The Weekly Worker– newspaper of our favorite far-Left groupuscule, the Communist Party of Great Britain– has a fascinating account of the Stop the War Coalition’s annual conference, at which delegates once again rejected the effort of the anti-intervention but anti-regime group Hands Off the People of Iran to affiliate.
Around 300 people attended the very ‘business as usual’ Stop the War Coalition annual conference on October 30. On offer were more or less the same timetable, speakers and motions as in previous years – and, of course, the same narrow, pacifistic [if only–gz] politics. So it was that Communist Party of Britain members Andrew Murray and Kate Hudson, Labour lefts Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn, Guardian columnist Seamus Milne, Respect’s George Galloway and the Counterfire duo of Lindsey German and John Rees graced the congress with speeches that would be instantly recognised by anybody who has ever attended a STWC meeting or demonstration.
Unfortunately, something else has not changed: the STWC leadership’s desire to avoid serious political discussion from the floor. Last year a contentious motion on the Tamils was “remitted” to the steering committee (read: buried) instead of being discussed thoroughly and voted on. This time it was the fate of a motion on self-determination for Kashmir, moved by the British South Asia Solidarity Forum (BSASF).
We also saw the usual motion from the CPGB-ML calling on Stop the War to fight for the slogan of ‘Victory to the resistance’ in Afghanistan and Iraq. In opposing this, Gareth Jenkins of the Socialist Workers Party said that he was “not opposed to the slogan” – he was actually “fully in favour” – but the coalition needed to think about “breadth” and “not drive people away” by making this slogan a “condition for participation” in the coalition. Finally, he added that we needed a “good debate” on this within the coalition – not that there was one, of course.
[STWC officer Andrew Burgin] did put his finger on the political nub of the problem, however: “There are supporters of Ahmadinejad who we do not want to exclude” from the coalition, he baldly stated. Thus, in deference to political forces positively supportive of the reactionary theocracy in Iran, a principled anti-war organisation like Hopi must be excluded. While Hopi is certainly not campaigning for the exclusion of pro-regime forces, it is totally wrong and unprincipled that their presence be used to actually draw the political parameters of the STWC and proscribe leftwing critics of the Iranian regime.
John Rees… added that active solidarity with the masses was a “separate question” to opposing war. With a slightly disgruntled George Galloway looking on, John Rees said that he was for “revolution in Iran”, but we were looking for the “broadest possible opposition” against imperialist attack, including those who support the regime. Our dual tasks as socialists, he said, were to get these people on board and to argue for our democratic, working class politics.
[The coalition] cannot mobilise a mass base of “supporters of Ahmadinejad” that comrade Burgin conjures up – no such thing exists. It does, however, manage to alienate many anti-war activists who perceive the coalition as soft on the reactionary regime…
The STWC leadership is digging itself into a real hole over Hopi. Its logic is inconsistent even in its own bureaucratic terms. It is making the anti-war movement look ridiculous.
Whatever one thinks of Hopi’s politics, no democrat in the anti-war movement should stand for this. We cannot allow our movement’s message to be defined by the Iranian theocracy – it weakens our fight against war and sanctions.