighting for the unions to vote no confidence in Blair, and campaigning for the recall of Labour Party and TUC conferences.

There is a democratic case to be made against war, too. But that is better made by campaigning for a referendum on war than by suggesting that a contrived 'People's Assembly' can represent a unified "will of the people".

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