For an openly anti-imperialist anti-war movement!
The British movement against the imperialist invasion of Iraq and its subsequent occupation has so far been dominated by the Stop the War Coalition (StWC). The StWC's chief accomplishment has been to organise a massive demonstration in London on 15 February 2003. While this was unprecedented in size and the degree of international co-ordination, the politics presented at StWC events have been tailored to exclude anything unacceptable to the progressive wing of the imperialist ruling class. Clergymen, mullahs, Labour dissidents and Liberal Democrats were all invited to put forward their views, but no one, including the coalition's ostensibly revolutionary animators, was so gauche as to breathe a word about Marxism from the podium. The desire for 'unity' (with the liberal wing of the bourgeoisie), which was rationalised as a means of ensuring the 'broadest' mobilisations, only guaranteed that imperialist war preparations could go ahead without serious resistance.
Many on the left have had illusions in the StWC 'broad church' approach and celebrated its ability to mobilise masses on the streets while ignoring the deliberately low level of its political basis and its openly class- collaborationist appetites. It is simplistically argued that despite these political weaknesses the fact that large numbers of people were mobilised in demonstrations was a great victory of the anti-war movement and therefore made the StWC politically strong.
The overt social-pacifism of the StWC actually made the anti-war movement extraordinarily weak. By gutting the protests of anything that might offend the bishops, mullahs, Liberal Democrats, union bureaucrats and other eminent persons, the SWP (aided by smaller centrist groupings that tailed it) ensured that popular opposition to Blair's adventure remained within the framework of bourgeois politics. This is why the mass 'movement' melted away so quickly after the US/UK axis conquered Baghdad.
It is time to draw the lessons of the failure of the 'broad church' approach either to stop the war or to engender a widespread anti-imperialist consciousness among the masses mobilised in the anti-war demonstrations. The task of revolutionaries in opposing a criminal imperialist assault on a neo-colony is to seek to shift the political axis of 'anti-war' sentiment amongst working people and youth by convincing them of the need to side with the victims of their own ruling class. This requires a sharp political struggle against the rotten class-collaborationist politics represented by the StWC. Revolutionaries should intervene in events called by the bourgeois pacifist StWC, engaging the masses mobilised by these misleaders with an alternative anti-imperialist message and aiming to build an explicitly anti-imperialist bloc within the wider anti-war movement.
There are those who will continue to complain that such a bloc will 'exclude' people in advance. The only people this will exclude are the bourgeois pacifists and pro-UN apologists who dominate StWC platforms. Attempting to reduce the political influence of these misleaders would be a good thing not a bad thing.
The only slogans and ideas that have any substantially progressive content are revolutionary socialist ones, as Lenin pointed out in condemning social-pacifism during World War One:
A propaganda of peace at the present time, if not accompanied by a call to revolutionary mass actions, is only capable of spreading illusions, of demoralising the proletariat by imbuing it with confidence in the humanitarianism of the bourgeoisie, and of making it a plaything in the hands of the secret diplomacy of the belligerent countries. In particular, the idea of the possibility of a so-called democratic peace without a series of revolutions is deeply erroneous.
Imperialist troops out of Iraq now!
Posted: 3 July 2004