A wasted opportunity

February 15, 2008 at 12:03 pm (Galloway, Guardian, iraq, iraq war, Jim D, left, Respect, SWP)

I was there five years ago, one of the two million or so. I’ve never regretted attending and I still think the cause was fundamentally good.

But even at the time I and many other comrades had our worries. The self-congratulatory carnival atmosphere was all very well, but where were the Iraqi socialists, democrats and trade unionists amongst the assorted Quakers, sloanes, hippies and Islamists? Why was that disgusting pro-Saddam apologist Galloway on the platform but no representative of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions? Why had left-wing Iraqis been excluded from the national committee of the Stop The War Coalition? Why was no-one willing to say that the only principled basis on which to oppose the war against a genocidal tyrant was to simultaneously support socialists and democrats in Iraq? And if the organisers were so determined to keep the demo to the narrow issue of “Don’t Attack Iraq”, then why tack on the tenously connected (and ambiguous) slogan “Freedom for Palestine”?

A mass movement could have been built on an internationalist basis. The SWP, Galloway and the Muslim Association of Britain (British wing of the clerical fascist Muslim Brotherhood) chose not to do that.

That’s why the campaign ended up indistinguishable from a right-wing isolationist movement, and why a generation of young activists and potential activists (young Muslims especially) were miseducted by those (most shamefully, the SWP) who should have known better.

Today’s Graun praises the march as having “brought together all sorts of people of all sorts of views in the biggest single political protest in British history, a glorious exercise of democratic rights. It included Kate Moss as well as George Galloway, and though the Stop the War Coalition that organised it had leftwing roots, many of those who turned out that day did not.”

What the Graun praises is exactly what worried me at the time.

I don’t insist that any anti-war movement be explicitly socialist. But unless it is internationalist, and makes active solidarity with democrats, socialists and trade unionists, then it will almost inevitably become (at best) a “realist” movement whose politics are indistinguishable from those of a Carrington or a Kissinger, or (at worst) an outright isolationist movement .

Yes it was big and it was exciting. But it turned out to be a tragic wasted opportunity. Today’s anniversary is not a day to celebrate, but to mourn what might have been.


  1. modernity said,

    good points and something that the remnants of StWC hate to deal with:

    why was the energy of millions dissipated so quickly?

    why was the chance to create the first truly mass movement in 50 years so wasted?

    even Mark Steel, a loyal SWPer, raises these issues:

    “But the most disturbing side to the SWP’s decline has been the refusal to acknowledge this trend is taking place at all. For some time we were told there were ten thousand members, although this was a patently absurd figure. This number seems to have been revised downwards, which leaves two possibilities, either that the original figure was wrong or we’ve suddenly lost thousands of members, either one of which should merit a thorough discussion. But far from having one, anyone who has raised the issue has been derided.”


  2. paddy garcia said,

    I was in New York City for the 1 million strong demonstration there.
    Here are some snaps if comrades are interested in having a look, any other readers there?
    Click on thumbnails to blow up image.

  3. modernity said,

    street theatre’s just great, but what comes out of it is more important

    or in StWC’s case not very much, that’s the extent of politics for some nowadays, wave a few placards, shout a slogan or two then go home

    a wasted opportunity

  4. badnewswade said,

    After this debacle one thing is clear: The SWP are scum.

    The anarchist kids back in the 80s and 90s knew that, that’s why the John Major roadbuilding program was sucessfully protested – SWPers were not welcome.

    Any mass movement has to reject the SWP now as a matter of principle. They’re too dirty with the filth of Islamic clerical fascism and institutional anti-semitism.

    If you want to succeed, reject the SWP.

  5. voltaires_priest said,

    “Legalise benzedrine” eh?

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