A friend of mine claims that he and his wife are in the biggest and probably fastest growing political party in Britain – they are both ex members of the Socialist Workers Party. They, like many, found being in the SWP not unlike being in a cult. They too had directives from a central committee or leader, they too had to strictly follow an ideology and they too had to perform daily tasks and rituals, namely selling the paper. If the SWP had the flair of the Hare Krishna’s they would be dancing up and down Oxford St banging drums and chanting “Marx and Trotsky, Marx and Trotsky, Trotsky and Marx.” Unfortunately “flair” is just one of a number of qualities the SWP doesn’t possess – popularity being another that just happens to spring to mind.

The SWP has been criticised for its involvement in the anti war movement. Mainly from the pro war camp, who condemn the SWP for being a “far left” group and therefore by implication too radical. For some the problem with the SWP is the polar opposite – they are too conservative. The SWP domination of the Stop The War Coalition was unsurprising; they are old hands at controlling “popular fronts”. They have to be. Without fronts like Globalise Resistance (commonly known by activists as Monopolise Resistance) they would have shrivelled into political oblivion long ago. What should be surprising is their treatment of the coalition partners. For a group that hates the competitive pressures of capitalism and believes in our ability to co-operate with each other, the SWP are totally incapable of co-operation. Coalition partners found themselves presented with decisions as a fait accompli, the SWP would call a demonstration then inform its partners after the press release had gone out. Not content with dominating the STW they actively undermined protests and demonstrations that were independent of them.

Not only are the SWP incapable of treating individuals from other groups as equals, for many activists the SWP aren’t that “active”. For a bunch of revolutionaries they do seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in shopping centres selling the paper and recruiting. Which just doesn’t seem that revolutionary. I don’t recall Che Guevara uttering the words ” You can pay the monthly subs by direct debit if you like.”

On the London demonstration on the 22nd of March it was the SWP stewards who tried to stop protestors taking part in a spontaneous sit down protest outside Downing Street. They have a problem with direct action or civil disobedience, as do some Labour MP’s who have conveniently forgotten that they have their jobs as a result of direct action. One senior member of the SWP and STW steering committee was quoted as saying in full-blown Pravda style “direct action is elitist”. How can protest actions that anyone can organise and commit be elitist? It is natural for the SWP to dislike people organising independently. What use are people who spend the day chaining themselves to the gates of a nuclear base to the SWP. Chained to a fence you can’t even hold a pen to sign the membership form? The SWP’s main priority is recruitment. Why else did they continually call demonstrations week after week during the conflict?

This was a massive tactical error for the anti war movement. When the bombing started many felt dispirited and tired, many were organising and carrying out other actions and protests. More importantly the SWP had not registered with the fact that many people on the massive February demonstration where there because they felt they had been denied a democratic voice. These demonstrations were bound to result in diminishing numbers and to be judged by many as the collapse of the anti war movement. However, if recruitment to your party is the priority the demos were a success. Even if you get only 20,000 people out, they are what market researchers might term a pure market group. They are prime targets for recruitment and who cares if the peace movement breaks in the process.

For many in the anti war and anti globalisation movement the act of creative dissent is a cornerstone to their moral and political philosophy. They want to empower and inspire themselves as well as others. Over a million people marching in London against the war was inspiring. However, on a day to day scale isn’t a group of Quakers spiking the bombers support vehicle at Fairford or a carnival of dissent at RAF Menwith Hill or stopping a bomb convoy by locking on to the vehicle more inspiring then hearing the words “copy of this weeks Socialist Worker comrade?” We don’t know exactly what country Bush will attack next but there is no doubt that he will. The peace movement could do a lot worse than start to organise a coalition free from SWP domination, one that regards peace as the goal and co-operation as a method to get there. . … ….. …… Mark Thomas

My main page for the ‘Stop the War’ Work and Reports: http://tash.dns2go.com/stopwar.htm

Mayday: Stop the War demo, Nottingham

http://tash_lodge.blogspot.com/2003_05_04_tash_lodge_archive.html#93740955

Were you can see more of what I mean. Cuckoo in the nest, me thinks .. .. .. ..

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